COVID on Track to Kill a Half Million Americans

But report shows promising new data for Pfizer shot that might be '89.4% efficient' in preventing Sars-CoV-2 infections and transmission.
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Despite much of the U.S. seeing a slower increase in COVID-19 infections than just a month ago, the nation is set to reach a grim milestone: a half million deaths from the virus.

That's according to the latest numbers by the Johns Hopkins University disease-tracking dashboard, showing nearly 498,000 deaths so far. 

"It's terrible. It is historic," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of the deaths during an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press" Sunday. "We haven't seen anything even close to this for well over a hundred years since the 1918 pandemic of influenza. It's something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it's true. This is a devastating pandemic, and it's historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now."

Saturday's numbers showed 70,646 newly confirmed cases and 1,793 deaths. That daily tally of known infections is high, but is down significantly from where the numbers were just after New Year's, when daily infections reached 300,000.

Also, the rollout of vaccines -- and the data supporting the efficacy of the shots -- continue to look promising. 

More than 61 million vaccines have been injected into the arms of Americans so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, a new report out by the publication Der Spiegel shows the vaccines by Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report and Germany's BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get Report may have dramatically cut transmission rates for the novel coronavirus in Israel.

The German news publication claimed it had information from a large observational study by the Israeli Ministry of Health, showing that the vaccine was "89.4% efficient" in preventing Sars-CoV-2 infections. 

But some were skeptical of the news. 

"It's certainly possible that the vaccine achieves ~90% reduction in spread, but we're not there yet — even though it's the news we all want to see," posted Dr. Eric Topol of the Department of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research on Twitter. "Nothing like the combo of a 'leaked' report and hunger for good news."

This story has been updated.