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As America slogs through these grimiest winters, there is no relief in the daily tables of coronavirus-related deaths: More than 4,400 were reported in the United States on Tuesday, according to a database from the New York Times, a number that was once unimaginable.
But even as Covid-19 affects thousands of families, the nation is distracted by the political crisis that gripped Washington in the closing days of the Trump administration.
The death toll on Tuesday, which sets another daily record, represented at least 1,597 more people than those killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The death toll in the US, already by a wide margin the highest in the world, is now about 20,000 shy of 400,000 – just a month after the country crossed the 300,000 threshold, a figure higher than the number of Americans killed during the Second World War. World War.
But much of the nation's attention has focused on the fallout from the Capitol siege, prompted in part by President Trump's efforts to prevent Congress from defeating Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the November elections.
On Wednesday, the House will vote to formally accuse Mr Trump of inciting violence against the country. House lawmakers have formally informed Vice President Mike Pence that they will impeach the president if Mr. Pence and the cabinet do not remove Mr. Trump from power by invoking the 25th Amendment.
As people in the country wait to see how Mr Trump's tenure will end, they have also focused on the stories of the five people left dead after last week's calamity – in particular, the death of Brian D Picnic, a Capitol Police officer who was overpowered by the crowd and hit on the head with a fire extinguisher.
& # 39; Brian is a hero & # 39; said his brother Ken Sicknick. "That's what we want people to remember."
Any death from the coronavirus is no less painful for the families and friends who have lost loved ones. The latest victims include a respected basketball coach, a travel writer who loved rural winters and an architect who survived the Holocaust.
Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II tried to emphasize the urgency of the crisis on Tuesday when the Trump administration said it would release all available vaccine doses and instructed states to immediately begin vaccinating every American age 65 and older. .
"This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation we are facing," he said. "Any dose of vaccine left in a warehouse instead of going into an arm could mean one more life is lost or that one hospital bed is still occupied."
Johnson & Johnson expects to release the critical results of its coronavirus vaccine trial in just two weeks, but probably won't be able to provide as many doses this spring as it promised the federal government due to manufacturing delays.
If the vaccine can strongly protect people, as some outside scientists expect, it will provide significant advantages over the two vaccines approved in the United States. Unlike those, which require two doses, Johnson & Johnson may only need one, which greatly simplifies logistics for local health departments and clinics struggling to pop into the arms. The vaccine can also remain stable for months in the refrigerator, while the others must be frozen.
But the encouraging prospect of a third effective vaccine is tempered by apparent delays in the company's production. In the company $ 1 billion contract Johnson & Johnson, signed with the federal government in August, pledged to have 12 million doses ready by the end of February, rising to a total of 100 million doses by the end of June.
Federal officials have been told the company is a whopping two months behind its original production schedule and won't catch up until the end of April, when two known people say it has delivered more than 60 million doses. with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson's Chief Scientific Officer, said he expected to see clinical trial data showing whether the company's vaccine is safe and effective in late January or early February. He declined to provide details of the company's production capacity.
When a handful of new cases of coronavirus occurred in a province around Beijing this month – apparently spread at a village wedding – Chinese authorities took action.
They closed two cities with more than 17 million people, Shijiazhuang and Xingtai. They ordered a testing regimen for almost every resident there, which was completed within days.
They cut off transportation and canceled weddings, funerals and, most importantly, a provincial Communist Party conference.
By this week, the lockdowns had expanded to include another city on the outskirts of Beijing, Langfang, and a province in Heilongjiang, a northeastern province. Also in Beijing itself, the Chinese capital, ditches were closed.
In total, more than 22 million people have been ordered to stay in their homes – doubling the number hit last January when the central government of China announced Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first reported. concluded, in a move that was then considered extraordinary.
The flare-ups remain small compared to the devastation other countries are facing, but still threaten to undermine the success the country's Communist Party has had in suppressing the virus, which could cause the economy to kick back after last year's slump and the population can return to somewhere. close to normal life.
The urgency of the government's current response contrasts with that of officials in Wuhan last year, who feared a backlash if they reveal the mysterious new illnesses that surfaced at the time. Local officials there had continued with a Communist Party conference as it is now being called off in Hebei, despite knowing the disease would spread among the people.
Since Wuhan, authorities have created a road map that mobilizes party cadres to respond quickly to new outbreaks by shutting down neighborhoods, conducting large-scale tests and quarantining large groups.
According to a database by the New York Times, China, a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants, reported an average of 109 new cases per day in the past week. Those would be welcome numbers in countries that are much worse off – including the United States, which has an average of more than 250,000 new cases every day – but they are the worst in China since last summer.
Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, received an injection of a Chinese-made vaccine on live television on Wednesday as health officials prepared for a nationwide rollout.
Human trials in Indonesia have shown that the vaccine, CoronaVac, was safe and 65.3 percent effective. But scientists in Brazil said Tuesday it had an efficacy rate there of just over 50 percent – much lower than the 78 percent efficacy announced last week.
Mr. Joko was the first in Indonesia to receive the vaccination, health officials said, because he wanted to assure the public that it was safe, effective and halal, meaning it was approved under Islamic law.
When he got his injection, behind him was a red sign with white letters stating that the vaccine was "safe and halal".
"Covid vaccination is important for us to break the chain of transmission of this coronavirus and provide health protection to all of us, the people of Indonesia, and to speed up the process of economic recovery," said Mr. Joko after he had his chance. .
Indonesia, which authorized emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine on Monday, had previously ordered 125.5 million doses from the company and smaller amounts from several others. Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world with 270 million people, hopes to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating two-thirds of the population within 15 months.
But questions remain about the Sinovac vaccine, which China began administering last year before human trials were completed.
The company has not yet released any data on the results of its trials. And the vaccine's efficacy, as measured in Brazil and Indonesia, is still well below the 90-plus rates achieved by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved in the United States and other countries.
Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, said CoronaVac's relatively low efficacy should prompt Indonesia to look for alternatives. He also questioned the transparency of the various trials and the data being released.
"Indonesia has at least one vaccine as a tool to protect its health workers and prevent staff shortages," he said. "Of course the government has to do its best to get other vaccines."
Indonesia plans to give the vaccine to medical personnel, police officers and soldiers first. It has also started a national promotional campaign to convince members of the public to get the vaccine, which will be free.
Following Mr. Joko being vaccinated in front of the cameras were the Chief of the Army, the National Police Chief and the newly appointed Health Minister, along with other dignitaries and so-called influencers.
Indonesia has reported nearly 850,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 25,000 deaths, Southeast Asia's highest rates in both categories.
Japan extended the state of emergency to seven more prefectures on Wednesday, citing growing new coronavirus infections and tensions in the medical system.
The seven prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto, were added to an emergency call for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures last week.
The extended state of emergency will come into effect Thursday and will last until February 7. With little legal weight and largely dependent on voluntary compliance, the measure urges restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and encourages employers to let 70 percent of their employees work from home. The measure also limits major sports and cultural events to 5,000 spectators or the capacity of half a hall.
Toshio Nakagawa, the president of the Japan Medical Association, said on Wednesday that the state of emergency may need to be extended to all 47 prefectures in Japan. "I don't think it's necessary at this point," said Dr. Nakagawa. "However, there is no rule that it can only be explained after everyone thinks it is absolutely too late."
Japan has recorded nearly 296,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 4,100 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
In other global developments:
To reduce the burden on hospitals BritainFacing an increase in the number of coronavirus patients, the country's health secretary said on Wednesday that the government is considering measures to ease the pressure, including a contingency plan that would allow thousands of patients who need minimal treatment to be discharged to hotels.
GermanyThe cabinet agreed to tighten the rules for entering the country in an effort to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants. Travelers coming from countries such as Great Britain, where new variants are particularly widespread, will require a negative test result before they are allowed to enter Germany.
GermanyHealth Minister Jens Spahn said the planned end of the country's closure on February 1 "is not possible" used to be. In an interview, Mr. Spahn said: "This virus is still too present for that, and healthcare is still too heavy for that." Mr Spahn is expected to defend the country's vaccination rollout on Wednesday, which critics say has been too slow.
The Vatican said it had begun its virus vaccination campaign, although it was unclear when Pope Francis, who had said he would receive the vaccine, would be vaccinated. The Vatican said this month that vaccines would be given to those living or working in the "Holy See and Vatican City", with priority given to health workers, security forces, the elderly and those who have frequent contact with the public.
The Prime Minister of Estonia resigned after his coalition government was engulfed in a corruption scandal over the misuse of government bonds intended to aid a pandemic.
The government of the Philippines said a virus variant first discovered in Britain had been found in a traveler arriving from the United Arab Emirates last week. The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has been found in about 50 countries. The Philippines have also added China, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Oman and Pakistan to the list of countries and territories whose citizens should not be allowed access.
The head of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing CommitteeYoshiro Mori said on Tuesday that it would be "absolutely impossible" to postpone the Summer Games again. The Olympics kicks off on July 23, after the pandemic delayed the original start of July last year. Mr. Mori said another delay would not be possible because officials involved in the preparations were on loan from other organizations.
The first 100 members of prison staff in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have received the first vaccines against the coronavirus, the US military said Tuesday evening, though it declined to say whether any of the 40 prisoners of war at the detention center were offered or received. vaccines.
Captain Garrett Kasper, a Navy spokesman at the prison, said in a statement that a shipment of Moderna vaccines arrived at the base on Friday and that 100 people assigned to the detention operation with 1,800 staff were vaccinated the next day.
More vaccinations were scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning an announcement posted by the base's small community hospital. Recipients included first responders and rescuers, as well as some other rescuers who acted as & # 39; first responders & # 39; are described.
About 6,000 people live on the base, but the detention center apparently received a separate supply of vaccines for its staff.
The military did not say whether the first 100 people who received vaccine doses included civilian workers in the prison zone, such as translators, or whether they were given exclusively to US forces, such as National Guard troops temporarily appointed as prison guards and naval officers. who take care of the prisoners in the cell blocks.
Captain Kasper said prison headquarters was expected to receive a second shipment of Moderna vaccines this week.
In the early months of the pandemic, Guantánamo announced that two service workers had tested positive for the virus and were isolated. It did not provide any further updates on cases as the Pentagon banned base-by-base disclosure.
Most of the military commission legal visits and proceedings involving the prisoners – including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of conspiracy in the September 11, 2001 attacks – stalled during the pandemic. Troop rotations have continued, and some base families have traveled to and from Guantánamo on military leave and holidays.
People arriving at the base must be quarantined separately for two weeks. The commissioner, gymnasium, church building, the 245-student school system and the pub are all open, the latter with a 50-member limit and a requirement that wait staff wear masks.
The leader of a secretive religious cult that was at the center of a coronavirus outbreak in South Korea last year was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday on charges of embezzling church money.
But Lee Man-hee, 89, the founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy to obstruct the health authorities' efforts to fight the coronavirus. Mr. Lee's jail term has been suspended for four years, meaning he will remain free unless he commits a crime within that time.
The rapid spread of the virus among worshipers of the Church in Daegu, a city in the southeast of the country, in February and early March last year, left South Korea briefly home to the world's largest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. According to government data, a total of 5,213 cases have been found among Church members and their contacts.
Prosecutors arrested Mr. Lee in August charged that he and other church officials had hindered the government's efforts to combat the epidemic by not fully disclosing the number of believers and their meeting places. Mr. Lee was also accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $ 5.1 million, from church funds to build a luxurious "peace palace" north of Seoul, the capital.
He was also accused of using public facilities for religious activities without the permission of the local authorities.
Mr. Lee was released on bail in November. On Wednesday, a judge in Suwon District Court, south of Seoul, ruled that failure to provide a complete list of worshipers and church facilities did not impede the government's efforts to combat the disease.
Mr. Lee's church welcomed the acquittal and said he would appeal to a higher court to try to overturn his conviction of embezzlement and other charges.
In the current edition of the morning newsletter, David Leonhardt writes:
Last week's attack on the Capitol has understandably dominated the news. But I want to take a few minutes to focus on the other important story right now – the pandemic.
Below is a three-point overview of where we are, with help from my colleagues discussing the story and from a few charts. I will warn you in advance: the situation is not good.
1. The new variants are scary. Scientists are still learning about new versions of the coronavirus, including variants that emerged in Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil. The evidence so far indicates that they are "much more contagious than the Italian strain that has been circulating here since February," said my colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. me. "That's a game changer."
Behaviors that were once only moderately risky, such as air travel, may now be more so. The variants seem to be one of the reasons why cases are increasing worldwide:
2. The mass vaccination campaign in the US is off to a terrible start. The Trump administration promised that by January 1, 20 million Americans would have been vaccinated. Instead, there were fewer than three million – s only about nine million have now had their photos.
The Deep South has the lowest vaccination rates in the country. But this isn't just a Republican failure: California, Virginia and some other Democratic states have been sluggish as well. (Here is data for each state.)
The vaccinations are likely to accelerate in the coming weeks, especially as President-elect Joe Biden and his team seem much more focused on the problem. than President Trump has been. Goldman Sachs predicts that about a quarter of Americans will have their first shot on April 1, half on June 1 and three quarters by mid-fall. The upcoming vaccination rate is the only good news at the moment.
3. Things are likely to get worse before they get better. The virus is spreading so quickly that hospitals have a hard time keeping up. About 130,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid symptoms, more than double the number two months ago. The pressure on hospitals means that many people may not receive the best available treatments.
Los Angeles recently had to ration oxygen. And Esteban Trejo, an executive at a company in El Paso, Texas that provides oxygen to temporary hospitals, told Kaiser Health News, "It's crazy, absolutely crazy."
The recent data on cases and deaths is noisy, as diagnoses have been artificially delayed during the holidays, said Mitch Smith, a Times reporter who follows the numbers. Still, deaths have already hit an all-time high this week – averaging over 3,000 a day – and the recent explosion in cases suggests they are hitting above 3,500 and maybe as much as 4,000.
The bottom line: Biden is set to take office next week during the nadir of the coronavirus crisis. His administration will need to both speed up vaccine distribution and persuade more people to change their behavior – and the second goal is even more urgent than the first.
Unless Americans start wearing masks more often and spend less time together in tight spaces, many more people will die.
Native Americans who are near death from Covid-19 almost twice the rate of whites, are also facing a cultural crisis: the coronavirus is tearing through the ranks of tribal elders, taking an incalculable toll on the links of language and tradition that flow from older generations to the young.
"It's like we're having a cultural book burn," said Jason Salsman, a spokesman for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in eastern Oklahoma whose grandparents contracted the virus but survived. "We are losing a historical record, encyclopedias. One day there will soon be no one passing on this knowledge."
Native Americans and volunteer groups are trying to protect the elderly as a mission of cultural survival, and placing the elderly and fluent native language speakers at the head of vaccinations. But the efforts are facing huge obstacles. Elders living in remote locations often do not have the means to go to the clinics and hospitals where vaccinations are administered. And there is a deep distrust of the government in a generation that was used as medical guinea pigs, sent to boarding schools, and punished for speaking their own language.
Activists say there is still no reliable death toll among indigenous elderly people. They say the deaths are often overlooked or miscounted, especially outside reserves and in urban areas, where about 70 percent of the indigenous population lives.
Adding to the problem is that public health officials say their sickest members could essentially disappear if they are transferred from the small health systems to larger hospitals with intensive care units.
"We don't know what happens to them until we see a funeral announcement," said Abigail Echo-Hawk, the director of the Urban Indian Health Institute.
The virus has claimed fluent Choctaw speakers and seamstresses from Choctaws' Mississippi band. It took a matriarch from the Tulalip family in Washington State, then her sister and brother-in-law. It killed one former chairman of California's Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, who had struggled for decades to preserve native art and culture. Remote meetings of the Diné Hataałii Association, a group of Navajo medicine men and women, now include regular updates on members who have passed away.
"When they pass over, all that knowledge will be gone forever, never to be held again," said Avery Denny, association member and professor at Diné College. "It's just lost."
Health authorities are investigating the case of a Florida physician who died of an unusually serious blood disease 16 days after receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
Dr. Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old midwife and gynecologist in Miami Beach, received the vaccine on December 18 at Mount Sinai Medical Center and died of a cerebral haemorrhage 16 days later, his wife Heidi Neckelmann wrote in a report. Facebook post.
Shortly after receiving the vaccine, Dr. Michael has an extraordinarily serious form of a condition known as acute immune thrombocytopenia, which prevented his blood from clotting properly.
Pfizer said in a statement that it was "actively investigating the matter," "but we do not currently believe there is a direct link to the vaccine."
“No related safety signals have been identified so far in our clinical studies, the post-marketing experience,” or with the technology used to make the vaccine, the company said. "Our immediate thoughts are with the next of kin."
About nine million people in the United States have received at least one injection of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine, the two of which are approved in the United States. Serious problems have been reported 29 cases of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction, although none was reported as fatal. Many people have had side effects such as painful arms, fatigue, headache and fever, which are usually transient.
Local and federal agencies are investigating Dr. Michael. Several experts said the case was highly unusual, but could have been a serious reaction to the vaccine.
The Florida Department of Health referred Dr. Michael for research into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kristen Nordlund, a C.D.C. spokeswoman, said in a statement that the agency "would evaluate the situation if more information becomes available and provide timely updates on what is known and on any necessary action."