Biden Unveils National Plan; Florida Seeks Limits: Virus Update

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a protective mask while speaking to members of the media before an event on the Biden administration's Covid-19 response in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Joe Biden in his first full day in office plans to issue a sweeping set of executive orders to tackle the raging Covid-19 pandemic that will rapidly reverse or refashion many of his predecessor's most heavily criticized policies.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a protective mask while speaking to members of the media before an event on the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Joe Biden in his first full day in office plans to issue a sweeping set of executive orders to tackle the raging Covid-19 pandemic that will rapidly reverse or refashion many of his predecessor’s most heavily criticized policies. (Al Drago/)

(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Joe Biden presented a national strategy to combat the coronavirus, saying the pandemic is likely to claim another 100,000 lives over roughly the next month. Florida issued an order seeking to limit “vaccine tourism” to the state.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s infectious-disease chief, said it’s “somewhat of a liberating feeling” to work for Biden after Donald Trump tried to sideline him.

New York City hasn’t stopped giving vaccinations despite shortage warnings and pleas for resupply, but some appointments were canceled. Germany’s coronavirus deaths passed 50,000 while the U.K. suffered its worst day in the pandemic.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 97.3 million; deaths surpass 2 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 54.4 million shots given worldwide
  • Covid cases are falling in 46 states, easing load on hospitals
  • Canada’s vaccine rollout hits snags despite huge orders
  • Senior living’s new sales pitch: sign lease, get vaccine
  • Palm Beach draws flood of wealthy homebuyers in Covid exodus
  • Where are our coronavirus vaccines? South Africans ask

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Portugal to Halt Flight Connections With U.K. (5:44 p.m. NY)

Portugal will halt flights to and from the U.K. as the government tries to reduce contagion risks associated to a Covid-19 variant that emerged in that country. The decision will take effect at midnight on Friday, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said at a press conference late on Thursday. Flights for British and Portuguese citizens wanting to return to their countries will be allowed.

Texas Hospitalizations Dip to 10-Day Low (5:42 p.m. NY)

Virus hospitalizations in Texas fell to the lowest level in 10 days and the pace of new infections tumbled by more than one-fourth, state heath department figures showed. There were 13,564 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in the second-most populous U.S. state, the smallest tally since Jan. 11, and almost 600 intensive-care beds available.

Meanwhile, a Harris County Public Health doctor was arrested for stealing a vial containing nine doses of vaccine while working at a clinic in suburban Houston, the district attorney’s office announced on Thursday. The physician was fired and is facing criminal charges of theft by a public servant.

Utah Ties Record for Deaths (5:25 p.m. NY)

Utah reported 30 deaths, tying a pandemic record for the most in a single day, bucking a general trend toward declining deaths, cases and hospitalizations.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of deaths fell to six from a peak of more than 20 in mid-December, according to the latest data from the Covid Tracking Project.

Fauci Says ‘Let the Science Speak’ With Biden in Power (4:42 p.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci said he feels “somewhat” liberated working for President Joe Biden after Donald Trump tried to sideline him.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed reporters at the WHite House on Thursday as Biden’s chief medical adviser. Under Trump, he had been displaced by Scott Atlas, a politically conservative neuroradiologist who disparaged face masks, social distancing and other public health precautions.

“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is and know that it’s, let the science speak, is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” Fauci said.

California Case Increase Slows While ICU Capacity Drops (4:35 p.m. NY)

California added 19,673 new cases to 3.04 million, with a slowing pace of increase pushing the 14-day average down to a two-week low. Deaths rose by 571 to 35,004.

The test positivity also dropped to 11%, the lowest in more than a month, and hospitalizations also fell. Still, the state’s ICU bed capacity of 1,030 is still at one of its lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

The mixed data comes as most of the state is under some form of a lockdown as ICU capacity remains low, and as the state anticipates new clusters of infections after uncovering cases with the new variant.

Florida Limits Vaccines to Residents (4:23 p.m. NY)

Florida sought to limit vaccines to residents on Thursday, saying availability is “extremely limited” in the state.

Vaccine providers are urged to confirm that anyone seeking the first dose is a Florida resident, according to the order issued by state surgeon general Scott Rivkees. Non-residents who are health care workers treating patients in Florida can receive shots.

Officials have downplayed the number of non-residents who might be coming to Florida just to get the vaccine, saying that snowbirds who spent several months in the Sunshine State would be considered residents. Faced with long wait times for appointments or overloaded phone and online systems to get one, many local residents, particularly in South Florida, have complained that “vaccine tourists” were taking up the limited supply of shots.

Wyoming to Ease Curbs on Gatherings (4:10 p.m. NY)

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is easing Covid-19 restrictions as a surge in cases that overwhelmed hospitals last year recedes. Indoor gatherings following health guidelines will be permitted for up to 25% of capacity or 250 people, and outdoor gatherings of as many as 500 people will be allowed, Gordon’s office said in a statement.

Wyoming, where Donald Trump won 70% of the vote in November’s presidential election, was one of the last U.S. states to set statewide rules on face coverings.

Hospitalizations declined to 81 on Wednesday from a peak of 247 on Nov. 30, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

J&J to Analyze Vaccine Trial Data (3:29 p.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson has enough data from its late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trial to begin analysis, possibly in a week or two, said Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease doctor

J&J had previously said it would have a first chance to review data from its late-stage trial of 45,000 volunteers in the last week of January or the first week of February, consistent with Fauci’s timeline.

Biden Unveils National Strategy for Covid-19 (2:55 p.m. NY)

President Biden announced a series of executive actions aimed at overhauling the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. He repeated his warning that the crisis will worsen before it improves, and that the U.S. will experience a “dark winter.”

“We’ll move Heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated for free,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. But he warned: “The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated.”

He also encouraged Americans to begin more frequently wearing a mask, saying the simple precaution over the next 99 days could save 50,000 lives through April.

Italy Blames Pfizer Delays With Vaccinations (2:26 p.m. NY)

Italy’s coronavirus vaccination campaign could come to a near standstill next week amid rising anger across Europe over a slowdown in vaccine deliveries.

“We received 29% fewer doses this week, and there will be a further 20% decline next week” from Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE, the country’s virus emergency czar Domenico Arcuri told reporters.

Macron Warns Vaccine May Not Work Long-Term (1:43 p.m. NY)

French President Emmanuel Macron told European Union leaders they shouldn’t assume that Covid-19 vaccines will necessarily prove effective in the long run, according to two people with knowledge of his comments.

France reported more than 20,000 new Covid-19 cases for the third straight day as the government warned another lockdown may be unavoidable with the spread of a more contagious variant. The latest seven-day average of new cases is the highest since November, when France was in full lockdown.

France is also raising its target for Covid vaccinations and all residents could be vaccinated by the end of August, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on TF1 television.

U.S. Cases Declining in Most States (1:35 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 cases are declining in 46 states, reducing pressure on hospitals that have been fighting the virus for almost a year.

In 42 of those states, the seven-day case average has fallen more than 10% from a week earlier, while the other four had more modest drops, according to Covid Tracking Project data. Overall, the U.S. seven-day average is down 20% from a week ago, to 192,825, because the drop is much greater in some states — down 39% in Missouri, for instance.

EU to Approve AstraZeneca Vaccine, Von Der Leyen Says (1:18 p.m. NY)

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told EU leaders that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to get conditional market authorization in the European Union next week and the company plans to begin deliveries in mid-February, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told EU leaders, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply for market authorization in mid-February, and receive it around early March, according to the people.

Britons Face $1,000 Fines for Going to House Parties (12:42 p.m. NY)

People who deliberately flout U.K. lockdown rules and attend house parties will face new fines of as much as 800 pounds ($1,097), Home Secretary Priti Patel announced.

“Such irresponsible behavior poses a significant threat to public health,” Patel told a televised news conference in London. “We will not stand by while a small number of individuals put others at risk.”

The U.K. has now administered more than 5 million vaccinations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet on Thursday. The government intends to vaccinate about 15 million who are most vulnerable to the disease and carers by mid-February.

Airlines Say U.S. Standards Needed for Covid Health Pass to Fly (11:47 a.m. NY)

Federal standards are needed to verify the validity of tests and vaccines needed for Covid-19 health passes, Airlines for America, an industry association whose members include American Airlines and Delta, says in letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s designate for Homeland Security secretary.

NYC Continues Vaccinations Despite Supply Issues (11:11 a.m. NY)

New York City has not stopped giving vaccinations despite shortage warnings and pleas for resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. About 45,000 people were vaccinated in New York City on Wednesday but the city has had to cancel some future appointments due to lack of supply. “We’re being starved of supply,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city continues to see diverging trends among Covid-19 rates: The 7-day average of hospitalizations continues to climb, reaching 5.16 per 100,000 residents, up from around 4 at the beginning of the month. But the seven-day average of new cases are flat-lining, and 8.83% of city residents tested test positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations are often a lagging indicator.

Germany Reports 21 Deaths After Covid Vaccination (10:35 a.m. NY)

Germany reported 21 deaths after Covid-19 vaccinations, saying they didn’t significantly exceed the expected death rate for the age group.

The people who died were between ages 56 and 99, with death between one hour and 14 days after vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which monitors drug safety.

Two patients died of Covid-19, with symptoms appearing four to five days after the first vaccination — too soon for the vaccine to have taken effect, the institute said. All the patients had serious illnesses, including cancer, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s, though the institute said it’s still necessary to collect further information in some cases.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised widespread availability of coronavirus vaccines in Germany by late September.

Pfizer Says It’s Willing to Sell Vaccine to States (10:18 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. is open to selling doses of its Covid-19 vaccine directly to states trying to boost their supplies, pending approval from the federal government, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

The drugmaker is willing to collaborating with the federal government “on a distribution model that gives as many Americans as possible access to our vaccine as quickly as possible,” Pfizer spokesman Eamonn Nolan said in an email to Bloomberg News.

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