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Thanksgiving week starts with more positive vaccine news as Biden moves to fill top positions

Despite the CDC warning Americans not to travel, the TSA screened more than 2 million passengers on Friday and Saturday.
Image: Travelers wearing protective face masks walking through Concourse D at the Miami International Airport
Travelers wearing protective face masks walk through Miami International Airport on Sunday. David Santiago / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

There is more encouraging Covid-19 vaccine news as Americans hit the road ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, despite the CDC pleading with people to stay put.

Here is what we're watching this Monday morning.

AstraZeneca says its Covid-19 vaccine is 'highly effective' in late-stage trials

More good news on the Covid-19 vaccine front: Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Monday late-stage trials of its Covid-19 vaccine have shown it to be "highly effective" in preventing disease.

The vaccine, developed in conjunction with U.K.'s University of Oxford, prevented 70 percent of people from developing the disease, the company said. Researchers have also found that if people were given a half dose followed by a full dose, rather than two full doses, protection rose to about 90 percent.

The results of AstraZeneca's vaccine trials are the third promising breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people around the world and roiled the global economy.

Earlier this month, Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results from late-stage trials, showing that their vaccine candidates were almost 95 percent effective.

The positive vaccine news can't come soon enough with the United States topping more than 12 million cases and more than 257,000 deaths over the weekend.

The number of new cases continues to surge, setting a new record on Friday with more than 200,000 new cases in one 24 hour period. And more than 83,000 Americans were hospitalized due to Covid-19 on Sunday, setting another record for the 12th day in a row.

Overstretched health care providers are nervous that the Thanksgiving holiday will bring another surge of new infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving in an effort to curb another dangerous spike in cases.

But the Transportation Security Administration said it processed more than 2 million passengers through airport checkpoints on Friday and Saturday, the highest two-day total since mid-March when the pandemic started in the U.S.

College students have been caught in the middle as they navigate between family, safety and security protocols this Thanksgiving.

Follow our live blog for all the latest coronavirus developments.

Biden expected to tap veteran diplomat Antony Blinken as secretary of state

Veteran diplomat and longtime Biden foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken is President-elect Joe Biden's top choice to serve as secretary of state, multiple sources told NBC News.

A transition official said Blinken is the most likely candidate for the position but couldn't confirm the nomination until Biden's announcement.

Blinken's previous top government roles include having served as deputy national security adviser from 2013 to 2015 during the Obama administration and as deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday that Biden will begin announcing his Cabinet picks early this week.

Christie calls Trump's legal efforts a 'national embarrassment' as more Republicans speak out

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, said Sunday that Trump's legal battle over the election results has reached the point of "national embarrassment" and that it is time for him to move on.

Christie's comments came a day after a federal judge in Pennsylvania eviscerated the Trump campaign's latest legal effort, dismissing it and saying it was premised on a "strained legal argument without merit."

In a 37-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann wrote that the Trump campaign asked him to "disenfranchise almost seven million voters" in Pennsylvania, adding that with such a request, one might expect "factual proof of rampant corruption." Brann said such proof was not presented.

Trump and Republicans have filed more than 30 lawsuits so far, with most being dismissed, withdrawn or rejected. No courts have found evidence of voter fraud.

"You have an obligation to present the evidence," Christie, a former federal prosecutor said on ABC News' "This Week." "The evidence has not been presented."

A few more elected Republicans spoke out about Trump's efforts this weekend, but most have still yet to acknowledge Biden's victory.

After the Pennsylvania ruling, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said that Trump had "exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania" and that recent developments make it clear that Biden will be the next president.

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THINK about it

Skipping a trip home for Thanksgiving shouldn't earn you a guilt trip, Celia Viggo Wexler writes in an opinion piece.


Thanksgiving isn't canceled, but with all the efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, expect it to be different. From down-sized recipes to how to celebrate safely, here is our Thanksgiving survival guide.


Cyber Monday isn't for another week, but with everything starting early this year, here are some of the best deals available already.

One lucky King Charles

A Florida man is drawing praise for bravely saving his puppy from the jaws of an alligator.

Richard Wilbanks, 74, was just enjoying the sun when he heard his new puppy, a three-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Gunner, crying.

An alligator in his backyard pond had grabbed the dog and pulled it into the water.

Wilbanks jumped into the pond, grabbed the small alligator and pulled its jaw open, so Gunner could escape, surveillance video of the rescue shows.

"Instinct just took over and adrenaline kicked in," Wilbanks told NBC Fort Myers affiliate WBBH. "I just went right into the water after the gator and Gunner."

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Thanks, Petra