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Health care workers overwhelmed in Southern California & how some found hope in 2020: The Morning Rundown

"We can't take much more," said one ICU nurse in Torrance, California.  
Image: County of Los Angeles paramedics
County of Los Angeles paramedics examine a potential Covid-19 patient sitting on the sidewalk before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, Calif. on Tuesday. Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Health care workers are under strain in Southern California, Mitch McConnell warns $2,000 stimulus checks will not pass quickly through the Senate and how people around the world found glimmers of hope in 2020.

Here is what's happening this Thursday morning.

Southern California health care workers overwhelmed by Covid-19 surge

Doctors and nurses in Southern California say they are struggling to cope as a relentless surge of Covid-19 cases has overwhelmed hospitals and intensive care units for most of December following the Thanksgiving holiday.

State public health officials recently extended stay-at-home orders for the hardest-hit regions, including Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, where ICU capacity has been at 0 percent for several weeks.

"We can't take much more," said one ICU nurse in Torrance, California.

The health workers’ plea comes as California became the second state to confirm cases of a highly-contagious coronavirus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom.

Meantime, officials overseeing the rollout of vaccines across the country blamed its slower-than-expected pace on a variety of factors including snowstorms, the holidays, storage challenges and general inexperience.

Image: Dr Anita Sircar
Dr Anita Sircar dons PPE gear at Southern California's Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.Courtesy Alex Hakim

McConnell blasts CASH Act, dampening hopes for $2,000 stimulus checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dampened hopes Wednesday that the chamber would agree to increasing direct coronavirus relief payments to eligible Americans from $600 to $2,000, as requested by President Donald Trump.

McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the CASH Act that was passed by the House on Monday, arguing that some of the funds go to families who don’t need it and vowed the chamber would not be "bullied into rushing out more borrowed money."

In other politics news, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., announced Wednesday that he would object to the certification of some states’ Electoral College results. Doing so will force his fellow Republicans to go on the record about whether they support Trump’s unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. Read more here.

Meanwhile, since Election Day the Trump administration has made dozens of new rules, including on access to asylum and a rejection of stricter limits for soot emissions. The “midnight rule-making” could create hurdles for President-elect Joe Biden.

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Quote of the day

"I would be very afraid if I were living in the States."

Benjamin Wilson, an American living in Wuhan, China.

One moving thing

The past year has been one of desperation and darkness, but all around the world people found hope.

As 2020 draws to a close, NBC News spoke with 13 people in five countries about where they found hope during the coronavirus pandemic.

Their responses varied from simple actions, such as mindfulness exercises while in lockdown, to acts of kindness that improved the lives of others.

"If you explicitly work on focusing on the good things that happened, no matter what they were, you will feel better," one psychiatrist said.

Image: A couple wearing masks walks towards a rising sun near the ocean.
In a year filled with unimaginable tragedy, small moments gave people around the world hope — something trauma experts say is key to staying grounded when life has been upended.Mikyung Lee / for NBC News

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