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'The closest thing to a concession': Trump administration finally allows Biden transition to begin

President-elect picks John Kerry as climate czar, Janet Yellen as treasury secretary

Good morning, NBC News readers.

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition officially begins, surging Covid-19 infections leave nurses in high demand and a special thank you to frontline workers this holiday season.

Here is what we're watching this Tuesday morning.

Trump administration finally signs off on Biden transition

After weeks of delay, the head of the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that the official governmental transition process has been approved.

It means that Biden is now able to get access to millions of dollars in federal funds and other resources to begin his transition to power. In her letter to Biden, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy denied that she had been under pressure from the White House to delay the process.

President Donald Trump vowed to continue his legal fight to contest the election results in a pair of tweets but said that he was recommending that Murphy and her team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was "probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue."

Trump and other Republicans have filed over 30 lawsuits across six swing states in an attempt to contest the election results.

Most of them have been shot down or withdrawn, and no court has found even a single instance of fraud.

Behind the scenes, Trump has privately expressed frustration with the slapdash nature of his election defense fight, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, seen here in March 2019, denied that she had been under pressure from the White House to delay the transition.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Biden picks John Kerry as climate czar, Janet Yellen as treasury secretary

President-elect Biden made official his picks for a number of high-level administration and Cabinet positions Monday, including former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his special presidential envoy for climate and Antony Blinken as secretary of state.

Kerry's selection marks the first time that the National Security Council will include an official dedicated to climate change.

Biden also plans to nominate Janet Yellen to be treasury secretary, NBC News confirmed. Yellen, a former chair of the Federal Reserve, would be the first woman to hold the job. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would lead the administration's effort to get the economy back on its feet after the devastation caused by Covid-19.

Biden announced Alejandro Mayorkas as his pick for homeland security secretary, the first Latino and the first immigrant chosen for the role. The department is expected to drastically overhaul President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

He also tapped Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, among other picks.

Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks about his leadership picks Tuesday afternoon. A Biden transition official said all Cabinet nominees will join Biden at the announcement in Wilmington, Delaware.

Spike in Covid-19 leads to bidding war for nurses

Early in the pandemic, hospitals were competing for ventilators, Covid-19 tests and personal protective equipment. Now, sites across the country are competing for nurses.

The surge in Covid-19 cases has turned hospital staffing into a sort of national bidding war, with hospitals willing to pay exorbitant wages of up to $10,000 a week to secure the nurses they need.

"We all thought, 'Well, when it's Colorado's turn, we'll draw on the same resources. We'll call our surrounding states, and they'll send help,'" said Julie Lonborg, a spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association. "Now it's a national outbreak. It's not just one or two spots, as it was in the spring. It's really significant across the country, which means everybody is looking for those resources."

Several potential Covid-19 vaccines are on the horizon, but rolling out shots to even a fraction of the world's 7.8 billion people will require conquering an epic supply-chain challenge at a scale that dwarfs any other in history.

"It's going to be an extraordinary logistic challenge," David Salisbury, the British government's former director of immunization, told NBC News. "I just hope it works."

Meanwhile, in New York, the rise in cases of coronavirus forced the re-opening of a field hospital in Staten Island not used since the early days of the pandemic.

Covid-19 hasn't been the only catastrophe sweeping the country this year. Health experts say Americans are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression made worse by pandemic-related stressors, including job loss, remote learning, and limits on gathering.

"This is a different disaster, because everyone is affected by it," said Christian Burgess, director of the Disaster Distress Helpline.

Follow our live blog for all the latest coronavirus developments.

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THINK about it

How much damage did Trump's transition delay do to vaccine efforts? It's time to find out, writes Sen. Chris Murphy in an opinion piece.


To reach a big health or fitness goal, start small, experts say. Incremental changes can help keep you motivated, especially in the early stages.


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One touching thing

It’s the season to give thanks and this year essential workers are getting some very special shout outs.

Across the country, holiday displays are going up to honor those saving lives and helping others during the pandemic.

A 45-foot Christmas tree on Boston Common will be dedicated to local health care heroes, while in Mississippi, the state’s first lady is asking artisans to create ornaments to honor frontline workers and first responders.

And in New York, Macy’s iconic holiday window display is dedicated to those who served the city during the dark days of the pandemic in the spring.

“It’s really a heartfelt thank you letter to all first responders,” said Manuel Urquizo, the national window director at Macy’s department store.

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Thanks, Rachel