The Biden administration, under the gun to show progress on controlling the spread of COVID-19, has been tracking the progress of the vaccine rollout based on the numbers of days since the inauguration, according to a document produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The nine-page senior leadership brief obtained by Yahoo News tracks the country’s battle against the pandemic, with a prominent countdown of days since Biden became president. The document, dated Jan. 29, appears to be a modification of an earlier daily senior leadership brief put out by FEMA during the Trump administration that focused primarily on the progress of the disease.
The Biden administration appears eager to quantify its vaccine progress, particularly since some experts have criticized its response to the pandemic, saying that Biden’s original plan to administer 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days was not ambitious enough, as the U.S. was already on a similar trajectory prior to the new president taking office. Last week, however, the White House increased the goal to 1.5 million per day, and the country is closing in on that target, with 1.35 million doses administered per day during the past week.
January was the deadliest month of the pandemic yet in the U.S., with more than 90,000 deaths. According to federal tracking, the seven-day average leading into Jan. 29 was worse than the week preceding it, and 19 states remain in the “red zone,” which means a positivity rate of 10.1 percent or higher, according to the FEMA document. There were 125,699 COVID-19 hospitalizations (down from the previous week), and ICU bed utilization was just over 70 percent, a slight increase from the previous week.
FEMA, according to the senior leadership brief, has also established a Civil Rights Advisory Group, with the stated intention of “to help ensure equity in the allocation of scarce resources, including any additional future allocations of vaccine.” Minority communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 infections and deaths, and early vaccine distribution has also seen racial disparities.
The FEMA document also details how emergency aid is being distributed to states, including the utilization of medical staffers and personal protective equipment. It states that the agency “has already obligated $1 billion to states, territories, tribes and Washington, D.C., for vaccination sites,” adding that it “expects that number to climb in the days ahead.”
The document aligns with comments from the White House’s COVID task force last week, and the plan to maintain a rate of 10 million vaccine allocations per week for four to five weeks. So far, only two states — Alaska and West Virginia — have administered more than 11,000 doses per 100,000 residents, with a vast majority of states having administered 6,000 or fewer. West Virginia, in particular, has been hailed as a success story partly due to its reliance on independent drugstores versus large nationwide chains to administer the vaccine.
Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion recovery legislation would provide $160 billion for national vaccination and testing efforts and $350 billion for state and local governments.
“It’s going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country, but I think we can do that,” Biden said last week. “I feel confident that by summer we’re going to be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity. I feel good about where we’re going, and I think we can get it done.”
• Jana Winter contributed reporting to this story.
Read the full document:
Read more from Yahoo News: