A version of this story appeared in the January 22 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

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Biden and his advisers have inherited a nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan from the Trump administration, CNN reported yesterday, with sources saying that they’ll have to essentially “build everything from scratch.” The problems he faces are vast and his solution is rooted in a bet that throwing federal government expertise, money and scale at a crisis can turn the situation around, Stephen Collinson writes. 

His strategy includes:

  • A national vaccination campaign to administer 100 million shots – enough to cover 50 million Americans with vaccines that require two doses – in his first 100 days in office.
  • Ramping up vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment supplies, and boosting the development of therapeutics to treat the virus.
  • The creation of a National Pandemic Testing Board to improve testing capacity and a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure an “equitable” pandemic response and recovery.
  • Enhancing the nation’s collection, production, sharing and analysis of data.
  • Instructing federal education and health departments to provide guidance on the safe reopening and operating of schools, childcare providers, and higher education institutions.
  • An executive order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release clear guidance on Covid-19, decide whether to establish emergency temporary standards, and direct it to enforce worker health and safety requirements.
  • Require face masks in airports and on certain modes of transportation, including many trains, planes, maritime vessels and intercity buses.
  • A presidential directive to restore US leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: What else is in the American Rescue Plan?

A: Vaccine distribution in states and cities across the US is slowing down because of winter storms that left more than a third of the continental US with below-zero temperatures Monday.

If vaccination picks up, to 1 million shots per day, in line with Biden’s promise, that timeline could bump up to spring 2022. To fully vaccinate all adults in the US by the end of this year, the pace would have to increase to about 1.3 million doses administered per day.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

While the mutations in the new variants of the virus – one first seen in Britain, and another first identified in South Africa – did allow them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, it was far from a complete escape, the two teams reported separately.

The US’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, returned to the White House briefing room on Thursday, expressing relief about being able to share science and truth without fear of presidential reprisals. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is – let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” Fauci, who often clashed with former President Donald Trump’s assessments of the pandemic, said. 

“I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president. So it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it,” he said. 

Fauci also said the US can look forward to getting back to some semblance of normality by fall if enough of the population gets vaccinated by the summer. “If we get 70% to 85% of the country vaccinated, let’s say by the end of the summer, middle of the summer, I believe by the time we get to the fall we will be approaching a degree of normality,” Fauci added. 

This comes as Chinese officials reported 144 new Covid-19 cases across the country on Wednesday, including 18 imported infections. All residents in Beijing’s Daxing district have been banned from leaving since Wednesday due to the rising numbers of cases.

Both the European Union and Britain are considering tougher travel restrictions within their borders in a bid to stem rising infections. The UK government is mulling full border closures in order to contain the new Covid-19 variants, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News today. Meanwhile the European Commission proposed tougher restrictions on travel both within and to the EU to limit non-essential travel, as the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that the variants could cause more hospitalizations and deaths across the continent. 

California added 22,403 new cases Wednesday, which is well below the average daily number for the state of around 38,000, but also reported 694 new Covid-19-related deaths Wednesday – the second-highest single-day toll to date. And with a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine, state epidemiologist Erica Pan said it may take four to five months to get all Californians over the age of 65 vaccinated.

A fire broke out at a facility of the world’s biggest vaccine maker – the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the city of Pune – on Thursday, killing five people. But the company said the blaze would not affect vaccine production. 

This comes as it emerged that South Africa will pay $5.25 per dose for 1.5 million shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from SII – more than some wealthier countries have been paying, according to Reuters. SII’s price was based on South Africa’s status as an upper-middle-income country under a World Bank classification, the country’s health department Deputy Director-General Anban Pillay said. 

South Africa is among the worst-hit African countries, and it was announced Thursday that government minister Jackson Mthembu had died from Covid-19. 

The blaze at the vaccine facility was brought under control but its cause is still under investigation, according to Indian officials

ON OUR RADAR

  • Some Peruvian medics are going on hunger strike to demand more funding as cases of Covid-19 spiral in the country.
  • “No Time to Die,” the latest film in the James Bond series and one of the most anticipated movies of 2021, has been delayed again.
  • Glastonbury, Britain’s famous music festival, will be canceled for a second consecutive year amid the pandemic – an ominous sign for promoters and artists. 
  • With summer season in full swing, South Africans have been cautiously letting the sunshine in as the country battles its second wave of Covid-19.
  • Rising tennis star Paula Badosa announced yesterday that she has tested positive for Covid-19 – the first known Australian Open player to contract the virus.

TOP TIP

For instance, Kaya Cheshire is still missing 90% of her sense of smell since contracting a mild case of Covid-19 last July. At her doctor’s suggestion, Cheshire recently began “scent training,” using strong-smelling things like rose, lemons, cloves, garlic, eucalyptus and menthols to retrain her brain. Read about how Covid-19 survivors have been modifying their meals as a result of anosmia.

For instance, some attractions require visitors to be part of an organized tour group or with an approved Sri Lankan guide. They must travel in a private vehicle and not make any unauthorized side stops. Some sites will only allow tourists during designated time slots or on certain days of the week. Here’s more. 

TODAY’S PODCAST

“In the survey I’m doing online about dreams [in] the pandemic, bugs are the most common one … Where the dreamer is being attacked by usually large numbers of bugs, swarms of flying insects, roaches are crawling towards you, masses of wriggling worms.” – Deirdre Barrett, dream researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

In today’s episode, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to Barrett about her Covid-19 dream survey and why we’re having good and bad dreams a year into the pandemic. Listen now.