Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Virus variant

Romney criticizes what he calls ‘ inexcusabl­e’ lack of planning on vaccine rollout

- Informatio­n from The Associated Press and TheWashing­ton Post was used in this report.

More cases of U.K. version found.

Florida became the third state to identify a case of the coronaviru­s variant first detected in the United Kingdom, a reminder that the pandemic remains a formidable foe as infections in the United States cross 20 million.

The news came as number of confirmed U. S. coronaviru­s cases surpassed 20 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

That’s nearly twice as many as the

No. 2 country, India, and nearly onequarter of the more than 83 million cases globally.

COVID- 19 deaths have also increased in the U. S., now totaling more than 346,000.

In the U. S., the latest instance of the variant was found in a man in his 20s with no recent travel history, health officials said late Thursday.

The more transmissi­ble version of the virus has also been reported in California and Colorado, and experts expect it to be identified in additional states.

The virus, spreading largely unchecked in much of the country, forced most people to have quieter New Year’s Eve celebratio­ns.

At a vaccinatio­n clinic in West Virginia, more than 40 people were accidental­ly given an antibody treatment for the virus, instead of Moderna’s vaccine. The West Virginia National Guard, which is assisting with inoculatio­ns, said those people were at no risk of harm.

The number of vaccinatio­ns across the U. S. crossed 3 million, only about one- seventh of the doses that federal officials had promised to deliver to Americans’ arms by the end of the year. Although authoritie­s insist that lags in reporting mean the official tally is an undercount, the immunizati­on campaign has neverthele­ss been marred by logistical delays as the nation experience­s the most powerful surge of the pandemic so far.

The vaccines’ complicate­d rollout has relied on coordinati­on between the federal government and beleaguere­d state and local health care systems, with communicat­ion gaffes and underfunde­d health department­s contributi­ng to the slowdown.

Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the Trump administra­tion’s Operation Warp Speed, on Wednesday said federal officials will “continue to make adjustment­s” to increase vaccinatio­ns.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah on Friday positioned himself as a prominent Republican critic of the Trump administra­tion’s handling of vaccinatio­ns. “That comprehens­ive vaccinatio­n plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehe­nsible as it is inexcusabl­e,” he said in a statement.

Among other ideas, Romney proposed enlisting active and retired health- care workers not currently delivering care — such as veterinari­ans, combat medics and medical students — to administer vaccinatio­ns. Within each category of people used to prioritize inoculatio­ns, he suggested scheduling vaccinatio­ns according to birthdays.

“Public health profession­als will easily point out the errors in this plan — so they should develop better

alternativ­es based on experience, modeling and trial,” Romney added.

The senator’s criticism came as U.S. corona virusrelat­ed hospitaliz­ations set a record of more than 125,300 on the fourth straight day that the measure reached a new high. States reported 225,775 new cases of the virus, and deaths topped 3,000 for the third day in a row, according to The Washington Post’s tracking.

The seven- day average of new cases set records in New York and Maine on Friday, while the average number of corona virusrelat­ed death shit their highest points in California, Kansas and Virginia. Mississipp­i’s average death toll tied its record.

In the last week, California reported nearly 20% of the country’s new infections, the most by far of any state and a proportion that outstrips its share of the U.S. population.

One day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “Hope is on the horizon,” his state saw perhaps its darkest day yet. On Friday, officials tallied 535 people dead of COVID

19, a one- day record that trails only those set by New York in mid- April.

California has now reported more than 25,000 deaths, the only state other than New York and Texas to pass that milestone. Experts fear things will only get worse.

The situation remained particular­ly dire in Los Angeles County, where the Los Angeles Times reported that morgues were overflowin­g, funeral homes were turning away families, and hospitals were reaching their breaking points. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti predicted that the city’s “toughest and darkest days” lie ahead, as the surroundin­g county reports an average of more than 12,800 cases and

129 coronaviru­s- related deaths per day.

“Our health care workers are stretched to the limit,” Garcetti told CNN. “We learned a lot, prepared a lot, have equipment, have a lot of the spaces now available, but we don’t have the people. And that is what’s devastatin­g us.”

Hospitals are also under strain elsewhere in the country, including in Arizona, where the state’s health director said over 90% of ICU beds were occupied and more than half of those were housing COVID- 19 patients.

“As you take precaution­s against COVID- 19, consider whether you or someone you love might need one of those beds for a heart attack, stroke, serious injury or infection,” said the director, Cara Christ, in a video posted Thursday. “Wearing amask, keeping your distance, washing your hands and taking other simple steps helps make sure there are beds for any medical emergency that Arizonans may face.”

Italy added another

462 virus deaths on Friday for a known pandemic death toll of 74,621, the highest in Europe.

The nation’s daily death toll remained stubbornly high more than two months into restrictiv­e measures and in the second week of a modified lockdown.

The number of new positives dipped by 5% from a day earlier, to 22,211, while 15% fewer tests were administer­ed, according to Health Ministry statistics. Italy is launching its vaccine campaign and is first targeting residents of nursing homes and medical personnel.

India and Brazil trail behind the U. S. in coronaviru­s cases at over 10 million and 7 million, respective­ly.

Ravers at an undergroun­d, curfew- violating New Year’s Eve party that drew at least 2,500 people in western France attacked police units sent to shut them down, torching a vehicle and injuring officers with bottles and stones, officials said Friday.

Hundreds of vehicles carrying partygoers started converging on hangars in Lieuron, Brittany, on Thursday night, the regional government said Friday in a statement.

Gendarmes and their vehicles were attacked when they tried to stop the ravers from installing their party gear. Some officers suffered light injuries, the statement said. On Friday morning, 2,500 ravers from France and abroad were still partying, circled by a reinforced police presence.

First aid workers were distributi­ng masks and hand gel to try to limit coronaviru­s infections.

 ?? THE ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? Workers directed traffic toward a COVID-19 vaccinatio­n site at Lake-Sumter State College in Leesburg, Fla., on Friday. The Lake County vaccineswe­re being given to people who are 65 years and older aswell as front-line workers.
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL Workers directed traffic toward a COVID-19 vaccinatio­n site at Lake-Sumter State College in Leesburg, Fla., on Friday. The Lake County vaccineswe­re being given to people who are 65 years and older aswell as front-line workers.
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Confetti littered the street early Friday after theNewYear’s Eve ball dropped in a nearly empty Times Square in NewYork. The areawas closed due to the pandemic.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Confetti littered the street early Friday after theNewYear’s Eve ball dropped in a nearly empty Times Square in NewYork. The areawas closed due to the pandemic.
 ?? PHOTOS BY THE ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? A health care profession­al prepares to administer the vaccine in Leesburg, Fla.
PHOTOS BY THE ORLANDO SENTINEL A health care profession­al prepares to administer the vaccine in Leesburg, Fla.
 ??  ?? A healthwork­er gets a shot ready at the vaccine site, where long lines of peoplewere­waiting.
A healthwork­er gets a shot ready at the vaccine site, where long lines of peoplewere­waiting.

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