Coronavirus updates: Vaccine shortages complicate US response; Joe Biden targets COVID-19 relief on first day as president

Elinor Aspegren


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:

► California says it’s safe to resume using a batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after some people fell ill and a halt to injections was recommended. The decision frees up more than 300,000 doses to counties, cities and hospitals.

► The push to inoculate Americans against the coronavirus is hitting a roadblock: A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccine, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them canceled. The reason for the apparent mismatch between supply and demand in the U.S. was unclear, but last week the Health and Human Services Department suggested that states had unrealistic expectations for how much vaccine was on the way.

► Florida’s surgeon general urged the federal government Wednesday to increase allotments of coronavirus vaccine to states like his where large concentrations of seniors face the greatest risk of illness and death from COVID-19.

► India began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighboring countries on Wednesday. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives.

► People who have recovered from the virus are likely to be protected from reinfection, even by new variants, say researchers from Rockefeller University in a study published Tuesday.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 24.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 406,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 96.7 million cases and 2 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: Scientists are convinced COVID-19 came from a tiny bat tucked inside a remote Chinese cave, but other questions remain about the origin of the virus. Here’s why the answers matter.

CDC extends federal eviction moratorium to March 31

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will extend an order preventing landlords from evicting tenants to March 31, protecting as many as 40 million Americans from displacement, new CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky announced Wednesday. 

“We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold,” Walensky said in a statement. 

 A study by global investment firm Stout estimates up to 14 million households could already be close to eviction, with a rental shortfall of more than $24 billion.

The order, issued by former President Donald Trump in September, was set to expire on Jan. 31, but the CDC was directed to extend it during a flurry of executive orders signed Wednesday by President Joe Biden.

Joe Biden signs executive orders targeting COVID-19 relief

President Joe Biden signed several orders Wednesday pertaining to providing support for Americans affected by the pandemic.

Sitting in the Oval Office, Biden signed an order requiring masks and social distancing on federal property, followed by an order to provide support to underserved communities. Another day one order will be creating a COVID-19 response coordinator who will report directly to the president.

The Biden team acknowledged that congressional action will be required to achieve much of Biden’s early agenda. Topping that list is passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, that Biden introduced last week. Read more here. 

Biden’s intends to sign Thursday 10 orders and other directives aimed at jump-starting the administration’s national strategy to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Joey Garrison and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY

Health experts: 2020 may be deadliest year in American history

Preliminary numbers show 2020 is on track to become the deadliest year in U.S. history, with more than 3.2 million total deaths – about 400,000 more than 2019 – a sharp increase that public health experts attribute to COVID-19 and aligns with reported deaths from the disease. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,835,533 U.S. deaths in 2019. Before the pandemic, models projected a slightly higher number, about 2.9 million deaths, for 2020, said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

It’s not a coincidence, he said, that the 400,000 excess deaths closely resemble the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S., which reached 401,796 as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data.

“That is not a seasonal change or just a random bad year,” Faust said. “That is what every person who can correctly attest to these numbers can plainly see is a historic increase in excess mortality. If we put that together with the number of coronavirus deaths, it’s game, set, match.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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