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America is entering a “new phase” of its coronavirus vaccination strategy, President Biden announced Tuesday — the same day the country’s number of reported infections dropped to its lowest point in seven months.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter,” Biden said in afternoon remarks from the White House.

The president said his administration will aim to have administered at least one shot to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4. He wants 55 million more people fully vaccinated during that span. The challenge, Biden said, will be continuing to persuade the hesitant.

“I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Biden said. “But there’s one fact I want every American to know: People who are not fully vaccinated can still die every day from covid-19.”

The update on the state of the pandemic came as the country reached a promising landmark: fewer than 50,000 new cases per day on average. It is the first time in 208 days that the daily average of infections dropped to that level, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Here are some significant developments:

  • India became the second country in the world to tally more than 20 million total virus cases when the government announced 357,000 new infections and an additional 3,449 deaths on Tuesday. The first was the United States.
  • House Democrats increased pressure on the White House to support the temporary suspension of patent protections on vaccines, releasing a letter signed by 110 members calling on Biden to “restore America’s public health leadership on the world stage.”
  • The White House told states that coronavirus vaccine supply they leave unordered will become available to other states — the most significant shift in domestic vaccine distribution since Biden took office and part of an effort to address flagging demand in some areas of the country.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is expected to expand emergency authorization to allow children as young as 12 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by next week, according to federal officials familiar with the development.
  • Pfizer said Tuesday it expects global sales of its coronavirus vaccine to reach $26 billion in 2021, a milestone that would make it the biggest-selling pharmaceutical product in the world and that helps show why Pfizer is planning to expand use of mRNA technology for other vaccines and therapies.
  • The rolling average for daily vaccinations in the United States has fallen to its lowest point in more than seven weeks. The nation is administering about 2.3 million shots per day, the lowest since March 11. Daily vaccinations peaked in mid-April at nearly 3.4 million per day.

Fairfax County lowers tax rate as part of regional effort to pull out of pandemic-induced slump

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Fairfax County adopted a budget Tuesday that lowers the property tax rate while steering more funds toward schools and affordable housing, part of a broader effort among area governments to pull Northern Virginia out of the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a 9-to-1 vote, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a $4.5 billion spending plan that Jeff C. McKay (D), the board chairman, called an attempt to stabilize Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction.

“In order to lift up every resident in Fairfax County, especially as we recover from the pandemic, we need to make investments in the community and the programs that make everyone healthier, safer, and more successful,” McKay said in a statement after the vote.

Thousands of area residents remain unemployed because of the pandemic, and a desire to live in less densely populated neighborhoods, fueled by anxiety over the virus, has driven up home prices in the District’s suburbs — increasing annual tax assessments in those communities at a time when many families are struggling to meet basic needs.

Little League is back with covid rules across D.C. area — no spitting or high-fives

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David Fox’s first year as president of Capitol Hill Little League was nothing like he expected, most notably in that it didn’t feature any games: The 2020 spring and fall seasons were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We didn’t have a single negative on-field incident, so I’m proud of that,” Fox joked in a recent phone interview.

As youth baseball and softball players — along with their occasionally overzealous parents — have returned to fields across the District, Maryland and Virginia over the past two months, Fox and his fellow volunteers have navigated a lineup card’s worth of logistical hurdles, coronavirus protocols and local restrictions.

The result doesn’t look or feel normal — high-fives are out, and so is spitting, and the umpire is behind the pitcher, not the plate, in some leagues — but it beats the alternative of another spring without Little League.

D.C. jail trims lockdown by one hour, leaving inmates cooped up for 22 hours a day

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D.C. jail inmates, who have been subjected to a strict lockdown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, are finally getting some relief, though not much: After more than a year of being kept in their cells for 23 hours a day as a medical precaution, they are now being let out for two hours instead of one, officials said.

The change, which took effect Friday, is part of a modest easing of restrictions at the jail, where the D.C. Department of Corrections imposed a tough confinement regimen at the start of the pandemic. Compared with steps taken at other detention facilities in the country, the measures adopted for the District’s approximately 1,500 prisoners were severe and protracted.

New York City, nation’s largest school system, will conduct classes virtually instead of calling snow days

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The nation’s largest school district released its schedule on Tuesday, announcing two new holidays and a transition away from snow days in favor of remote learning.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools, New York City began distributing tablets and laptops to students across its vast system. And now, with the city’s public school officials eyeing a return to full-time in-person learning in the fall, they plan to continue putting those devices to use — even on the rare days when bad weather forces kids to stay home.

“The pandemic has also created the ability to switch seamlessly to remote learning, and DOE central and schools have distributed hundreds of thousands of devices to ensure that learning can continue remotely during school closures,” the city’s education department said in a statement announcing the changes.

The new calendar reads: “On ‘Snow days’ or days when school buildings are closed due to an emergency, all students and families should plan on participating in remote learning.”

The decision comes after a year in which school districts across the country chose not to cancel school for snow or other inclement weather, since students were already attending classes virtually. Those announcements prompted some to mourn the death of the snow day, a cherished tradition for generations of children.

After New York City’s announcement Tuesday, online commenters — and at least one mayoral candidate — were similarly perturbed.

“Snow way!” Maya Wiley, who is vying for mayor, said on Twitter. “Under a Wiley administration, snow days will be snow days.”

But the school system has said the move is practical: It is legally required to have 180 days in session and since it has already invested in the technology to conduct classes online, it makes more sense to do so on snow days rather than cut into spring break or summer vacation, an Education Department spokesperson said.

The system has also added a number of new holidays in recent years. The newest, added to the upcoming year’s calendar: Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day — instead of Columbus Day — on Oct. 11, 2021; and Juneteenth on June 20, 2022.

Analysis: Looking back at last year’s worst coronavirus predictions

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An emerging target is a difficult one to hit. When something like the coronavirus comes on the scene, there’s plenty of (hopefully informed) guesswork involved. We saw that repeatedly in the early days of the pandemic, with some health officials downplaying the threat, warning people against using masks and generally giving advice that, even within a few months, became rather dated.

Most of the worst punditry on this issue came later on, after the gravity of the situation became clear to those officials. It came from those who sought to question the severity of the virus in the name of keeping the economy open.

Today, more than half a million U.S. deaths later and with coronavirus cases spiking alarmingly in India despite the advent of vaccines, it’s worth a look back at those who most forcefully suggested this wasn’t truly so bad — and not just suggested as much, but actually predicted it.

Goldman Sachs wants most of its workers back in the office by June

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Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs plans to ask most of its workers in the United States and the United Kingdom to return to its offices in June, bucking the trend among large corporations toward specifying a permanent hybrid model of remote and on-site work.

The elite investment bank, which faced complaints about long hours from a small group of junior bankers earlier this year, said in a memo to employees Tuesday that U.S. workers should make plans to be able to return to the office by June 14.

The bank’s memo does not stipulate a full-time return to the office, noting that teams and regions may have different expectations, that rotational schedules may be needed because of local requirements, and that it is committed to flexibility, saying people should discuss plans with their managers if they’re unable to return to the office.

But unlike a growing number of major employers such as Ford, Google and Target, Goldman also isn’t telling workers that some kind of hybrid schedule will be its new routine. Nor is it defining the sort of three-days-in, two-days-remote setup many workplace experts predicted would become commonplace post-pandemic. In March, for instance, Citigroup said the majority of its workers would work in the office at least three days and at home up to two days each week as it looks “forward to the new normal.”

Prince George’s launches variety of efforts to reach those not yet vaccinated

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Officials in the region are continuing to grapple with how to get more people vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, with those in Prince George’s County urging residents to take the shots and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announcing a new campaign to improve vaccine uptake rates at nursing homes.

Residents in the hard-hit Washington suburb of Prince George’s spent months clamoring for the vaccine, waiting in long lines, dealing with technological glitches and watching as residents from other jurisdictions snagged appointments in the county.

But County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said there has been a shift in Prince George’s and across the region: With vaccinations now “easier than ever to get,” the challenge is reaching residents who have not yet gotten their shots.

“We are looking for you if you are unvaccinated,” Alsobrooks said at a news conference Tuesday. “We believe so strongly that this is the way forward for our community.”

As the District did this weekend, Prince George’s has launched a door-to-door canvassing program that will try to reach people in hard-hit neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway, where vaccination rates are lowest. Canvassers will knock on more than 266,000 doors in a dozen communities that have been identified by the county’s equity task force as both hard-hit by the virus and having issues related to vaccine access, including poverty, Alsobrooks said.

Biden sets new vaccine goals as White House grapples with its message

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President Biden declared a new goal Tuesday that 70 percent of adults will have at least one coronavirus vaccine shot by the Fourth of July, as the White House grappled with how to send Americans a complex message: A normal life is within reach if you get vaccinated, but the crisis is far from over so don’t fully relax your guard.

Biden himself has been criticized for sending mixed messages recently by continuing to wear a mask outside despite official guidance that he doesn’t need to, since he is fully vaccinated. The White House is reaching out to scientists and public health experts to understand how the science is evolving as more people get vaccinated, and which restrictions they can and cannot relax, according to people familiar with or engaged in the conversations.

“The challenge for the president, and the federal government in general, is you’re having to set standards for the entire country and role-model for the entire country, and what might be appropriate in one place is not what’s appropriate everywhere,” said Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and a member of Biden’s coronavirus transition task force. “The problem is we don’t know necessarily who around us is fully vaccinated.”

Beyond aiming for 70 percent of adults to have at least one vaccine shot by Independence Day, Biden said Tuesday he wants 60 percent to be fully vaccinated by the same time, part of an effort to create a nascent sense of normalcy by the holiday.

Most House Democrats say Biden should back coronavirus vaccine patent waivers

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House Democrats on Tuesday amped up pressure on the White House to support the temporary suspension of patent protections on coronavirus vaccines, releasing a letter signed by most of the chamber’s Democratic caucus calling on President Biden to “restore America’s public health leadership on the world stage.”

“It’s time for the White House to put human lives before pharmaceutical company profits,” Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) told reporters in a news briefing.

The debate centers on a proposal before the World Trade Organization that would waive intellectual property protections on medical products for the duration of the pandemic. Indian and South African officials, who introduced the proposal, argue it will allow developing countries to rapidly produce their own generic vaccines, rather than wait months or years for sufficient doses.

The pharmaceutical industry has fought the proposal, arguing that it would weaken drug companies’ existing efforts to rapidly produce billions of vaccine doses. Although the United States has helped block the waiver since last year, the Biden administration has been divided over the proposal, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The long-simmering issue exploded in recent weeks as the United States administered hundreds of millions of shots to its own citizens as other countries, including India, reeled from the worsening global coronavirus outbreak.

While the White House has pledged to donate millions of vaccine doses and supplies to India, “that is not enough. That is not enough. Look at the apocalyptic images coming out of New Delhi,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), whose office released the letter signed by 110 House Democrats.

DeLauro, Garcia and six other Democrats also met Friday with White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, urging them to support the waiver.

The Democrats told reporters that they were hopeful that Tai, a former House Democratic staffer, would announce new action on the waiver at WTO sessions this week.

Biden earlier Tuesday said he has not made a decision yet whether to back the waiver. As a candidate, Biden said he would support sharing vaccine technologies and not let patents hinder the global rollout of vaccines. “This is the only humane thing in the world to do,” Biden pledged last year to advocate Ady Barkan.

Every Maryland state employee who gets vaccinated will receive $100

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Maryland is offering $100 to state employees who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, an effort to incentivize vaccinations as supply begins to outpace demand in some areas.

To receive the payment, workers must provide proof of their vaccination to their human resource departments and agree to receive booster shots recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the next 18 months.

“We strongly encourage businesses across the state to consider offering incentives to their workers as well,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement.

The state has about 99,000 employees, about 52,000 of whom are eligible for the program, said Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci. Those employed by the University System of Maryland are not eligible, because the system has required them to be vaccinated.

Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs rose among conservative media users, researchers conclude

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Americans who relied on conservative media and social media last year were increasingly likely to believe conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, according to a new study.

Daniel Romer and Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center surveyed 840 U.S. residents on their media consumption and pandemic beliefs in March 2020 and again in July, seeing how their views and behaviors changed over time. The authors published their findings in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and shared takeaways in an interview with The Washington Post.

The researchers probed three theories of conspiratorial activity that began circulating last year: a claim that the drug industry created the virus to boost its own sales; a claim that the Chinese government bioengineered the virus as a weapon; and a claim that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was exaggerating the risks posed by the virus to damage then-President Donald Trump’s political fortunes.

“The use of conservative media, such as Fox News and the talk radio program hosted by the late Rush Limbaugh, was associated with increased acceptance of the three conspiracy beliefs, while use of mainstream print … was associated with increased rejection of them,” the researchers found.

For instance, about two-thirds of the conservative-media users told the researchers in July that they believed China created the virus as a bioweapon, up from about half of respondents in March.

Meanwhile, regular use of mainstream media such as the Associated Press and The Washington Post was linked to a decline in conspiracy beliefs, as well as a greater likelihood of wearing masks and planning to get vaccinated.

“The media played a role in the promotion or reduction of conspiracy beliefs,” Romer said in a statement. “There were media sources that hindered the ability of the country to confront the pandemic.”

The researchers also cautioned that overly definitive statements about the coronavirus vaccine have fueled new conspiracy beliefs and accusations that officials aren’t telling the full story.

“When science speaks, it needs to speak with care,” Jamieson said, suggesting that pro-vaccination language should contain nuances such as, “The vaccine is safer than getting the virus,” or “The vaccine is effective but not 100 percent effective; there will be [infection] breakthroughs.”

Philippines’ Duterte vaccinated with China’s Sinopharm

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MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was vaccinated Monday in video posted by a top aide — but the immunization could draw more confusion than confidence in the largely vaccine-hesitant country.

Duterte received a vaccine from China’s state-run pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, which has yet to secure emergency use authorization from local authorities.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration later told local news media that the vaccine was covered by a compassionate-use permit, which was previously issued for limited use by presidential security.

Christopher Lawrence Go, a senator and former Duterte assistant, shared the news on Facebook and said the president’s physician approved the vaccine.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III administered the shot. The Health Department did not respond to request for comment.

Sinopharm vaccine figured in an earlier scandal after presidential security-team members were discovered to have used smuggled doses. A probe of the case has not progressed.

There is a thriving underground market for vaccine in the Philippines. Experts warned that officials taking unauthorized doses does not bode well for public confidence, as their origin and storage process remain murky, and that such action could undermine regulators.

“Though it’s the president’s choice, the [Health Department and Food and Drug Administration] should have worked with the vaccine expert panel prior to the jab to ensure that the president is aligned with science and regulatory process,” said Tony Leachon, a former medical adviser to the government’s interagency task force to respond to the coronavirus. Leachon left his post after disagreements with those in Duterte’s cabinet.

More than half of Filipinos didn’t plan to get vaccinated, according to a survey by Pulse Asia earlier this year.

The Philippines rolled out its vaccine program in March after much delay and has since vaccinated only about 1 percent of its population. The country has over a million recorded coronavirus cases to date.

White House plans to redistribute unordered vaccine supply, telling states: Use it or lose it

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The White House on Tuesday told states that coronavirus vaccine supply they leave unordered will become available to other states — the most significant shift in domestic vaccine distribution since President Biden took office and part of an effort to address flagging demand in some areas of the country.

Each state’s share of the total U.S. adult population will still determine weekly allocations. But instead of allowing unordered doses to carry over week to week, the White House will steer untapped vaccine into a federal bank available to states where demand continues to outstrip supply. Those states will be able to order up to 50 percent above their weekly allocation.

The use-it-or-lose-it strategy could transform how vaccine flows across the country. In recent weeks, numerous states have begun leaving significant quantities of doses on the shelves. Last week, officials in Arkansas declined the state’s entire share, the state confirmed.

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine revenue is projected to hit $26 billion in 2021 with production surge

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Pfizer said Tuesday that it expects global sales of its coronavirus vaccine to reach $26 billion in 2021, a milestone that would make it the biggest-selling pharmaceutical product in the world and helps illustrate why Pfizer is planning to expand use of mRNA technology for other vaccines and therapies.

Sales of its mRNA vaccine are likely to eclipse those of Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis drug manufactured by AbbVie, with annual revenue around $20 billion, currently the world’s top seller. Pfizer had $3.5 billion in coronavirus vaccine sales in the first quarter.

Pfizer, which is in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech for vaccine development and sales, has said it expects to manufacture 2.5 billion doses of the two-shot vaccine in 2021. It has agreements to sell 300 million to the United States by late summer.