Social media has been filled with comments about kicking 2020 to the curb and hopes for a joyous, healthy 2021. Never before have the words “Happy New Year” been more sincere. But let’s face it: COVID is still a killing beast. The dangers are still real. While there’s some relief, thanks to the approved vaccines, there are still major problems to be dealt with. The first of these issues is the utter failure of the federal government to have a uniform distribution plan.

“Let the states deal with it,” is the mantra of the Trump administration.

One Republican voice in the wilderness, that of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, is worth noting. "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," Romney said in a statement last week.

The United States has lost more than 350,000 lives from COVID-19 to date, equal to one in every 950 Americans, and ranks 16th in national per-capita coronavirus deaths in the world. Romney is urging the U.S. government to immediately enlist veterinarians, combat medics and others in an all-out national campaign to administer coronavirus vaccinations and slow a surging rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The Utah Republican called for greater action as the Trump administration fell far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans with a first of two required doses by the end of 2020.

As of Jan. 1, an estimated 2.8 million vaccine doses have actually been given, mostly to frontline health care workers as well as staff and residents of nursing facilities. On that same day, the tally of known U.S. infections surpassed 20 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients exceeded 125,000, setting a daily record once more.

Medical experts attribute the worsening pandemic in recent weeks to the arrival of colder weather and the failure of many Americans to abide by public health warnings and requirements to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel over the year-end holiday season.

In Ohio, The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and other medical centers are vaccinating frontline caregivers first. “We continue to work out the details of this complex vaccination program,” the Clinic notes on its website. “Initial supplies of the vaccine are limited and are being prioritized based on guidance from the CDC and Ohio state authorities, which recommend vaccinating healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. We are following that guidance and focusing first on vaccinating our caregivers. However, we are also preparing to vaccinate patients and will do so as supply and guidance allow. We’re committed to keeping patients informed about who will be able to get it.”

Here’s what we all need to note, however: “The authorized vaccines may not be widely available for the general public until several months into 2021, so we must all continue taking important precautions to help slow the spread of the virus. This includes wearing a mask, washing and sanitizing your hands frequently, social distancing and limiting gatherings,” according to the Clinic.

So let’s continue to be smart. We are so close to the finish line. Once we get there, we truly will have a “Happy New Year.”

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