INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
State update on vaccination efforts
Gov. Holcomb and state leaders gave an update on COVID-19 and vaccination efforts.
The state said it will continue to request as many vaccinations as it can from the federal government. The state is receiving around 80,000 doses weekly. Mass vaccine sites are still not necessary as the supply of vaccine is still limited.
The state has received a total of 736,000 doses of vaccine and that includes first and second doses. The state has administered 450,000 doses and has 286,000 doses of vaccines not yet administered. There are 270,000 first- and second-dose vaccination appointments scheduled. The state is limiting appointments to ensure the vaccine will be available when a patient arrives.
The state plans to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Hoosiers 65 and older. The state did not give a timeframe for when that will happen. It did say that because of the limited supply of vaccine it receives, it does not know when it will be able to open up vaccines to those 60 and older.
People can register to get a vaccine by clicking here or calling 2-1-1.
The state is reporting 3,733 new cases for a total of 601,937 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
There are also an additional 64 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 9,218.
Gov. Holcomb's weekly COVID-19 briefing scheduled for Thursday
Gov. Eric Holcomb's weekly briefing on Indiana's response to the COVID-19 pandemic will take place Thursday, Jan. 21 this week.
The virtual press conferences typically take place each Wednesday but moved this week due to the presidential inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
US jobless claims decline to a still-high 900,000
Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic.
The Labor Department's report Thursday underscored that President Joe Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired. The government said that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That signals that fewer people who are out of work are finding jobs.
New viral infections have begun to slow after months of relentless increases, though they remain high and are averaging about 200,000 a day. The number of deaths in the United States from the pandemic that erupted 10 months ago has surpassed 400,000.
Economists say one factor that likely increased jobless claims in the past two weeks is a government financial aid package that was signed into law in late December. Among other things, it provided a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit on top of regular state jobless aid. The new benefit, which runs through mid-March, may be encouraging more Americans to apply for jobless benefits.
Fauci vows full US engagement with WHO
President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said early Thursday the United States will cease reducing U.S. staff counts at the World Health Organization and pay its financial obligations to it as it vows to stay fully engaged with the U.N. health agency to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told the WHO’s executive board meeting in Geneva via videoconference. The administration announced just hours after Biden’s inauguration that the United States would revoke a planned pullout from the WHO in July that had been announced by the Trump administration.
Fauci’s quick commitment to WHO -- whose response to the coronavirus outbreak was repeatedly berated by the Trump administration -- marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a multilateral approach to fighting the pandemic.
He said the administration will “will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO” and resume “regular engagement” with WHO. He added: “The United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization.”
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 24.43 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. ET Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 406,000 deaths in the U.S.
Worldwide, there have been more than 96.86 million confirmed cases with more than 2.07 million deaths and 53.38 million recoveries.
The real number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.
President Biden shares COVID-19 assistance plans, including vaccine distribution, another relief package
Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” and summoning American resilience and unity to confront the deeply divided nation's historic confluence of crises.
Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days including a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief package.
His actions also included a mandate for wearing masks on federal property.
In addition, Biden will be asking the Board of Education to extend the near-yearlong pause on student loan payments, and for the Biden administration, that means stopping student loan payments, interest-free.
Payments were scheduled to resume at the end of January. Now, the pause is extended through Sept. 30.
Amazon offers to help Biden with COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Amazon is offering to help President Joe Biden with distribution in order to achieve his goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.
Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon's Worldwide Consumer division, said in a letter to Biden that 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."
Clark also said that Amazon has more than 800,000 employees. He said most of them work at Amazon fulfillment centers, Amazon Web Services data centers and Whole Foods stores and, therefore, cannot work from home. Clark said those workers should receive the vaccine "at the earliest appropriate time" and that the company is ready to move quickly to vaccinate its workers on-site when the vaccines are available.