National Guard members have been practicing dry-run drills of quickly processing shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio.
Britain became the first western nation to start vaccinating its population against the coronavirus on Tuesday, and the U.S. could begin its own mass vaccinations within days.
It can’t come soon enough. The U.S. death toll over the last week was 15,658, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s dashboard. That’s the second largest seven-day total since the pandemic began and the most deaths in a week since April. The COVID Tracking Project reports that at least 41 states are seeing a rise in the percentage of tests coming back positive.
In California, the nation’s most populous state, each day brings dire new records. Confirmed infections have surged past 1.3 million. Most of the state is under a stay-at-home lockdown order that will last through Christmas, sparking backlash in some parts of the Golden State.
“This is my first episode of civil disobedience in my entire life. My whole family is in law enforcement. I’m a follow-the-rules kind of person,” said Brenda Luntey, owner of San Francisco Deli, a sandwich shop in Redding, more than 200 miles north of the restaurant’s namesake city. She is openly violating California’s order to close her restaurant to indoor dining.
“I want people to understand we are not thumbing our nose at the government,” Luntey said. “I’m trying to keep my business alive.”
The FDA on Friday will consider an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine now being used in England. Around 50 hospitals in the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) started administering the COVID-19 inoculation to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 14.9 million cases and over 283,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 67.5 million cases and 1.5 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
📰 What we’re reading: Are there side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines? How much will they cost? And what are the ingredients? We’re answering your vaccine questions here.
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What you should know today:
State police brandishing firearms raided the Tallahassee home of Rebekah Jones, the former Department of Health data scientist who built the state’s much-praised COVID-19 dashboard before being fired over what she said was refusing to “manipulate data.”
“They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids,” Jones tweeted after Monday’s raid. Later that night she was able to tweet a bit of humor: “So… how was everyone else’s day?”
Jones said the warrant based on a complaint filed by the Florida Department of Health. State police spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed the seizure, citing possible unauthorized access to a department messaging system. Video from the scene appears to show an agent entering the house with his gun drawn, calling for Jones’s husband to come down the stairs.
“Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung up on agents,” Plessinger said in a statement. “After several attempts and verbal notifications that law enforcement officers were there to serve a legal search warrant, Ms. Jones eventually came to the door and allowed agents to enter.”
– Jeffrey Schweers
Public health experts warned for some time that a winter surge would come. But four who spoke with USA TODAY said they have been stunned by the dismal trajectory of the virus over nine grueling months, and they never expected the nation to be in as bad of a position as it is right now. November broke records that December is already pursuing.
“I don’t think there’s a single person anywhere who thought that we would still be facing this in December, let alone that this would be at such a peak at this particular time,” said Dr. Robert Amler, dean of New York Medical College’s School of Health Sciences and Practice and a former chief medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
– Ryan W. Miller
England on Tuesday became the first western country to start vaccinating its population against a virus that has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and sickened tens of millions more. Margaret Keenan, a grandmother who turns 91 next week, received the first shot at University Hospital Coventry.
“It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for,” Keenan said. Second in line: a man named William Shakespeare. Billy to his friends.
Fifty hospitals in the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) started administering the COVID-19 inoculation to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or have outpatient appointments scheduled. Some nursing home workers also received the vaccine.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Days before the first COVID-19 vaccine could be cleared for use in the U.S., an exclusive USA TODAY Network survey of health officials in all 50 states revealed a patchwork of preparations and different distribution plans that may mean wide variations in what the rollout looks like as it expands across the nation. Many states are struggling to prepare because information about what, when and how much vaccine is coming constantly changes, and extra funding to make the undertaking possible depends on Congress. Preparedness varies widely depending on how well a state’s health department is funded, how hard the pandemic has hit and how robust its immunization system was pre-pandemic. Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ longtime partner, first gentleman Marlon Reis, has been hospitalized as a precaution after experiencing shortness of breath and a worsening cough eight days after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. Polis’ office said in a statement late Sunday that the governor, who also was diagnosed with COVID-19, drove Reis to a hospital “for review and treatment.” Polis was not experiencing severe symptoms, his office said.
Reis “has normal oxygen saturation, is in good spirits, and looks forward to returning home soon,” said a statement released by the governor’s office Monday evening. The first gentlemen has not required supplemental oxygen. Polis and Reis tested positive Nov. 28 and both had been quarantining at home.
President Donald Trump is set to kick off a summit at the White House on Tuesday to highlight the rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine he is eager to take credit for despite criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The summit will provide an update on the status of the administration’s ambitious plan to vaccinate all Americans against the coronavirus. Trump has repeatedly credited Operation Warp Speed, his administration’s public-private coronavirus response initiative, for the record development of vaccines but has provided little leadership to curb the deadly surge in COVID-19 cases that’s led to more than 282,000 deaths in the U.S.
The White House was initially in talks to include two drug companies leading the vaccine charge but determined their participation was not required after the decision to include Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation.
“It was more appropriate not to have one or more vaccine companies with pending applications before the FDA also participating,” a senior administration official said on a briefing call with reporters.
– David Jackson, Courtney Subramanian
Wyoming will require people to wear masks in indoor public spaces across the state starting Wednesday and heading into the New Year, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday. Previously, Gordon had left decisions on mask mandates to county governments. Sixteen of the state’s 23 counties had local orders. But as the state topped 32,000 cases on Sunday, and Gordon tested positive Nov. 25, he said face coverings “will make a big difference, but it will take time.”
“These new orders are meant to support local leadership and we should all know that in Wyoming these mandates are not about citations, but about caring for others,” Gordon said.
Also announced: indoor and outdoor gatherings without distancing will be limited to 10 or fewer, down from the 25 or fewer allowed on Nov. 24. Bars, restaurants and cafes will be prohibited from serving in house between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, a three-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and rookie center James Wiseman have tested positive for the coronavirus, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Both players missed Monday’s first group practice of training camp and will have to quarantine for 10-12 days. The absence from the team could be especially detrimental for Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft, as he begins his NBA career after playing only three games in college.
– Jorge Ortiz
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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