Infections down 50% from last month; child tax credits expanded, covering majority of children: Live COVID-19 updates

The United States’ pace of new coronavirus infections fell last weekend below the low of Sept. 12, the day before the fall surge got underway and turned into a disastrous winter. The country reported 241,099 cases in the week ending Sept. 12, a few thousand above the reported 232,489 in the week ending Sunday.

Daily infections now total less than half what they were a month ago and a small fraction of January’s raging numbers. The U.S. continues to report about 600 deaths a day, roughly one-fifth the pace seen in January.

Meanwhile, India is experiencing a glimmer of hope, though it is still in the clutches of a devastating coronavirus surge caused by a variant that has made its way to the U.S. 

In the last week, the number of new cases plunged by nearly 70% in Mumbai, home to 22 million people. After a peak of 11,000 daily cases, the city is now seeing fewer than 2,000 a day.

Experts believe that the country’s steeply rising curve may finally be flattening — even if the plateau is a high one, with an average of 340,000 confirmed daily cases last week. On Monday, reported infections continued to decline as cases dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks.

But more than 20% of India’s tests come back positive, according to Our World In Data, a pace experts say is far too high to accurately capture the scale of the epidemic. And with active cases over 3.6 million, hospitals are still swamped by patients.

– Mike Stucka

Also in the news:

►Statistics released Tuesday will show that new infections are down in all 50 states, President Joe Biden said.

►Vaccinated New Yorkers no longer need to wear masks, indoors or outdoors, New Yor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. After a delay of several days, Cuomo said the state is adopting new guidance on masks that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week. 

►World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is appealing to some of the world’s top COVID-19 vaccine makers to accelerate their timeframe for providing doses to countries in need.

►The B.1.167 coronavirus variant devastating India has arrived in the United States. Experts say it’s not likely to cause much harm here because of high vaccination rates and because the health care system is not under stress. But with a virus that has defied expectations and the variant infecting hundreds of thousands of Indians every day, researchers are keeping an eye on it.

►Poland-based molecular diagnostics firm Genomtec says it has registered for use in the European Union a pioneer, high-reliability COVID-19 test from saliva.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 586,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 163.3 million cases and 3.38 million deaths. More than 344.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 274.4 million have been administered, according to the CDC. Nearly 123.8 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 37.4% of the population.

📘 What we’re reading: The CDC may say fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear face masks, but the mask conflict at stores isn’t going away.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Child Tax Credit payments to begin rolling out July 15

The Treasury Department said Monday that 39 million families are set to receive monthly child payments beginning on July 15. Nearly 88% of children are set to receive the benefits without their parents needing to take any additional action.

The department and the Internal Revenue Service will begin sending monthly advance payments of $250 or $300 to low- and moderate-income families under the newly expanded Child Tax Credit on a monthly basis through December.

Most eligible families will receive them via direct deposit, senior administration officials said Sunday. Families that don’t have direct deposit will receive the payment either as a paper check or a debit card.

Monthly advance payments under the Child Tax Credit are the result of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus-relief package that Congress passed in March.

The tax credits are expected to address child poverty. The number of children in poverty was expected to soar to approximately 1.2 billion in 2020 because of the pandemic, according to UNICEF.

Meanwhile, an extra $5 billion would be allocated toward keeping families off the streets, said Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge Monday. That’s in addition to the $5 billion in funds for preventing homelessness previously announced as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Despite a wave of public support and a nationwide eviction moratorium, Fudge said as many of 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the middle of the pandemic.

– Michael Collins

Homicides surge 27% in California in 2020 amid COVID shutdowns of schools, youth programs

Amid a pandemic that left law enforcement agencies stretched thin and forced shutdowns that left young men with little to do, California registered a devastating surge in homicides in 2020 that hit especially hard in Black and Latino communities.

The number of homicide victims in California jumped 27% from 2019 to 2020, to about 2,300, marking the largest year-over-year increase in three decades, according to preliminary death certificate data from the California Department of Public Health.

The increase in deadly violence played out across large swaths of the state, urban and rural, and was keenly felt in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among California’s 10 most populous counties, the sharpest increases were reported in Alameda County, where homicides rose 57%, followed by Fresno (44%), Sacramento (36%) and Los Angeles (32%).

– Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY Network

U.S. to send 80 million doses to other countries

The United States will send at least 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to other countries by the end of June, Biden said Monday.

Twenty million doses are from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, Biden said. He previously agreed to share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has not been authorized for emergency use in the U.S by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We’re taking another step to help the world,” Biden said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.”

The announcements come as the U.S. and other developed nations face increasing criticism for monopolizing vaccines while the developing world struggles. Demand in the U.S. has stalled in recent weeks, and vaccine “hesitancy” is blamed for a steady decline in jabs.

Biden said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus coordinator, will lead the global vaccination effort. The U.S. will work with COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to coronavirus vaccines.

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