Coronavirus live updates As US death toll approaches 400K new variants

The U. S. on Monday stood on the brink of 400,000 reported coronavirus deaths, almost double the total of the next most severely hit nation and still mourning more than 20,000 deaths per week. The U. S. has added almost 4 million new infections this month, and the emergence of new variants only figures to add to that total. The pace of vaccinations is picking up but remains well below the optimistic estimates from public health experts when the first vaccines were authorized last month. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had forecast 20 million first-shot vaccinations in December and another 30 million in January. More than halfway through January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 10.6 million people have received their first shot, less than 2 million the required booster. Despite the hurdles, grassroots efforts are underway to ensure that at-risk people of color are not left behind.►The U. S. surpassed 24 million COVID-19 cases and California topped 3 million infections on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.►With Los Angeles County approaching 14,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started, CNN reports that an air quality regulator has suspended for 10 days the limit on the number of cremations than can be authorized.►More than 31 million vaccine doses have been distributed to states, but less than half of them have been used thus far. USA TODAY’s vaccine panel expects the rate of inoculations to improve under the Joe Biden administration.►A California man who told police that COVID-19 left him afraid to fly has been arrested after hiding at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months. The man told authorities he was too “scared to go home due to COVID,” so he found a badge that gave him access to a restricted area and sustained his months-long stay by relying on other passengers to give him food. Amid a continued winter surge of coronavirus infections that has resulted in COVID-19 deaths rising in 30 states, the emergence of new, highly contagious variants is raising concerns among public health experts and elected officials. New mutations have been identified in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, prompting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call on the U. S. government to curtail travel from those countries. “Stop those people from coming here,” Cuomo said Monday. “Why are you allowing people to fly into this country, and then it’s too late?”Federal authorities have already restricted travel from Britain and Brazil, as well as requiring proof of a negative coronavirus test for anyone flying into the country. But the UK variant has made its way to the U. S., and California officials have also identified another strain spreading across the state. Another new variant of the coronavirus — potentially more infectious but apparently not more dangerous than the current dominant strain — is on the rise in California, drawing the attention of public health officials.

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