The Covid-19 death toll in the US will rise to nearly 562,000 by April 1, 2020, a global health research center is estimating – a 60,000 increase in predicted deaths compared to the estimation it made last week.
The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) based at the University of Washington predicts that 262,000 more Americans will die from Covid-19 between December 14 and April 1. The institute cited increasing infection and death numbers, particularly in California.
Last week, the average of daily reported cases jumped to 194,900 a day, up from 164,700 the week before. Average number of deaths per day went from 2,070 to 2,350 last week. The institute estimates that 17% of the US population has had Covid-19 as of December 14.
IHME took into consideration the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, saying vaccinations are expected to save 34,500 lives by the beginning of April, according to the model. But if 95% of Americans were wearing masks by next week, 55,000 lives would be saved by the end of April, the institute predicts. It says about 73% of Americans are wearing masks whenever they leave their homes.
IHME predictions have been controversial in the past, but public health experts agree the US is facing a grim winter as it heads into the heart of the holiday season, when tens of millions of people are expected to travel to see family despite pleas to stay home. AAA estimates that 85 million people will be traveling, most by car, between December 23 and January 3.
Dr Jill Biden has said her doctorate, the subject of a controversial opinion column in the Wall Street Journal, is one the achievements of which she is most proud.
“That was such a surprise,” Dr Biden told CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, seated next to her husband, President-elect Joe Biden. “It was really the tone of it … He called me ‘kiddo.’ One of the things that I’m most proud of is my doctorate. I mean, I worked so hard for it.”
Writing for the Journal, Joseph Epstein, a former adjunct professor at Northwestern University, suggested Biden’s doctorate in education from the University of Delaware did not entitle her to use the honorific “Dr”, as she was not medically qualified. Her use of “Dr” therefore “feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”, he wrote.
Dr Biden’s thesis was on maximising student retention in community colleges. She also has two Masters degrees. She has said she will continue to work in education while she is first lady.
“I taught all eight years while I was second lady, right,” she told Colbert, referring to the eight years in which her husband was vice-president to Barack Obama.
“I’m really looking forward to being first lady and doing the things that I did as second lady. Carrying on with military families and education and free community college, cancer [research] that, you know, Joe and I have both worked on. And then I’m going to teach as well.”
She also said her husband had attended when she defended her doctoral thesis – “I got to hand her her doctorate on the stage, University of Delaware,” he said – and expressed thanks to those who defended her against Epstein’s attack.
“Look at all the people who came out in support of me,” she said. “I mean, I am so grateful and I was, you know, I was just overwhelmed by how gracious people were.”
Colbert asked President-elect Biden if the column had made him want to stand up for his wife, “to like get out the pool chain and go full Corn Pop on these people.”
That was a reference to remarks for which Biden was criticised in the Democratic primary, when he reminisced about facing down a bully at a pool in the Delaware of his youth.
Biden seemed tempted to say he was, but Dr Biden said: “The answer is no.”
Biden said: “I’ve been suppressing my Irishness for a long time.”
Biden was also asked if he will be willing to work with Republicans who have attacked him and particularly his son, Hunter Biden.
“If it benefits the country, yes, I really mean it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry. This doesn’t mean if I were back in the days in high school, I wouldn’t say, ‘Come here, you know, and go a round.”
Perhaps sensing a relapse – Biden began his presidential run saying he wanted to fight Donald Trump – Dr Biden interjected again.
“But you have to take the high road,” she said.
It is Joe Biden’s biggest foreign policy headache. As well as confronting the Covid pandemic, the president-elect has to deal with a more familiar problem: Russia. Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election cast a shadow over US politics for four long years.
And now the Kremlin appears to have struck again. This week details emerged of an unprecedented cyber-attack against US government departments. Beginning in March, suspected Russian hackers penetrated Washington’s signature institutions.
They include the commerce and treasury departments, homeland security, nuclear laboratories and the Pentagon, as well as leading Fortune companies. For months the Russian spies roamed at will, apparently undetected. Only now are aghast officials scoping the damage.
The hacking is a brutal reminder of how Vladimir Putin and the KGB agents around him view the world. They regard the US as the glavniy protivnik or main enemy. This adversarial cold war mindset endures, regardless of whether a Trump or a Biden sits in the White House.