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Biden's choice in virus aid deal: Go big or go bipartisan; Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests

Biden's choice in virus aid deal: Go big or go bipartisan; Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests

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President Joe Biden’s push for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill is forcing an internal reckoning that pits his instincts to work toward a bipartisan deal against the demands of an urgent crisis and his desire to deliver for those who helped elect him.

His bipartisan bona fides have been a defining feature of his political career, first as a Senate deal-maker, later as he led legislative negotiations for the Obama administration when vice president and finally during his successful 2020 campaign.

But the scope of the multiple crises confronting the nation now, along with the lessons Democrats learned from four years of Republican obstructionism during Barack Obama's presidency, seem to be pushing Biden toward quick action on the coronavirus aid bill, even if Republicans get left behind.

Meanwhile, with Biden vowing to get elementary and middle school students back to the classroom by spring and the country’s testing system still unable to keep pace with the spread of COVID-19, some experts see an opportunity to refocus U.S. testing less on medical precision than on mass screening that they believe could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

As vaccines slowly roll out, they say the nation could suppress the outbreak and reopen much of the economy by easing regulatory hurdles to allow millions more rapid tests that, while technically less accurate, may actually be better at identifying sick people when they are most contagious.

In other developments:

  • Coronavirus cases have dropped at U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities over the past few weeks, offering a glimmer of hope that health officials attribute to the start of vaccinations, an easing of the post-holiday surge and better prevention, among other reasons.
  • The executions at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, completed in a short window over a few weeks, likely acted as a superspreader event, according to the records reviewed by AP. It was something health experts warned could happen when the Justice Department insisted on resuming executions during a pandemic.
  • The Supreme Court is telling California that it can't bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it can keep for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.
  • Some poorer countries are getting tired of waiting to get vaccines through a United Nations program, so they are striking out on their own.
  • A year ago Sunday, Dr. Li Wenliang died from the virus first detected in Wuhan, China. A small stream of people marked the anniversary of the 34-year-old ophthalmologist was one of eight whistleblowers who local authorities punished early on for “spreading rumors” about a SARS-like virus in a social media group.
  • Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant couldn't start a game and then couldn't finish it Friday night, removed in the third quarter because of the NBA's health and safety protocols in one of the stranger scenes from a league still trying to figure out how to safely play outside of a bubble during a pandemic.

Virus by the numbers

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