The Latest: US virus death toll hits 350,000; surge feared

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States has surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff but the rollout of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.

Multiple states have reported a record number of cases over the past few days, including North Carolina and Arizona. Mortuary owners in hard-hit Southern California say they’re being inundated with bodies.

The U.S. by far has reported the most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil, which has reported more than 195,000 deaths.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

—  India has approved two COVID-19 vaccines, paving the way for a massive inoculation program. The vaccines are from Oxford University and AstraZeneca and local firm Bharat Biotech. In Britain, the prime minister is warning of new restrictions  ahead as coronavirus infections soar. On Monday, the country plans to ramp up vaccinations using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. And in Tokyo, Gov. Yuriko Koike is asking the national government to declare a “state of emergency” to curtail surging coronavirus infections. Concerns are growing ahead of hosting the Olympics in July.