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Latest on coronavirus stimulus package and new strain found

Countries around the world were shutting their doors to Great Britain after a possibly more infectious strain of the coronavirus was detected.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading the Coronavirus Liveblog from Dec. 22, 2020.

Congress struck a deal Sunday on a nearly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package that includes a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

The agreement includes stimulus checks of up to $600 a person based on income, a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week, over $284 billion more in loans for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, vaccine distribution funds and $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools. It also includes the Democrats' priority of $25 billion in rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom was increasingly isolated on Monday as countries around the world rushed to shut their doors to the island nation after a possibly more infectious strain of the coronavirus was detected there.

$900 billion Covid relief bill advances to Senate

The House on Monday passed a massive Covid-19 relief package and government funding bill, Congress' second effort this year to help Americans struggling during the pandemic.

The outcome had been all-but-assured after congressional leaders struck a deal late Sunday to provide $900 billion in aid, including a new round of stimulus checks and an extension of unemployment benefits for Americans.

The legislation passed the chamber 359 to 53 and now moves to the Senate, which is also expected to pass it.

Read the full story here

Biden to scientists, researchers: We owe you an awful lot

Congress to vote on second Covid-19 relief package

Congress is expected to vote later Monday on a massive Covid-19 relief package and government funding bill, its second effort to provide direct aid to Americans struggling during the pandemic.

Congressional leaders struck a deal on nearly $900 billion in Covid-19 relief late Sunday, including a new round of direct payments and unemployment benefits for Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

The agreement includes stimulus checks of up to $600 per person for individuals earning $75,000 per year and married couples who earned up to $150,000, with an additional $600 for each dependent under 18 living in the same household.

Click here to read the full story. 

A new round of stimulus checks is coming. Here's what you can expect.

How much will I get?

Individuals who made up to $75,000 in 2019 will receive $600. Married couples who earned up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Filers listed as "head of household" and who earned $112,500 or less will get $600. And families will receive an additional $600 — up from $500 in the spring — for each dependent under 18 in the household.

If your 2020 income qualifies you for a larger benefit than your 2019 filing, the difference in payment can be claimed on tax returns filed next year — a process that starts next month.

According to text of the legislation released Monday afternoon, the program is structured similarly to that of this past spring, with the checks getting smaller and eventually down to zero the further you get from $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of households and $150,000 for joint filers.

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U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 18 million, according to NBC News tally

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have surpassed 18 million, according to an NBC News analysis of public health data.

The tally from NBC News, which is not a final aggregation for Monday's new case numbers, shows the country has added a million new cases since Thursday. America's pandemic death toll was an estimated 319,476, the data showed. 

News that two vaccines had been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration has inspired some optimism, but it will likely take months before inoculations are widely available.

As the country faces a record number of hospitalizations, cases and deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises Americans to continue social distancing and wearing masks. The agency also advised against travel, saying "the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you."

Covid-19 cases in kids hit record high last week

The U.S. logged a record high number of pediatric Covid-19 cases last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Last week alone, 182,018 new pediatric cases were reported. Since early December, cases in children have increased by 25 percent.

More than 1.8 million cases of Covid-19 had been diagnosed in children since the beginning of the pandemic. Kids represent 12.3 percent of all Covid-19 cases in the U.S., a percentage that has steadily increased in recent months.

Severe complications of Covid-19 in kids are rare, as are hospitalizations, the AAP reported. But studies have shown children can spread the virus as well as anyone else. 

Death from Covid-19 is also rare among children. A total of 172 kids in the U.S. have died from Covid-19, less than 1 percent of all deaths from the disease in the U.S.

Watch: Biden receives coronavirus vaccine

What's in the Covid relief bill? Democrats and Republicans in Congress claim wins

WASHINGTON — After more than seven months of negotiations, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are on the cusp of passing a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and both sides are claiming victory while blaming the other for the delays in getting additional relief to Americans.

Democrats are coming away with far less than the $3.3 trillion bill House Democrats passed in May, which included nearly $1 trillion in federal funding for state and local governments. The bill set to be voted on late Monday won’t include any funding for states, a top Democratic priority. It will also exclude the Republican priority of liability protection from Covid-19-related lawsuits for businesses.

The Covid-19 relief is part of a larger government funding bill.

Both parties are touting wins that play to their constituents.

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Day-to-day Covid decisions are a complicated balancing act. These two families show how.

CENTERVILLE, Ohio — The families of Lauren Brinkman and Dr. Kelly Carr share many similarities.

The two women both work in health care and have children of similar ages. They're separated by a two-hour drive down Interstate 71 in Ohio. And they're both trying to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like millions of other people, Brinkman and Carr are making near-constant calculations about their daily activities. Every soccer practice, patient appointment and gym session now goes into a mental map that tests their personal risk tolerances against their mental and emotional capacities.

"You think you can buckle down and just stay holed up in your house," Carr said. "Telling people day after day that they need to stay within their household is just brutal."

There are differences, too. Carr and her husband each operate their own small business. Brinkman's husband works in the restaurant industry, which has been hammered by the pandemic. Carr lost a close friend to Covid-19. Brinkman has known people who have had only mild cases.

Together, the differences illustrate how people in seemingly similar circumstances can make different choices. Brinkman's kids are still attending school and day care. Carr's aren't. Brinkman's family still occasionally dines indoors. Carr's doesn't.

"We're doing semi-normal things, but at the same time, our awareness is much more heightened," Brinkman said.

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WHO says no need for major alarm over new coronavirus strain

The World Health Organization cautioned against major alarm over a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain, saying this was a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution.

WHO officials even put a positive light on the discovery of the new strains that prompted a slew of alarmed countries to impose travel restrictions on Britain and South Africa, saying new tools to track the virus were working.

“We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan told an online briefing.

Citing data from Britain, WHO officials said they had no evidence that the variant made people sicker or was more deadly than existing strains of Covid-19, although it did seem to spread more easily.

Countries imposing travel curbs were acting out of an abundance of caution while they assess risks, Ryan said, adding: “That is prudent. But it is also important that everyone recognizes that this happens, these variants occur.”

WHO officials said coronavirus mutations had so far been much slower than with influenza and that even the new U.K. variant remained much less transmissible than other diseases like mumps. They said vaccines developed to combat Covid-19 should handle the new variants as well, although checks were under way to ensure this was the case.

The WHO said it expects to get more detail within days or weeks on the potential impact of the highly transmissible new coronavirus strain.