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Dec. 10 Coronavirus updates: Weekly initial jobless claims surge to 853,000

More people in that U.S. have died from Covid-19 than were killed in World War II.

Live coverage has ended here, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage of Covid-19.

The United States on Thursday again broke single-day Covid-19 records for both reported deaths and cases, according to an NBC News' count.

The country saw 229,928 new cases and 3,110 deaths. The previous single-day record was just on Wednesday. The rise in cases in large parts of the country has prompted dire warnings about hospital capacity and whether colder weather and the holiday season will help the virus spread.

On Thursday, Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine got the recommendation from an independent panel of experts that the FDA authorize it for emergency use. The FDA is not obligated to go along with the panel's recommendation, but it is widely expected to authorize the vaccine for emergency use promptly.

And in a grim statistic about the toll that the pandemic has taken in the country, NBC News data shows that more people in the United States have died this year from Covid-19 than were killed in four years of fighting on the battlefields during World War II.

Farmworkers, firefighters and flight attendants jockey for vaccine priority

Rachel Bluth, Kaiser Health News

Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News

Rachel Bluth, Kaiser Health News and Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News

With front-line health workers and nursing home residents and staff members expected to get the initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, the thornier question is figuring out who goes next.

The answer will likely depend on where you live.

While an influential federal advisory board is expected to make its recommendations this month, state health departments and governors will make the calls on who gets access to a limited number of vaccines this winter.

As a result, it has been a free-for-all in recent weeks as manufacturers, grocers, bank tellers, dentists and drive-share companies all jostle to get spots near the front of the line.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 this month to give first vaccination priority to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities after one or more Covid-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. The advisory committee is expected to provide further details of its list of prioritized recipients before year's end.

Its next recommendations are likely to focus on prioritizing people who keep society functioning, like workers in food and agriculture, public safety and education. Older people and those with chronic diseases are also considered to be high on the list.

Read full story here.

Sanofi and GSK delay Covid-19 vaccine, marking setback for global fight


Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said clinical trials of their Covid-19 vaccine showed an insufficient immune response in older people, delaying its launch to late next year and marking a setback in the global fight against the pandemic.

The announcement on Friday, which highlighted the challenges of developing shots at record speed, hinders efforts to develop the multiple options that experts say the world needs to counter a disease that has killed over 1.5 million people.

The news, which came on the same day as Australia axed a domestic vaccine project, is also a blow for many governments that have booked hundreds of millions of doses of the shot, including the European Union, United States and Britain.

The two companies said they planned to start another study next February, hoping to come up with a more effective vaccine by the end of 2021.

The setback affects one of the most established technologies in vaccines — used against the human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and pertussis among other pathogens — which aims to introduce lab-made proteins into the body to prod the immune system into developing a targeted defense against the novel coronavirus.

It cements the lead of more novel approaches used by vaccines from the likes of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which use mRNA genetic technology to trick the body into producing those proteins. Both of those shots were found to be about 95 percent effective in successful large-scale trials.

Pope's Christmas midnight Mass to shift earlier because of curfew


ROME — Pope Francis will celebrate Midnight Mass at 7:30 p.m. this year to comply with Italy’s anti-coronavirus curfew.

He’ll also deliver his Christmas Day blessing indoors to prevent crowds from forming in St. Peter’s Square.

The Dec. 24 Mass has for years been celebrated not at midnight but at 9:30 p.m. to spare pontiffs from the late hour. But this year it will be bumped up two hours earlier, according to the pope's Christmas liturgical schedule released Thursday by the Vatican.

Italy has imposed a 10 p.m. nationwide curfew, restaurant closures and other restrictions to cut down on crowds forming after a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths this fall.

Francis will celebrate New Year’s Eve vespers and New Year’s Day Mass in the basilica. None of the services will be open to the public.

Marvel comic book honors superhero nurses saving lives

3,110 Covid deaths reported across the U.S. on Thursday

The United States on Thursday broke another single-day record for Covid-19 cases and deaths, according to NBC News' count.

Nearly 230,000 new infections and 3,110 deaths were reported.  

It was the eighth day in December that saw more than 200,000 new cases; the first was Dec. 2. There have been only two days so far this month in which daily reported cases did not break that threshold.

The new record for deaths came just one day after the previous was set. On Wednesday, 3,102 deaths were reported, according to NBC News' count.

Overall, the U.S. has seen more than 15.6 million cases of Covid-19, and more than 292,900 people have died.

Delaware adopts new rules as cases surge

Miami to enforce nightly curfew

Miami's city commission on Thursday voted to enforce a county curfew that lasts from midnight to 6 a.m., starting this weekend.

"The Miami Police Department will be enforcing the curfew and violators — whether individuals or business establishments — are subject to fines and other enforcement actions," the city said in a statement.

City Commissioner Joe Carollo introduced the resolution to resume enforcement after a personal warning from a health system CEO that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases, NBC Miami reported. In October, the city commission had voted to stop enforcing the county’s curfew, so Thursday's vote means it will again begin doing so.


Texas county gets trucks to hold bodies amid surge

The Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas  — A North Texas medical examiner’s office has brought in two refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies in response to low capacity amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Many of the hospitals and larger funeral homes in the Fort Worth area have reached their storage capacity or will soon, said Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County’s chief medical examiner.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which has a capacity normally of 100 bodies, said each truck can store 50 bodies.

Officials expect to start using the trucks in the next few days.

Duke men's basketball cancels remaining nonconference games

World carbon dioxide emissions drop 7% in pandemic-hit 2020

The Associated Press

A locked-down, pandemic-struck world cut its carbon dioxide emissions this year by 7 percent, the biggest drop ever, new preliminary figures show.

The Global Carbon Project, an authoritative group of dozens of international scientists who track emissions, calculated that the world will have put 37 billion U.S. tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2020. That’s down from 40.1 billion tons in 2019, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Earth System Science Data.

Scientists say this drop is chiefly because people are staying home, traveling less by car and plane, and that emissions are expected to jump back up after the pandemic ends. Ground transportation makes up about one-fifth of emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief man-made heat-trapping gas.

Emissions dropped 12 percent in the United States and 11 percent in Europe but only 1.7 percent in China.

Coronavirus relief negotiations reach a breaking point with time running short


Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Frank Thorp V, Sahil Kapur, Julie Tsirkin and Leigh Ann Caldwell

Coronavirus relief negotiations are hitting an impasseagain.

After appearing to be nearing a deal for the past week, progress appeared to come to a halt on Thursday, with Democrats and Republicans again divided on the scope and size of a possible deal.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Wednesday night told staff for the other three congressional leaders that he sees no possible path to an agreement on state and local aid and liability protections, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the conversations.

McConnell has already said he would set aside the two most contentious issues, including his top priority to get liability protections, to allow the rest of the deal to move forward, including assistance to small businesses and unemployment insurance.

Click here to read the full story. 

More people in U.S. have died from Covid-19 than were killed in WWII

More people in the United States have died this year from Covid-19 than were killed in four years of fighting on the battlefields during World War II, according to the latest NBC News data.

The death toll from the pandemic as of Thursday afternoon was 292,098 and counting, the figures show.

By contrast, U.S. forces suffered 291,557 “battle deaths” during the Second World War, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. suffered another 113,842 “non-theater” deaths during that war, the VA stats show.

Over 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day were reported for the first time on Wednesday, eclipsing the 2,977 killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The U.S. has been averaging 2,307 deaths due to the coronavirus in the past week, up from 1,603 a day the week before and 1,213 a day in the weeks before that, the NBC News data shows.

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine receives key FDA panel recommendation

An independent panel of experts has overwhelmingly voted in favor of recommending that the Food and Drug Administration authorize Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in people ages 16 and older.

The vote Thursday afternoon was split 17 in favor of the authorization, four against, with one person abstaining from the vote.

Though the FDA is not obligated to go along with the panel's recommendation, it is widely anticipated that the regulatory agency will indeed authorize the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use, and do so promptly.

Click here to read the full story. 

Albuquerque mayor says ICU capacity at 118%, city 'maxed out' on health workers

Pennsylvania governor announces new statewide restrictions, closes indoor dining

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who revealed that he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, announced new statewide restrictions effective Saturday morning and lasting through the beginning of January. 

The restrictions, which he called "mitigation efforts," include limiting indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people maximum, reducing indoor capacity to 50 percent for all businesses serving the public and prohibiting indoor dining. Restaurants may remain open for takeout and delivery.

Faith institutions are exempt from the indoor capacity guidelines during religious services, however places of worship "are strongly encouraged to find alternative methods for worship, as in person gatherings pose a significant risk to participants at this time," Wolf said in a statement.

“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. Second, keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season – and closer to a widely available vaccine – as safely as possible," Wolf said. "This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”

The restrictions go into effect Saturday at 12:01 a.m. and expire at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4.

Wolf cited two university studies, one by Yale and another by Stanford, which show that restaurants accounted for a "significant amount" of new Covid-19 infections and that closing indoor dining reduced fatality rates.

Wolf's office also announced that the governor's wife tested negative for the coronavirus. Both will remain in quarantine at their home.

Boston commuter rail cuts service by more than half due to low ridership during pandemic

Because of the pandemic, getting to and from Boston by train during the holiday season is about to get a whole lot harder.

Starting Monday, MBTA Commuter Rail and Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the sixth-busiest commuter rail system in the country, is slashing by more than half the number of trains it runs during the work week, the NBC News affiliate in Boston reported. 

The reduced service schedule will remain in place until at least Dec. 27.

“Passengers are encouraged to check the Reduced Service Schedule in advance to plan their trip because there are changes in the weekday schedule,” Keolis CEO and General Manager David Scorey said in a statement.

The MBTA is temporarily reducing the number of trains it runs Monday through Friday from 541 to 246 because ridership is down due to the pandemic and because they have struggled to find enough engineers and conductors to staff the trains.

As the pandemic rages, local newspapers try to break through to readers

Ahiza García-Hodges

Grace Juarez knows people are tired of newspaper stories about the pandemic.

One of two reporters for The Lufkin Daily News, which serves 35,000 residents in East Texas, she's heard from community members and officials who either don't take Covid-19 seriously or are battling coronavirus fatigue. And she's seen how readers react: Many responses are supportive and thankful of health care workers and the journalists covering the pandemic — but about two-thirds contain messages either denying the reality of the pandemic or calling it misinformation.

“We are committed to showing this no matter what political or religious or whatever beliefs we hold personally," Juarez said. "This is our reality in East Texas. This is what’s going on."

Lufkin, like many communities in the U.S., is dealing with a surge of Covid-19 cases that have led to increased hospitalizations and deaths.

Click here to read the full story.

Walmart announces it will be distributing Covid vaccine

Walmart said it is getting ready to start distributing the Covid-19 as soon as it's approved, the retail giant’s chief medical officer said.

“We have been on quite a journey the last several months, from entering into agreements with the federal government to distribute the vaccine, to preparing our operations and clinical services, all to get ready to be one of the places our customers and associates can receive the vaccine,” Dr. Tom Van Gilder said in a statement. 

To that end, Van Gilder said, they are making sure the 5,000 plus Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies have freezers and enough dry ice to store the doses, nailing down agreements with the states “to be able to support vaccinations where needed,” putting in place a procedure for informing people when they can receive their first and second doses, and making sure employees know all the facts so “they will understand and be ready to receive the vaccine if they choose.”

New Hampshire's new House Speaker dies of Covid-19 a week after being sworn in

Stefan Sykes

Newly elected New Hampshire Speaker of the House Richard "Dick" Hinch died of Covid-19 Wednesday, just a week after he was sworn in. 

The 71-year-old Republican lawmaker’s death was announced by the Attorney General’s Office Thursday. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie V. Duval determined the cause of death was Covid-19 following an autopsy. 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu ordered all flags on public buildings and grounds to fly at half-staff Wednesday.

“Speaker Hinch was a fierce defender of the New Hampshire Advantage, a close friend, and a respected public servant,” Sununu said. “His loss will be greatly felt by the people of this state, and I ask Granite Staters to join me in praying for his family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Hinch started his seventh term as a state representative in November. 

Shipping executives to Senate panel: We're ready to ship

Stefan Sykes

Executives from major U.S. shipping companies testified Thursday before a Senate panel convened to discuss preparation for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, expressing confidence that they are ready to the challenges ahead.

“We’re all watching the packages, all day long,” said Wesley Wheeler, president of global health care at UPS.

Wheeler said packages carrying the vaccine will not only get priority shipping labels, but trucks carrying them will be outfitted with a special GPS device that monitors temperature, light exposure and motion.

While the executives touted their company’s preparedness, they also acknowledged the many logistical challenges expected in the process, such as distribution into rural areas, adhering to specific packaging and handling regulations, and the potential breakdown in coordination between their private companies and federal entities. 

“Our healthcare team has been able to leverage this experience, flex our comprehensive network and work with various stakeholders to build customized solutions to achieve our collective goal — moving Covid-19 vaccine shipments as safely, securely, and as quickly as possible,” said Richard Smith, regional president of the Americas and executive vice president at FedEx Express.

Rhode Island Gov. extends economic "pause" through Dec. 20

With Rhode Island currently leading the nation in the number of new Covid-19 cases per capita, Gov. Gina Raimondo has extended the state’s economic “pause” for another week through Dec. 20.

That means bars, gyms and recreational venues will remain closed and restaurants will continue to operate but at reduced capacity, Raimondo said.

Public health officials had hoped that by shuttering or placing restrictions on these businesses they would be able to slow the expected spike in infections after Thanksgiving. And while the data shows that this has reduced the “mobility” of Rhode Islanders, it’s still not at a rate health officials are comfortable with.

“It would be hard to not keep us in some kind of pause, just in light of the data,” Raimondo said earlier this week.

Raimondo said that when the pause lifts on Dec. 21, bar areas will still be closed and “social gatherings involving people from different households will remain prohibited.” Houses of worship will continue to be limited to 25 percent capacity or a maximum of 125 people.

Gyms and indoor sports facilities will be allowed to reopen, but with a limit of one person per 150 square feet. And while restaurant capacity will increase from 33 percent to 50 percent for indoor dining, only people from the same household will be allowed to sit together.

California launches statewide contact-tracing app

California public health officials have launched a statewide contact-tracing app that will allow smartphone users to receive notifications if they have been exposed to Covid-19.

The app, called CA Notify, uses bluetooth technology to exchange data between devices without revealing the user's identity or location. California residents began receiving set-up prompts on their devices Thursday morning.

App users will receive alerts if they were near another person who later tested positive for Covid-19. If an app user tests positive themselves, they will get a verification code to plug into the app, which will then notify other people who were within 6 feet of that person for 15 minutes or more. Personal information will not be shared, state officials said.

"The process is private, anonymous and secure, and is one of the many tools in the state’s data-driven approach to help reduce the spread," Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week in a statement.

Ellen DeGeneres announces she's tested positive for Covid

Clyburn says select subcommittee testimony shows political interference at CDC

Heidi Przybyla

Heidi Przybyla and Monica Alba

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic is demanding more information from top officials in the administration after a career employee at the Centers for Disease Control testified about a political appointee's efforts to "alter or rescind" information considered damaging to President Donald Trump.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., writes that the testimony raises "serious concern about what may be deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence that senior political appointees interfered with career officials’ response to the coronavirus crisis" at the CDC.

The letter reveals that on Monday, Dr. Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch and Editor-in-Chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, stated in closed-door testimony that she had been instructed to destroy an email and that she understood the order came from Redfield.

Click here to read the full story.

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine could get FDA committee nod today

Pfizer's experimental Covid-19 vaccine is poised to become the first to be authorized for emergency use in the U.S.

A group of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration is expected to recommend that the agency authorize the Pfizer vaccine for use by the end of Thursday, after a daylong meeting to discuss its safety and effectiveness.

The panel, called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC, comprises scientists and public health officials independent of the FDA. Its task Thursday is to determine whether to advise the FDA to grant emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S.

The FDA will then decide in the coming days, based on VRBPAC's vote, whether to issue the authorization.

Click here to read the full story.

Weekly initial jobless claims surge to 853,000 vs. 730,000 expected

Initial jobless claims soared to 853,000 last week, as the surge in coronavirus cases pushed more businesses to implement stricter measures on social distancing, forcing more people out of their job.

More than 3,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded across the country Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally. 

Economists had predicted the latest weekly jobless claims total would be around 730,000, higher than the prior week's newly revised tally of 716,000, but still more than four times the pre-pandemic average of 200,000.

"This week’s report brings a substantial round of movement in the wrong direction," said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. "It is evident the labor market is still in crisis."

Read the story here.

Five days after she was supposed to get married, woman dies from Covid

Stephanie Lynn Smith and Jamie Bassett were looking forward to getting married Nov. 13.

They had planned for Smith's older brother to officiate the wedding in front of their parents at a scaled-down ceremony in a field in Lubbock, Texas, where Bassett had proposed. Bassett said they had favored the location, which he believes is an abandoned golf course.

But the couple did not marry. Smith spent her wedding day in a hospital where she had tested positive for the coronavirus and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Five days later, he and Smith's family would rush to the hospital, only to learn that she had died. She was 29.

Click here to read the full story

Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, Virginia among the states that set Covid records Wednesday

Colorado reported 149 Covid-19 deaths Wednesday, a new record amid surging case and death counts nationwide.

The country set records for cases and and deaths Wednesday, according to NBC News' count.

These states also set records Wednesday:

  • Idaho, 4,310 cases, 48 dead. Idaho reported zero deaths and cases Tuesday.
  • Mississippi, 2,746 cases
  • New Mexico, 67 dead. The state reported zero deaths Tuesday.
  • North Dakota, 2,807 cases, 58 dead. The state reported zero deaths and cases Tuesday.
  • Tennessee, 8,213 cases
  • Virginia, 4,398 cases
  • West Virginia, 31 dead

Mississippi governor defends Christmas parties at Governor's Mansion

The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is defending his decision to hold Christmas parties at the Governor’s Mansion after repeatedly warning people to avoid social gatherings as coronavirus cases surge in the state.

Reeves said Wednesday that he has invited family, friends and state officials to the multiple parties, but he expects many will choose not to attend.

The governor has often told people not to host gatherings as the virus spreads. He issued a new executive order Wednesday that restricts social gatherings statewide to 10 people indoors and 50 outdoors when social distancing is not possible and has issued a mask mandate for all Mississippi schools and for 61 out of 82 counties with the highest number of new coronavirus cases.

Moderna starts testing Covid vaccine on adolescents

Drugmaker Moderna announced on Thursday that it had begun testing its coronavirus vaccine on healthy adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. 

The goal, Moderna said in a press release, was to generate enough data on the safety and efficacy of the shot in such children to be able to administer the vaccine to more adolescents "in advance of the 2021 school year.” Initial data on participants ages 18 and older was encouraging, the company added.

"We hope we will be able to provide a safe vaccine to provide protection to adolescents so they can return to school in a normal setting,” it said. 

Vaccines cannot be distributed to children until their age group has been studied in trials. So far, the only other drugmaker to include children in its U.S. trials is Pfizer.

Tokyo hospitals strained as daily record of cases set

The Associated Press

TOKYO — The number of new coronavirus infections in Japan’s capital have topped 600 in a day for the first time.

Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force say the surge in infections has placed an added burden on hospitals, making it difficult for many of them to carry out treatment for ordinary patients.

Tokyo reported 602 new cases Thursday, while the daily tally for the entire nation was 2,810. Japan has reported 168,573 infections since the pandemic began, with 2,465 deaths.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is urging residents to avoid non-essential outings, especially senior citizens and their families. Tokyo has issued a request for drinking places to close early until Dec. 17.

Germany reports highest one-day virus increase

The Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany has reported its highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases, while the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has climbed above 20,000.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Thursday that 23,679 new cases were confirmed over the previous 24 hours. That’s just above the previous record of 23,648 from Nov. 20.

A partial shutdown that started Nov. 2 has succeeded in keeping the surge from picking up speed, but the number of daily new cases have remained around the same high level in recent weeks rather than falling. Momentum is building for a harder lockdown over Christmas and New Year, and some regions already are introducing new restrictions.

That’s partly because deaths, which have been relatively low in Germany compared with several other European countries, have increased markedly. Another 440 deaths were reported on Thursday, following a single-day record of 590 on Wednesday.

That brought the total so far to 20,372. Germany has reported some 1.24 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

More than 3,000 Covid deaths reported Wednesday

Austin Mullen

For the first time, more than 3,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded across the country Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally. 

The previous single-day record was set April 22, when 2,861 deaths were reported.

More than 290,000 people have died from the coronavirus across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic this spring.  

As of Thursday, in the past week, the U.S. has averaged 208,179 cases per day and 2,307 deaths per day. That's up from 161,158 cases and 1,213 deaths per day four weeks ago.