The United States set a another record for coronavirus deaths reported in a single day, tallying more than 4,250 lives lost on Tuesday, with new infections still at an all-time high and hospitals across the country contending with a flood of sick patients.
The milestone came as the Trump administration announced sweeping changes to its vaccination rollout, including making all of the coronavirus vaccine supply immediately available, urging states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older and warning states with lagging inoculations that they could lose some of their shots to speedier places.
Here are some significant developments:
More than 25 million doses of vaccines have been distributed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday proposed a stimulus package exceeding $1 billion, suggesting the state’s poorest families should get $750 payments as soon as possible to help buffer the economic calamity of the coronavirus pandemic.
His proposal, which requires General Assembly approval, would also effectively send more cash to the state’s 709,000 unemployed people by waiving state and local taxes on unemployment benefits and entitling them to a big tax refund.
Another piece of his coronavirus relief plan would let small businesses keep up to $12,000 worth of sales tax levied on their customers, and implement other changes to reduce tax bills.
The Maryland General Assembly convenes Wednesday for its annual legislative session, and Hogan urged lawmakers to approve the aid quickly.
Faced with a rise in positive coronavirus tests among players that led to four postponed games since Sunday, the NBA has instituted significantly stricter health and safety protocols as it seeks to continue playing through the coronavirus pandemic.
In the latest round of measures, which was discussed with the National Basketball Players Association this week, the NBA is instructing players to restrict all nonessential activities during home stands and to remain in their hotels while on road trips. Players will be expected to avoid public settings other than playing games and attending practices, and they will no longer be allowed to eat at approved restaurants or host personal guests at their hotel rooms, as they had been under the league’s initial health protocols.
The new rules require players to wear masks on the bench and in the locker room, while coaches and other team staffers must wear their masks “at all times during games.” Philadelphia 76ers Coach Doc Rivers was fined $10,000 for repeatedly lowering his mask during games earlier this month.
Democratic lawmakers are asking the country’s top telecom carriers to share more information about Americans who are falling behind on their Internet bills, setting the stage for Congress to consider billions of dollars in new broadband stimulus aid as part of the next coronavirus relief package.
With the pandemic still forcing families out of their offices and schools — and into online workspaces and classrooms — Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) said that AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other carriers need to be more forthcoming about their customers’ financial situations and the steps they are taking to ensure people do not lose access to the Web.
The lawmakers’ interest stems from scattered local reports over the past few months that their constituents have been disconnected — along with growing fears that Internet providers may seek to raise prices or put new caps on home Web usage. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission worked out a voluntary arrangement with the country’s telecom giants to help people stay online amid the pandemic even if they cannot pay their bills on time. But that agreement expired over the summer, and Democrats say it remains unclear how well, if it all, it actually worked in practice since the Trump administration did not collect any data on its implementation.
The coronavirus hasn’t been satisfied with unleashing a serious, contagious disease that has altered everyday life around the planet. In its overachieving way, it is also responsible for increases in anxiety and depression, teeth-grinding, anger, sleeplessness, migraines and another physical ailment being noted by orthopedists and podiatrists:
“There’s a pandemic of broken toes,” said John Keeling, an orthopedic surgeon in Chevy Chase, Md. He estimates the number of broken toes seen at his office has tripled or quadrupled.
Ben Pearl, a podiatrist whose practice is Arlington Foot and Ankle, said he has “absolutely” seen an increase in broken toes, “and the short reason is that with the pandemic, people are spending more time at home.”
Federal officials will require all international travelers flying to the United States to show proof they have tested negative for the coronavirus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announced Tuesday.
The order, set to go into effect Jan. 26, would greatly expand a requirement put into place last month that mandated testing for American citizens and others flying to the U.S. from the United Kingdom. Officials say they hope expanding the mandatory testing could help to thwart the virus and a faster-spreading variant that surfaced there and is now circulating in the United States.
“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” CDC director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “But when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports and at destinations.”
The United States set a another record for covid-19 deaths reported in a single day, tallying more than 4,250 on Tuesday, with new infections still at an all-time high and hospitals across the country contending with a flood of sick patients.
It was the second time during the course of the pandemic that the country’s daily toll surpassed 4,000, after a previous high of 4,027 last week. The statistics have been startling for weeks, since a fall surge of new cases accelerated into the winter, probably fueled by gatherings and travel during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Experts predicted the soaring numbers, and officials pleaded with Americans to stay home and stay vigilant. Yet the virus has devastated from coast to coast as never before, prompting concern among scientists that the spread could be accelerating because of an undetected mutation-laden variant.
Tuesday’s record 4,254 deaths — 1,200 more fatalities than were recorded during the worst days of April — came from across the country. California accounted for 548 of those killed. Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Virginia each set records for deaths reported in a single day.
In hard-hit Los Angeles County, the virus is killing one person every eight minutes, said Hilda Solis, a county supervisor and former U.S. labor secretary.
“This only ends when we each make the right decisions to protect each other,” she wrote on Twitter, echoing entreaties that have become increasingly dire with the area’s hospitals nearly overwhelmed.
Jeffrey Duchin, a public health officer in King County, Wash., observed that covid-19 has now killed more people across the country than the last 10 influenza seasons combined.
The record death total is but one of several calamitous milestones the country marked this week. On Monday, the seven-day rolling averages of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths each hit all-time highs. Twenty-four hours later, the country topped its case and death records again.
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U.S. buys 1.25 million doses of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment
Before the deal, there were 600,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies purchased by the government from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, but only 20 percent of the doses that had been distributed were being used in late December. The gap between available drug and usage has led health officials to exhort people recently diagnosed with the coronavirus who are at risk of complications to ask their doctor where they can get the drugs.
Monoclonal antibodies are delivered intravenously and require contagious patients to show up and receive two-hour-long infusions. A website is now available to tell patients where treatment is available.
A clinical trial of the Regeneron drug showed that people who received the monoclonal antibody cocktail had less virus in their bodies and needed fewer medical follow-up visits.
“Additionally, as expected, the virus continues to mutate, with the possibility of developing resistance to any one antibody,” George D. Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s president and chief scientific officer, said in a statement. “The Regeneron cocktail of two antibodies, each targeting a different site on the virus, reduces the possibility of the virus becoming resistant.”
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Maryland detects two cases of U.K. variant of coronavirus
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday that an Anne Arundel County couple were found to have the highly transmissible United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus.
One of them recently had traveled internationally, he said.
The greater Washington region reported a record seven-day average Tuesday of 8,698 new infections. The region added 7,656 new cases Tuesday, with 4,561 in Virginia, 2,665 in Maryland and 430 in the District.
President-elect Joe Biden is finalizing his coronavirus relief plan, with aides briefing congressional staffers Tuesday and indicating the measure will be tailored to get bipartisan support.
The proposal, which Biden intends to unveil on Thursday, is expected to include $2,000 stimulus payments, an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance, money for vaccine distribution and delivery, funding for cities, states, schools, child care and more.
Transition officials indicated in meetings with Democratic staffers that Biden will try to get bipartisan support for the measure, instead of using a special budgetary tool that could allow him to push legislation through Congress with only Democratic votes, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered indoor restaurants and museums to remain closed until two days after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in a mayoral fiat meant to both curb the rising coronavirus infections in the city and make Washington less hospitable to visitors considering traveling to see Biden sworn in.
On Monday morning, Bowser said at a news conference that she urged all Americans to stay home rather than travel to Washington, a city that normally welcomes the quadrennial flood of inauguration tourists with open arms. Visiting D.C. this year, Bowser said, could spread the coronavirus and put travelers at risk from right-wing groups that may be plotting violence before or on Inauguration Day.
Late Monday night, Bowser signed an order to give that exhortation not to visit more teeth.
More than half of the coronavirus vaccines administered so far in Florida have gone to people ages 65 and older, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a video message, adding that the state is “putting seniors first.”
The state is among several that departed from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and prioritized the elderly over essential workers. The CDC had recommended the second tier include grocery store, transit and other front-line workers, along with people 75 and older. Florida chose to instead make the vaccine available to people over 65, with DeSantis saying the state would not “put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population.”
In the video published Monday, he cited statistics showing that people 65 and older have accounted for 80 percent of coronavirus deaths reported in the United States. He noted that Florida is home to more than 4.5 million senior citizens.
“Our approach is informed by the data,” DeSantis said. “Vaccinating Floridians 65 and older is not only the right thing to do, but also the most effective tool we have to battle the pandemic and to reduce mortality.”
Florida vaccinated 223,000 seniors last week, he said. In all, the state has given about 633,000 of the 1.7 million doses it has received, according to CDC figures.
Liz Locke wasn’t sure what to expect when she logged on to Twitter last April, cocktail in hand, for a virtual watch party of classic films. She was supposed to be attending the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival, but when it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced they would instead air previous festival programming on the TCM cable channel that weekend. Locke gamely followed the #TCMParty hashtag and chatted with fellow movie fans as she watched “Network,” “Casablanca” and “Auntie Mame,” until something surprising happened — she realized she was having fun.
“Had I attended the festival in-person, I know I would have had a great time. But I don’t know that I would have put myself out there to the degree that I did on social media,” she said.
Like Locke, everyone is counting the days until gatherings can safely resume. But despite the disappointing cancellation of countless cultural activities during the pandemic — film and arts festivals, concerts, book tours, speaking engagements, etc. — a small silver lining has emerged: Virtual entertainment events can actually be pretty great. Even more importantly, they open doors to people who might have otherwise not been able to attend, whether because of geography or mobility or finances. As a result, accessibility to entertainment could change for the better, forever.
After numerous lawmakers refused to wear masks while hunkered down with their colleagues during last week’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) have introduced a bill that could penalize lawmakers for making the same choice again.
The legislation introduced Tuesday would impose a $1,000 fine on members who refuse to wear masks while in the Capitol complex. The legislation would amend House rules to add that lawmakers are required to wear masks while in the Capitol.
The move comes as at least three Democratic House members — Reps. Brad Schneider (Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) — revealed within 24 hours that they tested positive for coronavirus after being among dozens who sheltered in a committee room last Wednesday as a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. Several Republicans in the room refused to wear a mask.
President-elect Joe Biden said Monday that it is his “hope and expectation” that the Senate could hold an impeachment trial while also confirming his nominees and working on an additional coronavirus relief package.
Biden made his comments shortly after publicly receiving the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a hospital in Newark, Del., part of an effort to reassure the nation of its safety.
The House is expected to impeach Trump this week, but it is unlikely that the Republican-led Senate would hold a trial before Trump leaves office Jan. 20. Some Democrats have expressed concern that holding a trial after Biden takes office could detract from his agenda.
Even though Trump will have already left office, a conviction by the Senate after his term ends would mean he cannot hold federal office again.
Speaking to reporters at ChristianaCare’s Christiana Hospital, Biden said he has had preliminary conversations about the prospect of the Senate, which will be under Democratic control after he is sworn in, splitting days between an impeachment trial and other business.
“That’s my hope and expectation,” Biden said. “My priority, first and foremost, is to get the stimulus bill passed and, secondly, begin to rebuild the economy.”
In response to a question, he also said he does not fear being sworn into office outdoors, as is traditionally the case, following last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Biden said. “I think it’s critically important that there be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened people’s lives, defaced public property, caused great damage, that they be held accountable.”
The president-elect received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on live television Dec. 21 at Christiana Hospital.
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