VIRUS TODAY: GOP offers alternative COVID-19 relief plan

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

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

— A group of 10 Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling for him to meet with them to negotiate over his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Their smaller counterproposal calls for $160 billion for vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment and more targeted relief than the president’s plan to issue $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman suggested that the checks should be limited to individuals who make no more than $50,000 per year and families who make $100,000 per year.

— Biden wants most schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade students to reopen by late April, but even if that happens, millions of students, many of whom are minorities in urban areas, will be left out. Some argue powerful teachers unions are standing in the way of bringing back students with in-person learning, while the unions insist they are looking to protect the health and safety of teachers and students and their families. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, said reopening K-8 classrooms might not be possible across the country within Biden’s time frame.

— Frustration is growing at long-term care facilities over the pace of COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Some nursing homes are still waiting on first shots to fend off the virus that can devastate their vulnerable elderly residents. CVS and Walgreens, which have led the vaccination push in long-term care settings in nearly all states, say they are proceeding on schedule. But resident advocates and experts worry about delays in the delivery of vaccines that have been available for more than a month. Home operators and residents’ relatives across the country have grown more irritated as states have opened vaccine eligibility to other populations before work is complete at long-term care homes.

THE NUMBERS: According to data through Jan. 30 from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3,335.3 on Jan. 16 to 3,141 on Jan. 30.

The average number of daily deaths has risen in the nation’s three most populous states, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in California has increased over the past two weeks from about 532 deaths per day on Jan. 16 to nearly 551 daily deaths on Jan. 30. Over the same period, Texas’s rolling average of deaths each day has gone up from about 306 to 315, while Florida’s has increased by nearly one additional daily death to 176. Cases have risen the highest over the past seven days in Arizona and South Carolina, where roughly 1 in 200 people in each state have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

QUOTABLE: “My hope is that the president will meet with us and we’ll be able to work out something that is bipartisan,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, one of 10 GOP senators calling on President Joe Biden to negotiate with them over a new coronavirus aid package. Portman discussed the GOP proposal on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

ICYMI: Many states have had trouble distributing the coronavirus vaccine equitably. In North Carolina, Black people account for 22% of the population but 11% of first dose recipients, according to state data. White people, a category in which the state includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, are 68% of the population and 82% of those vaccinated. An Associated Press analysis shows Black people in several other parts of the U.S. are lagging behind whites in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

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