The global tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 climbed above 117.6 million on Wednesday with the U.S. accounting for 29 million of that total, as President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package was set to be approved by the House of Representatives.
Biden is expected to announce later Wednesday a plan to acquire an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine by year-end, according to a New York Times report, citing unnamed administration officials.
The goal of the move is to have enough on hand to vaccinate children and, if necessary, administer booster doses or reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants, the report added. The announcement is expected to be made at an event with the CEOs of J&J
and Merck & Co.
which has agreed to help manufacture the J&J vaccine in an unusual deal that was brokered by the Biden administration.
In other vaccine news, Alaska has become the first state to fully open its vaccine program to anyone aged 16 or older who lives or works there. About 16% of Alaskans have received two doses of vaccine, according to a New York Times tracker.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6.00 a.m. ET Tuesday, 123.2 million doses had been delivered to states, 93.7 million doses had been administered, and 61 million people had received at least one dose, equal to 18.4% of the population.
A full 32% of Americans have received two doses, equal to 9.7% of the population.
In Texas, meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott has ended the statewide face mask mandate effective Wednesday, even though the state is till recording more than 5,000 new cases a day and is among the states with the smallest number of vaccinated people.
Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans, have moved to reopen their states in defiance of the advice of public health experts who are concerned that new variants of the virus that emerged first in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa, are far more infectious and can be transmitted in very short space of time.
The U.S. added at least 56,507 new COVID cases on Tuesday, according to the Times tracker, and at least 1,885 people died. The U.S. has averaged 58,577 new cases a day in the past week, down 13% from the average two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, more than 1 million people have already signed up for a standby list for leftover vaccines that was created by a startup called Dr. B.
In other news:
• Now that there are three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., some Americans and government officials are picking and choosing the vaccines they prefer — much to the chagrin of federal health officials who are urging people to sign up for any available vaccine, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. There are limited differences between the first two to receive authorization: one developed by Pfizer Inc.
and German partner BioNTech SE
, and one developed by Moderna Inc.
as both are mRNA-based and require two doses. The J&J one needs just one dose nd uses a different pathway to immunization since it is a viral vector-based vaccine. But the J&J one had lower efficacy rate in its Phase 3 trial, raising concerns it is inferior to the others. “We’ve got to get away from this issue of comparing one with the other except to say that we have a highly efficacious group of three vaccines,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Friday during a White House briefing. “I would just take the vaccine that is the most readily available to you.”
•Eli Lilly & Co.
said its COVID-19 antibody cocktail reduced hospitalizations and deaths in 769 high-risk patients who had recently tested positive for the virus. The company said the findings from the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 3 study provide additional support for the emergency authorization that was granted to the combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab last month. The antibody combination reduced high-risk events by 87%, the company said. There have been no deaths among patients who received the antibody cocktail treatment, either in this cohort of the trial or another arm.
• Target Corp.
said that more than 600 stores with CVS Health Corp.
locations will administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Target and CVS have already partnered for flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccinations. The retailer will also make fitting rooms available for appointments. Target provides pay and Lyft transportation in order for employees to be vaccinated.
• The European Commission said Wednesday that Pfizer and BioNTech will provide 4 million more doses of their coronavirus vaccine in the next two weeks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the doses are on top of planned dose deliveries. Regions like Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany have seen rising infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, the European Commission said.
• Poland suffered its highest number of new COVID cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic a year ago, Reuters reported. Data from the health ministry showed 17,260 new cases were detected on Wednesday, as the country struggles with a third wave.
The global tally for confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed above 117.6 million on Wednesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll rose above 2.6 million.
Almost 67 million people have recovered from the illness.
The U.S. has the highest case tally in the world at 29 million, or about a quarter of the global tally, and the highest death toll at 527,699, or about a fifth of the global toll.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 268,370 and is third by cases at 11.1 million.
India is second worldwide in cases with 11.3 million, and fourth in deaths at 158,063.
Mexico has the third highest death toll at 191,789 and 13th highest case tally at 2.1 million.
The U.K. has 4.2 million cases and 125,032 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 101,175 confirmed cases and 4,838 deaths, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
The cost of U.S. consumer goods and services rose in February at the fastest pace in six months largely because of higher gas prices, nudging inflation closer to levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
The consumer price index advanced 0.4% last month, the government said Wednesday, matching the estimate of economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.
The rate of inflation over the past 12 months moved up to 1.7% from 1.4%.
Many economists predict the level of inflation could match or even exceed its pre-pandemic pace of 2.3% by the middle of the year as the U.S. recovery gathers momentum. Coronavirus cases are falling again, millions of Americans are getting vaccinated, and Congress is set to approve nearly $2 trillion in fresh financial aid.
The Federal Reserve, the nation’s inflation watchdog, is prepared to let prices rise above 2% for an extended period without raising interest rates. Central bank leaders predict any sharp increase in inflation after the economy fully reopens is likely to be temporary.
“Inflation fears are overdone,” said chief economist Scott Brown of Raymond James.
“Outside of rising energy costs, inflation pressures remained relatively tame in February,” said chief investment officer Jim Baird of Plante Moran Financial Advisers. “That’s likely to change in the near term, but outsized increases over the next few months aren’t likely to become entrenched.”
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