IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Dec. 15 Coronavirus updates: Health care workers among first to receive vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that the U.S. could achieve herd immunity by "the end of the second quarter 2021."
Image: People walk across the almost deserted market square with decorated Christmas tree in Leipzig, eastern Germany
People walk across a nearly deserted market square decorated for Christmas in Leipzig, Germany on Monday.Jens Schlueter / AFP - Getty Images

Live coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage of Covid-19.

Health care workers across the United States were among the first Americans to get the federally approved coronavirus vaccine, marking a critical moment in the fight against Covid-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top disease expert, predicted that after vaccines are more widely deployed the country could achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 by "the end of the second quarter 2021."

The beginning of this new phase in fighting the virus came as the U.S. death toll passed 300,000, and recorded more than 200,000 infections in one day.



MacKenzie Scott gives away $4.1B in pandemic charity spree

SEATTLE — MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist and author, has announced that she has given away $4.1 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.

Scott announced her pandemic-era philanthropy in a Medium post Tuesday, The Seattle Times reported. She described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted it has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.

“Meanwhile,” Scott, who divorced Jeff Bezos in 2019, wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

Read the full story here. 

DeSantis defends decision to keep Florida restaurants open

California orders thousands of body bags, refrigerated storage

California has purchased thousands of body bags and has dozens of refrigerated storage units on standby as it prepares to deal with a growing death toll from Covid-19.

The orders for 5,000 body bags and 60 53-foot-long refrigerated units to have ready for counties and hospitals should be a sobering statistic, the governor said.

Although vaccines have begun to arrive, the crisis is far from over, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we're still in the tunnel," Newsom said at a news conference Tuesday. "And that means we're going through perhaps the most intense and urgent moment since the beginning of this pandemic."

Read the full story here. 

China begins Covid test trials on children as young as 3

Kansas mayor resigns over mask mandate threats

A western Kansas mayor announced Tuesday that she is resigning, effective immediately, because of threats she has received after she publicly supported a mask mandate.

Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw said she was concerned about her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email, after she was quoted on a USA Today article on Friday supporting the mandate, The Dodge City Globe reported.

“I understand people are under a lot of pressure from various things that are happening around society like the pandemic, the politics, the economy, so on and so forth, but I also believe that during these times people are acting not as they normally would,” Warshaw said.

The commission voted 4-1 on Nov. 16 to impose a mask mandate, with several exceptions.

Ford County, where Dodge City is located, has recorded 4,914 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to the state health department. The county has about 33,600 residents.

Vote on Boise mask mandate fails as hundreds protest

BOISE, Idaho — A proposed public health order that would have included a mask mandate for Idaho’s most populated region was voted down on Tuesday as hundreds of protesters again gathered outside the Central District Health building in Boise.

A previous attempt to vote on the order was abruptly halted last week after Boise city police asked the board to end the meeting early amid protest-related safety fears.

During Tuesday’s meeting, three board members from Elmore, Valley and Boise counties — the more rural counties in the region — all voted against the mask mandate, saying they’d heard from constituents who were deeply opposed to the rule. But three board members from Ada County — the most populated county in the state — were in favor of the mask mandate, noting that Boise-area hospitals are reaching capacity because of an influx of COVID-19 patients, including many who are coming from neighboring counties.

The order lacked the required majority to pass.

CDC predicts 60,000 more deaths by January

Maryland activates National Guard to help with vaccine distribution

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan reactivated the state National Guard on Tuesday to help officials distribute the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The guard will help provide logistical support as more inoculations become available to create mobile clinics, the governor's office said. Maryland has been given an initial allocation of 155,000 doses of vaccines, which will be dedicated to health care workers in hospitals and nursing home residents and staff.

"I want to assure the people of Maryland that we will get through this together and that every single day, as we vaccinate more and more people and we continue to fight this virus with everything we’ve got, will bring us that much closer to victory over this deadly virus," Hogan said.

Watch: National Cathedral tolls bell 300 times for 300,000 Covid victims

State Department to receive first Covid vaccines this week

WASHINGTON — The State Department will be receiving its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, according to internal agency communications obtained by NBC News. 

The “very limited number,” of the vaccines received by the department in the first tranche will be administered to a small prioritized group of staff undertaking “mission critical” work, according to an email sent to employees Tuesday by Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao. He did not say how many doses would be immediately available to diplomats, but noted more would arrive “incrementally over the next several months.”

Frontline medical personnel are among those first to receive the vaccine as well as State Department employees serving on the frontlines in Kabul, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq and Mogadishu, Somalia, where poor healthcare systems put them even more at risk. Diplomatic Security agents in Washington, D.C. performing critical operations and coming into close contact with the Secretary of State will also be a priority for vaccinations.

Read more at NBCNews.com.