In the latest in a political battle over stimulus checks meant to aid Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Tuesday attempt to increase direct payments in the year-end coronavirus relief bill to $2,000 by a unanimous vote, the day after the House of Representatives voted in favor of sending $2,000 direct payments to most Americans.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said Monday it screened 1,284,599 travelers on Sunday, the highest total since March 15. Over the past several weeks, health officials urged Americans not to travel for fear of a post-holiday increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.
The U.S. has recorded more than 19.5 million coronavirus cases and over 338,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from the U.S. and elsewhere:
Louisiana Congressman Luke Letlow Dead From COVID-19
Luke Letlow, Louisiana's newest Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. He was 41 years old.
Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect's death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.
“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” Bautsch said in a statement. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”
The incoming congressman, elected in a December runoff and set to take office in January, was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus disease. He was later transferred to the Shreveport facility and placed in intensive care.
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
VP-Elect Kamala Harris Receives First Vaccine Dose
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and incoming second gentleman Doug Emhoff were administered their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday morning at United Medical Center in Washington, D.C. President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden had their first doses administered last week.
US Might Be Missing New COVID Variant 'Because the Holes in Our Net Are Too Wide'
The lack of COVID-19 testing capacity in the United States could mean the new, highly transmissible coronavirus strain that first emerged in the United Kingdom is already working its way through communities across the U.S., CNBC reports.
That’s according to Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston Medical Center.
"To find that strain, what we need to do is to take a percentage of the samples that are diagnosed and do deep genetic analysis, and(in)the U.S., our capacity hasn’t been spectacular," the infectious diseases physician told “The News with Shepard Smith” on Monday. "If the strain is here, we might just be missing it because the holes in our net are too wide."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new variant has not been detected in the U.S.
However, the agency said viruses have only been sequenced from about 51,000 of the 17 million infections in the country. The United Kingdom has recorded the most sequences with 125,00.
Read the full story here
LA County Health Officials Issue Mandatory Quarantine for All Travelers
All travelers arriving to Los Angeles County must quarantine for 10 days, the county's health officials said Monday.
The announcement comes as the county continues to see record numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths. On Monday, Los Angeles reported 13,661 new cases and 73 deaths, according to health officials, although the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.
For the past several weeks, Los Angeles has seen 13,000 to 15,000 new virus cases every day, health officials said. The county is also reporting record numbers of hospitalizations. Since November 9, the average daily hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 has increased more than 670%.
NY Hospitalizations Top 7,550 as Early Post-Holiday Data Raises Gov. Cuomo's Concern
New York is poised to eclipse 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths this week (though the actual toll is likely much higher already) as hospitalizations continue to climb amid an anxious wait for the dreaded holiday surge upon surge in cases, NBC New York reports.
Securing hospital capacity has been the top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the last month as the numbers slowly – and then more steadily – climbed. Nearly 7,600 (7,559) people were hospitalized with the virus statewide as of Monday, an increase of almost 400 over the previous day and the highest total since May 8, a harbinger of more potential tragedy to come.
The state has reported at least 100 new COVID deaths a day for nearly two weeks now. The total number of confirmed fatalities is now 29,629, though the CDC and experts say the virus is likely blamed for thousands upon thousands more deaths.
In his first post-Christmas COVID briefing Monday, Cuomo said he hoped New Yorkers had adhered to his mantra: "Celebrate smart, stop the shutdowns."
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