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Dec. 2 Coronavirus updates: U.S. reports largest number of deaths since June

December 2 news about the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. reported 2,380 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the country's largest number since June 26.
Image: Christmas lights are reflected on a ballon as a child wears a face mask to protect against coronavirus at the Johannesburg Zoo's Festival of Lights
Christmas lights are reflected on a balloon as a child wears a face mask at the Johannesburg Zoo's Festival of Lights on Tuesday in South Africa.Denis Farrell / AP

Coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage of Covid-19.

The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a huge symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

The vaccine has been authorized far quicker than any other in history, its lightning development outpacing the 15-20 years it usually takes to develop these types of medicines.

The first inoculations are set to be rolled out next week, the government said.

Putin orders 'large-scale' Covid vaccination in Russia

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the start of a “large-scale” Covid-19 vaccination by late next week, with doctors and teachers to be the first in line to receive the Sputnik V shots, which have yet to complete advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols.

Sputnik V has been touted in Russia as the world’s “first registered Covid-19 vaccine” after it received regulatory approval in early August. However, giving the shots the government go-ahead drew considerable criticism from experts, because at the time they had only been tested on several dozen people.

Putin said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V jab “has been produced or will have been produced in the next few days.”

Trump’s vaccine czar hopes U.K. approval of Pfizer vaccine ebbs 'politicization'

President Donald Trump's Covid-19 vaccine czar Dr. Moncef Slaoui said on Wednesday he hopes the United Kingdom's approval of the Pfizer vaccine encourages skeptical Americans to take the inoculation.

The U.K. became the first country Wednesday to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed, said that fact that an external British regulatory agency approved the vaccine is exciting because "of course they have not been involved in the politicization that surrounded the development."

He also said it's further "evidence that the data with these vaccines are clear," showing "that they are safe for use in the general population."

"Vaccines are useless if they are not used to vaccinate people," Slaoui said, whose message comes as vaccines face a growing and powerful misinformation movement online.

New York will have Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 170,000 people by Dec. 15, Cuomo says

New York will receive its first delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, with doses for 170,000 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. 

The announcement highlights ongoing plans to quickly transport vaccine doses across the U.S. in preparation for FDA approval, which could come later this month. The U.K. on Wednesday became the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer vaccines are already on the move

CDC shortens quarantine period to 10 days with no symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended quarantine period from 14 days after a person has been exposed to the coronavirus, offering two alternatives, the agency said Wednesday.

The first alternative is to end quarantine after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters. The second option is to end quarantine after seven days if an individual tests negative and also reports no symptoms.

The decision is based on new research and modeling data, Walke said.

Still, Walke noted that a 14-day quarantine is still the best way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Click here to read the full story. 

Gloria Estefan says she tested positive for Covid

Singer Gloria Estefan, who has been urging her fans to take Covid-19 precautions, said she tested positive for the virus last month.

“In the past few weeks I have been one of the victims of Covid,” Estefan said on Instagram.

Estefan said she thinks she caught the coronavirus on Oct. 30 from a fan who was not wearing a mask and who “tapped me on the shoulder” while she was eating outdoors with a small group of family members at a local restaurant.

“I even held my breath, quite honestly, through their talk but something must have happened there,” she said.

The 63-year-old performer said she got tested on Nov. 8 after she lost her senses of taste and smell and developed a mild cough.

Estefan said she isolated at her home on Star Island, which is just off Miami Beach, for two weeks and has tested negative twice since then.

But even before the diagnosis, Estefan said she and her family were careful about wearing masks and isolating at home and that the restaurant outing was “the only time I ever went out.”

WHO fine-tunes advice on face masks

The World Health Organization on Wednesday tightened guidelines on wearing face masks, recommending that, where Covid-19 is spreading, they be worn by everyone in health care facilities and for all interactions in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

The WHO said that, where the epidemic was spreading, people, including children and students aged 12 or over, should always wear masks in shops, workplaces and schools that lack adequate ventilation, and when receiving visitors at home in poorly ventilated rooms.

Masks should also be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least three feet could not be maintained.

In areas of Covid-19 spread, it also advised “universal” wearing of medical masks in health care facilities, including when caring for other patients. The advice applied to visitors, outpatients and to common areas such as cafeterias and staff rooms.

Miami Beach mayor blasts Gov. DeSantis’ Covid response, says he’s 'ruining people’s lives'

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber criticized the Florida governor’s Covid-19 response on Wednesday, saying “the one thing we're missing is a leader.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, “seems just entrenched in following the convenient ideology rather than established science,” Gelber, a Democrat, said on MSNBC. 

Gelber said DeSantis needs to be doing more to encourage mask-wearing. 

He “won't position himself as a leader” on Covid-19, the mayor said. “In fact, he's doing the opposite right now…I think it's creating infections and therefore, you know, ruining people's lives.”

The mayor’s statement comes as DeSantis announced Monday that he was ruling out any further Covid-19 restrictions, saying “no lockdowns, no fines, no schools closures.”  Florida has recorded more than 1 million Covid-19 cases and almost 19,000 deaths as of Tuesday, according to an NBC News tally. 

WH Covid task force urges health officials to sidestep unhelpful local governments

The White House coronavirus task force is warning that the risk from Covid-19 to Americans is at “a historic high” and urging public health officials to “alert the state population directly” if local governments balk at doing so, according to a copy of the latest task force report obtained by NBC News.

“We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity,” the report, which was distributed to the states earlier this week, says. “A further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”

Notably, the task force is directing health officials to take matters into their own hands and circumvent state and local policies if they “do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation” by making sure the media is “saturated with public health messaging.”

The message? Avoid social gatherings. Wear masks and practice social distancing. Report businesses and organizations that fail to comply with health regulations.

More specifically, the report states, “It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health; you should have groceries and medications delivered.”

Echoing what Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci have stressed in recent days, the report also states: “If you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household.”

“Most likely, you will not have symptoms; however, you are dangerous to others and you must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease and get tested immediately,” it states.


Fauci named one of People magazine's '2020 People of the Year'

LOS ANGELES — People magazine has named George Clooney, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Selena Gomez and Regina King as the “2020 People of the Year.”

The magazine revealed its list Wednesday morning as part of a year-end double issue with four covers. The four will be celebrated for their positive impact in the world during a challenging 2020.

Clooney, Fauci, Gomez and King will be separately featured on the magazine covers of the issue, which is out Friday.