US hits 500,000 deaths; Britain lockdown; Biden PPE loans

The US has crossed a dismal COVID threshold again, much faster than any other country in the world.

Less than a year after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, the US recorded its 500,000th death on Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. That’s more than double the number of COVID-19 deaths registered in Brazil, which is second on the list.

President Joe Biden commemorated the half a million lives lost in a ceremony held at the White House Monday night. Drawing on his own experience of heartbreak to personalize the unfathomable tragedy, he admonished Americans to wear masks and take other steps to prevent the virus from spreading. He pointed out that the death toll from the pandemic is higher than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in battle during World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.

“The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations,” said Biden. “Born in America, emigrated to America. So many of them just took their last breath in America alone. As a nation we cannot accept such a cruel fate. While we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we must fight it, to become deaf to grief. ”

The US, with around 4% of the world’s population, has recorded 25% of COVID-19 cases and 20% of deaths. The endless hours of work amid death and suffering have severely hit health care workers, who are exhausted and frustrated by those who fail to follow public health guidelines to curb the transmission of the virus.

“Don’t clap, don’t give me any baked goods,” the ambulance doctor Eric Cioe-Peña replies to the people who thank him for his efforts. “I don’t need any of this. You have to wear a mask and not get COVID. ‘”

Even if the nation achieves what Dr. Anthony Fauci described it as a “terrible historic milestone”, there are signs of better days ahead. Since a surge after the January holidays, not only have infections, hospitalizations and deaths declined, but two high-potency vaccines are finding their way into millions of American guns and another could soon be approved.

It’s a race against time, however, as coronavirus variants spread across the country, threatening to spark another spate of cases.

As vaccination efforts continue, public health officials are preaching vigilance and sticking to known mitigation measures – masking, social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding large gatherings – in hopes of avoiding another COVID landmark.

Also in the news:

► The White House COVID-19 Response Team announced that all vaccine doses delayed by last week’s winter storms will be distributed mid-week, starting at 7 million on Monday. Team members also said that despite the steep decline in cases this month, infection rates remain above last summer’s high and life will not return to normal for some time. “There are things you can’t do in society even if you are vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

► House is focused this week on President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The Democrats in Congress want the entire proposal to pass by mid-March. It currently includes a new round of controls for Americans, the renewal of the paycheck protection program, and the extension of a federal boost for unemployment benefits.

►An average of nine family members mourn for every American who dies of COVID-19. That’s 4.5 million grieving relatives in the United States. Here is the story of one such family.

► California lawmakers on Monday cleared the way for 5.7 million people to receive one-time payments of at least $ 600. This is part of a government coronavirus relief package designed to help low-to-middle-income people survive the pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom said he would sign the bill on Tuesday.

►United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements posed a “transnational threat” that “are engaged in a hate frenzy” and have taken advantage of the pandemic to get support.

►The number of patients with COVID-19 in California hospitals has fallen below 7,000, a decrease of more than a third in two weeks. Similarly, in Texas, where state data on Sunday showed the lowest number of hospitalizations (7,146) since mid-November.

📈 Today’s numbers: There are more than 28.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 500,200 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global total: more than 111.7 million cases and 2.47 million deaths. According to the CDC, more than 75.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed and about 64.2 million administered.

📘 What we read: Millions of kindergarten teachers dropped out of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what happens now.

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Britain plans to slowly get out of the COVID-19 lockdown

The UK on Monday unveiled its plan to lift one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. American health officials have been closely monitoring how the more communicable variant of COVID-19, originally identified in the UK, continues to spread in the US

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the slow rollback, which began March 8, when children returned to class in England and people were allowed to meet a friend outside. Shops, hairdressers, outdoor dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants will follow on April 12th.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that B.1.1.7 – the more communicable COVID-19 variant originally identified in the UK – is likely to be the dominant one within American borders by April. The US is currently reporting more than 1,687 cases of coronavirus variants that can spread more easily, evade some treatments and immunities, or both.

A steady decline in US coronavirus cases, which brought the values ​​back to the end of October, could be due to the “rapid start of B.1.1.7.” At risk, Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a Twitter thread Thursday.

There is evidence that variant B.1.1.7 “may reach 50% frequency in the US by the end of March,” he said.

CDC study: teachers, not students, are the drivers of infection in schools

Amid the national debate about reopening schools during the pandemic, a new study suggests teachers may be more likely to transmit the virus than students.

The paper, released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looks at nine COVID-19 transmission clusters in elementary schools in the Marietta suburb of Atlanta in December and January. In one of them, 16 teachers, students and relatives of students at home were infected.

In eight of the nine clusters, there was likely teacher-to-student transmission, and in four cases, a teacher was the first documented case. One student was the first case only once, and in the other four cases the originator was not clearly identified. In two clusters, teachers infected each other at personal meetings or lunches, then a teacher infected the students.

All clusters were associated with “less than ideal physical distancing” for space reasons, the authors wrote, with students often being less than 3 feet apart, despite plastic dividers placed on desks.

According to the CDC, schools can be safely reopened even if teachers are not vaccinated against COVID-19 as long as damage control measures are in place.

Joe Biden is optimizing PPP to give small businesses better access to credit

A federal program that provides loans to companies to help them stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic is currently being modified to allow more money to be directed to small businesses that need it most.

President Joe Biden on Monday announced several revisions to the paycheck protection program that Congress approved last year under a nearly $ 2 trillion COVID relief bill.

“Small businesses are the engines of our economic progress,” said Biden. “They are the glue in the heart and soul of our churches. But they are put down.”

Around 400,000 small businesses have closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. While the Paycheck Protection Program was a dire relief for many, “a lot of these mom and pop businesses have been put out of the way by bigger companies standing in front of the line,” Biden said.

To address those concerns, Biden announced that only companies with fewer than 20 employees will be allowed to apply for the program over a 14-day period beginning Wednesday. About 98% of small businesses have fewer than 20 employees, and the 14-day application deadline allows lenders to focus on their services, according to administrative officials.

– Michael Collins

Non-English speakers are having trouble getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States

More than two months after the first coronavirus vaccine shots spread across the United States, many states and local governments are providing limited information about vaccines in languages ​​other than English. Linguistic and cultural barriers have made it difficult for many people of color, immigrants, and non-English speaking communities to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Experts said more targeted outreach – including door knocking, visits to frontline workers at their workplaces, streamlined registries and language translation services at vaccination centers – is needed to overcome misinformation and educate communities that have long been plagued by inequalities in US

– Cristina Silva

Contributor: The Associated Press

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