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Atlas has no background in infectious diseases, has spread misinformation about the virus and downplayed its seriousness. President Donald Trump invited him to join the task force in August after having seen him on Fox News.
Meanwhile, an analysis of 4.4 million student test scores suggested the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing educational disparities, possibly setting the most vulnerable children even further behind.
- 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.
Portland homeless shelter hit by Covid outbreak
In Mississippi, more counties see mask requirement, but no statewide mandate
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI -- Gov. Tate Reeves instituted mask mandates in 13 more Mississippi counties Tuesday but chose not to implement the measure statewide, a week after several prominent health care leaders called on him to do so.
During a press briefing, the Republican governor said he believes issuing mask requirements in counties with the highest number of new cases will encourage people to take the regulations more seriously than a blanket approach would. A total of 54 out of the state’s 82 counties now have a mask mandate.
“I almost feel like there are those out there who really, truly believe if I were to write an executive order, a statewide prohibition against hurricanes in 2021, that we won’t have any hurricanes,” Reeves said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate in early August, but revoked the measure at the end of September when new coronavirus cases were declining in Mississippi. As cases have risen again in recent weeks, he has begun implementing mask mandates in individual counties.
Four health care leaders have said it’s time for Reeves to go a step further. They wrote a letter to Reeves on Nov. 24 calling for another statewide mask mandate.
“The statewide mask mandate, which was highly effective, needs to be reinstituted,” said a letter signed by Dr. LouAnn Woodward of the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Dr. Anita Henderson, president-elect of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Claude Brunson, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Association; and Dr. James Griffin Jr., president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians.
Reeves said Tuesday that he would not comment on the letter, but said he believes a county-by-county approach is best for Mississippi currently.
Maine governor in quarantine after possible exposure
How hospitals are preparing for mass vaccinations
Ambulance companies at 'a breaking point' after receiving little Covid aid
In a letter sent to the Department of Health and Human Services and exclusively obtained by NBC News, the American Ambulance Association said “the 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point. Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and the West.”
An HHS spokesperson said the agency has delivered nearly $107 billion to more than 550,000 providers across the country and opened a third round of funding of $20 billion last month, which they said is available to ambulance services.
That third phase of funding, however, comes with a limit. It’s available to every health care provider and supplier up to 2 percent of their 2019 revenue. EMS services said they’re thankful for the money, but it won’t keep them from potentially going under.
Tucson adopts nightly curfew for three weeks
TUCSON, Ariz. — At the urging of Mayor Regina Romero, the Tucson City Council voted Tuesday night to establish a mandatory nightly curfew for three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew will take effect Friday and run through Dec. 23. Romero says she sought the curfew “for the safety and welfare and health of the citizens of Tucson.”
It prohibits residents from being on public streets or spaces unless traveling to work or other essential activities. Romero says Pima County reported had a record-high 944 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, and hospitals in southern Arizona are on the verge of a crisis.
Earlier Tuesday, state health officials reported 10,322 new known coronavirus cases and 48 additional deaths around Arizona.
Rhode Island opens second field hospital
CDC to issue new guidance on quarantine length
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue new guidance on quarantine protocols and procedures for people who may have been exposed to coronavirus, a senior administration official confirms to NBC News.
Instead of quarantining for 14 days after being determined a close contact of someone with the virus, the CDC will now recommend people only do so for seven-10 days. Individuals with a negative test can end their quarantine after seven days and 10 days without one, the new guidelines will say.
This information was presented at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus task force meeting, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The changes had been discussed for some time and were submitted for final approval this afternoon.
They are expected to be announced formally as soon as this evening or tomorrow morning, according to the official.
New York City blood supply 'down to just a few days,' mayor says
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging residents to donate blood as the city's supply reaches dangerously low levels amid a national increase in coronavirus hospitalizations.
The mayor said Tuesday that the goal is to get 25,000 New Yorkers to give blood in the month of December to replenish the blood bank. The current supply is down to "just a few days," de Blasio said.
"We have seen a marked decrease in the blood supply, because, of course, there haven’t been corporate blood drives and blood drives at colleges," de Blasio said. "Things that used to make such a difference. But we have to come up with another way now, and it’s going to come down to every one of you who can help, helping out."
Maryland mobilizing 'medical staffing surge' as cases climb
Maryland is launching a "medical staffing surge" to help deal with a growing number of cases and overworked hospital workers, the governor announced Tuesday.
The plan includes measures such as encouraging universities to give healthcare students in their final semester an "early exit" to enter the workforce and ordering hospitals to reduce some elective procedures.
The state will also try and recruit people with clinical backgrounds to work at state hospitals or nursing homes, and school districts and counties are being asked to send nurses or other staff to work at testing and vaccination sites, the governor's office said. Hospitals must also submit patient surge plans.
Maryland has more than 201,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — with more than 2,700 added in the past 24 hours — and more than 4,500 deaths, according to the state health department.
Long lines for Covid-19 testing after Thanksgiving gatherings
First Covid vaccines to be offered to health workers, nursing homes, CDC panel says
Health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first groups to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new proposal from an independent advisory committee within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 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.
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, expected to happen this month.
Canada to maintain travel ban with U.S. as coronavirus continues unchecked
Canada will not agree to lifting a ban on non-essential travel with the United States until the coronavirus outbreak is significantly under control around the world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
Trudeau's comments were a clear indication that the border restrictions will last well into 2021. The two neighbors agreed to the ban in March and have rolled it over on a monthly basis ever since.
The ban does not affect trade. The two countries have highly integrated economies and Canada sends 75% of its goods exports to the United States every month.
"Until the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world, we're not going to be releasing the restrictions at the border," Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. when asked about the issue.
New Orleans swinger convention tied to 41 Covid-19 infections
The owner of an events company says his four-day swingers convention in New Orleans held last month has been tied to 41 new coronavirus infections.
The case count from the “Naughty N’awlins” convention, which began on Nov. 11, jumped from five positive tests to 41 confirmed cases in a matter of days, Naughty Events Owner Bob Hannaford wrote in a blog post Friday. Hannaford wrote that the company has reached out to attendees to urge them to get tested and conducted “very aggressive” contact tracing.
Though most of the cases have been mild or asymptomatic, at least two people had a "tougher time" and were "suffering," he said.
It’s unclear exactly how many of the convention’s 300 attendees have tested positive. Hannaford did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment from NBC News.
Miami offering grocery store gift cards to residents struggling due to Covid-19
The City of Miami launched a “grocery gift card assistance” program to residents this week to help those struggling to feed their families amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In order to qualify for the program recipients must show proof of residency in the City of Miami and “attest to their financial hardship" due to Covid-19 in the form of a signed application.
Those interested in obtaining the $250 Publix grocery gift card are able to visit six different locations at various times during the week throughout the city to pick them up.
On Tuesday morning, hundreds of residents turned out at the Regatta Park location to apply for the program.
Gift cards are being given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Florida becomes third state to pass 1 million Covid-19 cases
Florida on Tuesday became the third state in the nation to surpass the 1 million mark for Covid-19 cases.
It has now recorded 1,008,166 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Texas has the most Covid-19 cases with 1.27 million followed by California, which has 1.24 million, according to the latest NBC News data. Texas hit 1 million cases on Nov. 7 and California hit that benchmark on Nov. 12, the data showed.
Florida has also reported 18,916 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the state health department figures.
New York continues to have the most Covid-19 fatalities with 35,404, the NBC News data showed. But in the last seven days, Florida has recorded 534 deaths while New York has reported 338 fatalities from Covid-19.
‘The most 2020 wedding’: Bride with Covid-19 gets married in quarantine
Across the country, the coronavirus pandemic forced newly engaged couples to downscale, postpone and cancel wedding celebrations due to safety concerns and stay-at-home orders.
But for one couple in California, not even contracting the virus itself could stop them from tying the knot.
Lauren and Patrick Delgado, a couple of four years, looked forward to their big day on Nov. 20 since they got engaged in May last year. What the pair did not expect, however, was for the pandemic to force them to change their venue and guest lists three times.
Testing positive for Covid-19 five days before her own wedding was the last thing Lauren Delgado saw coming.
NIH head warns pandemic will 'go on and on and on' if people refuse to take vaccine
Want the pandemic to be over? Get vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available.
That was the blunt message Tuesday from Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health and is a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
“We have the opportunity, through vaccines that are proven safe and effective, to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Collins said at the NIH’s annual Behavioral Sciences and Research festival. “And yet, without reaching that 80-90 percent immunity to make the virus really go away — and we know that’s sort of what it’s going to take — this could go on and on and on.”
Ridiculing people in the “vaccine hesitant zone,” however, is not the answer, Collins said.
“They have their reasons for being in that place,” the NIH chief said, noting that “science and politics have gotten tangled up” and there is a “tradition” of opposing vaccines in the United States.
Other experts like Dr. Paul Goepfert, a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have said that for the Covid-19 vaccine to be 90 percent effective about 60 percent of the population would have to get the shot.
'Invisible Hands' brings food to people isolated due to Covid-19
Child under 10 dies from Covid-19 in Maryland
A child under the age of 10 died from Covid-19 in Maryland, the state’s Department of Health said.
The child died on Sunday and is the state’s first death in the 0-9 age group. The death was reported on the department’s website on Monday.
“Data are preliminary and the county of residence is not yet available. Single year of age and sex of the decedent will not be released at this time to protect confidentiality,” a spokesperson for Maryland Department of Health told NBC News in a statement.
While over 1.3 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, severe illness and death due to the virus is rare among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported. In Maryland, just four patients under the age of 20 have died from Covid-19.
Nurses at New York hospital strike over staffing and safety amid Covid-19 surge
Nurses at a New York hospital went on strike Tuesday, demanding better pay, staffing and working conditions amid a surge of Covid-19 in the state.
The two-day strike was organized by unionized nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle in Westchester County. The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the union representing the nurses, alleges that the hospital is not prepared for the expected surge in Covid-19 cases and filed an OSHA complaint detailing various health and safety violations, such as a lack of proper PPE and a failure to separate Covid-19 patients from other patients.
“We were hoping to avoid a ULP strike on December 1 and 2, but it’s clear that Montefiore does not want to have a voice in patient safety,” nurse and NYSNA leader Kathy Santioemma said in a statement.
Montefiore Medicine said it has been negotiating with NYSNA for 18 months and rebuffed the union’s claims that it is unprepared for the surge in Covid-19 cases.
“NYSNA is willfully misleading the public by suggesting that Montefiore New Rochelle is unprepared for the latest COVID-19 surge, when the truth is, in compliance with the Governor's orders, MNR is stocked with 90 days of PPE for its employees,” Montefiore's senior vice president of community affairs, Marcos Crespo, said in a statement.
Rhode Island ER doc warns that pandemic is 'reaching a dire situation' in state
A Rhode Island emergency room physician warned that the coronavirus pandemic is "reaching a dire situation" as the state sees more cases and hospitalizations now than it did at the start of the crisis.
"In Rhode Island, we had a relatively quiet summer with not a lot of cases. In the spring, we had a surge that peaked around the last week of April. And then in the summer, we were able to see patients and come up with good solutions for them," Dr. Liz Goldberg said on MSNBC.
"And now we're seeing this fall surge. We've had more cases, we've had more hospitalizations than we've had during this entire crisis."
Goldberg said the current wave of cases has pushed nursing homes and an already overwhelmed hospital system to their limits. To help ease that strain, two field hospitals have opened.
"I'm just really grateful that we have an option now where we can send patients with Covid that are stable," she said.
Starbucks giving free coffee to Covid-19 frontline workers in December
Starbucks is offering free coffee to frontline workers throughout the month of December due to a rise in Covid-19 cases, the company announced Tuesday.
Eligible workers are able to order a hot or iced tall brewed coffee free of charge at participating stores and select licensed stores.
“It has been an extraordinarily difficult year, especially for the frontline responders who are serving our communities,” Starbucks vice president of Global Social Impact, Virginia Tenpenny said in a press release. “We want to show our deep gratitude for those who support and protect us every day with a small gesture of kindness and a cup of coffee.”
Chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed: Children should receive Covid-19 vaccine last
Children should be among the last to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the chief science adviser to Operation Warp Speed argued Tuesday.
"My personal point of view is that we should end with the least impacted populations, which means really pediatric populations — young, very young healthy adults," Moncef Slaoui, a key player in the government's effort to quickly manufacture and distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus, said during a Washington Post forum.
Overall, children fare better than adults when they catch Covid-19, although there have been rare severe and even fatal pediatric cases.
Slaoui's comments came hours before a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine advisory committee was scheduled to meet to discuss who should receive the Covid-19 vaccine first. Once a vaccine is approved by federal officials, the first ones could be administered within 24 to 48 hours, Slaoui said.
Despite the record speed at which the vaccines were developed, Slaoui said he had no qualms about their safety.
"I have an eight-year-old kid. I will give him this vaccine, I'll give it to my mother, I'll give it to everybody I love," he said.
Iowa State allowing football and basketball fans back into games
The Cyclones play host to West Virginia on the gridiron Saturday and up to 15,000 fans will be allowed inside 61,500-seat Jack Trice Stadium. The school sold no tickets to its last home game against Kansas State on Nov. 21.
And about 1,300 hoops fans are being permitted into 14,000-seat Hilton Coliseum on Sunday when Iowa State's men's and women's teams play DePaul and South Carolina, respectively.
Iowans tested for coronavirus are coming back positive at a rate of 17.1 percent, according to the latest 14-day average maintained by the state's Department of Public Health. The rate of positive tests is 11 percent in Story County, where the Ames university is located.
FDA chief summoned to White House to defend vaccine timetable
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows summoned FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing on Tuesday to discuss why his agency hasn’t moved faster to approve Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.
The morning meeting was first reported by Axios, which quoted an unnamed administration official saying, "There are some who are complaining the FDA is not working around the clock to get things approved."
While President Donald Trump has publicly accused the agency of dragging its feet, Hahn told Axios his team is doing what's necessary to make sure the vaccine is safe for the general public. "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision, and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision," he said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the report in an appearance on Fox News, and at first sidestepped the question. "I don't want to talk about the meetings that will be going on today in the West Wing, but what I will say is this we are working around the clock," McEnany said. Pressed further, she said, "This president will never apologize for putting the fire under these agencies to say, yes, we want a safe vaccine, absolutely; we also want a fast one because lives are at stake, and a vaccine by the end of the year is key and paramount."
Pfizer applied to the FDA for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine on Nov. 20. An FDA spokesperson told Axios that among the reviews they are doing on the vaccine are ensuring that the manufacturing process and controls are appropriate, checking statistical analyses and doing additional analyses to look at the effect of the vaccine on those at greater risk of adverse effects.
N.J. to limit outdoor gatherings, pause indoor sports
New Jersey is tightening its rules yet again for outdoor gatherings and indoor sports in the wake of climbing coronavirus infection rates in recent weeks.
Beginning next Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited from 150 people to 25, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. In addition, indoor practices and competitions for youth and adult sports will be prohibited beginning Saturday through Jan. 2.
The move comes as Murphy tweeted that nearly 70 percent of people in New Jersey reached by contact tracers would not cooperate, while pushing back against social media rumors that he would enforce a full lockdown in the state.
New Jersey's health department on Monday also said it would issue guidance for public holiday interactions, including for tree and menorah lightings and mall Santa Clauses. Officials said while malls must require appointments, masks, time limits and social distancing for visits, "children should not be permitted to sit on Santa's lap."
November's Covid-19 tally: 4M cases, 37,000 dead
Covid-19 surged across the country in November infecting 4,389,678 people, more than double October's figure, according to NBC News' tally. There were 37,172 reported deaths in the month.
Monday saw 163,873 new infections, about even with the 161,472 cases the country has been averaging the past week, up from an average of 116,046 cases per day four weeks ago.
Several states set single-day records for reported cases and deaths Monday:
- Tennessee reported 7,975 cases.
- Colorado reported 135 deaths, after reporting zero the previous four days.
- Rhode Island reported 2,769 cases, after reporting zero the past two days.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech ask European regulators for coronavirus vaccine approval
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech asked European Union regulators for Covid-19 vaccine fast-track approval Tuesday, but the decision will likely take longer than in the United States.
The E.U.'s European Medicines Agency said it will meet to discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by Dec. 29, and Moderna's by Jan. 12. Regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are set to meet in mid-December.
After the EMA makes a recommendation, it would then be sent to the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive branch, for fast-tracked approval, before being sent to individual E.U. member countries for final sign-off.
Both Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech collaboration asked for something called "conditional market authorization." This is when there is less data than normal, but the "medicine’s benefits outweigh its risks," the EMA says. Both vaccine candidates had no serious side effects in their Phase 3 trials, the companies said.
Covid restrictions will remain in Philippines through holiday season
MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus quarantine restrictions will remain imposed in the Philippine capital during the Christmas season this month and officials said they will ban big Christmas parties in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation to prevent new infection spikes.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks late Monday that aside from Metropolitan Manila, the bustling capital region of more than 12 million, the “general community quarantine” would be imposed in seven other cities and provinces in December.
The restrictions ban large public gatherings, actual school classes and entertainment businesses but allow shopping malls, restaurants and essential shops, including barber shops, to operate with required safeguards, including the wearing of face masks and shields and social distancing.
Duterte lamented that many still defy quarantine restrictions like the wearing of face masks and warned of a possible resurgence of infections like in some Western countries.
“In the Philippines, it’s hard-headedness," Duterte said.
The Philippines has reported more than 431,600 confirmed coronavirus infections, the second-highest in Southeast Asia, with at least 8,392 deaths.
When Covid-19 closed schools, Black, Hispanic and poor kids took biggest hit in math, reading
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of most U.S. schools last spring, students were thrown into new and unfamiliar ways of learning. Special education students and children learning English lost support that their schools struggled to provide online. Many students had no access to computers or internet and were completely cut off from their teachers.
The true toll these disruptions have taken on student learning won’t be known for months or years, but new reports from national education-testing organizations have begun to offer an early look at that impact.
The latest is a report from NWEA, formerly the Northwest Evaluation Association, which analyzed the results of tests given to nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight this fall and found that most fell short in math, scoring an average of 5 to 10 percentile points behind students who took the same test last year.
Pfizer and BioNTech apply for emergency vaccine approval in Europe
BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say they have submitted an application for conditional approval of their coronavirus vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.
The two companies said Tuesday that the submission, which occurred Monday, completes the rolling review process they initiated with the agency on Oct. 6.
The move comes a day after rival Moderna said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.
BioNTech said that if the vaccine, currently named BNT162b2, is approved, its use in Europe could begin before the end of 2020.
Russian rapper 'Basta' criticized for holding concerts amid pandemic
One of Russia’s most famous rappers, Vasiliy Vakulenko, also known by his stage name Basta, has come under criticism from some of his fans after holding two concerts amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Russia.
The rapper says his staff followed all the necessary precautions for the two St. Petersburg events, and ensured only 50 percent capacity, assigned seats and provided free face masks.
However, videos from Vakulenko's concerts circulating on social media show people not maintaining social distancing, with many not wearing masks and singing.
While many of Vakulenko’s fans have supported him, some have also been critical, saying that no one should be above the rules. The head of Russian consumer health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, has asked its St. Petersburg branch to "clarify all the circumstances of the concerts" and whether they broke any Covid-19 regulations, state news agency Tass reported Monday.
The number of Covid-19 cases has been rising in Russia, with the country experiencing a record number of deaths on Monday at 569.
F1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive
Hamilton, who has already secured a record-equalling seventh world title and won Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, was experiencing mild symptoms, but was otherwise fit and well, his Mercedes team said.
The team said Hamilton, 35, was tested three times last week as part of the standard race weekend testing and returned a negative result each time. However, he woke up with mild symptoms on Monday and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to his arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive.
“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result," the team said. "This has since been confirmed by a retest.”
Hamilton was isolating according to local health guidelines and a replacement driver would be announced in due course, the team added.