FairWarning Signing Off; Statements by Our Board and Editor

The board of FairWarning, a nonprofit devoted to alerting the public to hazardous consumer products and unjust corporate practices, has decided to dissolve the charitable nonprofit as of Feb. 20, 2021. This step is taken with regret as the small journalism nonprofit has devoted the last 11 years to protecting the public from harms to their health and safety. Circumstances beyond the board’s control have unfairly damaged FairWarning’s reputation and made it difficult to carry on a small-budget news organization dependent on charitable donations.

Poor Ventilation in Multifamily Buildings May Lessen Benefit of Staying at Home to Avoid Covid

Lindsey first noticed the symptoms in mid-December. Her wife was even sicker, with a high fever. Six days later, testing confirmed it: they both had Covid. Lindsey knew she had to tell the neighbors upstairs. The two apartments share a thermostat and heating system in a five-unit, 1920s-era brick building in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. Cooking smells from above frequently infiltrate their apartment, and Lindsey (whose name has been changed; she agreed to speak on condition of anonymity) was concerned she and her wife could pass the illness on to their neighbors, who are also the building’s owners.
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Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, With More Vaccines on the Way

Boosting the vaccine arsenal: Johnson & Johnson has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization to roll out its single-dose vaccine, with the first shipments possible by early March, The New York Times reports. The application followed a promising clinical trial in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa that found the vaccine was 85 percent effective in preventing severe infections in all three regions. While not as far along, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford was shown effective against a highly transmissible variant of the virus in a small-scale study, according to The Wall Street Journal. The results, which have not been peer reviewed, found that the vaccine was 74.6 percent effective against the variant first detected in Britain. Preliminary findings suggest that all of the vaccines, including the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines already on the market, provide some protections against new coronavirus variants that are spreading around the world.

Latino Death Rate in L.A. Skyrockets; National Masking Order Issued for Public Transportation

“Frankly horrifying”: The Latino death rate in Los Angeles County has increased by over 1000 percent since November, from adaily average of 3.5 deaths to 40 deaths per 100,000 residents, Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money report for the Los Angeles Times. “Our Latinx community is, in fact, bearing the worst of this pandemic,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. Death rates are going up for all racial groups: In early January, an average of 12 per 100,000 Asian residents were dying each day, up from 1 per day in November. During that same time period, the daily death rate of white residents increased from an average of 1 to 10 per 100,000 residents; for Black residents this figure soared from 1 to 15. Still, the death rate for Latino residents is almost triple that of white residents. “While every single race and ethnicity group in L.A. County has seen a horrendous increase in mortality rates, the gap between the experiences of those in our Latinx community and all others is frankly horrifying,” Ferrer said.

A Single-Dose Vaccine is Coming, Even As U.S. Covid Deaths Are Expected to Reach 500,000 by Feb. 20

A single dose coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will soon be in front of the Food and Drug Administration, and could get emergency authorization in February, The New York Times reports. However, the efficacy of the vaccine dropped from 72 percent in the U.S. to 57 percent when tested in South Africa, where a new, extra-contagious Covid variant is rampant. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna also say that their vaccines are less effective against this variant, which has spread to more than 30 countries, including the U.S. It’s another reason to vaccinate the U.S. population as quickly as possible, before more contagious variants have time to spread widely. President Biden has increased his stated goal of administering one million shots per day to 1.5 million per day, or 150 million in his first 100 days as president. The administration will also buy 100 million more doses each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, increasing total doses to 600 million, enough to vaccinate most of the U.S. population by the end of summer, according to The Wall Street Journal. Per the CDC vaccination tracker, more than 48 million doses have been distributed and over 26 million have been administered.

Covid Scams Flourish Despite Efforts of Health and Law Enforcement Agencies

Black Plague tea. Biomagnetism treatment. Ozone therapy. Although authorities are trying to crack down, bogus Covid-19 promotions like these are still going strong, as frightened consumers seek out and fall prey to sham treatments and cures. The Justice Department, which reported receiving more than 76,000 tips about coronavirus scams by...

Biden Orders Limits on Travel as Global Covid Cases Top 100 Million

President Biden has prohibited non-citizens who have recently been in South Africa from entering the United States in an attempt to stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant, David Shepardson reports for Reuters. Biden also reimposed an entry ban on non-U.S. travelers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across borders. Some health officials worry that the South Africa variant, which is 50 percent more infectious, will not respond to the vaccines. While that variant has not yet been detected in the U.S., another likely originating in Brazil has been found in a Minnesota resident who recently traveled there, The New York Times writes. “With the world travel that you have, and the degree of transmissibility efficiency, it’s not surprising,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president.

With Covid Death Toll About to Pass U.S. Fatalities in World War II, Biden Moves to Get Control of the Virus

Within days, U.S. deaths from Covid-19 will exceed the nation’s toll from World War II, which claimed 418,500 lives. More than 24.6 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus, and over 411,000 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. That is nearly one of every 800 Americans. More than 97.7 million people have been infected worldwide, and about 2.1 million have died. Deaths are spiking in Germany, where 30,000 of the more than 50,000 deaths have occurred since December 9, according to The New York Times. And Beijing is testing residents for the virus en masse after a handful of cases were confirmed in the city, Alexandra Stevenson and Julfikar Ali Manik write for The Times.

Ahead of Inauguration, President-Elect Biden to Honor 400,000 Lost to Covid

By the end of the day, at least 400,000 people will have died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, which currently shows more than 399,000 deaths. The U.S. is responsible for roughly one-fifth of the global death toll, which is now greater than 2 million, although the country only makes up 4 percent of the world’s population. In The New York Times, Sarah Mervosh, Mike Baker, Patricia Mazzei and Mark Walker retrace the steps that led us here. The reporters interviewed health officials across the country, who said they were often at odds with local leaders, who were more concerned with keeping businesses open than preventing the virus from spreading. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited cities and counties from enforcing their own mask mandates, curfews and other restrictions, and gave restaurants and bars the green light to operate at full capacity. Even after the White House coronavirus task force privately told states in individualized memos to do more to encourage face masks or limit indoor dining, their advice went unheeded in at least 26 states.

New Estimate That Covid Has Infected 1 in 3 Los Angeles County Residents, With Poor Areas Hardest Hit

Officials in Los Angeles County estimate that the coronavirus has infected one in three residents, Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II report for the Los Angeles Times. That works out to more than 3 million people in the county of 10 million, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Fewer than a third of those infected have tested positive, but experts say testing only captures a fraction of actual cases because those with mild or no symptoms often don’t get tested. The county averaged more than 15,000 new confirmed Covid cases a day over the past week. Poor neighborhoods and Latino and Black communities are bearing the brunt, Money and Lin write. Wealthy neighborhoods are averaging 10 deaths a day per 100,000 residents, while poor neighborhoods are seeing around 36 deaths a day per 100,000 people. In November, Latinos were dying at an average rate of 3.5 per day per 100,000 people, but the situation has drastically deteriorated and the rate is now 28 deaths per day per 100,000 Latinos.

Bumpy Vaccine Drive as the Global Covid Death Toll Nears 2 Million

In New York, rigidly sticking to a healthcare-workers-first plan resulted in horrifying stories of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses languishing in freezers—or worse, thrown out because they weren’t administered quickly enough, Joseph Goldstein reports for The New York Times. Hospital administrators who received more doses than they needed to inoculate their staffs worried that using the extra doses on older patients would run afoul of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strict rules, so they just sat there. As criticism and pressure from the city mounted, the governor has now said the city can begin inoculating people 75 or older, but that it could still be slow-going. “This is a very large group of people: It can’t be just show up at the pharmacy,” Cuomo said.

U.S. Covid Deaths Top 4,000 For First Time, With Prospect of At Least 40,000 More Fatalities in Next Three Weeks

“We believe things will get worse as we get into January,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a radio interview yesterday. And they have. The U.S. set a new record for daily Covid-19 deaths for the second day in a row yesterday, with more than 4,100 people dying, according to The New York Times. The daily new case record also fell, with more than 280,000 new infections reported. These extra-high figures could be skewed higher by lags in reporting following the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent forecast projected there could be between 405,000 and 438,000 U.S. deaths by the end of the month, CNN reports. Globally, there have been over 88 million confirmed cases and more than 1.9 million deaths; of those, more than 21.6 million cases have been recorded in the U.S., and more than 366,000 of the deaths. Although all eyes turned this week to the chaos and violence in the nation’s capitol, if the CDC’s estimate is correct, 40,000 to 73,000 more people will die of Covid in the U.S. in the next three weeks.

Which U.S. Cities Get Failing Grades on Parks

Being ranked among the most park-poor cities in America is a fitness test no city wants to flunk. But in 2020 amid the pandemic, the national “ParkScore” ratings issued by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) took on greater meaning as overcrowding at home and lack of school recess put families in a bind.

Slow Vaccine Rollout and Record Hospitalizations as U.S. Bears the Brunt of Holiday Surge

In the U.S., a record 77,572 people died from the coronavirus in December, with a death now occurring about every 33 seconds, reports CNN. The cumulative death toll for the country now exceeds 354,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker–nearly one-fifth of the global total of 1.8 million deaths. In the U.S., about 21 million people—one out of 16—have tested positive for the coronavirus, including more than 500,000 inmates and guards at U.S. prisons and jails, according to The New York Times. Total Covid hospitalizations nationwide reached a new record on Sunday, Adam Martin reports for The Wall Street Journal, with more than 125,544 people in hospitals—the fourth time in five days that figure exceeded 125,000. More than three-quarters of intensive care unit beds nationwide are occupied, according to The New York Times, and one-fifth of hospitals with ICUs are nearly at capacity (95 percent or more beds taken).

First Vaccinations Administered on Same Day U.S. Death Toll Passes 300,000

The first coronavirus vaccinations were administered in the United States Monday, the same day that the number of people in the U.S. who have died from Covid-19 passed 300,000, Campbell Robertson, Amy Harmon and Mitch Smith report for The New York Times. (Guardian editor Ankita Rao shared a list of 10 of those 300,000 she thinks about regularly.) Federal officials said some 20 million people will be able to receive the first of the two shots by the end of the year, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said another 30 million will receive it in January, The Washington Post reports. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, it’s up to the states to decide where and to whom to distribute the first batch of vaccines. Based on news reports, most are going, as expected, to workers at health care facilities. Even so, hospitals haven’t received enough to vaccinate everyone on staff, so they have to determine who’s at the front of the line. The New York Times reports that at George Washington University Hospital, which held a ceremonial vaccination event yesterday for the Department of Health and Human Services, administrators used an algorithm to choose which five employees to vaccinate first based on age and underlying medical conditions. Other hospitals are prioritizing workers who spend the greatest amount of time with Covid patients, or letting hospital staff determine when and if they should sign up for a vaccine based on their health histories and other risk factors, JoNel Aleccia writes for NBC News.

With U.S. Covid Death Toll Smashing Records, the First Vaccinations Could Come Next Week

A widely circulated list ranking the deadliest days in American history is picked apart here by Slate for leaving some things out, but the point remains that Covid deaths on several days this month have been higher than from the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that killed 2,403 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that number has been surpassed on multiple days in December, including on Wednesday, when Covid claimed 3,411 lives–far and away a record and more than from the September 11, 2001 attacks. “The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s chief of emergencies, told the Associated Press. “It’s quite frankly shocking to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system, amazing technological capacities.” More than 292,000 people in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus, nearly one-fifth of the world’s total, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington forecasts that 500,000 people in the United States will have died from coronavirus by April—but if mask use increased to 95 percent, it could save 56,000 lives, CNN reports.