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With 400k Covid deaths, Biden set to take helm of nation in crisis

Here's what to expect during Biden's first 100 days in office.
Image: Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
Flags have been placed on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C.. Alex Brandon / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

With more than 400,000 souls lost to the coronavirus pandemic, President-elect Joe Biden will have his work cut out for him when he takes the helm of a polarized and pained nation tomorrow at noon.

Here is what we're watching this Tuesday morning.

A once unimaginable milestone: U.S. surpasses 400,000 Covid deaths

More than 400,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to an NBC News tally early Tuesday, a milestone that seemed unimaginable at the start of the pandemic a year ago.

More than 2 million people have been killed by the virus worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

But the U.S. death toll is the world's worst, even though it makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population.

The new milestone was passed almost a year to the day since the first Covid-19 case was detected in Seattle on Jan. 21, 2020.

The death toll is much higher than expected at the pandemic's outset.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, stunned most Americans when she issued a stark warning back in April that as many as 240,000 Americans could die of coronavirus even if containment measures were followed "almost perfectly."

As he prepares to leave office, President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is ending Covid-19 travel restrictions for air travelers from Europe and Brazil. The incoming Biden administration quickly rejected the move.

"With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel," Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said in a tweet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually announced earlier this month that stricter travel guidelines would go into effect. As of Jan. 26 all air passengers will be required to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the U.S.

Meantime, as the country struggles to quickly distribute more vaccines, the state of Washington has tapped one of its own corporate giants for help.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that the state has turned to Starbucks for help streamlining logistics and setting a new goal to dole out 45,000 doses a day.

Follow our live blog for all the latest Covid-19 developments.

Video: Growing concern as highly-contagious mutant variant of Covid-19 spreads across country

Covid relief, economic stimulus, immigration: What to expect in Biden's first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden's first days in office will be dominated by crisis: the coronavirus pandemic and economic emergency it caused, as well as the fallout from the deadly Capitol riot as his predecessor faces a Senate impeachment trial.

NBC News' Shannon Pettypiece and Lauren Egan break down how Biden is expected to tackle those crises during his all-important first 100 days in office.

One way or the other, he's got his work cut out for him.

When Biden takes the oath of office to become the country's 46th president Wednesday, he will face an increasingly polarized, pessimistic and pained nation, according to numbers from the latest national NBC News poll.

The intense security around the actual inauguration ceremony is emblematic of the political divisions rocking the country.

The FBI said it is taking all necessary security precautions ahead of the big event — including vetting all service members who will be on hand in the capital to support the inauguration out of fears of an insider attack.

Video: What to expect during Biden's first days in office

Capturing Trump's presidency

Photographers of the White House press corps share behind-the-scenes looks at the iconic photos of Trump’s presidency.

President Donald Trump speaks after touring tornado damage in Cookeville, Tenn., on March 6, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file

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One striking inauguration image

Organizers for President-elect Biden's inauguration set up a "Field of Flags" on the National Mall representing the American people who cannot travel to the inauguration festivities amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic and the intense security in the capital.

The approximately 200,000 flags are also meant to honor the more than 400,000 people who have died of Covid-19 in the U.S.

The powerful visual display was lit up on Monday evening for the first time.

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Thanks, Petra