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Nov. 24 Covid news: Vaccines seek approval; States extend restrictions and mask mandates

Nov. 24 Covid updates about vaccines, travel restrictions and mask mandates. States restrictions for safety and travel extend as U.S. coronavirus cases rise.
Health workers and relatives carry the body of a Covid-19 victim for cremation in New Delhi on Nov. 19, 2020.Manish Swarup / AP

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Azar says vaccine distribution could begin around Christmas

At a Tuesday press conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said a Covid-19 vaccine could be distributed "soon" after receiving emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, an authorization he said could come as soon as December 10.

The distribution timeline depends on the initial authorization and then drug company's ability to increase productions and distribute.

The vaccine would initially be provided to healthcare workers and at-risk groups, gradually becoming more available to the general public in the following months.

Trump Administration in talks with Biden transition team on Covid-19 efforts

Rear Adm. Erica Schwartz, the deputy surgeon general, spoke to President-elect Joe Biden’s team on Monday in a major step toward coordinating vaccination efforts going into the new White House administration, officials said.

"Our top career official Rear Adm. Schwartz … was last night in communication with the Biden transition team,” Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Tuesday. “We are immediately getting them all off the pre-prepared transition briefing materials. We will insure coordinated briefings  with them to insure they’re getting whatever information that they feel they need.”  

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

As cases surge, Covid-19 test results are taking longer to come back

With a higher demand nationwide for Covid-19 tests, Quest Diagnostics, one of the biggest commercial laboratories in the United States, says its turnaround time for results has increased. 

The average turnaround time is now approximately two to three days for all patients and approximately two days for priority patients, Quest Diagnostics said in a press release Tuesday.

Last week, the company had said it was experiencing a "modest" increase, with the average test turnaround time at slightly more than two days. It warned that as the number of cases nationwide continued to grow, so would the demand for tests, and testing capacity would be further stretched.

The delays come as many people are seeking Covid-19 tests ahead of Thanksgiving. 

TikToker goes viral for sharing AstraZeneca vaccine trial experience

Last week, Ashley Locke, a Tennessee-based TikTok user, posted a video of herself participating in the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial

Since then, the video has racked up more than 2.6 million views. 

“The attention that it’s got ended up just being completely mind blowing to me," Locke told NBC News affiliate News 4 Nashville.

In the clip, Locke shows herself arriving at the facility, meeting with a doctor and, toward the end of the clip, herself receiving an injection of what she explains is either the vaccine or a placebo.

"Now I have check-ins and get blood drawn for the next two years to see how everything is going," Locke writes in the video.  

In subsequent videos posted to her account, Locke answers viewers' questions about the vaccine trial and describes her check-ins with the trial's doctors. 

The videos have not only given people a window into what it's like to be a part of a Covid-19 vaccine trial — they've also encouraged others to join. 

Clinical Research Associates, the Nashville office where Locke is participating in the trial, told News 4 Nashville that they've had an influx of sign ups since Locke's video. They said those signing up say they heard about the trial through social media, with some specifically citing TikTok. 

"To think that I had a hand in sharing that information and getting more people involved in the trial, that just feels really cool. I mean I definitely didn’t expect that so that’s awesome,” Locke told News 4 Nashville. 

6 dead, more than 70 infected in Massachusetts nursing home

Six residents at an assisted living facility in Massachusetts died after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials told NBC Boston on Monday.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 70 residents and employees at Atria Marland Place in Andover, Massachusetts, said Kymberly Codair, regional vice president of Atria Senior Living.

"Our thoughts are with their families during this difficult time," Codair said in a statement to NBC Boston.

Codair added that all residents who tested positive are under quarantine and receiving medical care, and the facility is operating with "escalated safety protocols," including restricted access to visitors, regular temperature checks, symptom screenings, and proper PPE for employees.

New York City emergency room doctor warns of potentially deadly consequences of Thanksgiving travel

A New York City emergency room doctor is warning Twitter users of the possible deadly consequences of travel and family gatherings during the holiday season. 

“There’s just no foolproof way to make holiday family meetups zero-risk,” tweeted Craig Spencer, 39, a doctor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Hospital. 

“In a couple of weeks, we're going to hear a lot of stories of people who got together from all over the country, interacted with their family members, and those family members are sick or maybe even died,” Spencer told NBC News over the phone. 

While doctors rely on personal protective equipment and will know which of their patients are Covid-19 positive, people attending meet-ups won’t have those same precautions, meaning the risk is going to be very high for many across the country, he added. 

Spencer hopes he and his fellow emergency room staff will have time to gather for some food on Thanksgiving, but isn’t holding his breath. “2020 is different than every year before,” he said. 

E.U. secures 160 million Moderna shots

BRUSSELS — The European Union's executive said Tuesday it will sign a contract for up to 160 million doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the E.U. Commission, said the deal will be approved on Wednesday as the E.U. tries to build “one of the most comprehensive Covid-19 vaccine portfolio in the world."

The deal with Moderna is the sixth secured by the E.U. Commission with pharmaceutical companies, allowing its 27 member countries to buy more than 1 billion doses once the shots are ready.

Ohio shatters its single-day case record, U.S. counts its 20th day of 100,000-plus cases

Ohio broke its single-day Covid-19 case record of 8,808 set Friday, reporting 11,885 cases Monday.

This comes amid a continuing surge in the state and the country, which has tallied more than 100,000 cases a day since Nov. 4, according to NBC News figures.

Monday the U.S. counted 178,757 cases and 1,164 reported deaths.

The country's daily case average for the last week has been 171,820 cases per day, more than double the  84,718 per-day average four weeks ago.

Other states setting single-day records Monday:

  • Connecticut with a record 5,271 coronavirus cases*
  • Kansas with 7,526 cases*
  • Rhode Island with 2,572 cases*
  • Virginia with 3,242 cases
  • Wyoming with 1,262 cases and 26 dead

* These states didn't record cases over the weekend.