The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 2 million


— The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 2 million. Johns Hopkins University reported the milestone on Friday amid a monumental but uneven effort to vaccinate people against the coronavirus. Some countries are seeing real hope of vanquishing outbreaks. In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, tens of millions of citizens have already received shots. But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many health experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil. Those four countries collectively account for about a quarter of the world’s deaths.

— The coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but some states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates. Data from the states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that less than 2% of the population in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina had received its first dose of a vaccine at the start of this week. The best states have managed to inject more than 5% of their populations. Though it’s not clear why the region is falling behind, public health researchers note that it has typically lagged in funding public health systems and addressing disparities in care for its large rural population.

— As states across the U.S. roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, senior citizens are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots. Many states and counties ask people to make appointments online. But glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people, who are often less tech-savvy. Many also live far from vaccination sites and are more likely to not have internet access at all, especially people of color and those who are poor. Seniors, doctors and other health officials say there has been a flood of confusion.

THE NUMBERS: The U.S. is averaging about 240,000 new cases and more than 3,300 deaths each day. The nation’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at more than 388,000.

QUOTABLE: “Behind this terrible number are names and faces — the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one.”

— U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres after the global death toll for COVID-19 topped 2 million.

ICYMI: Americans cut back on spending in December for the third straight month as a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the critical holiday shopping season. The Commerce Department said retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in December from the month before, a decline Wall Street analysts weren’t expecting. The unexpected decline underscores the economy’s troubles as the pandemic has worsened this winter.

ON THE HORIZON: Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus — first found in the United Kingdom — could become the dominant strain in the U.S. Health officials have raised concerns about the strain and are sounding the alarm.


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