COVID-19 has killed more than 423,000 Americans in 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.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is offering hope despite dark warnings about the coronavirus variations slowly spreading around the globe.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says there could be a modest weakening of the vaccines against some variants, but “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective against both the UK strain and the South Africa strain.”
He also warned that more mutations are possible and said scientists are preparing to adapt the vaccines if necessary. Fauci also forecast a “strong turn toward a degree of normality” but did not provide a timeline.
In the headlines:
►The global total of coronavirus cases surpassed 100 million Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. The U.S., with a little over 4% of the world’s population, has more than 25% of the infections and nearly 20% of the deaths.
►Legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino said Tuesday that he has recovered from COVID-19. Pitino, who coaches for Iona University, said nine of the team’s 17 players, two coaches and two managers have tested positive since Jan. 4.
►Some travelers to England will have to quarantine in hotels amid concerns about new variants under a proposal Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil Tuesday or Wednesday, the BBC reported. Most foreigners from high-risk countries are already denied U.K. entry, so the new rules will mainly affect returning U.K. residents.
►As of last week, Alaska had administered more COVID-19 shots per capita than any state in the nation, according to CDC data, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Missouri ranked last of the 50 states.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 423,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 100 million cases and 2.15 million deaths.
📘 What we’re reading: Your child might not return to a classroom this year. Are teachers unions to blame? Read more here.
Minnesota can start signing up Tuesday for a vaccine lottery after a first-come-first-served inoculation website crashed amid overwhelming demand. Less than 5% of the state’s population had received a shot as of Sunday.
Gov. Tim Walz has unveiled a series of changes to vaccine distribution efforts, including a pop-up, mass vaccination event for teachers, school staff and child care workers at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul starting Thursday and ending Monday. The state has reserved 15,000 doses for the event.
The push comes amid revelations that a highly contagious coronavirus variant initially discovered in Brazil has landed in the U.S. – in Minnesota. The state Department of Health said the resident had recently traveled to Brazil and became ill during the first week of January.
Appalachian Trail thru-hikers planning to attempt an end-to-end hike of the 2,190-mile trail from Georgia to Maine should postpone their journeys until next year, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy says. The nonprofit group, which manages and maintains the trail that runs through 14 states, says the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to make long-distance hikes unsafe. Morgan Sommerville, the trail’s southern region director, said authorities are concerned for the safety of hikers, trail volunteers and the communities along the route.
“Our advice, as long as the pandemic is raging and vaccines aren’t widely available and the CDC hasn’t given us the all-clear signal, we’re recommending that long distance hikes not be taken on the AT,” Sommerville said.
The world set another record for deaths in a week, at 99,978, on Monday and surpassed 100 million infections Tuesday. On Wednesday, January could become the deadliest month for the U.S., closing in on December’s record total.
Coronavirus deaths and cases per day in the U.S. dropped markedly over the past couple of weeks but remain alarmingly high. The U.S. is recording just under 3,100 deaths a day on average, down from more than 3,350 less than two weeks ago. New cases are averaging about 170,000 a day after peaking at almost 250,000 on Jan. 11. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has fallen to about 110,000 from a high of 132,000 on Jan. 7.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pleaded with the world’s richest nations Tuesday to stop “hoarding” vaccines so that the entire world can benefit from the medical breakthroughs. Rampaphosa, who chairs the African Union, criticized “vaccine nationalism” and claimed some countries bought four times what their population needs.
“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines,” he said at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum. “That was aimed at hoarding these vaccines. And now this being done at the exclusion of other countries of the world that most need this.”
World Health Organization leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the world faces a “catastrophic moral failure” because of unequal COVID policies. South Africa, with a population of about 60 million people, has reported almost 1.5 million infections and more than 41,000 deaths.
President Joe Biden has boosted his vaccinations goal for his first 100 days in office, suggesting the nation could soon be injecting 1.5 million shots on an average per day. Biden has drawn some criticism that his plan for 100 million shots in 100 days was insufficiently ambitious. The increased goal could result in about half the nation being vaccinated – or at least getting a first shot – by the end of April. Biden said he expects widespread availability of the vaccines by spring, with the U.S. “well on our way to herd immunity” necessary to end the pandemic by summer.
Biden also has reinstated travel restrictions, which were in place for most of 2020, for non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and much of Europe. Then-President Donald Trump rescinded the restrictions days before the end of his term. Biden also added South Africa to the restricted list, effective Jan. 30.
Campus leaders had hoped the lessons from the fall would better position them for the spring semester. That was before a post-holiday winter surge pushed the number of COVID-19 deaths in America over 400,000. Before more contagious variants of the coronavirus emerged. Before the vaccine rollout proved slower than anticipated.
Now, returning student populations may be at even greater risk than they were in the fall – not to mention their surrounding communities, where research has suggested greater outbreaks in college towns.
Despite those concerns, colleges are pushing ahead. The stakes are high; enrollment plummeted at most colleges last semester, and the loss of income from in-person services like campus housing and dining could be devastating to schools that depend on that money. College towns would feel the economic pinch as well.
But when administrators talk about the need for reopening, they focus on what went well in the fall – and the advantages of the full university experience.
– Chris Quintana, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press