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Coronavirus updates: Texas cases, hospitalizations remain at all-time highs; Alaska sets pace for vaccine administration

Elinor Aspegren
 
| USA TODAY

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COVID-19 has killed more than 420,000 Americans in a year, and infections have continued to mount 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. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

As Texas enters the seventh week of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort, cases and hospitalizations have decreased but remain at an all-time high.

Nearly 1.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state to date. Most of the people who have been vaccinated in the state — nearly 1.5 million — have received only one of the two required doses for full inoculation, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

The Austin American-Statesman of the USA TODAY Network reported last week that more than half of the vaccines that have been distributed have gone to white residents, according to state data. Also, hospital directors have raised concerns about jammed phone lines and inefficiencies related to the registration process for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, in California, the state with the most infections, health officials lifted regional stay-at-home orders on Monday, citing a decline in the numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients. 

– Hojun Choi, Austin American-Statesman

In the headlines:

►As of last week, Alaska had administered more COVID-19 shots per capita than any state in the nation, according to CDC data, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Missouri ranked last of the 50 states.

►Starting Tuesday, travelers flying into the U.S. from foreign countries will be required to present proof of a recent coronavirus test with a negative result.

►Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine protects against two variants of the coronavirus that have emerged from Britain and South Africa, though not as strongly against the latter, according to a company study.

►World Health Organization officials indicated Monday that they do not believe Olympic athletes should receive priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly if it means cutting ahead of the world’s health care workers and elderly population.

►Google said Monday it will open up select facilities for use as vaccination sites and bolster search results to provide better information on where to find a vaccine for COVID-19. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 420,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 99.7 million cases and 2.1 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: Your child might not return to a classroom this year. Are teachers unions to blame? Read more here.

The highly contagious coronavirus variant initially discovered in Brazil has landed in the U.S.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Monday that the resident had recently traveled to Brazil. The person became ill during the first week of January and the specimen was collected Jan. 9. 

Brazil’s variant seems to be able to evade natural antibodies developed from contracting COVID-19. Though that could mean potential weakening of the effectiveness of current vaccines, current vaccines will still offer some protection

This variation of the virus joins others in circulation in the U.S. – including ones first seen in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and most recently, California.

Campus leaders had hoped the lessons from the fall would better position them for the spring semester. That was before a post-holiday winter surge pushed the number of COVID-19 deaths in America over 400,000. Before more contagious variants of the coronavirus emerged. Before the vaccine rollout proved slower than anticipated.

Now, returning student populations may be at even greater risk than they were in the fall – not to mention their surrounding communities, where research has suggested greater outbreaks in college towns.

Despite those concerns, colleges are pushing ahead. The stakes are high; enrollment plummeted at most colleges last semester, and the loss of income from in-person services like campus housing and dining could be devastating to schools that depend on that money. College towns would feel the economic pinch as well.

But when administrators talk about the need for reopening, they focus on what went well in the fall – and the advantages of the full university experience.

– Chris Quintana, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press


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