A version of this story appeared in the February 1 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
January was the deadliest month of the pandemic in America: At least 95,245 people died from Covid-19.
And the situation doesn’t look likely to turn a corner anytime soon. Even in a best-case scenario, close to another 200,000 Americans are likely to die between now and May 1, according to a new projection from the University of Washington.
While officials scramble to get more vaccines into arms, the most optimistic forecasts suggest that many, if not most, Americans will have to wait until the summer to get a shot. And it’s a race against time as two new highly contagious strains of the coronavirus spread in the United States.
Health experts are urging all Americans to step up social distancing and mask-wearing – with President Joe Biden introducing a federal mask order and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considering a double-mask recommendation.
There’s also a clamor for more testing. The new administration has issued tighter testing requirements for international travel and is debating whether to require testing for domestic travel, too.
“The emergence of variants underscores the need for public health action. First, get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” the new CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told a White House briefing last week.
“Second, wear a mask. Practice social distancing and wash your hands. And finally, now is not the time to travel. But, if you must, be safe and follow the CDC guidance.”
But public health experts are pessimistic that Americans are going to change their ways, one year into the pandemic.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Should you wear two masks?
A: Public health officials are suggesting double masking as a way to increase the level of protection from the coronavirus and its multiple, more contagious variants.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective, and that’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, now chief medical adviser to Biden, told NBC.
Whatever mask you wear, be sure to do so properly – including while double masking. No uncovered noses are allowed. Both masks should go over the bridge of the nose, below the chin and be flush on the face, resting along the skin, experts say.
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
Biden faces dilemma over Republican offer on Covid-19 rescue plan
President Biden will on Monday meet with 10 Republican senators who have drawn up a smaller counter-proposal to his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue plan, in the most critical test yet of his core promise to forge unity at a time of bitter division. But hopes for a rare bipartisan deal at the start of a new administration still look doubtful. Their plan is less than a third of the size of the economic shock treatment the White House says the nation needs.
The President must now evaluate whether the new Republican offer is a good faith opening bid in an effort to find common ground, or a bluff-calling exercise that would cause lasting damage to a new President’s authority and political capital if he were to accept it, Stephen Collinson writes.
WHO team investigating pandemic visits Wuhan wet market
A team of World Health Organization (WHO) investigators researching the origins of the coronavirus tell CNN they now have months of Chinese influenza data which might contain vital clues as to the early spread of the virus, Nick Paton Walsh and Sandi Sidhu write.
On Sunday, the team visited the wet market thought to be central to the disease’s spread: The now disinfected and shuttered Huanan seafood market in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, where an initial cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses were noticed by doctors in mid-December 2019. The market has become the anecdotal ‘ground-zero’ for Covid-19, even though later studies have suggested it may have begun elsewhere.
The team visited the Centers for Disease Control in Hubei on Monday. They are also scheduled to go to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where they are expected to meet She Zhengli, the virologist known as “Bat Lady” for her lengthy investigation of bat coronaviruses, which scientists say are a close cousin to SARS-COV-2. The Wuhan Institute has gained notoriety after a series of unsubstantiated, evidence-free claims by senior Trump officials that the laboratory was the source of the virus.
A fight between the EU and UK reveals the ugly truth about vaccine nationalism
The UN General Assembly in September last year was a pivotal moment in the pandemic, when leaders began to show some unity as global deaths approached a million. They had learned hard lessons from the damage that hoarding protective equipment had done, they said. When a vaccine was developed, the world’s most vulnerable would be first in line, they claimed.
The vaccines are now here and that solidarity has frayed. Between the United Kingdom and the European Union, it has disappeared entirely and given way to an all-out battle over who is more entitled to tens of millions of doses produced by British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, many countries in the global south have yet to administer a single vaccine.
The ugly vaccine nationalism that the WHO and other public health advocates feared is here. And it’s beginning in Europe, the region that usually boasts the world’s greatest levels of equality by many measures, Angela Dewan writes.
ON OUR RADAR
- Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who raised millions for a UK charity by walking laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, has been hospitalized with Covid-19 and pneumonia, his daughter Hannah said on Twitter Sunday.
- AstraZeneca will deliver additional Covid-19 vaccine doses to the EU and increase its manufacturing capacity on the continent, the European Commission President said on Sunday.
- Hundreds of people were dispersed or detained at protests against pandemic restrictions in Hungary, Austria and Belgium over the weekend.
- The Department of Homeland Security said Sunday that Transportation Security Administration workers now have the authority to enforce President Biden’s transportation mask mandate.
- A single coronavirus case in Western Australia has triggered a five-day lockdown for 2 million people.
- Pakistan is battling a tsunami of Covid-19 patients with few vaccines in sight.
- Antibodies that protect against the coronavirus can be passed through the placenta from mother to infant, a new study suggests.
High case rates, new variants, teacher union negotiations, and elaborate and costly protocols for safe school reopenings all complicate a return to pre-pandemic life for kids.
Experts agree that a widely available pediatric vaccine would simplify the process, but we don’t know when we can expect it and whether it’s necessary for a safe return.
All of that means that parents must brace themselves for another uncertain summer and fall. Here’s how to prepare your kids to do the same.
“The Biden administration is ramping up the Defense Production Act to make more N95s available to healthcare workers who still don’t have enough. And then, hopefully, for the rest of the population.” – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Masks are crucial, but not all of them are created equal. The N95 respirator mask has been the gold standard from the beginning of the pandemic, and our need for its efficacy is only becoming clearer. Gupta talks about the latest guidance on mask wearing, and how to upgrade the masks you may already have. Listen now.