Nearly a year to the day after the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown to contain a virus that had already escaped, President Joe Biden began putting into effect a new war plan for fighting the outbreak in the U.S., Germany topped 50,000 deaths, and Britain closed in on 100,000.
The anniversary of the lockdown Saturday comes as more contagious variants of the coronavirus spread and efforts to vaccinate people against COVID-19 have been frustrated by disarray and limited supplies in some places. The scourge has killed over 2 million people worldwide.
In the U.S., which has the world's highest death toll at over 410,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci said a lack of candor about the threat under President Donald Trump probably cost lives.
Fauci, who was sidelined by Trump, is now the chief medical adviser to Biden in an ambitious effort to conquer the virus. He told CNN that the Trump administration delayed getting sound scientific advice to the country.
“When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful,” he said.
Biden signed a series of executive orders Thursday to mount a more centralized attack on the virus and has vowed to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days, a number some public health experts say is not ambitious enough.
Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the U.S. should aim to vaccinate 2.5 million a day and reach 100 million people in 40 days.
“This was already an emergency,” Topol said, but with more contagious mutations of the virus circulating, “it became an emergency to the fourth power.”
In other developments:
- A group of fortunate Americans are getting pushed to the front of the line to get their COVID-19 vaccines as clinics scramble to get rid of extra, perishable doses by the end of the day. Some of those getting earlier than expected access just happen to be near a clinic at closing time, but clinic workers also go out looking for willing recipients.
- Pfizer has committed to supply up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a global effort to get affordable shots to poor and middle-income countries.
- Advocacy groups are warning that immigrants in the U.S. may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the largest vaccination campaign in American history.
- The British government's chief scientific adviser says there is some evidence that a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in southeast England carries a higher risk of death than the original strain.
- Increasingly, countries are putting travel restrictions in place: Belgium is banning all leisure travel abroad for its citizens as of next week and until March, and Denmark has suspended all flights from the United Arab Emirates for five days. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning that his government could impose stricter restrictions on travelers at any moment in response to new, likely more contagious variants of the coronavirus, including making it mandatory to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense when they arrive in Canada.
- The clearest sign that there’s a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidelines. It’s a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s White House, which was the epicenter of no less than three separate outbreaks of COVID-19, their true scale not fully known because aides refused to discuss cases publicly.
- The NFL announced Friday that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given free tickets to next month's Super Bowl to be played in Tampa, Florida.