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Live updates: Warp Speed will urge vaccination of adults 65 and older, those with preexisting conditions

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/12/2021 Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Marisa Iati, Jennifer Hassan, Brittany Shammas, Hamza Shaban
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Operation Warp Speed plans to announce changes to the vaccine rollout on Tuesday. Notably, the Trump administration will make more doses of the coronavirus vaccine available immediately, rather than hold them back for second doses. The move comes just days after President-elect Joe Biden announced plans to release nearly all of the supply.

It also plans to urge states to provide the vaccine to anyone 65 or older, and to adults who have a preexisting condition that puts them at greater risk for severe illness. The change will sharply increase the number of people eligible for the shots.

Here are some significant developments:

  • More than 25 million doses of the two authorized vaccines have been distributed in the United States, with nearly 9 million doses administered as of Monday at 9 a.m., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • A third House member, Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), tested positive for coronavirus after sheltering with maskless Republicans during the Capitol riot. Schneider said he is “angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers” who put people at risk.
  • The rolling average of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths each hit records on Monday. The seven-day average was 248,128 cases, nearly 131,000 hospitalizations and 3,208 deaths, according to Washington Post tracking. Those numbers are part of a fall/winter surge that has consumed the U.S., far outpacing previous surges.
  • The rise in new coronavirus infections in the U.S. has been so rapid in recent weeks that scientists cannot rule out the possibility that an undetected variant is accelerating the spread.
  • Three gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have contracted the coronavirus, marking the first known instance of infections among great apes.
  • Pandemic restrictions on nonessential travel at the U.S.-Canada land border will enter their eleventh month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

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4:13 PM: More than half of vaccines given in Florida went to seniors, DeSantis says

a group of people wearing costumes: Registered nurse Cynthia Banada, left, administers the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to Luz Collazo, 103, at Miami Jewish Health, a senior-health-care facility on Dec. 28 in Miami. © Lynne Sladky/AP Registered nurse Cynthia Banada, left, administers the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to Luz Collazo, 103, at Miami Jewish Health, a senior-health-care facility on Dec. 28 in Miami.

More than half of the coronavirus vaccines administered so far in Florida have gone to people ages 65 and older, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a video message, adding that the state is “putting seniors first.”

The state is among several that departed from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and prioritized the elderly over essential workers. The CDC had recommended the second tier include grocery store, transit and other front-line workers, along with people 75 and older. Florida chose to instead make the vaccine available to people over 65, with DeSantis saying the state would not “put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population.”

In the video published Monday, he cited statistics showing that people 65 and older have accounted for 80 percent of coronavirus deaths reported in the United States. He noted that Florida is home to more than 4.5 million senior citizens.

“Our approach is informed by the data,” DeSantis said. “Vaccinating Floridians 65 and older is not only the right thing to do, but also the most effective tool we have to battle the pandemic and to reduce mortality.”

Florida vaccinated 223,000 seniors last week, he said. In all, the state has given about 633,000 of the 1.7 million doses it has received, according to CDC figures.

Wealthy donors received vaccines through Florida nursing home

By: Brittany Shammas

3:45 PM: The pandemic forced live events to go virtual. It may change access to entertainment forever.

Liz Locke wasn’t sure what to expect when she logged on to Twitter last April, cocktail in hand, for a virtual watch party of classic films. She was supposed to be attending the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival, but when it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced they would instead air previous festival programming on the TCM cable channel that weekend. Locke gamely followed the #TCMParty hashtag and chatted with fellow movie fans as she watched “Network,” “Casablanca” and “Auntie Mame,” until something surprising happened — she realized she was having fun.

“Had I attended the festival in-person, I know I would have had a great time. But I don’t know that I would have put myself out there to the degree that I did on social media,” she said.

Like Locke, everyone is counting the days until gatherings can safely resume. But despite the disappointing cancellation of countless cultural activities during the pandemic — film and arts festivals, concerts, book tours, speaking engagements, etc. — a small silver lining has emerged: Virtual entertainment events can actually be pretty great. Even more importantly, they open doors to people who might have otherwise not been able to attend, whether because of geography or mobility or finances. As a result, accessibility to entertainment could change for the better, forever.

Read the full story

By: Emily Yahr

3:00 PM: Democrats want to fine colleagues $1,000 a day if they refuse to wear a mask on Capitol grounds

a close up of a person wearing a costume: Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, wears a protective mask while speaking during a news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg) © Ting Shen/Bloomberg Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, wears a protective mask while speaking during a news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg)

After numerous lawmakers refused to wear masks while hunkered down with their colleagues during last week’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) have introduced a bill that could penalize lawmakers for making the same choice again.

The legislation introduced Tuesday would impose a $1,000 fine on members who refuse to wear masks while in the Capitol complex. The legislation would amend House rules to add that lawmakers are required to wear masks while in the Capitol.

The move comes as at least three Democratic House members — Reps. Brad Schneider (Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) — revealed within 24 hours that they tested positive for coronavirus after being among dozens who sheltered in a committee room last Wednesday as a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. Several Republicans in the room refused to wear a mask.

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By: Paulina Firozi

2:17 PM: Biden suggests splitting Senate days between impeachment trial, other business

President-elect Joe Biden said Monday that it is his “hope and expectation” that the Senate could hold an impeachment trial while also confirming his nominees and working on an additional coronavirus relief package.

Biden made his comments shortly after publicly receiving the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a hospital in Newark, Del., part of an effort to reassure the nation of its safety.

The House is expected to impeach Trump this week, but it is unlikely that the Republican-led Senate would hold a trial before Trump leaves office Jan. 20. Some Democrats have expressed concern that holding a trial after Biden takes office could detract from his agenda.

Even though Trump will have already left office, a conviction by the Senate after his term ends would mean he cannot hold federal office again.

Speaking to reporters at ChristianaCare’s Christiana Hospital, Biden said he has had preliminary conversations about the prospect of the Senate, which will be under Democratic control after he is sworn in, splitting days between an impeachment trial and other business.

“That’s my hope and expectation,” Biden said. “My priority, first and foremost, is to get the stimulus bill passed and, secondly, begin to rebuild the economy.”

In response to a question, he also said he does not fear being sworn into office outdoors, as is traditionally the case, following last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Biden said. “I think it’s critically important that there be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened people’s lives, defaced public property, caused great damage, that they be held accountable.”

The president-elect received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on live television Dec. 21 at Christiana Hospital.

By: John Wagner

1:31 PM: Malaysia’s king declares coronavirus state of emergency until August

a person wearing a hat: Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wears a face mask as he offers prayers during a parliamentary session last year. (Nazri Rapaai/Malaysia's Department of Information/AFP/Getty Images) Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wears a face mask as he offers prayers during a parliamentary session last year. (Nazri Rapaai/Malaysia's Department of Information/AFP/Getty Images)

Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang, has declared a state of emergency for millions of citizens — the country’s first in decades — that could last until at least August if coronavirus infections do not fall.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin requested the move, the palace confirmed, as critics accused the country’s leader of using the emergency measures for personal gain. The measure will delay political activity, including elections.

The country’s health-care system is “at a breaking point,” Muhyiddin said Monday. Starting Wednesday, the lockdown will limit socializing and travel and force many businesses to shut down or operate under stringent guidelines.

More than 550 people have died of the coronavirus in Malaysia, with more than 140,000 cases detected there, including the more contagious British variant of the virus.

Legal expert Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmood told the Guardian that the king’s declaration of a national state of emergency could give the prime minister and his government more political power.

“If parliament is not in session, the government has the power to make laws,” Mahmood said. “The constitution is more or less suspended, as a substantial part of it can be overridden by emergency law.”

By: Jennifer Hassan

12:55 PM: A year from Beijing Olympics, coronavirus wreaks havoc with winter sports schedules

a man riding a snowboard down a snow covered slope: Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States competes in the men’s giant slalom during a World Cup event Saturday in Adelboden, Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States competes in the men’s giant slalom during a World Cup event Saturday in Adelboden, Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

When the coronavirus brought the Olympic sports world to a grinding halt in March, the top winter-sports athletes had mostly finished competing for the year. A handful of events were canceled, but the early days of the pandemic largely felt like a bullet dodged for the skiers, skaters and snowboarders training for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

But weeks and months passed, and it soon became clear the virus that ruined spring and summer would still be raging as the temperatures dropped. And now, just 13 months out from the Beijing Games, Olympic officials are monitoring the escalating coronavirus numbers in the United States and in Europe. On Monday, this week’s Alpine skiing World Cup event in Switzerland was canceled because of the worsening conditions in the region.

“It’s all uncharted waters,” said Jeff Plush, chief executive of USA Curling. “We’re just trying to navigate it all the best we can. What we know today we know can change next week.”

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By: Rick Maese

12:49 PM: U.S., Canada extend border restrictions for 30 days

TORONTO — Pandemic restrictions on nonessential travel at the U.S.-Canada border will enter their 11th month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

“This is an important decision, and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe,” he told reporters outside an official residence in Ottawa.

The measures, which enjoy broad support in Canada, have had limited effect on trade and the movement of essential workers. But the tourism industry has chafed at them, and their impact has been felt in tightly knit cross-border communities.

The restrictions also apply to asylum seekers attempting to enter Canada from the United States at unofficial land border crossings and vice versa. Previously, such migrants could enter to make their claims, but under the pandemic border measures, they are bounced back.

Canadian officials said last March that they received “assurances” from the United States that most asylum seekers turned back at unauthorized crossings would be able to return to make their claims when the restrictions are lifted. But several have been detained with final orders of removal on the U.S. side, and at least one has been deported.

Trudeau indicated last month that the restrictions would not be lifted until the coronavirus pandemic is “significantly more under control” around the world. The current measures will remain in place until at least Feb. 21.

By: Amanda Coletta

11:54 AM: Cases, hospitalizations and deaths hit record rolling averages

While much of the country’s attention has remained focused on Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol and the threat of additional unrest, the rolling average of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths each hit records Monday.

The seven-day average was 248,128 cases, nearly 131,000 hospitalizations and 3,208 deaths, according to Washington Post tracking. Those numbers are part of a fall/winter surge that has consumed the United States, far outpacing previous surges.

At the start of the U.S. outbreak, New York was hardest hit. During the summer, average U.S. deaths hit a low of 463 per day, but infections surged in Sun Belt states. From late summer to early fall, the Upper Midwest was inundated. By December, most states were reporting record numbers.

California has seen some of the worst of the current wave, reporting a rolling seven-day average of more than 40,000 new cases, and 476 new deaths per day. The state has nearly 7,000 cases per 100,000 people and was approaching 30,000 total deaths Tuesday. That makes it the state with the second-highest total deaths, behind New York’s 39,490 and just ahead of Texas’s 29,933.

Arizona has emerged as another hot spot, with more than 9,000 cases per 100,000 people. The state reported a record number of deaths Tuesday, at 335 and crossed 5,000 hospitalizations for the first time.

By: Brittany Shammas

11:38 AM: Uber and Moderna aim for vaccine transport appointments to boost immunizations

a hand holding a cellphone: A commuter uses the Uber app. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg News) A commuter uses the Uber app. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg News)

Uber and Moderna are joining hands to boost access to the coronavirus vaccine, evaluating plans to work with health providers to schedule rides for people with appointments to get the shots and send reminders.

The ride-hailing firm and the biotechnology company behind one of the coronavirus vaccines said Tuesday that they will explore ways to raise awareness of the vaccine and accelerate its delivery to the public. The collaboration will initially involve Uber sending “accessible, credible information on vaccine safety” through its mobile app.

In December, Lyft announced a partnership with Anthem, JPMorgan Chase and United Way to help members of underserved communities get to their vaccination appointments with free or discounted rides. The business coalition’s goal is to provide 60 million rides to and from vaccination sites for low-income, uninsured and at-risk communities.

Uber has also committed to providing 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccine appointments for communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Uber and Lyft have lobbied the incoming Biden administration for a larger role in the national vaccine rollout — providing transportation to health facilities — while trying to secure dedicated vaccine doses for their contracted drivers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Vaccine delivery in the United States has been marred by fractured planning and a lack of financial resources, with immunizations falling far behind the 20 million figure the Trump administration projected for the end of 2020. To speed up the rollout, the administration plans to make many more doses available and is urging state officials to provide the shots to anyone 65 or older.

By: Hamza Shaban

11:30 AM: Third Democratic House member tests positive after lockdown in room with some maskless Republicans

Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.) is the third Democratic House member in 24 hours to reveal that he has tested positive for the coronavirus after being among the dozens who went into lockdown together in a committee room where several Republicans refused to wear masks.

“Last Wednesday, after narrowly escaping a violent mob incited by the President of the United States to attack the Capitol and its occupants, I was forced to spend several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other Members of Congress,” Schneider said in a statement. Several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask … Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) have also tested positive after being held in the crowded room while a violent mob stormed the Capitol.

On Sunday, the Capitol attending physician alerted lawmakers who sheltered in that room that they may have been exposed to the virus and urged them to get tested.

Several lawmakers are calling for the Republicans who refused to wear a mask, even when offered one by a Democratic colleague, to be fined and the House to take a more firm stance enforcing mask-wearing inside the Capitol.

“We can no longer tolerate Members coming to the floor or gathering in the halls of Congress without doing the bare minimum to protect those around them,” Schneider said. “Those that flout public health guidance should be sanctioned and immediately removed from the House floor by the Sergeant at Arms for their reckless endangerment of their colleagues.”

By: Colby Itkowitz

11:06 AM: Canadian woman fined for breaking curfew after walking husband on leash

a dog walking on a sidewalk: A Canadian woman was fined for walking her husband on a leash like a dog after a coronavirus curfew. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images) A Canadian woman was fined for walking her husband on a leash like a dog after a coronavirus curfew. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

A Canadian woman stopped by police while walking her husband on a leash after a coronavirus curfew has been fined, despite repeatedly telling officers she was outside to exercise her dog.

Police told local newspaper La Tribune that the Quebec province couple “did not cooperate with the police at all” when they were questioned Sunday and that the woman said they would not pay fines equivalent to about $1,200 each, the BBC reported.

Quebec recently introduced a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an attempt to slow transmission of the coronavirus, which has so far claimed more than 17,000 lives in Canada. Walking a dog is one of the only reasons that people may be outside after curfew.

The couple, who were stopped around 9 p.m., told officers they had not broken any rules.

Quebec’s premier, François Legault, urged residents this week to abide by coronavirus measures, adding that the situation in Montreal was “really critical” and that overwhelmed hospitals may soon be unable to treat new patients.

Infections are rising in Canada, with the country reporting more than 600,000 virus cases since the pandemic began. Like many countries, Canada confirmed last month that it detected the highly transmissible British variant of the coronavirus in Ontario.

By: Jennifer Hassan

10:37 AM: Simone Gold, noted hydroxychloroquine advocate, was inside the Capitol during the riot

a person standing in front of a building: California doctor Simone Gold reads from her speech criticizing the U.S. government response to the coronavirus pandemic while pro-Trump protesters breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. © John Strand California doctor Simone Gold reads from her speech criticizing the U.S. government response to the coronavirus pandemic while pro-Trump protesters breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.

A doctor and outspoken critic of the coronavirus vaccine was among those who entered the Capitol building last week during the siege that disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Simone Gold gained national attention in July when she and other physicians appeared in front of the Supreme Court for a sparsely attended news conference to decry pandemic lockdowns and criticize government efforts to stop the spread of the disease. Video of the event, organized by conservative activists, was retweeted by the president and viewed by millions before social media platforms took it down.

Gold confirmed to The Washington Post that she is the person pictured carrying a bullhorn on the Capitol grounds Wednesday in FBI and D.C. police bulletins seeking more information about individuals who were present.

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By: Neena Satija

10:02 AM: New Zealand will require travelers to produce negative virus tests

Jacinda Ardern looking at the camera: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a news conference in Whakatane, New Zealand, in 2019. (Mark Baker/AP) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a news conference in Whakatane, New Zealand, in 2019. (Mark Baker/AP)

New Zealand is set to ramp up travel measures in a bid to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from entering the country. Starting this month, most international travelers will need to produce a negative coronavirus test result before flying to New Zealand.

Shutting the country’s borders entirely was not “a realistic option,” the country’s coronavirus response minister, Chris Hipkins, said Tuesday. Officials will instead seek to eliminate the risk of a fresh outbreak by asking that travelers from all nations — except Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji — receive a negative test before entering New Zealand.

“Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future, and we must respond strongly to the evolving situation,” Hipkins said, according to the news website Stuff.

There is currently no community transmission of the virus in New Zealand. The country has recorded 25 coronavirus-related deaths since the crisis began in late 2019 — a low figure compared to most other countries.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for taking swift action to prevent the spread and save lives early in the outbreak by closing New Zealand’s borders and by concisely and empathetically communicating the importance of staying home.

The new requirements will take effect after 11:59 p.m. Friday for travelers from the United States and the United Kingdom, while new rules for those hoping to travel from other countries will be introduced beginning next week.

Starting Jan. 29, people attempting to enter the country from the U.S. or U.K. without a medical certificate or test result may be denied boarding or fined up to $716 at Customs.

By: Jennifer Hassan

9:23 AM: Renowned British naturalist David Attenborough gets coronavirus vaccine

David Attenborough smiling for the camera: British natural historian and BBC broadcaster David Attenborough received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. (Nick Shoolingin-Jordan/Silverback Films 2020/BBC/Discovery/AP) British natural historian and BBC broadcaster David Attenborough received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. (Nick Shoolingin-Jordan/Silverback Films 2020/BBC/Discovery/AP)

Sir David Attenborough, the famed naturalist and one of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters, has received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Attenborough, 94, is known for introducing millions to the natural world through his distinct narration of wildlife documentaries also aired by the BBC.

“At 94, I think I’m entitled!” Attenborough said last month, in an interview with The Telegraph, when asked if he would accept an invitation to be vaccinated. “I’m sufficient of a scientist still, I hope, to realize this is the thing to do.”

It’s unclear which vaccine Attenborough was given or when, the BBC reported. Britain has approved the use of three vaccines: those developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. All require two doses to be administered, with a few weeks between the doses.

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 3.1 million coronavirus cases and over 81,000 deaths. In recent weeks, Britain has seen a surge in infections that officials say is the result of a new, more contagious variant of the virus.

Attenborough, who has been isolating at his home in London, previously said international cooperation to develop the vaccines showed that nations can effectively work together on global problems, such as the climate crisis, the BBC reported.

The virus “has drawn attention to the fact we aren’t as omnipotent and all-controlling as we think we are,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying.

By: Erin Cunningham

8:43 AM: Coronavirus shutdowns have quashed nearly all other common viruses. But scientists say a rebound is coming.

Friendship Public Charter School in D.C. is empty on Jan. 6. (Shuran Huang for The Washington Post) Friendship Public Charter School in D.C. is empty on Jan. 6. (Shuran Huang for The Washington Post)

Veteran virus trackers say they are chronicling something never before seen — the suppression of virtually every common respiratory and gastrointestinal virus besides the novel coronavirus. They theorize that is largely due to global shutdowns, mask-wearing and a host of other health protocols aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

These other viruses — including influenza A, influenza B, parainfluenza, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus — all appear to be circulating at or near levels lower than ever previously measured. The same is true for the respiratory bacteria that cause pertussis, better known as whooping cough, and pneumonia.

“It’s crazy,” said Lynnette Brammer, who leads the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Domestic Influenza Surveillance team. “This is my 30th flu season. I never would have expected to see flu activity this low.”

Read the full story

By: Dan Hurley

8:17 AM: Trump administration will no longer hold back second shots of vaccine

a blue toothbrush: A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in Queens. (Jeenah Moon/Pool/Reuters) A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in Queens. (Jeenah Moon/Pool/Reuters)

The Trump administration will announce sweeping changes to its vaccination rollout on Tuesday, making many more doses of the coronavirus vaccine available and urging states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older. The steps are an effort to speed up a delayed and disjointed rollout.

The changes mark a sharp departure from the administration’s previous strategy, and they come just days after President-elect Joe Biden announced plans to release nearly all of the vaccine supply. Biden is expected to provide a detailed blueprint on reinvigorating the rollout later this week.

The Trump administration has been holding back roughly half the vaccines to ensure sufficient supply for people to get a required second shot. But in draft remarks prepared for a scheduled call Tuesday afternoon with governors and obtained by The Washington Post, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar disclosed the change in plans. The remarks were confirmed by a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Read the full story

By: Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley

7:57 AM: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped more than 10 percent last year amid pandemic

a flock of birds flying over a city at sunset: A petrochemical refinery smoke stack emitting water vapor in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 3, 2011. (F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg) © F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg A petrochemical refinery smoke stack emitting water vapor in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 3, 2011. (F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg)

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped more than 10 percent last year due to a “historic shock” to the economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, a research firm said Tuesday.

The steep decline in emissions was the largest drop in the post World War II era, according to the New York-based Rhodium Group, which said it tracked the pandemic’s energy and emissions implications in real-time.

The decrease, however, has come with “an enormous toll of significant economic damage and human suffering,” the group said in its report, calling the reductions “no cause for celebration.”

“The vast majority of 2020’s emission reductions were due to decreased economic activity and not from any structural changes that would deliver lasting reductions in the carbon intensity of our economy,” the group said. “If COVID-19 and the resulting recession hadn’t happened, we estimate that US emissions would have declined by only around 3 percent this year.”

According to the report, some of the hardest-hit sectors are also the chief sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including transportation, electric power and industry.

Because of the early moves by political leaders to restrict nonessential travel and ban international flights, the most dramatic and immediate effect of the coronavirus was on the transportation sector, which accounts for 31 percent of net U.S. emissions, according to Rhodium.

The report said that the sector saw a 14.7 percent decline in emissions between 2019 and 2020, the result in part of a drop in demand for both jet fuel and gasoline. That demand has since recovered somewhat, Rhodium said.

“With coronavirus vaccines now in distribution, we expect economic activity to pick up again in 2021,” the group said, adding that “without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy, emissions will likely rise again as well.”

By: Erin Cunningham

7:27 AM: Taiwan hospital evacuated after doctor and nurse contract covid from patient

a group of people walking in the rain holding an umbrella: Pedestrians wearing protective masks and holding umbrellas walk across a road in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday. © I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg Pedestrians wearing protective masks and holding umbrellas walk across a road in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A hospital in northern Taiwan was briefly evacuated Monday, with dozens of medical workers sent home and patients relocated to isolation wards after a doctor and a nurse were found to be infected with covid-19, according to Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Taiwan has been praised as one of the world leaders in containing the virus through strict immigration controls, rigorous quarantine measures and contact tracing. Until last month, it went more than 250 days without a new locally transmitted case. But the new hospital infections underscore how easily the virus can resurface. To date, Taiwan has 838 confirmed cases and just seven deaths.

The hospital cases reported Tuesday mark the first time a medical professional in Taiwan has come down with the coronavirus, and the second time viral transmission occurred at a hospital since January 2020.

After reports of the hospital infections surfaced in local news and jolted Taiwan, two major shopping malls and a nearby Ikea announced they would suspend operation and carry out large-scale disinfection.

The infected doctor had provided care for a confirmed case and began to experience cough and fever on Jan. 8, authorities said. He tested positive two days later. The nurse, who lived with the doctor, was given a test on Jan. 11 and confirmed on Jan. 12.

Patients have been moved to single-room wards and placed in isolation for a 14-day period of observation. The 39 medical workers identified as the contacts of the two cases have been placed in home isolation, according to the authorities. The government has not yet determined whether to shut the hospital, saying there is no sign that the two infected medical workers started a major transmission chain within the hospital. But officials stopped the hospital’s intake of new patients and canceled all visits.

By: Alicia Chen

6:57 AM: U.S. tops list of nations with biggest tourism revenue losses from pandemic

a group of people walking in front of a building: Tourists queue up at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Congress is racing to contain the coronavirus outbreak and the financial fallout as the World Health Organization declared that the global crisis is now a pandemic. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Tourists queue up at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Congress is racing to contain the coronavirus outbreak and the financial fallout as the World Health Organization declared that the global crisis is now a pandemic. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It would be difficult to find a more potent symbol of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. tourism industry than the transformation of California’s Disneyland into a vaccine center. A new report shows that the United States, together with France, Germany and Australia, is among the nations that suffered the biggest losses in tourism revenue in 2020.

The firm, Official ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) used data from the United Nations, World Bank and World Travel and Tourism Council to track revenue losses both in dollar amounts and as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions have hammered the global tourism industry, making 2020 “the worst year on record in the history of tourism,” according to the United Nations.

The United States, which has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide, lost the most tourism dollars out of any country by far, Official ESTA said. According to the company, the United States missed out on $147 billion in tourism revenue in the first months of 2020 — the result of interstate travel restrictions and visitor bans on key markets such as Europe.

Spain, the second country on the list, lost about $46 billion, more than any other European country. Other nations that have suffered losses include Thailand, Japan, Turkey, India and Mexico, which together lost roughly $113 billion.

As a percentage of GDP, Macao, a territory partially administered by China, suffered the biggest loss at 43 percent. Island nations such as the Maldives and Seychelles lost 31 percent and 20 percent of their respective GDPs.

“The past year has been extremely difficult for the travel and tourism industry, with the unpredictable circumstances resulting in countries being forced to close their borders to tourists, often with little notice," said Jayne Forrester, director of international development at Official ESTA, the industry publication TravelPulse reported.

By: Erin Cunningham

6:27 AM: Analysis: Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide

Israel is the site of what seems to be a remarkable vaccination success story. It leads the world in per capita vaccinations, with more than 1.5 million Israelis already having received the shot. Authorities estimate officials can administer the vaccine to some 2 million Israelis before the end of the month and hope to have the bulk of the population vaccinated by the end of March, if not earlier.

Still, around a third of the 14 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are not included in this vaccination campaign. Israel has distributed vaccines to Jewish settlers in the West Bank, but not to Palestinians there or in the crammed, impoverished Gaza Strip. Israeli officials contend that these Palestinians don’t fall under their jurisdiction under the terms of the 1990s Oslo accords and that it is the job of the Palestinian Authority to procure and distribute vaccines in the occupied territories.

“There could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones,” Saleh Higazi, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

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By: Ishaan Tharoor

5:57 AM: The U.S.-Canada border is mostly closed amid the pandemic, but Canadians made it to last week’s Capitol siege

TORONTO — Despite strict limits on nonessential travel between Canada and the United States, two Canadian nurses active in the so-called “anti-lockdown” movement made it to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The women, Sarah Choujounian and Kristen Nagle, were part of a group of American and Canadian health-care professionals calling themselves the “Global Frontline Nurses” who gathered in Washington that day, according to a news release, video from the scene and social media posts.

Although there is no evidence that either woman participated in the violence, their trip to Washington raises questions about loopholes in the rules governing travel between the United States and Canada during the coronavirus pandemic.

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By: Amanda Coletta and Emily Rauhala

5:27 AM: Rep. Pramila Jayapal tests positive for coronavirus, blasts GOP lawmakers who refused to mask up in lockdown

After a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, forcing Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) to take shelter in a crowded committee room, she began preparing for the worst.

Many of the GOP members of Congress hiding out with her were not wearing masks, she said, and had refused to accept them from a colleague. So, after Congress affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory that night, she soon began to quarantine, fearing she could have contracted the coronavirus.

Her prediction turned to be right: Jayapal announced late Monday that she had tested positive, making her the second Democratic congresswoman to do so this week, after Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).

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By: Teo Armus

4:57 AM: Ireland contemplates asking recovered covid-19 patients to wait to be vaccinated

a person sitting on a bench in front of a store: A pedestrian passes a closed and boarded up pub in Dublin in August. © Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg A pedestrian passes a closed and boarded up pub in Dublin in August.

Ireland, which currently has the world’s higher per capita rate of coronavirus infections, may ask people who have already contracted the virus to wait to be vaccinated.

“There is a suggestion coming out that if you have had Covid you might be fairly well protected for six months,” Karina Butler, who chairs the National Immunization Advisory Committee, told the Irish Independent on Tuesday. While vaccine priority guidelines currently do not distinguish between people who have already been infected and those who have not, “we might find the advice will change and it will say, ‘if you have had Covid, wait the six months and then get it,’ ” she said.

While there is no definitive guarantee of how long coronavirus antibodies provide immunity against future infections, the emerging scientific consensus suggests that recovered covid-19 patients are protected for approximately eight months on average. For countries struggling to get enough vaccine doses to immunize their entire population, prioritizing people who haven’t already been sick could make logical sense.

But some experts have been skeptical, since trying to figure out who’s already been infected could further complicate the distribution process. In many countries, shortages of supplies have proved to be less of an issue than the slow speed of the vaccine rollout.

“Confirming whether or not someone has had covid already adds an unnecessary layer of red tape onto vaccine prioritization. Given that the prioritization is designed to get vaccine first to those people who are most likely to get infected and/or get very sick from infection, it makes sense to reduce the barriers to vaccinating this group as much as possible,” Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, told The Washington Post earlier this week.

The ongoing surge in coronavirus infections in Ireland has been attributed to numerous factors, including the spread of a highly contagious new variant first identified in Britain and the easing of some public health restrictions around Christmas.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

4:27 AM: Britain will ramp up enforcement of lockdown rules, top officials say

a group of people riding on the back of a motorcycle in a field: A police officer tells a woman relaxing in a London park amid Britain's April lockdown to go home. © Matt Dunham/AP A police officer tells a woman relaxing in a London park amid Britain's April lockdown to go home.

Police in Britain will be stepping up enforcement of coronavirus-related restrictions, the country’s minister for crime and policing told Sky News on Tuesday.

“I think you will find that the police are quicker to move to enforcement. That’s certainly what they have indicated is their intention,” Kit Malthouse told the broadcaster. “Because we really, really have to recognize how severe the problem is and the fact we are in our worst position for some time.”

The warning came a day after British officials warned that the next few weeks could be some of the worst of the pandemic, and hinted that tighter lockdown restrictions might be on the way. The country is grappling with a highly infectious new variant of the coronavirus that is believed to be behind a nationwide surge in infections. Authorities have pointed out that tougher rules may not be necessary if everyone follows the guidelines that are already in place, and signaled that there will be much less tolerance for scofflaws.

“We have been clear that those who breach covid-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick wrote in a Tuesday editorial in The Times, adding it was “preposterous” for anyone to claim they were unfamiliar with the rules.

Major British supermarket chains like Sainsbury’s and Morrisons pledged Monday to take more aggressive action to ensure all shoppers wear masks, and Malthouse told the BBC on Tuesday police would come to stores to perform backup “if things get seriously wrong.”

He also emphasized the ongoing lockdown could be Britain’s last, but that depends on the level of compliance.

“If we’re going to make this the last big lockdown — and please God it is — we really need to stick to the rules,” Malthouse told Sky News.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

3:57 AM: Watch: Biden gets second dose of coronavirus vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden said his “number one priority” is getting vaccines distributed as he got the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

He added that on Thursday he would lay out a full plan, including the cost, of what will be done to roll out the vaccine distribution during his term, warning that it was going to get worse before it gets better.

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By: Washington Post Staff

3:27 AM: Thousands of Alabama fans pack streets to celebrate championship win, defying covid safety orders

Hordes of Alabama football fans packed the streets of Tuscaloosa after Monday night’s national championship victory over Ohio State, ignoring pleas from the city’s mayor and university officials.

Eyebrow-raising photos and videos showed thousands of people crowding together to celebrate the win in the city’s downtown strip, most of them young and many of them not wearing masks. Some fans “hugged and kissed, with social distancing out the window,” AL.com reported, noting there was a large police presence in the area but seemingly little enforcement of the statewide mask mandate.

After about an hour, police attempted to break up the parties by slowly driving SUVs through the crowd, the Tuscaloosa Thread reported. But many ignored the instructions to disperse and “belligerently cursed at oncoming officers, threw drinks on and into their vehicles, [and] waved profane hand gestures in their faces,” according to the outlet.

Earlier on Monday, local reporters captured photos of long lines forming outside Tuscaloosa bars, some of which opened as early as 11 a.m. Doing so was legal under city and state ordinances, which state that bars can only be filled to 50 percent of their usual capacity and that groups cannot exceed eight people.

In a message to students on Monday, the University of Alabama had urged anyone cheering on the team to wear a mask, avoid large gatherings and stay six feet away from others. “Any unlawful behavior and/or violations of our health and safety protocols will result in disciplinary action,” students were warned. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox echoed that message, telling fans in a video message there would be “a time and place to celebrate, but this is not the time.”

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

2:57 AM: Worst snowstorm in decades complicates coronavirus response in Madrid

a couple of people that are standing in the snow: A woman skis while crossing the Plaza Mayor in Madrid on Saturday. © Andrea Comas/AP A woman skis while crossing the Plaza Mayor in Madrid on Saturday.

The worst snowstorm in decades has thrown a wrench in Spain’s coronavirus response, forcing some hospital workers to trudge through deep drifts to get to work and diverting deliveries of vaccines that were bound for Madrid.

Friday night’s uncharacteristic storm, which has been named Filomena, dumped more than a foot of snow on Madrid and effectively shut down the city for days. With trains canceled and streets blocked, some hospital workers embarked on hours-long journeys by foot. Raúl Alcojor, a nursing assistant at Puerta de Hierro University Hospital, told Cadena Ser that it took him roughly 2½ hours to walk the nearly nine miles to the hospital on Saturday. His colleagues had been unable to take a break since the storm began on Friday, he explained, so he felt a “moral” duty to relieve them.

Even after the snow stopped falling, travel remained perilous in many areas of the country into Monday as roads were blanketed by ice. A delivery of vaccine doses destined for Madrid had to be rerouted to a city nearly four hours away, the Associated Press reported. Authorities said they would rely on police escorts to ensure the crucial vials could make their way into the city on roads that the military has been clearing to make way for ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

While those not on the front lines made the most of the storm by orchestrating snowball fights or skiing around the city, the celebratory atmosphere drew criticism from some quarters in light of the ongoing surge in coronavirus infections in Spain. Some young people in Madrid cast concerns about social distancing aside to dance through the snow in a conga line, which a local paper branded “the conga of shame,” according to the BBC.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

2:27 AM: Disneyland will become mass vaccination site amid ‘worst disaster’ in decades

a group of people walking in the rain: Visitors take photos at Disneyland on the last day the park was open. © Amy Taxin/AP Visitors take photos at Disneyland on the last day the park was open.

Disneyland, long shuttered because of the pandemic, will soon reopen as a mass vaccination site where thousands of Southern Californians can receive shots each day.

The Anaheim-based theme park was deemed a “Super POD” by Orange County officials in a surreal news release Monday, which stated that the site should be operational before the end of the week. Eventually, the county plans to open four more “Super PODs” — or "Super points-of-dispensing.”

“Coronavirus has brought both a public health crisis and economic devastation,” Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement. “With this super site, we will begin to overcome both. Every vaccination done in Anaheim will help to save lives and speed the reopening and recovery of our city.”

California is in the throes of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with Los Angeles-area hospitals running out of oxygen and ambulance crews being told not to bring patients to emergency rooms if they have little chance of survival. The state reported close to 290,000 new coronavirus cases in the past week alone, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

“The damaging impact to our families and our local hospitals from this surge is the worst disaster our county has experienced for decades,” Los Angeles County’s top public health official, Barbara Ferrer, said at a Monday briefing.

Orange County has set an ambitious goal of vaccinating all residents by July 4 — an outcome that would also be beneficial to Disneyland, since the park’s ability to reopen depends on low infection levels in the surrounding community. This fall, Disney officials expressed frustration that California’s Democratic governor was ordering the resort to stay closed, while Florida’s Republican governor allowed Disney World to reopen.

So far, only health-care workers and staff at long-term care facilities are eligible to get vaccinated in California, but officials in Anaheim anticipate that they will begin opening up slots to anyone over the age of 75 in February.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

1:57 AM: Chinese authorities slap new restrictions on Hebei province to curb outbreak

a person wearing a costume: A resident undergoes a coronavirus test at the basement of a residential compound as part of a mass testing program following new cases of the virus emerging in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province on Jan. 12, 2021. © Str/AFP/Getty Images A resident undergoes a coronavirus test at the basement of a residential compound as part of a mass testing program following new cases of the virus emerging in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province on Jan. 12, 2021.

TAIPEI — Authorities in Hebei province surrounding Beijing on Tuesday ordered millions of residents to stay at home, amid a series of new restrictions to combat rising cases of covid-19.

China is facing its largest wave of new infections in months, with northern provinces like Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hebei reporting new outbreaks. Authorities are especially concerned over new cases in Hebei, which has seen more than 300 local infections since the beginning of the year. The province of 75 million people has been in a state of “wartime” health emergency since Jan. 5.

On Tuesday, the city of Langfang, about 30 miles south of Beijing, ordered its 5 million residents to quarantine at home after a resident working in a mall in Beijing tested positive for the virus. In Gu’an county, part of Langfang, all public transportation and freight transport was halted. In Sanhe, which borders Beijing and Tianjin, residents were explicitly prohibited from crossing into either city via a river system separating the areas.

In Hebei’s capital city of Shijiazhuang, more than 20,000 people have been sent to centralized government quarantine centers, according to state media. On Tuesday, the city of 11 million people began a second round of mass testing. Home to the bulk of new cases in Hebei, it is under lockdown with cars registered to the city barred from other areas of the province.

In the far northern province of Heilongjiang, Wangkui county, which has a population of almost half a million people, went into lockdown on Monday after new asymptomatic cases were found. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, authorities have launched a mass contact tracing campaign after two newly confirmed covid patients in Hebei reported visiting the city.

In Beijing, one new local case was reported on Tuesday, a 5-year-old boy.

Officials are discouraging citizens from gatherings during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, the country’s busiest travel season. China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday reported 55 new cases, 42 of which were locally transmitted, after reporting 103 new cases on Monday.

By: Lily Kuo

1:27 AM: D.C., Northern Virginia move to second phase of coronavirus vaccinations, targeting older residents

The District and much of Virginia moved into their next phases of coronavirus vaccinations Monday, targeting older residents and other vulnerable populations as a post-holiday surge of new infections in the Washington region continued to reach record highs.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said the city will begin vaccinating residents 65 and older, while some jurisdictions in Virginia on Monday began making appointments to inoculate residents 75 and older. Health officials previously had worked to inoculate residents of nursing homes and assisted-living communities before moving to the next phase.

The District has administered 26,672 vaccine doses through its first round of inoculations, which included health-care workers and front-line emergency workers. An additional 18,753 doses set aside for that group have yet to be administered.

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By: Antonio Olivo, Lola Fadulu and Ovetta Wiggins

12:57 AM: Covid-deniers vandalize mailbox at home of top Kentucky health official

a man holding a phone: Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear puts on a face mask after speaking to reporters in May. © Ryan C. Hermens/AP Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear puts on a face mask after speaking to reporters in May.

The home of Kentucky’s top health official was vandalized by coronavirus deniers over the weekend, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said Monday.

At a briefing to address the state’s rising infection numbers, Beshear said that vandals spray-painted the words “COVID is PCR fraud” on a mailbox belonging to Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack. The message appeared to refer to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are widely used to detect coronavirus infections but have become the subject of debunked conspiracy theories.

Beshear said the incident is under investigation, and categorized it as a form of intimidation aimed at one of the leaders of Kentucky’s coronavirus response.

“This wasn’t about what was spray-painted on the mailbox,” he said. “It’s about these individuals, those bullies, trying to create terror by saying: ‘We know where you live and we know how to get to you.’”

Last May, Beshear himself was targeted by demonstrators who hung him in effigy outside the governor’s mansion during a protest over coronavirus-related restrictions. He said Monday that Stack’s work during the pandemic had saved the lives of “thousands of people” in Kentucky.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the steps that ultimately I made the calls on, trying to create fear in his family is the lowest form of low,” Beshear said.

Over the past week, Kentucky has seen a nearly 25 percent rise in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported each day, and a 47 percent increase in fatalities, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

12:29 AM: Ireland had one of the lowest coronavirus rates in Europe. It’s now highest in the world.

In the last weeks of 2020, Ireland had one of the lowest coronavirus cases per capita in the European Union. Today, it has the highest in the entire world.

While countries across Europe battle a third wave, in Ireland, the trajectory in recent weeks isn’t just an upward curve: It’s the path of a rocket ship.

Going into Christmas week, Ireland was reporting 10 new coronavirus cases each day per 100,000 residents — compared with about 66 cases per 100,000 residents in the United States. But three weeks later, Ireland is reporting more than 132 new cases per 100,000, according to the latest seven-day rolling average compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while the United States has risen less dramatically, to about 75 cases per 100,000.

“I think we’ve run out of adjectives to describe how serious this is,” Irish health chief Paul Reid said.

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By: Amanda Ferguson and Karla Adam

12:28 AM: The Health 202: Recovered coronavirus patients should still get the vaccine, experts say

Research suggests most people who recovered from covid-19 are immune for at least eight months. Yet epidemiologists are largely still urging this population to get the vaccine if it’s their turn in line.

Official guidance says vaccines should be offered regardless of whether people were previously infected. That’s per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also says the vaccine is safe for people who have had a prior infection. Former CDC director Thomas Frieden said he’d advise most people to get the vaccine, even if they’ve had covid-19.

Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, worried that trying to verify someone's past illness would add bureaucratic hurdles.

“Confirming whether or not someone has had COVID already adds an unnecessary layer of red tape onto vaccine prioritization. Given that the prioritization is designed to get vaccine first to those people who are most likely to get infected and/or get very sick from infection, it makes sense to reduce the barriers to vaccinating this group as much as possible,” Murray said.

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By: Alexandra Ellerbeck

12:27 AM: CDC: No sign of homegrown U.S. coronavirus variant, but scientists need to look harder

Mutations in the novel coronavirus and the sudden appearance of the highly contagious British variant have become a top concern of scientists and public health officials in the United States, who are vowing to improve the spotty surveillance of the pathogen as it adapts to its human host and potentially becomes a more elusive target for vaccines.

Infectious-disease experts say there is no evidence the massive winter surge that is killing thousands of people a day in the United States is linked to the British variant or to a homegrown strain. But they acknowledge their battlefield awareness is limited. Some states have minimal capacity to conduct genomic sequencing that allows scientists to trace the random mutations that could give a virus variant some advantage over other strains.

The increase in the rate of new infections in the United States has been so rapid in recent weeks that scientists cannot rule out the possibility that an undetected variant is accelerating the spread.

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By: Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Hamza Shaban

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