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Coronavirus update: A third vaccine is now in the supply chain, no vaccine shopping

The House has passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 28,609,645 (28,582,661)

Total U.S. deaths: 513,112 (511,835)

Total global cases: 114,240,823 (113,992,613)

Total global deaths: 2,533,323 (2,528,519)

FDA clears Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Johnson & Johnson has begun distributing its vaccine after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorization (EAU) over the weekend. The vaccine joins those produced by Pfizer and Moderna and significantly increases the national supply.

Johnson & Johnson said it has 3 million doses that are moving into the supply chain this week. It says it will have enough vaccine doses to inoculate 20 million Americans by the end of this month.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has some logistical advantages over the other two approved vaccines. It requires a single dose instead of two, and it can also be stored in ordinary freezers instead of super-cold freezers.

Experts: Take any available vaccine

With three coronavirus vaccines now on the market, you might think you can take your pick -- but you can’t. Demand for vaccines will still outstrip supply for a few more months.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), says all three vaccines will do the job, and Americans should take the first one that’s available.

“If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

House passes major stimulus bill

Congress appears poised to pump more money into the economy. Over the weekend, the House passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus aid bill and sent it to the Senate, which is expected to bring it to a vote this week.

Democrats have the votes to pass it as a budget reconciliation bill, which requires only a simple majority. However, it would have to remove the House-passed provision that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Last week, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a budget reconciliation measure could not contain the minimum wage provision because everything in the bill must pertain to government spending.

COVID-19 may create a teacher shortage

Call it “COVID burnout.” After a year that’s seen the pandemic close many classrooms, leading to online classes, many public school teachers say they’re ready to retire or switch careers.

Those who aren’t struggling to teach children remotely are expressing concern about being in classrooms where they could be exposed to the virus. Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, a national professional association, told CNBC that teacher resignations are rising.

“Teachers have been feeling the brunt of how drastically this pandemic has changed our world,” Sharkey said. “The demands that are put on them are off the charts.”

Researchers seek clues about smoking’s effect on COVID-19

Nearly a year into the pandemic, researchers writing in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society say they are trying to better understand how smoking affects COVID-19 risk.        

“The relationship between smoking and COVID-19 is complex, and much of the research to date has been inconclusive or contradictory,” said Dr. Enid Neptune, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “To resolve this issue, rigorous study design is needed.”

The researchers say previous research that has focused on whether smoking has an effect on lung ACE2, a protein that provides an entry point for SARS-CoV-2, is “highly problematic.” They suggest focusing on whether tobacco smoke and nicotine affect SARS-CoV-2 infectivity or viral load.

Around the nation

  • Florida: Officials in South Florida say there is already an influx of visitors ahead of this year’s spring break, and they’re expressing concern about the spread of the virus. Barricades have been put up along A1A in Fort Lauderdale as authorities prep for crowd control measures.

  • Pennsylvania: The state’s largest universities are reeling under financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected tuition and fee income. The University of Pennsylvania said it expects to lose $77 million by the end of the school year in June.

  • Minnesota: State health officials are reporting major progress in their effort to vaccinate eligible state residents. They say 51 percent of Minnesotans aged 65 years and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

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