New York City will open high schools next week, stimulus cash could start flowing in two weeks, and America could be swamped with vaccine in a month as the national effort to emerge from the crippling pandemic accelerates.
If Congress approves the stimulus bill Wednesday and President Joe Biden signs it by March 14, the first direct deposits payments of up to $1,400 per person may start hitting bank accounts the week of March 22, based on prior relief plans. Paper checks may be sent out the week of March 29.
Dependents are worth $1,400, too, meaning a family of four that fully qualifies will see a payout of $5,600.
Meanwhile, the vaccine surplus expected to materialize in coming months eliminates one problem – supply – but accentuates a new one: demand.
“When we start to have more vaccine available, we’re really going to be in bad shape because what we’re going to see is a lot of people who don’t want to get vaccinated,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine.
In New York City, high schools will reopen for in-person learning March 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced. Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring classrooms to reopen March 15, and California announced it will offer financial incentives for school districts to welcome students back by April 1.
Also in the news:
►The White House said it increased the amount of vaccine doses supplied to states and territories from 15.2 million last week to 15.8 million this week, and it also boosted to 2.7 million the allotment distributed through the federal pharmacy plan.
►Johnson & Johnson will be “under stress” to meet a goal of delivering 55 million doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union by the end of June because of issues with the supply of ingredients and equipment, Reuters reported. J&J has agreed to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S. this month and 100 million by the end of June.
►Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York will lower COVID-19 vaccine eligibility from age 65 to 60 starting Wednesday. New York City has unveiled a program called Vaccine for All Corps aimed at recruiting 2,000 people as vaccinators and to serve in support and administrative roles.
►After initially determining that inoculating prisoners could be a “PR nightmare,” Tennessee officials on Tuesday said some inmates were receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Inmates over 65 years old or who have health conditions that already have priority status will be vaccinated, corrections department spokesperson Dorinda Carter said.
►Four in 10 Americans say they’re still feeling the financial impact of the loss of a job or income within their household, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 527,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 117.5 million cases and 2.6 million deaths. More than 123.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 93.7million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As the U.S. vaccinates more than 2 million people a day, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines for Americans who have received the full course of a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a breakdown of the CDC guidelines.
Los Angeles, other large counties to roll out looser COVID-19 rules
Three of the five largest counties in California could reopen as early as this weekend for indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms at limited capacity under a new metric aimed at getting more shots to those most vulnerable.
For Los Angeles County, this would be its first time out of the state’s most restrictive closure orders since Gov. Gavin Newsom adopted a color-coded system in August. The other counties likely to see more reopenings are Orange and San Bernardino, also in Southern California.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school district in the United States, has also reached an agreement with its teachers’ union to reopen in a hybrid format mid-April, pending safety assurances, according to the Los Angeles Times. The deal is subject to approval by the district’s school board and must be ratified by the union, The New York Times reported.
– Janie Har and Christopher Weber, Palm Springs Desert-Sun
Alaska on Tuesday announced it was lifting all restrictions on who can get the COVID-19 vaccine in the state.
Officials said that the state was expanding eligibility for the vaccine to include anyone 16 years and older who lives or works in the state. Just last week, they had expanded the list to include those age 55 and older, essential workers, and those with preexisting conditions.
Alaska is the first state to remove eligibility requirements for the vaccine, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a news release.
“A healthy community means a healthy economy. With widespread vaccinations available to all Alaskans who live or work here, we will no doubt see our economy grow and our businesses thrive,” Dunleavy said in the release.
People with intellectual disabilities have a higher probability of contracting COVID-19 and dying from it, and therefore should be prioritized for vaccination, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine’s digital publication Catalyst.
The report, based on a large national sample, calls intellectual disabilities “the strongest independent risk factor” for getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, and the second strongest for dying from it, after age.
But while underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity and chronic kidney disease are regarded as making people more vulnerable to COVID-19, Down syndrome is the only intellectual disability included on the CDC’s list of higher-risk conditions.
The Catalyst report makes a case for some rethinking.
“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on individuals with intellectual disabilities,” the study says. “Patients with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers should be prioritized for vaccination and health care services.”
Artifacts from the first known COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. have made their way to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., as part of the institution’s effort to document the coronavirus pandemic.
The museum received the vial that contained the first administered doses of the Pfizer vaccine, along with the vaccination record card, scrubs and hospital ID badge of nurse Sandra Lindsay, believed to be the first person to get the vaccine in the country. The items were donated by New York-based Northwell Health, Lindsay’s employer.
The Smithsonian is assembling a 3,500-square-foot exhibition called “In Sickness and in Health” that explores how the U.S. efforts to contend with illnesses have helped shape its history.
Many summer camps, lost to the pandemic last year, will make a return this summer. New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey are among several states ready to allow the camps after banning them last year, according to the American Camp Association. And parents are currently scrambling to get their kids signed up before slots are filled, although some states have yet to release their operating guidelines.
In New York, Andrew and Alyssa Klein held their son and daughter out of camp last year. But this summer they’re letting them go to a camp in Maine.
“We have to figure out a way to live our lives safely,” Andrew Klein said. “We can’t live in a cocoon. We did that for a year.”
When NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy was told over the phone last month he could receive his coronavirus vaccine, the person on the other end of the line could not reveal who facilitated the shot. Cousy, 92, had not asked for help and was fine trying to navigate the process on his own. But Cousy, who won six NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, is old friends with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the preeminent immunologist who was captain of his high school basketball team. About two hours before getting the news about the vaccine, Cousy had spoken with Fauci on the phone.
When asked if Fauci played a part in getting him the vaccine, Cousy was his usual straight-talking, self-effacing self: “Tony is busy saving the freakin’ world every day,” Cousy told The Palm Beach Post. “I can’t imagine.”
– Tom D’Angelo, Palm Beach Post
The number of Americans self-quarantining at home has dropped to the lowest point since late October, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. The 13% of those polled who reported self-quarantining was down from 19% one month ago. The high point for self-quarantining came one month after the pandemic began, when 55% said in April 2020 they had done so.
More Americans report going out to eat, visiting friends or relatives and visiting a non-grocery retail store in the past week. The 44% who said they visited friends or relatives in the past week was up seven points from a month ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday loosened its guidance restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans, approving indoor visits among vaccinated people.
Leading airline and business groups are asking the Biden administration to develop temporary credentials that would let travelers show they have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19, a step that airlines believe will help revive the travel industry. Various groups and countries are working on developing so-called vaccine passports aimed at allowing more travel. But airlines fear that a smattering of regional credentials will cause confusion and none will be widely accepted. The groups said vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel.
“It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the U.S. must be a leader in this development,” more than two dozen groups said in a letter to White House coronavirus- response coordinator Jeff Zients.
Detailed data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services illustrates just how much the nation’s hospitals have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave. The share of COVID-19 patients make up a smaller share of hospital admissions around the country, most notably in the West and South, regions hit hard by the disease through the holidays.
“Overall we are seeing the numbers of COVID patients in our hospitals at the lowest levels in more than a year,” said Bart Buxton, CEO of McLaren Health Care in Michigan.
– Aleszu Bajak
A new standby list for COVID-19 vaccines is rolling out across the country to connect people with doses that would otherwise go to waste. More than half a million people have already signed up on Dr. B, which texts users based on their eligibility status when there are extra doses nearby in jeopardy of going unused. Cyrus Massoumi, the website’s founder, said Dr. B serves as a “way of helping people help people.”
“You have people who want the vaccines for them or their loved ones, and your vaccine providers want to do the right thing, but they need the appropriate tools to deal with the operational challenges of vaccinating the whole country,” Massoumi told USA TODAY.
– Ryan Miller
The House of Representatives is poised to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, which includes $1,400 checks, billions for vaccines and money to reopen schools. The House is expected to pass the bill Wednesday. It then goes to Biden, who said he would sign the legislation “as soon as I get it.”
Most Americans earning up to $75,000 would receive full payment, and those earning between $75,000 and $80,000 would receive a partial payment. Dependents, even adult dependents, are worth another $1,400 each. The bill also provides money to extend $300 weekly unemployment bonus payments through August. The bill also makes the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits non-taxable for households making less than $150,000.
– Nicholas Wu
Instagram’s “suggested” posts recommended anti-vaccination content to users, even as parent company Facebook intensified efforts to combat false and misleading statements about COVID-19, according to new research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The nonprofit says Instagram suggested anti-vaccination posts to center volunteers who created accounts and showed an interest in conspiracy theories. In all, 104 suggested posts contained false or misleading statements, such as COVID is a hoax and vaccines are unsafe, the research found.
“Suggested” posts from accounts you don’t follow launched last year. Facebook told USA TODAY the research conducted between Sept. 14 and Nov. 16 is out of date and does not reflect recent changes to crack down on COVID misinformation.
– Jessica Guynn
As Americans frantically call, click and line up to get vaccinated, it’s hard to imagine a shift from scarcity to abundance. But Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine, thinks there will be vaccine surpluses in some areas a month from now. Then, the new challenges will start. If people refuse to get vaccinated, that could undermine the nation’s ability to move beyond the pandemic.
“If we’ve got whole states in this country that don’t want to mask and don’t want to socially distance, then I’m very concerned we’ll have people there who don’t want to be vaccinated either,” she said. Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise
Contributing: Associated Press