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Joe Biden says millions of masks will be sent 'very shortly'; Americans prefer trips over sex, Trivago poll says: Live COVID-19 updates

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4 days ago John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz and Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY
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The world's COVID-19 vaccine makers are rapidly ramping up production and expressed optimism Tuesday that the U.S. will have sufficient supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by the end of July, as President Joe Biden has said.

Representatives of the drug companies also said they are working on alterations to the vaccines to combat variants if necessary.

John Young, chief business officer at Pfizer, said at a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that his company will have provided 120 million doses by the end of March and reach 300 million by the end of July. That's enough of the two-dose regimen for 150 million Americans, and Young said the company is working to ensure safety and effectiveness for children.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: A person is taken on a stretcher into United Memorial Medical Center in Houston after COVID-19 testing in this March 2020 file photo. © David J. Phillip, AP A person is taken on a stretcher into United Memorial Medical Center in Houston after COVID-19 testing in this March 2020 file photo.

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"We are conducting studies in patients between 12 to 15 years of age and hope to soon begin studies in children under the age of 11," Young said.

Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, said his company also hopes to be deliver 300 million doses by the end of July. And Richard Nettles, Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of medical affairs, said if his company wins Food and Drug Administration authorization for emergency use, J&J hopes to supply 100 million doses of its single-dose vaccine by the end of June.

Also in the news:

►States will receive about 14.5 million doses of vaccine this week, marking a nearly 70% increase in distribution of doses over the last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. Psaki also said governors were told Tuesday that the number of doses sent directly to pharmacies will increase by about 100,000 this week.

►The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is calling for better COVID-19 vaccine access for poor nations, saying, “More than 210 countries are yet to administer a single dose.”

►British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to slowly ease a national lockdown have boosted optimism that travel restrictions will be removed in time for the summer holiday season. TUI, the U.K.’s largest tour operator, said Tuesday that bookings increased six-fold Monday, the company’s busiest day in more than a month.

►Health officials in Texas were optimistic that vaccine distribution would get back on track by the end of the week. Last week's power crisis prompted shipping delays, canceled appointments and destroyed more than 900 doses of the vaccine across the state. 

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 502,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 112 million cases and 2.48 million deaths. More than 82.1 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 65 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: Why get COVID-19 vaccination if you still have to wear a mask? It beats getting sick, health experts say.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

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Biden administration to send millions of masks throughout the country

President Joe Biden, who has asked all Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his term to limit spread of the coronavirus, said Tuesday his administration intends to send millions of face coverings to people throughout the nation soon.

Biden confirmed the plan during a virtual roundtable discussion with four Black essential workers, saying, "We're probably going to be sending out an awful lot of masks around the country very shortly, millions of them."

He did not offer details about the timing or the type of mask under consideration.

California stimulus package with $600 payments includes undocumented immigrants

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a coronavirus relief package Tuesday that includes $600 one-time payments for 5.7 million state residents with low-to-moderate incomes. The $7.6 billion package, paid for by a $15 billion windfall of higher-than-expected tax receipts, also aims to support small businesses.

Low-income undocumented immigrants living in California who have an individual taxpayer identification number will be eligible for the $600 payments. They have been among the people most impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic and are not eligible for federal stimulus checks or unemployment insurance. 

"Those that have been left behind in the federal stimulus, California is not going to leave you behind,'' Newsom said.

2,400 vaccine doses wasted in Tennessee

Tennessee's most populous county won't be allowed to allocate COVID vaccines after more than 2,400 doses went to waste there over the last month. Instead, city officials in the county seat of Memphis, along with hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, will handle the distribution.

The state Department of Health opened an investigation over the weekend into a report that recent winter storms caused 1,000 doses to be thrown away in Shelby County, but Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the problems were far more widespread.

Piercey said issues dating back to Feb. 3 included multiple incidents of spoiled doses, an excessive vaccine inventory, insufficient record-keeping and a lack of a formal process for managing soon-to-expire vaccines. A federal investigation is also expected.

Many would give up sex for chance to travel, Trivago poll finds

We knew Americans are desperate to travel again – but we didn't know just how desperate until now: 38% of Americans polled by Trivago said they'd give up sex for a year if they could resume traveling immediately. For Brits, the number was even higher: 40%. Nearly half of the Americans polled said they'd give up their jobs, too.

More than half of the respondents said they'd adopted a new hobby during the pandemic, and once it's all over, about two-thirds said they'd probably choose a vacation related to that hobby.

The travel accommodation platform surveyed 2,000 Britons and Americans over the course of a week in early January.

Jayme Deerwester

COVID-19 vaccine envy: It's not just Meghan McCain of 'The View'

Two months into the vaccine rollout, most Americans still don't know the gleeful feeling that comes with getting a first dose. Public health officials warned it would take time to vaccinate everyone who desired it, but most people didn't expect the confusion and inconsistencies that have marred vaccination programs. They likely couldn't prepare for the feeling of watching as some people near a return to normal while they continue to wait.

Meghan McCain, co-host of "The View," directed her frustration at Dr. Anthony Fauci and has taken social media heat for it. But she doesn't corner the market for vaccine envy, experts say.

"Whenever you have a little bit of hope, and then it's dashed, you're going to either get depressed or angry or resentful," said therapist Steven Stosny. "And sometimes you're going to blame it on another person, even though it's the system that's really causing the stress." Read more here.

'Saturday Night Live' draws fire for joke about Israeli vaccination program

Saturday Night Live is getting criticized for a joke about Israel's COVID vaccination program.

Israel allows anyone over 16 access to shots and has vaccinated almost half its population. SNL's "Weekend Update" anchor Michael Che joked that, "I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”

Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, controlled by Israel, are not included in the statistics and have little access to vaccines. Israel maintains the territories are responsible for their population's health care.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was among those taking issue with Che's humor. Greenblatt cited "factual inaccuracies," accusing Che of "playing into an anti-Semitic trope."

Dr. Anthony Fauci says politics has contributed to COVID death toll

Political divisions in America are partly to blame for pushing the nation's COVID-19 death toll over 500,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday. Fauci, speaking on CNN, declined to call out former President Donald Trump specifically but said months of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic by political leaders discouraged mitigation efforts such as mask wearing and social distancing promoted by public health experts.

"You are trying to signal the country to really buckle down and address the kinds of mitigation strategies we put forth," said Fauci, a top health adviser to President Joe Biden. "And signals come saying, 'This isn't so bad, we're in pretty good shape ...' That was not helpful."

Fauci said it was painful to hear people calling the pandemic "fake news" while hospitals were overrun with virus patients. "I mean, how could you possibly say that when people in your own state, your own city, your own county are dying?" Fauci said.

Community health centers counted on to vaccinate low-income patients

The Biden administration is targeting community health centers, which serve about 30 million patients nationwide, as vaccine distribution hubs. Two-thirds of those patients live at or below poverty level, half are racial or ethnic minorities and most are uninsured or on Medicaid. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, announced earlier this month the administration will begin shipping doses to 250 centers, at least one in each state or territory. 

At the Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative, Chief Operating Officer Janice Robinson said more than 3,000 patients are on waiting lists for a shot throughout the network’s 17 community health centers. 

“We don’t have enough,” Robinson said. “This will definitely make a change.”

Nada Hassanein

Woman dies after contracting virus from lung donor

A woman who died after undergoing a double lung transplant at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor is the first known person to contract COVID-19 from donor lungs, according to a new case report published in the American Journal of Transplantation. 

The case is rare, and represents "the worst-possible scenario" to play out in a pandemic that has killed half a million Americans, said Bruce Nicely, chief clinical officer of Gift of Life Michigan, the state's federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. Nicely noted that Gift of Life Michigan was not involved in this donation. The transplant occurred in late October.

"To my knowledge, this is the first, and actually the only, documented transmission of COVID-19 to a recipient" from donated organs, Nicely said.

Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden says millions of masks will be sent 'very shortly'; Americans prefer trips over sex, Trivago poll says: Live COVID-19 updates

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