Vaccines among the issues polarizing country
While visiting a Pfizer vaccine-manufacturing plant in Michigan in February, U.S. President Joe Biden predicted a return to normal from the pandemic by the end of the year. "God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last," he said.
As the year draws to a close, with COVID-19 booster shots approved and vaccines for children authorized, the U.S. is averaging more than 121,000 new cases and over 1,200 deaths a day, according to Johns Hopkins University.
As the pandemic approaches the end of a second year, it has reached another grim milestone－having killed more than 800,000 people in the U.S., surpassing the death toll from the 1918 flu pandemic despite medical advances of the past century.
With the Delta and Omicron variants spreading, infection rates are increasing across the country, particularly in parts of the Northeast, Midwest and South. On Dec 16, New York state saw its highest number of new cases in a single day of the entire pandemic, topping just over 21,000.
The emergence of the new Omicron variant has forced the country to tighten international travel restrictions, which the government had lifted a month earlier, adding further uncertainty and exasperation.
The summer surge caused by the Delta variant killed 3,418 people on Sept 16, one of the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. Most of the infected were unvaccinated.
Some people's hesitancy has turned into hostility against inoculation, leading the government's vaccination campaign to hit a wall, missing Biden's goal of delivering at least one shot to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4.
As of the middle of this month, 61.5 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated and 72.6 percent had received at least one dose, according to the Mayo Clinic.