Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first 5 weeks in office; jobless aid eligibility expanded

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Days after marking a solemn milestone in the pandemic, President Joe Biden is celebrating the pace of his efforts to end it.

On Thursday, Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation’s governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.

“The more people get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to beat this pandemic,” Biden said at the White House ceremony, noting that his administration is on course to exceed his promise to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

“We’re halfway there: 50 million shots in 37 days,” Biden said. “That’s weeks ahead of schedule.”

All told, more than 45 million Americans have been administered at least one dose of the approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna since they received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in December, with more than 20 million receiving both required doses.

In other developments:

  • Republicans are closing ranks against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. And even as they do, the White House is seeming to rule out a procedural power play in the Senate to protect one of the measure’s provisions most treasured by progressives: a minimum wage hike.
  • Unemployed Americans who have turned down job offers because they feared their prospective employers weren’t providing sufficient protection from the coronavirus would qualify for jobless aid under a directive the Labor Department issued Thursday.
  • Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll, which surpassed 250,000 on Thursday, is the world’s second-highest for the same reason its second wave has yet to fade: Prevention was never made a priority, experts say.
  • European Union leaders are seeking to inject new energy into the bloc’s lagging coronavirus vaccination effort as concern mounts that new variants might spread faster than authorities can adapt.
  • The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has dropped by 80,000 in six weeks, and nearly 17% of the nation’s adult population has gotten at least one dose of a vaccine. Health officials acknowledge the improvement but point out that hospitalizations are still at about the same level as earlier peaks in April and July and right before the crisis worsened in November.
  • Having trouble booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online? You’re not alone. To cope, some people have turned to bots that scan websites and send alerts when slots open up.

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