New York City will open high schools next week, stimulus cash could start flowing in two weeks and America could be swamped with vaccine in a month as the national effort to emerge from the crippling pandemic accelerates.
If the U.S. approves the stimulus bill today and President Joe Biden signs bill signs it by March 14, the first direct deposits payments of up to $1,400 per person may start hitting bank accounts the week of March 22, based on prior relief plans. Paper checks may be sent out the week of March 29.
Dependents are worth $1,400, too, meaning a family of four that fully qualifies will see a payout of $5,600.
Meanwhile, the vaccine surplus expected to materialize in coming months eliminates one problem – supply – but accentuates a new one: demand.
“When we start to have more vaccine available, we’re really going to be in bad shape because what we’re going to see is a lot of people who don’t want to get vaccinated,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine.
Also in the news:
►New York City high schools will also reopen for in-person learning March 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced Monday. Last week, Arizona gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring classrooms to reopen March 15, and California announced it will offer financial incentives for school districts to welcome students back by May 1.
►The Biden administration is mobilizing the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to provide enough supply to give U.S. school staff their first dose. President Joe Biden has said that he wants all teachers to be vaccinated by the end of March.
►This week will mark the one-year anniversary of shutdowns taken across the nation at the beginning of the pandemic. Biden will make the first prime-time address of his term Thursday night to commemorate the milestone.
►Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 after showing mild symptoms, according to a statement tweeted by the presidential office.
►Satisfaction with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the U.S. has increased enough that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans approve of it, but 1 out of every 4 Americans still say they’ll never get the vaccine if they can avoid it, according to a new Monmouth University poll.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 525,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 117 million cases and 2.6 million deaths. More than 116.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 92 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As the U.S. vaccinates more than 2 million people a day, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines for Americans who have received the full course of a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a breakdown of the CDC guidelines.
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Instagram ‘suggested’ posts claim vaccines are unsafe, COVID is a hoax
Instagram’s “suggested” posts recommended anti-vaccination content to users, even as parent company Facebook intensified efforts to combat false and misleading statements about COVID-19, according to new research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The nonprofit says Instagram suggested anti-vaccination posts to center volunteers who created accounts and showed an interest in conspiracy theories. In all, 104 suggested posts contained false or misleading statements such as COVID is a hoax and vaccines are unsafe, the research found.
“Suggested” posts from accounts you don’t follow launched last year. Facebook told USA TODAY the research conducted between Sept. 14 and Nov. 16 is out of date and does not reflect recent changes to crack down on COVID misinformation.
– Jessica Guynn
Coming soon: An abundance of vaccine. It may not end the pandemic.
As Americans frantically call, click and line up to get vaccinated, it’s hard to imagine a shift from scarcity to abundance. But Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine, thinks there will be vaccine surpluses in some areas a month from now. Then, the new challenges will start. If people refuse to get vaccinated, that could undermine the nation’s ability to move beyond the pandemic.
“If we’ve got whole states in this country that don’t want to mask and don’t want to socially distance, then I’m very concerned we’ll have people there who don’t want to be vaccinated either,” she said. Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise
CDC eases guidance for vaccinated Americans – but not for travel
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Monday, the agency didn’t update or relax travel measures.
The agency maintained that Americans should refrain from traveling, referring to the organization’s travel guidance last updated on Feb. 16. The CDC said it may update travel recommendations for fully vaccinated people as that number rises and as they learn more about how vaccines are working in the “real world.”
“Because of the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 during travel, fully vaccinated people should still take all CDC-recommended precautions before, during, and after travel,” read a CDC statement provided to USA TODAY by spokesperson Caitlin Shockey.
– Morgan Hines
Biden dangles $250 million to cities in push to promote vaccinations, safety
President Joe Biden’s administration is making $250 million in federal grants available to local governments that work to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccinations in underserved communities. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the program Monday during a virtual address to the National League of Cities, saying the grants would be available to localities that partner with community organizations on the health literacy initiative. Harris said the federal government expects to fund 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities over two years.
“Our goal is to provide underserved communities with the information they need to stay safe and to get vaccinated,” Harris said. “And remember, information and education, of course, save lives.”
– Joey Garrison
CDC eases restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans on Monday, saying they can visit with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 – indoors and without wearing masks or physical distancing.
Fully vaccinated people also don’t need to quarantine or get testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic. But they still must take precautions in public such as wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing and avoidance of medium- and large-size in-person gatherings.
“COVID-19 continues to exact a tremendous toll on our nation,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. “Science and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume activities.”
Spring break in Florida won’t be ‘anything goes’ this year
As the CDC issued relaxed rules for the fully vaccinated on Monday and the pace of shots increased, concern mounted on another front: Young people eager to go on spring break.
Florida is getting busy. Disney theme parks in Orlando are booked solid next Monday through Thursday. Throngs of college students are strolling the strip in Fort Lauderdale, many without masks and ignoring social distancing. At least one hot spot there, however, is pumping the brakes.
The outdoor event space The Wharf, featuring live music, food and drink, announced on social media that during the spring break season guests with out-of-state ID must be 23 or older. The Wharf says it will be operating at reduced capacity and requiring masks be worn at all times while walking through common areas and when not eating or drinking.
In Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber is determined to avoid a new burst of virus cases in his city. Gelber issued a stern warning for spring break revelers: “Don’t be foolish. Don’t come here if you think this is an anything-goes environment. We will arrest you and it will ruin your time here.”
Contributing: Associated Press