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Jan. 21 Coronavirus updates: President Biden signs 10 executive orders

President Joe Biden's ambitious Covid-19 plan promises to deliver 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days.
Image: A person walks past the entrance to a testing site amid the Covid-19 pandemic in London
A person walks past the entrance to a testing site amid the Covid-19 pandemic in London, on Thursday.Hannah McKay / Reuters

Live coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage on Covid-19.

President Joe Biden has revealed an ambitious Covid-19 response plan that promises to deliver 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days. Biden aims to speed up vaccine production, including using the Defense Production Act, and will encourage states to start vaccinating people 65 and older, along with certain essential workers, including teachers and grocery store employees.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, says the country is now committed to working with the World Health Organization under Biden, following years of harsh criticism and obstruction from the Trump administration.

Inauguration Day was the deadliest day so far for the U.S. since the start of the pandemic: There were 4,131 deaths on Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally, beating the previous record set on Jan. 7.



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U.S. logged a record 4,131 Covid deaths on Wednesday

A record 4,131 Covid-19 deaths were logged on Wednesday as the pandemic continues to roll through America.

More than 61,000 people have died of Covid-19 since the start of January, making this month already the second-deadliest of the entire pandemic, after December 2020. New daily deaths have risen more than 30 percent in the last two weeks.

Nevada and Alaska set new daily death records, with 71 and 23 deaths, respectively.

178,935 new cases were logged as well, according to NBC News' tally.

Overall, 24.5 million cases and more than 407,000 cases have been recorded in the United States.

Ohio provider suspended for mishandling, spoiling Covid vaccine doses

A Columbus, Ohio, vaccine distributor has been suspended after authorities said the company mishandled 890 doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine.

In a press release Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health said the provider, SpecialtyRx, received 1,500 vaccine doses to administer to residents of eight long-term care facilities before Jan. 1.

After administering the initial doses, the remaining ones sat in SpecialtyRx's refrigerator and freezer, where the temperatures were not monitored regularly as required to maintain vaccine viability.

"The company was exploring a transfer of the doses to another provider when it was discovered that they had failed to appropriately monitor temperatures in their refrigerator and freezer," the health department said in the release.

The state agency investigated and determined the 890 doses were not viable. Officials also "immediately halted any future allocations to Specialty Rx, and the provider has been instructed to not administer or transfer any of the affected doses and to keep them quarantined in both units until next steps are given," the health department said.

Click here to read the full story.

Eli Lilly: Monoclonal antibodies may prevent Covid-19 in nursing homes

Drugmaker Eli Lilly announced Thursday that its monoclonal antibody therapy may lower the risk for Covid-19 by up to 80 percent in people living in nursing homes.

The findings, from the clinical trial BLAZE-2, included nearly 1,000 nursing home residents and staff. Residents who received the treatment, called bamlanivimab, had up to an 80 percent lower risk of developing symptomatic Covid-19 in the eight-week study period, compared with residents in the same facility who got a placebo drug, the company said. 

The company released few details, but said full results are forthcoming. 

Monoclonal antibodies, including the Lilly therapy, are authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration for people with newly diagnosed Covid-19 who are at high risk for developing complications, such as those with underlying health conditions and anyone over age 65.

The BLAZE-2 trial, however, aimed to look at whether monoclonal antibodies could be given prophylactically to high risk individuals to prevent disease. The trial — done in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health — is expected to enroll up to 5,000 people. 

Lilly's chief scientific officer Dr. Daniel Skovronsky said in a company press release that "these data provide important additional clinical evidence regarding the use of bamlanivimab to fight Covid-19 and strengthen our conviction that monoclonal antibodies such as bamlanivimab can play a critical role in turning the tide of this pandemic."

Eleven people who received a placebo in the study died, four of them attributed to Covid-19. Five people who received bamlanivimab died, unrelated to the virus or the treatment. 

First weekly initial jobless claims of Biden era fall to 900,000

Around 900,000 Americans filed for initial jobless claims last week, versus economists' projections of 925,000, according to the first labor market data released under President Joe Biden.

First-time weekly jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, have exceeded 750,000 a week since summer, and surged to a revised 926,000 for the week ended Jan. 9 as rising coronavirus cases continue to keep consumers home and businesses under restrictive measures.

The elevated figures reflect the intensity of the damage that the virus has inflicted on the labor market — and the enormity of what Biden must now tackle. Around 44 weeks into the pandemic, almost 16 million people continue to receive some form of unemployment assistance.

"There is real pain overwhelming the real economy," Biden said. "There is no time to wait. We have to act, and act now."

Read the story here.

New CDC director says Covid vaccine won't be in every pharmacy by late February

The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the Covid-19 vaccine would not be widely available by late February as the Trump administration previously said.

The new administration is determined to meet the goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in 100 days, Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Savannah Guthrie on the "TODAY" show.

But the shots won't be available for just anyone in pharmacies, like the flu vaccine is, by late February, as former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Guthrie last month.

"We are going to, as part of our plan, put the vaccine in pharmacies. Will it be in every pharmacy in this country by that timeline? I don't think so," Walensky said. "I don't think late February, we're going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country."

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Fauci expects Johnson & Johnson vaccine data in 1-2 weeks

Dr. Anthony Fauci told "Good Morning America" on Thursday he expects the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine data to be submitted within one to two weeks.

"They are within a week or two of getting their data analyzed, so that we can make a decision," Fauci said. "We can look forward to having more companies supplying vaccines."

He added it was "refreshing" for the U.S. to renew its support for the World Health Organization after the Trump administration gave formal notice of its withdrawal last summer.

"When you're dealing with a global pandemic, you have to have an international connectivity," Fauci said.

On President Joe Biden's plan to roll out 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days, Fauci said he was not only "fairly confident" that the new president in office would reach that benchmark, but also surpass it.

British music festival in Glastonbury canceled for second year in a row

Music festival lovers around the world will be sad to learn that the Glastonbury festival will not take place this summer, organizers announced on Twitter on Thursday.

As was the case last year, fears of Covid-19 has rendered the event impossible to organize safely. Organizers said tickets sold in Oct. 2019 would roll over and give those who had already paid a deposit priority in buying tickets for 2022. 

"We are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022," the statement read. 

The five-day U.K. music festival has been around since 1970 and began the day after Jimi Hendrix died. Previous headliners include David Bowie, Coldplay and the Rolling Stones. 

In an interview with the BBC last month, former Beatles band member Paul McCartney had said he would love to perform at the festival in 2021 but was skeptical the event would go forward given the pandemic and it being a potential "superspreader." 

Biden outlines ambitious pandemic response on 2nd day in office

WASHINGTON — On his second day in office, President Joe Biden has revealed plans to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic by creating federal community vaccination centers in stadiums, gymnasiums and conference centers staffed with thousands of additional workers, some of them from federal agencies and the military, as well as first responders.

Biden's plan also looks for ways to speed vaccine production, including using the Defense Production Act, shoring up the supply chain and releasing more of the federal government's reserves. Biden will encourage all states to start vaccinating people 65 and older, along with certain essential workers, including teachers and grocery store employees.

Biden has set an ambitious goal of giving 100 million shots in 100 days — picking up the pace from the 17 million shots the Trump administration recorded in a little over a month. Administration officials think they have the supply and resources to meet the goal, but they said they will need funding from Congress to expand vaccinations to the wider population, increase testing and help schools reopen. Biden is asking for more than $400 million for the pandemic response as part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

Read the full story here.

British scientists fear viral transmissions are not declining, despite national lockdown

England’s latest national lockdown has not reduced the spread of the coronavirus, according to a study conducted by Imperial College London, as the U.K.'s Covid-19 death toll rose to a record 1,820 on Wednesday.

The study said prevalence of the virus in England is “very high with no evidence of decline.” Researchers looked at 142,900 nose and throat swabs between Jan. 6 and Jan. 15. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed Britons from parts of the country to reunite with their families over Christmas.

Viral spread was highest in London at 2.8 percent, more than double the figure in late November, according to the study.

Fauci lays out Biden’s support for WHO after Trump criticism

GENEVA — President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on Covid-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the United States will cease reducing U.S. staff counts at the World Health Organization and pay its financial obligations to it as it vows to stay fully engaged with the U.N. health agency to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told the WHO’s executive board meeting in Geneva via videoconference. The administration announced just hours after Biden’s inauguration that the United States would revoke a planned pullout from the WHO in July that had been announced by the Trump administration.

Fauci’s quick commitment to WHO—whose response to the coronavirus outbreak was repeatedly berated by the Trump administration— marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a multilateral approach to fighting the pandemic.

He said the administration will “will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO” and resume “regular engagement” with WHO. He added: “The United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization.”

Shanghai reports first Covid-19 cases since November

China’s major business city of Shanghai reported three new Covid-19 cases Thursday, its first signs of local infections since Nov. 23.

The news comes amid concerns over a second surge of new cases across the country ahead of China’s most important holiday, Lunar New Year. Lockdowns, isolation centers and mass testing sites are already underway in other Chinese provinces in the hopes of preventing viral spread from spiraling out of control. Shanghai has begun mass testing hospital staff after two workers returned with "suspicious" test results. 

Back in November, Shanghai had reported an outbreak of 349 locally transmitted cases, according to China's Global Times. By early January, China’s most populous city of 23 million had discharged all of its patients and noted there were no new hospitalizations.