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FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine

The authorization is "a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic," FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading Covid-19 news from Dec. 20, 2020.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had authorized the first Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the United States late Friday — the first major, tantalizing indication for Americans that the pandemic's days may be numbered.

A letter from the FDA to Pfizer reads that "the known and potential benefits of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 vaccine" outweigh its potential risks for people ages 16 and older.

FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn in a statement called the authorization "a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic that has affected so many families in the United States and around the world."

Dry ice demand surges following new vaccine approval

Big and small companies selling dry ice are scrambling to keep up with increasing demand after the FDA granted an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, putting the nation’s supply chain to the test.

Pfizer expects to ship close to 100 million doses by the end of March, but the vaccines need to be stored in ultracold temperatures, at around 80 degrees below zero, for them to be effective.

Each vaccine tray carries approximately 975 doses that need to be put into thermal containers with about 50 pounds of dry ice pellets. Each container can store the doses for up to 30 days, but only if they get dry ice refills every five days.

Pandemic forcing NYC's historic 21 Club to close

New York City's historic 21 Club is closing, becoming the latest business to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"In light of the ongoing global crisis and anticipated extended recovery period for the hospitality industry, the difficult decision was made that it will not be feasible to reopen the 21 Club in its current form for the foreseeable future," a spokesperson said Saturday.

21 Club has been closed since March after Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down all bars and restaurants due to the virus.

Read the full story.

Washington State-Cal football game canceled after player gets virus

Saturday's football game between Washington State University and UC Berkeley was canceled before play could get underway in Pullman, Washington, because a player tested positive for coronavirus.

The Pac-12 conference said in a statement that UC Berkeley, known in college football as Cal, did not have the minimum number of scholarship athletes needed to take the field at kickoff after an unidentified player tested positive today.

The test resulted in "isolation of additional student-athletes under contact tracing protocols," the Pac-12 said. "Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest."

Another anticipated Pac-12 game, USC versus crosstown rival UCLA, was scheduled to take place as scheduled, at 4:30 p.m.

Puerto Rico announces vaccine rollout plan after setting new single-day record

Puerto Rico is set to receive its first shipment of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines by the end of December, Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Saturday, one day after the U.S. territory set a new single-day record with 2,741 new coronavirus cases.

About 205,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive to Puerto Rico in upcoming weeks. The island's Health Department and the National Guard will be in charge of distributing the vaccines in phases, Vázquez said.

First in line are frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and other health care workers as well as nursing-home residents and employees.

"These are the most vulnerable and represent the largest amount of deaths related to the virus," Vázquez said in Spanish during a press conference Saturday.

Public-school employees, public officials, police officers and other essential workers are next in line. It's estimated that the general population won't have access to a vaccine until the summer, Vázquez said.

"We want to have a peaceful Christmas, so we must continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and use hand sanitizer," she said. "Strict coronavirus restrictions will remain in place... All citizens must do their part and acknowledge how deadly this virus is in order to avoid another uptick."

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines expected to begin arriving Monday

Hospital systems nationwide should expect the first shipments of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to arrive Monday, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said during a media briefing Saturday.

"Boxes are being packed and loaded with vaccine with emphasis on quality control," Perna said. Within the next 24 hours, he said, those boxes will move from Pfizer's manufacturing facility to UPS and FedEx hubs, where they will be delivered to 636 predetermined locations nationwide.

Perna said 145 of those sites should receive the vaccine Monday, with the others trickling in through Wednesday. The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine late Friday night.

An estimated 2.9 million doses are expected to be distributed within the first week. That number could ramp up significantly in the coming weeks, to as much as 40 million doses by the end of 2020.

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5 science-backed reasons that you shouldn't be skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine

It’s exciting news that Pfizer—the maker of one of the new vaccines for Covid 19 — has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. And Moderna, which has a similar vaccine, has already submitted their application for EUA and isn’t far behind. Across the country, states are poised to start administering it.

While much of the population is ready to get vaccinated when it’s available to them, there’s still a fair amount of skepticism by some about the safety of the vaccine.

Why? Misinformation about vaccines (in general) has been circulating for almost two decades, making some people suspicious about the whole process, including during this pandemic.

It’s important to set the record straight, and use the science to support smart decision making. After all, your life — and those you care about —could depend on it.

To read about the five reasons, click here

Anti-gay nonprofits and businesses received millions in Covid-19 aid

A number of organizations, schools and businesses with either a history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy or policies that explicitly discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals have received millions in pandemic relief funding, according to an NBC News analysis of data released last week by the Small Business Administration.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — which was intended to help small businesses amid the Covid-19 crisis — gave nearly $5.3 billion in the potentially forgivable loans to 5,160,000 recipients, with the average loan being $101,409.

Seven of the organizations that received funding — the American College of PediatriciansAmerican Family Association, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), Church Militant/St. Michael’s MediaLiberty CounselPacific Justice Institute and Ruth Institute — have been designated as “anti-LGBTQ hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to their alleged vilification of queer people.

These seven groups received nearly $2.5 million combined.

Read the fully story here. 

Rainbow flags on the eve of Madrid's World Pride in 2017.Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP/Getty Images file

Black Chicagoans anxious about Covid-19 vaccine as historic hospital set to close

CHICAGO — Like many Black people in Chicago, Etta Davis is afraid of catching Covid-19. She has a heart condition and diabetes and tries hard to wear her mask and stay safe. Yet, she doesn't place much hope in the coming vaccine.

She hears city leaders say her community will be prioritized, but as a lower-income, Black woman on the South Side, she says she has good reason to doubt them.

"We're not gonna get it first, we know this," she said. "I'm just keeping it real. Money talks to the people with the money. They're going to get it first."

The city of Chicago is gearing up to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine as early as next week, and officials are emphasizing that the process will be free and equitable. But many Black people, who are the most likely to die from the coronavirus, do not believe what they are hearing.

Read the full story here.

Etta Davis in Chicago.MSNBC

Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee set single-day Covid records; U.S. tops 2,000 deaths

The U.S. reported more than 2,000 Covid-19 deaths Friday, according to NBC News figures.

The tally showed 2,890 people died and 226,024 new infections were recorded.

Since the pandemic began, close to 16 million have been infected in the U.S. and more than 296,000 have died.

In the last week the U.S. has averaged 211,324 cases and 2,381 deaths per day, up from 168,493 cases and 1,419 deaths four weeks ago

These states and territories set single-day records Friday:

  • Kansas reported 131 deaths
  • New Hampshire, 1,187 cases
  • Puerto Rico, 2,741 cases
  • South Carolina, 3,540 cases
  • Tennessee, 147 deaths

Estonians plunge into icy water to ward off coronavirus blues

More than 500 people swam in the near-freezing waters off Tallinn port in Estonia's capital, in a giant winter swimming relay designed to counter the tedium of coronavirus restrictions.

Attired with funny hats, the swimmers ranged from a nine-year old boy to an 83-year old woman, and included a pregnant woman who joked her effort should be counted for two.

Dozens of spectators cheered along the course, as participants swam in a country that has seen the sport grow in popularity since Estonia first went into a coronavirus lockdown in spring.

A woman wearing Christmas-themed headwear swims during a winter swimming relay in Estonia's capital Tallinn.JANIS LAIZANS / Reuters

Tokyo sets case record as government criticized

Japan's capital, Tokyo, set a new record on Saturday, reporting 621 new coronavirus cases, as government measures face criticism ahead of the holiday season.

Experts on a Tokyo metropolitan task force say serious cases are on the rise, putting burdens on hospitals. The task force on Friday asked the national government to take tougher steps to slow social and economic activities in areas where infections are accelerating.

Nationwide, Japan reported a total of 174,000 cases, with about 2,500 deaths since the pandemic began.

Japan issued a non-binding state of emergency in the spring and has survived earlier infection peaks without a lockdown.