Coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage of Covid-19.
The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a huge symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
The vaccine has been authorized far quicker than any other in history, its lightning development outpacing the 15-20 years it usually takes to develop these types of medicines.
The first inoculations are set to be rolled out next week, the government said.
- Map of U.S. hot spots and worldwide Covid-19 cases.
- Tracking surges in states across the country this winter.
- Map of travel restrictions and which states have a mask mandate.
- Click here for more of NBC News' Covid-19 coverage.
Let government employees work from home after the pandemic, former cyber leaders say
Former cybersecurity chiefs from five U.S. agencies are calling for the government to let more government employees work from home even after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
The group, comprised of former Chief Information Officers at agencies like the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, jointly argued for the shift in an online pamphlet released Thursday.
"Senior government managers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage the changes brought about by the pandemic," the former CIOs wrote, saying allowing the practice can improve morale and save taxpayers money.
Many federal employees rapidly shifted to working from home in the early days of the pandemic, initially prompting cybersecurity concerns that they were creating opportunities for hackers, though they have since settled into some accepted best practices.
The United States set three grim records on Wednesday, recording the highest number of daily deaths, new infections and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.
The U.S. reported 2,777 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday alone, according to an NBC News tally. The country registered nearly 205,000 new cases of Covid-19 on the same day, a figure that comes just a month after the U.S. single-day record topped 100,000 cases for the first time.
Meanwhile, more people than ever are hospitalized. The Covid Tracking Project reported that 100,000 people were hospitalized across the country.
Much of the United States has seen a rise in cases over the last month. In the last two weeks that surge has been most acute In New Mexico, Arizona and California, where the percentage of new cases has risen by 109 percent, 90 percent and 75 percent, respectively, according to NBC News data.
“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said during a briefing.
'Cancel everything,' LA mayor says as he issues 'safer at home' order
The Los Angeles mayor on Wednesday night issued a "safer at home" order.
The order, which modifies an existing one, means the city rules now mirror restrictions put in place by Los Angeles County, the mayor's office said. Those, among other things, bar most gatherings with people from different households. People are urged to stay at home as much as possible.
"My message couldn't be simpler: It's time to hunker down," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "It's time to cancel everything. And if it isn't essential, don't do it."
Wednesday saw the highest daily number yet of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Los Angeles County, with 2,439, the county department of health said.
The department announced nearly 6,000 more cases and 40 new deaths Wednesday. More than 7,700 people have died in the county overall in the pandemic.
Health experts warn: We're in really big trouble
More than 204,000 new cases reported Wednesday
The United States surpassed another grim milestone Wednesday, with nearly 205,000 new cases of Covid-19 reported in a single day, according to an NBC News tally.
That figure comes just a month after the U.S. single-day record topped 100,000 cases for the first time.
More than 2,700 people died Wednesday, according to the data.
And more people than ever are hospitalized with the coronavirus. The COVID Tracking Project reported that 100,000 people were hospitalized across the country on Wednesday.
Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing dies at 94
PARIS — Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the president of France from 1974 to 1981 who became a champion of European integration, died on Wednesday. He was 94.
Giscard d’Estaing’s office said he passed away in his family home in the Loir-et-Cher region, in central France, after contracting COVID-19.
“In accordance with his wishes, his funeral will take place in strict privacy,” his office said.
Giscard d’Estaing was hospitalized last month with heart problems, but remained vigorous deep into old age.
Correctional facilities suffer from Covid hotspots as cases surge
Austin mayor told residents to stay home, but he was on vacation in Mexico
AUSTIN, Texas — The mayor of Austin, Texas, is apologizing for taking a family vacation to Mexico in November at the same time he was telling residents to stay home because of a worsening surge in coronavirus cases.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Wednesday that his trip to Cabo San Lucas “set a bad example.” The apology came hours after the Austin American-Statesman published a story revealing the vacation, which Adler had previously never mentioned publicly.
At one point during the trip to Mexico, Adler even posted a video on Facebook telling people in Austin that now was “not the time to relax” and urging them to stay home.
Texas this week surpassed 9,000 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 for the first time since summer.
The mayor has been among the state’s most vocal politicians in pleading for vigilance during the pandemic.
Obama will 'absolutely' get vaccine, may do so on video
Former President Barack Obama said he will "absolutely" get a Covid-19 vaccine — and that he may do so on television or otherwise recorded in an effort to help convince people it is safe.
He made the comments on SiriusXM's "The Joe Madison Show,” which will air Thursday, during a discussion that touched on possible skepticism in the Black community. The former president said he trusts completely National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci.
"If Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting COVID, absolutely, I'm going to take it," Obama said, according to a transcript released SiriusXM.
"And I understand, historically, everything dating back all the way to the Tuskegee experiments and so forth, why the African-American community would have some skepticism," Obama said.
"But the fact of the matter is, is that vaccines are why we don't have polio anymore," the former president said, also noting the higher rate of death from Covid-19 in the Black and other communities.
FDA to hold public hearings next week to discuss vaccine
More than 100,000 in U.S. hospitalized with Covid
The U.S. has hit a record number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, surpassing the number of people who were admitted during the country's first peak months ago.
More than 100,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Surges in new positive cases and hospitalization have been reported across the country as officials hope vaccines will be approved for distribution by the end of the month.
White House vaccine timeline shows 20M doses could be distributed this month
A White House document that lays out the Trump administration’s expected timeline for vaccine approval and distribution in the coming weeks says there could be more than 20 million doses provided by the end of December.
The first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine could come in the next two weeks, and Moderna's could arrive within three weeks, pending final approval for both, according to the draft Operation Warp Speed document.
A breakdown of the document's key timeline takeaways:
- The administration expects first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine could be delivered as soon as December 15 (after identifying a window of December 11-14 for emergency use authorization).
- The Moderna vaccine could first be delivered on December 22, depending on approval.
- The administration has asked all states by Friday enroll their providers in the Covid-19 vaccine program and access their respective allocations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
- They have also asked states to complete their own “microplans for distribution and administration” and “pre-order” Pfizer vaccines.
- The group’s “vaccine manufacturing forecast” predicts 6.4 millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be ready for distribution December 13-19 (note: all estimates include first dose, second dose and reserve so this would be enough to vaccinate around 3 million people).
- They expect 7.3 million doses to be ready from December 20-26 and 8.8 million December 27-31 for a total of 22.5 million Pfizer vaccines that could be distributed this month (again, this vaccine involves two doses).
- As for Moderna, they predict 12.5 millions of doses could be ready December 20-26 and 5.5 million December 27-31 for a total of 18 million this month (so potentially enough for 9 million people; add that to Pfizer and you get enough for about 20 million people combined)
CDC director approves plan to distribute first vaccines to healthcare workers, nursing homes
Health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first groups to be offered the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new proposal approved by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met virtually on Tuesday to discuss who would receive the first doses of the vaccine and to vote on the proposed language for the recommendation. The proposal passed 13 to 1 and the recommendation was adopted by CDC Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday.
The first phase of the vaccine rollout will be known as Phase 1a and is set to begin as soon as a vaccine receives authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently reviewing data on two vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna. The FDA’s advisory committee will meet on Dec. 10 to consider an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.
The two groups in Phase 1a together represent around 24 million Americans — 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities. Staff working at long-term care facilities are considered among the health care workers.
48 NBA players test positive for coronavirus
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that 48 players have tested positive for Covid-19 after the teams returned to their home markets.
The statement said 546 players were tested in this initial return-to-market-phase, and the 48 who tested positive will be isolated.
Indiana healthcare worker shares emotional toll of caring for Covid-19 patients
A healthcare worker at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis detailed the emotional toll she and her colleagues have faced caring for Covid-19 patients in a video diary released by the hospital.
Jody White, a respiratory therapist who has worked for Indiana University Health for 10 years, explained in the video that she has been treating Covid-19 patients since March. Respiratory therapists are responsible for caring for patients who are having difficulty breathing, which is one of the most common symptoms of the coronavirus infection.
“We're all very tired. I'm very tired,” White said in the video. “It's just another day to a lot of people, but we've been living this since March and there has not been a day that went by that we haven't taken care of (Covid-19) patients here.”
The stress of caring for Covid-19 patients has been extremely taxing for White because she has lung problems and asthma, which put her at a higher risk for severe illness or death if she were to contract the virus.
“It's in the back of my head that in a couple of days, even if I'm wearing my PPE, which I always do, you never know, like, I might start getting symptoms,” she said through tears. “Am I going to end up in the hospital? Will I end up on a ventilator?”
Ohio is now on Ohio's travel advisory list after Covid positivity rate hits 15 percent
Ohio has placed itself on its own travel advisory list after the Covid-19 positivity rate hit 15 percent in the state.
Under guidelines from the state's health department, those entering Ohio from states on the advisory list — and now, presumably, traveling within the state — are advised to quarantine for 14 days.
"This is the first week since April where Ohio’s positivity for COVID-19 has increased above 15%," the health department said Wednesday on its official site. "The state has seen record levels of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in the past week, and all Ohioans can help to limit the spread and impact of this virus."
"This includes recommendations to stay at home except for necessary trips for supplies, consistent mask-wearing when around others, and frequent hand washing."
Chicago couple who canceled wedding due to Covid donate catering as Thanksgiving meals
After a Chicago couple had to cancel their wedding due to the pandemic, they decided to use their catering deposit to help people in need.
Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis got engaged in July 2019 and were set to marry in a 150 person wedding in October, but decided to elope at City Hall instead, according to NBC Chicago.
Instead of losing their nonrefundable deposit, the couple decided to use the $5,000 to provide Thanksgiving meals for clients of Thresholds, a nonprofit organization that provides services to people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders where Bugg works as a mental health counselor.
"It seemed like an easy decision and the right thing to turn something that we could have been disappointed at to give to so many people who need it right now," Bugg told NBC Chicago.
The couple was able to provide 200 meals through their caterer, Big Delicious Planet. The meals consisted of Thanksgiving staples like turkey, potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, salad and cookies.
Because of the couple’s generous donation, the nonprofit organization was able to feed more people for Thanksgiving this year than in years past, explained Threshold’s CEO Mark Ishaug.
“I was so moved because it was so beautiful,” Ishaug told NBC Chicago.
Couple who tested positive for Covid is arrested after boarding flight
A couple in Hawaii is facing reckless endangerment charges after boarding a flight with their 4-year-old despite having tested positive for Covid-19, police said.
The couple, Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson, knew they had tested positive when they boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Kaua'i police spokeswoman Coco Zickos said Wednesday. They had been instructed by San Francisco International Airport officials to isolate and not travel, Zickos said.
When Moribe and Peterson arrived at Lihue Airport, they were escorted by police to a designated isolation room for further processing and investigation.
Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, who are residents of Wailua, were arrested on second-degree reckless endangerment charges. A family member took their child home and Child Protective Services was notified, Zickos said.
The Covid mink crisis: Why Denmark culled 17 million minks and now plans to dig up their buried bodies
Around the world, minks are getting sick.
The small, ferret-like mammals farmed for their valuable fur have raised alarm after contracting and mutating the coronavirus, passing it back to humans.
The virus, officials said, spread from human handler to mink, mutated, and then spread back to humans.
Denmark went so far as to cull 17 million minks in November in response to outbreaks at more than 200 mink farms. The northern region of the country, where most fur farms lie, was placed under strict lockdowns.
The Danish government spared no mink, killing infected and healthy animals, alike.
"We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19,” the country’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said at a press conference in early November.
Pelosi, Schumer back bipartisan $908 billion Covid relief aid proposal as basis for package
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, will support using the pared-back $908 billion Covid-19 aid package that was crafted by a group of bipartisan lawmakers as the basis for an ultimate deal.
Their support renews hope that Congress could approve aid before the end of the year. The proposal would extend boosted unemployment payments and extend help to cash-strapped local governments.
The Democrats urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider the proposal, a concession by Pelosi and Schumer, who had been insisting that the package be larger.
In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer said, "While we made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday, in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations."
White House hosting indoor holiday parties despite warnings from top health officials
The White House is planning to host as many as 20 indoor holiday parties this season, even as its own coronavirus task force warns states that the pandemic is "in a very dangerous place" and top health officials have cautioned against indoor celebrations.
One such party was held Tuesday night and included a brief appearance by President Donald Trump. Pictures from the event show several attendees not wearing masks, including Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel.
Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump's chief of staff, said in a statement on Wednesday that the White House would “celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah while providing the safest environment possible."
Among the safety measures that Grisham said would be in place were smaller guest lists and mask requirements, with social distancing also "encouraged." Photos from Tuesday's event, however, showed a crowded party with no social distancing and a number of guests without masks.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany shrugged off the concerns that the gatherings could set a bad example for Americans as they head into the holiday season.
"If you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protests, you can also go to a Christmas party. You can celebrate the holiday of Christmas, and you can do it responsibly," she told reporters. "We will engage in the celebration of Christmas."
The NFL says it won’t get early access to Covid-19 vaccines
The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said Wednesday the league won’t try to “cut the line” in getting access to a Covid-19 vaccine before it’s publicly available, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Ian Rapoport.
The NFL, which opted not to adopt a bubble model in its efforts to resume play and limit the spread of Covid-19, has faced several setbacks this season. It hasn’t had to cancel a 2020 regular season game yet but has been forced to postpone and reschedule several games, including the Week 12 matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, which has been postponed three times because of positive coronavirus cases.
Police eject hundreds from Long Island house party
Hundreds of people attended a party this week on Long Island at a mansion that was rented on Airbnb, according to authorities in Suffolk County, New York.
The Suffolk County Police Department confirmed the event in an email to NBC News, saying they responded to calls at 51 Hawkins Lane in Brookhaven at approximately 12:25 a.m. on November 30.
"Fifth Precinct officers responded to the house where approximately 300 to 400 people were present," Suffolk PD said.
Hospital director hopeful for future Covid vaccine trails for children
Don't get carried away with "over-optimism," U.K. PM says after vaccine approval
The U.K. has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine — enough for up to a third of its population — and the first inoculations are set to be rolled out next week, but Johnson said it will "inevitably take some months" before the most vulnerable individuals are protected.
"So it's all the more vital that, as we celebrate this scientific achievement, we are not carried away with over-optimism or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over," the PM said. "It's not."
Johnson also warned about "immense logistical challenges" that lie ahead for vaccine distribution, citing the need for cold storage and the requirement for two shots of the vaccine to render immunity.
Putin orders 'large-scale' Covid vaccination in Russia
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the start of a “large-scale” Covid-19 vaccination by late next week, with doctors and teachers to be the first in line to receive the Sputnik V shots, which have yet to complete advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols.
Sputnik V has been touted in Russia as the world’s “first registered Covid-19 vaccine” after it received regulatory approval in early August. However, giving the shots the government go-ahead drew considerable criticism from experts, because at the time they had only been tested on several dozen people.
Putin said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V jab “has been produced or will have been produced in the next few days.”
Trump’s vaccine czar hopes U.K. approval of Pfizer vaccine ebbs 'politicization'
President Donald Trump's Covid-19 vaccine czar Dr. Moncef Slaoui said on Wednesday he hopes the United Kingdom's approval of the Pfizer vaccine encourages skeptical Americans to take the inoculation.
The U.K. became the first country Wednesday to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed, said that fact that an external British regulatory agency approved the vaccine is exciting because "of course they have not been involved in the politicization that surrounded the development."
He also said it's further "evidence that the data with these vaccines are clear," showing "that they are safe for use in the general population."
"Vaccines are useless if they are not used to vaccinate people," Slaoui said, whose message comes as vaccines face a growing and powerful misinformation movement online.
New York will have Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 170,000 people by Dec. 15, Cuomo says
New York will receive its first delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, with doses for 170,000 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The announcement highlights ongoing plans to quickly transport vaccine doses across the U.S. in preparation for FDA approval, which could come later this month. The U.K. on Wednesday became the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine.
Pfizer vaccines are already on the move.
CDC shortens quarantine period to 10 days with no symptoms
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended quarantine period from 14 days after a person has been exposed to the coronavirus, offering two alternatives, the agency said Wednesday.
The first alternative is to end quarantine after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters. The second option is to end quarantine after seven days if an individual tests negative and also reports no symptoms.
The decision is based on new research and modeling data, Walke said.
Still, Walke noted that a 14-day quarantine is still the best way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
Gloria Estefan says she tested positive for Covid
Singer Gloria Estefan, who has been urging her fans to take Covid-19 precautions, said she tested positive for the virus last month.
“In the past few weeks I have been one of the victims of Covid,” Estefan said on Instagram.
Estefan said she thinks she caught the coronavirus on Oct. 30 from a fan who was not wearing a mask and who “tapped me on the shoulder” while she was eating outdoors with a small group of family members at a local restaurant.
“I even held my breath, quite honestly, through their talk but something must have happened there,” she said.
The 63-year-old performer said she got tested on Nov. 8 after she lost her senses of taste and smell and developed a mild cough.
Estefan said she isolated at her home on Star Island, which is just off Miami Beach, for two weeks and has tested negative twice since then.
But even before the diagnosis, Estefan said she and her family were careful about wearing masks and isolating at home and that the restaurant outing was “the only time I ever went out.”
WHO fine-tunes advice on face masks
The World Health Organization on Wednesday tightened guidelines on wearing face masks, recommending that, where Covid-19 is spreading, they be worn by everyone in health care facilities and for all interactions in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.
The WHO said that, where the epidemic was spreading, people, including children and students aged 12 or over, should always wear masks in shops, workplaces and schools that lack adequate ventilation, and when receiving visitors at home in poorly ventilated rooms.
Masks should also be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least three feet could not be maintained.
In areas of Covid-19 spread, it also advised “universal” wearing of medical masks in health care facilities, including when caring for other patients. The advice applied to visitors, outpatients and to common areas such as cafeterias and staff rooms.
Miami Beach mayor blasts Gov. DeSantis’ Covid response, says he’s 'ruining people’s lives'
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber criticized the Florida governor’s Covid-19 response on Wednesday, saying “the one thing we're missing is a leader.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, “seems just entrenched in following the convenient ideology rather than established science,” Gelber, a Democrat, said on MSNBC.
Gelber said DeSantis needs to be doing more to encourage mask-wearing.
He “won't position himself as a leader” on Covid-19, the mayor said. “In fact, he's doing the opposite right now…I think it's creating infections and therefore, you know, ruining people's lives.”
The mayor’s statement comes as DeSantis announced Monday that he was ruling out any further Covid-19 restrictions, saying “no lockdowns, no fines, no schools closures.” Florida has recorded more than 1 million Covid-19 cases and almost 19,000 deaths as of Tuesday, according to an NBC News tally.
WH Covid task force urges health officials to sidestep unhelpful local governments
The White House coronavirus task force is warning that the risk from Covid-19 to Americans is at “a historic high” and urging public health officials to “alert the state population directly” if local governments balk at doing so, according to a copy of the latest task force report obtained by NBC News.
“We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity,” the report, which was distributed to the states earlier this week, says. “A further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”
Notably, the task force is directing health officials to take matters into their own hands and circumvent state and local policies if they “do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation” by making sure the media is “saturated with public health messaging.”
The message? Avoid social gatherings. Wear masks and practice social distancing. Report businesses and organizations that fail to comply with health regulations.
More specifically, the report states, “It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health; you should have groceries and medications delivered.”
Echoing what Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci have stressed in recent days, the report also states: “If you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household.”
“Most likely, you will not have symptoms; however, you are dangerous to others and you must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease and get tested immediately,” it states.
Fauci named one of People magazine's '2020 People of the Year'
LOS ANGELES — People magazine has named George Clooney, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Selena Gomez and Regina King as the “2020 People of the Year.”
The magazine revealed its list Wednesday morning as part of a year-end double issue with four covers. The four will be celebrated for their positive impact in the world during a challenging 2020.
Clooney, Fauci, Gomez and King will be separately featured on the magazine covers of the issue, which is out Friday.
U.S. reports 2,380 Covid deaths, the most in months
The U.S. reported 2,380 Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, the most since 2,415 were reported June 26, when New Jersey added probable deaths to its count.
Before that, it's the most deaths since May 7, when 2,578 fatalities were reported. Tuesday's tally brought the nation's overall death toll to 271,165.
The U.S. is averaging 1,502 reported deaths per day in the last week. Four weeks ago, the U.S. averaged 1,111 deaths per day.
According to NBC News' tally, the U.S. counted 181,112 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday.
Several states hit single-day records Tuesday:
- Arizona, 10,322 cases
- Delaware, 689 cases
- Louisiana, 5,326 cases
- Maine, 20 reported deaths
- New Hampshire, 772 cases
- Oregon, 24 reported deaths
- Washington, 68 reported deaths
- Wisconsin, 117 reported deaths
Will Americans take the coronavirus vaccine once it is approved?
British government criticized for nationalist vaccine messaging
The British government may have been the world's first to formally approve a Covid-19 vaccine Wednesday, but it has also been heavily criticized for attempting to use that milestone for nationalistic ends.
Minutes after the U.K. announced it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Business Secretary Alok Sharma tweeted, "In years to come, we will remember this moment as the day the U.K. led humanity's charge against this disease."
Plenty of people pointed out that the vaccine was developed in Germany by BioNTech, a company led by the children of Turkish immigrants, before being scrutinized in mass trials by the U.S. pharma giant Pfizer and then manufactured in Belgium.
"Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success?" Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to the U.K., responded to Sharma's tweet. "I really don't think this is a national story. In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution, this is European and transatlantic."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among those to suggest Brexit had helped the U.K.'s rapid vaccine response. "Because we've left the E.U., we’ve been able to move faster," he said. This was later contradicted by Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the U.K.'s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency — the body responsible for approving the vaccine — who told a news conference that this had not been a factor.
E.U. pushes for 'right to disconnect' from work at home
BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a “right to disconnect” from the internet and email, with around one-third of people now working from home across the 27-nation bloc due in large part to coronavirus restrictions.
In a resolution, the parliamentarians argue that disconnecting from work should be a fundamental right and they want the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to draw up rules allowing people to take time out from the pressures of working at home.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and we must update our rules to catch up with the new reality,” said Maltese Socialist lawmaker Alex Agius Saliba, who led work on the resolution.
The resolution, which is non-binding, was passed by 31 votes to 6 against, with 18 abstentions in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee. It must still have to be rubber-stamped by the full house, then submitted to the commission and national EU governments for possible endorsement.
In it, the lawmakers argue that the culture of being “always on” and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can hurt work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being.
NYC sheriff shuts down Staten Island bar for defying restrictions
A bar on Staten Island that violated health and liquor laws was shut down Tuesday afternoon by the New York City Sheriff’s Office.
Mac's Pub, which is in an area where the city prohibits indoor dining, had no liquor license, stored illegal liquor and made illegal sales, the sheriff's office said Tuesday. Four people face criminal charges and health violations after breaking emergency orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the sheriff's office said.
Deputies issued summonses to three employees for violation of emergency and executive orders, failure to observe order, and failure to protect health and safety, according to the sheriff's office.
San Francisco mayor dined at same Napa Valley restaurant as Calif. governor
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California’s governor was there.
Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor’s spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.
Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part” and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.
Breed’s spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor’s French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner.” He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state’s rules.
Italy plans to distribute more than 200M vaccine doses in 2021
ROME — Italy’s health minister told lawmakers on Wednesday that Italy will distribute 202.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines during 2021 in “an unprecedented effort that will require a huge collective commitment.’’
Robert Speranza said the vaccines will not be mandatory, but that the doses allotted Italy through an EU collective purchasing agreement would be “enough to potentially vaccinate the entire population.”
Speranza emphasized that the distribution of the vaccines would depend on regulatory approval which was still pending from the European Medicines Agency.
The first vaccines are expected to arrive in January with Pfizer’s vaccine expected to get first EMA approval by Dec. 29 and Moderna by Jan. 12. Priority will be given first to Italy's front-line health care workers, then residents of nursing homes, then to elderly over 80 before moving to other groups like people with medical risks, law enforcement, teachers and prison workers.
British government is first to approve Covid-19 vaccine, will roll out shots next week
The United Kingdom has become the first country to formally approve a Covid-19 vaccine, giving the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech and saying the shots will start being rolled out next week.
The announcement Wednesday marks a huge milestone, not just for the fight against the coronavirus but also for science. This achievement has come far quicker than any other vaccine, which typically take 15-20 years to make.
"For so long we've been saying that if a vaccine is developed, then things will get better in 2021, and now we can say when this vaccine is rolled out things will get better," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.
The roll-out will start small, just 800,000 shots in the first batch with most of the 40 million doses ordered by the British government coming next year.
It will not go unnoticed that British regulators have made this decision ahead of their American counterparts, as different officials and businesses around the world strike the right balance between speed, safety and effectiveness.