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CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that preliminary data shows that over 90% of Americans remain susceptible to COVID-19 — meaning they have not yet been exposed to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths this week — the most recorded in the world — and over 6.8 million Americans have contracted the virus so far.

Between the lines: While President Trump has suggested that the U.S. could combat the virus by reaching herd immunity, Redfield's statement shows how difficult — and deadly — that approach could be.

  • World Health Organization officials have said that 60% to 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated or develop COVID-19 antibodies through natural infection to achieve herd immunity.

What he's saying: The virus has spread across America at varying rates since January, infecting as much as 15% to 20% of the population in some states and less than 1% in others, Redfield told the Senate Health Committee.

  • "The preliminary results on the first round show that a majority of our nation — more than 90% of the population — remains susceptible."

Go deeper

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

U.S. set to end 2020 with just over 3 million vaccine doses administered

A healthcare worker hands Patrick Range, Sr., 88, a vaccination card after giving him the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Americans received just over 3 million initial doses of coronavirus vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech in the 19 days following first shipments, according to a Bloomberg tally of government websites and CDC data.

Why it matters: It's far below Operation Warp Speed's goal of administering 20 million doses by the end of the year, raising concerns about how long it may be until enough people are vaccinated in the U.S. for life to return to normal.

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

WHO lists Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A healthcare worker giving a patient a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine in Florida on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Thursday listed Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The approval — the WHO's first for a coronavirus vaccine — may allow some countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes so they can import and administer the vaccine quicker, the WHO said.

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.