The U.S. reported 306 new coronavirus variant cases Sunday, a record increase for viruses that can spread more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities, or both.
Nearly all the new cases were in three states: Florida, up 104 cases to 605; Michigan, up 85 cases to 421; and Texas, up 41 cases to 102.
Those new cases included Florida adding four cases to its previous one case of P.1, a dangerous variant first seen in Brazil. Florida also got its first reported case of B.1.351, a variant first seen in South Africa. Massachusetts and California reported two and one new cases.
Most cases – new and existing – are of B.1.1.7, a variant first seen in the United Kingdom that the CDC says could become America’s predominate version in March.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson began distributing its vaccine Sunday, adding a third weapon to the country’s COVID-19 arsenal.
Those doses will begin arriving at vaccine distribution sites as soon as Tuesday morning, according to Biden administration officials. Nearly 4 million doses will be equally distributed this week among all states and territories, along with doses of the other two vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Also in the news:
►NBA G League guard Jeremy Lin shared on social media that he experienced an act of racism – being called “coronavirus” – on the basketball court, sparking a league investigation.
►The Senate becomes the focus of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package after the House approved it Saturday. The measure would provide millions of Americans $1,400 stimulus payments, ramp up vaccine distribution and extend unemployment aid through the summer.
►Native American leaders across California said COVID-19 deaths have shrouded their communities, yet state figures show few American Indian people have died here compared with other states with significant Indigenous populations. Leaders and experts fear deaths in their communities have been undercounted because of a long history of Native Americans being racially misclassified.
►His wife has made it her mission to find a way to get him immunized — even if it meant a 14-hour car ride to Mississippi. When they got there, there were no vaccines left. Inside the lengths people will go to get the shot.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 513,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 114 million cases and 2.52 million deaths. More than 96.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 75.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths at America’s nursing homes has dropped significantly since December as millions of vaccine doses have been shot into the arms of residents and staff. Read the full story.
Florida’s oldest residents lag in COVID vaccinations, state report shows
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in December limited inoculations to seniors 65 and older, he said, “The vaccines are going to be targeted where the risk is greatest, and that is in our elderly population.”
But as vaccinations ramp up statewide, Florida’s oldest residents are not getting the share of immunizations equivalent to the risk they bear from the fatal pathogen, especially recently.
Florida seniors 75 and older comprise 62% of 30,734 residents killed by the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but only 32% of the 1,642,800 people who have received their second of the two-shot vaccine, a state report released Saturday shows.
Seniors aged 65 to 74, meanwhile, account for 21% of the resident death toll and about 41% of the immunized.
– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post
COVID-19 survivors might need only one dose of vaccine, studies suggest
Six recent studies suggest that people who’ve already come down with COVID-19 might not need to get a second vaccine dose.
The federal government has not changed its recommendation for a second dose, but studies that look at the immune response show that while a first shot gives people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 a huge boost, the second shot makes little difference.
“I think that makes perfect sense,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
COVID-19 testing sites across US are closing amid plunging demand
Just five weeks ago, Los Angeles County was conducting more than 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests, including at a massive drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium, as health workers raced to contain the worst COVID-19 hot spot in the U.S.
Now, county officials say testing has nearly collapsed. More than 180 government-supported sites are operating at only a third of their capacity.
“It’s shocking how quickly we’ve gone from moving at 100 miles an hour to about 25,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, who leads the county’s testing operation. After a year of struggling to boost testing, communities across the country are seeing plummeting demand, shuttering testing sites or even trying to return supplies.
– Matthew Perrone, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press