Over 150 Texas Hospital Staff Fired Or Quit Over Vaccine Ruling

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

More than 150 employees at the Houston Methodist hospital in Texas were fired or resigned after failing to comply with orders to get a Covid-19 vaccination to continue working there, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Officials Houston Methodist told its staff they needed to have received a Covid vaccination by June 7 or be suspended for two weeks.

Hospital spokeswoman Gale Smith told AFP that 153 employees “either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated today.

“The employees who became compliant during the suspension period returned to work the day after they became compliant,” she said.

Nearly 200 staff had been suspended, the New York Times reported, and protests were staged against the mandatory vaccine rule.

Last month, 117 staff members filed a lawsuit against the hospital, accusing it of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge who said the vaccines’ safety was not at issue, and that Texas law only protects employees from refusing to commit a crime.

“Receiving a Covid-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties,” Judge Lynn Hughes wrote.

The judge also reprimanded one of the main plaintiffs behind the lawsuit, nurse Jennifer Bridges, for the analogy that the threat of being fired for not getting vaccinated was like “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.”

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote.

But Bridges, who was one of the staff to have lost their job in the protest, told AFP Tuesday their legal push was receiving more support.

“117 people joined us initially. Now we’re about to add another 70. We want Methodist to be held accountable for their actions. We want the public to see that we should not have lost our jobs and that Methodist is not properly giving people informed consent or talking about adverse reactions,” the 39-year-old said.

“I chose not to get this shot because the risks for me are too great. I’ve personally seen adverse reactions within employees and patients. Everything from severe headaches to blood clots, to paralysis, to even death,” she said.

“At my age, my benefits from getting this vaccine aren’t much at all because I only have a one percent chance of dying from the virus anyways.”

Houston houses the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center, a sprawling district that includes hospitals and research universities.

The Medical Center employs more than 106,000 health care workers in all, and sees some 10 million patients a year.

As of Tuesday, 65.4 percent of adults in the United States had received one or more doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.

And yet, surveys show that health care workers have been among the greatest vaccine skeptics.

AFP

COVID-19: Unvaccinated US Lawmakers A Danger To Congress, Says Pelosi

File photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks prior to signing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images/AFP

 

Unvaccinated Republican lawmakers pose a danger to other members of Congress and staff, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday as she attacked the “selfishness” of colleagues who refuse to protect against Covid-19.

The top congressional Democrat’s criticism of opponents as a health “dangerment” comes as a debate swells over Capitol Hill mask mandates, which Republicans have demanded be lifted as the Biden administration eases its guidance on face coverings.

“It is unfortunate that a large number of people in the Congress have refused to be vaccinated… or have been vaccinated and don’t want to admit it,” Pelosi said, noting that Congress’s attending physician intends to keep the mask rule in place until all lawmakers get the jab.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that the House of Representatives chamber is not a petri dish because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated,” Pelosi said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference during the novel coronavirus pandemic at the U.S. Capitol April 24, 2020, in Washington, DC./AFP

 

The biting remarks come days after CNN released a survey of lawmakers that showed a 100 percent vaccination rate among Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, but dramatically lower numbers for Republicans.

Of the House Republicans, just 95 of the conference’s 212 members — or 44.8 percent — told the network they are vaccinated.

READ ALSO: Sweden Tops EU COVID-19 Case Rates

An exasperated Pelosi told reporters that committee meetings and other gatherings in Congress will not be able to return to maskless normality until all lawmakers are vaccinated.

“What is this, the honor system… as to whether somebody’s been vaccinated?” she said. “Do you want them breathing in your face on the strength of their honor?”

Pelosi has clashed over masks with the chamber’s top Republican Kevin McCarthy, who introduced a resolution that would allow lawmakers to be maskless on the House floor.

House Democrats killed the measure.

Some lawmakers have grown openly defiant. Republican Brian Mast said Tuesday he was fined $500 for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor.

Pelosi announced such punishments for mask violations in January.

“This is nothing more than political theatre,” House Republican Ralph Norman tweeted Thursday. “All over the Capitol complex, staff and members are maskless. It is time for @SpeakerPelosi to drop the charade.”

A recent Morning Consult poll found that unvaccinated Americans are about twice as likely as vaccinated people to say they are comfortable not wearing masks while doing activities like attending a work conference.

AFP

COVID-19: Biden Confident US Will Reach 100m Vaccines Target This Week

File photo: Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden said Thursday that his goal of getting 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office will be met by Friday, far in advance of the original target.

“I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into my administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans,” he said in a White House speech.

When Biden came into office on January 20, the program to stop the coronavirus pandemic through national vaccination was only just getting going.

Biden initially said he wanted 100 million doses administered within 100 days but after easily reaching that target he said he would announce a new benchmark next week.

“Eight weeks ago, only eight percent of seniors — those most vulnerable to Covid-19 — had received a vaccination. Today, 65 percent of people aged 65 or older have received at least one shot,” he said.

“That’s key, because this is the population that represents 80 percent of the well over 500,000 Covid-19 deaths that have occurred in America.”

Despite initial skepticism about the goal of getting out a million vaccines a day, health workers are now injecting between two and three million shots daily.

The accelerating vaccine rollout is dovetailing with falling infection rates, leading to optimism that the world’s biggest economy is headed for a powerful rebound.

However, with Europe in the grip of a new surge in Covid-19 cases and vaccine programs stumbling there, US health officials continue to sound warnings.

File photo: President Joe Biden (L) receives a COVID-19 Vaccination from nurse practitioner Tabe Masa at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on December 21, 2020 in Newark, Delaware. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP

 

“This is a time for optimism but it’s not a time for relaxation,” Biden cautioned.

“Now’s not the time to let down our guard. In the last week, we’ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states. Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread.”

– Vaccines for US neighbors –
Americans need to take their opportunity to get vaccinated when it becomes available, he said, addressing the large sectors of society that are so far resisting.

Former president Donald Trump only this week called directly on his supporters, who form one of the biggest groups of vaccine opponents, to embrace the shots, saying “it’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine.”

But with vaccine production churning out in the United States, the Biden administration says it is now on the point of being able to send surplus of the AstraZeneca version to neighboring Mexico and Canada.

Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that 2.5 million doses were being lined up for Mexico and 1.5 million for Canada. A total of seven million doses are stockpiled.

However, Psaki was vague on the timing.

“We are assessing how we can loan doses,” she said. “It’s not fully finalized yet. It’s what we’re working towards, to Canada and Mexico.”

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the US population,” she said, adding however that “the reality is the pandemic knows no borders.”

AFP

US To Send Coronavirus Vaccines To Mexico, Canada

In this file photo taken on February 12, 2021 a vial containing the Covid-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table in the pharmacy of the vaccination center at the Robert Bosch hospital in Stuttgart, southern Germany. THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

The United States is preparing to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to help neighboring Mexico and Canada, the White House said Thursday.

President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, confirmed said that 2.5 million doses were being lined up for Mexico and 1.5 million for Canada. A total of seven million doses are stockpiled.

However, Psaki was vague on the timing.

“We are assessing how we can loan doses,” she said. “It’s not fully finalized yet. It’s what we’re working towards, to Canada and Mexico.”

AstraZeneca is approved in both countries, but is still awaiting the FDA’s green light for use in the United States.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Why Have Some Countries Paused The AstraZeneca Jab?

According to Psaki, deliveries of vaccines to the United States’ huge trading partners would be in the form of a loan, paid back by future AstraZeneca doses when Canada and Mexico have their own surpluses.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the US population,” she said, adding however that “the reality is the pandemic knows no borders.”

Making sure US neighbors also have the pandemic controlled is a “mission critical step.”

 

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP
File photo: US President Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

Mexico’s foreign minister said Thursday that a deal had been struck following talks between Biden and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

More details would come out on Friday, Marcelo Ebrard tweeted, “because we are still working on it.”

Mexico, a country of 126 million people, has recorded around 196,000 known Covid-19 deaths — the world’s third-highest toll. The United States has the highest toll at more than half a million people, but is also now leading the way in vaccinations.

Lopez Obrador has been a vocal critic of unequal access to coronavirus vaccines, saying it is “totally unfair” that some countries have yet to receive a single dose.

He has complained that Mexico has to import vaccine doses from Europe even though they are also produced in the United States.

The issue was on the agenda for a virtual summit between Lopez Obrador and Biden on March 1 whose main focus was on immigration.

Mexico began mass vaccination on December 24, starting with health workers, but is desperate for more supplies.

Several European countries briefly paused AstraZeneca use after reported side effects.

However, the World Health Organization says the vaccine poses no risk and on Thursday the EU drugs regulator declared it “safe and effective.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to take it, likewise saying it was “both safe and effective.”

AFP

US Agrees To Send COVID-19 Vaccines To Mexico – Minister

KIRKLAND, WA – DECEMBER 28: Pharmacists prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on December 28, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington.  Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

 

The United States has agreed to send coronavirus vaccines to Mexico after discussion between President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his US counterpart Joe Biden, the Mexican foreign minister said Thursday.

“I’ve been asked if it is true that there is a vaccine agreement with the United States following the conversation between Presidents Lopez Obrador and Biden. Yes, the information is correct,” Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter.

He said that more details would be given on Friday “because we are still working on it.”

READ ALSOFBI Received 443 Internet Crime Complaints From Nigeria In 2020 – Report

Mexico, a country of 126 million people, has recorded around 196,000 known Covid-19 deaths — the world’s third-highest toll.

SPC Angel Laureano holds a COVID-19 vaccine at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on December 14, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland.  Manuel Balce Ceneta-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

Lopez Obrador has been a vocal critic of unequal access to coronavirus vaccines, saying it is “totally unfair” that some countries have yet to receive a single dose.

He has complained that Mexico has to import vaccine doses from Europe even though they are also produced in the United States.

The issue was on the agenda for a virtual summit between Lopez Obrador and Biden on March 1 whose main focus was on immigration.

Mexico began mass vaccination on December 24, starting with health workers, but is desperate for more supplies.

AFP

COVID-19: Protesters Disrupt Vaccination Site In Los Angeles

File photo: A person sits on a hillside as cars are lined up with people waiting to receive vaccines at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium, with the downtown skyline in the background, on January 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

 

Protesters briefly disrupted a coronavirus vaccination distribution center at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, US media reported Saturday.

Several dozen people carrying signs demanding the end of lockdowns and promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories gathered at the entrance to the site, one of the largest in the US, social media posts showed.

“There appears to be only about 30 protestors total. It’s not clear why they’ve shut off the whole facility,” tweeted social media user Mikel Jollet.

Officials shut the site down for nearly an hour, US media reported, citing fire department officials — though the Los Angeles police department later insisted that the site had not been shut down and that all the vaccines would be distributed.

READ ALSO: EU Relaxes State Aid Rules As COVID-19 Crisis Drags On

The incident represents just the latest challenge to the vaccine rollout in the US, which has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world from Covid-19.

More than 26 million people have been infected and 439,000 have died in the country since the start of the pandemic, a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University showed Satuday.

President Joe Biden has pledged to have 100 million people vaccinated within his first 100 days — but the rollout began slowly under former President Donald Trump.

Los Angeles county, where Covid-19 cases have surged this winter, is currently only vaccinating frontline medical workers and people aged 65 and over.

Even among those groups, appointments are extremely difficult to obtain, with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots in limited supply.

AFP

US COVID-19 Deaths Hit Daily Record As China Rushes To Contain Outbreaks

File photo: Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

The United States has endured its worst day of the pandemic, with three Americans dying every minute, as China took decisive steps on Wednesday to stamp out a tiny coronavirus outbreak.

Global infections have soared past 91 million, and the spikes have forced governments around the world to reimpose restrictions such as unpopular and economically painful lockdowns, including in Europe which is battling a devastating second wave.

The United States is the worst-hit nation, logging a record 4,470 deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, as it reeled from a winter surge in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and clinics in many areas even as vaccines are rolled out.

“It’s most definitely the darkest period of my entire career,” said Kari McGuire, a palliative care supervisor at the St Mary hospital in Apple Valley, a small rural town in California.

“I’ve personally had to watch people that I know, that I care for, watch their loved ones die. It’s been very difficult.”

Coronavirus patients at the overstretched hospital were crammed into hallways, makeshift ICU beds and even the pediatric ward.

McGuire said there were “astronomical numbers” of Covid-19 deaths — the United States accounts for a fifth of the world’s almost two million coronavirus fatalities.

Authorities on Tuesday announced that starting January 26, all travelers entering the United States by air will need a negative Covid-19 test before departure.

Neighboring Canada also scrambled to contain a worrying outbreak, ordering residents in Ontario — its economic engine and most populous province — to stay home.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned that the healthcare system was “on the brink of collapse.”

– Fresh China lockdown –
The daily US death toll on Tuesday was nearly as high as the official fatality count for the entire pandemic in China, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

 

People walk to a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine center in Beijing on January 4, 2021, as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February. GREG BAKER / AFP
File photo: People walk to a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine center in Beijing on January 4, 2021, as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February.
GREG BAKER / AFP

 

China largely eliminated its outbreak through a number of strict lockdowns and extensive testing and tracing, but recent weeks have seen a smattering of cases. That has forced more than 20 million people under some form of lockdown in the country’s northern regions.

READ ALSO: Senegal In Talks To Procure Chinese-Made Sinopharm Vaccine

The government of northeastern Heilongjiang province — home to 37.5 million people — declared an “emergency state” on Wednesday after 28 cases were found, telling residents not to leave the province unless necessary.

China is rushing to inoculate millions using homegrown vaccines ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush, which authorities fear could boost the risk of transmission.

Japan was set to expand a coronavirus state of emergency on Wednesday beyond greater Tokyo to seven more regions to counter a surge in cases.

While Japan’s outbreak remains comparatively small, with around 4,100 deaths overall, medics say hospitals are under heavy strain from the spikes in the worst-affected areas.

– Indonesia kicks off vaccinations –
Governments worldwide are racing to acquire and deliver vaccines to help end the Covid-19 crisis, though the World Health Organization has warned that coverage is not expected to be wide enough for population-level immunity this year.

One of the Chinese-developed vaccines, CoronaVac, demonstrated a 50 percent efficacy following tests in Brazil, the organization in charge of its production in the South American country said Tuesday.

While that figure is much lower than the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Indonesia — one of the world’s most populous nations — has given it the green light and kicked off a mass inoculation drive with it on Wednesday.

 

File photo: Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

President Joko Widodo became Indonesia’s first recipient of that shot on live television.

While criticism and fears over slow vaccine rollouts are growing in North America and Europe, there was some positive news Tuesday when the European Union started the approval process for the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.

But the government of Ukraine was under pressure for failing to secure any Western-made vaccines, with health officials in Kiev so far rejecting the Russian Sputnik V shot.

President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for EU help Tuesday, saying it was “extremely important to get the vaccines.”

AFP

US Marks 277,000 COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours, Sets New Record

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

The United States on Saturday saw its highest number yet of coronavirus cases recorded in one day, with more than 277,000 infections.

The hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic, the United States has marked 20.4 million cases overall and just under 350,000 deaths.

Infections have been surging in recent months, with top US government scientist Anthony Fauci warning just days after Christmas that the worst of the pandemic may be yet to come, driving the country to a “critical point” as holiday travel spreads the virus.

READ ALSO: [COVID-19] Zimbabwe Reintroduces National Lockdown

The country has floundered in its efforts to quell Covid-19, with its vaccination program beset by logistical problems and overstretched hospitals.

More than 4.2 million people in the US have already received their first jabs, with 13 million doses distributed, but that falls well behind the 20 million inoculations that President Donald Trump’s administration promised by the end of 2020.

AFP

COVID-19: US Purchases Extra 100m Doses Of Pfizer Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

The US has purchased an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, with the shots set to be delivered by July, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

That brings the current US supply of Covid-19 vaccine to 400 million doses — half from Pfizer and half from Moderna — allowing it to immunize 200 million people under the two-shot regimens.

“Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, with the balance of the 100 million doses to be delivered no later than July 31, 2021,” the defense department said in a statement.

The agreement, which comes after reports the Trump administration had passed on the opportunity to secure more supply of the shot, “also includes options for an additional 400 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” the defense department statement added.

READ ALSO: Mexico To Start COVID-19 Vaccinations On Thursday

The US is hoping to immunize 20 million people this month, with long-term care residents and health workers at the front of the line.

On Sunday, an expert committee said that people 75 and older should be the next vaccinated along with 30 million “frontline essential workers,” including teachers, grocery store employees and police.

“This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021,” health secretary Alex Azar said in the statement.

AFP

Trump Rejects COVID-19 Relief Bill, Calling It ‘A Disgrace’

File photo: US President Donald Trump delivers an update on “Operation Warp Speed” in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday rejected a massive Covid economic relief package passed by Congress, branding it “a disgrace” in an act of political brinkmanship less than a month before he must leave office and when millions of Americans are suffering fallout from the pandemic.

Trump dropped the bombshell via a pre-recorded statement made in the White House and sent out on Twitter.

It came just a day after his Republicans and the Democrats finally agreed overwhelmingly to a $900 billion bill meant to throw a lifeline to businesses and people struggling to keep heads above water.

In his address, Trump said he would refuse to accept the bill as it is and demanded changes, notably a big increase in the proposed $600 direct payments to less well-off Americans.

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” he said, referring to relief checks.

Tapping into his nationalist “America First” brand, Trump also castigated measures added onto the bill during complex negotiations that would provide funding for projects benefiting US partners abroad and other non-Covid related items like the environment.

“It really is a disgrace,” he said. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and just send me a suitable bill.”

READ ALSO: Buhari Extends PTF Mandate Till March 2021

Trump has not yet received the bill and he did not explicitly say he would not sign. If he actually vetoed the package, Congress would almost certainly quickly override that, given the bipartisan support.

In what is widely expected to be only a portion of a slew of presidential pardons and commutations issued in the dying days of the administration, the White House also announced late Tuesday that 20 people had been selected.

They included two convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe into Trump campaign ties to Moscow and four men convicted in connection with the mass killing of at least 14 Iraqi civilians.

– Power struggle –
The Covid package is wrapped into a $2.3 trillion, almost 5,600-page “coronabus” bill that includes a so-called omnibus bill to fund the government for the coming year.

A congressional override of a veto would mark an embarrassing defeat for Trump, who is spending his final weeks in office before the January 20 inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden by pursuing unprecedented attempts to try and get the election results overturned.

However, until he has the bill on his desk he has no need to veto.

And Trump’s motives in picking the fight with Congress are intertwined with his extraordinary ongoing struggle to overturn the November 3 election.

Despite courts across the country rejecting his baseless claims of fraud, he has enough allies on the right of the Republican party — and a devoted following among some voters — to keep trying to derail the traditionally smooth presidential transition.

He pushed again Tuesday in a second lengthy video statement from the White House, claiming that he won in a “landslide.”

His challenge now puts the Republican party in a bind, forcing lawmakers who angered him by declaring Biden the true winner to choose whether they dare defy him further and risk wrecking Covid relief.

Democratic leaders pounced immediately to insist that their party had been in favor of higher individual relief payments from the start.

“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it,” said top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer on Twitter.

“Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”

“At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, which is Democrat-controlled.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination for president on a progressive platform, also joined in, tweeting that he “first introduced a bill to provide a $2,000 direct payment with @SenKamalaHarris & @EdMarkey 7 months ago.”

“Now, Mr. President, get Mitch McConnell and your Republican friends to stop opposing it and we can provide working class Americans with $2,000.”

AFP

Top Scientist Asks Americans To Brace For COVID ‘Surge Upon A Surge’

A vending machine containing personal protective equipment is seen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington. DAVID RYDER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

 

America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travelers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.

The United States is the world’s worst-affected country, with 266,831 Covid-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump’s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel, and the danger posed by the virus.

“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”

The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays sure to bring more travel and family gatherings.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in Covid-19 after a holiday weekend in May.

“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four, and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

READ ALSO: Germany Hits One Million Cases As Russia Links Up With India For Vaccine

“We are deeply worried.”

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt.

“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”

In the 24 hours to 0130 GMT Monday, the country added 140,651 coronavirus cases, taking its total to 13,373,673, according to Johns Hopkins University. There had been 822 additional deaths.

 

Desperate wait for vaccine

Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of Spain’s public health system, in one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

And guards opened fire to quell a prison riot in Sri Lanka, where four inmates were killed while protesting a surge in coronavirus infections.

In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

Around 9,000 runners — some wearing face masks — took part in the Shanghai International Marathon, according to Chinese media, a mass-participation sports event rare during the pandemic.

New York City again took a small step back toward normality, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that elementary schools would reopen for in-person instruction on December 7.

Things were also returning to normal in Bolivia, where Health Minister Edgar Pozo said the country would soon allow the resumption of “cultural, sporting, religious and political activities,” with appropriate safety measures — a further easing of strict containment rules introduced in March.

The US news media meanwhile reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 — one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product — had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.

Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position the vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorization — expected as early as December 10 — the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and 95 percent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.

But, like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months ahead.

“About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have Covid, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said.

 

 Europe struggles to reopen

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated — Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March — much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.

By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.”

Adams, the US surgeon general, also expressed cautious optimism, saying: “We are mere weeks away from starting to vaccinate the vulnerable, and we can significantly protect people who are at risk for this virus.

“So hang on just a little bit longer.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,453,074 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

Europe on Saturday crossed a grim milestone, as the death toll passed 400,000.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, reached on Friday the mark of more than one million cases.

AFP

US Daily Covid-19 Cases Hit New Record, Topping 120,000

File photo: Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms on August 03, 2020 in Austin, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

 

More than 120,000 coronavirus cases were reported in the US in the past 24 hours, smashing a daily record set the day before, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The country reported 123,085 new infections between 8:30 pm Wednesday and 8:30 pm Thursday (0130 GMT), and 1,226 more deaths, the tally by the Baltimore-based school showed.

On Wednesday, 99,660 new cases of the virus were reported. Thursday’s tally shatters that record by 23,425 cases.

While deaths remain lower than their worst levels in the spring, Thursday was also the third day in a row that fatalities were above 1,000. The last time people were dying at that rate of Covid-19 in the US was early September.

More than 9.6 million people have been infected and 234,000 have died in the United States so far during the pandemic, by far the highest tolls in absolute terms globally.

The new record comes as US President Donald Trump, who survived a bout with Covid-19 in October and insists the virus will “disappear,” was fighting for his political life Thursday with vote-counting from Tuesday’s presidential election still ongoing.

His Democratic election rival Joe Biden has sought to turn the vote into a referendum on Trump’s handling of the crisis, and vowed to listen to scientific recommendations on handling the pandemic should he take the White House.

With coronavirus cases surging across the country since mid-October, more than 100 million voters cast their ballot by mail or in person before Election Day — the highest number of early voters ever — as many Americans sought to avoid crowded polling booths.

File photo: US President Donald Trump gives the thumbs-up as he leaves Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland heading towards Marine One on October 5, 2020, to return to the White House after being discharged. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

The final election results have been partly delayed by the high number of mail-in ballots, which Trump alleges without evidence are fraudulent.

Health officials in some states have already sounded warnings about their ability to handle an influx in hospitalizations as the winter flu season looms.

The pandemic has also slammed the US economy, fueling a historic contraction in growth and tens of millions of job losses.

AFP