Joe Biden pushes teacher vaccinations; UK to urge ‘vaccine ceasefires’; Mexico surpasses 2M cases, 175K deaths. Latest COVID-19 updates

President Joe Biden made clear Tuesday his goal is for the majority of K-8 public schools to be open “five days a week” by the end of his first 100 days after the White House received criticism for scaling back that goal last week.

“I think that we’ll be close to that by the end of the first 100 days,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. “You’ll have a significant percentage of them being able to be open.”

Frustrating many parents and opening a new line of attack for Republicans, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week Biden’s goal is for more than 50% of schools to have “some teaching” in person “at least one day a week” – not necessarily fully reopened – by Day 100 of his presidency.

But Biden said that statement was inaccurate, recommitting to a goal of having most K-8 schools fully open. 

Asked how he would return students to classrooms, Biden said, “We should be vaccinating teachers.

He also said that “by next Christmas I think we’ll be in a very different circumstance [in terms of normalcy] than we are today.”

And, he added, “A year from now, I think that there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, have to wear a mask, but we don’t know.”

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In the headlines:

►The U.K. Foreign Secretary will urge the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to declare “vaccine ceasefires” in conflict zones to enable the COVID-19 inoculations of people in those zones, officials there said in a news release. 

►The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced its first case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, from a woman with no history of travel. 

►One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of N95 masks are pouring out of U.S. factories and heading into storage, but there still aren’t nearly enough going to hospitals, an Associated Press investigation found.

►President Joe Biden is extending a ban on home foreclosures for federally backed mortgages by three months and expanding a mortgage relief program to provide relief for families struggling financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

►California opened federally supported mass vaccination sites Tuesday in Los Angeles and Oakland that are intended to bring inoculations to communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 27.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 487,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 109.48 million cases and 2.41 million deaths. More than 71 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 55 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: ‘It’s like we’re trying our best to help the virus’: A fourth wave is looming if US fails to contain COVID-19 variants, experts say. Read the full story.

Mexico surpasses 2M coronavirus cases, 175K deaths

Mexico has topped 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 175,000 deaths, though officials concede that the country’s extremely low rate of testing means the real figures are much higher.

The country’s health department said Tuesday that 8,683 more cases and 1,329 more deaths had been confirmed in the previous 24 hours.

Mexico’s death total so far is the third-highest toll in the world, behind the U.S. and Brazil. But estimates of the country’s 2020 deaths suggest the real death toll from the pandemic is more than 220,000. And death figures for January and early February — when the highest wave of cases came — have yet to be posted.

White House: States to receive biggest boost yet in vaccine doses

The White House announced that it’s doubling the number of doses sent to directly to pharmacies, and will increase its shipment of coronavirus vaccine doses by 23%over the previous week, administration officials told governors Tuesday.

The number of doses states will receive will increase from the 8.6 million a week they received during Biden’s first week in office to the 13.5 million that Zients told governors Tuesday they will receive.

“That’s a minimum,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview before holding his weekly call with governors.said. “Supply will continue to ramp up.

Cities scramble to vaccinate residents, not only necessary to speed the nation’s health and economic recovery but also to slow the mutation of the virus. Although vaccine distribution has increased, vaccination sites all over the country are shutting down while hundreds of thousands of people are on waiting lists.

– Maureen Groppe

Winter storm hampers vaccination efforts, delays shipments

The winter storm driving icy roads, power outages and dangerously low temperatures across much of the nation Tuesday was snarling traffic from coast to coast and delaying vaccine shipments. 

Texas state health officials, due to receive more than 400,000 additional vaccine doses this week, don’t expect deliveries until at least Wednesday. And vaccine appointments in Houston and Austin were expected to be canceled again Tuesday because of the severe winter weather.

Shipments were also being delayed to Florida, said Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. It was unclear how many doses would be affected and when deliveries would resume. 

In Illinois, more than a hundred providers in Chicago did not receive their expected vaccine shipments Tuesday, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. All vaccination and testing sites operated by the city were closed Tuesday following Chicago’s largest snowfall of the year. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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