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Coronavirus updates: Covid cases rise and Moderna vaccine authorized

The authorization adds a second vaccine to the country's arsenal.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading Covid-19 news from Dec. 20, 2020.

Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration Friday, becoming the second vaccine in the country's arsenal to fight the pandemic.

"This is another crucial step in the fight against the global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States every day," FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told a media briefing.

The U.S. is the first country to greenlight use of Moderna's vaccine, which was developed in part with the National Institutes of Health.

Rose Bowl loses college football semifinal over region's surge

A college football semifinal scheduled to take place Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, has been moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Rose Bowl officials announced Saturday night.

The move was the result of the region's surge in coronavirus cases, the venue said. Los Angeles County health officials Saturday said they have counted more than 600,000 cases since the pandemic began. State pandemic restrictions include 20 percent capacity at essential retailers and no dining.

The city of Pasadena is in Los Angeles County but has its own health department that keeps a separate tally of cases. On Saturday it recorded 5,497 cases since the pandemic started.

The Rose Bowl cited a regional strain on "medical resources" as well as "word late this week that the State of California would not make a special exception for player guests at the game," according to a statement.

"The decision to move the game is based on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Southern California along with the inability to host player and coach guests at any game in California," the Rose Bowl said.

Outbreak in Sydney's beach suburbs grows to 70 cases

SYDNEY — Sydney's coronavirus outbreak grew to around 70 on Sunday, forcing authorities to introduce stricter social distancing rules across the city and more states to close borders or impose quarantine measures on its residents.

The neighboring state of Victoria will close its border to Sydney from midnight Sunday. South Australia state introduced a 14-day quarantine for all Sydney arrivals on Sunday and banned travelers from the affected suburbs.

The island state of Tasmania took a similar step on Saturday, while Western Australia state imposed a hard border closure. About a quarter of a million people in Sydney's northern beach suburbs, where the outbreak has occurred, have been put into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve.

Winter travel raises more fears of viral spread

Tens of millions of people are expected to travel to family gatherings or winter vacations over Christmas, despite pleas by public health experts who fear the result could be another surge in Covid-19 cases.

In the U.S., AAA predicts that about 85 million people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, most of them by car. If true, that would be a drop of nearly one-third from a year ago, but still a massive movement of people in the middle of a pandemic.

Jordan Ford, 24, who was laid off as a guest-relations worker at Disneyland in March, said he plans to visit both his and his boyfriend’s families in Virginia and Arkansas over Christmas.

“It is pretty safe — everyone is wearing a mask, they clean the cabin thoroughly,” said Ford, who has traveled almost weekly in recent months from his home in Anaheim, California, and gets tested frequently. “After you get over that first trip since the pandemic started, I think you’ll feel comfortable no matter what.”

Experts worry that Christmas and New Year’s will turn into super-spreader events because many people are letting down their guard — either out of pandemic fatigue or the hopeful news that vaccines are starting to be distributed.

“Early on in the pandemic, people didn’t travel because they didn’t know what was to come,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, “but there is a feeling now that, ‘If I get it, it will be mild, it’s like a cold.’”

L.A. County records over 100,000 cases in eight days

Los Angeles County has recorded more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases since Dec. 11, public health officials announced on Saturday. New cases are accelerating at a faster rate than at any previous point during the pandemic. 

The county has recorded more than 610,000 cases to date. California has more than 1.8 million cases, according to NBC News counts.

The sobering data come as beds in intensive care units in Southern California hospitals remain at 0 percent capacity.

“Our hearts go out to everyone grieving the loss of a loved one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so sorry for your loss,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health. “We are bearing witness every day to the terrible suffering caused by a virus that is spreading out of control throughout the county."

Holiday travelers pack London trains after lockdown announcement

Trains were packed at St. Pancras station in London on Saturday after new Covid-19 restrictions were announced.Rebecca Nind

Travelers packed a central London train station Saturday before strict lockdown measures take effect Sunday to try to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The "Tier 4" measures announced by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday mean millions in London and southeast England will be forced to cancel traditional Christmas gatherings. The two-week restrictions include business closures and a one-person limit for outdoor-only meetings with those from outside a household.

The announcement prompted many Londoners to rush to get out of town and closer to loved ones before the limits take effect. Images of crowds at St. Pancras International train station in Camden revealed the very behavior, including lack of social distancing, Johnson was hoping to prevent.

Traveler Rebecca Nind, 33, of London said she was trying to get to Leeds to see her sister for Christmas but decided against a ride on a crowded train car at St. Pancras.

"I was not willing to stand squashed in the corridor between the carriages very close to so many other people for three hours given Covid, so I got off the train," she said.

In a tweet to her Saturday, East Midlands Railway acknowledged the crowding. "We've seen an unprecedented increase in demand since the government's announcement," it said.

CDC advises on severe allergic reactions to vaccines

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Saturday issued advice on how to approach the possibility of severe allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccination.

It said anyone who has such a reaction should call 911 and seek emergency medical care. Those who have had severe allergic reactions to ingredients in either of the two vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration "should not get that specific vaccine," the CDC said in a guidance statement.

Americans who have had such a reaction to other vaccines or injections should consult a doctor before getting a Covid-19 vaccine, it said, and people who have severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injections "may" be inoculated. That's also the case regarding oral medications, a family history of severe allergic reactions and milder reactions to other vaccines, the CDC said.

Those whose bodies react severely to an initial shot—both the FDA-approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses three weeks to nearly a month apart—should not get a second, the centers said.

The centers, which said it's monitoring reports of severe allergic reactions to the vaccines, advised that those being inoculated should be monitored for initial response, that medical care providers have appropriate medications and equipment to treat such reactions at the ready and that health care providers be prepared to ask for emergency medical aid.

French president in 'stable' condition after contracting coronavirus

French President Emmanuel Macron's is in stable condition and the results of a medical examination are reassuring, the Élysée Palace, Macron's official residence, said in a statement on Saturday in an update on his bout of coronavirus.

"The President of the Republic is showing a stable state of health compared to Friday," the statement said. 

Macron said on Friday he was doing fine a day after testing positive, but was working at a slower pace than usual outside Paris. On Thursday, Macron became the latest world leader to contract the virus, as countries across Europe struggle to suppress a spike in infections in the run-up to the holiday period.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives Pfizer vaccine

CDC committee recommends emergency use for Moderna vaccine for adults

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee voted Saturday to recommend emergency use of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for Americans 18 years and older.

The 11-0 vote, with three recusals, followed Friday's Food and Drug Administration authorization of the vaccine for emergency use on adults.

The CDC panel approved emergency use "for persons 18 years of age and older in the US population under the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization," according to the centers.

Moderna's is the second vaccine to achieve federal emergency use authorization. Last week the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 16 and older. That vaccine is being distributed to frontline healthcare workers.

"Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for the use of a licensed vaccine often are based on additional considerations, such as disease epidemiology, public acceptance, vaccine supply, and cost," an analysis published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018 states.