VIRUS TODAY: In COVID-19 era, Americans choose dying at home

Mortuary owner Brian Simmons reflects on the experience of loosing his daughter Rhonda Ketchum, who died before Christmas of COVID-19, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Springfield, Mo. Simmons has been making more trips to homes to pick up bodies to be cremated and embalmed since the pandemic hit. For many families, home is a better setting than the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Mortuary owner Brian Simmons reflects on the experience of loosing his daughter Rhonda Ketchum, who died before Christmas of COVID-19, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Springfield, Mo. Simmons has been making more trips to homes to pick up bodies to be cremated and embalmed since the pandemic hit. For many families, home is a better setting than the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

More Americans are making the decision to have their terminally ill loved ones die at home rather than in nursing home and hospice settings. For many families, home is a better setting than the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls amid the coronavirus pandemic. National hospice organizations are reporting that facilities are seeing double-digit percentage increases in the number of patients being cared for at home. The phenomenon has played out Carroll Hospice in Westminster, Maryland. Executive Director Regina Bodnar says it has seen a 30% to 40% spike in demand for home-based care.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says a “tentative agreement” has been reached with the teachers union over COVID-19 safety protocols, potentially averting a strike in the nation’s third-largest school district. Lightfoot announced the latest proposal Sunday. It includes pushing back the start of classes and phasing them in for pre-K through grade 8 students, with the first wave starting this week. Both sides have been negotiating for months over a plan to gradually bring back students in the roughly 340,000-student district. The schools went remote nearly a year ago. The Chicago Teachers Unions isn’t calling it an agreement yet, saying it has to be approved by members.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a potential recall election, in part stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. California voters weary of restrictions that have cut them off from jobs, classrooms and friends, combined with anxiety from the continuing threat of the coronavirus, could create a volatile mix at the ballot box. Newsom has weathered a public drubbing for dining out with friends and lobbyists at a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant last fall, while telling residents to stay home. More recently, an ever-expanding fraud scandal at the state unemployment agency has his leadership during the pandemic under even closer scrutiny. Recall organizers say they’ve collected nearly 1.5 million petition signatures required to place the proposal on the ballot this year.

THE NUMBERS: According to data through Feb. 6 from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks, going from 176,113 on Jan. 23 to 120,414 on Feb. 6. Over the same period, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths rose from 3,085 to roughly 3,234.

QUOTABLE: “I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly. People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “So I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”

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