US virus death toll to pass 400,000 as fatalities rise in 30 states amid winter surge; Exhausted hospital chaplains bring solace to the lonely and dying

“Video Amid Virus Surge, Hospital Chaplains on Front Line”


From The Associated Press


Media  – Coronavirus deaths are rising in 30 American states as a harsh winter surge pushes the overall toll toward 400,000 amid warnings that a new, highly contagious variant is taking hold.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pleaded with federal authorities to block travelers from countries where new variants are spreading. He cited new versions detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.


A vast effort is underway to get Americans vaccinated, but the campaign is off to an uneven start. According to the latest federal data, about 31 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, but fewer than 11 million people have received at least one dose. David Crary reports.


The U.S. will likely surpass 400,000 deaths later today, a terrible toll under the watch of the Trump administration. Further coverage to mark this bleak milestone can be found here in the coming hours.


California has become the first state to record more than 3 million infections. It wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents but its speed was stunning.


Hospital Chaplains: Like doctors, nurses and other medical-care providers, hospital chaplains have become first responders for people with COVID-19. As families are barred from visiting loved ones to curb the disease’s spread, chaplains often are there as surrogates, holding the hands of the dying, praying with them and carrying iPads into hospital rooms to provide real-time connections for grieving families. It’s emotionally draining, even dangerous work, say chaplains at one hospital in Los Angeles. But it’s also something they feel called on to do, John Rogers reports.


Virus Variants: Mutations to the virus are rapidly cropping up and health officials say the pandemic could get worse unless people do more to curb cases. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate. So far, vaccines seem to remain effective against the new variants, but the longer it takes to vaccinate, the more likely a version of the virus that can elude defenses could emerge. In the U.S., health officials say a new variant first identified in the U.K. may become dominant in the U.S. by March and cause more hospitalizations and deaths because it spreads more easily, Marilynn Marchione reports.


Hard-Hit Yuma: Exhausted nurses in rural Yuma, Arizona, are regularly sending COVID-19 patients on a long helicopter ride to hospitals in Phoenix when they don’t have enough staff. The winter lettuce capital of the U.S. also has lagged on virus testing in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods and just ran out of vaccines. But some support is coming from military nurses and free tests for farmworkers and the elderly in Yuma County, the hardest-hit county in one of the hardest-hit states, Anita Snow reports.



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