the coronavirus crisis
3:19 p.m.

The United States recorded yet another lamentable milestone Tuesday, as data from Johns Hopkins University shows the country has surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The American death toll continues to lead the world in fatalities, nearly doubling Brazil's total, which is the second highest globally at more than 210,000.

It took just one month for U.S. COVID-19 fatalities to jump from 300,000 to 400,000 as the coronavirus surged across the country during the winter months and holiday season. The pandemic remains widespread in every state, though there's been a faint glimmer of hope that infections have begun to trend downward in recent days.

Regardless, experts believe there's still a long road ahead and — even with a massive, albeit slower-than-expected vaccination drive underway — the death toll could reach 500,000 by the end of February. Tim O'Donnell

12:19 a.m.

Due to COVID-19, there are so many dead bodies in Los Angeles County that air quality regulators have suspended limits on the number of cremations that can be conducted in the area.

The county's death rate is more than double the pre-coronavirus pandemic norm, The Guardian reports, and as of Friday, there were more than 2,700 bodies being stored at the coroner's office and local hospitals.

Los Angeles County has 28 crematoriums, but their permits all have a monthly cap on cremations due to environmental regulations. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said on Sunday that for the first time ever, it issued an executive order lifting those limits because there are so many bodies that need to be cremated. This was done at the request of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, which said the backlog of bodies was a potential threat to public health.

Studies show cremations release mercury emissions from dental fillings, The Guardian reports, but a spokesperson for the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the "air toxics impacts" from these extra cremations is expected to be "relatively small."

As of Monday, California has reported more than 3 million coronavirus cases. In Los Angeles County, the death toll hit 13,848 on Sunday, with more than half of those deaths occurring since Thanksgiving. Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2021

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has climbed to the highest level in about five months.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 965,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a big jump of 181,000 claims from the revised level of the week before. This was the highest number of new jobless claims since the week of Aug. 22, and the number came in significantly worse than the 800,000 claims economists were expecting, CNBC reports.

The high total comes as the U.S. continues to experience a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Last week, the latest U.S. jobs report showed the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first monthly loss since April.

"The race between vaccine distribution and mounting labor market damage continues," Indeed Hiring Lab economist AnnElizabeth Konkel told NBC News. "Even once vaccine distribution starts making a real dent in case numbers, it will still be a long road to a full economic recovery. Spring weather conditions will hopefully be a boost, allowing businesses and restaurants to again operate outdoors more easily." Brendan Morrow

January 12, 2021

The United States is reportedly set to implement a requirement that all international visitors show a negative COVID-19 test result before flying to the country.

The federal government will "require all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights" to the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing to issue an order that would go into effect on Jan. 26 after having discussed such a move for weeks with agencies and with the White House's coronavirus task force, the report says.

News of the reported move comes after the U.S. previously implemented an order requiring a negative COVID-19 test result from travelers from the United Kingdom due to concerns about a new COVID-19 variant. Experts say the variant that was first detected in the U.K. is more transmissible, and cases of it have been reported in states including New York and California. Brendan Morrow

January 12, 2021

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) on Tuesday became the third House Democrat to publicly announce a positive COVID-19 test in the last two days, and, like Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), he's blaming Republican colleagues who refused to wear a mask while a group of lawmakers were sheltering in place together during last week's deadly riot at the United States Capitol.

Schneider, who has not experienced any symptoms so far, said he is "worried that I have risked my wife's health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and their staff."

He went on to call for any members of House who "flout public health guidance" within the Capitol to be "sanctioned and immediately removed from the House floor by the sergeant-at-arms for their reckless endangerment of their colleagues." Tim O'Donnell

January 12, 2021

After testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday night, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) issued a scathing series of tweets, blasting Republican lawmakers who "cruelly refused to wear masks" while in a crowded room during last week's Capitol riot.

As the mob moved through the Capitol, Jayapal was ushered into a secured room with other lawmakers. Several maskless Republicans were offered face coverings, which they did not accept — in fact, Jayapal said, they "recklessly mocked colleagues and staff" who tried to hand them the masks.

"Only hours after Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a super-spreader event ON TOP of a domestic terror attack," Jayapal tweeted. "Any member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy. I'm calling for every single member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms."

On Sunday, the attending physician to Congress sent an email saying "many members of the House community" were in a specific room during the riot where they "may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection." On Monday morning, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said she tested positive for COVID-19 and believes she was exposed to the virus while sheltering in place with GOP colleagues "who refused to wear masks." Catherine Garcia

January 11, 2021

Two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for COVID-19, and it's believed they caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member.

This is the first known instance of COVID-19 being naturally transmitted to apes, Fox 5 San Diego reports. In a press release, San Diego Zoo Global said the two gorillas were tested last Wednesday after they started coughing, and preliminary tests came back positive. The results were confirmed on Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories. A third gorilla is now symptomatic.

The asymptomatic staffer was wearing personal protective equipment while working with the gorillas, as well as following other safety precautions, officials said. San Diego Zoo Safari Park Executive Director Lisa Peterson said aside from "some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well. The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery." Catherine Garcia

January 11, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic and the Capitol riot may have officially crossed over.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) announced Monday that she has tested positive for COVID-19. She believes she was exposed to the virus last Wednesday while sheltering in place with several of her House colleagues, some of whom she said refused to wear masks, while a mob of President Trump's supporters stormed the United States Capitol during Congress' Electoral College certification process.

While there are no guarantees that Watson Coleman was infected in that moment, Rear Adm. Brian Monahan, the attending physician to Congress, on Sunday notified lawmakers many members of the House who were in protective isolation "in a large committee hearing space" may have been exposed to someone who had an infection. It's not entirely clear if Watson Coleman was in that specific room, but a statement from her office indicates she was. Tim O'Donnell

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