COVID-19 death toll tops 400,000 as incoming CDC director expects

The coronavirus has now killed over 400,000 people in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Just over a month has passed since the death toll in the country hit 300,000, and health experts expect COVID-19 to kill half a million people in the U.S. by sometime in February.

Last week, the global death toll passed 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins. The U.S. leads the world in reported COVID-19 deaths.

President-elect Joe Biden‘s incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the U.S. is expected to reach half a million deaths by mid-February. “We still yet haven’t seen the ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter,” Walensky said. “… I think we still have some dark weeks ahead.”

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The latest grim milestone comes as President Trump prepares to leaves office and Mr. Biden takes charge of the federal government’s response to the public health crisis as well as the economic one. In the first week of 2021, about 965,000 Americans filed for unemployment assistance, according to the Labor Department.

Mr. Biden wants Congress to approve a third round of relief payments and implement a series of initiatives to combat the impact of the pandemic, including raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. This comes as the Senate faces an unprecedented second impeachment trial for Mr. Trump on top of confirmation hearings for Mr. Biden’s Cabinet nominees.

“This country is in the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health care crisis since the Spanish pandemic flu 100 years ago, and we must pass more relief for the American people,” incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview broadcast on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday. “We must do all three, and we have to do them all quickly. One cannot stand in the way of the other.”

Mr. Biden also wants to get 100 million Americans vaccinated within his first 100 days in office. But for now, vaccines remain in short supply. In Florida last weekend, 68-year-old Elizabeth Johnson lined up outside the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach before 7 a.m. for a chance at the vaccine.

“You can’t get an appointment, you can’t buy an appointment,” Johnson said. “So what we gonna do? We gonna bombard lines just like we are doing to get a shot.”

COVID-19 vaccines and variants latest


Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to enlist churches to reach Florida’s underserved populations. Just around 5% of all doses have gone to Black Floridians.

“We need a more robust plan,” said Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County. “We need more vaccination shots available in more locations. We need every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

New vaccines could help with the supply, and they may soon arrive from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said those companies will soon have data ready to present to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.

“We’re weeks away, not months away, for sure,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Fauci also stressed the urgency of vaccinating as many Americans as possible, especially as new variants of the virus continue to spread. Even though some may not cause more severe illness, the fact that they’re more contagious is a serious threat.

“The more cases you have, the more hospitalizations you’re going to have,” Fauci said, “and the more hospitalizations you have, the more deaths you’re going to have.”

Thousands of U.S. flags are seen at the National Mall as part of a memorial paying tribute to people across the country who have died from the coronavirus, near the U.S. Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, in Washington, January 18,
Thousands of U.S. flags are seen at the National Mall as part of a memorial paying tribute to people across the country who have died from the coronavirus, near the U.S. Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, on January 18, 2021.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

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