Coronavirus update: As vaccinations rise, so does air travel; states cautioned on reopening plans

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Consumers are demanding faster stimulus payouts

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,446,321 (29,401,277)

Total U.S. deaths: 534,946 (534,315)

Total global cases: 120,002,856 (119,621,938)

Total global deaths: 2,655,755 (2,649,974)

Consumers return to the skies as vaccinations increase

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that the largest number of people in the last 12 months passed through its security checkpoints at U.S. airports on Friday. Officials say they expect travel to continue increasing as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Individual airlines also are seeing an increase in business. For example, JetBlue said the trend of increased bookings has been on the rise over the last couple of weeks.

Delta joined JetBlue in reporting strong increases in passenger bookings so far this month. In a filing, JetBlue attributed the increase almost entirely to leisure travel.

Dr. Fauci warns states about ‘risky business’

Although there’s growing optimism that the coronavirus pandemic is mostly behind us, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief adviser on the pandemic, says it’s too early for a victory lap. Over the weekend, he pointed to sharp increases in cases of the virus in Europe and said the same thing could happen here.

“When I hear pulling back completely on public health measures, saying no more masks, no nothing like that, that is risky business,” Fauci said during an interview with NBC News.

But another health expert, former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says the U.S. may hold an advantage over European countries because the U.S. has been able to vaccinate more of its population.

Some consumers impatient with the stimulus payment rollout

The Treasury Department, using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), began sending out $1,400 payments to Americans over the weekend, just hours after President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill. But it wasn’t fast enough to suit some people.

Specifically, customers at Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase complained that the banks informed them that the money would be available in their accounts by Wednesday at the earliest. Scores of customers vented their displeasure on Twitter.

The banks insist that they aren’t sitting on the funds, a charge some customers made. They point out that the official payment date for the stimulus funds is Wednesday, March 17.

Health data breaches surge during the pandemic

It may just be a coincidence, but data breaches exposing health records surged in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protenus, a health care compliance analytics company, reports that more than 40 million patient records were breached in 2020.

The researchers said health systems face unprecedented challenges as they tried to get a handle on the varying components and associated effects of COVID-19. They say one result was an increase in breaches of patient data.

The single largest breach reported last year was the result of a ransomware hacking incident. The hackers were able to access the system's donor database and were able to partially remove donor information that included dates of birth, inpatient/outpatient statuses, contact information, and other sensitive patient information. This hacking incident affected 3,320,726 patient records.

Facebook launches campaign to encourage vaccinations

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the social media giant is launching a campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated against the COVID-19. He said the global campaign is designed to get shots into the arms of 50 million people.

“We've already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we're working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.”

Zuckerberg said one tool will show Facebook users when and where they can get vaccinated and provide a link to set up an appointment. The tool will be in the “Covid Information Center,” which will appear in users’ news feed.

Around the nation

  • Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 492 new cases of the virus on Sunday, but the trend is moving in the right direction. Data from Johns Hopkins shows that the rolling average of new cases in the state has fallen 37 percent over the last two weeks.

  • New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy has announced the next phase of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. Transportation and other essential workers, as well as people with elevated risks, can now receive the shots.

  • Louisiana: While cases of the coronavirus within the state are on the decline, so are hospitalizations. In its Sunday update, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that there were 457 hospitalized patients who tested positive for coronavirus.

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