Americans could start seeing the latest round of stimulus payments within two weeks, and two pharmaceutical giants team up to speed up vaccine production as the Biden administration continued to push on Tuesday to escape the relentless pandemic.
But as the Senate prepared to begin debate over the crucial $ 1.9 billion stimulus package, the number of people who were supposed to cash in would likely decline this week.
Democrats are hoping for a Senate vote on Friday so the House can approve the changes and President Joe Biden can sign it by March 14. The stimulus silver might start to flow before the ink dries.
The Biden administration will likely need the 50 Democratic senators to pass the legislation. Some moderate Democrats led by Joe Manchin of West Virginia want to lower the threshold for $ 1,400 checks, calling for help “those who need help most.” Manchin also opposes the minimum wage measure and wants to continue the current weekly unemployment increase of $ 300, instead of the $ 400 required by law.
The measure would also provide hundreds of billions of dollars to schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and tests, transit systems, tenants and small businesses. Child care, tax breaks for families with children, and help for states to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents would also receive funding.
The administration has also focused on accelerating the deployment of the vaccine. Biden is expected to announce on Tuesday that Merck & Co. will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s single-injection coronavirus vaccine, a landmark collaboration that is expected to help J&J catch up on its expected vaccine production. Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, has abandoned its own efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus.
“Listen to the president’s remarks on this – and more – later this afternoon,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted.
Also in the news:
►Cases of known variants quintupled from 471 to 2,463 in February, even as the total number of coronavirus infections fell from a record high in January.
► Many states have prioritized COVID-19 vaccines for people over 75 and then shifted to those over 65, but they should not continue to quit by age, a committee said on Monday Advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
►Apple has reopened its 270 stores across the United States as efforts to vaccinate more Americans against COVID-19 accelerate.
►Former President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, were quietly vaccinated against COVID-19 in January before they left the White House, The New York Times reported. Although other high-level officials have been vaccinated publicly to emphasize vaccine safety, Trump has not. He encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated during a speech on Sunday.
►The number of hospitals reporting full intensive care units has fallen by nearly 50% nationwide since early January, according to USA TODAY analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data.
📈 The numbers of the day: The United States has more than 28.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 514,400 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: over 114.4 million cases and 2.54 million deaths. More than 96.4 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the United States and about 76.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we read: Pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens and big box stores such as Walmart and Kroger received most of the initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines sent to retail pharmacies. Community pharmacies want their share. Read the full story.
USA TODAY follows COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Frontier Airlines accused of anti-Semitism after canceling flight
Frontier Airlines canceled a flight from Miami to New York on Sunday night, saying a “large group” refused to wear masks as the plane prepared for departure. The group was made up of Hasidic Jews and the incident sparked outrage from the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, which tweeted that even people outside the group accused the airline of bigotry. The council posted videos of angry and confused passengers on the plane. The Anti-Defamation League tweeted that “a visibly Jewish family has been asked to leave a @FlyFrontier flight, allegedly due to a lack of mask compliance; upon disembarking, apparent # anti-Semitic comments made by the crew or others. @ADL formally calls for a full and transparent theft. investigation. “
The airline said in a statement that members of the group, including adults, refused to wear masks as Flight 2878 prepared for departure from Miami. “Repeated requests to comply with federal law necessitated their removal from the flight,” the airline said.
Stimulus bill would expand Obamacare
The stimulus package includes measures that would be the first significant extension of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, since its passage in 2010. While temporary, the more generous provisions of the ACA could lead to permanent – and even more significant – changes to the law that caused the GOP-led government to shut down in 2013 and which President Donald Trump and Republicans failed to repeal when they controlled the White House and the two bedrooms. of Congress. Republicans have not made insurance subsidies a focal point of their opposition to the bill, which they dismissed as a “far left wish list.” Some experts say the measure is overdue.
“In the United States, we have done very little to reduce the underlying cost of health care, which is why health insurance is so expensive,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
– Maureen Groppe and Courtney Subramanian
WHO warns end of 2021 may not mean end of pandemic
Health care experts warn it may be too early to think the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by the end of 2021. The World Health Organization’s chief of emergency has said that ‘It was “premature” to think that the pandemic could be halted by the end of the year, but the rollout of vaccines could at least help to drastically reduce hospitalizations and deaths. Dr Michael Ryan told a press briefing on Monday that the sole goal of the world right now should be to keep the transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible. And President Joe Biden’s senior public health officials warned on Monday that the United States could “lose hard-earned ground” if cases stagnate at current levels.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she was “deeply concerned” as the number of new cases stagnates, but states continue to roll back restrictions related to the viruses.
Amid chaotic vaccine rollout, states scramble to get vaccinated
States and counties are improving in every detail of what is needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine in arms, but distribution still varies due to the country’s fractured and underfunded healthcare system. This has led to great disparities in the immunization rates of the states.
“It’s really a function of the total chaos of 50 state health systems in an uncoordinated, unresponsive and under-reported system to the federal government,” said Barry Bloom, immunologist and former Dean of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health . “Crazy as it may be, it’s the American way.”
What is remarkable, according to experts, is the number of people who find ways to make it work. A glance at the vaccine adoption map shows a wide range across the United States. On Monday, Alaska led with 23% of its population vaccinated with at least one dose, followed by New Mexico with 22%. At the bottom of the range were Georgia and Utah at 12% and Alabama, Tennessee and Texas at 13%.
– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub
Côte d’Ivoire becomes first country to receive COVAX vaccine under United Nations initiative
Healthcare workers in Côte d’Ivoire in Africa have become the first to receive a shipment of vaccines from the UN-backed COVAX initiative. The program aims to ensure COVID-19 vaccinations for the world’s most vulnerable, but has been hampered by limited global supply and logistical challenges.
Colombia also received a shipment on Monday, becoming the first country in the Americas to receive a shipment of vaccines. The arrival of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in the capital Bogota came a few days after the first anniversary of the first case of coronavirus discovered in the region.
COVAX plans to initially deliver more than 330 million doses of vaccine in the first half of 2021, covering on average 3.3% of the total population of the 145 participating countries. Its goal is to distribute 2 billion doses of vaccine by 2022, distributing enough doses to allow countries to immunize 20% of their population.
Twitter works to stop misinformation by labeling COVID vaccine lies
Twitter is stepping up efforts to report disinformation on the platform, a long-standing social media issue that has taken on new urgency amid last year’s election and through the pandemic.
“Starting today, we will begin applying labels to Tweets that may contain misleading COVID-19 vaccine information, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most dangerous COVID-19 misleading information from the service.” Twitter said in a blog post on Monday. .
Since the introduction of the COVID-19 guide last spring and the announcement of the removal of harmful and misleading vaccine information in December, Twitter has deleted more than 8,400 tweets and “challenged” 11.5 million accounts across the world.
First, the tags will be applied to tweets by the Twitter team when they determine that the content violates company policy. After some time, these ratings will be used to inform Twitter’s automated tools to tag similar content on the social media platform.
– Morgan Hines
Contribute: The Associated Press