US deaths account for 20% of world's total of 2.4M; Johnson & Johnson plans 20M vaccine doses by end of March. Latest COVID-19 updates




  • In Business
  • 2021-02-23 09:00:05Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

President Joe Biden remembered the 500,000 American lives now lost to COVID-19 at a Monday evening ceremony outside the White House, drawing on his own experience with heartbreak to personalize the unfathomable tragedy while exhorting Americans to wear masks and take other steps to prevent spread of the virus.

He pointed out the death toll from the pandemic is higher than the number of U.S. service members killed in battle during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

"The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations,'' Biden said. "Born in America, emigrated to America. Just like that so many of them took their final breath alone in America. As a nation, we can't accept such a cruel fate. While we're fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.''

The U.S., with about 4% of the world's population, has recorded 25% of the COVID-19 cases and 20% of the fatalities. Experts warn that about 90,000 more deaths are likely in the next few months, despite the country's massive vaccination campaign.

Already the outbreak has driven down life expectancy and left 4.5 million grieving relatives in the U.S. For every American who dies of COVID-19, an average of nine family members are left mourning.

"It struck, like, the core of our family," one such son said.

But even as the nation reaches what Dr. Anthony Fauci called a "terribly historic milestone,'' there are signs of better days ahead. Not only have infections, hospitalizations and deaths been dwindling since a post-holiday spike in January, but two highly effective vaccines are finding their way into millions of American arms, and another one might be authorized soon.

It is a race against time, though, because coronavirus variants are spreading across the country and threaten to touch off another surge of cases.

The White House team also said this weekend that despite the precipitous drop in cases this month, infection levels remain above last summer's peak and life won't return to normal for quite some time.

As the vaccination effort continues, public health officials are preaching vigilance and continued adherence to well-known mitigation measures - masking, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings - hoping to avoid yet another COVID-19 landmark.

Also in the news:

►The House is focusing this week on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Democrats in Congress aim to pass the whole proposal by mid-March, and it currently includes a new round of checks for Americans, renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program and an extension of a federal boost for unemployment benefits.

►States will need to administer annual standardized achievement exams to students in 2021, but they can modify or delay the tests, the U.S. Department of Education said Monday.

►Amid the national debate about reopening schools during the pandemic, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests teachers may be more likely to transmit the virus than students.

►California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday plans to sign a state-sized coronavirus relief package that will include $600 one-time payments for 5.7 million people with low-to-moderate incomes. The bill was approved Monday by state lawmakers.

???? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.18 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 500,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 111.7 million cases and 2.47 million deaths. More than 75.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 64.1 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

???? What we're reading: Language and cultural barriers have made it difficult for many people of color, immigrants and non-English-speaking communities to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here's how we break them down.

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