COVID’s obesity link; ‘Neanderthal thinking’; and the Senate relief bill. Virus news to know today.
Rajesh Kumar Singh
An elderly pilgrim prays after a holy dip at the Sangam in Prayagraj, India, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Worshippers gather around candles stuck to jars of honey, arranged as a cross, during mass for the 'sanctification of honey' at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin church in the town of Blagoevgrad, south of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Despite the COVID19 pandemic, Bulgarian Orthodox Church marks the day of St. Haralampus, Orthodox patron saint of bee-keepers, by performing a ritual for health and rich harvest. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)
Muslim men gather to pray during a protest against Police lack of enforcement and recent rise in violence Arab communities in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, Israel, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. More than 2,000 people protested outside the local police station, and blocked main roads in the area. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Rajesh Kumar Singh
A Hindu Holy man lies in front of an image of Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati, at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India. Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Hindus believe that ritual bathing on auspicious days can cleanse them of all sins. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
An NYPD officer receives ashes at St. Patrick's Cathedral after Ash Wednesday Mass, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Priestess Laura D'Oya Yalorixa, center, takes part in an Umbanda religious ceremony at the Casa de Caridade Santa Barbara Iansa temple in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. The faithful of the Umbanda religion, brought to America by West African slaves, perform spiritual protection rituals as part of pre-Carnival traditions. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
Worshippers wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus burn joss sticks as they pray at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, in Hong Kong, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Kashmiri Muslims raise their hands and pray as the head priest, unseen, displays a relic believed to be a hair from the beard of the Prophet Mohammad during special prayers on the death anniversary of Abu Bakr Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam, at Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
A Nepalese devotee writes her name on a Saraswati temple, with the belief that writing on the wall of a Saraswati temple on this day imparts knowledge, during Shri Panchami festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Shri Panchami, or Saraswati Puja, is a day for students to worship Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning. Young children are also given their first reading and writing lesson on this day. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
A man waits to have his Baby Jesus figure blessed with holy water at Purification of Our Lady of Candlemas Chapel in Mexico City, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. A surge in the COVID-19 pandemic has limited celebrations of the "Dia de la Candelaria" or Candlemas Day this year, with Catholic Masses cancelled and families unable to gather to share the traditional holiday tamales. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Workers from "Hevra Kadisha," Israel's official Jewish burial society, get dressed in full protective gear to prepare a body for a funeral procession, at a special morgue for people who died from COVID-19, during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
The new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, seated back left, performs the liturgy ceremony in Belgrade's Congregational church, Serbia, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Patriarch Porfirije replaces Patriarch Irinej, who died in November 2020 from COVID-19 complications. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Snow covers the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Mahesh Kumar A
Catholics offer prayers during a mass in observance of Ash Wednesday at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn period of 40 days of prayer and self-denial leading up to Easter. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
The Rev. James Coleman, 70, finishes receiving his first COVID-19 vaccination by nurse practitioner Ifreke Udodong, at United Medical Center in southeast Washington, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Unit secretary Wildaliz Perez, takes a moment to pray for a sick grandfather in Puerto Rico, not from COVID-19, during a shift at a field hospital set up to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Cranston, R.I. Rhode Island's infection rate has come down since then, and many of the field hospital's 335 beds are now empty. On quiet days, the medical staff wishes they could do more. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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.