The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday following a deadly coronavirus surge that has smashed records and left the country in despair.
India has become the first in the world to report more than 400,000 daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the surge threatens global efforts to tamp down the pandemic and return to pre-COVID life.
The country’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000.
Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system. Here’s what we know.
As the crisis in India became more urgent last week, the White House said the U.S. could share as many as 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine once it receives federal approval in the coming months. And the U.S. Agency for International Development began flying emergency supplies to the country, including oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and 100,000 N95 masks to help India protect its front-line health workers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is now averaging fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day, a level not seen since early October and a sign that the nation’s mass vaccination program is having an impact on the pandemic.
And in a region which just a few short months ago had to lift its limit on cremations to accommodate the influx of bodies, Los Angeles County public health authorities reported no new COVID-19 deaths Sunday and Monday. Infections remain at their lowest levels since the pandemic started.
Also in the news:
►Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is shuttering the board responsible for licensing nursing home administrators after an investigation by The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, revealed that its members approved a felon who forced employees to work while sick with COVID-19. More than 50 residents at Granite Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center became infected with the disease and at least 15 died.
►Those under 50 years of age make up the largest portion of COVID hospitalizations in the nation at about 35%, as a disease that initially ravaged the senior ranks is victimizing other unprotected adults.
►The Transportation Security Administration reported nearly 1.67 million people were screened at U.S. airport checkpoints Sunday, the highest number since mid-March of last year.
►North Korea is warning its people to brace for a prolonged struggle against the coronavirus, claiming that broadening outbreaks and muddled immunization programs in other countries show vaccines aren’t the ultimate solution.
►The World Health Organization is set to decide this week whether to approve two Chinese vaccines for emergency use against COVID-19, a top WHO official said.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.47 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 577,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 153.18 million cases and 3.2 million deaths. More than 312.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 246.7 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 105.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.
📘 What we’re reading: The U.S. is nearing a vaccine tipping point: A dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases could come without herd immunity, some experts say. Read about it here.
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Florida Gov. DeSantis invalidates COVID-19 restrictions statewide
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended local COVID-19 emergency orders Monday and signed a proposal lawmakers approved last week that limits the government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures used to combat the coronavirus this past year.
The measure, Senate Bill 2006, also makes permanent DeSantis’ executive order that prohibits “vaccine passports,” saying it is unnecessary “to be policing people at this point.”
“I think if you are saying that you are really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in science,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in St. Petersburg, Florida.
– James Call
FDA set to OK Pfizer vaccine for adolescents age 12-15
The Food and Drug Administration will soon authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15, who could be eligible to receive the shots as early as next week.
The highly anticipated decision, which is likely to be supported by the CDC, would allow most middle and high school students to get vaccinated before summer camps and the start of the 2021-22 school year.
The current age requirement for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 16, and it’s 18 for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots. Those two companies are also testing their vaccines on children under 18.
Besides appeasing parents eager to get their adolescents vaccinated against the coronavirus, the FDA’s authorization would expand the pool of Americans eligible to get inoculated at a time when the U.S. vaccination campaign is starting to flag in the face of hesitancy and outright refusal by some people.
In a recent trial, Pfizer-BioNTech showed in 2,260 adolescents ages 12-15 that its two-dose vaccine was extremely safe and entirely effective. Of the 16 adolescents infected by COVID-19 in the trial, all had received the placebo, none the active vaccine.
Contributing: The Associated Press.