COVID-19 has killed more than 417,000 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.
The United States on Sunday surpassed 25 million cases of COVID-19, but an influential coronavirus model says the true number is likely much higher.
About 17% of people in the U.S., or upward of 50 million people, have been infected with the coronavirus, researchers at the University of Washington estimate. They warn the U.S. is likely only identifying about half of COVID-19 cases.
The model estimates 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.
In California, authorities are investigating the death of a person hours after being vaccinated.
In the headlines:
►The National Park Service announced the Washington Monument is closed until further notice “as a measure to protect staff and visitors from the spread of COVID-19.” The monument had already been closed since Jan. 11 because of security concerns around President Joe Biden’s inauguration, NPS said.
►Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, told CBS News “Face the Nation” 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 scheduled to air Sunday.
►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.
►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.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 417,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 98.8 million cases and 2.1 million deaths.
📘 What we’re reading: Eager medical students are helping speed up US vaccine rollout: ‘We will be a part of history.’
Coronavirus vaccines may be less effective against new variants of the disease emerging in South Africa, Brazil and other areas of the world, Britain’s health minister warned Sunday. Matt Hancock also told Sky News the current rules are helping “bring cases down” but that the country is a “long, long, long way from them being low enough” to end lockdowns.
“We’ve got to have a precautionary principle that says let’s not bring these new variants back to the U.K.,” Hancock said. He said the government is conducting a vaccine trial on the South African variant to study its response to the inoculation, and that he’s concerned about new variants developing elsewhere.
Authorities in California’s Placer County are investigating a death that came hours after the victim was vaccinated. The Placer County Sheriff said the person had tested positive for COVID-19 in late December and was administered a COVID-19 vaccine several hours before the individual died on Thursday. Multiple local, state, and federal agencies are investigating the case, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. No additional details were released.
“Any reports surrounding the cause of death are premature, pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has said people who had COVID-19 should wait 90 days after infection before they get vaccinated to prevent interference with “natural antibodies” from the infection. Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Davis Children’s hospital, told KTLA-TV in Los Angeles that the “vast majority” of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine occur 15-30 minutes following immunization. Blumberg said if the death happened several hours later, it is “probably not the severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, that we worry about.”
Michigan’s athletic department is shutting down for two weeks due to confirmed cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant. The shutdown will affect all sports, including the school’s nationally ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams. The state Department of Health and Human Services issued the mandate after positive COVID-19 tests for several people linked to the athletic department. The 11th-ranked women’s basketball team was set to play at home against Purdue on Sunday. The seventh-ranked men’s basketball team wasn’t supposed to play until Wednesday at Penn State.
“We must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” athletic director Warde Manuel said.
– Orion Sang, David Jesse, Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press
Federal prosecutors have charged a Nevada man with fraudulently obtaining about $2 million in federal coronavirus relief aid meant for small businesses to buy luxury vehicles and condominiums in Las Vegas. The U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada accused Jorge Abramovs of bank fraud after he allegedly applied for funding to at least seven banks from April to June 2020. The complaint said a financial analysis determined Abramovs spent the money on personal luxury items, including a 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible for more than $260,000 and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 for about $55,000.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, says 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.
– Grace Hauck
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 six 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.
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.
In December, King was sent to 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
Contributing: Joel Shannon and Jordan Culver, USA TODAY