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Congress passes coronavirus relief bill, but Trump criticizes deal

President Donald Trump had been expected to sign the bill in days, but he then called for bigger payments. He didn't directly say he would veto it.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading the Coronavirus liveblog from Dec. 23, 2020.

The United States on Tuesday saw more Covid-19 deaths than ever before, a grim milestone in a month that has seen records set and then surpassed.

Across the country, 3,350 Covid-19 deaths were reported, according to NBC News' tally. The previous highest number of deaths reported in a single day was Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump criticized a massive Covid-19 relief package that had just been passed by Congress.

Trump said in a video that he wanted the bill to be amended to increase the $600 direct payment to $2,000, as well as other changes. Trump didn't explicitly say he would veto it, but his remarks suggested that he might.

U.S. reports more Covid deaths than ever before

The United States on Tuesday saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day, according to a count of reports by NBC News.

The 3,350 reported deaths break a previous single-day high that was set just last week, on Dec. 16.

In the last week, 18,980 people have died in the U.S. related to Covid-19, a faster rate than any other time during the pandemic, that NBC News tally shows.

There were 204,516 Covid-19 cases reported in the U.S. on Tuesday. The single-day record for reported cases was on Friday with 248,259 cases, according to NBC News' count.

Overall, the U.S. has seen more than 18.2 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., and more than 323,000 people have died, according to NBC News' count.


2020 timeline: The year of the Covid pandemic

Florida doctor encourages others to share 'feeling immune' snapshot

Dr. Omar Llaguna is a surgical oncologist in Miami, where he specializes in gastrointestinal tumors and skin cancers. Some days, he’s operating on patients, and others, he’s caring and consulting with them.  

The fear of contracting Covid-19 has grown as he's served his patients, and he's noticed his children have also grown more worried about him and his health.

“I have three daughters, and I thought that I could leave three children fatherless,” Llaguna, 46, told NBC News. “I think, as a parent, what’s been very stressful is seeing the emotional response and how this has affected my children. ... They really have a fear of the virus.”

To add to that anxiety, Llaguna’s mother was diagnosed and died from lung cancer during the pandemic. “I got to see from a patient standpoint how detrimental this pandemic has been to taking care of patients with cancer … as a care provider, to see my mom’s struggle with a disease and having to drop her off at the hospital and not be able to not have anyone with her while she was getting scans and imaging and bloodwork on, her stress about exposing herself in the hospital.”

Last week, he received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and shared his experience over Facebook and encouraged others to do the same.

“I’m hopeful that this virus in this pandemic will hopefully be coming to an end so no one has to go through that again,” he said.

House Dems say they'll try to pass separate bill for $2,000 direct relief payments

House Democrats, who had advocated higher direct checks only to encounter Republican resistance in the Senate, on Tuesday said they welcomed President Donald Trump's support for sending out more money.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tweeted that Democrats would attempt to pass a separate bill this week that would send out $2,000 direct payments. Because many members of the House are out of town, Hoyer said leaders would try to pass the bill by unanimous consent, but that means any single member can kill it.

The fate of such a bill is unclear in the Senate.

Read the full story here

Trump blasts Covid relief bill, calls for major changes to package

In surprising comments, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night shredded a just-passed massive Covid-19 relief package, saying the legislation contains measures that have nothing to do with the pandemic and is too stingy on payments to average Americans.

"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 (direct payment) to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," Trump said in a video posted to Twitter of him speaking from the White House.

"I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package."

He added, "And maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done."

Before the remarks, all signs and expectations had been that Trump intended to sign the Covid relief bill as soon as it lands on his desk, possibly later this week.

While Trump doesn't explicitly say he will veto the legislation, his remarks suggest that he might. If the president did, lawmakers may be able to override his veto.

Read the full story here.

Students thank professors in Zoom classes for 'keeping our spirits high' during pandemic

Students from The College of New Jersey, York University, and Chapman University surprised their professors during Zoom classes to thank them for their work during a challenging year.


i’m crying and you are. high key gonna miss him so much, he was so nice🥺 #fyp #professor #appreciationpost #university #education #crying

♬ original sound - Arielle

Prof. Mario Di Paolantonio of York University in Toronto, where he's been an educator for over 20 years, spent time reworking his in-person coursework for online learning due to the pandemic and found this surprise by his Educational Studies students to be "a real gift."

"I think there was this feeling of thanks, not just to me, but for the whole thing that we managed to do, that we we did something educational, in spite of it all," Di Paolantonio, 55, told NBC News. "Very difficult conditions, you know, with people being in their own homes, with some having childcare issues as well, and other things...but they committed they got through it, we got through it."

Kaitlyn Gong, a student at Chapman University in Southern California — taking classes remotely from Oakland — said learning virtually was "not easy at all" for her first semester. She credits Prof. James Brown for pushing her to succeed and was among the students who surprised him over his Zoom class to thank him. "And he's done such a great job at keeping our spirits high," Gong, 18, told NBC News

"Sometimes when you get to the end of the semester, and you give your last lecture, students will stand up and applaud or something like that," Brown, 71, told NBC News. "That's very moving too, but this is, you know, it's a different format for some who’ve been teaching in this format. And so holding up the signs, yeah, was unique."

Covid vaccine could be adjusted for mutations, BioNTech CEO says

Holiday church gathering in North Carolina leads to 97 Covid cases and counting

A holiday celebration at a church in a small town in North Carolina has led to 97 Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday morning, and this number is expected to grow in the coming days, a spokesperson for the local health department told TODAY.

The gathering took place at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, located south of Asheville, over the Dec. 5 weekend and was a multi-day event, according to a statement from the Henderson County Department of Public Health and its communications manager, Andrew Mundhenk. As of Dec. 17, the county had linked 75 cases to the event, and the health department is still working to identify close contacts of attendees.

Of the confirmed 97 cases, all are among attendees, Mundhenk said. The health department is not aware of any deaths at this time. However, "some cases" from the event have resulted in hospitalizations, Mundhenk said. The health department did not have specifics on how many.

Click here to read the full story. 

Biden assures his Covid relief plan will include more stimulus checks

Man who fell ill on United flight from Florida died of Covid-19, coroner confirms

Covid-19 caused the death of a traveler who fell ill aboard a flight from Florida to California last week, Louisiana authorities said Tuesday.

Jefferson Parish coroners listed "acute respiratory failure" and "Covid-19" as causes of death for Isaias Hernandez, a 69-year-old Los Angeles resident.

Hernandez had been aboard a westbound United Airlines flight from Orlando to Los Angeles last Monday. After falling ill, two fellow travelers — a nurse and EMT — performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him, witnesses said.

The flight was diverted to New Orleans and Hernandez died that night at a hospital in Kenner, Louisiana, according to the coroner's report.

Click here to read the full story.