ACROSS AMERICA — Trust in the two coronavirus vaccines that have been authorized for use in the United States has varied from state to state and region to region. It's another recent crisis that's giving pause to residents in Flint, Michigan, where people remain skeptical in leadership some six years after an 18-month water crisis.
"When you tell us that the water is safe, but it really wasn't, that relationship between leadership and the community is still damaged," Todd Womack, pastor of community connections at Central Church of the Nazarene in Flint, told NBC News. "That just layers the historical trauma that has presented itself in our community."
For more than a year beginning in 2014, Flint residents were assured by their public officials that the city's tap water was safe, when, in fact, it had dangerously high levels of lead.
Now, they have questions on the safety of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the NBC News report. People in the city have expressed concerns over parallels they see.
Just as they are hesitant to drink the water, they are not yet ready to embrace the vaccines, the report states.
Public health officials in the state are turning to community leaders, such as the Rev. Dr. Sarah Bailey, an elder at Flint’s Full Gospel Baptist Church who welcomes the new vaccines, to help build up trust.
Bailey, who told NBC News she has had to reassure residents that the vaccine won't give them the virus or affect their DNA, said the community remains "emotionally spent" from the water crisis.
"Everybody has to make up their own mind," she said. "It's going to take people that they trust in the community, that they see take the vaccine themselves and see them be OK, and then they'll say, 'Well, if they took it, and they're OK, maybe I should, too.'"
International travelers to the United States will soon be required to have a negative coronavirus test to enter the country.
The order from federal officials will go into effect on 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 var.
Leading infectious disease experts have said there's no specific evidence of a separate strain spreading in the United States, but there's not enough information to know for sure.
“It could be — a possibility — that we have our own mutant that’s being more easily transmissible,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday, according to The Post. “We don’t know. We’re looking for it... If you look at the slope of our curve, which is very steep, it looks a bit like the curve in the U.K.”
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.
More than 2.2 million cases have been reported since 2021 began.
"We're in a dire situation," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.
January is on pace to become the deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic, CNN reported.
"We know how to slow the spread of the virus," Jha said. "We need mask mandates. We need people to really stay at home and avoid any indoor gatherings."
On the vaccine front, problems with distribution are specifically evident in Florida, where officials say scammers have already been active in disrupting the process.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody took Eventbrite to task for permitting event schedulers to charge residents age 65 and older for coronavirus vaccine registrations.
"Scammers used the popular event website Eventbrite to pose as county health departments and take or attempt to take payments in exchange for COVID-19 vaccine appointments," Moody said.
Brittany Hershkowitz, senior vice president of the law firm of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, issued her own warning to the Florida attorney general on Monday, calling Moody's assertions "inaccurate and without merit."
"Our team has thoroughly investigated and not found any evidence of vaccine registration events being created with the intent to scam people," Hershkowitz said. "We have confirmed the unofficial event listings in question, some of which included a fee, were the result of user error."
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 29.3 million vaccine doses have been given to Americans as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people who have taken the first dose has surpassed 10 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 transmitted to great apes, when 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 2,221 deaths and 117,497 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States on Wednesday as of 2:30 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 131,326 people are hospitalized with a coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
As of Wednesday, 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 Wednesday afternoon, the United States had reported more than 22.8 million cases and more than 382,100 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.