Fauci hits back at rightwing criticism and says attacks on him ‘bizarre’

Scientist forced to defend himself from attacks by Trump allies and says ‘I can’t be bothered with getting distracted’

Anthony Fauci has described attacks on him from Republicans as “bizarre”, after a barrage of criticism from senior GOP figures.

Related: ‘There is a solution’: a Covid survivor’s life-or-death battle for Medicare for All

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Covid cases fall over 80% among US nursing home staff and residents

Despite vaccine hesitancy, figures show a big drop in infections – giving hope that, after a brutal year, an end is in sight

Joan Phillips, a certified nursing assistant in a Florida nursing home, loved her job but dreaded the danger of going to work in the pandemic. When vaccines became available in December, she jumped at the chance to get one.

Months later, it appears that danger has faded. After the rollout of Covid vaccines, the number of new Covid cases among nursing home...

Coronavirus live news: at least 3,000 nurses have died in year since WHO declared Covid pandemic

3,000 nurses dead, Covid exodus looming warns global federation; Brazil again suffers record deaths; five countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Interim data from a late-stage study of their experimental Covid antibody therapy showed an 85% reduction in hospitalisation or death in patients, Vir Biotechnology Inc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Following the data an independent panel has recommended stopping the trial, the two companies said, adding they were planning to submit an emergency use authorisation application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment.

US nursing home residents vaccinated against Covid can get hugs again from their loved ones, and all residents may enjoy more indoor visits, the government said Wednesday in a step toward pre-pandemic normalcy.

AP: The policy guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, comes as coronavirus cases and deaths among nursing home residents have plummeted in recent weeks at the same time that vaccination accelerated. People living in long-term care facilities have borne a cruel toll from the pandemic. They represent about 1% of the US population, but account for 1 in 3 deaths, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Government officials acknowledged that isolation deepened the misery for residents as long-term care facilities remained locked down much of last year. Loneliness contributed to physical as well as mental decline. The ban on visits went into effect almost one year ago and only in the fall were facilities allowed to begin socially distanced outdoor visits and limited indoor ones.

“There is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one,” CMS said in its new guidance, “Therefore, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting face mask and performing hand-hygiene before and after.”

So while hugs are OK again for residents who have completed their vaccination, precautions such as wearing masks and using hand sanitiser remain in place as a counterbalance to risk. CMS also underscored that maintaining 6 feet of separation is still the safest policy, and outdoor visits are preferable even when residents and visitors have been vaccinated.

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Republicans want to make it harder to pass ballot initiatives. That should alarm us | David Daley

State legislators are trying to make it more difficult for citizens to take action when their own representatives won’t

They walked through Michigan college football games dressed as gerrymandered districts. They crisscrossed Idaho in a decades-old RV dubbed the Medicaid Express. In Florida, they united black and white, left and right, Trump-loving “deplorables” and radical criminal justice reformers into a mighty moral movement to end an ugly vestige of Jim Crow.

Related: The...

Biden to set out his foreign policy in state dept speech – live updates

President has promised US will re-engage globally after isolationist Trump era

A Texas county judge has temporarily blocked the state’s efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, report CNN. Caroline Kelly writes:

A slew of Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates asserted in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission failed to issue “a proper notice of termination” from the program. The state had promised to remove the groups from the Medicaid program Thursday.

The chief press officer for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, Christine Mann, declined to comment on the case citing pending litigation.

Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon have a relatively upbeat analysis of the coronavirus situation across the US today for Axios. They write:

New coronavirus infections slowed by nearly 16% over the past week, continuing a trend of rapid improvement. The US still has a ton of coronavirus, and there’s still the potential for dark days ahead. But this is progress, and the improvement is significant. If this trend keeps going, the country will be in a far better and safer position as vaccines continue to roll out.

Nationwide, the US is averaging about 139,000 new cases per day — a 16% improvement over last week, which was a 16% improvement over the week before. The number of new hospitalizations was also down last week, by just over 26%. And deaths fell by about 6%, to an average of 3,097 deaths per day.

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Don’t swerve the culture war – that’s the lesson from Joe Biden to UK progressives | Owen Jones

The Democrats’ victory involved working with minorities and helping the working class. Keir Starmer, take heed

“Culture war” used to be a term inextricably linked with the maelstrom of US politics. Popularised by American sociologist James Davison Hunter in his 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America, it described how socially progressive and conservative coalitions were locked in a seemingly eternal conflict. It could make for surprising alliances, he noted, citing Pr...

US detects two cases of South Africa Covid variant as Biden aims to expand healthcare – live

South Carolina state health officials said Thursday that two cases of the coronavirus variant identified in South Africa had been detected in the state- the first time the variant has been found in the US.

South Carolina’s department of health and environmental control said the two cases don’t appear to be connected and the two people affected did not have a history of recent travel. One was detected by the state’s public health lab and the other by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Survivors of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, asked congressional Republicans to publicly censure Marjorie Taylor Greene for suggesting the school shooting was a “false flag” and for harassing a teenage survivor on Capitol Hill in 2019.

House Republicans this week announced that Greene, a newly elected Georgia congresswoman, had been appointed to the House Education and Labor Committee.

House EdLabor committee chair @BobbyScott on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s appointment to the committee:

“House Republicans have appointed someone to this Committee who claimed that the killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook... was a hoax” pic.twitter.com/VoPgJ3tSLF

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Georgia to uphold Biden’s win as Birx says states abandoned prevention tactics – live

Donald Trump once again lashed out against Georgia’s Republican governor, as the state prepares to recertify Joe Biden’s victory there.

“The Republican Governor of Georgia refuses to do signature verification, which would give us an easy win. What’s wrong with this guy? What is he hiding?” Trump said in a tweet.

The Republican Governor of Georgia refuses to do signature verification, which would give us an easy win. What’s wrong with this guy? What is he hiding?

Xavier Becerra pledged to ensure Americans’ access to quality health care if he is approved as secretary of health and human services.

In Congress, I helped pass the Affordable Care Act. As California's Attorney General, I defended it. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care—through this pandemic and beyond.

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Joe Biden to nominate California attorney general Xavier Becerra as health secretary – reports

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra will be the first Latino to head the federal health department

President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly picked California attorney general Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1-trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.

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New York schools to close again as US approaches 250,000 Covid deaths – live

  • New York City public schools to close again on Thursday
  • President-elect Biden peaks virtually with healthcare workers
  • Trump campaign to request recounts in two Wisconsin counties
  • House Democrats reelect Pelosi as nominee for speaker
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10.51pm GMT

The US coronavirus death toll has now surpassed 250,029, representing a higher death toll than an...