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USA TODAY

COVID-19 has killed more than 425,000 Americans, and infections continue to rise despite the introduction of a few vaccines in late 2020. USA TODAY tracks the news. Keep updating this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.

With more and more students returning to school this week, evidence from the United States and other countries shows that schools can function safely with precautions and that they should open up for personal instruction as soon as possible, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

In an article published Tuesday in the JAMA Network, the researchers wrote that wearing masks and maintaining social distance has been shown to be effective in limiting the transmission of coronavirus in schools, but activities such as indoor sporting events can promote proliferation and should be reduced.

“The predominance of available evidence from the fall semester has been reassuring,” the three researchers wrote. “There has been little evidence that schools have made a meaningful contribution to increasing the transmission of society.”

Still, returning college students may be at even greater risk than they were in the fall – not to mention their surrounding communities, where research has suggested major outbreaks in college towns.

In the headlines:

► Eli Lilly announced on Tuesday that its monoclonal antibody cocktail reduces hospital admissions by 70% for high-risk COVID-19 patients.

► Alaska and Kentucky have discovered their states’ first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the UK, officials said on Tuesday. The diagnoses raise the total number of states reporting cases of the variant to 25.

► President Joe Biden announced that he will increase the minimum weekly supply of vaccines to states over the next three weeks from 8.6 million to 10 million or by 16%. Biden is further trying to increase America’s chances in the fight against the pandemic with an agreement to buy 200 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

► The total number of coronavirus cases exceeded 100 million on Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. The United States with just over 4% of the world’s population has more than 25% of infections and almost 20% of deaths.

► Steven Brandenburg, a Wisconsin pharmacist and admitted conspiracy theorist accused of trying to destroy dozens of vials of COVID-19 vaccine, faces 20 years in prison after agreeing on Tuesday to plead guilty to federal court, prosecutors said. The vials contained sufficient doses to vaccinate more than 500 people.

📈 Today’s figures: The United States has more than 25.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 425,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Total sums: More than 100.2 million cases and 2.15 million deaths. About 44.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the United States, and 23.5 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we read: There are several COVID-19 variants in the United States. Where are they? How dangerous are they? Here’s what we know.

High risk: Schools often ignore public health guidelines for classroom instruction

Many school districts and states that hold personal classes have ignored recommendations from public health officials or written their own questionable safety rules – creating a tinderbox where COVID-19 can get sick and kill. An analysis of federal and state data found more than 780 complaints, covering more than 2,000 public and private K-12 schools. Among complaints: Staff reported sick children coming to school, maskless students and teachers less than 6 feet apart, and administrators minimized the dangers of the virus and punished teachers who spoke.

“The answer to the virus is politicized,” said Dr. Chandy John, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at Indiana University School of Medicine. “There is a willingness to ignore data and facts and go with what you hear from the Internet or from political leaders who have no scientific knowledge.”

Laura Ungar, Kaiser Health News

January already deadly month for pandemic in the United States

The 4,087 deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday – the fourth highest day in the history of the pandemic – have already made January the deadliest month of the pandemic, an analysis in the US today shows data from Johns Hopkins University. In the first 26 days of January, the United States reported 79,261 deaths. The total number of deaths in December, which had been the deadliest month, was 77,486 deaths in December. At this rate, January could end with around 94,500 reported deaths.

Some states have been ravaged. California’s previous worst month was 6,772 deaths in December, but the state has already reported 12,282 deaths in January. January is already the deadliest month for another 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

– Mike Stucka

The Oklahoma Health Department is suing a company that promised N95 masks

In March, the Oklahoma Health Department ordered more than 2 million N95 masks from a Tulsa piano bar owner who promised he could get the coveted PPE from China in large quantities and quickly.

They ordered the masks from Casey Bradford’s brand new company, PPE Supplies LLC. On the second order, they even paid him half in advance – $ 2.125 million – after he promised delivery in 10 days.

The Oklahoma Health Department on Tuesday sued Bradford and PPE Supplies LLC in Oklahoma County District Court. Health officials received fewer than 10,000 masks from PPE Supplies and only $ 300,000 of the deposit back, according to the breach of contract. The health department is seeking the rest of the money back – $ 1.825 million plus interest. It also seeks criminal damages for “misdemeanor”.

“Bradford intentionally presented facts to plaintiff that caused plaintiff to enter purchase orders and promote a deposit,” the lawsuit alleges.

– Nolan Clay, Oklahoma

Double masking ‘just makes sense,’ says Dr. Anthony Fauci

Double masking was in the spotlight last week during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, where several high-profile officials and celebrities were photographed wearing two masks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, says it’s probably more effective to prevent it from spreading: “So if you have a physical cover with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes sense that it probably would be more efficient, “Fauci told NBC News’ TODAY” Monday. ” That’s why you see people either double-mask or make a version of an N95. “

The same goes for a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Matter in July, where it was found that wearing two masks could increase protection against virus particles by 50% up to 75%. It not only added an extra layer of protection, but also made the mask fit close to the face, said study author Dr. Loretta Fernandez.

Americans’ renewed interest in double-masking also comes when variants that appear to be more contagious emerge from Britain, South Africa, Brazil and California.

– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY.

Contribution: Associated Press

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