Getting worse: “We believe things will get worse as we get into January,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a radio interview yesterday. And they have. The U.S. set a new record for daily Covid-19 deaths for the second day in a row yesterday, with more than 4,100 people dying, according to The New York Times. The daily new case record also fell, with more than 280,000 new infections reported. These extra-high figures could be skewed higher by lags in reporting following the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent forecast projected there could be between 405,000 and 438,000 U.S. deaths by the end of the month, CNN reports. Globally, there have been over 88 million confirmed cases and more than 1.9 million deaths; of those, more than 21.6 million cases have been recorded in the U.S., and more than 366,000 of the deaths. Although all eyes turned this week to the chaos and violence in the nation’s capitol, if the CDC’s estimate is correct, 40,000 to 73,000 more people will die of Covid in the U.S. in the next three weeks.
A grueling battle: Coronavirus infections in California surpassed 2.5 million by the middle of this week, Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money report for the Los Angeles Times, increasing by more than a million in less than a month. Los Angeles County has by far the most cases in the country—more than 871,000 according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, over twice as many as next hardest-hit Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago. As the Times reports, in Los Angeles County one in five coronavirus tests is coming back positive, up from one in 25 in early November. The county is currently averaging 183 deaths a day from the virus, or one every eight minutes. Hospital capacity is stretched to the breaking point, with horrific results: As Fenit Nirappil and William Wan report for The Washington Post, ambulance crews were instructed to use oxygen only for their worst-case patients, and not to bring patients to the hospital if they didn’t have a decent chance at surviving, in order to preserve space for those that do.
- Also: California officials estimate around $4 billion in pandemic unemployment relief has been paid out on fraudulent claims in a scandal focused on dysfunction at the state’s Economic Development Department, Anita Chabria, Richard Winton, and Patrick McGreevy report for the Los Angeles Times. Millions of dollars have gone to jail and prison inmates in California and several other states, including Nevada, Illinois, South Carolina and Florida, where a man serving time for murder is among those who received scam payments.
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Vaccine update: More than 5.9 million people in the U.S. have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, just over a quarter of the doses that have been distributed, per the CDC vaccine tracker. The sluggish rollout has been blamed on a lack of funding and direction from the federal government, inadequate planning by state and local governments, on the holidays and on mistrust of the vaccine, the Associated Press reports. A World Health Organization panel has approved delaying the second dose of the vaccine up to six weeks to allow more people to receive the first of the two shots, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises against this, according to The Hill. The global scarcity of vaccines means that even countries that took part in clinical trials, such as Argentina, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey, will not get enough vaccines to protect their populations anytime soon, Sharon Lerner reports for The Intercept. In stark contrast, Lerner reports that the U.S., Canada, Germany and the rest of the European Union have contracted for enough vaccines “to inoculate their populations several times over.” Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher at Public Citizen, described the situation as “a global vaccine apartheid.”
- Also: The CDC released a study showing that about 11 of every million people vaccinated for coronavirus would likely experience anaphylaxis, a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. The rate is about 10 times higher than for the flu vaccine, CNBC reports. “The anaphylaxis rate for Covid-19 vaccines may seem high compared to flu vaccines, but I want to reassure you that this is still a rare outcome,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.
Biden on bias: Following the assault on the Capitol that resulted in the deaths of four rioters and one law enforcement officer, many contrasted the response of the Capitol Police to an armed and violent mob—which was planned openly on social media—with that of the aggressive response to nonviolent Black Lives Matter protests last summer, including President-elect Biden, The Washington Post reports. Biden passed on this observation from his granddaughter: “She said, ‘Pop, this isn’t fair. No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,’” he said, adding, “We all know that’s true. And it is unacceptable.” As officials investigate how the security failure that sent members of Congress running for safety occurred, hundreds of thousands of Twitter users shared the message: “We’re not asking you to shoot them like you shoot us, we’re asking you to NOT shoot us like you don’t shoot them.”
- Also: There have been more than more than 5,000 fatal police shootings recorded by The Washington Post since 2015, 1,000 of those in 2020, the largest number recorded since The Post began keeping track, although the year-to-year changes have been small. What we don’t know, Justin Nix, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice said on Twitter, is how many people are wounded by police but survive.
Reckoning for Boeing: Boeing has agreed to pay over $2.5 billion to settle a criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration in its safety review of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, which were grounded after two crashes that killed all 346 passengers and crew members. The settlement includes a criminal penalty of $243.6 million; $1.77 billion to compensate airline purchasers of the MAX planes; and $500 million to compensate relatives and heirs of passengers who died in the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019. The disasters “exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns. “Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA… and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception.” According to The Wall Street Journal, documents in the case show that for the first six months of the investigation, the company failed to cooperate with the grand jury probe. The filings also reveal that after the first MAX crash, a Boeing employee misled FAA experts and some of Boeing’s own officials about why safety information was withheld from the FAA and MAX pilots before the jets were approved for commercial service. Grounded from March, 2019, until November, 2020, the MAX jets have returned to service following fixes approved by U.S. and Brazilian aviation officials. According to The Journal, safety agencies in Europe, Canada and other countries are expected to soon follow suit.
Fire safety fail: The fire extinguisher manufacturer Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. has been ordered to pay a $12 million civil penalty to resolve allegations that it failed to promptly notify the Consumer Product Safety Commission about defects that could cause extinguishers to fail in a fire emergency.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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