The US has set a new grim record of more than 3,000 COVID-19 related deaths in a single day, reflecting a bleak reminder of the pandemic's devastating toll, even as two coronavirus vaccine candidates appear to be on the verge of clearing the country's final regulatory hurdles.
According to The COVID Tracking Project, the US on Wednesday reported as many 3,054 reported deaths -- the highest single-day total to date.
The previous single-day record was on May 7 at 2,769 deaths, it said.
Overall, there were 1.8 million tests reported on Wednesday, 210,000 cases, and a record 106,688 COVID-19 patients in US hospitals, it said.
The 7-day average for COVID-19 deaths are at an all-time high as deaths are rising throughout the country, it said.
So far more than 15 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and 286,249 people have lost their lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The US, the worst-affected country by the coronavirus pandemic, is in the final stages of approving at least two COVID-19 vaccines -- one by Pfizer and BioNTech and another by Moderna.
The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday to give emergency use authorisation to the Pfizer vaccine.
"Based on current production schedules, we expect to have enough doses to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of this year, 50 million total by the end of January, and at least 100 million total by the end of the first quarter," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters at a news conference.
Within 24 hours of an emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the FDA, the vaccine could be shipped out to distribution sites across the United States to make it available to the Americans who need it the most, said Army Gen Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.
"Our goal is to make sure that we can ensure the vaccine is delivered in a timely manner, is to be delivered safely, securely, and it's ready to be utilized to start administering the vaccine as soon as possible," Perna said.
On Tuesday, the FDA released an internal assessment of the Pfizer vaccine's trial data. The FDA assessment showed that the vaccine was around 95 per cent effective, was efficacious across different groups, including the elderly and people with comorbidities, and did not show any significant safety concerns.
Perna said that he had given permission to distribute syringes and needles, alcohol wipes and dilutant, which is required in support of the Pfizer vaccine.
"We'll begin that today. The distribution will be completed by Friday, again only to set conditions. And if it sits there for another week or 10 days or whatever, then it does. But planning for success, we wanted to make sure that the states had all that they needed to have," he said.