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President Biden hesitated in giving a specific timeline for when every American will be able to get a vaccine and when the country will be able to return to normalcy.

During a visit to the Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Friday, the president said he wanted to be “straight” with the American people and explained that issues such as weather events, emerging virus mutations and manufacturing delays could pose significant challenges to the vaccination process.

“I believe we’re on the road, I promise you. I know we’ll run into bumps. It’s not going to be easy here to the end, but we’re going to beat this. We’re going to beat this,” he said.

The president said there would soon be massive sites set up offering vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a challenge, he said, that will be “the most difficult logistical effort the United States has ever taken in peacetime.”

Earlier this week, the president had estimated a return to pre-pandemic normal by Christmas.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a $2.2 billion coronavirus relief bill Friday, based on legislation passed earlier this month, as the state sees a drop in case counts but concerns about variants remain.
  • Pfizer is expanding its vaccine production capabilities at locations in Michigan and Connecticut and adding a facility in Kansas to its coronavirus fill-finish production process, the company’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, said in a news conference Friday.
  • More than 59 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the United States — 1.8 million more doses reported since Thursday, according to data published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 41.9 million people have received one dose of the vaccine and more than 17 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
  • Global vaccination efforts were set to get a boost Friday as Western governments and pharmaceutical companies pledged doses and funds to help poorer nations step up immunization campaigns. The Biden administration is expected to promise $4 billion in assistance, while Britain and France said they would donate or set aside portions of their vaccine supplies.
  • The world needs — and has the capacity to develop — a universal coronavirus vaccine that could cover all SARS-Cov-2 mutations and other coronaviruses, top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci said Friday.
  • Border sanitary infection filters will be installed in the Calexico West Port of Entry for those essential workers who wish to enter Baja California, Mexico, through Calexico, Calif., the Mexican government announced Friday night.
3:45 a.m.
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Scientists behind Oxford vaccine conducting research under intense scrutiny

LONDON — Vaccine developers Sarah Gilbert and Andrew Pollard have been working with the world looking over their shoulder.

The vaccine they created in a laboratory at Oxford University probably will become the most widely used on the planet, with news this week that the World Health Organization has approved it for global distribution. It is central to the vaccination campaigns in Britain and Europe and, because it is cheaper and easier to transport than competing technology, much of the developing world is counting on it, too.

Of all the vaccines developed in the West, though, the Oxford-AstraZeneca entry has been most beset by controversy. A dosing error — or a serendipitous discovery, take your pick — in clinical trials caused confusion over efficacy.

Early trials also did not include enough people over 65 to prove the vaccine protects the elderly, leading several European countries to restrict use in that age group, while the United States waits for more data.

3:00 a.m.
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U.S.-Canada land border restrictions to reach year mark

TORONTO — The restrictions on discretionary travel at the U.S.-Canada land border will enter their 12th month, officials said on Friday, marking an extraordinary and once-unthinkable milestone for the frontier.

“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe from [covid-19],” Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet announcing the extension.

The restrictions have had limited impact on trade, but they’ve hit the tourism industry hard and upended life in cross-border communities where jaunting across to eat, fill up on cheap gas, or visit loved ones is a way of life.

The measures will remain in place until at least March 21. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated last year that they would not be lifted until the coronavirus is “significantly” more under control everywhere in the world.

The restrictions are largely popular in Canada, though some groups have been pushing for them to be eased to make it easier for the reunification of families and couples split apart by them.

2:07 a.m.
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Mobile clinics, free rides have done little so far to improve vaccine equity in D.C. region

Inside Fairfax County’s government center one recent morning, elderly residents streamed in to get their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, underscoring a problem that has vexed officials across the greater Washington region.

In a county of 1.1 million residents, where 26 percent of the population is Black or Latino, nearly everyone getting a shot was White.

Amid a vaccine shortage where savvier residents have snapped up online appointments, local officials are working to more evenly administer doses through such initiatives as mobile vaccination clinics and free rides to appointments.

So far, however, those efforts have had little impact, fueling concerns that the blue-collar workers and immigrants who have suffered the most during the pandemic will remain vulnerable to severe illness.

12:44 a.m.
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Biden administration, vaccine makers scramble to outflank coronavirus variants

Biden administration officials, pharmaceutical companies and scientists are racing to get ahead of a coronavirus that has become a more aggressive shape-shifter than many had expected. But they are confronting basic questions about where the variants are spreading, how quickly to update the vaccines and whether more problems are just over the horizon.

The threats from more transmissible variants are “a huge topic with everybody in the White House and everyone wants to make sure we have viable strategies,” Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on the covid-19 response, said in an interview. “But part of it is we need to learn more.”

Among the unknowns: Will one variant — for instance, the highly transmissible version that shut down Britain — become dominant here, or will the number of mutant strains expand? Will existing vaccines, and others on the runway, offer sufficient protection against the new variants? And if not, should companies target the most worrisome strain, or develop an injection that covers several of them?

11:51 p.m.
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Video shows deputies confronting young women who dressed as ‘grannies’ for coronavirus vaccines

The coronavirus vaccine is so coveted that two women in Central Florida went to extremes Wednesday to get inoculated: They dressed as if they were elderly, health officials said.

The geriatric guise, which was captured on video, is the latest instance of people trying to cut the line to get vaccinated from the deadly virus. It isn’t even the first time in this part of the state.

“This is the hottest commodity that is out there right now, so we have to be very careful,” Raul Pino, the director of the health department in Orange County, said at a news briefing Thursday.

10:37 p.m.
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Variants could fuel coronavirus resurgence in Canada without tighter measures, health officials warn

TORONTO — Fast-spreading, more contagious variants could fuel a dangerous resurgence of the coronavirus in Canada, reversing progress made in recent weeks, if public health measures aren’t tightened, Canadian officials warned on Friday.

“With more contagious variants spreading, further lifting of the public health measures will cause the epidemic to resurge rapidly and strongly,” said Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “Current community-based public health measures will be insufficient.”

The grim warning came as she unveiled new federal modeling, which showed that Canada could see more than 20,000 new covid-19 cases each day by mid-March if new variants take hold and public health measures are lifted further.

“These variants have been smoldering in the background and now threaten to flare up,” Tam said.

Variants of concern have been identified in each of Canada’s 10 provinces. In Newfoundland and Labrador, which had fared relatively well during the pandemic, an explosive outbreak of the virus driven by variants of concern led officials to call off in-person voting in a provincial election last week — on the eve of the vote.

Tam said that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in recent weeks since peaking in January. She presented the projections against a backdrop in which some provinces have begun to relax public health measures. Amid concerns from public health officials in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and some of its most populous suburbs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that those areas would remain under a stay-at-home order for two more weeks.

9:00 p.m.
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Biden names administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

President Biden Friday named Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, a health-policy official during the Obama administration, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The decision, reported by The Washington Post this week, would put Brooks-LaSure, in charge of the $1 trillion agency that oversees the pair of vast public health-insurance programs that date to Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty of the 1960s.

The agency also has jurisdiction over large parts of the Affordable Care Act, including insurance marketplaces created under the law that are paths to coverage for Americans who do not have access to affordable health benefits through a job.

The position is pivotal to Biden’s goal of expanding insurance coverage in the United States, especially as millions of Americans have lost coverage because of the economic strains caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The appointment requires Senate confirmation and comes days before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for the man who would be her boss: Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, who has been nominated as Health and Human Services secretary.

Unlike many of Biden appointees, Becerra is a former House member who has not worked in previous Democratic administrations. Brooks-LaSure, in contrast, fits within a pattern in which many of Biden’s selections for significant roles worked under President Barack Obama while Biden was vice president.

She worked on ACA insurance policies at HHS and was deputy director for policy of a unit within CMS that the law created — the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

She previously worked on health matters within the White House Office of Management and Budget and as a congressional staffer. She worked at Avalere Health, a consulting firm, and currently is managing director at Manatt, another consulting firm.

8:07 p.m.
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A group of California school board members let loose on parents in hot mic moment

Thinking they were in a private forum where they could safely vent, a group of San Francisco Bay-area school board members unleashed months of pent-up frustration with parents, dismissing them as marijuana users desperate for free babysitting almost a year into the pandemic.

“Are we alone?” one member of the Oakley Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees asked this week before describing her attitude toward critics: “B----, if you’re going to call me out, I’m going to f--- you up.”

Unbeknown to the group, the virtual meeting where they were letting loose was being broadcast live to an audience that included the very parents they were disparaging — and at least one was recording.

The accidental “hot mic” moment Wednesday night laid bare the heightened tensions between elected officials who are under growing pressure to reopen schools and parents who have spent nearly a year juggling work and child care.

7:12 p.m.
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Macron calls on the U.S. and Europe to share vaccine doses, not just money

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged the United States and Europe to immediately send 13 million coronavirus vaccine doses to African governments to vaccinate front-line health workers.

The call, made at a virtual meeting of the Munich Security Conference, came after the U.S. and others promised money — but not doses — to help those cut out of the vaccine race.

Macron said Friday that putting money into Covax, a multilateral effort to get vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, will take longer than sharing some of the doses rich countries have snapped up.

“If we announce billions today to give doses in six months or a year, our African friends will buy doses from Chinese, Russians,” he argued. “The power of the West will be a concept but not reality.”

Macron’s remark followed news that the Biden White House will be throwing its weight behind Covax, putting a total of $4 billion into an effort former president Donald Trump spurned.

Not long after, the European Union announced it would double its pledge to the program. Germany and Canada quickly followed suit, bumping up their initial offers.

Health officials say the funding is badly needed but won’t quickly solve the vaccine supply crunch in the short term. Several countries, including Canada, have talked about donating surplus vaccines to Covax, but have declined to lay out actual timelines.

On Friday, for instance, Trudeau declined to directly answer a question about Macron’s earlier call for rich countries to donate 5 percent of the vaccine doses they have already ordered.

“We know there is still much more to do in Canada,” he said. “But absolutely once we’ve vaccinated the most vulnerable, we should also look at the most vulnerable around the world.”

6:08 p.m.
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European Union pledges to give more money to Covax

The European Union plans to commit an additional $605 million to Covax, the global fund to channel coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday amid increasing criticism that the wealthiest nations have taken the world’s limited supply of inoculations for their own use.

The plan will double the E.U.’s financial commitment to Covax to $1.2 billion, but the pledge of extra money did not appear to include any fresh willingness to commit actual doses of vaccines, raising questions about supplies for the more than 100 countries that have not yet received a single vial.

“We will only be safe if the whole world is safe. As announced in the #G7, the EU is doubling its contribution to #COVAX, the world’s facility for universal access to vaccines — from €500 million to €1 billion. Deliveries will start soon. A true moment of global solidarity,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter as discussions got underway Friday among the leaders of Group of Seven world powers.

She said that the European Union would commit another $121 million in humanitarian assistance to help facilitate the administration of vaccinations in Africa, offering money “to strengthen health systems, ensure the cold chains, buy equipment and train staff.” And she said the European Union wanted to help build African manufacturing capacity so that vaccines can be made on that continent.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Financial Times interview published Thursday that the United States and Europe should donate 5 percent of the vaccine doses they have ordered to developing countries. It wasn’t yet clear whether other countries would follow his lead.

5:26 p.m.
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Distribution of 6 million vaccine doses delayed because of winter storms

Some 6 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines — about three days’ supply — have been delayed in their journey to vaccination sites around the country, the White House announced Friday.

The bad winter weather has slowed the arrival of vaccine in all 50 states, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House’s senior adviser on the government’s response to covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

During a White House coronavirus briefing, Slavitt said vaccine delays have occurred this week for three reasons. The vaccine shippers — FedEx, UPS and McKesson — “have all faced challenges as workers have been snowed in and unable to get to work,” he said. In addition, road closures in some areas have held up the delivery of vaccine. And more than 2,000 vaccination sites are in places where electricity was knocked out by the storms, so they have been unable to receive the vaccine.

Because the two vaccines allowed for emergency use — manufactured by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech and by Moderna — require various degrees of cold storage, it has been important not to risk wasting scarce doses by having them arrive in places where they could not be properly stored in the storms. “The vaccines are sitting safe and sound in our factories and hubs,” Slavitt said.

He predicted all the delayed doses will be delivered within the next week, with 1.4 million doses in transit Friday. UPS and FedEx are prepared to make deliveries Saturday to places that are open to accept them, Slavitt said. And Moderna is reopening Friday, will work through the weekend and “will put vaccine on aircraft Sunday night for Monday delivery.”

Slavitt said the government is asking states and vaccination sites to extend their hours — to reschedule appointments lost because of the storms and to prepare to handle additional vaccine supplies expected in the next weeks and months.

He sought to reassure people who, in the past few days, have had to miss their appointment for a second shot, as both vaccines require – 21 days after the first shot for Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna. “It is not a problem,” he said. “That will be accommodated completely.”

4:45 p.m.
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Despite a decline in cases, local officials say it’s too early to lift restrictions

After a holiday surge that killed more than 7,000 residents, coronavirus infections in the District, Maryland and Virginia are declining steadily — an encouraging but precarious mark of progress, officials and experts say.

On Thursday, the region’s seven-day average of new daily cases fell to the same levels as mid-November. Hospitalizations were also down to pre-Thanksgiving levels, and deaths had dropped to half of their January peak.

“I have rarely offered words of optimism. But I have been watching the numbers, and I’m beginning to feel optimistic,” said Eric Toner, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Given the increased use of masks and the number of residents who have achieved some degree of immunity, either from surviving covid-19 or receiving the vaccine, “we have reason to believe that maybe the worst is over,” he said.

Nonetheless, with an average of more than 3,000 new cases daily, experts say it is still too early to lift major restrictions on social and commercial activity.

3:54 p.m.
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Transportation Secretary Buttigieg on the Cruz saga: Check the international travel covid guidelines

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) trip to Cancun, Mexico, saying it was a good time to remind Americans that there are still restrictions in place for international travel because of the coronavirus.

“Look at the guidelines, including the requirements for international travel for a test before you come back to the U.S. and a quarantine once you arrive back on American soil,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”

Buttigieg didn’t beat up on Cruz, but took a subtle jab at the senator, who left his home state of Texas in crisis for a family vacation in Cancun.

“To Senator Cruz I would say the same thing I’ve said to every Texas elected official I’ve been able to speak to in the last 24 hours,” Buttigieg said. “The department and administration are here to help the people of Texas.”

2:38 p.m.
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Strict coronavirus regulations mean Broadway shows still onstage in Sydney

A few days ago, Kylie Estreich went to a theater in Sydney to see a Broadway show. In person. With hundreds of other people. She showed her ticket, went to her seat, and sat elbow-to-elbow with her masked mother on one side and a masked stranger on the other for a matinee performance of the Disney stage version of “Frozen.”

To American ears, the routines of theatergoing sound almost as exotic these days as the enchanted happenings in “Frozen.” But they are indeed occurring in Australia — home to Estreich, a children’s therapist at Sydney Children’s Hospital — where plays and musicals and the people who love them are back where they belong.

“I walked in the door, and I had tears running down,” Estreich, who lives in Wollongong, a city 90 minutes south of Sydney, said in a Zoom interview.