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Coronavirus update: White House plans to provide free N95 masks

WHO says the pandemic won’t end anytime soon

N95 mask on table
Photo (c) Memorystockphoto - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 67,617,789 (66,700,210)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 854,292 (852,601)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 334,699,140 (331,350,251)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,558,316 (5,540,981)‌

White House to provide free masks, officials say

A day after announcing a website where Americans can order a free COVID-19 test, White House officials say they expect more help for people to avoid getting sick. Officials say the government is preparing to provide free N95 masks at retail pharmacies across the nation.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a White House official as saying nonsurgical N95 masks will begin appearing at distribution centers late next week. The program is expected to be fully operational by early February.

According to the official, the program will be “ the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.”

WHO warns the pandemic isn’t over

After a post-holiday spike in COVID-19 cases, mostly caused by the Omicron variant, the number of new cases is falling. But a top official of the World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that the pandemic is “nowhere near over.”

“In some countries, cases seem to have peaked, which gives hope that the worst of this latest wave is done with,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director. “But no country is out of the woods yet. I remain particularly concerned about countries with low vaccination rates.”

Ghebreyesus said the evidence suggests that Omicron infections are less severe. However, he says it is wrong to assume that all cases of the variant of the virus are mild.

Couple’s first date leads to engagement after COVID-19 lockdown

Zhao Xiaoqing, a 28-year-old woman from northern China's Shaanxi province, agreed to a blind date arranged by her family. But after visiting her date’s parents’ home, she had to stay for weeks because the government decreed a lockdown.

"I never thought about staying the night, because it's pretty awkward," Zhao Xiaoqing, who was meeting her date for only the second time, told local media Jimu News.

The relationship was reportedly awkward at the beginning, but apparently, nature began to take its course. “We get along very well," Zhao Xiaoqing said, confirming they are now engaged.

Around the nation

  • New York: Add New York to the list of East Coast states that appear to be getting a grip on the latest COVID-19 outbreak. Gov. Kathy Hochul says the number of positive test results dropped by 75% over the last two weeks. The positivity rate is now down to 12.48%.

  • Louisiana: State health officials report that many of the new COVID-19 cases in the state are occurring in nursing homes, infecting both residents and staff. "It's very difficult on staffing," Lisa Gardner of CommCare, which operates 14 homes around the state, told NOLA.com.

  • New Hampshire: Colleges across the state are preparing to resume classes for the spring semester and attempting to navigate the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. “We've had a lot of practice managing through this pandemic, the various surges and so a lot of protocols we've had in place for now going on two years will remain in place,” said Paul Pronovost, a Saint Anselm College spokesperson.

  • Nevada: With Las Vegas beckoning travelers from around the world, Nevada has struggled to keep infection rates low, even in rural areas far from the strip. This week, the rural regions of Storey, Eureka, and White Pine counties joined the rest of the state in resuming a mask mandate

  • Oregon: The coronavirus has taken a toll on one of the Oregon Coast’s major events. Newport's visitor center and the Chamber of Commerce have announced the cancellation of the annual Newport Seafood and Wine Festival for the second year in a row. The event had been scheduled for the end of February.

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