February 28, 2021

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California investigates death hours after vaccination; Chicago teachers refuse to return to classrooms

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COVID-19 has killed more than 418,000 Americans in less than a year, and infections have continued to mount despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

The United States on Sunday surpassed 25 million cases of COVID-19, but an influential coronavirus model says the true number is likely much higher.

About 17% of people in the U.S., or upward of 50 million people, have been infected with the coronavirus, researchers at the University of Washington estimate. They warn the U.S. is likely only identifying about half of COVID-19 cases.

The model estimates the U.S. will report another 168,000 COVID-19 deaths before May, bringing the total to 569,000 deaths. In that period, at least 40 states will have high or extreme stress on hospital beds, and 46 will have high or extreme stress on ICU capacity, according to the model.

In California, authorities are investigating the death of a person hours after being vaccinated.

In the headlines:

►The Chicago Teachers Union said Sunday that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom over concerns about COVID-19. District officials, who wanted 10,000 K-8 teachers and other staffers to return to school Monday, said the return will be delayed two days to allow talks to continue.

►The National Park Service has closed the Washington Monument until further notice “as a measure to protect staff and visitors from the spread of COVID-19.” The monument had already been closed since Jan. 11 because of security concerns around President Joe Biden’s inauguration, NPS said.

►Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, told CBS News “Face the Nation” she “always” thought of quitting the job. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” she said in an interview that aired Sunday.

►The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on vaccinations to say the second dose of a two-shot vaccine can be administered up to 6 weeks after the first.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 25 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 418,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 99 million cases and 2.1 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: Eager medical students are helping speed up US vaccine rollout: ‘We will be a part of history.’

Pent-up demand could lead to spending surge

The economy’s struggles during the pandemic could ease as vaccines slowly take hold, financial experts say. As consumer confidence returns, so will spending as pent-up demand is unleashed. “That has been the experience of all previous economic downturns,” said a report on emerging trends from management consultant McKinsey & Co. One key difference this time is repressed economic activity in many service and leisure areas.

“The bounce back will therefore likely emphasize those businesses, particularly the ones that have a communal element,” the report said, citing leisure travel as an area that could recover quickly and much faster than business travel.

Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic

British health minister: Vaccines may be less effective on COVID variants

Coronavirus vaccines may be less effective against new variants of the disease emerging in South Africa, Brazil and other areas of the world, Britain’s health minister warned Sunday. Matt Hancock also told Sky News the current rules are helping “bring cases down” but that the country is a “long, long, long way from them being low enough” to end lockdowns.

“We’ve got to have a precautionary principle that says let’s not bring these new variants back to the U.K.,” Hancock said. He said the government is conducting a vaccine trial on the South African variant to study its response to the inoculation, and that he’s concerned about new variants developing elsewhere.

Californian dies hours after receiving vaccine

Authorities in California’s Placer County are investigating a death that came hours after the victim was vaccinated. The Placer County Sheriff said the person had tested positive for COVID-19 in late December and was administered a COVID-19 vaccine several hours before the individual died on Thursday. Multiple local, state, and federal agencies are investigating the case, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. No additional details were released.

“Any reports surrounding the cause of death are premature, pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said people who had COVID-19 should wait 90 days after infection before they get vaccinated to prevent interference with “natural antibodies” from the infection. Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Davis Children’s hospital, told KTLA-TV in Los Angeles that the “vast majority” of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine occur 15-30 minutes following immunization. Blumberg said if the death happened several hours later, it is “probably not the severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, that we worry about.”

Michigan’s nationally ranked men’s, women’s basketball teams on ‘pause’

Michigan’s athletic department is shutting down for two weeks because of confirmed cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in Britain. The shutdown will affect all sports, including the school’s nationally ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams. The state Department of Health and Human Services issued the mandate after positive COVID-19 tests for several people linked to the athletic department. The 11th-ranked women’s basketball team was set to play at home against Purdue on Sunday. The seventh-ranked men’s basketball team wasn’t supposed to play until Wednesday at Penn State.

“We must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff and to the student-athletes at other schools,” athletic director Warde Manuel said.

Orion Sang, David Jesse, Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press

William Torres, 56, a resident of The Open Hearth mens shelter, prepares to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from a Mobile Vaccination Clinic run by Hartford HealthCare in Hartford, Connecticut, on Jan. 22, 2021.
William Torres, 56, a resident of The Open Hearth mens shelter, prepares to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from a Mobile Vaccination Clinic run by Hartford HealthCare in Hartford, Connecticut, on Jan. 22, 2021.

Nevada man charged with fraud, obtaining $2M in COVID aid

Federal prosecutors have charged a Nevada man with fraudulently obtaining about $2 million in federal coronavirus relief aid meant for small businesses to buy luxury vehicles and condominiums in Las Vegas. The U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada accused Jorge Abramovs of bank fraud after he allegedly applied for funding to at least seven banks from April to June 2020. The complaint said a financial analysis determined Abramovs spent the money on personal luxury items, including a 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible for more than $260,000 and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 for about $55,000.

Dr. Deborah Birx says she ‘always’ thought of quitting WH task force

Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force under President Donald Trump, says she “always” thought of quitting the job. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” she said in an interview clip shared to the CBS Face the Nation Twitter page.

“I had to ask myself every morning: is there something that I think I can do that would be helpful in responding to this pandemic?” she said. “And when it became a point where I couldn’t, I wasn’t getting anywhere – and that was like right before the election – I wrote a very detailed communication plan of what needed to happen the day after the election and how that needed to be executed. And there was a lot of promise that that would happen.”

Asked if she felt the election was a “factor in communication about the virus,” Birx said yes. The interview is expected to air in full on Sunday. Birx said last month that she planned to help the incoming administration for a “period of time” but would then retire.

– Grace Hauck

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 updates: US surpasses 25 million cases; Michigan basketball

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