Biden to sign 10 exec orders on pandemic response; variants may drive high infection rate through spring — 6 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. recorded 4,409 COVID-19 deaths Jan. 20, the highest daily death total since the pandemic began, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.  

The new record comes exactly one year after the U.S. reported its first known coronavirus case Jan. 20, 2020. Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 cases have been reported in every U.S. county, according to a Wall Street Journal review.

Five more updates:

1. President Joe Biden will sign 10 executive orders Jan. 21 to combat COVID-19, reports NBC News. The orders are part of the president's broader pandemic response plan, which aims to expand testing and vaccine supplies, reopen most schools within 100 days and administer 100 million vaccine doses by the end of April, according to CBS News. President Biden also said he intends to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel companies to manufacture supplies needed for the nation's pandemic response. 

2. New COVID-19 cases may decline for three to four weeks if the current surge peaks, but then new variants could take over and double case prevalence each week, according to a Jan. 17 tweet from Scott Gottlieb, MD, former FDA commissioner. A new variant may mean persistent high infection rates through spring until enough people are vaccinated, Dr. Gottlieb predicted. Currently, weekly COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are down 16 percent from two weeks ago, with an average of new 194,754 cases per day, reports The New York Times.

3. Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine will likely protect against the U.K. variant, according to research published Jan. 19 in the medical preprint server bioRxiv.

4. More than a dozen states are running low on COVID-19 vaccine doses, reports Politico. On Jan. 20, New York City was forced to reschedule at least 23,000 vaccine appointments due to shortages. Some states are responding to the shortages by scaling back who is eligible to receive a vaccine, despite federal guidelines that open vaccinations to a broader pool, according to Politico.

5. Some European countries are issuing stricter mask requirements in response to new, more contagious variants spreading in their borders, reports The Washington Post. For example, Germany is now requiring anyone riding public transit or visiting a grocery store to wear medical style masks, instead of a cloth one, as they may offer more protection against the variants. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 24,441,852

Deaths: 406,196

Counts reflect data available as of 8:55 a.m. CST Jan. 21.

More articles on public health:
Here's what you need to know about COVID-19 variants in the US, globally — Jan. 20
US to reenter WHO; Biden selects Fauci to lead delegation
2 masks better than one, some experts say


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