Those eagerly awaited stimulus payments and vaccinations should be accelerating this week as the U.S. gains ground on the relentless pandemic.
Now the nation just needs former President Donald Trump to help out, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
As vaccines become available, vaccine hesitancy is becoming a major concern. A recent new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found 41% of Republicans saying they would not get one of the three federally approved coronavirus vaccines, compared to less than 15% of Democrats. Fauci appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where host Chuck Todd suggested President Joe Biden should persuade Trump to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.
“I hope he does because the numbers that you gave are so disturbing,” Fauci said. “It makes absolutely no sense. And I’ve been saying that for so long. We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common sense, no-brainer public health things.”
Those $1,400 stimulus payments should start hitting this week. It’s expected that March 17 would be the effective date when the Treasury actually transfers the money, according to industry experts. More than 100 million payments are expected to be payable on March 17 via direct deposit. You can check the status of your payment here.
►After being canceled last year by the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is back in 2021. It starts with Selection Sunday, when the field of 68 teams will be announced.
►Residents in more than a dozen California counties woke up Sunday morning to eased business restrictions. State officials loosened the requirements necessary to move out of the most restrictive tiers in California’s reopening system because of increased vaccinations in hard-hit communities up and down the state.
►The U.S. has surpassed 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots and the World Health Organization reported 300 million global shots have been administered.
►Passengers packed planes during the Thanksgiving and year-end holiday rushes despite advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid travel and are now doing so in greater numbers for spring break.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 534,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Almost 120 million cases and 2.6 million deaths. More than 135 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 106 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Spring and summer weather will provide opportunities for people – vaccinated or not – to enjoy low-risk, outdoor activities to better their physical and mental health, experts say.
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Duke University locks down students, fate of semester ‘hangs in the balance’
Duke undergraduate students have been ordered to “stay-in-place until 9 a.m. next Sunday as the school struggles to contain a virus outbreak “principally driven by students attending recruitment parties for selective living groups,” the school said in a letter to students. More than 180 students have been placed in isolation after testing positive in the last week with an additional 200 students quarantined as a result of contact tracing.
Students living in Duke-provided housing must remain in their residence hall room or apartment “at all times except for essential activities related to food, health, or safety,” the letter said. Students living off campus are not permitted on campus.
“If this feels serious, it’s because it is,” the letter said. “Our ability to complete the semester, commencement for our seniors, and the health and safety of our community, including your fellow undergraduate students, is hanging in the balance.”
Some stimulus checks sent to wrong bank accounts
Some Americans say their stimulus checks are being deposited in the wrong bank accounts, forcing many of them to wait longer for the badly needed aid after struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those taxpayers were surprised to see that the last four digits of their bank account numbers were incorrect when they checked their payment status on the IRS website, an issue that happened during the first two rounds of direct payments when technical glitches from third-party tax preparers caused delays for many filers.
“I’m very frustrated. I have so many bills to pay,” said Lori Young, 52, in Camden, South Carolina. “I have a steady income with my Social Security, but I have a lot of medical issues. I was relying on these stimulus checks to help me pay off my bills.”
– Jessica Menton
Here’s how to find out when your stimulus payment will come
You can now find out when your next stimulus payment is expected to hit your bank account or get mailed. The IRS updated the “Get My Payment” tool on its website with information on the third round of stimulus checks Saturday, agency spokesperson Karen Connelly confirmed to USA TODAY. Check for your status here. The third round of Economic Impact Payments will be based on a taxpayer’s latest processed tax return from either 2020 or 2019. That includes anyone who used the IRS non-filers tool last year, or submitted a special simplified tax return.
– Kelly Tyko
A year later, docs treating COVID ‘still flying blind’
Treatment for the sickest patients has improved since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic a year ago, but about 20% of patients sick enough to be hospitalized still end up in intensive care. That figure that hasn’t changed in the last year, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon and president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. Doctors on the front lines say the care they’re giving is clearly better than it was a year ago, if only because the disease is better understood and hospitals aren’t overflowing with desperately sick patients. But death rates remain concerningly high in ICUs, Tracey said.
“A year later we are still flying blind,” Tracey said. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
London police tactics at vigil for slain woman draw scrutiny
An official vigil for a London woman whose killing has a police officer facing murder charges and is spurring a national conversation about violence against women in the U.K. ended Saturday night with the city’s police department under scrutiny for the way officers handled some participants at the event held in defiance of coronavirus restrictions. Hundreds of people disregarded a judge’s ruling and police requests by gathering at Clapham Common in honor of Sarah Everard, 33, who was last seen alive near the south London park on March 3. Demonstrators said they wanted to draw attention to the fear and danger many women see as a daily part of British life; police said the size of the crowd created COVID-19 concerns.
Video of Saturday’s informal vigil turned rally showed officers from the same police force tussling with participants as they pushed their way through the crowd. London Mayor Sadiq Khan called police behavior “unacceptable” and said he had reached out to police for an explanation.
Chicago river green again after pandemic canceled tradition
The Chicago River was dyed a bright shade of green Saturday after Mayor Lori Lightfoot reversed an earlier decision not to tint the waterway for second year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Crews on boats began dumping green dye into the riverfront about 7 a.m. after Lightfoot authorized the dyeing ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, delighting pedestrians with the vivid scene.
Last year, Lightfoot abruptly canceled the city’s 2020 parades and the river dyeing just days before they were to take place in the early days of the pandemic. She called off the parades again this year and said the river would once again not be dyed. But Lightfoot’s office said in a statement that the city opted “to honor the long-standing tradition” and authorized its partners, the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130, to dye the river.
Contributing: Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press.