Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today


As Americans focus their attention on the fallout from the Capitol siege and the debate over another presidential impeachment, the pandemic is reaching what, just a few months ago, was seen as a nightmare scenario.

Yesterday’s count – at least 4,406 people – set another daily record and is at least 1,597 more people than those killed in the September 11 attacks. The death toll in the United States, already the highest in the world by far, hits 400,000 – just one month after the country crossed the 300,000 threshold.

From the start, the country’s coronavirus strategy relied heavily on the rapid manufacture of a vaccine. Several candidates have been developed in record time, and if distributed quickly, could curb the pandemic and save thousands of lives. But so far, the rollout has been slow and fraught with challenges.

After the federal government abruptly reversed the course yesterday and allowed vaccinations for people over 65 and adults with certain medical conditions, states have scrambled to meet an increase in demand for doses.

Local officials have struggled to set up registration systems by phone and online. Many of the older Americans, the most vulnerable to the disease, encounter Byzantine online registration sites, error messages, and downed servers. Appointments are made as soon as they are available, and some in the highest priority group only managed to book their photos in a few weeks.

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This morning, the federal government administered almost 30 million doses and over 10 million have been administered. The Trump administration initially said 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by January 1.

In Georgia, a man spoke to Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News about how he repeatedly called his county hotline to try and make an appointment for his mother.

“No one ever dropped out,” said Eric Moore. “I promise you, I called 134 times.”

It apparently started with a small outbreak at a village wedding party.

After a handful of coronavirus cases emerged this month in a province surrounding Beijing, Chinese authorities have locked up more than 17 million people in two cities, Shijiazhuang and Xingtai.

The new rules froze transportation and called off weddings, funerals and a Communist Party conference. The government also ordered testing of every resident there, which was concluded within days.

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This week, the restrictions were extended to Langfang, a city on the outskirts of Beijing, and parts of Beijing, the Chinese capital. They now apply to 22 million people, more than twice as many as the Wuhan lockdown last January.

The move comes at a time when the Chinese economy is picking up from last year’s slump and residents, many of whom believed the pandemic was a thing of the past, were getting used to something close to normal life. China, a country of 1.4 billion people, has reported an average of 109 new cases per day over the past week. (To one perspective, the United States averages a quarter of a million a day.)

Since the outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese authorities have created a handbook for outbreaks that includes sealing off neighborhoods, carrying out large-scale testing and quarantining large groups – measures that were considered extraordinary when taken. were applied in Wuhan last year.

Officials were particularly worried about Beijing, the seat of the central leadership of the Communist Party. After a taxi driver tested positive over the weekend, authorities found 144 passengers for further testing, according to The Global Times, a state tabloid. Now, anyone taking a taxi or car in Beijing has to scan a QR code from their phone, allowing the government to track them down quickly.

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Here’s a roundup of restrictions in the 50 states.

I adopted what I call my Jane Austen hour. In the spirit of the Victorian tradition of “morning correspondence”, I spend an hour each day writing emails or texts to my friends and family, whom I have not been in contact with for years. I reconnected with former college roommates, high school friends, long lost cousins, and all kinds of acquaintances I had lost touch with. I just send a short note saying I was thinking of them and hoping they were doing well in these crazy times and then I share a treasured memory about them. The resulting reconnection and renewed correspondence has been an excellent antidote to pandemic isolation.

– Shelley Hammond Hoffmire, Oxford, UK

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