The US coronavirus death toll is projected to surpass 400,000 by Inauguration Day

At the current rate of daily fatalities, the US death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic may surpass 400,000 before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Wednesday.

Another 14,400 Americans are projected to die from the virus over the next six days, according to an ensemble forecast published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This comes as the nation’s health care system scrambles to keep up with the influx of new patients, with more than 128,000 people hospitalized across the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The City of Laredo, Texas, tweeted an “emergency message” Thursday saying their medical professionals are overwhelmed with the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Our medical professionals are overwhelmed with the surge in COVID-19 cases. Lives are at stake, and we are asking you to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary … save a life,” the tweet said.

Since the pandemic began, more than 388,000 people have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And on Thursday, the US recorded its 10th day in a row of more than 200,000 infections.

As front line workers struggle to keep patients alive and hospital ICU wings operational, the success of the vaccine rollout remains inconsistent.

Discrepancies in vaccine distribution

More than 9.6 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 1.3 million of those having received their second dose, according to data published by the CDC.

It’s far from the target of 20 million vaccinated by the end of 2020 set by officials with Operation Warp Speed. While the operation’s chief adviser, Moncef Slaoui, told CNN the figure was a “hope” and not a promise, Biden has called the vaccine distribution rollout so far “a dismal failure.”

At least one state, however, says its distribution is ahead of the game.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told CNN that as of Monday, every vaccine dose received by the state had been administered or assigned to be given within a day or so. The state leads the nation in terms of first doses administered per capita, according to the CDC data, nearly doubling the national rate.

“We’ve absolutely not gone with the federal model,” Justice told CNN’s John King on Thursday. Instead of using chain drugstores to administer the vaccine, the governor said the state has relied on partnerships with local pharmacies as well as the state health department and National Guard to distribute the vaccines effectively.

“It’s as simple as mud. If you can get shots in arms, you’re going to save lives,” Justice said. “We don’t need to sit around trying to develop systems or meeting with committees or whatever. We needed to act. We needed to move.”

Other states are not having the same success as West Virginia.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that the state is leading the nation in total vaccine distribution, with 1 million vaccines administered according to CDC data.

However, about 10% of the rural hospitals in Texas have yet to receive a single Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to a group representing rural hospitals in the state. One CEO of a rural hospital group reported that some employees had to get vaccines from a local supermarket, which had extra doses to spare.

The incoming Biden administration has been critical of the Trump administration’s most recent vaccine distribution plan that calls for states to open vaccination access to all Americans ages 65 or older, as well as those with chronic conditions who are at higher risk of severe disease.

The new plan aims to increase mass vaccination efforts and add more accessible venues, a senior administration official told CNN.

A member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board on Thursday cautioned against the new parameters. Although almost 180 million Americans would be eligible for the vaccine under the plan, he said, the supply necessary to handle this number would not be reached until summer at best.

Precautions still necessary

While the vaccine rollout generally provides long-term hope for the country to overcome the pandemic, the situation nationwide still requires preventive measures.

In Missouri, lawmakers canceled next week’s legislative session due to the rise in Covid-19 infections.

“Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the building, we are exercising an abundance of caution to protect members, staff, and visitors by canceling session next week. Our goal is to return to work the following week,” read the statement from Missouri House leadership.

Experts are hoping precautions can help turn the tide of debilitating case numbers, like those faced in California.

Available ICU beds have reached their lowest level, according to the California Department of Public Health. Less than 1,100 ICU beds remain throughout the state, a shrinking number from the beginning of the surge in November.

Los Angeles County has been particularly struck hard. The seven-day average of deaths in the county from Covid-19 is 1,644 people, according to JHU data. This averages to about one death every six minutes.

CNN’s Haley Brink, Christina Maxouris, Lauren Mascarenhas, Raja Razek, Maggie Fox, Deidre McPhillips, Cheri Mossburg, Jessica Firger and Nick Watt contributed to this report.