Here’s what’s happening Saturday with the pandemic in the U.S.:
THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:
— An Associated Press analysis shows that Black people in many parts of the U.S. are lagging behind whites in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. Statistics released by 17 states and two cities tell the same story: Through Jan. 25, Black people were getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population. The early look at the racial breakdowns of those getting the shots is particularly troubling given that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says Blacks, Hispanic and Native Americans are dying of the virus at nearly three times the rate of white people.
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order that will require masks to be worn nationwide on federal property and certain modes of public transportation, including planes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares. The order takes effect Monday night will require passengers to wear masks that cover their noses and mouths while at transportation hubs and during rides. The order exempts children under age 2 and people with a disability that makes it unsafe to wear a mask, though transportation operators can require medical documentation as proof.
— Hospital systems around the country are coming under fire over accusations that they are playing favorites when it comes to who gets the first crack at COVID-19 vaccines. As millions of Americans wait for vaccines, there are a growing number of accounts of hospital board members, major donors and others with clout jumping the line. In Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Neronha has opened an inquiry into reports that two hospital systems offered board members vaccinations. “We all know the stakes are incredibly high. People are frustrated, they’re scared,” Neronha said. “Given the lack of supply here, every dose is critical.”
BY THE NUMBERS: California’s COVID-19 infection rate and hospitalizations have dropped in the past two weeks, but its death toll from the disease is surging. After taking six months to reach 10,000 deaths and five more to double that mark, the nation’s most populous state took just five more weeks to reach 30,000 deaths and another 20 days to reach 40,000. In the past week, California has recorded an average of 544 daily COVID-19 deaths, and its pandemic death toll has reached 43,000.
QUOTABLE: “We’re going to see a widening and exacerbation of the racial health inequities that were here before the pandemic and worsened during the pandemic if our communities cannot access the vaccine,” said Dr. Uché Blackstock, a New York emergency physician and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, an advocacy group that addresses bias and inequality.
ICYMI: Many states have had trouble with the rollout of their vaccination programs. In Seattle, a broken freezer forced several hospitals to rush out vaccines to hundreds of people in the middle of the night. And in Philadelphia, officials stopped vaccinations at a downtown convention center, at least temporarily, after word got out that the city had handed the job of running things at the site to a 22-year-old graduate student in psychology with a few faltering startups on his resume
ON THE HORIZON: Chicago’s school district and teachers union are still in talks about the district’s order for K-8 teachers to return to the classroom for in-person instruction — a game of chicken that could come to a head Monday. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that even though the city and the union haven’t reached an agreement to reopen schools for the first time since March, she expects teachers to be in their classrooms Monday morning and she threatened, without elaborating, to “take further action” if they’re not. The union said returning to in-person instruction before teachers are vaccinated and without other safeguards in place would put them at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, and that if teachers are punished for not returning Monday, a work stoppage would be the district’s fault.