One bleak pandemic day in November, Aisha Tyler caught herself vacuuming the inside of her freezer. Then she scolded herself. Yes, out loud.
“You’re insane,” she recalls saying. “What are you doing? You have to stop this right now.”
Sometimes the Los Angeles-based actress will shout an expletive and tell herself to “snap out of it.” On brighter days, she’ll congratulate herself on what a good job she’s doing and call for a celebration.
Humans leave little unspoken, and this past year, as many of us have avoided social events and worked from home alone, we’ve been forced to talk out loud to the only person still around to listen: ourselves. Sure, it may take the form of bantering with our pets, scolding the politicians on TV or cajoling our malfunctioning printers, but that’s really just another way of hearing our own voice, helping us discern what exactly is going on inside that head of ours.
Thousands of Marylanders with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes, and those who care for them, learned Tuesday that they would soon be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, putting an end to weeks of lobbying and worry.
In what came as a surprise announcement to providers, advocates and relatives of the disabled, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said residents and staff of “special needs group homes” will be included in phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan, along with individuals over 75, teachers and child-care workers. This group, which totals about 860,000 residents, could start receiving doses of the vaccine by late January, Hogan said.
“We’re delighted … To us, this feels massive,” said David Ervin, chief executive for the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, which operates 29 facilities for disabled adults in Virginia and Maryland. “To be explicitly named now in phase 1b gives us something to hang onto.”
More than 1 out of every 100 Americans have now been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, the virus that has overturned life as we know it for nearly a year. Here in the D.C. region, more than 200,000 people have gotten shots. With millions more to go, here are some questions you might have about how D.C., Maryland and Virginia are administering vaccines — and when and how you can get your shot.
The city of Baltimore will begin this week to vaccinate first responders and health-care workers not affiliated with hospitals, Mayor Brandon Scott (D) said Tuesday.
The city received 2,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine from state officials last week that it plans to deploy. Health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said officials are unsure of how many additional doses the city will receive through next week.
Vaccine distribution moved ahead Tuesday as the seven-day rolling average of new infections across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. stood at 7,421 — the third consecutive record-setting day. In Maryland, state data shows the Baltimore region has vaccinated 1.5 percent of its population, compared to a 0.7 percent vaccination rate in the state’s Washington suburbs.
The country’s biggest airlines are asking the Trump administration to institute a “global program to require testing for travelers to the United States” — and to scrap many travel restrictions.
In a letter to Vice President Pence on Monday, the advocacy group Airlines for America said it was supporting a proposal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement the universal testing. The organization, which represents airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest, said it also urged the administration to eliminate entry restrictions on people traveling “from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil.”
The letter argues that such moves would protect the health and safety of people flying and communities on the ground while also allowing for “essential economic activities.”
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said on Tuesday that the United States could soon be giving at least 1 million coronavirus vaccine doses a day, despite the initial slow rollout that has prompted criticism and frustration among the public as well as health officials.
Little more than 17 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been distributed across the country as of Tuesday morning, but just about 4.8 million of those doses have been administered to people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number far lower than what some experts had expected.
“Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” Fauci told the Associated Press.
With the holidays over, “once you get rolling and get some momentum, I think we can achieve 1 million a day or even more,” he said, calling President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days “a very realistic, important and achievable goal.”
Vaccinations are now reaching about half a million injections a day, according to Fauci.
At this accelerated pace, Fauci anticipated the country could see a dent in the number of infections in the spring, and by early fall, a return “to some degree of normality,” he said.
Last week President Trump deflected criticism for a slower-than expected rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, putting blame on the states for failing to administer them fast enough.
Health officials had originally set the goal of administering shots to at least 20 million Americans before the end of 2020, which was not achieved.
Fauci estimated that between 70 and 85 percent of the total U.S. population — as many as 280 million people — need to get the vaccine to achieve “herd immunity,” which he said he felt confident could happen by next fall.
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USPS delays are threatening small-town newspapers. So is a postage price increase.
Jeff Wagner hardly knew what to tell his delivery driver when the man returned one day in late December from a run to the post office in their northern Nebraska town with a trailer still full of newspapers.
The post office wouldn’t take them, the driver said, as it had every Tuesday for decades, because it was so stacked up with packages and delayed mail there was simply no room. Wagner, the president of Iowa Information, a regional printing press that publishes four newspapers and a handful of shopping pamphlets, then checked his messages, where he found at least a half-dozen complaints about late or missing newspapers.
The U.S. Postal Service has been under siege for months as record volumes of holiday packages and election mail ran up against a spike in coronavirus cases within its workforce, leaving the agency severely short-staffed. Nearly 19,000 workers were in quarantine at the end of 2020 after becoming infected or exposed to the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union.
The global economy could be headed for a “decade of growth disappointments” if policymakers don’t take decisive action to guard the recovery, the World Bank said Tuesday as it downgraded its economic outlook for the coming decade.
The bank had already called for slowing growth between 2020 and 2029 because of labor force declines and underinvestment, but on Tuesday, in its semiannual Global Economic Prospects report, it lowered its projection of annual growth to an average of 1.9 percent, compared with 2.5 percent in the previous decade.
“The pandemic is expected to leave long lasting adverse effects on global activity. It is likely to worsen the slowdown in global growth projected over the next decade due to underinvestment, underemployment, and labor force declines in many advanced economies,” the bank said in a news release. “If history is any guide, the global economy is heading for a decade of growth disappointments unless policy makers put in place comprehensive reforms to improve the fundamental drivers of equitable and sustainable economic growth.”
Global gross domestic product could expand 4 percent this year if widespread vaccine rollouts are successful, the World Bank predicted in the report. The global economy contracted 4.3 percent in 2020 as the pandemic halted travel, hobbled businesses and thrust millions into poverty around the world.
The near-term outlook, the bank said, remains “highly uncertain.” Policymakers must grapple with significant challenges in public health, debt management, budget policies and central banking as they try to usher along the recovery, World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a foreword to the report.
“To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labor and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance,” Malpass wrote.
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Georgia becomes fifth state to report case of U.K. coronavirus variant
Georgia is the fifth state to report a case of a new variant of the coronavirus, which scientists believe is more contagious and has already been found in dozens of countries.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said an 18-year-old man with no travel history was found to have variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in England. He is in isolation.
“The emergence of this variant in our state should be a wake-up call for all Georgians,” said DPH Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey.
The variant isn’t believed to be deadlier or vaccine-resistant but could be 10 to 70 percent more transmissible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Colorado, Florida, New York and California have also reported cases, including 24 confirmed and four probable new cases in San Diego County on Tuesday.
Hundreds of maskless Trump supporters gathered in D.C. on Tuesday at a rally where some speakers made inflammatory speeches dismissing the severity of the pandemic, calling it “a flu” and rejecting measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
“Who here is up to the task of not wearing a mask? Jesus is king, and it’s time to let freedom ring,” conservative podcaster Clay Clark said before a cheering crowd gathered in Freedom Plaza. He then asked the demonstrators to “turn to the person next to you and give them a hug,” with several attendees following action.
“It’s a mass-spreader, it’s a mass-spreader event!” he exclaimed, derisively.
In his speech, Clark claimed he had gone to a Whole Foods store in D.C. alongside 150 other maskless people, he said, choosing “not to hide from a virus that is not deadly.”
The crowds, which included members of far-right groups that refuse to accept President Trump’s defeat in the general election, convened in the country’s capital to show support for Trump’s baseless allegations that the election was stolen from him.
Other speakers praised the fact that almost nearly no one in the crowd wore a mask, saying the demonstrators were exercising their personal freedoms.
The demonstrators violated the District’s mandate that requires people to wear a mask outdoors, despite a surge of cases and hospitalizations following the winter holidays. The police, however, are not enforcing the measure during the protests, which are expected to last for 48 hours.
The city reported a 12 percent uptick in hospitalizations Monday compared with last week, and the Washington region set a new daily record Friday with 9,008 new coronavirus cases.
Grammy Awards postponed to March over coronavirus concerns
The Grammy Awards have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns, according to the Associated Press. The ceremony, pushed to March for the time being, was scheduled to be held Jan. 31in Los Angeles — a city so overwhelmed by the illness in recent days that several hospitals have had to turn away ambulances due to a shortage of oxygen.
According to Rolling Stone, Grammys organizers had envisioned a limited show similar to what the Emmys pulled off in the fall — only presenters and performers would be allowed at a venue, while all nonperforming nominees would join the festivities virtually. The Recording Academy announced in November that comedian Trevor Noah would be hosting the ceremony.
Amid a slower-than-expected rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Tuesday declined to open access beyond health-care workers — something New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has urged as a way of speeding distribution.
The governor said the 900,000 doses the state has received so far are not enough to cover its 2.1 million health-care workers. He said that those in the industry should remain first in line, adding that they are at heightened risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
“You can’t forget the health-care workers,” Cuomo said during a news conference. “These are the nurses, these are the doctors, these are the people who are on the front line. And they are in the greatest risk, and they are also the greatest threat.”
Authorities in states, including in Texas and Florida, have expanded vaccine access beyond the first phase, which includes health-care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. The Texas health commissioner, John Hellerstedt, urged distributors to move quickly, saying in a Dec. 24 statement there was “no need” to ensure that everyone in the first priority group had been vaccinated before moving to others.
In New York, where Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures show about 895,000 doses have been sent and only 274,000 administered, de Blasio has been pressing for Cuomo to make a similar call and allow essential workers to get the shots. He criticized the governor’s approach on speeding distribution — fining hospitals that do not move quickly enough.
“Why don’t we stop talking about fines and start talking about the freedom to vaccinate, letting the professionals do their jobs,” de Blasio said during his own Tuesday news conference. He said the state’s measure “doesn’t get anyone anywhere. That just paralyzes people.”
Cuomo, however, blamed hospital leadership for the lag, noting that some have given vaccines at a steady pace. For those that have been slower, the state can give their doses to a hospital that moves more quickly, he said.
“Some of them, frankly, operate better than others,” Cuomo said. “It’s like anything else in life.”
Trump warned by Scottish leader to stay away amid reports he might travel to his golf resort to skip inauguration
LONDON — The speculation began with curious activity by U.S. military aircraft reported circling Trump’s Turnberry golf resort in western Scotland in November. Then The Sunday Post in Scotland reported that Glasgow Prestwick Airport “has been told to expect the arrival of a US military Boeing 757 aircraft, that is occasionally used by Trump, on January 19.”
The leader of Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, warned Tuesday that Trump he might be breaking the law if he came: “We are not allowing people to come into Scotland now without an essential purpose, which would apply to him, just as it applies to everybody else. Coming to play golf is not what I would consider an essential purpose.”
Scotland, alongside Northern Ireland, Wales and England are in lockdown, with stay-at-home orders, allowing people only to venture out for essential work or shopping, and to get a bit of exercise and attend medical appointments. Hospitals here are filling rapidly as infections surge, driven by a new variant of the virus, which is 50 to 70 percent more transmissible.
The World Health Organization’s immunization advisory group issued guidance Tuesday for the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, recommending that it be administered in two doses 21 to 28 days apart.
Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), however, acknowledged during an online news briefing that some countries may need to follow a longer timeline.
“While we acknowledge the absence of data on safety and efficacy after one dose beyond the three-four weeks studied in the clinical trials, SAGE made a provision for countries in exceptional circumstances of vaccine supply constraints to delay the administration of the second dose for a few weeks to maximize the number of individuals benefiting from a first dose,” he said.
He added: “I think we have to be a bit open to these types of decisions, which countries have to make according to their own epidemiological situations.”
WHO immunization expert Kate O’Brien stressed that there was no set end-date by which the second Pfizer dose had to be administered. “Even if there’s an extended delay,” she said, the follow-up shot should still be provided.
As countries around the world begin to unroll vaccination programs, delays in distribution and access, alongside ongoing outbreaks, have complicated official timelines and pledges.
“Nobody expected this to be easy, and we are starting to see where the road bumps are and where we need to make adjustments,” O’Brien said.
As Britain returns to its third lockdown, the government said it will delay providing patients with their second shot to administer the first injection to more people. Some other countries have indicated they may follow suit.
As with inoculations for many other diseases, the coronavirus vaccine is administered in two doses: The first provides partial protection, and the second, after a waiting period, provides the fullest immunity it can for that person.
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