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US projects sobering death toll in coming weeks; states gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions
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US projects sobering death toll in coming weeks; states gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions

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The Biden administration is boosting purchases of coronavirus vaccines to deliver enough to protect 300 million Americans by the end of the summer, as it surges deliveries to states for the next three weeks following complaints of shortages and inconsistent supplies.

The Biden administration launched its new level-with-America health briefings Wednesday with a projection that as many as 90,000 more in the U.S. will die from the coronavirus in the next four weeks — a sobering warning as the government strains to improve delivery and injection of vaccines.

The tone of the hourlong briefing was in line with President Joe Biden's promise to be straight with the nation about the state of the outbreak that has already claimed more than 425,000 U.S. lives. It marked a sharp contrast to what had become the Trump show in the past administration, when public health officials were repeatedly undermined by a president who shared his unproven ideas without hesitation.

The deaths projection wasn't much different from what Biden himself has said, but nonetheless served as a stark reminder of the brutal road ahead.

“I know this is not news we all want to hear, but this is something we must say so we are all aware,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If we are united in action we can turn things around.”

The new briefings, set for three times a week, are part of Biden’s attempt to rebuild trust and mobilize Americans to follow health guidance on the coronavirus and to break down public resistance to the vaccine.

In other developments:

  • Several U.S. states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold.
  • The 27-nation EU is coming under criticism for the slow rollout of its vaccination campaign. The bloc, a collection of many of the richest countries in the world, is not faring well in comparison to countries like Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve will keep pursuing its low-interest rate policies until an economic recovery is well underway, acknowledging that the economy has faltered in recent months.
  • Battling a COVID-19 resurgence driven by a more infectious variant, South Africa is preparing to roll out its first vaccines to the country’s frontline healthcare workers. In Spain, health authorities are complaining that they are running short of COVID-19 vaccines due to delays in deliveries by pharmaceutical companies.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that the coronavirus lockdown in England will remain in place until at least March 8 as he ruled out any imminent return to school for most students.
  • Oklahoma is attempting to return $2 million worth of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug once touted by then-President Donald Trump as an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
  • In a Georgia community just down the road from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a fraught debate over reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic is raging.

For more summaries and full reports, select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.

Virus by the numbers

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