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President-elect Joe Biden, whose administration will take over the pandemic response in six days, on Thursday announced a $1.9 trillion economic and coronavirus emergency plan that will include $400 billion for provisions to fight the pandemic with a focus on bolstering vaccine production and testing, as the virus continues to tear though the nation.

In an evening speech, Biden laid out his plan aimed to tackle the double crisis the country is facing: public health, with more than 4,000 covid-19 deaths reported for two days in a row, and economic fallout.

The package includes $1 trillion in direct relief for families, stimulus checks and jobless benefits; and $440 billion for aid for businesses and communities, according to The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Jeff Stein.

Here are some significant developments:
  • New unemployment claims filed last week soared, increasing by 181,000 to 965,000. It’s the largest increase since the start of the pandemic and the largest number of new unemployment claims since August.
  • Three members of Congress who recently announced that they tested positive might have contracted the virus while hunkered down in a crowded room in the Capitol, soon after receiving initial coronavirus vaccine doses. But experts say their diagnoses don’t mean the vaccines were faulty, as immune protection could take more than a week to kick in.
  • Two members of the World Health Organization’s team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus were barred from entering China after the pair tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in their home countries. China requires airline passengers to present negative antibody tests before being allowed to travel there.
  • Germany reported 1,244 coronavirus deaths Thursday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the nation’s disease control agency.

In a much-anticipated evening speech in Wilmington, Del., Biden unveiled the minutiae of his economic and pandemic relief plan, which he deemed as not only necessary, but urgent.

“We need to move quick, we need to move fast,” he said, urging for bipartisan support to pass his plan, arguing “the very health of our nation is at stake.”

Biden’s proposed rescue plan would also increase the stimulus checks to $2,000 per person, from the $600 approved by Congress in December, for those “most in need,” along with an extension of unemployment benefits, from $300 to $400 per week for millions of unemployed Americans.

Biden assigned $20 billion for his previously announced universal vaccination program, and said he intends to deliver 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days as president. He said his administration will “need to move heaven and earth” to get more people vaccinated.

More than 11.1 million people in the United States have received at least their first coronavirus vaccine dose, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker, and more than 30 million doses have been distributed across the country.

Three members of Congress tested positive for the novel coronavirus after taking shelter in a crowded room during the Capitol riots on Jan. 6. (The Washington Post)

The Trump administration this week announced its own changes to its vaccination rollout plan, which included a call to states to start providing shots to all adults 65 and older. Some have followed suit.

In California, for one, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Wednesday that residents 65 and older would be eligible to receive a vaccine. The same day, Los Angeles County health officials said they estimate 1 in 3 people in the county has been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The new official data also sheds light on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected poor neighborhoods and Latino and Black communities in the region, killing far more people in those communities and much faster compared with White and affluent ones.

The death rate for Latino residents in L.A. County has registered a dramatic 800 percent increase in a little over two months: They are dying at a rate eight times as high as in November — from 3.5 daily deaths per 100,000 people to 28 deaths a day for every 100,000, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The death rate of Black residents also soared from less than 1 daily death per 100,000 to more than 15 deaths a day per 100,000.

Jacqueline Dupree contributed to this report.