Biden’s orders target hunger, federal minimum wage; Fauci makes a comeback; vaccination guidelines altered; deaths surpass 413,000.
ACROSS AMERICA — Twenty-three families.
That’s how long the waiting list is at one Los Angeles County funeral home.
While many of us don’t think about the logistics behind funerals, it’s a job for Todd Beckley, he recently told National Public Radio. And right now, in a county where 1 in 3 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, his job is like nothing he’s experienced before.
“When you tell a family ‘We have no space,’ they have to begin making phone calls to see what mortuaries have spaces available. And I’ve been doing this since 1965, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Beckley told NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Infections in the nation’s most populous county have led to a stunning 14,000 deaths as health care workers and officials continue to grapple with a post-holiday surge.
What’s worse is coronavirus patients going into LA hospitals this winter have been sicker and more than twice as likely to die of the disease than they were in the fall, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Because of the spiking death rate, more than 4,000 Angelenos have died since the start of the year.
For Beckley, his job involves helping these families grieve and helping them find a sense of closure.
In many cases, he can’t do that right now.
“In normal times, if a death occurred on a Monday, the family would ask, ‘Can we have a service on Thursday?’ And we’d say absolutely,” Beckley told NPR. “Well, now we have to tell the family that we’re scheduling services in February.”
Listen to the full interview on NPR
On Day Two of his presidency, Joe Biden on Friday signed two more executive orders aimed at curbing the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus crisis and feeding those suffering from pandemic-induced hunger.
One of the orders calls for a 15 percent increase in benefits received by low-income students through the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program. It also calls for expanded eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.
“The American people can’t afford to wait,” Brian Deese, the National Economic Council director, said during a Friday news conference. “And so many are hanging by a thread. They need help, and we are committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible.”
In Friday’s actions, Biden also called for the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour.
Biden is moving with lightning speed to address the pandemic that has infected nearly 24.7 million Americans and claimed more than 412,000 lives in the United States.
Biden on Thursday signed 10 executive orders directly aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy, according to an Associated Press report. The orders call for an increase in vaccinations and testing, and they outline a path to reopen U.S. schools and businesses.
One order immediately calls for an increase in the use of masks, including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. Another directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.
Among Biden’s first orders of business was to sign an order requiring masks for people on all federal grounds. He also directed agencies to extend a moratorium on evictions and a freeze on federal student loan payments, according to other reports.