VIRUS TODAY: Vaccination efforts to end COVID-19 accelerate

Here’s what’s happening Monday with the pandemic in the U.S.:


— The campaign to vanquish the coronavirus is picking up speed. Britain has begun dispensing the second vaccine in its arsenal. And India, the world’s second-most populous country, has authorized its first shots. In the U.S., meanwhile, government officials say that the pace of vaccinations has accelerated markedly after a disappointingly slow start. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said over the weekend that 1.5 million shots were dispensed over 72 hours, bringing the running total to about 4 million.

— As states brace for a coronavirus surge following holiday gatherings, one surprising place stands out as a potential super-spreader — the statehouses where lawmakers will help shape the response to the pandemic. Many legislatures will start the year meeting remotely, but numerous Republican-controlled statehouses are planning to hold their sessions at least partially in-person without requiring or enforcing mask-wearing. Public health officials say those decisions endanger the safety of other lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, the public and journalists. Associated Press data shows more than 230 state lawmakers across the country have contracted COVID-19 and at least seven have died.

— New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will set up 250 city-run COVID-19 vaccination sites this month in a push to administer 1 million vaccine doses by the end of January. Just over 100,000 people have been vaccinated in the city since the inoculations began on Dec. 14. But de Blasio said Monday that immunizations will speed up now that people see that the two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use in the U.S. are safe. De Blasio said he is pushing for the shots to be available to essential workers including police officers, firefighters and teachers.

THE NUMBERS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 2,625 on December 20 to 2,637.4 on January 3, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATH TOLL: The number of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. stands at 351,590.

QUOTABLE: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said the recent marked increase in vaccinations shows “ some little glimmer of hope ” in the fight against the coronavirus.

ICYMI: Thousands of minority-owned small businesses were at the end of the line in the government’s coronavirus relief program as many struggled to find banks to accept their applications. Or, they were disadvantaged by the program’s terms. Data from the Paycheck Protection Program analyzed by The Associated Press show many minority owners desperate for a loan didn’t receive one until the PPP’s last weeks. Meanwhile, many more companies owned by whites were able to get loans. The program helped many businesses survive the first months of the virus outbreak. But it struggled to meet its promise of aiding communities that historically haven’t gotten needed help.

ON THE HORIZON: For Dr. David Tom Cooke, participating in the clinical trial for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was one step in his efforts to allay concerns about the vaccine’s safety in the Black community. Cooke, who is Black, is the head of general thoracic surgery at UC Davis Health and just one of many health care providers and community leaders who personally understand many Black Americans’ skepticism toward the medical profession. He’s now sharing details about his experience in an effort to build trust. Black Americans have been hit harder by the coronavirus than others but are more likely to distrust the vaccine because of a history of poor health outcomes and abusive medical research.


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