U.S. COVID-19 cases top 30 million as states race to vaccinate

FILE PHOTO: A critical care respiratory therapist works with a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) positive patient in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

By Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – The United States crossed 30 million coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, as states accelerate the vaccination process by lowering age limits.

Health authorities are racing to vaccinate in the face of the first uptick in new cases on a weekly basis since January. Against the advice of health experts, several states have lifted mask mandates and more infectious variants have also spread across the nation.

Although cases are trending higher in 30 out of 50 states compared with the previous week, health officials hope the vaccinations will prevent a rise in deaths. The United States has lost a total of 544,000 lives to the virus.

New York on Monday joined Florida and a handful of other states that have made vaccines available to people who are at least 50 years old.

In the past two weeks, many states including Alaska, Arizona and Texas have lowered down their eligibility age for coronavirus vaccines.

Arizona lowered the eligibility age to 16 at state-run vaccination sites in three populous southern counties, effective Wednesday. Three other counties already have eligibility at 16, but most are at 55.

Earlier this month, Alaska became the first U.S. state to make vaccine available to everyone 16 and older and currently has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 31.5% of its residents having received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly one-fourth of Americans have received at least one dose while about 13% of the population is fully vaccinated.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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