December marked the deadliest month in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began, with more than 63,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded nationwide during the month so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
April held the previous monthly record for the highest number of COVID-19 deaths, with at least 55,000 reported. The U.S. saw a steep incline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the spring, followed by a sharp decrease over the summer. Those numbers began to increase again in the fall and have continued to surge into the winter.
As of Sunday, there have been nearly 19 million recorded COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and more than 331,000 deaths nationwide.
COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna began rolling out across the U.S. in recent weeks, marking a turning point in the pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the health and economy of the country.
Members of the White House coronavirus task force have said the hope is to have 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of December, another 30 million in January and 100 million by March.
Still, public health experts and top officials have warned that the next few months could continue to see record COVID-19 deaths.
“One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I’m going to tell it to you straight,” President-elect Joe Biden said during a news conference Tuesday. “I’m going to tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us.”
“We need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines,” he added. “As frustrating as it is to hear, it’s going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus. There will be no time to waste in taking the steps we need to turn this crisis around.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.