Coronavirus updates: 17% of US has been infected, model estimates; Capitol Police, National Guard outbreaks reported – USA TODAY

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COVID-19 has killed more than 416,000 Americans in less than a year and infections have continued to mount despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

Approximately 17% of people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus, a model by researches at the University of Washington estimates.

Current data suggests that at least 7% of Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, but the model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation assumes that testing isn’t detecting all of the cases present in the population.

The model, updated Friday, estimates that the U.S. will report another 168,000 COVID-19 deaths before May, bringing the total to 569,000 deaths. In that period, at least 40 states will have high or extreme stress on hospital beds, and 46 will have high or extreme stress on ICU capacity, according to the model.

Taking public health precautions can help lower those devastating projections. If nearly everyone wears a face mask between now and May, 22,000 fewer people will die from COVID-19, the model estimates.

“A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We’re 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000,” President Joe Biden said Friday, adding, “The bottom line is this. We are in a national emergency.”

In the headlines:

►Larry King, the Brooklyn-bred man who became cable TV’s most well-known talk-show host, died Saturday. He was 87. King had been hospitalized with COVID-19. 

►Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, told CBS she “always” thought of quitting the job. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” she said in an interview expected to air in full on Sunday.

►A year ago today, Wuhan locked down for 76 days in an effort to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus. Twelve months later, new lockdown measures are going into effect in countries and cities across the globe as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and combat new strains of the virus. Thousands of Hong Kong residents were told to stay down in their homes Saturday, and England is under lockdown through at least March.

►About 4.9% of people in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 0.8% of people have received both doses of the vaccine, and about 52.1% of the shots distributed haven’t been used yet. In Alaska, nearly 10% of residents have received a first dose – the highest rate of any state.

►The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on vaccinations Friday to say the second dose of a two-shot vaccine can be administered up to 6 weeks after the first.

►British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that the new U.K. coronavirus variant may be deadlier than the previous dominant variant, in addition to being more contagious.

►At least 38 U.S. Capitol Police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, according to the police union. Dozens of members of the National Guard who were in Washington D.C., have also tested positive, according to reports from at least five outlets.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 24.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 416,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 98.5 million cases and 2.1 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: Doctors said she wouldn’t survive COVID-19. After 25 days on a ventilator, she’s renewing her wedding vows.

Dr. Deborah Birx told CBS she ‘always’ thought of quitting WH task force

Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, told CBS she “always” thought of quitting the job. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” she said in an interview clip shared to the CBS Face the Nation Twitter page.

“I had to ask myself every morning: is there something that I think I can do that would be helpful in responding to this pandemic?” she said. “And when it became a point where I couldn’t, I wasn’t getting anywhere – and that was like right before the election – I wrote a very detailed communication plan of what needed to happen the day after the election and how that needed to be executed. And there was a lot of promise that that would happen.”

Asked if she felt the election was a “factor in communication about the virus,” Birx said yes. The interview is expected to air in full on Sunday. Birx said last month that she planned to help the incoming administration for a “period of time,” but would then retire.

Eager medical students are helping speed up US vaccine rollout

Medical students are expected to be an increasingly important part of the nation’s unprecedented vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s National COVID-19 strategy says clinical students, retired health care professionals and health workers who normally do not give vaccinations should all be called upon to deliver vaccines.

“There’s no doubt that we have not been able to vaccinate as many people in an efficient way that we want in part because there’s not enough people involved at all levels,” Virginia Bader, director of Students Assist America and senior advisor to the president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic medicine. “If we could fully engage the million students in SAA, there’s no doubt that we’d be in a far better position than we are now.”

The effort comes as the nation faces a surplus of distributed but unused vaccines, with about 20 million doses currently waiting to be administered, according to Friday data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Dozens of Capitol Police officers, National Guard members test positive

At least 38 U.S. Capitol Police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus since a pro-Trump riot broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the police union. Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou told USA TODAY that the department notified him of 19 infections last week, along with 19 additional infections this week. The department has more than 2,300 officers and civilian employees.

A police spokesperson did not confirm the number of officers who had tested positive but said testing and vaccinations were top priorities for the department’s new acting chief, Yogananda Pittman. The department has “added dates and locations to further facilitate employees’ access to the testing,” the department said.

National Guard members who were in Washington, D.C., have also tested positive, according to several reports. The Washington Post, citing unnamed Maryland soldiers, reported that “the coronavirus is raging among National Guard members.” Three unnamed Guard sources told Politico that hundreds of members have tested positive. And The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported Friday that nearly 200 members had tested positive, citing government officials.

In a statement, the National Guard said it does not discuss COVID-19 cases and that personnel were adhering to public health guidelines.

Larry King dies at 87 after being hospitalized with COVID-19

Larry King, the Brooklyn-bred man who became cable TV’s most well-known talk-show host, died Saturday. He was 87.

King had been hospitalized with COVID-19. He passed away Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Ora Media, a production company King founded with Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim.

Near the end of 2020, King landed in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with COVID-19. He was moved to the ICU on New Year’s Eve and was receiving oxygen but moved out of the ICU in early January and was breathing on his own, said David Theall, a spokesman for Ora Media, said at the time.

– Gary Levin

California keeps key virus data out of public sight

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration won’t disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home order is lifted.

State health officials said they rely on a complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public. Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division, disagreed.

“There is more uncertainty created by NOT releasing the data that only the state has access to,” he said in an email. Its release would allow outside experts to assess its value for projecting trends and the resulting decisions on lifting restrictions, he wrote.

– The Associated Press

Second vaccine dose can be given up to 6 weeks later, CDC says 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on vaccinations Friday to say the second dose of a two-shot vaccine can be administered up to 6 weeks after the first.

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna require two doses, given three weeks and one month apart, respectively. But second shots can still be administered beyond that timeframe, up to 42 days after the first, the CDC said Friday. There’s no data on doses administered after that time.

The agency also said a person may receive a different vaccine for the second shot only in “exceptional situations” where the first-dose vaccine is unknown or unavailable. Clinical trials did not evaluate the safety or effectiveness of interchanging vaccines.

UK data suggests more contagious strain is also more deadly

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday that a coronavirus variant first detected in the country in September may be around 30% more deadly than previous versions of the disease. Johnson unveiled the worrying statistic in a London new conference. 

British scientists already had concluded that the variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread between 30%-70% faster than the previous dominant coronavirus strain in the U.K. In addition to spreading faster, “it may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” he said. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, Johnson’s chief scientific adviser, explained the previous average death rate of 60-year-olds in Britain from COVID-19 was about 10 per 1,000. With the new variant, roughly 13 or 14 out of 1,000 infected people might be expected to die, he said. 

– Kim Hjelmgaard and Karen Weintraub

Early state data points to potential racial disparity in who’s getting vaccine

A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, among states that have reported vaccination data by race and ethnicity, populations that have been the most affected by the virus’ deadly impacts are not receiving vaccines at a proportionate rate.

More than a dozen states have made that data public, and the share of Black and Hispanic people getting vaccinated is smaller than their share of many of the states’ case and death counts, the Kaiser Family Foundation found.

In Mississippi, Black people have accounted for 38% of cases and 42% of deaths but just 15% of vaccinations, the report says. In Nebraska, 23% of cases and 13% of death were Hispanic people, but they make up only 4% of vaccinations.

The data remains limited and no broad conclusions can be drawn, the report says, but it does “raise some early warning flags about potential racial disparities in access to and uptake of the vaccine.”

– Ryan Miller

Contributing: The Associated Press

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