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Things to Know: $1.9T package heads toward House approval

The Associated Press
·4-min read

Here’s what’s happening Friday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

— A $1.9 trillion package aimed at helping the country rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic seems headed toward House passage. Now, Democrats are also searching for a way to revive their drive to boost the minimum wage. The relief bill embodies President Joe Biden’s drive to flush cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities suffering from the pandemic. But Democratic progressives are adamant that the party keep trying to pass legislation that would boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly. The Senate parliamentarian says that provision must come out of the relief bill, so Democrats are discussing other steps.

— Tennessee has asked federal law enforcement to investigate the alleged theft of coronavirus vaccine doses in the state’s most populous county. In a Friday news conference, health officials also said a volunteer improperly vaccinated two children despite the shot not being cleared for minors. The details come after the state previously announced that roughly 2,400 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping inside the local health department. The county had also built up nearly 30,000 excess vaccine doses in its inventory.

— Two U.S. Navy warships operating in the Mideast have been struck by coronavirus outbreaks. That’s according to Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. A dozen troops aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock, tested positive for COVID-19. The commander says there also have been sailors afflicted aboard another vessel, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea. The San Diego sails with nearly 600 sailors and Marines aboard, while the Philippine Sea carries 380 sailors. The 5th Fleet patrols the waterways of the Mideast and often has tense encounters with Iran.

THE NUMBERS: According to data through Thursday from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. did not increase over the past two weeks, going from about 101,749 on Feb. 11 to nearly 67,880 on Thursday. Over the same period, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. fell from nearly 2,493 on Feb. 11 to about 2,155 on Thursday.

QUOTABLE: “I’d be very disappointed if people think that this is a new model because that would move us away completely from the essence of town meeting, which is the opportunity to assemble with our fellow voters, to hear from our elected officials directly, to question, to challenge them, to debate a budget and public questions in an assembled meeting.” — Former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, commenting on the postponement and cancellation of New England town meetings during the pandemic.

ICYMI: It’s a promotion that could be straight out of the “Mad Men” Don Draper playbook. The iconic Peter Luger Steak House in New York City has teamed with Madame Tussauds to have celebrity wax figures, including Jon Hamm in Draper mode, mingle with patrons on Friday to promote the easing of indoor dining restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. The gimmick coincides with a recent decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand restaurants' indoor dining capacity to 35%, up from 25% in response to a downturn in coronavirus infections. In business for more than 130 years, Peter Luger will keep the mannequins until Monday.

ON THE HORIZON: The U.S. is poised to get a third vaccine against COVID-19, and health officials are girding for questions about which one is best. If cleared for emergency use, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would offer a single-dose option that could help speed vaccinations. The challenge will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Those shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J are not that high, but they are not an apples-to-apples comparison. Regulators say it strongly protects against serious illness.

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Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic