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Taking a foot off the gas on Covid? Experts say 'not yet'

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Pharmacist inoculates school teacher with covid vaccine
Pharmacist Madeline Acquilano inoculates school teacher Andrew Welch with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., on March 3, 2021.Joseph Prezioso / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — More Americans are getting vaccinated. And Texas and Mississippi are ending their mask mandates.

But here’s the coronavirus reality in the United States: Some 1,500 to 2,000 Americans are still dying every day from the virus, which is where this country was last spring.

And the U.S. is seeing about 70,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases per day, which is where it was last summer.

While both are down from the peaks we saw in January, they’re still incredibly high numbers.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on “Meet the Press” last Sunday:

“Our baseline of daily infections now, even though it's way down from where it was 300,000-plus per day, is down to around 70,000. That baseline's too high," he said. "Once you start pulling back, the thing you don't want is to have a plateauing at a level that's so high that, inevitably, things are going to go back up.”

Bottom line: This country isn’t out of the woods when there are roughly 70,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases and about 1,500 to 2,000 deaths — per day.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

28,892,186: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 72,478 more than yesterday morning.)

521,214: The number of deaths in the U.S. from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,732 more than yesterday morning.)

45,462: The number of people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus in the U.S.

357.6 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the U.S. so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

80,540,474: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

26,957,804: People fully vaccinated in the U.S.

56: The number of days left for President Joe Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

3 out of 4: The number of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s medical advisers who say they were not directly consulted before his announcement about lifting the statewide mask mandate

220-210: The House vote last night for the Democratic-backed “For the People” voting rights and ethics reform bill

220-212: The House vote on a police reform bill named for George Floyd, which included one “yes” vote from a Republican congressman who later said he’d cast his vote in error

23: The total number of candidates who have filed to run in the Texas congressional special election to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright.

Cuomo’s contradiction

Yesterday, embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized for making any woman “feel uncomfortable.”

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly, and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly, I am embarrassed by it and that's not easy to say, but that's the truth.”

But then he said he never “touched anyone inappropriately.”

“I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”

It’s hard to reconcile how you can admit 1) you might have made someone feel uncomfortable, but then 2) that you didn’t do anything inappropriate.

The other news from Cuomo’s news conference yesterday is that he said he isn’t resigning.

Cuomo might think he can ride out this storm like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam did regarding that old yearbook photo.

But there are two big differences between Northam and Cuomo.

One, Northam was term limited, while Cuomo is up for re-election next year.

And two, we never saw another damaging revelation about Northam on the subject of race, while we we’ve seen three different women allege sexual harassment by Cuomo — in one week.

The three-hour delay

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, told two Senate committees Wednesday that it took over three hours to deploy troops to the Capitol during the violent attack, despite Walker having troops on standby.

“The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at 5:08 p.m. — 3 hours and 19 minutes later,” Walker said.

To avoid a large presence at the Capitol Thursday — when threats have been made linked to conspiracy theorists who believe March 4 is the “true Inauguration Day” — the House stayed in session late Wednesday night to vote on two major Democratic priorities: H.R. 1 and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. According to NBC’s Hill team, the change in schedule had to do with security concerns for today.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Biden criticized states for lifting mask mandates, calling the decisions “Neanderthal thinking.”

Some allies of Donald Trump are already floating leaving Pence off the ticket in 2024, Bloomberg reports. (A Trump adviser disputes the story.)

A new Democratic plan would give stimulus checks to fewer Americans after lowering the income threshold for which eligibility for the payments is cut off.

The AP reports that the Department of Transportation’s inspector general recommended last year that the Department of Justice open a criminal investigation into then-Secretary Elaine Chao over concerns that she misused her office, but the DOJ declined.

NBC’s Mike Memoli and Carol Lee look at Ron Klain’s busy Twitter feed.

What are Republicans actually doing to help voters in the blue-collar counties they won?

Democrats won’t take up Biden’s immigration plan this month.