People wait in line to get a vaccine for coronavirus disease ( COVID-19).
Mike Segar | Reuters
WASHINGTON – The United States administered a record number of Covid-19 vaccines over the weekend as public health officials urged heads of state to maintain social distancing measures to avoid a new surge that could undermine advances in fighting the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administered 2.9 million vaccines on Saturday, a record, and 2.4 million on Sunday, according to the agency's latest record. The numbers are subject to change as more data become available to health authorities.
More than one in five adults has now received at least one dose of vaccine, while just over one in ten has received two doses, according to the CDC. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two injections, while the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday that the nation is currently administering an average of more than 2 million shots a day, compared with an average of 900,000 daily injections in the early days of the vaccination campaign.
President Joe Biden said last week that the US would have enough vaccine doses for every adult two months earlier than expected by the end of May. Zients warned, however, that while the nation has made progress in increasing vaccinations, it needs to double abatement measures for now.
"We're on a path – we need to make sure we don't give up our vigilance," said Zients. "People have to face the president's challenge to mask themselves. People have to take the vaccine when it's their turn. We have to stay on this path and defeat this pandemic."
Zients joins a chorus of public health officials warning the nation to stay vigilant as several states drop mask mandates and relax other coronavirus restrictions as cases decline and vaccinations increase.
Last week Arizona, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, California and Mississippi eased restrictions to varying degrees.
The Arizona governor ended capacity restrictions on businesses but said they must continue to need masks. Texas also announced a return to full capacity companies, but dropped its mask mandate. The Alabama governor said the state will lift its mask mandate after April 9. South Carolina lifted the state's mask mandate in government buildings, but recommended that restaurants continue to require face coverings.
In California, theme parks, outdoor sports, and live stadium events can restart on April 1st with reduced capacity and mandatory masks. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that the state would allow restaurants outside of New York City to return to 75% occupancy.
Mississippi also announced last week that companies could operate at full capacity and dropped the state's mask mandate.
On Sunday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves responded to criticism from public health officials that his decision to relax Covid restrictions was premature.
"Our approach was to protect not only lives, but also livelihoods. We have to get our economy rolling so that individuals can get back to work," Reeves said in an interview with CNN's State of the Union.
The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned Americans to remain vigilant and adhere to public health measures while the government works to vaccinate the nation.
"We want to come back carefully and slowly," said Fauci on the CBS News "Face the Nation" program. "But don't turn the switch on and off because it would be really risky to see it rise again," Fauci said of states changing their mitigation methods.
Similarly, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said on NBC's Meet the Press program that the US could see increases in some cases due to the new variants.
Osterholm said on Sunday that the US was "in the eye of the hurricane".
Osterholm said the prevalence of the more contagious B.1.1.7. The variant, first identified in the UK, will continue to grow. He added that roughly 40% of cases across the country are related to the variant.
Although new Covid infections continue to decline from the catastrophic winter summit, they remain stubbornly high, averaging more than 60,000 new cases per day, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. That's comparable to the surge the US saw last summer.
Deaths have also decreased since the devastating winter summit, but remain tragically high. More than 1,700 people die from the virus every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins.