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Nov. 22 Covid updates: G-20 leaders discuss post-coronavirus world as U.S. cases top 12 million

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies are holding a two-day virtual meeting via video-conference due to the pandemic.
Image:
A medical staff member takes nasal swabs at a school set up as a COvid-19 testing facility in Bolzano, northern Italy on Nov. 20, 2020.Antonio Calanni / AP

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies continued to discuss how to distribute vaccines, drugs and tests around the world on Sunday, so that poorer countries are not left out as nations look for ways to manage a post-coronavirus recovery.

The two-day virtual meeting via video-conference due to the pandemic began Saturday under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which holds the rotating presidency of the G-20 until the end of November.

The United States topped 12 million Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to NBC News' tally. The total number of deaths is 255,567.

The latest Covid-19 data and coverage:

Two GOP House members test positive for COVID-19

WASHINGTON — Two Republican House members announced Sunday that they tested positive for Covid-19, raising the number of Congressional representatives who have contracted the virus over the last 10 days to nine.

Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin said their positive results were returned Sunday.

Courtney said he’d been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus last week. After an initial test produced negative results, he began experiencing mild symptoms and took a second test that was positive.

Steil said he started feeling sick last week after working in Washington D.C.

“This experience reinforces my strong belief that right now, we need to be doing our part to help our communities by listening to the experts at the CDC — we’ve got to remain vigilant about wearing masks, social distancing, and the basic essentials like washing our hands frequently,” Courtney said.

Julie Tsirkin reported from Washington and Tim Stelloh from California.

Germany may start vaccine program in December

FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany could start administering shots of Covid-19 vaccines as soon as next month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

"There is reason to be optimistic that there will be approval for a vaccine in Europe this year," Spahn said in an interview with publishing group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. "And then we can start right away."

Spahn said he had asked Germany's federal states to have their vaccination centers ready by mid-December and that this was going well. "I would rather have a vaccination center ready a few days early than an approved vaccine that isn't being used immediately," he said.

Germany has secured more than 300 million vaccine doses via the European Commission, bilateral contracts and options, Spahn said, adding that this was more than enough and even left room to share with other countries.

Baylor basketball head coach Scott Drew tests positive

Los Angeles County halts indoor dining at bars, restaurants, breweries

Los Angeles County is halting indoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across Southern California, officials said Sunday.

The restrictions, which go into effect Wednesday, will last for at least three weeks, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. The department reported nine deaths and more than 2,700 new cases Sunday.

The closures came after the county recorded a five-day average caseload of 4,097, the department said.

Just over 1,400 people are hospitalized with coronavirus in the county, a number that rose by 35 percent over the last week, the department said. Roughly one-quarter of those patients are in intensive care.

Family birthday party in Texas leads to 15 virus cases

Fifteen members of a Texas family tested positive for Covid-19 after gathering for a birthday party earlier this month.

Alexa Aragonez, 26, of Arlington, Texas, who did not attend the Nov. 1 party, said she wasn't concerned when she dropped off her 57-year-old mother, Enriqueta Aragonez, at her cousin’s house.

“We thought that we were not necessarily immune but taking greater precautions than the average person," Alexa Aragonez said. "Unfortunately, the one precaution that we didn’t take was attending a gathering in a closed area.” 

Three days later, all 12 family members who attended and three other attendees tested positive for Covid-19. Aragonez said she believes they contracted the virus from a cousin who felt unwell but attributed the symptoms to allergies. 

Aragonez's mother spent multiple days in two different hospitals after contracting pneumonia and struggling to breathe. Since her release, she continues to have lingering symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and fatigue, Aragonez said. 

“When my mother went to the hospital, our world was collapsing," she said. "She is the matriarch of our family, and seeing someone as strong as her succumb to the virus was quite, quite awful.”  

Her mother was the only one hospitalized, but it rattled family members who felt guilty about exposing her to the virus.

“My family was a family that thought we were doing everything right. We thought masks were enough. Washing your hands, disinfecting our homes, only going to the grocery store,” Aragonez said. “Please, if you can, stay apart during Thanksgiving and during the holiday season.”

U.S. Rhodes Scholars chosen virtually for first time

The U.S. Rhodes Scholars for 2021 were elected virtually this year for the first time amid the pandemic, though it didn't extinguish enthusiasm among the 32 students who won scholarships to Oxford University.

The Rhodes Trust announced the winners early Sunday, which include 22 students of color. Ten are Black, which ties the record for the most Black students elected in a single year.

Shera Avi-Yonah, 22, a Harvard University student, said she found out about her win Saturday night while sitting in her parents' basement in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

“A wave of gratitude washed over me,” Avi-Yonah said, adding that she ran upstairs to tell her parents. “I’m going to have a very happy Thanksgiving.”

The winners were chosen from a pool of more than 2,300 applicants — of which 953 were endorsed by 288 different colleges and universities to study at Oxford University in England.

Oklahoma mega-church changes 'Friendsgiving' plans, holds boxed food giveaway

Victory Church, the Oklahoma mega-church that had come under fire for hosting large, indoor events and had scheduled a "Friendsgiving" for Sunday, changed course and instead opted to hold a boxed food giveaway, according to a statement from the church.

"We did not have the Friendsgiving event today that we do every year. This year we changed it up and gave away boxed meals with turkeys, hams, and dry goods for those in need to take home and prepare for their families," Daniel Henshaw, director of operations for Victory Church, wrote in an email to NBC News.

It's unclear when the change was made and it appears up until recently, the church had advertised "Friendsgiving" on social media, telling members to bring a neighbor, according to multiple reports. 

The church had recently come under fire for not only the Friendsgiving event, but also for recent large, indoor gatherings. 

"As a church we will always help those in need the most, as this year alone we have given out over 13 million meals. Those in our community who rely on us the most always know they can find help here at Victory," Henshaw said.

In a separate statement, Henshaw said services continued this weekend but abided by Covid-19 guidelines. 

"We are holding our services this weekend, as we have done each weekend, in accordance with the guidelines of operating at 50% capacity of our sanctuary, signage for social distancing and mask, extra cleaning and disinfecting of our facilities, and hand sanitizing stations throughout," Henshaw said.

Oklahoma mega-church under fire for large indoor events amid Covid spikes

Victory Church, a Tulsa, Oklahoma,-based mega-church with a reported membership of approximately 13,000 people, has come under fire for holding large indoor events that appear to be maskless and don't appear to be socially distanced. 

On Sunday, the church hosted a "Friendsgiving," in which it encouraged members to bring a neighbor. 

"You should be ashamed of yourselves. People are going to die because you've prioritized making money at your little Jesus concerts over the lives of people in a global pandemic," one person tweeted, along with a photo of an event at the church.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended holding virtual Thanksgiving events when possible.

Covid-19 cases in Oklahoma have been on the rise, and this month, Tulsa has reported some of its highest daily case totals since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Kansas City Star

An executive order from Tulsa's mayor says gatherings of 500 or more people need to submit a Covid-19 safety plan for approval to the Tulsa Health Department two weeks in advance of the event. The Tulsa Health Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by NBC News.

It was unclear if Victory Church had submitted a safety plan to the department and what, if any, consequences it could face for hosting the recent large gatherings if it did not.

Victory Church and its pastor Paul Daugherty did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

NY Gov. Cuomo says he will prioritize keeping K-8 schools open

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday he will prioritize keeping kindergarten through eighth grade classes in-person open as Covid-19 cases rise in the state.

The governor said schools in the "red zone," which mandates they go remote, can reopen under a "test out" option, where the students are all tested and allowed to return to in-person instruction. He also said he would prioritize getting younger kids in school, saying high schoolers are "less responsible" and tend to have higher infection rates.

"Leading experts say keep K-8 schools open," Cuomo said. "It's safer for children to be in schools than in the community."

The governor also said that up to a three percent positivity rate, school districts can control what they do.