Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,289,999 (29,158,244)
Total U.S. deaths: 530,962 (529,377)
Total global cases: 118,742,439 (118,222,254)
Total global deaths: 2,632,955 (2,623,286)
$1,400 payments to start flowing this weekend
Just hours after President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) spending bill, the White House said direct payments could start hitting Americans’ bank accounts this weekend. Under the measure, most Americans will receive payments of $1,400 from the government.
Individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less and joint filers who earn $150,000 or less will get the $1,400 payments. Each dependent child will also get that amount, so a family of four would receive $5,600.
The payments start to phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 and will cut off completely for anyone who makes more than $80,000.
Biden wants all adults vaccinated by May 1
President Biden is asking states to revamp eligibility requirements so that all adults in the U.S. can be vaccinated by May 1. The updated timeline comes as millions of seniors have been vaccinated and supplies of the three approved vaccines are being spread across the country.
“If we do this together, by July the Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said in a televised speech.
While upbeat in his tone, the president also cautioned that a return to normalcy will require some caution and common sense.
Scientists say some can skip the second vaccine dose
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered, scientists say you may be able to skip the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said people who have had the virus gained a limited amount of immunity from their illness.
The researchers say the concentrations of antibodies protecting against COVID-19 in coronavirus survivors were 10 to 45 times higher than in those who had not been ill. Immune responses after the first dose didn't significantly differ between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines among the study participants.
Scientists say this could be an important finding since it would stretch the available supplies of the two vaccines that, under normal circumstances, require two shots.
The pandemic taught some money lessons
A new survey commissioned by Slickdeals, a social media shopping platform, shows a majority of Americans -- about 60 percent -- believe the year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed their spending and shopping habits.
With movie theaters closed, as well as many bars and restaurants, consumers reported spending less money on entertainment. They also traveled less, resulting in an increase in savings.
However, they increased their spending on groceries, self-care products, household bills, takeout, and health care. They also paid down a record $83 billion in credit card debt.
Restaurants don’t expect much decline in drive-thru sales
With more states allowing restaurants to reopen and more people getting vaccinated, restaurant dining rooms may soon be close to normal occupancy. But the fast-food restaurant industry, which pivoted to enhanced drive-thru service during the pandemic, doesn’t expect much of a drop in business.
The Wall Street Journal reports that fast-food chains also have yet to show signs of backing away from their drive-thru strategy now that the end of the pandemic is in sight. It reports that chains like Sweetgreen and Shake Shack have announced plans to add drive-thru lanes in the coming months.
Analysts say drive-thru service is highly efficient for fast-food outlets, allowing them to handle a large sales volume with fewer people. As dining rooms reopen, most restaurants will likely take additional cleaning and sanitation measures, which will eat into margins and make drive-thru sales more attractive.
Around the nation
California: CVS Health has announced that it is adding COVID-19 vaccinations at 119 new sites across the state to help speed up the vaccine rollout. The company says the new sites could be in operation as early as Sunday.
Michigan: In addition to the aid provided in the $1.9 trillion federal relief package, Michigan homeowners thrown out of work by the pandemic are getting some state assistance. The partnership was formed by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS), at the request of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, to provide uniform relief for homeowners financially affected by COVID-19.
Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that all counties in the state will move to Phase 3 reopening on March 22. Under Phase 3, indoor spaces, like restaurants and movie theaters, can have 50 percent occupancy.