VIRUS TODAY: Biden tightens virus rules, boosts vaccinations

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

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

— President Joe Biden outlined his national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. Biden has vowed to take more aggressive measures than his predecessor and is seeking to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.

— Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic, said the United States will again fund the World Health Organization and join its consortium aimed at sharing coronavirus vaccines fairly around the globe. The Trump administration had planned to withdraw from the WHO. The U.S. previously halted funding for the United Nations health agency, stripping it of badly needed cash during the pandemic.

— The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to ongoing job cuts in a raging pandemic. The government said 5.1 million Americans continue to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That suggests that while some of the unemployed are finding jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to separate extended-benefit programs.

THE NUMBERS: The U.S. is averaging more than 194,000 new cases and about 3,000 deaths each day. The nation’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at about 406,000.

QUOTABLE: “This is going to have a huge impact on the world’s ability to fight the pandemic.” — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said after the U.S. rejoined the WHO.

ICYMI: While millions of people seeking the coronavirus vaccine scramble to arrange scarce appointments online or over the phone, one New Jersey city is offering it on a walk-in basis, first-come, first-served. Such sites are a rarity in the New York City metropolitan area, where most vaccination sites require people to schedule appointments that might be months away. But recent expansions in vaccine eligibility led to demand far outstripping supply.

ON THE HORIZON: California said it will immediately begin using a batch of coronavirus vaccine after health officials urged a halt to injections and held a review because several people had reactions. The release involves more than 300,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

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

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