COVID-19 has killed nearly 430,000 Americans, and infections have continued to mount 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. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday night that it’s “going to take awhile for us to feel like we’re back to a sense of normalcy.”
“Will we feel as if we have the herd immunity that everybody has been talking about by the end of the first 100 days?” she said during a CNN town hall. “I told you I’d tell you the truth. I don’t think we’ll feel it there.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated Wednesday that vaccines appear to be effective against emerging variants, adding that the U.S. is working with companies to develop new antibody treatments that will be effective as newer strains evolve.
Meanwhile, a CDC report released late Wednesday shows the U.K. strain of the virus continuing to spread across the United States. The report shows 315 cases, up from 293 Monday and 144 a week earlier, with California and Florida tied for the most cases with 92 each.
In the headlines:
►Pro Football Hall of Famer and “Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-quarantining, according to people familiar with the situation.
►Chicago Public Schools will continue all-virtual learning Thursday for about 3,200 pre-K and special education students who have been in classrooms for two weeks amid an impasse in negotiations between the city and the teachers’ union. Negotiations are continuing.
►California will turn over its coronavirus vaccine distribution to health insurance giant Blue Shield. Blue Shield will take over a vaccine delivery that has been one of the slowest in the nation, the state health agency told San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.
►Vaccine coverage is twice as high among white people on average than Black and Latino people, a CNN analysis of data from 14 states found. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 equity task force, said in a CNN town hall Wednesday that she’s seen “a similar pattern already emerging across the country.”
►The University of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Health Department asked students Wednesday to avoid leaving their residences to slow the spread of COVID-19 and a more contagious variant.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 429,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 100.8 million cases and 2.17 million deaths. About 47.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 24.6 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
Phoenix-based Banner Health officials hope the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, will help improve outcomes in their most critically-ill COVID-19 patients.
Tocilizumab has had mixed results on COVID-19 patients in numerous trials, and reports conflict about its usefulness in treating people infected with the new coronavirus. The drug has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating COVID-19 patients, nor does it have a government Emergency Use Authorization.
But recent data on the drug’s viability is giving Banner Health leaders some optimism for use with a select group of critically-ill COVID-19 patients at risk of dying.
But not all hospitals and hospital systems in Arizona are treating COVID-19 patients with the arthritis drug right now.
– Stephanie Innes, Arizona Republic
In-person schooling can be safe, U.S. health researchers argue, but it requires schools and their surrounding communities to commit to a slew of public health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
President Joe Biden and his administration have made a return to in-person instruction a priority, setting out to reopen most schools within his first 100 days. Last week, Biden directed the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide clear guidance and resources to reopen schools and child care centers.
On Tuesday, two epidemiologists and a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association, writing that “accumulating data now suggest a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery.”
As schools in the U.S. and abroad have reopened amid the pandemic, there “has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” the scientists said. By taking various public health precautions, it’s possible to prevent transmission in schools, the researchers concluded. Here’s what they want to see happen.
Contributing: The Associated Press