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CDC expands eligibility to everyone 65 and older

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The Trump administration on Tuesday will issue new guidelines that expand coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older, a senior official told CNBC.

The states’ focus on vaccinating health-care workers and nursing homes has created a bottleneck, the administration official said. “The states are being told immediately they need to expand to 65-plus as well as those under 65 with comorbid conditions,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the formal announcement.

The administration will also stop holding back millions of doses reserved for the second round of shots of Pfizer and Moderna‘s two-dose vaccines, the official said, adding they released doses that had been held in reserve on Sunday.

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced Friday that his administration planned to release all doses held in reserve.

The Trump administration is expected to announce the change at a press conference Tuesday with officials from Operation Warp Speed, the White House vaccine program.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also confirmed the changes in an interview with Fox News Tuesday morning, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s previous prioritization guidelines to states was “actually causing governors and states to slow a little bit.”

“We are going to have clear guidance from the CDC to governors that they should vaccinate people 65 and above and anyone below 64 who has a chronic medical condition,” he said.

U.S. officials are trying to pick up the pace of vaccinations after a slower-than-expected rollout.

As of Monday morning, more than 25.4 million doses had been distributed across the U.S., but just over 8.9 million shots have been administered, according to CDC data. The number is a far cry from the federal government’s goal of inoculating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and 50 million Americans by the end of this month.

State and local health officials have said they are strapped for cash. They blame insufficient funding and inconsistent communication from the federal government for the slow rollout.

Democrats and some public health experts have criticized the administration for the slow pace. In a letter Monday, Senate Democrats demanded the administration make changes, saying it has “failed” states by not providing detailed guidance on how to effectively distribute the doses.

The U.S. “cannot afford this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and 44 other Democrats wrote. “The metric that matters, and where we are clearly moving too slowly, is vaccines in arms.”

In an attempt to pick up the pace of vaccinations, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn urged states last week to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups against Covid-19.

The CDC recommends immunizing health-care workers and nursing homes first, but states can distribute the vaccine as they see fit. Hahn told reporters that states should give shots to groups that “make sense,” such as the elderly, people with preexisting conditions, police, firefighters and other essential workers.

“We’ve heard in the press that some folks have said, ‘OK, I’m waiting to get all of my health-care workers vaccinated. We have about 35% uptake of the vaccine.’ I think it reasonable to expand that” to other groups, Hahn said Friday. “I would strongly encourage that we move forward with giving states the opportunity to be more expansive in who they can give the vaccine to.”

It’s unclear if expanding the eligibility will pick up the pace of vaccinations. Some states, including Texas and Florida, have already expanded their eligibility criteria.


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Trump preparing to lift Europe, UK, Brazil Covid-19 travel restrictions Jan. 26

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A traveler exits a testing center at Heathrow Airport on January 17, 2021 in London.

Hollie Adams | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Trump administration is planning to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions on most foreign visitors from Europe, the U.K. and Brazil later this month, according to people familiar with the matter.

The White House put the rules place early in the pandemic to curb the spread of the virus. Last week, the U.S. said it would require travelers arriving from abroad, including U.S. citizens, to test negative for Covid-19 before flying. That requirement takes effect on Jan. 26, when the Trump administration plans to lift the travel ban, which was reported earlier by Reuters.

Airlines have repeatedly asked the U.S. government to lift the travel bans, which have contributed to a sharp decline in air travel demand, with pre-flight tests.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.


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PM tells business chiefs Covid jab is UK’s best way out of recession | Politics

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Boris Johnson has told business leaders that efficient delivery of the coronavirus vaccine is Britain’s best economic recovery tool as he promised a sustainable fightback from the worst recession in 300 years.

The prime minister chaired the first meeting of a new business council designed to coordinate the government’s economic response to Covid-19 with leaders from the country’s biggest companies.

Aiming to reassure business leaders that the government remained committed to kickstarting the economy as soon as possible, Johnson told the executives from 30 major firms – including GlaxoSmithKline, British Airways and HSBC – that the government was looking ahead to the economic recovery and the business landscape after Brexit.

The prime minister said it was important for the government and businesses to work together to rebuild the virus-stricken economy, and that he would support job creation, upgrade Britain’s infrastructure, and launch a “green industrial revolution” to help the country “build back better” from the pandemic.


Despite recent border disruption and intense frustration among business leaders over the government’s handling of Brexit, Johnson told the first meeting of the “build back better council” that British industry had opportunities to seize from leaving the EU. Johnson had been reported in 2018 to have said, “Fuck business” when questioned about the sector’s concerns over a potential no-deal departure.

Sources attending the meeting said the government was in “sales mode” in a bid to strengthen relations with company bosses that had become increasingly tattered in recent years. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who also attended the meeting, told the leaders that effectively distributing the vaccine was the most important economic policy. Although no “big bang” removal of lockdown restrictions was expected, the chancellor suggested that vaccination would help to build a platform for a strong economic recovery in the second half of the year.

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the trade secretary, Liz Truss, and the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, also attended the meeting, which included representatives from firms from sectors of the economy including finance, energy, technology and hospitality.

Johnson told those present that with the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow this November and G7 summit in Cornwall in June, Britain had the potential to develop an influential voice in shaping a green recovery from the pandemic.

However, green groups said there was a telling lack of environmental leadership at the event despite its high-profile billing. Attendees included the chief executives of oil and gas group BP and of Heathrow, Britain’s largest airport.

“Boris Johnson’s ‘build back better council’ looks more like a polluters’ club,” said John Sauven, Greenpeace’s executive director. “It’s packed with some of Britain’s most polluting industries and investors, and green leadership is conspicuous by its absence.

“We can’t build back better by relying on the same old industries that are fuelling climate chaos and the destruction of nature. It’s high time the government stopped favouring the usual vested interests and gave its full support to the businesses building a cleaner, healthier, safer future.”

Connor Schwartz, climate lead at Friends of the Earth, said the government should be discussing green policies such as scrapping multi-billion-pound investment in road schemes and boosting investment in green technologies.


“This is a far cry from just two months ago, when the prime minister announced the need for a green industrial revolution,” he said. “Instead of listening to fossil fuel companies and airports, the government should turn their ear to the majority of the public who want climate change prioritised in the economic recovery to coronavirus.”


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The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s plan: levelling down, not up | Boris Johnson

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Today’s Conservative party is the opposite of what it pretends to be. Boris Johnson’s great crusade, he claimed, was to level up Britain. Coronavirus affects everyone, but not equally. Wealthier folk can shrug off the economic shock; the poor cannot. The best way to help those at the very bottom of society is to give them money directly. Whether it’s to feed hungry children or to ensure hundreds of thousands don’t slip into poverty by not cutting benefits from their current level, Mr Johnson seems unwilling to stump up the cash.

Yet the government seems unconcerned about losing £26bn because companies can’t pay back the Covid loans that the state guaranteed. It is puzzling that ministers cannot find a fraction of that for the poor. What is at stake is a conservative principle of personal responsibility: it is up to parents to feed their children and to get the cash to run their lives. Clinging to such ideas in the teeth of a pandemic appears foolish. But Mr Johnson’s skill in politics has been to reconcile apparently irreconcilable ideas.

The prime minister’s political concern is to entrench an economic doctrine even while it drags society under. His policies and instincts remain impeccably Thatcherite, but Mr Johnson knows that policies based on such ideas no longer possess any genuinely popular support. That is why he cloaks them in the flag of Brexit. During the 2016 referendum campaign, the current home secretary, Priti Patel, claimed that “single market” red tape cost the UK £125bn a year. Now, freed from the cage of EU membership, Mr Johnson has tasked his chancellor not with helping the poor, but to find the billions hiding in the paid holidays for workers, employment protections against the “Uberisation” of jobs and consumer rights against corporate bad actors. It was in the City where many saw in Brexit a way to escape EU regulations that had capped their worst excesses. Monopolists are also in for a bonanza: the day after Mr Johnson won the election was the busiest day of trading in UK shares for more than two years, with banks, housebuilders and utilities among the biggest winners.

To render irreversible a system that is at the height of its power but without wide appeal, the prime minister is using his powers of patronage to embed a “chumocracy” at the heart of government and allow Tory donors to be able to buy elections. The Conservatives want to increase the party limit on general election spending from the present £19.5m to about £33m, and abolish the electoral commission that oversees campaigning. The growing scandal of Covid contracts shows that there are unprecedented abuses of governance in this approach.

The rising inequality and unnecessary suffering produced by an unbalanced, financialised economy needs urgent attention and creative thinking. Since 2008, the Bank of England has created about £900bn of money through quantitative easing. For more than a decade, central banks have injected money into the economy without causing inflation. Why can they not print money and give it to the poor who are more likely to spend in a downturn than bankers are to lend? Unfortunately, Mr Johnson so far has little to fix Britain beyond doubling down on the economic orthodoxy that has broken society.


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