ACROSS AMERICA — The coronavirus has torn apart hundreds of thousands of families as it led to the deaths of more than 383,000 Americans in 10 months. Worse yet, dying from COVID-19 has meant some having to say goodbye to loved ones who tell you they're sorry for making you sick.
That was the somber reminder Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis gave residents during a news conference on the region's vaccine rollout this week.
She said children have apologized to parents and grandparents on their deathbeds for bringing the virus home.
"Dying from COVID in the hospital means dying alone," Solis said in a public address featured nationally on the Today Show this week.
“One of the more heartbreaking conversations that our health care workers share is about these last words when children apologize to their parents and grandparents for bringing COVID into their homes, for getting them sick. And these apologies are just some of the last words that loved ones will ever hear as they die alone.”
In hard-hit California, more than 30,000 people have already died of the virus, according to state data. The state is recording 79 deaths per every 100,000 residents, according to data from The New York Times.
“Please don’t let this be your family. Don’t let this be your parents or your grandparents,” Solis said. “Please, for your loved ones, stay home, stay safe, keep your loved ones alive.”
A new coronavirus mutation has been found in the United States that is already prevalent and may be the dominant strain in the country, researchers at Southern Illinois University have found.
According to a preliminary paper submitted for peer review, the so-called 20C-US strain accounts for about half of all U.S. cases. SUI researchers are calling it "homegrown and widespread."
SIU chemistry professor Keith Gagnon, whose lab discovered the new coronavirus strain, said 20C-US can be traced back to Texas, where it seems to have developed around May. The fact that it now accounts for half of all cases in the country points to it being more contagious than other strains, Gagnon said.
"There are hundreds of variants floating around, so for this one to rise to prominence suggests it might be more transmissible," Gagnon said.
Like the U.K. strain of the virus — a variant called B.1.1.7 — the U.S. strain has undergone mutations in the proteins that form the virus's spiky crown. These spike proteins help the virus attach itself to cells in the nose and can even penetrate the blood-brain barrier. It's these spike proteins that Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines program cells to replicate, creating an immune response.
The variant first discovered in the U.K. has now been confirmed in more than a handful of states.
On Capitol Hill, a fourth positive coronavirus case was confirmed Thursday among lawmakers who were inside the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York said he has the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press.
Espaillat says in a statement that he's isolating at home and will continue his work representing his Upper Manhattan district.
At least three other House members have tested positive after a group of representatives went on lockdown in a secure location on Capitol Hill when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the Capitol.
In addition, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said Wednesday her husband, Conan Harris, who was with her during the Capitol lockdown, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and was showing mild symptoms.
It’s not clear where and when lawmakers caught the virus. But the Capitol’s attending physician has told House members they might have been exposed to someone in the room who had the virus.
Rep. Brad Schneider, an Illinois Democrat, placed the blame on House Republicans who did not wear a mask.
"Several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask, as demonstrated in video from Punchbowl News, even when politely asked by their colleagues," Schneider said Tuesday. "Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife's health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff."
International travelers will soon be required to have a negative coronavirus test to enter the country.
The order from federal officials will go into effect Jan. 26, according to The Washington Post and others. It expands a rule already in place restricting travel from the United Kingdom, where a more contagious coronavirus variant has been spreading.
Heightened travel restrictions and continued variant concerns come as the country hit another record daily death toll, counting 4,254 on Tuesday. The previous highest one-day death toll was 4,027 on Jan. 7, according to a Washington Post database.
Vaccine manufacturing delays could put off the originally planned release of the vaccine in the works by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Critical results from clinical trials are expected to be released within two weeks, according to the NYT report.
Johnson & Johnson has promised the federal government it will have doses available by the spring. Advantages of this vaccine, according to many reports, are that it will only require a single dose.
Both vaccines that have already been approved, one developed by Pfizer and the other Moderna, require two doses weeks apart.
About 30.6 million vaccine doses have been given to Americans as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people who have taken the first dose has surpassed 11 million.
President-elect Joe Biden has indicated support for releasing nearly all available COVID-19 doses when he takes office in less than two weeks, according to a CNN report.
The move would break with what — until Tuesday — had been the Trump administration's strategy of holding back half of U.S. vaccine production to ensure second doses are available.
Releasing all doses could accelerate the pace at which people receive the first shot.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration reversed course and said it would begin making all vaccine supplies immediately available.
Biden's vaccine plan came after a group of governors wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave Perna pressing the federal government to distribute "reserved doses" of the vaccine to states that need them.
The coronavirus has now transmitted to great apes, as two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo tested positive last week.
Studies have verified that some non-human primates are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, but this is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes, according to San Diego Zoo Global.
It is unknown if they will have any serious reaction.
At least 3,160 deaths and 183,718 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States on Thursday as of 4 p.m. ET, according to a Washington Post database. The Post's reporting shows that over the past week, new daily cases increased 12.9 percent, new daily reported deaths rose 24.3 percent and coronavirus-related hospitalizations are down 0.1 percent.
Currently, more than 130,383 people are hospitalized with a coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
As of Thursday, 48 states and Puerto Rico remained above the positive testing rate recommended by the World Health Organization to safely reopen. Only Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska are currently below that rate. To safely reopen, the WHO recommends states remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.
As of Thursday afternoon, the United States had reported more than 23.2 million cases and more than 386,900 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.