USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed nearly 390,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other top news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.
In the headlines:
► President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to share more details Friday afternoon on his $1.9 trillion spending package that aims to speed distribution of the coronavirus vaccines and provide economic relief caused by the pandemic. The package proposal includes investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, $1,400 stimulus checks and expanding unemployment insurance supplements to $400 per week. More here.
► Starting Friday, the United Kingdom is banning arrivals from South America following evidence of a new variant of the coronavirus in Brazil.
► The coronavirus pandemic is projected to lower Americans’ life expectancy at birth by over a year, according to a study out of University of Southern California and Princeton University published Thursday. Life expectancy for Black and Latino populations is expected to reduce 30% to 40% more than white populations.
► Disneyland announced it would end its Annual Passports program on Thursday, at the same time offering refunds to 2020 pass holders after COVID-19 kept visitors locked out of the theme park for the majority of the year.
► Texas has distributed more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday as the state ramps up mass vaccination efforts while hospitals grapple with record numbers of patients.
► A false rumor that extra vaccine doses were available had people lining the sidewalks and cars filling the roadways in New York City. And more than 100 people went to Bay Area sites, despite not qualifying for the vaccines, after an error with the vaccination portal in California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
► A study in Nevada released Wednesday says about one-third of the state’s residents are unlikely to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 23.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 388,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 93 million cases and 1.99 million deaths.
📘 What we’re reading: U.S. health officials are urging Americans to ask their doctors about monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 treatment. But is it too little, too late? Read more here.
President-elect Joe Biden on Friday announced that former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler will serve as chief science officer of his administration’s COVID-19 response team.
Kessler is co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 Task Force and led the FDA under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, Biden announced an ambitious plan to deliver 100 million vaccinations during the first 100 days of his administration. He is expected to announce more details during a speech later today.
Biden said Kessler and other appointees will take on the job of “effectively and equitably” vaccinating as many Americans as possible and taking other steps to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
– Ken Alltucker
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the country will be hitting a grim milestone soon as it continues to record the most daily COVID-19 deaths than at any point during the pandemic.
The agency’s weekly ensemble forecast predicts that 16,200 to 29,600 new COVID-19 deaths will likely be reported in the week ending Feb. 6, reaching up to 477,000 total deaths by this date.
The ensemble forecast is made up of 39 different models from across the nation that’s combined into an aggregate forecast to predict COVID-19 deaths over the next four weeks.
The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is revising its warning against taking ivermectin – a pill to treat parasites, commonly found in dog heartworm medication – as a coronavirus cure or prevention for pets or people.
Ivermectin made the social and mainstream media rounds in April after its mention in studies, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had warned against its use. Now, a panel at the NIH is revising those warnings, saying there is insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for coronavirus treatment.
But don’t go out and buy heartworm medication for dogs just yet — ivermectin, the panel added, is not FDA-approved for the treatment of any viral infection. Though the medication is currently being studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the panel said they “cannot draw definitive conclusions about the clinical efficacy or safety of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.”
President-elect Joe Biden wants Americans to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots during the first 100 days of his administration, a lofty goal to reverse a slow start to the nation’s vaccine rollout.
Biden offered few details on how his administration would achieve the ambitious timeline during a Thursday night speech on his proposed $1.9 trillion economic recovery package. He plans to share more details Friday on his vaccine plan.
“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we’ve ever undertaken as a nation,” Biden said. “We’ll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in peoples’ arms.”
Biden proposes $20 billion for a national vaccination program with states, local government and tribes and will include community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination units to reach remote areas.
– Ken Alltucker
Research teams at two universities announced Thursday they’d found a new variant of COVID-19.
A research team at Southern Illinois University discovered a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that is specific to and dominant in the U.S., adding to the growing list of mutations such as those discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa, the university said in a statement.
“It’s here. We found it,” Keith Gagnon, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SIU, said. “It’s definitely home-grown and widespread, and we’re the first to characterize it.”
It could be more easily transmissible than other variants, and its impact on vaccines is uncertain, the university said.
Also, scientists at The Ohio State University have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The new variant carries a mutation identical to the strain in the United Kingdom, but it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States.
Contributing: The Associated Press