Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Democrats controlling the White House and Congress will unlock fresh options as President-elect Joe Biden battles the pandemic.

Jonathan Wolfe


President-elect Joe Biden will assume the presidency in nine days, and with it the responsibility of fighting a raging pandemic that is killing more than 3,000 Americans a day.

Democrats have also won control of the Senate and narrowly preserved their majority in the House of Representatives. My colleague Abby Goodnough, who covers health care for The Times, told me that controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress will unlock fresh options as Mr. Biden battles the pandemic.

“He has some really ambitious ideas, and he now has, presumably, a willing Congress to go along and support him in carrying out these ideas,” Abby said. “Now we’re going to see if his vision turns out to be better than Trump’s and the Republicans’ vision and methods for approaching the pandemic.”

Mr. Biden has said he wants 100 million vaccines administered in his first 100 days in office — a plan that includes the creation of federally run mass vaccination sites across the country. He has also pledged to push a new stimulus package through Congress to provide relief for struggling Americans, businesses, local governments and schools that “will be in the trillions of dollars.”

With the Democrats in control, Abby said, Mr. Biden also has a chance to make moves on health care. Big structural changes like “Medicare for all” or a public option face a tough road, but Democrats could make improvements to the Affordable Care Act that could bring immediate benefits in the coronavirus effort.

“Getting more people on health insurance,” Abby said, “could go a lot further to preventing people from getting Covid by keeping their pre-existing conditions in check, and for paying for the ongoing effects of Covid for some of these long-haulers.”

Mr. Biden has said he wants to invoke the Defense Production Act so that American companies will be obliged to increase their production of vaccine-related materials. He wants to reopen schools — though his political allies in the teachers’ unions will have something to say on that matter — and he has asked that every American wear a mask for the first 100 days of his presidency. With fewer health care workers getting the vaccine than expected, public health officers have told Abby that they are also hoping the new president will address vaccine hesitancy.

“There’s a feeling that if Biden gives an address from the Oval Office about the safety data behind the vaccines, and really reinforces that this vaccine is safe and effective, we could see more uptake,” Abby said. “That’s something that he could do that would be vastly different from the current administration.”

Even before rioters tore through the Capitol building last week, Washington was already experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases, which has since become worse.

Last week, Washington averaged 290 cases a day, the most of any weeklong stretch of the pandemic, part of a broader surge throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Delaware, Maryland and Virginia also set weekly records for new cases yesterday.

Washington was walloped by the virus in the spring but kept its numbers relatively low into the beginning of October, when it was averaging fewer than 40 cases a day. Cases then surged for two months, and, after a Christmas lull, began to tick up again in January.


Credit…The New York Times

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

I am a retired teacher and have continued to help fulfill the great need for substitute teachers in the public schools in my area. I generally sub four to five days a week and have filled a wide variety of positions. I always take my juggling balls with me and use my skills to motivate, entertain, amaze and inspire students. I talk to them about the ups and downs of life and encourage them to reach out to others! I have juggled for thousands of students in 31 different schools since September. Many times the kids ask me if I was a clown in a circus!

— David Hiteshew, Franklin, Ohio

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Jonathan Wolfe