COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Biden inheriting nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan and must start 'from scratch,' sources say
The Biden administration has promised to try to turn the Covid-19 pandemic around and drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans against the virus. But in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration's Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.

"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," one source said.

Another source described the moment that it became clear the Biden administration would have to essentially start from "square one" because there simply was no plan as: "Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence."
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Amazon to Biden: Prioritize our workers for the vaccine
In a letter sent to Biden Wednesday, Amazon (AMZN) executive Dave Clark wrote that the company "stands ready to assist" in vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days, as Biden has pledged to do.

As part of that offer, Clark highlighted that Amazon has more than 800,000 US-based employees — most of whom work in essential roles at Amazon fulfillment centers, AWS data centers, and Whole Foods Market stores — and these workers "should receive the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time." He added that Amazon has an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines at its facilities.

It's not the first time that Amazon has advocated for early access to the vaccine for its essential workers. In December, Clark penned a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices about access to the vaccine "at the earliest appropriate time." Others submitted similar requests, including Uber for its drivers, and the National Retail Federation, which advocated for the retail industry.

... He wrote Amazon is "prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against Covid-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort."
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Biden says death toll from pandemic likely will top 500,000 next month, says it will take months ‘for us to turn things around’
The new president has a new national strategy for the pandemic. In a word, it's more: More tests. More vaccines. More equipment and treatments.

President Biden issued a new national strategy Thursday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and took executive actions intended to make tests and vaccines more abundant, schools and travel safer, and states better able to afford their role in the long road back to normal life.

The president framed the actions in a sober portrayal of the pandemic’s damage. “The death toll will probably top 500,000 next month,” Biden said.

In a tone that balanced grimness with optimism, the new president reiterated that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” But then he added, “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on its way.”

That's the gist from the White House's 21 pages of highlights released Thursday, ahead of an additional 198-page pandemic plan published later. President Biden's strategy will not be a total federal takeover of the pandemic response, our Health desk reported. Instead, key parts will require Congress to supply more funding to states. Among those requests: The White House will ask Congress to cover the cost of vaccinating low-income residents on Medicaid.

Biden also signed 10 executive orders related to the pandemic. One of them mandates that interstate travelers wear masks at airports and on buses, planes and trains. That's a clear break from the Trump administration's tepid endorsement of face masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks, and the new order “calls for incentives to support and encourage compliance with CDC guidelines on public transportation.”
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Fauci Returns to White House Spotlight, This Time Under the Biden Administration
Leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Thursday made his first appearance at a White House press briefing under the Biden administration to talk about the coronavirus.

Fauci, who was criticized several times by President Donald Trump during the pandemic, said it was "somewhat of a liberating feeling" to return to the podium and "let the science speak." While Fauci defended the comments he made during briefings under the previous administration, he said some statements from others like Trump made him uncomfortable.

"I don't want to be going back, you know, over history, but it's very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable, because they were not based on scientific fact," Fauci said. "I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president."
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