Coronavirus update: New cases slow to a crawl, House ready to pass 1.9 trillion stimulus bill

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The CDC says obesity is a major risk factor in severe COVID-19 cases

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,042,262 (29,001,272)

Total U.S. deaths: 526,020 (525,136)

Total global cases: 117,268,114 (116,966,556)

Total global deaths: 2,604,487 (2,595,573

New cases barely increased last week

In state after state, the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination effort is picking up speed, with millions now fully vaccinated against the virus. It may be no coincidence, then, that new cases of COVID-19 edged higher last week by only 1.5 percent, the slowest rate since the pandemic began.

Bloomberg News reports that an average of 2.16 million vaccine doses were administered every day in the U.S. last week, putting the total near President Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinated by the end of April.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance suggesting that people who have been vaccinated can safely visit indoors with other vaccinated people.

House prepares to pass $1.9 trillion stimulus bill

The House is poised to give final passage to a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that would send nearly every American a $1,400 payment. The measure also extends enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week until September.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it’s possible that lawmakers could bring the package to a floor vote later today. More likely, she said the vote would come Wednesday.

The legislation also includes an increase in the child tax credit, as well as rental payment help and money to distribute the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC study finds obesity to be a major risk factor

In a new study, the CDC reports that obesity appears to be a major risk factor for people who suffer from the severest effect of COVID-19.

The study looked at 148,494 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 during hospital visits from March to December last year. Of the more than 71,000 who were admitted, slightly more than half were classified as obese; another 27 percent were overweight.

Several states in recent days have modified their eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations to include those who are obese.

Poll shows seniors among the most willing to be vaccinated

While surveys have shown “vaccine hesitancy” on the part of some people -- including health workers -- a new poll shows that America’s seniors are among the most enthusiastic about getting inoculated.

The survey by Tivity Health found more than 75 percent of people aged 65 and older are willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, a jump from 47 percent in November. However, only 22 percent believe they will have quick and easy access to a vaccine.

"Now, we need to focus on delivering accurate information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and on making the vaccine available in places where seniors typically go, like their doctor's office or pharmacy, to improve access,”.said Richard Ashworth, president and CEO of Tivity Health. 

Study finds virus mitigation steps benefitted children’s health

A nationwide survey of children’s hospitals is showing a sharp decline in the number of children treated for common pediatric illnesses like asthma and pneumonia. The study was led by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University.

The researchers found that 42 percent fewer children were being seen and hospitalized at 44 children’s hospitals across the U.S. for both respiratory and non-respiratory illnesses. Children under 12 saw the biggest decline.

Researchers attribute the reduction to steps taken over the last year to reduce the spread of COVID-19 -- social distancing, masks, and frequent hand-washing. They also note that reduced school hours and extracurricular activities among children and adolescents likely reduced illnesses.

Around the nation

  • New York: New York City Schools will reopen for classroom learning on March 22. "We are ready to go, we have all the pieces we need to bring high school back, and bring it back strong, and of course to bring it back safely," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

  • California: Virus cases have been trending in the right direction, but at least one health expert is worried that the state could face a fourth wave before herd immunity takes hold. Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UC San Francisco, believes that about 67 percent of the population needs immunity to COVID-19 before herd immunity can be established.

  • Montana: Reporters have been digging into the details of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed by the Senate and report that it contains funding for Amtrak’s route through Montana. The provision was added by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who justified it by saying it would pay for the rehiring of Amtrack workers laid off during the pandemic.

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