Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: Biden's Vaccine Plan; US Deaths Reach 390K

President-elect Joe Biden will deliver remarks on his administration's national vaccine plan. Watch in the video player below

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President-elect Joe Biden outlined his administration's vaccination plan on Friday as the U.S. has seen more than 23 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 392,000 deaths, according to NBC News.

So far, more than 11 million Americans, or 3% of the total U.S. population, have received their first shot. But rapid expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations to senior citizens across the U.S. has led to bottlenecks, system crashes and hard feelings in many states.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from the U.S. and elsewhere:

Biden's Virus Plan: 100 Million Shots Just the Start

Getting 100 million shots into Americans' arms in his first 100 days is only the beginning of his coronavirus plan, President-elect Joe Biden declared Friday. Lasting impact, he said, will come from uniting the nation in a new effort grounded in science and fueled by billions in federal money for vaccination, testing and outbreak sleuths.

“You have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation,” Biden said. But he also underscored a need for Congress to approve more money and for people to keep following basic precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and frequently washing their hands.

“This is not a political issue," Biden said. “This is about saving lives. I know it’s become a partisan issue, but what a stupid, stupid thing to happen.”

Biden spoke a day after unveiling a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to confront the virus and provide temporary support for a shaky economy. About $400 billion of the plan is focused on measures aimed at controlling the virus. Those range from mass vaccination centers to more sophisticated scientific analysis of new strains and squads of local health workers to trace the contacts of infected people.

On Friday, Biden pledged to maximize the available supply of vaccines and materials needed to administer them, using a Cold War-era law called the Defense Production Act to direct private manufacturing.

Global Death Toll From COVID-19 Tops 2 Million

The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 2 million Friday as vaccines developed at breakneck speed are being rolled out around the world in an all-out campaign to vanquish the threat.

The milestone was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities that were inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

It took eight months to hit 1 million dead. It took less than four months after that to reach the next million.

India Starts World's Largest COVID-19 Vaccination Drive

India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.

India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge.

Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

For workers who have pulled India’s battered healthcare system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal. Many burst with pride.

“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” Gita Devi, a nurse, said as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.

“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and that we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state in India's heartland.

The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital. New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”

'There's No Federal Reserve of Doses': Oregon Gov. Accuses Trump Amin. of Deception 'on a National Scale'

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says the state’s efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations have been thrown in disarray because of “deception on a national scale” by the Trump administration.

Via Twitter on Friday morning the Democrat said she was told by General Gustave F. Perna, who leads the “Operation Warp Speed” federal vaccine effort, that states will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week “because there is no federal reserve of doses.”

“I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences,” Brown wrote.

On Thursday, officials from the Oregon Health Authority announced that vaccination sites had met the goal of administering a total of 12,000 coronavirus vaccine doses a day. The state has administered a cumulative total of 146,137 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Earlier this week, Brown announced that Oregon will expand COVID-19 vaccination to include people age 65 and and older.

Vaccination of Oregon seniors, as well as child care providers and early learning and K-12 educators and staff, will start on Jan. 23, when additional vaccine shipments are expected to start arriving from the federal government.

COVID Outbreaks Skyrocket at SoCal Supermarkets

It is one of the few places many of us still go during the pandemic—the grocery store. 

But beware: the number of COVID-19 outbreaks at Southern California supermarkets continues to skyrocket.  

The NBC4 I-Team has discovered 146 outbreaks last month alone at supermarkets in the the southern part of LA County and in Orange County, according to data obtained from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.

Those numbers include outbreaks at 31 Ralphs stores in the region, 17 Vons, and 16 Albertsons.

In Los Angeles County, public health department data shows outbreaks at food facilities, like supermarkets are up exponentially since early November.

Read the full story here.

Online Sign-Ups Complicate Vaccine Rollout for Older People

Senior citizens are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots.

Many states and counties ask people 65 and older to make appointments online. But glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people who are often less tech-savvy, live far from vaccination sites and are more likely to not have internet access at all.

States have thrown open the line to many of the nation’s 54 million senior citizens with the blessing of President Donald Trump’s administration, though the minimum age varies from place to place at 65, 70 or higher.

Doctors and other health officials are saying there’s a flood of confusion, and some places are looking for solutions, like partnering with community groups.

Read the full story here.

Unable to Fulfill Shipments, Pfizer Temporarily Reduces European Deliveries of Vaccine

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer has confirmed it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year.

“This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Germany’s Health Ministry said Friday that Pfizer had informed the European Commission, which was responsible for ordering vaccines from the company, that it won’t be able to fulfill all of the promised deliveries in the coming three to four weeks.

The ministry said German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission ” with regret” because the company had made binding delivery commitments by mid-February.

California Urged to Move Inmates to Front of Vaccine Line

Attorneys representing California inmates are urging state and federal officials to advance about 1 of every 10 prisoners to the front of the line for coronavirus vaccinations, saying it would help ease the burden on hospitals while helping control outbreaks inside state lockups.

They're asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar to order the swift vaccinations of every inmate who hasn't already been infected, starting with those who are most vulnerable.

More than 4,400 of the state's 95,000 inmates currently have active infections, including 1 of every 3 at a Central Coast men’s prison and 1 of every 10 at the state’s largest women’s facility where an advocacy group says officials bungled their response.

And that's not the worst of it, said Steve Fama, an attorney with the nonprofit Prison Law Office that represents inmates in the largest class-action settlement over prison medical conditions.

There have been about a dozen bigger outbreaks in the last month, accounting for about a third of the 167 inmate coronavirus deaths, he said. Corrections officials said active cases peaked Dec. 20 at 10,721 systemwide.

"As much of a disaster as it was the first nine months of the pandemic, the last 30 days have far exceeded in terms of the statewide number of cases,” he said.

Coronavirus Pandemic Reduced Life Expectancy for Blacks, Latinos, Study Finds

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected life expectancy, USC and Princeton researchers have found, according to a study published Thursday.

The researchers project that, due to the more than 336,000 pandemic deaths in the United States in 2020, life expectancy at birth for Americans will shorten by 1.13 years to 77.48 years, according to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That is the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in at least 40 years and the lowest life expectancy estimate since 2003.

The declines in life expectancy are likely even starker among Black and Latino communities. For Blacks, the researchers project their life expectancy would shorten by 2.10 years to 72.78 years, and 3.05 years for Latinos to 78.77 years.

Whites are also impacted, but their projected decline is much smaller -- 0.68 years -- to 77.84 years.

Overall, the gap in life expectancy between Blacks and whites is projected to widen by 40%, from 3.6 years to more than 5 -- further evidence of the disease's disparate impact on minority populations.

Read the full story here

Associated Press/NBC
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