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In photos: Meet the U.S. health care workers on the pandemic frontlines

The first trucks carrying the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in the U.S. were being prepared to leave a Michigan manufacturing plant Sunday, offering hope that a mass rollout will alleviate the strain on hospitals and medical staff.

The big picture: Coronavirus hospitalizations are soaring and surging case numbers surpassed 16 million Saturday. Some 3 million vaccine doses are being distributed this week. Health care workers are being prioritized for inoculations. NIAID director Anthony Fauci stressed to Axios there's still a fair way to go, with 75%–80% of Americans needing to get vaccinated.

Healthcare workers carry signs in support of resident physicians, interns and fellows at UCLA Health as they protest for improved COVID-19 testing and workplace safety policies outside of UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, Dec. 9. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Medical staff members dance to a Christmas song at nursing station in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on Dec. 10. Photo: Go Nakamura/Getty Images
A nurse writes a note to communicate with staff outside the room of a Covid-19 positive patient at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts on Dec. 4. Photo: Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images
A testing site in a parking lot at Bergen Community College run by Bergen County and the Bergen New Bridge Medical Center on Dec. 3, 2020 in Paramus, New Jersey. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Health care workers prepare COVID-19 tests to hand out to people who self-administer the tests at Long Beach City College-Veterans Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 9 in Long Beach, California. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
A staff member holds a bag of appreciation gifts during a Christmas party at the Goodwin House senior living community center in Arlington, Virginia, on Dec. 10. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Go deeper: Hospitals prepare to vaccinate workers

The U.S. may be setting itself up for a fourth coronavirus wave

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.

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Sidewalk robots get legal rights as "pedestrians"

As small robots proliferate on sidewalks and city streets, so does legislation that grants them generous access rights and even classifies them, in the case of Pennsylvania, as "pedestrians."

Why it matters: Fears of a dystopian urban world where people dodge heavy, fast-moving droids are colliding with the aims of robot developers large and small — including Amazon and FedEx — to deploy delivery fleets.

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The biggest obstacle to a wealth tax

Taxing the rich is an idea that's back. An "ultra-millionaire tax" introduced by Elizabeth Warren and other left-wing Democrats this week would raise more than $3 trillion over 10 years, they say, while making the tax system as a whole more fair.

Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.

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House passes For the People Act to expand voting rights

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

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House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

The House voted 220-212onWednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

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Republicans are demanding a full 600-page reading of Biden’s COVID relief bill

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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Here’s how a single resignation, retirement or death could flip control of the 50-50 Senate

Note: Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Data: Axios Research/ProPublica/NCSL; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nineteen seats in the U.S. Senate could potentially flip parties if there's an unexpected vacancy, according to Axios' analysis of state vacancy rules, which most often allow the governor to appoint a replacement.

Why it matters: Depending on the senator, a single resignation, retirement or death — by accident or old age — could flip control of the 50-50 Senate, or give Democrats a two-vote cushion.

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White House works with Democrats to ensure Biden quickly fills any federal court vacancies

The White House is quietly working with Senate Democrats to ensure President Biden has a steady stream of nominees for the federal courts, according to people familiar with the matter and an administration official.

Why it matters: Biden wants the federal judiciary to better reflect the country’s demographics, and to try to shield his unfolding legislative agenda from a judiciary currently dominated by Trump appointees.

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