March 5, 2021

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‘SNL’ faces backlash for joke about Israeli vaccination effort; political division helped fuel death toll, Fauci says. Live COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

6 min read

Political divisions in America are partly to blame for pushing the nation’s COVID-19 death toll over 500,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

Fauci, speaking on CNN, declined to call out former President Donald Trump specifically, but said months of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic by political leaders discouraged mitigation efforts such as mask wearing and social distancing promoted by public health experts.

“You are trying to signal the country to really buckle down and address the kinds of mitigation strategies we put forth,” said Fauci, a top health adviser to President Joe Biden. “And signals come saying ‘this isn’t so bad, we’re in pretty good shape…’ That was not helpful.”

Fauci said it was painful to hear people calling the pandemic “fake news” while hospitals were overrun with virus patients

“I mean, how could you possibly say that when people in your own state, your own city, your own county are dying?” Fauci said.

Fauci made his comments hours after Biden remembered the 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 at a Monday evening ceremony outside the White House. “As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate,” Biden said. “While we’re fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.”

Also in the news:

►Health officials in Texas were optimistic that vaccine distribution would get back on track by the end of the week. Last week’s power crisis prompted shipping delays, canceled appointments and destroyed more than 900 doses of the vaccine across the state. 

►NASCAR officials barred legendary team owner Chip Ganassi from this weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway and fined him $30,000 for violating COVID-19 event protocols at the Daytona 500. Ganassi’s penalty was for bringing a nonessential individual into the restricted competition area. 

►Five vaccine makers are testifying today before a House oversight committee investigating the wobbly rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax have representatives on the witness list.

►The House is focusing this week on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Democrats in Congress aim to pass the whole proposal by mid-March. It currently includes a new round of checks for Americans, renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program and an extension of a federal boost for unemployment benefits.

►California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday plans to sign a state-sized coronavirus relief package that will include $600 one-time payments for 5.7 million people with low-to-moderate incomes. The bill was approved Monday by state lawmakers.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 500,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 111.7 million cases and 2.47 million deaths. More than 75.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 64.1 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Why get COVID-19 vaccination if you still have to wear a mask? It beats getting sick, health experts say.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

‘Saturday Night Live’ draws fire for joke about Israeli vaccination program

Saturday Night Live is taking heat for a joke about Israel’s virus vaccination program.

Israel allows anyone over 16 access to shots and has vaccinated almost half its population. SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor Michael Che joked that “I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”

Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, controlled by Israel, are not included in the statistics and have little access to vaccines. Israel maintains the territories are responsible for their population’s health care.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was among those taking issue with Che’s humor. Greenblatt cited “factual inaccuracies,” accusing Che of “playing into an antisemitic trope.”

Meghan McCain rejects backlash after calling for Fauci to be fired

Meghan McCain is standing firm despite social media backlash for suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci be fired.

During Monday’s episode of “The View,” McCain shared how “frustrated” she is with Fauci following his appearance on CNN. McCain played a brief segment during which Fauci declined to recommend whether vaccinated grandparents are safe to see their unvaccinated grandchildren. 

On Monday, McCain, 36, said she doesn’t know when or how she will be able to get a vaccine because the “rollout for my age range and my health is so nebulous.”

“I voiced my frustration honestly … I represent the feelings of many Americans,” she tweeted Tuesday. “I also believe sainting our public figures to infallibility is dangerous and irrational.”

Cydney Henderson

Community health centers counted on to vaccinate low-income patients

The Biden administration is targeting community health centers, which serve about 30 million patients nationwide, as vaccine distribution hubs. Two-thirds of those patients live at or below poverty, half are racial or ethnic minorities, and most are uninsured or on Medicaid. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, announced earlier this month the administration will begin shipping doses to 250 centers, at least one in each state or territory. 

At the Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative, Chief Operating Officer Janice Robinson said more than 3,000 patients are on waiting lists for a shot throughout the network’s 17 community health centers. 

“We don’t have enough,” Robinson said. “This will definitely make a change.”

Nada Hassanein

Woman dies after contracting virus from lung donor

A woman who died after undergoing a double lung transplant at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor is the first known person to contract COVID-19 from donor lungs, according to a new case report published in the American Journal of Transplantation. 

The case is rare, and represents “the worst-possible scenario” to play out in a pandemic that has killed half a million Americans, said Bruce Nicely, chief clinical officer of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. Nicely noted that Gift of Life Michigan was not involved in this donation. The transplant occurred in late October.

“To my knowledge, this is the first, and actually the only, documented transmission of COVID-19 to a recipient” from donated organs, Nicely said.

Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press

Biden presses social distancing, mask wearing in White House ceremony

Biden urged Americans to wear masks and take other steps to prevent spread of the virus at the somber White House ceremony honoring the 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. Biden pointed out the death toll from the pandemic is higher than the number of U.S. service members killed in battle during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

“The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations,” Biden said of the virus victims. “Born in America, emigrated to America. Just like that so many of them took their final breath alone in America. ”

The U.S., with about 4% of the world’s population, has recorded 25% of the COVID-19 cases and 20% of the fatalities. Experts warn that about 90,000 more deaths are likely in the next few months, despite the country’s massive vaccination campaign. The White House team pandemic team said this weekend that despite the precipitous drop in cases this month, infection levels remain above last summer’s peak and life won’t return to normal for quite some time

Johnson & Johnson plans to provide 20M vaccine doses by end of March

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million U.S. doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, assuming it gets the greenlight from federal regulators. J&J disclosed the figure in written testimony ahead of a Congressional hearing 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.

The company reiterated that it will 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.

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. J&J’s vaccine would be the first in the U.S. that requires only a single shot.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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