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President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington on Nov. 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A dim, gloomy scene seems increasingly set for Joe Biden's debut as president.

The state of play: He'll address — virtually — a virus-weary nation, with record-high daily coronavirus deaths, a flu season near its peak, restaurants and small businesses shuttered by wintertime sickness and spread.

  • He'll ask all 330 million Americans to wear masks, avoid crowds, trust the grim science, and wait patiently for vaccination.

Why it matters: I hate to be such a drag on a Saturday. But the data coming in is bleak — and worthy of clear-eyed anticipation, preparation and reaction. 

  • The vaccine offers a clear North Star of hope. But the journey there, sadly, will be harder and deadlier than those darkest days of March, officials are screaming to us.

 The CDC has this flu projection: "There is about a 70% chance that the highest flu activity for this season will occur by the end of January and a greater than 95% chance that the highest flu activity will occur by the end of February."

  • Robert Redfield, President Trump's CDC director, predicted this week that December through February will "be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation."

U.S. deaths, now at 279,000, are forecast to pass 500,000 during Biden's first 100 days, even with a rapid vaccine rollout.

  • It's what Anthony Fauci, who'll be back in the White House inner circle as President Biden's chief medical adviser, warned about as Americans continued to gather and travel for Thanksgiving: "a surge up on a surge."
  • Average daily COVID deaths, nearly 2,000 now, are projected to get as bad as 3,000 a day.

Reality check: It's now clear that the tiniest percentage of Americans will have access to the COVID vaccine as Biden takes office.

  • N.Y. Times Opinion posted a clever calculator (subscription), "Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line," taking into account age, location, occupation and health.
  • The message for virtually everyone: It's going to be a while.
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Go deeper

Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategy

Biden signs executive orders on Jan. 21. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

"It's gonna get worse before it gets better": President Biden expects 100,000 Americans to die from COVID-19 during his first six weeks in office.

The big picture: Biden said he's putting America on a wartime footing against the virus, signing 10 executive orders today alone.

Florida requiring proof of residency to get coronavirus vaccine

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a health care worker at a drive-thru site at Tropical Park on Jan. 13 in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida's surgeon general issued new guidelines on Thursday requiring people seeking COVID-19 vaccines to provide proof of permanent or seasonal residency.

Driving the news: Of the more than 1 million people who have received the first dose of the vaccine in Florida as of Wednesday, over 39,000 reside out of state, per data from the Florida Department of Health. The number and reports of out-of-state recipients have caused concern over what many have described as "vaccine tourism."

Jan 22, 2021 - Health

Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

Hong Kong health workers patrol a street where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. Photo: Anthony Kwan via Getty Images

Hong Kong will place tens of thousands of residents on lockdown to curtail outbreaks in neighborhoods with aging, subdivided apartments, the government announced Thursday.

Why it matters: It’s the first time Hong Kong has imposed a lockdown since the pandemic began. The restrictions will begin Saturday and last for at least two weeks.