Biden administration won’t surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

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President Joe Biden’s administration said Friday additional vaccine doses will not be delivered to states seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, despite appeals from local leaders and some health experts.

The administration says its current rollout plan, based on state adult population, is “fair and equitable.”

“We’re not even halfway through our vaccination program so now is not the time to change course on vaccine allocation,” said Jeff Zients, coordinator of the White House COVID-19 task force, during Friday’s briefing.

“This pandemic has hit every state and every county, hard,” he added. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she directly requested additional doses from Biden in a recent phone call. The state’s seven-day average of new daily cases reached 6,429 on Thursday, its highest point since mid-November and the highest in the country currently, a Detroit Free Press analysis of state data shows.

Whitmer argued that surging shots to hot spots is not just a good plan for the state, but a vital piece of a national strategy to combat spiking COVID-19 trends. 

Experts have also called for surging shots, including Ashish Jha, dean of the school of public health at Brown University. 

“This is very upsetting,” Jha said of the recent spike in cases in a tweet. “Michigan is struggling. We need to be surging tests, vaccines to the state.”

A forecasting model from University of California, Berkeley found that 1,200 deaths could be prevented in Michigan by July if the state received double allocation of vaccines for two weeks, NPR reported. 

Also in the news:

►Iran began a 10-day lockdown Saturday amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Shops are closed and offices are restricted to one-third capacity in its capital Tehran and 250 other cities and towns, which have been declared red zones or areas with the highest positivity rates. 

►While Alabama’s statewide mask mandate ended Friday after nearly nine months, Birmingham, the largest city in the state, is keeping mask requirements in place “because the pandemic still exists and remains a threat,” Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said. Montgomery, the state’s second-largest city, will also continue to require face coverings.

►The latest forecast from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s coronavirus model projects nearly 620,000 U.S. deaths by Aug. 1. The forecast improves with 95% mask usage (604,413) and tops out at 697,573 deaths in a worst-case scenario in which fully-vaccinated people return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility.

►Connecticut plans to provide full summer access to its outdoor recreation areas including state parks, campgrounds, shoreline beaches, boat launches and inland swimming spots after providing partial access last summer at the height of the pandemic, state officials said Friday.

►Utah’s statewide mask mandate expires Saturday, though some businesses and government facilities will continue to require face coverings – including Salt Lake International Airport and the Utah Transit Authority.

►The CDC reported nearly 3,400 new variant cases late Thursday, bringing the U.S. total to 20,412, a number that’s nearly doubled since March 28.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 31 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 561,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 134.7 million cases and more than 2.9 million deaths. More than 233.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 178.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: Clinics, pharmacies seek to fill open vaccine slots as hesitancy looms. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. 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.

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Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nyandhana Giew, 55 of Des Moines gets her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Unity Point Wellness nurse Julie Lowe as her grandson watches in the Oakridge Neighborhood Community Center on Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Des Moines, IA. Brian Powers, Des Moines RegisterFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 vaccines are administered at the Knox County Health Department vaccine center in Knoxville on Monday, April 5, 2021. Brianna Paciorka, News Sentinel /USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

West Palm Beach firefighter/paramedic Chris Degler administers a vaccine to Gloria Flores of West Palm Beach, Fla. at the Mary V. McDonald Wilson Center at Gaines Park Thursday, April 1, 2021, the first day the site has been open. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be given there every week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment only. West Palm Beach Mayor James said the site can vaccinate approximately 1,000 people per week. Lannis Waters, Palm Beach Post/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Tim Hall of Northfield gets his vaccine shot for Yvonne Demyan, a nurse at the Summit County Public Health COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Summit County Fairgrounds on Saturday April 3, 2021 in Tallmadge. 1,500 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be given on the opening day of the site. Mike Cardew, USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Cars can be seen lining up for miles in hopes of getting a COVID-19 vaccinations at the West Valley Fire Department on April 1, 2021. Omar Ornelas, El Paso TimesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Cars full of people wanting a COVID-19 vaccine line up in the parking lot of Autzen Stadium on Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.

Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard /USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Third-year pharmacy student Tyler Norris measures doses of vaccine at the Schottenstein Center’s concourse level in Columbus, Ohio. Doral Chenoweth, The Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

A Socorro Independent School District Employee Health Clinic worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a preregistered employee at the district’s drive-thru vaccination site at SISD Police Services on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Aaron E. Martinez, El Paso Times /USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

BSN Student Carly Krisniski administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Georgia Southern staff member Amelia Castilian-Moore March 12, 2021 during a drive through clinic at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus in Savannah. Richard Burkhart, Savannah Morning News/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Patients are given the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Saturday, March 13, 2021, on the first day of operations at a mass vaccination site at the Lumen Field Events Center in Seattle, which adjoins the field where the NFL football Seattle Seahawks and the MLS soccer Seattle Sounders play their games. The site, which is the largest civilian-run vaccination site in the country, will operate only a few days a week until city and county officials can get more doses of the vaccine. Ted S. Warren, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, greets a worker at a volunteer check-in station, Saturday, March 13, 2021, on the first day of operations at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Lumen Field Events Center in Seattle, which adjoins the field where the NFL football Seattle Seahawks and the MLS soccer Seattle Sounders play their games. The site, which is the largest civilian-run vaccination site in the country, will operate only a few days a week until city and county officials can get more doses of the vaccine. Ted S. Warren, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

The first box containing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine heads down the conveyor to an awaiting transport truck at the McKesson facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday, March 1, 2021. Pool photo by Timothy D. EasleyFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

April Israel, RN, administers a shot to Don Robinson, 105, as he receives his second round of vaccinations for COVID-19 at Norton Audubon Hospital on Feb. 12, 2021. Robinson was 3 years old when the Spanish Flu killed 675,000 people in the US. Michael Clevenger, Courier Journal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Cars line up in a parking lot at NRG Park as people wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a federally supported supersite at the Harris County facility, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Houston. Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle via APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Edith Kelly gets her COVID vaccine as a worker writes her observation time on her windshield on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at the STARS Complex in Fort Myers. Amanda Inscore/The News-Press – USAToday Network-FloridaFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Ruben Tapia receives a COVID vaccine at the Gila River Indian Community vaccination event at Wildhorse Pass Motorsports Park on Feb. 20, 2021.
Meg Potter/The Republic
  Meg Potter/The RepublicFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

UCHealth pharmacy technicians work to prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination event in the parking lot of Coors Field on February 20, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. UCHealth plans to administer 10,000 second doses to seniors over 70 during the drive-up event this weekend. Michael Ciaglo, Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Anna Kathryn Ward, left, a Mississippi State Department of Health pharmacist, speaks with Marion Mackabee, of Brookhaven, Miss., about when she needs to get her second dose of the Moderna vaccine. Mackabee and her husband, Pastor Ronnie Mackabee, of The Hub Missionary Community Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Miss., joined other African American faith leaders from across the state at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, to get the COVID-19 vaccine to encourage the Black community to get vaccinated. The event was hosted by the Mississippi National Baptist State Convention in conjunction with the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Barbara Gauntt, Clarion Ledger/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

People wait in line at a 24-hour, walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic hosted by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Feb. 19, 2021. Matt Rourke, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Traffic cones line around the empty parking lot of Dodger Stadium, a mass COVID-19 vaccination in Los Angeles, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. California has closed some vaccination centers and delayed appointments following winter storms elsewhere in the country that hampered the shipment of doses. Damian Dovarganes, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Frieda Allweiss, a Holocaust survivor, rolls up her sleeve for her shot by Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, on Feb. 12, 2021, at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium vaccination site. Drake Presto, Arizona RepublicFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

People wait in line to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site set up in a park in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Jae C. Hong, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Susan Geubtner, a nurse with Montana Veterans Affairs, gives a COVID-19 vaccination to Robert Harris a veteran of the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 9, 2021during a vaccination clinic for veterans in Great Falls, Mont. RION SANDERS,GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Several hundred people wait through a snow storm for COVID-19 vaccines at the Westchester County Center in White Plains Feb. 7, 2021. The line stretched around the building and at times took people 2 1/2 hours to receive their vaccine. Seth Harrison, The Journal News via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Maximo Michua, 74, holds his sleeve as Kathryne Acuna (R), Director of Ambulatory Clinical Services at Kaiser Permanente, administers his Covid-19 vaccine on the opening day of a large-scale Covid-19 vaccination site at a parking structure at Cal Poly Pomona University in Pomona, California on February 5, 2021. Frederic J. Brown, AFP via Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Kansas Air National Guard Maj. Cortney Neblett, left, gives a COVID-19 vaccine shot to Master Sgt. Thomas Lafountain, right, during a clinic for Kansas National Guard personnel, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, at Air National Guard’s base south of Topeka, Kan. The Kansas National Guard received 1,100 doses from the U.S. Department of Defense. John Hanna, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Jim Dixon pulls out his COVID-19 vaccination record card at Germantown Baptist Church in Germantown, Tenn., on Feb. 4, 2021. Ariel Cobbert, The Commercial Appeal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Michigan National Guard Sgt. Terence Warner checks a dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine before administering it to a person in their vehicle at the Michigan State University Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education building in East Lansing on Thursday, February 4, 2021 during a drive-up COVID-19 vaccination distribution site. Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press/ USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Doryl Wolfe, 76, of Cortlandt Manor receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Christina Gilkes at Save Mor Drugs in Croton-on-Hudson Feb. 4, 2021. Tania Savayan, The Journal NewsFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

People with appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine wait on line at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. Appointments scheduled for the past two-days were rescheduled for today due to the inclement weather. John Meore, The Journal NewsFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

A senior receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a health care worker after arriving on a bus to a vaccination site at Anquan Boldin Stadium in Pahokee, Fla., on Feb. 3. Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

People arrive for COVID-19 vaccination at a drive through setup at Coors Field baseball stadium on January 30, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. Chet Strange, AFP via Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

UT Medical Assistant Laila Green administers COVID-19 vaccines, volunteering for Shelby County Health Department at the site of the former Appling Emissions Station on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 in Memphis.

Joe Rondone, The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Security guard Andrea Rapini sits at a COVID-19 vaccination site that closed after running out of the vaccine in John Prince Park in Lake Worth Beach, Fla., on Jan. 27. Gov. Ron DeSantis turned vaccine distribution over to Publix pharmacies in the area. GREG LOVETT, The Palm Beach Post via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

John Bernard receives his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Adrienne Bond during a vaccine clinic at the Vanderburgh County Health Department in Evansville, Ind., Jan. 26, 2021. He brought his 101-year-old mother, Evelyn Bernard, to the clinic too so they could both get vaccinated. Sam Owens, Evansville Courier and Press via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Palm Desert resident Luther Wood, 82, celebrates his Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Eisenhower Health’s clinic for patients age 75 and older on Jan. 26 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Vickie Connor, The Desert Sun via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Corpus Christi firefighter cadet Marcus Maldonado gives Samuel Sanchez a COVID-19 vaccine outside this home during the first day of the Senior Vaccination Program in Corpus Christi, Texas on Jan. 26, 2021.

Fd Home Vaccinations 3 Courtney Sacco, The Corpus Christi Caller Times via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Dr. Thomas Ballard, 82, of San Francisco, receives the Moderna COVID vaccine at a mass vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. San Francisco launched its first mass vaccination facility at City College of San Francisco to administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The effort comes as American healthcare workers and organizations push for a faster distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Martin Klimek, USA TODAYFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Clay County residents wait in line for the start of Monday morning’s vaccination effort at the Clay County Fairgrounds. The early appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations begin to line up at the Clay County Fairgrounds west of Green Cove Springs early Monday morning, Jan. 18, 2021. Ascension St. Vincent’s is holding the event for Clay County Residents 65 and older from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and plan to provide approximately 2,500 vaccinations.

Bob Self, Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Century Village residents wait before appointments are handed out for the COVID-19 vaccine in West Palm Beach, Florida on Jan. 11, 2021. The community will receive 3,000 doses to use starting on Wednesday. Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post-USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Karen MacDonald, a nurse at Gates Middle School in Scituate, Mass. lays out her syringes while getting ready to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to first responders on Jan. 11, 2021. Robin Chan, Wicked Local via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

A line of Duval County residents snakes around the campus of the Mandarin Senior Center on Hartley Road on Jan. 11, 2021, as people wait for COVID-19 vaccine injections at one of the two City of Jacksonville vaccine sites which opened Monday. Bob Self, Florida Times-Union via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Century Village resident Maria Cole shows identification to make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine in West Palm Beach, Florida on Jan. 11, 2021. The community will receive 3,000 doses to use starting on Jan. 13, 2021. Greg Lovett, PALM BEACH POST via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Medical professionals from Oregon Health & Science University load syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Portland, Ore., Jan. 10, 2021. The clinic is a partnership between the Service Employees International Union and Oregon Health & Science University, aiming to vaccinate Oregon’s 32,000 home health care workers and their patients. Pool photo by Kristyna Wentz-GraffFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Certified medical assistant Maria Lawlor administers the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to Michael Burns, 62, at Rosewood Zaragosa Health Center in East Austin on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. Currently, vaccines generally are restricted to¤first responders, health care personnel, people 65 and older, and those 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition. Bronte Wittpenn, Austin American-Statesman/ USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nurses have COVID-19 vaccines drawn and ready to administer as people pull into a bay at the former State Farm building in Murfreesboro, Tenn. to receive their first dose on Jan. 4, 2021. Helen Comer, The Daily News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

A woman takes a selfie with the medical worker who administered her COVID-19 vaccination at a drive-thru at Broadbent Arena in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 4, 2021. Pat McDonogh, The Courier Journal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Paulette Brown gets the Moderna vaccine, Jan. 3, 2021 during the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s vaccination point distribution at Brownsville Community Center in Pensacola, Fla. John Blackie, Pensacola News-Journal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

A health-care worker reacts as she receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Lake-Sumter State College in Leesburg, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. Long lines of cars were at the site as the Lake County vaccines are currently being given to people who are 65 years and older and front line workers. Stephen M. Dowell /Orlando Sentinel via APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nurse Shanteria Johnson, who is with the Medical Reserve Core at the Alachua County Health Department, draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination session for local firefighters at the Gainesville Professional Firefighters Union Hall in Gainesville Fla., Dec. 31, 2020. Brad McClenny, The Gainesville Sun via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Seniors stand in line to make an appointment to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine outside the King’s Point clubhouse in Delray Beach, Fla. on Dec. 30, 2020. GREG LOVETT, Palm Beach Post via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Cape Coral residents wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 30, 2020 during first day of vaccinations in the city at Cultural Park Theater. The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is offering COVID-19 vaccine to high-risk frontline health care workers and those 65 and older. Ricardo Rolon, The News-Press via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Friends Terri Kado,66, right and Patty Tubbs,68, from Fort Myers Beach wait in line for the the COVID-19 vaccine in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, 2020 at Lakes Park Regional Library in Fort Myers, Fla. The two were having a pleasant experience and were watching the moon as it moved through the sky. To them the vaccine brings a peace of mind and a positive start to the New Year. They got in line at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Andrew West/The News-Press, The News-PressFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Jessica Miles, left, of CVS, gives resident Wanda Kilgore a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Linley Park Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Anderson, S.C., Dec. 29, 2020. The first dose of the vaccine was administered to 51 residents and 32 staff, with the second dose planned for Jan. 26, 2021. Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Winona McCain, 71, a resident at Patewood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Greenville, S.C., raises her fist after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Jamie, a pharmacist with CVS on Dec. 28, 2020. MATT BURKHARTT, The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Pharmacists prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on Dec. 28, 2020 in Kirkland, Wash. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home, was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. Karen Ducey, Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Dr. Cletus Oppong, who specializes in occupational medicine, is the first to receive the first round of the Moderna vaccine by Clinical Pharmacist Erin Conkright on Dec. 24, 2020, at the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital in Owensboro, Ky. “It’s an exciting day,” said Oppong. Alan Warren, The Messenger-Inquirer via APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District personnel administer COVID-19 vaccinations to colleagues during a test drive-thru event at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Corpus Christi, Texas on Dec. 23, 2020. Courtney Sacco, The Corpus Christi Caller Times via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Command Sgt. Maj. John Raines of the Mississippi National Guard, looks away as he receives a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in his arm, by a fellow guard member, Dec. 23, 2020, in Flowood, Miss. One hundred doses of the vaccine were administered to both Mississippi Air and Army National Guard service members who serve as first responders and currently assist with the administering of the COVID-19 test at Mississippi Department of Health drive through community testing sites across the state. Rogelio V. Solis, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

The CVS Health team arrives with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Sivercrest Health and Rehabilitation Center in Crestview, Fla. on Dec. 21, 2020. This was one of the first administrations of the vaccine in the state. Michael Snyder, The Northwest Florida Daily News via USA Today NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Dr. Theresa Maresca from the Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB), lets a collegue write on her arm For the Love of Native People over the spot where she received a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, at the SIHB, on Dec. 21, 2020 in Seattle, Wash. The Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) received 500 doses of the FDA-approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine today. Karen Ducey, Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Long-term care patient Carlos Alegre receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from licensed vocational nurse Virgie Vivar at Birch Patrick Skilled Nursing Facility at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center on Dec. 21, 2020 in Chula Vista, Calif. 72-year-old Alegre is the first patient to receive the vaccine in San Diego County. Long-term care patients and frontline workers are among those in the CDCÕs highest priority group for vaccination. Mario Tama, Getty ImagesFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Hartford HealthCare employee Wilfredo Rivera reacts after receiving the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 as Hartford HealthCare Nurse Laura Bailey, right, looks on at Hartford Hospital, Dec. 21, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. Hartford HealthCare was the first in the state to administer the Moderna vaccine. Jessica Hill, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Marie Branham, right, resident services director at Atria Springdale assisted living community, receives the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from CVS pharmacist Shereen Keshta at the facility in Louisville, Ky. on Dec. 21, 2020. Sam Upshaw Jr., Courier Journal via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss. on Dec. 20, 2020. While shipments of the vaccine are rolling out to many health care workers and nursing homes across the country, it could be months before itÕs available for the general public. Paul Sancya, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Chief Nursing Officer Robin L. Steaban, left, who administered the vaccine, stands with nurse practitioner Lisa Flemmons, Dr. Todd Rice, nurse Cody Hamilton and respiratory therapist Sophie Whitaker after they received a COVID-19 vaccine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 17, 2020. George Walker IV, THE TENNESSEAN via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nurse practitioner Franklin Grauzer receives a high-five from his daughter, Emerson, 5, after he received a COVID-19 vaccine at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 17, 2020. Andrew Nelles, The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Tim King, a citizen of the Cherokee nation and a Cherokee language speaker, receives ther COVID-19 vaccine at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center Dec. 17, 2020, in Tahlequah, Okla. On his left arm is a tattoo of a dreamcatcher with the word Cherokee. Mike Simons, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Dr. Julie Kennerly-Shah draws out a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as its distributed to healthcare workers on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center East in Columbus, Ohio. Vaccine shipments began arriving in Ohio on Monday and frontline health care workers have been the first to receive the vaccine. Joshua A. Bickel, Columbus DispatchFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nursing student Abriana Martinez administers the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to Dr. Erik Pronske at the University of Texas Health Austin Dell Medical School on Tuesday December 15, 2020. Jay Janner, Austin American-StatesmanFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Allison Wynes, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) nurse practitioner, records a video for her friends announcing she had received one of first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, on the 12th floor of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-CitizenFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in New York. Mark Lennihan, APFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Courtney Schneider, 40, of Grand Rapids and her son, Elliot Schneider, 8, of Grand Rapids wave flags at the FedEx plane carrying the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Dec. 13, 2020. Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY NETWORKFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Dec. 13, 2020. Morry Gash, PoolFullscreen

Biden administration won't surge vaccines to virus hotspots; Alabama, Utah lift mask mandates. Latest COVID-19 updates

Nurse Chris Nelson gets the COVID-19 vaccine at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Andrew Craft, USA TODAY NetworkFullscreen

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FEMA’s funeral assistance program launches Monday

Starting Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will accept applications for its funeral assistance program. 

The agency will offer a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.

To be eligible for assistance, the death must have occurred in the U.S. and happened as a result of COVID-19. The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, national or qualified resident. 

For more information, visit the FEMA website. 

– Ben Yoder, Des Moines Register 

More colleges, universities say they will require COVID-19 vaccinations

First it was Rutgers and Cornell. Then Notre Dame. Now Duke.

The list of colleges and universities that will require COVID-19 vaccinations for new and returning students to attend in-person classes this fall grew again Friday, with the North Carolina school announcing a policy that will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

“We know that widespread vaccination will be the only way to facilitate a return to normal and robust campus life,” Duke President Vincent Price said in a statement on the university’s website.

Brown in Rhode Island, Northeastern in Boston, Nova Southeastern University in Florida and Fort Lewis College in Colorado have also followed the precedent set by Rutgers in New Jersey and Cornell in New York.

“It doesn’t just make us safer. In the end, it makes our entire community safer,” Antonio Calcado, Rutgers’ chief operating officer, told USA TODAY this week. “That’s why we think requiring is the way to go versus encouraging.”

Colleges and universities have been especially hard-hit by coronavirus restrictions, losing students who say they’re tired of paying full-price tuition for virtual learning, and that generally means less money for universities that may already be struggling financially.

Stay-at-home life won’t end post-COVID. Streaming is here to stay

As Americans are getting COVID-19 vaccinations in record numbers, music venues and comedy clubs have begun preparations to re-open. But even when things can go back to normal, they might not. Some parts of lockdown life may linger, especially streaming. 

A Bandsintown survey of 1,000 artists found that 85% of them plan to maintain live stream shows as part of their schedules even after in-person shows are doable. 

The same survey, which surveyed about 6,000 fans as well, also found that more than half of music fans (55%) say they will keep streaming live concerts after in-person shows return. 

– Mike Snider

Supreme Court halts California coronavirus rules that limit home worship

The Supreme Court Friday shot down a California regulation limiting religious worship at home in a 5-4 vote. This is the latest in a series of rulings in which the justices have found that coronavirus pandemic regulations violate the First Amendment’s protections of religion.

California prohibited at home gatherings in counties hard hit by the pandemic and limited those gatherings elsewhere to no more than three households. The restrictions were challenged by two Christian pastors who wanted to hold Bible studies, prayer meetings and other services in their home. 

The court said California would need to show that it is more dangerous for people to gather in homes for religious services than in hair salons, retail stores, movie theaters and restaurants, where the state allows people to gather from more than three households. 

Before the ruling, California had already announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state. 

– John Fritze

Women report more side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than men. Health experts explain why.

Reports of COVID-19 vaccine side effects support what many have anecdotally observed: women shoulder the bigger burden.

Among nearly 7,000 reports processed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from Dec. 14 to Jan. 13, more than 79% of them came from women. The most frequently reported side effects were headache, fatigue and dizziness.

Women also are more likely than men to experience some of the vaccine’s more unusual side effects, such as an itchy red rash that appears at the injection site.  With about 95% of the reactions occurring with the Moderna vaccine, women account for 77% of the vaccine’s reported side effects.

Health experts say this may be because women exhibit a greater immune response to vaccines and men tend to underreport their side effects. Another possible explanation from experts is gender bias in clinical research — such as adult men and women receiving the same dose of a vaccine regardless of size — which may mean women are getting a stronger dose than is necessary to trigger an adequate immune response. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Florida woman gets 29 days in jail for coughing on cancer patient

A Florida woman was sentenced to 29 days in jail for assault this week after she was captured on video coughing in the face of another woman, a cancer patient with a compromised immune system, last year at a Jacksonville-area mall.

Debra Jo Michele Hunter, of Fernandina Beach, also made an obscene gesture toward Heather Sprague, who was wearing a mask to further protect herself after recent brain tumor surgery, in a video that gained widespread attention.

Duval County Court Judge James Ruth heard testimony from Hunter’s husband, friends and family who said she has a “really huge heart” and was “broken-hearted” over the incident. Sprague, who told the judge she feared being attacked for wearing a mask, described Hunter’s actions as “rooted in privilege and entitlement.”

– Dan Scanlan, Florida Times-Union

Pfizer-BioNTech asks for FDA approval of its vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech on Friday asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow their COVID-19 vaccine to be used on adolescents ages 12-15. Their vaccine is already authorized for those 16 and up.

The companies also plan to ask for similar authorization from regulatory agencies in other parts of the world. In trial results released recently, the companies showed that their vaccine prevented all COVID-19 symptomatic disease in trial participants ages 12-15, generated large numbers of protective antibodies in that age group, and did not pose any safety concerns.

The companies will follow all of the more than 2,200 trial participants for two years after their second dose to ensure safety and vaccine durability.

– Doyle Rice

COVID pandemic knocks 80% off Atlantic City casino profits in 2020

The coronavirus outbreak sent profits plunging at Atlantic City’s casinos by more than 80% last year, according to figures released Friday by New Jersey gambling regulators.

Still, seven of the nine casinos managed to eke out a profit, no matter how small, during what New Jersey Casino Control Commission chairman James Plousis called the “most challenging year in history” for the city and its casinos.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement reported the nine casinos collectively posted $117.5 million in gross operating profits in 2020. That was down from nearly $594 million a year earlier, before the pandemic forced casinos to close for 3 1/2 months, and limited their operations even after reopening.

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