abc– The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has surpassed 20 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The tally accounts for nearly one-quarter of the more than 83 million cases confirmed globally and is nearly twice as many as the country with the second most cases — India.
The US also has by far the most deaths attributed to COVID-19 related complications, at 347,517.
The per capita death toll — one dead of every 950 Americans — ranks 16th in the world.
The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients exceeded 125,000 on New Year’s Day, setting a new daily record.
The grim milestone comes as the country struggles to roll out a vaccine to combat the surging rise in hospitalisations and deaths.
An estimated 2.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US so far, much less than the 20 million promised by President Donald Trump.
President-elect Joe Biden said at the current rate of vaccination it would take “years” to inoculate Americans.
Romney urges sweeping vaccination plan
Republican Senator Mitt Romney called for greater action to increase the rate of vaccinations.
The Utah Senator, who ran unsuccessfully for president as his party’s nominee in 2012, urged the US Government to immediately enlist veterinarians, combat medics and others in an all-out national campaign to administer coronavirus vaccinations.
“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” Senator Romney said in a statement.
Senator Romney called for inoculation clinics to be established at sites such as school buildings that are largely empty because of the pandemic.
He also recommended establishing a clear order for Americans nationwide to receive their shots according to priority groups and birthdays, while welcoming other ideas from medical professionals.
Prioritising vaccine recipients is currently being handled state by state.
Senator Romney said the country needed to acknowledge the current vaccination plan “isn’t working”, was “woefully behind,” and that leaders must urgently find ways to quickly bolster capacity.
The leading US infectious disease specialist, Dr Anthony Fauci, said earlier this week he was confident of overcoming early glitches in the vaccine campaign, saying America could still achieve enough collective immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021.
Mr Biden has vowed to use the Defense Production Act to boost the vaccination program and to send mobile vaccination units to help deliver shots in under-served areas.
With the inauguration of Mr Biden set for January 20, Senator Romney has emerged as one of the few leading members of his party to openly criticise Mr Trump, a fellow Republican.
Mr Trump has repeatedly emphasised that he, not Mr Biden, deserves credit for the speedy development of the vaccine, even as he has left immunisation efforts largely to state and local officials to administer with the help of private pharmacies.
States and localities, already hit hard by the months-long fight against the outbreak and its economic fallout, only recently received federal money for vaccinations under the latest relief passage recently signed into law.