White House vaccine timeline shows 20M doses could be distributed this month

A White House document that lays out the Trump administration’s expected timeline for vaccine approval and distribution in the coming weeks says there could be more than 20 million doses provided by the end of December. 

The first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine could come in the next two weeks, and Moderna's could arrive within three weeks, pending final approval for both, according to the draft Operation Warp Speed document. 

A breakdown of the document's key timeline takeaways:

  • The administration expects first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine could be delivered as soon as December 15 (after identifying a window of December 11-14 for emergency use authorization).
  • The Moderna vaccine could first be delivered on December 22, depending on approval.
  • The administration has asked all states by Friday enroll their providers in the Covid-19 vaccine program and access their respective allocations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
  • They have also asked states to complete their own “microplans for distribution and administration” and “pre-order” Pfizer vaccines.
  • The group’s “vaccine manufacturing forecast” predicts 6.4 millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be ready for distribution December 13-19 (note: all estimates include first dose, second dose and reserve so this would be enough to vaccinate around 3 million people).
  • They expect 7.3 million doses to be ready from December 20-26 and 8.8 million December 27-31 for a total of 22.5 million Pfizer vaccines that could be distributed this month (again, this vaccine involves two doses).
  • As for Moderna, they predict 12.5 millions of doses could be ready December 20-26 and 5.5 million December 27-31 for a total of 18 million this month (so potentially enough for 9 million people; add that to Pfizer and you get enough for about 20 million people combined)
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CDC director approves plan to distribute first vaccines to healthcare workers, nursing homes

Health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first groups to be offered the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new proposal approved by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met virtually on Tuesday to discuss who would receive the first doses of the vaccine and to vote on the proposed language for the recommendation. The proposal passed 13 to 1 and the recommendation was adopted by CDC Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday.

The first phase of the vaccine rollout will be known as Phase 1a and is set to begin as soon as a vaccine receives authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently reviewing data on two vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna. The FDA’s advisory committee will meet on Dec. 10 to consider an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

The two groups in Phase 1a together represent around 24 million Americans — 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities. Staff working at long-term care facilities are considered among the health care workers.

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48 NBA players test positive for coronavirus

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that 48 players have tested positive for Covid-19 after the teams returned to their home markets.

The statement said 546 players were tested in this initial return-to-market-phase, and the 48 who tested positive will be isolated.

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Indiana healthcare worker shares emotional toll of caring for Covid-19 patients

A healthcare worker at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis detailed the emotional toll she and her colleagues have faced caring for Covid-19 patients in a video diary released by the hospital. 

Jody White, a respiratory therapist who has worked for Indiana University Health for 10 years, explained in the video that she has been treating Covid-19 patients since March. Respiratory therapists are responsible for caring for patients who are having difficulty breathing, which is one of the most common symptoms of the coronavirus infection.

“We're all very tired. I'm very tired,” White said in the video. “It's just another day to a lot of people, but we've been living this since March and there has not been a day that went by that we haven't taken care of (Covid-19) patients here.”

The stress of caring for Covid-19 patients has been extremely taxing for White because she has lung problems and asthma, which put her at a higher risk for severe illness or death if she were to contract the virus. 

“It's in the back of my head that in a couple of days, even if I'm wearing my PPE, which I always do, you never know, like, I might start getting symptoms,” she said through tears. “Am I going to end up in the hospital? Will I end up on a ventilator?”

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Ohio is now on Ohio's travel advisory list after Covid positivity rate hits 15 percent

Ohio has placed itself on its own travel advisory list after the Covid-19 positivity rate hit 15 percent in the state.

Under guidelines from the state's health department, those entering Ohio from states on the advisory list — and now, presumably, traveling within the state — are advised to quarantine for 14 days.

"This is the first week since April where Ohio’s positivity for COVID-19 has increased above 15%," the health department said Wednesday on its official site. "The state has seen record levels of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in the past week, and all Ohioans can help to limit the spread and impact of this virus."

"This includes recommendations to stay at home except for necessary trips for supplies, consistent mask-wearing when around others, and frequent hand washing."

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Chicago couple who canceled wedding due to Covid donate catering as Thanksgiving meals

After a Chicago couple had to cancel their wedding due to the pandemic, they decided to use their catering deposit to help people in need. 

Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis got engaged in July 2019 and were set to marry in a 150 person wedding in October, but decided to elope at City Hall instead, according to NBC Chicago

Instead of losing their nonrefundable deposit, the couple decided to use the $5,000 to provide Thanksgiving meals for clients of Thresholds, a nonprofit organization that provides services to people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders where Bugg works as a mental health counselor. 

"It seemed like an easy decision and the right thing to turn something that we could have been disappointed at to give to so many people who need it right now," Bugg told NBC Chicago. 

The couple was able to provide 200 meals through their caterer, Big Delicious Planet. The meals consisted of Thanksgiving staples like turkey, potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, salad and cookies. 

Because of the couple’s generous donation, the nonprofit organization was able to feed more people for Thanksgiving this year than in years past, explained Threshold’s CEO Mark Ishaug. 

“I was so moved because it was so beautiful,” Ishaug told NBC Chicago.

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Couple who tested positive for Covid is arrested after boarding flight

A couple in Hawaii is facing reckless endangerment charges after boarding a flight with their 4-year-old despite having tested positive for Covid-19, police said.

The couple, Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson, knew they had tested positive when they boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Kaua'i police spokeswoman Coco Zickos said Wednesday. They had been instructed by San Francisco International Airport officials to isolate and not travel, Zickos said.

When Moribe and Peterson arrived at Lihue Airport, they were escorted by police to a designated isolation room for further processing and investigation.

Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, who are residents of Wailua, were arrested on second-degree reckless endangerment charges. A family member took their child home and Child Protective Services was notified, Zickos said.

Click here to read the full story. 

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The Covid mink crisis: Why Denmark culled 17 million minks and now plans to dig up their buried bodies

Around the world, minks are getting sick.

The small, ferret-like mammals farmed for their valuable fur have raised alarm after contracting and mutating the coronavirus, passing it back to humans.

The virus, officials said, spread from human handler to mink, mutated, and then spread back to humans.

Denmark went so far as to cull 17 million minks in November in response to outbreaks at more than 200 mink farms. The northern region of the country, where most fur farms lie, was placed under strict lockdowns.

The Danish government spared no mink, killing infected and healthy animals, alike.

"We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19,” the country’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said at a press conference in early November.

Click here to read the full story. 

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Pelosi, Schumer back bipartisan $908 billion Covid relief aid proposal as basis for package

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, will support using the pared-back $908 billion Covid-19 aid package that was crafted by a group of bipartisan lawmakers as the basis for an ultimate deal.

Their support renews hope that Congress could approve aid before the end of the year. The proposal would extend boosted unemployment payments and extend help to cash-strapped local governments.

The Democrats urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider the proposal, a concession by Pelosi and Schumer, who had been insisting that the package be larger.

In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer said, "While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations."

Click here to read the full story. 

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White House hosting indoor holiday parties despite warnings from top health officials

The White House is planning to host as many as 20 indoor holiday parties this season, even as its own coronavirus task force warns states that the pandemic is "in a very dangerous place" and top health officials have cautioned against indoor celebrations.

One such party was held Tuesday night and included a brief appearance by President Donald Trump. Pictures from the event show several attendees not wearing masks, including Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. 

Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump's chief of staff, said in a statement on Wednesday that the White House would “celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah while providing the safest environment possible."

Among the safety measures that Grisham said would be in place were smaller guest lists and mask requirements, with social distancing also "encouraged." Photos from Tuesday's event, however, showed a crowded party with no social distancing and a number of guests without masks.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany shrugged off the concerns that the gatherings could set a bad example for Americans as they head into the holiday season.

"If you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protests, you can also go to a Christmas party. You can celebrate the holiday of Christmas, and you can do it responsibly," she told reporters. "We will engage in the celebration of Christmas."

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