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Coronavirus updates: ‘Explosive’ surge in California; NFL to honor frontline health care workers; Twitter cracks down on misinformation

Jessica Flores

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USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the U.S. marked the stark milestone of more than 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

 California on Wednesday reported more than 53,000 new coronavirus deaths and 293 deaths. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said two people are dying every hour in the county. “We’re experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge,” she said.

► South Korea health officials said the coronavirus death toll is now at 634 after 22 patients died in the past 24 hours, the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported more than 1,000 new infections for the second day in a row, bringing the total to 46,453 cases.

► The NFL plans to honor health care workers by inviting workers who have been vaccinated to attend the Super Bowl in Tampa as a thank-you for being on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday before sitting out of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet meeting later in the day, his department confirmed. Interior spokesperson Nicholas Goodwin said Bernhardt is asymptomatic and will continue to work while quarantining. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 16.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 307,300 deaths. The global totals: More than 74.1 million cases and 1.64 million deaths.

Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:

FDA says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine vials may hold extra doses

The U.S. might have more doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine than it thought. While each Pfizer vial is supposed to hold five doses of the first vaccine authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, Politico was first to report on Wednesday that pharmacists have discovered some vials may have extra doses, potentially adding to the country’s supply.

“The amount of vaccine remaining in the multidose vial after removal of 5 doses can vary, depending on the type of needles and syringes used,” a Pfizer spokesperson told USA TODAY in a statement. “At this time, we cannot provide a recommendation on the use of the remaining amount of vaccine from each vial. Vaccinators need to consult their institution’s policies for the use of multidose vials.”

The FDA has authorized hospital pharmacists to use the extra doses while the agency works with Pfizer officials to “determine the best path forward.”

New COVID-19 relief deal could include stimulus checks 

Lawmakers closed in on a roughly $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal Wednesday morning that may include another round of checks and other much-needed financial benefits for Americans, according to a source familiar with negotiations who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.   

The looming deal would restart a boost to federal unemployment insurance benefits and provide some form of relief for state and local governments, according to the source. Liability protections, a hurdle in negotiations when Republicans insisted they be included in any deal, are not likely to be in this package, the source said, though lawmakers continued to negotiate.  

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the second-ranking Senate Republican, said Wednesday he believed checks of $600 or $700 – “double that for family and kids” – were part of discussions. The unemployment benefit under discussion was about $300 per week, he said. About $330 billion was on the table to renew the Paycheck Protection Program for small-business loan forgiveness, he said. 

– Nicholas Wu

Twitter cracks down on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

With coronavirus vaccine misinformation spreading via social media at an alarming rate, Twitter said it would remove claims that vaccines intentionally cause harm or are unnecessary as well as debunked conspiracy theories about the adverse effects of vaccines. The policy shift, slated to begin next week, comes as immunizations begin in the United States.

Researchers warn that opposition to the vaccines is resonating, not just with fringe anti-vaccine communities but with swaths of mainstream America, whose faith in science and government has been badly shaken by the pandemic.

“In the context of a global pandemic, vaccine misinformation presents a significant and growing public health challenge,” Twitter said in a blog post. “Starting next week, we will prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information, and during the coming weeks, begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines.”

– Jessica Guynn

886 more vaccine deliveries slated for Thursday, officials say

The rollout of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has gone smoothly and 2 million more are set to be delivered next week, the leaders of the government’s Operation Warp Speed said in an update Wednesday.

On Thursday, 886 more deliveries will be made to locations across the United States as the country continues “a steady drumbeat cadence of deliveries of vaccine out to the American people,” said Gen. Gus Perna, who is heading the logistics of the vaccine distribution efforts.

Starting as soon as Friday in Ohio and Connecticut, residents of long-term care facilities will begin to get vaccinated, Perna said. The efforts in long-term care centers, which house some of the most vulnerable Americans, will expand to more than 1,100 facilities by Monday and then increase by thousands a day from there, he added.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Source : USA TODAY | World News

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