VIRUS TODAY: Lag in vaccinations underscores lack of support

National

FILE – In this July 7, 2020, file photo, hospital staff members enter an elevator with the body of a COVID-19 victim on a gurney at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. California health authorities reported on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, a record high of 695 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under unprecedented caseloads. The state Department of Public Health says the number raises the state’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 29,233. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

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

— Public health officials have complained for months that they do not have enough support or money to get COVID-19 vaccines quickly into arms. Now the slower-than-expected start to the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history is proving them right. As they work to ramp up the shots, state and local public health departments across the U.S. cite a variety of obstacles, most notably a lack of leadership from the federal government. Many officials worry that they are losing precious time at the height of the pandemic, and the delays could cost lives.

— California health authorities reported a record one-day total of coronavirus deaths as many hospitals are strained by growing caseloads. California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose by 695 on Saturday and now stands at 29,233, according to the state Department of Public Health’s website. Hospitalizations are nearly 22,000, and state models project the number could reach 30,000 by Feb 1.

— In a growing consensus, religious leaders at the forefront of the anti-abortion movement in the United States are telling followers that the leading vaccines available to combat COVID-19 are acceptable to take, given their remote and indirect connection to lines of cells derived from aborted fetuses.

THE NUMBERS: According to data through Jan. 9 from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 2,243.3 on Dec. 26 to 3,174 on Jan. 9.

DEATH TOLL: The number of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. stands at 372,522.

QUOTABLE: “To ask God for help but then refuse the vaccine makes no more sense than calling 911 when your house is on fire, but refusing to allow the firemen in. There is no legitimate faith-based reason for refusing to take the vaccine.” — Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who has called the vaccines a “present from God.”

ICYMI: House lawmakers may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 while they sheltered at an undisclosed location during the Capitol siege by a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump. The Capitol’s attending physician notified all lawmakers Sunday of the virus exposure and urged them to be tested. The infected individual was not named. Dozens of lawmakers were whisked to the secure location after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol that day. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.

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

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