The United States is seeing its highest number of coronavirus cases in the first days of the new year.
On Friday, the country recorded its 20 millionth case of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic last March. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 20,304,200 people have been infected with the virus and at least 348,992 people have died, according to data from the New York Times.
The nation has doubled its total number of infections in less than two months as the U.S. hit 10 million cases on Nov. 9, NPR reported.
The chilling milestone comes as the country is already behind in administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
Nationwide distribution began on Dec. 14 after the Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccine candidates, one from Pfizer and another from Moderna. Frontline healthcare workers were the first to receive a dose, with an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center getting the historic first shot in New York.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has sent out 12.4 million doses as of Dec. 30 but only 2.7 million people have reportedly received the vaccination.
JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
While government officials say there is a delay in reporting, the low number of vaccinations leaves the nation far behind in protecting vulnerable Americans.
According to the New York Times, government officials aren't sure what is causing the delay but blame a variety of factors — including the holiday season, as many people take off from work and clinics reduce their hours.
Additionally, a new coronavirus variant is beginning to spread across the nation. This past week it was discovered in California, Colorado and Florida.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the first U.S. case of the seemingly faster-spreading variant on Dec. 29, found in a man in his 20s who has no travel history. CNN reported that both cases in Colorado came from men who had been working in an assisted living facility.
Even at the time of its discovery, health experts said that the variant was likely already in the U.S.
Since first being identified in the U.K. — leading to lockdowns in the country and travel restrictions worldwide — the variant has been found in at least 17 other countries including Australia, Canada and Spain.
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