Georgia surpasses 700,000 coronavirus cases

Georgia has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, according to the latest figures released Thursday afternoon by the state Department of Public Health.

The latest numbers include 701,308 cases, along with 11,511 deaths. On Wednesday, those numbers stood at 695,400 cases and 11,411 deaths. Over the last 24 hours, 5,969 more cases have been reported and 105 more deaths.

Georgia ranked sixth worst in the nation for the rate of new coronavirus infections last week and the state vaulted up the rankings in the rate of new fatalities amid a surging death toll from the third wave of the pandemic, according to a new federal report.

Georgia ranked 14th in the rate of new COVID-19 deaths last week, up from 43rd a week earlier in the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report, the final one under the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the overall U.S. coronavirus death toll to rise to more than 500,000 by the middle of February. The CDC’s latest national forecast predicted 17,000 to 29,300 new deaths will likely be reported in the week ending Feb. 13, with between 465,000 to 508,000 COVID-19 deaths to have occurred by then.

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According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. continues to lead the world in overall cases — 24.4 million — and deaths, with more than 406,000.

Early in his Oval Office tenure, President Joe Biden is putting forth a national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks, including a requirement that they be worn for travel.

The administration is also depending on Congress to provide $1.9 trillion for economic relief and COVID-19 response.

Biden’s top medical adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also announced renewed U.S. support for the World Health Organization after it faced blistering criticism from the Trump administration, laying out new commitments to tackle the coronavirus and other global health issues.

Fauci said early Thursday the U.S. will join the U.N. health agency’s efforts to bring vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to people in need, whether in rich or poor countries and will resume full funding and staffing support for WHO.

Biden also is seeking to expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

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The Democratic president has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin setting up vaccination centers, aiming to have 100 up and running in a month. He’s ordering the CDC to begin a program to make vaccines available through local pharmacies starting next month. And he’s mobilizing the Public Health Service to deploy to assist localities in vaccinations.

Biden has set a goal of having most K-8 schools reopen in his first 100 days, and he’s ordering the departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide clear guidance for reopening schools safely.

On Wednesday, the CDC also said about half of the 31 million doses distributed to the states by the federal government have been administered so far. Only about 2 million people have received the two doses needed for maximum protection against the virus.