Brazil variant; travelers to US need test; vaccine lottery

COVID-19 killed more than 421,000 Americans in one year, and infections continued to rise despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines in late 2020. USA TODAY is following the news. Please keep updating this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, Join our Facebook group or Scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci offers hope despite dark warnings about the COVID variations that are slowly spreading across the world. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, says there could be a slight weakening of the vaccines against some variants, but “there is enough cushion with the vaccines we have that we can still find them effective against both in.” Great Britain consider tribe and the South Africa tribe. “He also warned that more mutations are possible, saying the scientists are preparing to adjust the vaccines if necessary. Fauci also predicted a “strong move towards a certain degree of normalcy” but did not provide a timetable.

In the headlines:

►Some travelers to England are forced to quarantine themselves in hotels amid concerns about new variants, according to a proposal Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Tuesday or Wednesday, the BBC reported. Most foreigners from high risk countries are already denied entry to the UK, so the new rules will mainly affect the return of UK residents.

►Last week, Alaska had administered more COVID-19 shots per capita than any other state in the nation, according to CDC data, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Missouri came last among the 50 states.

► Starting Tuesday, travelers flying to the United States from abroad will be required to provide evidence of a recent coronavirus test with negative results.

►In California, the state with the highest number of infections, health officials on Monday lifted regional home-stay orders, citing a decline in the number of COVID-19 hospital stays and intensive care patients.

►Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine protects against two variants of the coronavirus that originated in the UK and South Africa, but not as strongly against the latter, according to a company study.

► World Health Organization officials said Monday that they disagree that Olympic athletes should be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially if it means healthcare workers and the world’s elderly population have a head start.

📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has more than 25.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 421,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global total: More than 99.8 million cases and 2.1 million deaths.

📘 What we read: Your child may not return to a classroom this year. Are the teachers’ unions to blame? Read more here.

The main prize for winning this lottery is a vaccination

Minnesota may begin signing up for a vaccination lottery on Tuesday after a vaccination website that always comes first crashed due to overwhelming demand. Less than 5% of the state’s population had received a shot on Sunday.

Governor Tim Walz has unveiled a number of changes to vaccine distribution, including a pop-up mass vaccination event for teachers, school staff and childcare workers at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul that starts Thursday and ends Monday. The state has reserved 15,000 cans for the event.

The push comes amid revelations that a highly contagious variant of coronavirus originally discovered in Brazil has landed in the United States – Minnesota. The Ministry of Health said the resident recently traveled to Brazil and got sick in the first week of January.

Are you planning to hike the Appalachian Trail this year? Don’t, say trail officials

Appalachian Trail hikers planning an end-to-end hike on the 2,190-mile Georgia to Maine trail should postpone their trip until next year, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The nonprofit group that manages and maintains the trail through 14 states says the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to make long-distance hiking unsafe. Morgan Sommerville, the director of the southern region of the trail, authorities are concerned about the safety of hikers, volunteer hikers and the communities along the trail.

“Our advice, as long as the pandemic is raging and vaccines are not widespread and the CDC hasn’t given us the all-clear signal, we recommend not doing long-distance hikes with the AT,” Sommerville said.

World on the brink of 100 million infections as global deaths set a record

The world set another record for deaths in a week at 99,978 on Monday and is almost certain to report its 100,000,000th case today. On Wednesday we learned that January has become the deadliest month for the United States and is approaching the record high of December. Coronavirus deaths and cases per day in the US have decreased significantly in recent weeks but remain alarmingly high. The US has an average of just under 3,100 deaths a day, compared to more than 3,350 less than two weeks ago. After a high of almost 250,000 on January 11, the average new cases are 170,000 per day. The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital has fallen from 132,000 on Jan. 7 to 110,000.

South African leader busts hoarding, “vaccine nationalism”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa asked the world’s richest nations on Tuesday to stop “hoarding” vaccines so that the whole world can benefit from medical breakthroughs. Rampaphosa, chairman of the African Union, criticized “vaccine nationalism”, claiming that some countries had bought four times as much as their people needed.

“The rich countries of the world were going out and buying large doses of vaccines,” he said at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum. “It was designed to hoard those vaccines. And now it is doing it to the exclusion of other countries in the world that need them most.”

World Health Organization Chairman Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the world faces “catastrophic moral failure” due to unequal COVID policies. South Africa, with a population of around 60 million people, has reported nearly 1.5 million infections and more than 41,000 deaths.

The increase in the vaccination rate increases travel restrictions again

President Joe Biden has raised his vaccination goal for his first 100 days in office, suggesting the nation could soon inject an average of 1.5 million shots a day. Biden has made some criticism that his plan to get 100 million shots in 100 days wasn’t ambitious enough. The raised target could result in roughly half the nation being vaccinated – or at least getting a first shot – by the end of April. Biden said he expects the vaccines to be widely available by spring, with the US “well on track to herd immunity” to end the pandemic by summer.

Biden has also reintroduced travel restrictions for most of 2020 to non-U.S. Residents who have been to Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and much of Europe. Then-President Donald Trump lifted the restrictions days before the end of his term in office. With effect from January 30th, Biden also added South Africa to the blacklist.

The pandemic is still raging, but colleges are reopening. What next?

The campus leaders had hoped the fall lessons would position them better for the spring semester. That was before a post-holiday winter flood brought the number of COVID-19 deaths in America to over 400,000. Before more contagious variants of the coronavirus appeared. Before the introduction of the vaccine, this proved to be slower than expected.

Now, returning student populations may be at even greater risk than they were in the fall – not to mention surrounding communities, where research has led to larger outbreaks in university towns.

Despite these concerns, the universities are pushing ahead. There is a lot involved; Enrollment at most colleges has plummeted over the past semester, and the loss of income from personal services like campus housing and dining could be devastating for schools that depend on that money. The university cities would also feel the economic crisis.

However, when admins talk about the need to reopen, they focus on what went well over the fall – and the benefits of the overall university experience.

– Chris Quintana, USA TODAY

Contributor: The Associated Press

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