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A person and a pup evacuated from a wildfire near Vacaville, California, taking refuge at a Red Cross shelter in August 2020. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

People used emergency lodging across the U.S. more than 1 million times in 2020, over four times the annual average during the past decade, the American Red Cross said.

Why it matters: The figure is a testament to how the COVID-19 pandemic, active wildfires, a relentless hurricane season and other natural disasters wracked the country this year.

What they're saying: “Families are overwhelmed coping with the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year — on top of the coronavirus pandemic,” Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said of its findings from late November.

  • “Yet through it all, more people are stepping up to help others by volunteering and giving blood through the Red Cross.
  • "Their selfless and kind-hearted actions underscore the unwavering humanitarian spirit of people in our country, and we are incredibly grateful for their willingness to give to others."

By the numbers: The pandemic forced over 50,000 blood drives to cancel, impacting more than 1 million blood donation appointments.

  • However, nearly 25,000 COVID-19 survivors have donated plasma since April. Those contributions allowed the Red Cross to ship nearly 50,000 units of blood to hospitals across the U.S. treating coronavirus patients.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker
Jan 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.