(Asian News Hub) – The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. topped 5,00,000 Monday, a staggering number that all but matches the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
President Joe Biden held a sunset moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House and ordered American flags lowered at federal buildings for the next five days.
“We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” Biden said. “We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur.”
The half-million milestone, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, comes as states redouble efforts to get the coronavirus vaccine into arms after last week’s winter weather closed clinics, slowed vaccine deliveries and forced tens of thousands of people to miss their shots.
Despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 5,89,000 dead by June 1.
The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater, in part because many cases were overlooked, especially early in the outbreak.
The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. were in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 1,00,000 deaths. The toll hit 2,00,000 in September and 3,00,000 in December, then took just over a month to go from 3,00,000 to 4,00,000 and another month to climb from 4,00,000 to 5,00,000.
The U.S. recorded an estimated 4,05,000 deaths in World War II, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.
Average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks. Virus deaths have fallen from more than 4,000 reported on some days in January to an average of fewer than 1,900 per day.
But experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself. And some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.
Instead, the drop-off in deaths and cases has been attributed to the passing of the holidays; the cold and bleak days of midwinter, when many people stay home; and better adherence to mask rules and social distancing.
Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician in Lexington, Kentucky, who has treated scores of COVID-19 patients, said he never thought the U.S. deaths would be so high.
“I was one of those early ones that thought this may be something that may hit us for a couple months … I definitely thought we would be done with it before we got into the fall. And I definitely didn’t see it heading off into 2021,” Stanton said.
Kristy Sourk, an intensive-care nurse at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in Hutchinson, Kansas, said she is encouraged by the declining caseload and progress in vaccinating people, but “I know we are so far from over.”
People “are still dying, and families are still isolated from their loved ones who are unable to be with them so that is still pretty heart-wrenching,” she said.
Snow, ice and weather-related power outages closed some vaccination sites and held up shipments across a large swath of the nation, including in the Deep South.
As a result, the seven-day rolling average of adminstered first doses fell by 20 percent between Feb. 14 and Feb. 21, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House said that about a third of the roughly 6 million vaccine doses delayed by bad weather were delivered over the weekend, with the rest expected to be delivered by mid-week, several days earlier than originally expected.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Andy Slavitt on Monday attributed the improved timeline to an “all-out, round-the-clock” effort over the weekend that included employees at one vaccine distributor working night shifts to pack vaccines.
In Louisiana, state health officials said some doses from last week’s shipments were delivered over the weekend and were expected to continue arriving through Wednesday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week’s supply arrived Monday. And in Nashville, Tennessee, health officials were able to vaccinate more than 2,300 senior citizens and teachers over the weekend after days of treacherous weather.
Mary Pettersch, an 80-year-old Overland Park, Kansas, retiree who is spending the winter with her 83-year-old husband in Palmhurst, Texas, anticipated that the second dose they were supposed to get on Tuesday will be delayed because of last week’s harsh weather.
She made multiple calls to health officials Monday, but they weren’t returned. Still, she wasn’t too worried.
“Oh, I would like to get it, but if I can’t get it here, I will get it back home,” she said, noting that she is returning to Kansas in April. “At 80 you don’t get frustrated anymore,” she said.
Some hospitals, clinics, community sites and pharmacies that are in Louisiana’s vaccination network will get double allocations of doses this week — just as Gov. John Bel Edwards starts offering shots to teachers, daycare workers, pregnant women and people age 55 to 64 with certain preexisting conditions.
New York City officials expected to catch up on vaccinations after being forced to delay scheduling tens of thousands of appointments last week, the mayor said Monday.
“That means we’ve basically lost a full week in our vaccination efforts,” DeBlasio said.
More than 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and about 1.6 million per day received either first or second dose over the past seven days, according to the CDC.
The nation’s supply could expand significantly if health regulators approve a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine developed by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
The company said it will be able to provide 20 million U.S. doses by the end of March if it gets the green light, and would have capacity to provide 100 million vaccine doses to the U.S. by the end of June.
That supply will help government officials reach the goal of having enough injections to vaccinate most adult Americans later this year. On a global scale, the company aims to produce 1 billion doses this year.
J&J disclosed the figures in written testimony ahead of a congressional hearing on Tuesday looking at the country’s vaccine supply. White House officials cautioned last week that initial supplies of J&J’s vaccine would be limited.
U.S. health regulators are still reviewing the safety and effectiveness of the shot, and a decision to allow its emergency use is expected later this week.
The J&J vaccine would be the first in the U.S. that requires only a single shot. The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses spaced several weeks apart.
South Africa confirms third wave as COVID-19 cases continue to Soar
(Asian News Hub) – South Africa logged morethan 10,000 COVID-19 cases, which represents a 15.7% positivity testing rate.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), figures from the past seven days show that South Africa is now experiencing the third wave.
“South Africa technically entered the third wave today as the national seven-day moving average incidence of 5,959 cases, which now exceeds the new wave threshold, as defined by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC),” the NICD said.
The majority of the new infections are from Gauteng 61%.
Internet services restored in six districts of Balochistan after five years
(Asian News Hub) – The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has issued instructions to telecom operators to restore internet service in KP’s Khyber district and six districts of Balochistan after five years.
People will now be able to use the internet in the following areas.
The decision has been taken “in pursuance of the government’s vision of providing internet services across the country.”
The instructions were issued after the security situation in the areas was reviewed.
Cellular mobile operators have been told to upgrade their existing infrastructure from 2G to 3G/4G.
“The restoration of data services will help residents to fulfill their educational, health, commerce, and communication needs,” the PTA said in a press release.
Internet services will be restored in other areas in a “phased manner”, according to the authority.
People and students in Balochistan staged protests against the lack of internet coverage in the province. They claimed that they faced difficulties as their educational institutions shifted to online classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bangladeshi woman cuts off attacker’s penis in Spain
The woman was arrested after admitting to the assault, alleging that her boss was attempting to rape her
(Asian News Hub) – Police in Spain arrested a Bangladeshi woman in her thirties for allegedly cutting off her boss’s genitals with a knife, which she said she had done as he was attempting to rape her, reported Daily Mail.
She told officers she was trying to defend herself against sexual assault at a bar in Sant Andreu de la Barca around midnight on Tuesday.
The sliced man was rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation to reattach his penis.
The woman is currently being held at a police station following her arrest.
Officers have initiated an investigation into her statements that she was acting in self-defense but have not eliminated the prospect of arresting the bar owner once he is conscious enough to be questioned.
According to police sources, the woman had told them she had been being harassed for months and was forced to have sex with her boss several times before she assaulted him with the knife during his latest alleged rape attempt.
A representative for the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police force confirmed on Tuesday that the woman was arrested for the crime of wounding in the early hours of the morning after she contacted police to explain what happened.
The man’s nationality has not been revealed yet, but he is believed to be from Bangladesh or Pakistan.
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