New York City will open high schools next week, stimulus cash could start flowing in two weeks, and America could be swamped with vaccine in a month as the national effort to emerge from the crippling pandemic accelerates.
If the U.S. approves the stimulus bill Wednesday and President Joe Biden signs it by March 14, the first direct deposits payments of up to $1,400 per person may start hitting bank accounts the week of March 22, based on prior relief plans. Paper checks may be sent out the week of March 29.
Dependents are worth $1,400, too, meaning a family of four that fully qualifies will see a payout of $5,600.
Meanwhile, the vaccine surplus expected to materialize in coming months eliminates one problem – supply – but accentuates a new one: demand.
“When we start to have more vaccine available, we’re really going to be in bad shape because what we’re going to see is a lot of people who don’t want to get vaccinated,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine.
Also in the news:
►Four in 10 Americans say they’re still feeling the financial impact of the loss of a job or income within their household, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
►Russia signed a deal to produce 10 million doses of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Italy this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund has said the production of Sputnik V will span several countries, including India, South Korea, Brazil, China, Turkey, Iran, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
►New York City high schools will also reopen for in-person learning March 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced. Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring classrooms to reopen March 15, and California announced it will offer financial incentives for school districts to welcome students back by May 1.
►Hungary set records Tuesday for the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in Hungarian hospitals and the number of new daily virus deaths amid a powerful surge in cases.
►This week will mark the one-year anniversary of shutdowns taken across the nation at the beginning of the pandemic. President Joe Biden will make the first prime-time address of his term Thursday night to commemorate the milestone.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 525,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 117 million cases and 2.6 million deaths. More than 116.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 92 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As the U.S. vaccinates more than 2 million people a day, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines for Americans who have received the full course of a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a breakdown of the CDC guidelines.
The number of Americans self-quarantining at home has dropped to the lowest point since late October, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. The 13% of those polled who reported self-quarantining was down from 19% one month ago. The high point for self-quarantining came one month after the pandemic began, when 55% said in April 2020 they had self-quarantined.
More Americans report going out to eat, visiting friends or relatives and visiting a non-grocery retail store in the past week. The 44% who said they visited friends or relatives in the past week was up seven points from one month ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday loosened its guidance restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans, approving indoor visits among vaccinated people.
Leading airline and business groups are asking the Biden administration to develop temporary credentials that would let travelers show they have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19, a step that airlines believe will help revive the travel industry. Various groups and countries are working on developing so-called vaccine passports aimed at allowing more travel. But airlines fear that a smattering of regional credentials will cause confusion and none will be widely accepted. The groups said vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel.
“It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the U.S. must be a leader in this development,” more than two dozen groups said in a letter to White House coronavirus-response coordinator Jeff Zients.
Detailed data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services illustrates just how much the nation’s hospitals have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave. The share of COVID-19 patients comprise a smaller and smaller share of hospital admissions around the country, most drastically in the West and South, regions hit hard by the disease through the holidays.
“Overall we are seeing the numbers of COVID patients in our hospitals at the lowest levels in more than a year,” said Bart Buxton, CEO of McLaren Health Care in Michigan.
– Aleszu Bajak
A new standby list for COVID-19 vaccines is rolling out across the country to connect people with doses that would otherwise go to waste. More than half a million people have already signed up on Dr. B, which texts users based on their eligibility status when there are extra doses nearby in jeopardy of going unused. Cyrus Massoumi, the website’s founder, said Dr. B serves as a “way of helping people help people.”
“You have people who want the vaccines for them or their loved ones, and your vaccine providers want to do the right thing, but they need the appropriate tools to deal with the operational challenges of vaccinating the whole country,” Massoumi told USA TODAY.
– Ryan Miller
The House of Representatives is poised to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that includes $1,400 checks, billions for vaccines and money to reopen schools. The House is expected to pass the bill Wednesday. It then goes to Biden, who said he would sign the legislation “as soon as I get it.”
Most Americans earning up to $75,000 would receive a full payment, and those earning between $75,000 and $80,000 would receive a partial payment. Dependents, even adult dependents, are worth another $1,400 each. The bill also provides money to extend $300 weekly unemployment bonus payments through August. The bill also makes the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits non-taxable for households making less than $150,000.
– Nicholas Wu
Instagram’s “suggested” posts recommended anti-vaccination content to users, even as parent company Facebook intensified efforts to combat false and misleading statements about COVID-19, according to new research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The nonprofit says Instagram suggested anti-vaccination posts to center volunteers who created accounts and showed an interest in conspiracy theories. In all, 104 suggested posts contained false or misleading statements such as COVID is a hoax and vaccines are unsafe, the research found.
“Suggested” posts from accounts you don’t follow launched last year. Facebook told USA TODAY the research conducted between Sept. 14 and Nov. 16 is out of date and does not reflect recent changes to crack down on COVID misinformation.
– Jessica Guynn
As Americans frantically call, click and line up to get vaccinated, it’s hard to imagine a shift from scarcity to abundance. But Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine, thinks there will be vaccine surpluses in some areas a month from now. Then, the new challenges will start. If people refuse to get vaccinated, that could undermine the nation’s ability to move beyond the pandemic.
“If we’ve got whole states in this country that don’t want to mask and don’t want to socially distance, then I’m very concerned we’ll have people there who don’t want to be vaccinated either,” she said. Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Monday, the agency didn’t update or relax travel measures.
The agency maintained that Americans should refrain from traveling, referring to the organization’s travel guidance last updated on Feb. 16. The CDC said it may update travel recommendations for fully vaccinated people as that number rises and as they learn more about how vaccines are working in the “real world.”
“Because of the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 during travel, fully vaccinated people should still take all CDC-recommended precautions before, during, and after travel,” read a CDC statement provided to USA TODAY by spokesperson Caitlin Shockey.
– Morgan Hines
Contributing: Associated Press