With Covid case numbers continuing to fall, and the promise of the vaccine roll-out, states are beginning to list some of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. Greg Abbott has announced that Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate. Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins for the New York Times report on other openings around the US:
In Chicago, tens of thousands of children returned to public school this week, while snow-covered parks and playgrounds around the city that have been shuttered since last March were opened. Mississippi ended its mask mandate, too. Restaurants in Massachusetts were allowed to operate without capacity limits, and South Carolina erased its limits on large gatherings. San Francisco announced that indoor dining, museums, movie theaters and gyms could reopen on a limited basis.
That’s despite the warnings from Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said on Monday “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet.”
As Tompkins and Bosman write:
Though national statistics have improved drastically since January, they have plateaued in the last week or so, and the US is still reporting more than 65,000 new cases a day on average — comparable to the peak of last summer’s surge. The country is averaging more than 2,000 deaths per day, though deaths are a lagging indicator because it can take weeks after being infected with the coronavirus to die from it.
New, more contagious variants of the virus are circulating in the country, with the potential to push case counts upward again. Testing has fallen 30 percent in recent weeks, leaving experts worried about how quickly new outbreaks will be known. And millions of Americans are still waiting to be vaccinated — including workers in restaurants, which are now open in vast numbers across the country.
Yesterday Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May. In a sideswipe at former president Donald Trump’s Covid efforts, the president said “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that.”
Here’s a clip from his address on coronavirus yesterday.
The White House Covid response team also emphasised the way that they have pulled forward the ambition to vaccinate every adult in the US – in gif form.
According to CDC data, at least 50 million adults in the US have now received at least their first shot of a Covid vaccine – including Dolly Parton, who got a job of the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.
Welcome to today’s live coverage of US politics. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and a little of what we can expect to see today:
- Joe Biden said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.
- Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.
- His administration said that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
- There were 53,544 new Covid cases, and 1,819 further deaths in the US. Hospitalization levels are now down to 46,388 across the country.
- Republican governors have seized on the declining numbers to start re-opening the economy. Despite experts warning a premature lifting of restrictions could spark another surge in infection, Texas’ Greg Abbot announced he was rescinding the state’s mask mandate and business would be able to operate at 100% from next week.
- Neera Tanden withdrew as a Cabinet nominee after facing opposition. In an ironic demonstration of “cancel culture” in action, Republican senators cited Tanden’s tweets in opposing her nomination for director of the budget office.
- The Senate Finance committee will vote today on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
- The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules and administration committee will hold their second joint hearing on the Capitol insurrection at 10am ET (1500 GMT), with testimony from senior DHS and FBI officials.
- The White House Covid response team will give their latest press briefing at 11am, and Jen Psaki gives a briefing at 12.30pm.
- At 1.45pm President Biden holds a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend. At 5pm Biden takes part in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus.
- Coronavirus updates: CDC researchers say schools can reopen safely; UK variant has now spread to 25 states
- Coronavirus updates: 27K new COVID-19 deaths in US since New Year’s Day; Chicago schools reopen Monday; Vaccine rollout brings ‘anger’
- Investors Optimistic About Vaccine Rollout and Presidential Transition: Live Updates
- 2020 Election Live Updates: Biden and Trump Will Travel to Battleground States This Week