India reported a global one-day record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday as a coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.
India’s total of 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began is second to the United States. India has nearly 1.4 billion people – about four times the U.S. population. Fatalities in India rose by 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said. A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine and are running dangerously low levels of oxygen.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. has administered 200 million COVID vaccine doses. That’s good news as evidence builds that COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people are uncommon.
“Today, we did it,” Biden said, calling the achievement a “powerful demonstration of unity and resolve.”
“We all need to mask up, until the number of cases goes down,” he said, “until everyone has a chance to get their shot.”
With vaccine hesitancy on the rise in many states – 1 in 4 Americans say they might decline vaccination – and accessibility still an issue, that might be a problem. But more than half of adults, and more than 80% of seniors have gotten at least one shot. Nearly 34% are fully vaccinated.
Also in the news:
►Pfizer says it has identified the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of the vaccine it developed, according to The Wall Street Journal.
►The Los Angeles Times reports that California’s coronavirus case rate is now the lowest in the continental United States. The number of new cases in the past seven days – 40.3 per 100,000 people – is considerably lower than the nationwide rate of 135.3.
►A large new study bolsters evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women, a contention supported by a reproductive science organization. The new evidence from CDC researchers was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
►An inspection report from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday skewered conditions and training at a Baltimore factory where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being manufactured.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 31.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 569,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 143.9 million cases and 3 million deaths. Nearly 277.9 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and almost 215.9 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: With several states lifting mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccination rates on the rise, travelers are starting to ask when they will be able to fly without wearing a mask. It shouldn’t be anytime soon, flight attendants say.
Cruise lines are slowly moving ships abroad after more than a year without sailing in U.S. waters because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, nearly half of cruises worldwide depart from U.S. ports, according to a 2019 report from Cruise Lines International Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “conditional sailing order” is keeping ships from sailing, however. Major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Virgin Voyages have announced sailings in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and Israel.
“If the CDC won’t listen to reason, well, we’ll move our ships out of the U.S.,” said Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
– Morgan Hines
The federal mask mandate on planes and in airports, signed by President Joe Biden in January and due to expire May 11, should be extended through September, the president of the largest flight attendants union said. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said told a Senate subcommittee that the nation remains “in the middle of a crisis.”
“I do think it’s important that we recognize that and stay the course here with the mask policies, with all of our diligence (and) with the efforts to get the vaccine out to everyone,” Nelson said.
U.S. airlines have required passengers to wear masks for nearly a year and repeatedly asked for a federal mask mandate to help them enforce it on flights. The efforts were unsuccessful until Biden took office.
– Dawn Gilbertson
When someone passes away, their tax headaches don’t die with them. In fact, those obligations can further complicate the lives of survivors: Federal estate taxes may be due and state inheritance taxes could come into play as well. Hundreds of thousands of Americans mourning the deaths of loved ones to the coronavirus are now dealing with the tax paperwork they left behind. That can often be complicated and time consuming. Read more here.
“You still have to reconcile tax liabilities in the year of death when you had income,” says Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer at Jackson Hewitt. “Sooner or later someone will have to clean it up, and it usually falls to a family member.”
– Jessica Menton
Health officials have released more evidence that COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people are uncommon. The latest study looked at recent infections in about 75 Chicago skilled nursing facilities. Nearly 8,000 residents and nearly 7,000 staff received two doses of vaccine at the facilities. In those fully vaccinated, health officials detected 22 breakthrough infections. Most experienced no symptoms, but two were hospitalized and one died.
Other statistics have suggested breakthrough rates are significantly lower. However, residents of nursing homes and other skilled nursing facilities tend to be older and more frail than the overall population, and some studies have suggested vaccine effectiveness can be lower in that group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday posted the study online.
Sensing a shift in the nation’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign from not enough supply to dwindling demand, the Biden administration is trying to make it easier for Americans to get their shots. President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged employers big and small to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated and, if necessary, to recover from side effects. Biden said employers with fewer than 500 workers can get a tax reimbursement to cover the expense.
“No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty and getting vaccinated,’’ Biden said.
Only 43% of working adults in the U.S. have received a COVID vaccine shot.
Staff from the Iowa Department of Corrections incorrectly gave 77 inmates overdoses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the department confirmed. Cord Overton, a spokesperson for the department, did not say how much extra vaccine each inmate was given.
But Kimberly Koehlhoeffer, 51, of Fairfield, told the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network, that her son, Anthony Koehlhoeffer, is among those 77 inmates. She said Anthony told her doctors informed him and others they had received “six times the recommended amount.”
Kimberly Koehlhoeffer said her son and other inmates have experienced symptoms that include nausea, lack of appetite, severe bruising at injection site and severe dehydration. In an emailed statement to the Des Moines Register, Overton stated that once the department was made aware of the error, its staff immediately sought guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from Pfizer.
– Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register
Contributing: The Associated Press