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Biden tackles pandemic's economic pain as experts worry about mutant strains

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is floating a plan to push Trump's Senate impeachment trial until mid-February.
Image: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Holds News Briefing At White House
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday that he now feels more liberated to speak freely about science and the risk of Covid-19 under the Biden administration. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

As the U.S. continues to struggle with Covid-19, President Joe Biden will sign two more executive orders Friday to tackle the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Here is what we're watching this Friday morning.

Have we reached peak Covid-19? Variants muddy forecasts for coming months

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the United States are falling after having hit record levels this month — a welcome sign that the winter surge may finally be leveling off.

But as new, potentially more contagious variants of the virus circulate, coronavirus modelers warn that the U.S. is by no means out of the woods yet, NBC News' Denise Chow reports.

The emergence of new variants isn't altogether surprising, but experts say that without a better understanding of how these strains affect things like transmissibility and the effectiveness of existing vaccines, it's difficult to know how the pandemic may play out.

With so much uncertainty, public health experts say the need to distribute the vaccines quickly is imperative.

But the U.S. vaccine rollout has been problematic so far, with some states running out of their supplies while others have struggled to administer all the doses they were receiving.

The slow process has led to some consternation that people may not be able to get their second dose within the prescribed time frame. But while potentially worrisome, public health experts across the country say there's no cause for concern.

Meantime, another high-profile celebrity has tested positive. A few days after making news for photobombing a couples' wedding picture, Dave Chappelle announced that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is now quarantining.

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

Biden unveils 'wartime' national Covid strategy, executive orders to address economic toll coming Friday

President Joe Biden plans to sign two executive orders Friday to address the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, including expanding food stamps and beginning the process to require that everyone working for the federal government get a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The new moves come on the heels of the 10 executive orders Biden signed Thursday to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations, expand testing and reopen schools as part of his aggressive plan to tackle the pandemic.

"We didn't get into this mess overnight and it is going to take months to get it turned around," Biden said, warning the country will likely top 500,000 deaths next month. "But let me be equally clear, we will get through this, we will defeat this pandemic."

Meantime, public health experts offered praise for Biden's battle plan to beat Covid, but also warned that undoing Trump-era mistakes will take time.

"The single most important thing the Biden administration needs to do to fight the pandemic is communicate honestly and openly with the American people about what needs to be done," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. "The constant obfuscation and misinformation from the Trump administration, all the 'this is a hoax' stuff, that killed our pandemic response."

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THINK about it

I'm a Black doctor who didn't trust the Covid vaccine. Here's what changed my mind, Dr. Eugenia South writes in an opinion piece.


Headed out for a walk? Warm up with these 9 stretches.


Amanda Gorman joins just five other poets who’ve read their work at inaugurations. See some of the books by Gorman, Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.

Quote of the day

"The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence is, what the science is, and know that's it. Let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday about returning to the White House briefing room for the first time under the new Biden administration. (Video)

One true love thing

They say dogs are a man's best friend. One Turkish man can attest to that truism.

When Cemal Senturk’s dog, Boncuk, saw him being taken away to a hospital in northern Turkey last week, the faithful hound was so concerned she followed the ambulance.

Despite Senturk’s family’s best efforts to bring the pooch home, she kept running back to the hospital and waited patiently outside the medical facility for several days until her master was discharged.

"She's very used to me. And I miss her, too, constantly," Senturk said.

He was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday and the pair have been happily reunited at home.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown. I hope you have a restful weekend.

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Thanks, Petra