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As U.S. death toll surpasses 4,600, Fauci says the real turning point in coronavirus mitigation won’t happen until there’s a vaccine

With New York hospitals overwhelmed by covid-19, the Jacob K. Javits Center is being converted by the Army Corps of Engineers into a 3,000-bed medical facility. (Video: Skyler Reid/The Washington Post)

As the national stockpile of medical supplies is nearly gone, more than 13,000 physicians signed a letter to congressional leaders, seeking personal and legal protection while working on the front lines.

The physicians urged Congress to ensure Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines are upheld during the pandemic. Due to the shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE), the gear worn to abate dangers in the workplace, doctors are being requested to work without the safeguards.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The death toll in the United States surpassed 4,600 on Wednesday with more than 211,000 confirmed cases — far exceeding other nations and accounting for about 20 percent of the global total.
  • After facing sharp criticism for forcing seniors who don’t usually file tax returns to do so in order to get stimulus payments, the Trump administration said the government will use information on Social Security forms to get payments to seniors.
  • At Wednesday’s White House briefing, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert and the face of the U.S. response, said we could “relax social distancing” once there’s “no new cases, no deaths,” but the real turning point won’t come until there’s a vaccine.
  • President Trump said officials were “looking at” potential flight restrictions between hard-hit areas of the United States, though he noted that it would be difficult to entirely suspend air travel.
  • The governors of Florida and Georgia announced stay-at-home orders, except for essential activities. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) also canceled school for the rest of the academic year for grades K-12.
  • Fauci is facing growing threats to his personal safety, prompting the government to step up his security.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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