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The United States on Thursday again broke single-day Covid-19 records for both reported deaths and cases, according to an NBC News' count.
The country saw 229,928 new cases and 3,110 deaths. The previous single-day record was just on Wednesday. The rise in cases in large parts of the country has prompted dire warnings about hospital capacity and whether colder weather and the holiday season will help the virus spread.
On Thursday, Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine got the recommendation from an independent panel of experts that the FDA authorize it for emergency use. The FDA is not obligated to go along with the panel's recommendation, but it is widely expected to authorize the vaccine for emergency use promptly.
And in a grim statistic about the toll that the pandemic has taken in the country, NBC News data shows that more people in the United States have died this year from Covid-19 than were killed in four years of fighting on the battlefields during World War II.
- 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.
Texas county gets trucks to hold bodies amid surge
FORT WORTH, Texas — A North Texas medical examiner’s office has brought in two refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies in response to low capacity amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
Many of the hospitals and larger funeral homes in the Fort Worth area have reached their storage capacity or will soon, said Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County’s chief medical examiner.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which has a capacity normally of 100 bodies, said each truck can store 50 bodies.
Officials expect to start using the trucks in the next few days.
Duke men's basketball cancels remaining nonconference games
World carbon dioxide emissions drop 7% in pandemic-hit 2020
A locked-down, pandemic-struck world cut its carbon dioxide emissions this year by 7 percent, the biggest drop ever, new preliminary figures show.
The Global Carbon Project, an authoritative group of dozens of international scientists who track emissions, calculated that the world will have put 37 billion U.S. tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2020. That’s down from 40.1 billion tons in 2019, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Earth System Science Data.
Scientists say this drop is chiefly because people are staying home, traveling less by car and plane, and that emissions are expected to jump back up after the pandemic ends. Ground transportation makes up about one-fifth of emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief man-made heat-trapping gas.
Emissions dropped 12 percent in the United States and 11 percent in Europe but only 1.7 percent in China.
Coronavirus relief negotiations reach a breaking point with time running short
After appearing to be nearing a deal for the past week, progress appeared to come to a halt on Thursday, with Democrats and Republicans again divided on the scope and size of a possible deal.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Wednesday night told staff for the other three congressional leaders that he sees no possible path to an agreement on state and local aid and liability protections, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the conversations.
McConnell has already said he would set aside the two most contentious issues, including his top priority to get liability protections, to allow the rest of the deal to move forward, including assistance to small businesses and unemployment insurance.
More people in U.S. have died from Covid-19 than were killed in WWII
More people in the United States have died this year from Covid-19 than were killed in four years of fighting on the battlefields during World War II, according to the latest NBC News data.
The death toll from the pandemic as of Thursday afternoon was 292,098 and counting, the figures show.
By contrast, U.S. forces suffered 291,557 “battle deaths” during the Second World War, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The U.S. suffered another 113,842 “non-theater” deaths during that war, the VA stats show.
Over 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day were reported for the first time on Wednesday, eclipsing the 2,977 killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The U.S. has been averaging 2,307 deaths due to the coronavirus in the past week, up from 1,603 a day the week before and 1,213 a day in the weeks before that, the NBC News data shows.
Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine receives key FDA panel recommendation
An independent panel of experts has overwhelmingly voted in favor of recommending that the Food and Drug Administration authorize Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in people ages 16 and older.
The vote Thursday afternoon was split 17 in favor of the authorization, four against, with one person abstaining from the vote.
Though the FDA is not obligated to go along with the panel's recommendation, it is widely anticipated that the regulatory agency will indeed authorize the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use, and do so promptly.
Albuquerque mayor says ICU capacity at 118%, city 'maxed out' on health workers
Pennsylvania governor announces new statewide restrictions, closes indoor dining
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who revealed that he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, announced new statewide restrictions effective Saturday morning and lasting through the beginning of January.
The restrictions, which he called "mitigation efforts," include limiting indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people maximum, reducing indoor capacity to 50 percent for all businesses serving the public and prohibiting indoor dining. Restaurants may remain open for takeout and delivery.
Faith institutions are exempt from the indoor capacity guidelines during religious services, however places of worship "are strongly encouraged to find alternative methods for worship, as in person gatherings pose a significant risk to participants at this time," Wolf said in a statement.
“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. Second, keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season – and closer to a widely available vaccine – as safely as possible," Wolf said. "This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”
The restrictions go into effect Saturday at 12:01 a.m. and expire at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4.
Wolf cited two university studies, one by Yale and another by Stanford, which show that restaurants accounted for a "significant amount" of new Covid-19 infections and that closing indoor dining reduced fatality rates.
Wolf's office also announced that the governor's wife tested negative for the coronavirus. Both will remain in quarantine at their home.
Boston commuter rail cuts service by more than half due to low ridership during pandemic
Because of the pandemic, getting to and from Boston by train during the holiday season is about to get a whole lot harder.
Starting Monday, MBTA Commuter Rail and Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the sixth-busiest commuter rail system in the country, is slashing by more than half the number of trains it runs during the work week, the NBC News affiliate in Boston reported.
“Passengers are encouraged to check the Reduced Service Schedule in advance to plan their trip because there are changes in the weekday schedule,” Keolis CEO and General Manager David Scorey said in a statement.
The MBTA is temporarily reducing the number of trains it runs Monday through Friday from 541 to 246 because ridership is down due to the pandemic and because they have struggled to find enough engineers and conductors to staff the trains.
As the pandemic rages, local newspapers try to break through to readers
Grace Juarez knows people are tired of newspaper stories about the pandemic.
One of two reporters for The Lufkin Daily News, which serves 35,000 residents in East Texas, she's heard from community members and officials who either don't take Covid-19 seriously or are battling coronavirus fatigue. And she's seen how readers react: Many responses are supportive and thankful of health care workers and the journalists covering the pandemic — but about two-thirds contain messages either denying the reality of the pandemic or calling it misinformation.
“We are committed to showing this no matter what political or religious or whatever beliefs we hold personally," Juarez said. "This is our reality in East Texas. This is what’s going on."
Lufkin, like many communities in the U.S., is dealing with a surge of Covid-19 cases that have led to increased hospitalizations and deaths.