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Vaccine efforts are redoubled after storms as U.S. death toll nears 500,000

People in winter coats and blankets stand, or sit, in a long line amid snow.
People wait in line for the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Philadelphia on Friday. States have been working quickly to administer vaccines after last week’s winter weather caused power outages, closed clinics and slowed vaccine deliveries.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

States redoubled their efforts to get the coronavirus vaccine into arms Monday after last week’s winter weather closed clinics, slowed vaccine deliveries and forced tens of thousands of people to miss their shots — all while the nation drew close to recording 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

President Biden planned to mark the milestone with a moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House. He will also order U.S. flags lowered at federal buildings for the next five days.

In Louisiana, state health officials said doses from last week’s shipments were delivered over the weekend and were expected to continue arriving through Wednesday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week’s supply arrived Monday. And in Nashville, health officials were able to vaccinate more than 2,300 senior citizens and teachers over the weekend after days of treacherous weather.

“We’ll be asking the vaccine providers to do a lot,” said Louisiana’s top public health advisor, Dr. Joe Kanter, who said he expected it would take a week or two to catch up on vaccinations after a storm coated roads with ice and left many areas without running water.

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Snow, ice and weather-related power outages closed some vaccination sites and held up the necessary shipments across a large swath of the nation, including in the Deep South.

As a result, the seven-day rolling average of administered first doses fell by 20% between Feb. 14 and Feb. 21, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scotland’s COVID-19 vaccination program has led to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, offering some real-world evidence of the shots’ impact.

The White House said about a third of the roughly 6 million vaccine doses delayed by bad weather were delivered over the weekend, and the administration planned to work with shippers and states to catch up this week. Press secretary Jen Psaki said catch-up doses would be sent to vaccination centers “as soon as they can handle them.”

The effort unfolded as some states began expanding the pool of people eligible to receive shots.

Some hospitals, clinics, community sites and pharmacies in Louisiana’s vaccination network will get double allocations of doses this week — just as Gov. John Bel Edwards starts offering shots to teachers, day-care workers, pregnant women and people ages 55 to 64 with certain preexisting conditions.

Last week’s weather prompted local health officials in Nashville to vaccinate more than 500 people with doses that otherwise would have expired, including hundreds at homeless shelters and residents of a historically Black neighborhood who were mostly seniors with underlying health conditions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s coronavirus czar, says it’s possible masks could be needed for another year.

New York City officials expected to catch up on vaccinations after being forced to delay scheduling tens of thousands of appointments last week, the mayor said Monday.

“That means we’ve basically lost a full week in our vaccination efforts,” De Blasio said. “But it will not stop us from reaching our goal of 5 million New Yorkers vaccinated by June because we still have the ability and the capacity to do it.”

Illinois’ top doctor said a plan to expand vaccines this month to people with underlying health conditions was being delayed by a shortage of doses and that it would take months for supply to meet demand. The comments by Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, in a weekend Chicago Tribune opinion piece came amid complaints of shortages and difficulties in obtaining appointments.

More than 7.3 million Californians have received at least one vaccine dose, but supplies are well below the amount the state has the capacity to administer, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

California anticipates receiving 1.4 million doses this week and 1.5 million next week, Newsom said during a stop in Long Beach on a tour of vaccination efforts around the state.

Meanwhile, some states are lifting restrictions on residents as the number of new infections eases.

In New Jersey, fans will be allowed to attend sports and entertainment events at the state’s largest facilities in limited numbers starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

New Jersey venues with an indoor seating capacity of 5,000 will be able to fill 10% of seats, and outdoor venues with over 5,000 seats can fill 15% starting on March 1, the Democratic governor said on sports radio station WFAN. Face coverings and social distancing will be required at events.


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