COVID’s obesity link; ‘Neanderthal thinking’; and the Senate relief bill. Virus news to know today.

Covid-19 death rates 10 times higher in countries where most adults are overweight

The risk of death from Covid-19 is about 10 times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Obesity Forum.

Researchers found that by the end of 2020, global Covid-19 death rates were more than 10 times higher in countries where more than half the adults are overweight, compared to countries where fewer than half are overweight.

‘Neanderthal thinking.’ Biden slams Texas and Mississippi for lifting restrictions

President Joe Biden sharply criticized states such as Texas and Mississippi for lifting Covid-19 restrictions and mask mandates against pleas from the CDC and other top public health officials, accusing those in power of “Neanderthal thinking.”

“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” Biden said when asked about the decisions by the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi to relax restrictions.

Senate Democrats tighten relief benefits, firm up support for virus bill

President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed to tighten eligibility limits for stimulus checks, bowing to party moderates as leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate.

At the same time, the White House and top Democrats stood by progressives and agreed that the Senate package would retain the $400 weekly emergency unemployment benefits included in the House-passed pandemic legislation. Moderates have wanted to trim those payments to $300 after Republicans have called the bill so heedlessly generous that it would prompt some people to not return to work. Read more:

Here’s an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits edged higher last week to 745,000, a sign that many employers continue to cut jobs despite a drop in confirmed viral infections and evidence that the overall economy is improving.
  • Nearly four out of five companies have reported stronger earnings for the last three months of 2020 than analysts expected, according to FactSet.
  • Germany’s health minister says the country’s independent vaccine committee has formally approved giving the AstraZeneca shot to people age 65 and over.
  • The European Medicines Agency has started a rolling review of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, many months after it was first approved for use in Russia and after dozens of countries around the world have authorized it.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.

Virus by the numbers

Photos: A month of holy days and festivals, amid pandemic

February was a month full of religious holidays and festivals for all manner of faith traditions, as captured by AP photographers around the globe.