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Coronavirus updates: Biden, Harris honor 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19; virus can spread within seconds through talking, study says

Elinor Aspegren

Adrianna Rodriguez

Doyle Rice
 
| USA TODAY

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COVID-19 has killed more than 400,000 Americans in less than a year and infections have continued to mount across the country despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer- BioNTech 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 to learn more about the virus.

In the headlines:

► On the night before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden led a national tribute Tuesday for the 400,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus, saying “To heal, we must remember.”

► The U.S. surpassed 400,000 reported coronavirus deaths Tuesday, almost double the total of the next most severely hit nation, Brazil. More than 20,000 people are dying per week. And since March 1, about four Americans have died every five minutes from COVID-19.

► One of Britain’s oldest twins died from COVID-19 just two days before a letter arrived inviting her to take her first dose of the vaccine, The Guardian reported. Doris Hobday, 96, died Jan. 5. Her twin sister, Lil Cox, survived two weeks in the hospital. 

► Twenty-one shipments containing about 11,900 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine were spoiled because of temperature control issues during delivery to Michigan, states health officials said Tuesday. An additional 4,400 doses will not be used in Maine due to the same issue. 

► The majority of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is out of control, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. Only about 1 in 10 Americans say the pandemic is mostly under control, the poll found. “The nationwide survey shows that large majorities of people of all political affiliations say they think the deadly virus, which arrived in the country nearly a year ago, is only somewhat under control or not at all controlled,” the Washington Post said.

► San Francisco’s public health department is likely to run out of vaccine Thursday. The same situation is occurring in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is vaccinating residents faster every day and will run out of doses on Thursday unless they receive more.

► In a report issued Monday, a panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner.

► U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee is under self-quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 24.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 403,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 96.5 million cases and 2 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: One year ago today, the United States’ first known case of the novel coronavirus was discovered in Snohomish County, Washington. In the year since, COVID-19 has crept into every county in the nation, killing more than 400,000 people, and infecting 1 in every 14 Americans. Read more here.

Infectious airborne coronavirus particles can spread further than six feet within seconds in poorly-ventilated spaces, according to a new study Wednesday, providing further evidence that ventilation and face masks are key to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Researchers also found that someone infected with COVID-19 released more particles through 30 seconds of speaking than through a short cough, and those particles could linger in the air and remain infectious for an hour in small, poorly-ventilated spaces. 

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London published their report Wednesday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. The researchers used mathematical models to study airborne transmission and to build Airborne.cam, an app that helps users understand how ventilation and other measures affect indoor transmission.

– Grace Hauck, USA TODAY

Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a nationwide memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday evening honoring the more than 400,000 lives lost to the coronavirus across the country.

“To heal, we must remember,” the incoming president told the nation at the sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. “It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”

Four hundred lights representing the pandemic’s victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. Michigan nurse Lori Key, 29, sang a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” that spread widely on social media.

“For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice president when she’s sworn in Wednesday. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins is urging recovered COVID-19 patients still experiencing prolonged symptoms of the disease to fill out a patient-led survey and tell their story.

“It’s essential for us to learn all we can about how SARS-CoV-2 … leads to such widespread symptoms. It’s also essential that we develop ways to better treat or prevent these symptoms,” Collins said in a blog post published Tuesday.

The most common symptoms among so-called “long haulers” are fatigue, worsening of symptoms after physical and mental activity, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping and “brain fog” or difficulty thinking clearly, according to a December study in the U.S. that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

“As these efforts and others proceed in the coming months, the hope is that we’ll gain more insight and get some answers soon,” said Collins, who was not affiliated with the study.

Schoolchildren who are still learning English typically take a federally required test shortly after the winter break that measures their fluency in the language. While many children are learning at home this year, ACCESS – an English-proficiency test used by most states that takes up to four hours to complete – can’t be done remotely.  

Yet many states seem to be proceeding with business as usual, and it’s unclear what that means for English learners who can’t or opt not to return to campus. This oversight is being met by a rising tide of criticism from advocates and parents nationwide who say in-person testing could put English learners and their families at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19.  

The vast majority of English learners – 94% – are students of color, and those communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that Latinos and Blacks in the U.S. are almost three times as likely as their white counterparts to die from the virus. Read more here.

– Alia Wong

In less than a year, more Americans will die of COVID-19 than died during World War II, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

In the 1,347 days from the attack on Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, 405,399 Americans died fighting in World War II, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In less than a quarter of that time, at least 400,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19.

These historic tragedies are connected solely by the scale of death and injuries – except for a few soldiers who fought in the war but lost their battle against the coronavirus and the few who survived both.

Still, looking at the two moments together perhaps helps us remember the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young U.S. soldiers and recognize the serious threat the coronavirus pandemic poses.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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