PORTERVILLE, CA — At 95, Bernice Chacon already had a lifelong list of accomplishments. Now, the grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of 35 can add coronavirus survivor to that list.
Chacon, the matriarch of her central California family, is known to be “stubborn,” said her son, Mario Chacon.
“So COVID couldn’t stand a chance,” he told ABC-30.
But it was far from smooth sailing for the 95-year-old, who is beloved for her upbeat attitude, after she caught the virus in January, the news station reported.
“It was really scary for all of us because at some point we really thought we were going to lose her because her sister had just passed away and she was 93,” Mario Chacon said.
Bernice Chacon spent two weeks in two hospitals after she first came down with pneumonia, and then the virus.
Her children said it was her fighting spirit that powered her through.
She said it was “prayer, a strong will and family.”
Read more from ABC-30
The American life expectancy saw its steepest dip since World War II during the first half of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was claiming its first wave of deaths. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that life expectancy dropped an entire year during that period.
Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, the Associated Press reported, citing the CDC’s preliminary estimates.
“This is a huge decline,” Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC, told the AP. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”
It could get worse, other experts have added.
“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year. … I would expect that these numbers would only get worse,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco.
Cases, deaths and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus are down nationally, with the national death count down more than 25 percent from a week ago, Washington Post numbers show.
The economic recovery, however, appears to be going much more slowly.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week to 861,000, according to an Associated Press report. That’s an uptick of about 13,000 from the previous week, the report states.
In all, nearly 10 million American jobs have been lost since the pandemic began last March.
But while some states ease restrictions, partly as a way to help bring back jobs, health experts are urging them to proceed with great caution as the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant that first originated in the United Kingdom has become prevalent in the United States.
“Now is not the time to fully open up,” Karthik Gangavarapu, a researcher at Scripps Research Institute, told the AP. “We need to stay vigilant.”
At least 1,277 cases of the more-contagious variant have been reported across 42 states, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.
The increased concern over the spread of the variant — as well as the others, including the ones that originated in South Africa and Brazil — has led some federal lawmakers to push for billions of dollars to help track variants.
Until then, the Biden administration said Wednesday it has pledged nearly $200 million in federal funding as a “down payment” to jump-start the process.
Walensky said this will allow CDC labs to process up to 25,000 samples a week, up from the 7,000 or so that they are currently able to handle in a week.
On the vaccine front, Biden’s pre-inauguration goal to have 100 million shots administered during the first 100 days of his presidency is looking like a “lowball” number, according to another report from the Times. About 35.6 million doses have been administered in the first four weeks of his presidency, an average of 1.72 million doses a day over the past week.
Biden said Tuesday night that vaccines should be available to anyone who wants one by the end of July, the Times reported.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has a similar projection. He told CNN earlier this week he expects that widespread vaccinations could begin in the spring, and that a large portion of the country will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.
So far, about 12 percent of the American population has taken at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines approved here. But widespread skepticism remains, notably among military personnel.
Some Army units are seeing as few as one-third agree to the vaccine, the AP reported.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, told Congress on Wednesday that “very early data” suggests that just up to two-thirds of the service members offered the vaccine have accepted it.
The demand for a vaccine is high elsewhere, however — such as in Massachusetts, where the state’s vaccine finder website crashed Thursday morning just as about 1 million additional residents became eligible for it, NBC Boston and others have reported.
The high volume of traffic to the site may have caused it to crash, state health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel told the news station.
As of Friday afternoon, the United States had reported more than 27.9 million cases and more than 495,000 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
At least 2,652 deaths and 67,202 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States on Thursday, according to a Washington Post database. The Post’s reporting shows that over the past week, new daily cases have fallen 28.1 percent, new daily deaths have fallen 26.4 percent and COVID-19-related hospitalizations have fallen 16.1 percent.
Nearly 73.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed and 57.7 million administered in the United States as of Friday, according to the CDC. More than 41 million people have received one dose, and more than 16.1 million have received two.
Currently, 62,300 people are hospitalized with a coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
As of Friday, 25 states and U.S. territories remained above the positive testing rate recommended by the World Health Organization to safely reopen. To safely reopen, the WHO recommends states remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.