In our news wrap Friday, the Pentagon will deploy more than 1,100 active duty troops to help with coronavirus vaccinations, the U.S. trade deficit surged to a 12-year-high in 2020 due to the pandemic, hundreds of people in Myanmar protested the country’s military coup, and delegates from Libya’s warring factions approved an interim government.
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In the day's other news: The Pentagon announced that it will deploy more than 1,100 active-duty troops to assist at five COVID-19 vaccination sites. Each team will consist of 222 personnel, including 80 who can administer vaccines.
Senior White House COVID-19 Adviser Andy Slavitt said the military's support will help expedite inoculations.
Part of this group will start to arrive in California within the next 10 days to begin operations there around February 15, with additional vaccination missions soon to follow.
The military's critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day, and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine will receive one.
The Biden administration is also investing in six companies to boost production of at-home COVID testing kits. They hope to make more than 60 million tests available by the end of summer. That comes as the U.S. set another grim record overnight. Daily COVID deaths topped 5,000 for the first time ever.
The U.S. trade deficit surged to a 12-year high in 2020 due to pandemic disruptions. The Commerce Department reported the gap between exports and imports rose 18 percent last year to $679 billion. That was due in part to COVID restrictions that upended key exports of U.S. services, like tourism and education.
In Myanmar, hundreds of students and teachers protested today against the military coup in the largest rallies to date since the takeover. They rallied at two universities in Yangon. The protesters held up a three-finger salute as a sign of resistance, and carried signs with images of ribbons to symbolize civil disobedience. One teacher voiced hope the military coup would fail.
Nwe Thazin Hlaing (through translator):
We don't want this military coup, which unlawfully seized power from our elected government. We don't want anyone who steals power and then forms their own government. We are no longer going to work with them.
At least 30 people have been arrested for protesting against the coup. The military says that they will hold onto power until a new election is held in a year.
Delegates from Libya's warring factions approved an interim government today to help unify the divided country. It has had two separate governments, one in the east and one in the West.
At a United Nations forum in Geneva, they selected four leaders to lead Libya through the national elections in December. The North African country has been in turmoil since Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade rule ended in 2011.
Back in this country, stocks on Wall Street notched their fifth consecutive day of gains. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 92 points to close at 31148. The Nasdaq rose 78 points, and the S&P 500 added 15.