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Coronavirus: Numbers Rising In Nearly Every State; Capitol Siege Put Members At Risk

People walk through a busy shopping area amid the coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 5 in New York City. Coronavirus cases are up in almost every state.
Angela Weiss
AFP via Getty Images
People walk through a busy shopping area amid the coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 5 in New York City. Coronavirus cases are up in almost every state.

Last summer, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Congress that if the U.S. didn't get the coronavirus outbreak under control, the country could see 100,000 new cases per day.

Six months later, the U.S. is adding, on average, more than 271,000 new cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over the past 24 hours, 3,700 new deaths were recorded.

That brings the total number of reported cases in the U.S. to more than 22 million since the start of the outbreak — with a death toll of 373,000.

And many members of Congress are now at heightened risk for contracting the coronavirus. When many House lawmakers sheltered in place in a committee hearing room as the pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol last week, they may have been exposed to someone infected with the virus, Congress' attending physician, Brian Monahan, said in a letter to lawmakers Sunday.

"The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection," read the email, obtained by NPR. "Please continue your usual daily coronavirus risk reduction measures (daily symptom inventory checklist, mask wear, and social distancing). Additionally, individuals should obtain an RT-PCR coronavirus test next week as a precaution."

Several Republican members of Congress refused to wear masks while sheltering with others Wednesday. Videoshot from inside one room shows Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., offering blue surgical masks to six Republican lawmakers. They all declined. It's unclear if those unmasked Republicans were in the same room as the one referenced by the attending physician.

Whereas earlier in the pandemic, one could easily point to specific hot spots, the virus is now surging in most states across the country. Daily new cases are increasing in almost every state. Arizona is being hit especially hard, as are Rhode Island, Oklahoma, South Carolina and California.

Health officials say things will get worse before they get better. A new more contagious variant of the coronavirus, first spotted in the U.K., has now been reported in several states — leading some to wonderwhether the new variant will come to dominate new U.S. infections.

In Southern California, medical troops have arrived to bolster overwhelmed hospital staffs — mostly Air Force nurses and Army medics, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate reports. Temporary morgues have also been set up in parking lots to store the bodies of COVID-19 victims.

Coronavirus vaccines are rolling out, but not quickly enough to stem the surge. The Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed fell far short of its goal of immunizing 20 million people by the end of 2020. As of Friday, 6.6 million people had received their first dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The incoming Biden administration announced on Friday it would distribute doses that the government has been holding back for millions of second doses.

States are struggling to meet demand for the vaccines. The New York Times reports that several states vaccination websites have been crashing under the strain of thousands of people all trying to sign up at once. In San Antonio, all 9,000 available slots for this week were filled within six minutes of registration opening, the city said. Some states aren't vetting vaccine recipients to ensure they're eligible, instead relying on the honor system.

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Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").