This is what one of 500K deaths looks like

Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY
·6 min read

The U.S. has surpassed another somber milestone that was once unthinkable: 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, a threshold reached faster than any other country in the world.

It's Ashley with the news you need to know.

But first, she beat bone cancer: Next up for the hospital worker? Become the youngest American in space.

The Short List is a snappy USA TODAY news roundup. Subscribe here!

A half-million deaths

The United States reached another "heartbreaking" COVID-19 marker on Monday: 500,000 deaths, more than double any other country. Nearly a year after the coronavirus was declared a worldwide pandemic, Americans have largely grown numb to the mounting death toll. We should not. Each American who succumbs to COVID-19 leaves an average of nine close family members in mourning. The nation's 500,000 deaths put 4.5 million spouses, children, parents, siblings and grandparents in pain, confusion and loss. One family's anguished goodbye to their "rock" captured America's grief amid COVID-19. This video is heartbreaking, but a must-watch.

500,000 Americans are dead due to COVID-19.
500,000 Americans are dead due to COVID-19.

Many Texans are still without water and power

Although temperatures warmed up across storm-battered Texas on Monday, millions still struggled with water shortages, boil-water advisories and flooding damage from burst pipes, and about 18,000 customers remained without power. As of Monday morning, more than 1,200 public water systems were reporting disruptions in service, many of them leading to boil-water notices, the Texas Council on Environmental Quality said.

Short List reader Mark Kazdol, who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, has been without running water since last Tuesday when the freeze took hold and caused a pipe to burst underground. "We are managing as best as possible right now," Kazdol says. Thankfully, he's no longer in the dark. After four days without power, his electricity was restored three days ago.

Food and water are loaded into the back of a pickup truck at a distribution site on Feb. 22, 2021, in Houston. The city's boil-water notice has been rescinded however many residents lack water at home due to broken pipes.
Food and water are loaded into the back of a pickup truck at a distribution site on Feb. 22, 2021, in Houston. The city's boil-water notice has been rescinded however many residents lack water at home due to broken pipes.

What everyone’s talking about

NYC is one step closer to seeing Trump's taxes

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for New York City prosecutors to feast their eyes on Donald Trump's taxes — a brutal defeat for the former president. The SCOTUS on Monday refused to intercede in a long-running legal fight between Trump and the Manhattan district attorney, paving the way for prosecutors who are investigating Trump and his company to enforce a grand jury subpoena for his tax records. Trump has dismissed the investigation as a political "witch hunt" and has fought all the way to the high court to keep his tax returns under wraps. Does that mean you’ll get to see his taxes, too? Because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, the development doesn't mean Trump's financial records will become public.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.

Merrick Garland calls Capitol riot investigation 'first priority'

President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Justice Department as attorney general, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, was in the hot seat Monday at his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Garland called for a restoration of Justice Department "norms" as guardrails against the influence of partisan politics that have threatened the agency's independence from the White House.

Here are a few takeaways from the hearing:

Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be attorney general, is sworn in at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool via AP)
Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be attorney general, is sworn in at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool via AP)

Real quick

Where does the $1.9T COVID-19 relief bill go from here?

Congress is getting back to business this week on Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which Democrats are eager to pass even without Republican help. The first obstacle was cleared Monday when the House Budget Committee endorsed the relief package. But Congress is up against a clear deadline. In a few weeks, aid for millions of people still struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic will run dry. So where does the latest COVID-19 relief bill go from here? Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes dive in:

  • When could the COVID-19 bill pass? Democrats aim to pass the whole stimulus package by mid-March, when a federal boost to unemployment benefits expires. But it will first face several hurdles.

  • What's in the current COVID-19 relief bill? The draft of the legislation contains $1,400 checks for Americans earning $75,000 or less, an extension of a $400-a-week boost to federal unemployment benefits, funding for vaccine distribution and more.

  • What are the major hurdles and disagreements? Republican senators oppose many of the provisions in the legislation, such as the billions in aid for state and local governments. Intraparty disputes have also emerged among Democrats over the inclusion of a federal minimum wage increase.

President Joe Biden, in a meeting Jan. 29. 2021, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, stressed the need for a COVID-19 relief package.
President Joe Biden, in a meeting Jan. 29. 2021, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, stressed the need for a COVID-19 relief package.

A break from the news

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 deaths, Texas, Trump taxes, Merrick Garland: Monday's news