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Arizona, California and Rhode Island are among the hardest-hit places in the world at this stage of the pandemic, with the highest rates of Covid-19 infections per capita, according to a data analysis by NBC News.
The sobering figures highlight just how dire the situation is in the United States, particularly after a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus emerged in several states.
- Map of U.S. hot spots and worldwide Covid-19 cases.
- Tracking surges in states across the country this winter.
- Map of travel restrictions and which states have a mask mandate.
- Click here for more of NBC News' Covid-19 coverage.
Another daily U.S. record set for cases and deaths
The U.S. reported 268,840 Covid-19 cases and 3,920 deaths Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally, setting a daily record for both cases and deaths since the outbreak started.
The numbers surpass the previous national records set Saturday, when the U.S. reported 253,224 cases, and Dec. 30, when the nation posted 3,657 deaths.
Since Jan. 1, the U.S. has recorded 1,345,873 new coronavirus cases and 15,120 deaths.
Italy's infections creeping up
ROME — Italy’s coronavirus infections are creeping up with 20,331 new cases recorded and 548 deaths added to the official death toll.
The government is weighing revised measures after the current restrictions expire mid-month.
Within Europe, Italy currently trails only Germany in its coronavirus vaccination campaign, with 260,000 people inoculated. But officials say its capacity to administer shots must increase exponentially over the coming weeks as more vaccines become available.
Europe’s onetime virus epicenter has had more than 95,000 health care workers infected and 280 doctors died after testing positive.
Idaho man sues state for 65-and-over vaccine priority
BOISE, Idaho — An 87-year-old Idaho man has filed a federal lawsuit against Republican Gov. Brad Little and the state’s health department, seeking to force the state to put people 65 and over at the front of the line for the coronavirus vaccination.
Richard Byrd, of Rogerson, in the lawsuit filed Monday says it’s a life-and-death issue for older people who tend to die at much higher rates than younger people if they get Covid-19.
Byrd contends denying him access to the vaccine immediately is a violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Idaho attorney general’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Drugstore chains say vaccine delivery to nursing homes on schedule
The drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens both said Wednesday they expect to finish delivering the first round of Covid-19 vaccine doses at nursing homes on schedule by Jan. 25.
CVS said it was roughly halfway done as of Tuesday. It is working with 7,822 nursing homes nationwide and had completed nearly 4,000 first-dose clinics.
There are more than 15,000 nursing homes nationally, and the drugstore chains focused first on vaccinating at those locations in part because residents there are more vulnerable and require more care than people staying at other long-term care locations.
HHS: States can vaccinate lower-priority groups if doses would sit in freezers
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Wednesday that he is advising states to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups against Covid-19 if the doses they have on hand would otherwise be sitting in freezers.
“It would be much better to move quickly and end up vaccinating some lower-priority people than to let vaccines sit around while states try to micromanage this process,” Azar said in a briefing, expressing frustration about the pace of vaccinations.
“Faster administration could save lives right now, which means we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.
California Covid update canceled after Trump supporters gather outside state capitol
LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled Wednesday's scheduled coronavirus update after supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the state capitol building to protest the outcome of the presidential election.
“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions,” the governor said in a statement, referring to the violence that erupted in Washington, D.C.
Newsom was expected to give an update on the post-holiday surge that has overwhelmed hospitals throughout the state starting at the end of November following Thanksgiving.
Michigan's vaccine roll out expands to more seniors, other workers
Michigan, which ranks among the states with the lowest vaccination rates against Covid-19, will allow more of its population to be vaccinated beginning Monday, state health officials said.
Among those who will be eligible for a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine include seniors 65 and older as well as police officers, first responders, teachers, childcare providers and jail employees.
"The more people we can get the safe and effective vaccine, the faster we can return to a sense of normalcy," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday.
The next phase is part of the state's push to vaccinate 70 percent of residents age 16 and older by the end of the year.
Michigan ranks 45th among states in percentage of the population that has been vaccinated against Covid-19, according to federal health data released Tuesday.
Ex-FDA commissioner: vaccines are 'race against time' as new variants spread
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday that coronavirus variants will present new challenges for planned vaccination campaigns and advocated for a faster vaccine rollout.
Gottlieb, who is a board member at coronavirus vaccine maker Pfizer, said the new coronavirus variants first identified in Europe and Africa each seemed do different things: spread more quickly and evade immune response.
“The UK strain is more concerning in that it appears to be more contagious and appears to be more prevalent in the United States than we first suspected," he said, while the South African strain "might be able to partially defeat some of our existing countermeasures, including the antibody drugs."
While Gottlieb predicted that new vaccines "won't be fully defeated" by the variants, he said it is possible there will be "reduced effectiveness against the vaccines," though not in as little as one year, like flu vaccines.
"It's a race against time to try to get protective immunity into as much of the population as possible before these variants really get a toehold here in the United States. There are two ways to get protective immunity into the population, the hard way and painful way is to infect people. We don't want to do that. The more elegant way is to vaccinate people. That's what we should be trying to do."
NFL encourages teams to offer stadiums and facilities as vaccination sites
Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots in Massachusetts, will soon be used as a mass vaccination site, said Stacey James, a spokesperson for the team, making it the first National Football League (NFL) team facility to do so.
In a phone call with NBC News Tuesday, James said the team is working with the state of Massachusetts in a coordinated effort to provide mass vaccinations and that the team is “eager to host” the site, although details have not yet been finalized and no announcement has been made.
The move comes as the NFL revealed in an email to NBC News that it's encouraging its teams to join in on the vaccination effort. Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Communications for the NFL, said the final decision will be left up to the individual teams.
“We have encouraged clubs to contact their state and local health departments to offer stadiums and practice facilities if practical to serve as site for vaccinating the general public,” McCarthy said.
NBC News reached out to all 32 NFL teams and so far only the Patriots have made concrete plans to move ahead with a vaccination site. Some teams, like the New York Giants, said it’s not using its stadium or facilities for vaccinations and hasn't been approached to do so.
On Tuesday, NBC Boston reported Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, will offer its facilities for a vaccination site to serve first responders.
Major League Baseball did not respond to request for comment.
More allergic reactions to Covid vaccine reported, but overall remain rare
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that at least 21 people have had a severe allergic reaction after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. All of the patients have recovered.
The reaction, called anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening, and must be treated immediately with an emergency injection of epinephrin, often given via EpiPen.
NYC says general population can get vaccines in the summer
New York City's general population can expect to get vaccinated this summer, the department of health said on its website.
"Phased distribution will take time," the department warned, "with vaccines not expected to be widely available to all New Yorkers until mid-2021."
The news comes as the state has come under some fire for a slower-than-anticipated vaccine rollout.
Gov. Cuomo has been more ambitious in his timeline, saying at his press conference Wednesday that the state's general population will likely be able to get the vaccine by March or April.
Nearly 900,000 vaccine doses delayed en route to California
Nearly 900,000 coronavirus vaccines intended for California are stuck in transit at a time when the Covid-19 surge is overwhelming hospitals throughout the state, according to state officials.
More than 1.7 million doses have been allocated for the initial rollout of the vaccine but California has only received 1.2 million doses as of Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference. One-third of the doses currently available have been distributed.
"It's gone too slowly for many of us, all of us" he said. "It's not good enough. We recognize that."
Newsom added that state public health officials are working to increase the number of vaccination sites and also add more medical professions to the list of people who can distribute vaccines, including dentists, pharmacists and even the National Guard.
'Immune memory' may be long lasting in recovered Covid patients, study finds
The immune systems of recovered Covid-19 patients can recognize the coronavirus for up to eight months after infection, according to a new study that offers tantalizing hope that antibodies and “immune memory” could provide long-lasting protection from the virus.
A team led by Dr. Jennifer Dan, an infectious disease researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, tracked immune responses of 188 people, both men and women, in the United States who recovered from Covid-19. In addition to antibodies, the scientists measured so-called B cells, which mediate the production of antibodies, and T cells, which recognize a virus from a previous infection and eliminate the pathogen before it infiltrates cells.
The researchers found that antibody levels showed only “modest declines” six to eight months after the onset of symptoms. B cells were detected in almost all cases up to eight months after infection, and T cells decayed only slightly after six months, the scientists found.
While promising, the study’s authors said, “direct conclusions about protective immunity cannot be made” based on these findings alone. They added, however, that the results suggest that “durable immunity” against Covid-19 is possible in most individuals. The study was published online Wednesday in the journal Science.
Crashed websites, lines and scams frustrate Floridians looking for vaccinations
MIAMI — After a week and a half of leaving voicemails, writing emails and checking hospital websites, Harvey Rogers is hoping he and his wife are on a waiting list somewhere for a Covid-19 vaccine.
But the 75-year-old lawyer and resident of Pinecrest, an upscale Miami-Dade County neighborhood, is not really sure, since no one has replied.
Rogers, who is diabetic and has high blood pressure, said it’s frustrating.
“You feel the government is not telling you the truth,” Rogers said, adding that if the state and federal governments were more forthcoming about when and where the vaccine would be available there would be less of a “feeling of anxiety and being left out of the loop.”
In the two weeks since Florida’s governor said the Covid-19 vaccine would be available to residents 65 and over, the vaccination registration process has been inconsistent across county lines, causing chaos, confusion and disappointment among its senior population and their relatives.
Grocery chain Publix to start administering vaccines in Florida
Starting Friday, Publix will begin offering Covid-19 vaccines at 22 of its Florida grocery stores as part of a new pilot program.
Some 15,000 doses are being delivered to stores located in three counties north of Tampa -- Hernando, Citrus and Marion -- that have large populations of senior citizens.
“I think this Publix announcement is one of the most exciting because of the potential convenience for seniors and the potential for this to be a major force multiplier throughout the state of Florida,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.
Publix will begin taking reservations on Thursday and each store will offer up to 120 doses per day, the governor said.
Florida has been hit hard by the pandemic with 1.39 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 22,514 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the latest NBC News data.
Sundance Film Festival cancels Southern California drive-in screenings
A record surge in Covid-19 cases in Los Angeles County has forced the Sundance Institute to shelve plans to hold drive-in screenings in Southern California as part of its 2021 film festival beginning later this month.
Instead, festival-goers can watch the film entries online, which will include live Q&A events with filmmakers and actors.
"We wanted to gather in person where possible and planned to dial elements up and down based on the health situation in our locations at the time of the event," Sundance Institute organizers said in a statement.
Los Angeles County has been the epicenter of the pandemic in California, recently surpassing 10,000 Covid-19 deaths and grappling with 40 percent of the deaths in the state, overwhelming hospital systems.
Other major annual events in Los Angeles have also been modified because of the pandemic. The Recording Academy announced Tuesday that the 2021 Grammy Awards will no longer take place this month and will broadcast in March.
Congressman contracts Covid after receiving first vaccine dose
A Texas Republican in the House of Representatives has tested positive for Covid-19 less than one month after first receiving a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Rep. Kevin Brady tweeted a photo on December 18 of him receiving the shot, thanking President Trump and Operation Warp Speeding for making "it possible to have this safe and effective vaccine in record time."
Late Tuesday, Brady wrote again on Twitter to announce that he is in quarantine after the House Physician told him he tested positive for Covid.
"As recommended, I received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Dec 18 & also recently tested negative for Covid on New Years Day," Brady wrote. "Begin treatment tomorrow. Shld be fine."
According to published data, the Pfizer-BioNTEch Covid-19 vaccine is roughly 95 percent effective.
U.S. counts 21 million Covid cases
The U.S. registered its 21 millionth Covid-19 case Tuesday, as there were 3,326 reported deaths and more than 250,000 cases tallied, according to NBC News' count.
As of Wednesday morning, 357,958 have died and 21.1 million in the U.S. have had the disease.
These states set single-day records Tuesday:
- Alabama, 5,498 cases
- Arizona, 253 dead
- Mississippi, 91 dead
- West Virginia, 46 dead