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As vaccine rollouts continue across the United States and other economically advanced nations, health leaders are sounding the alarm for the developing world, which could have to wait months or years for enough shots to achieve herd immunity.
The U.S. death toll has now passed 300,000, while more than 200,000 infections have been recorded in one day.
- 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.
France's Macron tests positive for coronavirus
The Élysée Palace, Macron's official residence, confirmed the news in a statement that said he was tested as soon as his symptoms appeared. All his planned trips have been cancelled, including a trip to Lebanon.
U.S. sees deadliest day of pandemic yet with nearly 3,300 deaths
The U.S. on Wednesday saw its highest numbers yet of the pandemic, setting records for both the number of new cases and deaths.
Across the nation, 232,086 Covid-19 cases were reported, with 3,293 deaths, according to NBC News' count.
The previous single-day records for both reported cases and reported deaths was Dec. 10, which was last week.
By Thursday morning, the number of cases in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic passed 17 million, according to NBC News' count. More than 308,000 people have died.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt tests positive
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday tested positive for Covid-19, a spokesman for the department said.
Bernhardt is currently asymptomatic, spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said, adding that Bernhardt "will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine."
The Washington Post first reported that Bernhardt tested positive. The newspaper reported that Bernhardt was tested for the coronavirus before President Donald Trump held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, and that Bernhardt did not attend that meeting.
Cash-strapped ambulance services to receive federal aid
Private ambulance companies will finally receive a sizable sum of federal aid after riding along the edge of a fiscal cliff since the beginning of the pandemic, putting the nation's ability to respond to 911 calls at risk.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it would provide $24.5 billion to more than 70,000 health care providers nationwide, including $1.48 billion for cash-strapped ambulance services as the nation faces another surge in coronavirus cases.
The HHS funding comes mere weeks after NBC News first reported that the American Ambulance Association sent a letter to HHS warning “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.”
Pence to publicly receive Covid vaccine on Friday, Biden as soon as next week
Vice President Mike Pence will publicly receive a Covid-19 vaccine on Friday while President-elect Joe Biden is expected to get a shot as soon as next week.
Pence, who is the head of the White House coronavirus task force, is hoping to "promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people," the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.
His wife, Karen Pence, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams will receive the vaccine at Friday's event, set to take place at the White House.
Biden meanwhile is expected to receive the vaccine as soon as next week, a transition official tells NBC News.
“I don’t want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take,” Biden told reporters earlier Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware. “When I do it, I’ll do it publicly so you can all witness my getting it done.”
Los Angeles County reports staggering 22,000 new cases
Los Angeles County public health officials announced a staggering 22,422 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, nearly doubling the number of confirmed cases reported the previous day and accounting for almost half of the state's new cases.
Public health officials begged residents to follow the county's guidelines, including not gathering with people outside their household even during the holiday season.
"Every hour, on average, 2 people are dying of COVID-19 in LA County. These are our neighbors, friends, and family members," the county's health department tweeted. "Our actions today can prevent more suffering. Cancel your holiday plans. Protect each other."
Earlier in the day, state public health officials announced 54,000 new coronavirus cases across California. Worsening numbers in the San Francisco Bay Area and a shortage of beds in intensive care units triggered a stay-at-home order for many Northern California counties.
Outbreak sickens staffers at county health department in Arizona
A county health official in Arizona tested positive for Covid-19 after an apparent outbreak within the department.
Dr. Theresa Cullen, the health director for Pima County, tested positive on Tuesday, the county announced Wednesday. The apparent outbreak infected 11 employees, it said, adding that all staff members who work at the main building were being offered testing and would work remotely while the location was being cleaned.
“This just goes to prove that when there is substantial community spread of the virus like we’re experiencing now throughout the County, the virus can get into your homes and places of work any number of ways no matter how vigilant you are being with your precautions,” said County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia in a news release.
Protesters held a demonstration at the health department last Thursday over its Covid-19 measures. Many of the participants were not wearing masks and came in close contact with staff members, the department said.
Contact tracers have not determined the source of the outbreak, and the county said at least one health department employee had tested positive before the protest.
Roughly 300 Pima County employees have contacted Covid-19 since February, and more than 60 of those cases have occurred in just the past two weeks, according to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. More than 8,000 Pima County residents have tested positive for the virus in the past week, according to county testing data.
Tyson fires 7 managers at Iowa plant after virus betting investigation
Tyson Foods terminated seven managers from an Iowa pork plant following an independent investigation into allegations that they wagered on how many workers would get infected with Covid-19, the meat processing giant announced Wednesday.
All of those fired worked at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa.
The wagering allegations stem from a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of deceased Tyson Foods Inc. employee Isidro Fernandez. It stated that management did not do enough to protect employees while Covid-19 rapidly spread through the plant in early April.
According to the suit, 1,000 of 2,800 employees at the Waterloo plant were infected.
Health experts warn of potential Covid-19 vaccine scam phone calls
Public health officials are warning of scammers who promise early access to the vaccine for people who hand over their Social Security Number to callers.
“If you're receiving unsolicited offers for a vaccine — not one, not two, but about 10 red flags should go up,” Nenette Day, assistant special agent in charge at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, told NBC News. “There is no way that you under any circumstance should deal with anybody except a known and reputable medical provider or pharmacy,” Day added.
If consumers receive a call they suspect is fraudulent, the first step is to hang up. If the call is from a legitimate health care provider, consumers should match the number listed on the back of their health insurance card to the caller ID.
Study: 69% of undocumented immigrant workers 'essential' to fighting virus
WASHINGTON — More than two-thirds of undocumented immigrant workers have frontline jobs considered "essential" to the U.S. fight against Covid-19, according to a new study released Wednesday by pro-immigration reform group FWD.US.
Sixty-nine percent of undocumented immigrant workers have jobs deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the study, which is based on the 2019 American Community Survey by the Census Bureau. The study also estimated that nearly one in five essential workers is an immigrant.
By contrast, the Trump administration has argued that protecting American jobs against foreign workers is crucial to fixing the economic harm caused by Covid-19.
107-year-old Minnesota woman survives Covid-19
A Minnesota centenarian recovered from Covid-19 after contracting the virus in November.
Tillie Dybing, who turned 107 over the summer and lives in a nursing home in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, has survived not just one, but two viral pandemics. She was five years old when the 1918 flu pandemic hit her hometown in North Dakota, sickening her parents.
“My folks got sick and they were in bed, and I'd run into the bed and my dad said, ‘Can't you find another place to run,’” Dybing told NBC News affiliate KARE.
Her family was worried when she contracted Covid-19 in the fall because her age put her at high risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.
“We were really concerned and though, ‘well, this is probably it,’” her daughter Susan Berke told KARE.
But after two weeks of fatigue and no severe symptoms, Dybing, who also survived uterine cancer at 95, was moved out of quarantine after fully recovering from the virus.
“I thought, well, if the time has come that I have to leave, then I will go, but I'm still here,” Dybing told KARE.
Arizona World War II veteran among first in state to get Covid vaccine
FDA authorizes at-home Covid-19 test with prescription
The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization on Wednesday to an at-home Covid-19 test that people can use with a prescription.
The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test, developed by Abbott and eMed, is an antigen test, which is designed to detect fragments of viral proteins that trigger an immune response in the body.
For people who are 15 years or older, the test uses a self-collected nasal swab sample that is analyzed through a smartphone app under the supervision of an eMed telehealth provider. For patients younger than 15, the FDA recommends that an adult perform the nasal swab. Test results can be delivered in approximately 20 minutes, according to eMed.
The test correctly identified 91.7 percent of positive samples and 100 percent of negative samples in people with symptoms, but Abbott said results from four investigational sites are still being analyzed.
The tests will cost $25, and 30 million kits are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2021, with an additional 90 million tests available in the second quarter, according to Abbott.
On Tuesday, the FDA authorized a separate at-home Covid-19 test that does not need a prescription. That antigen test, developed by Ellume, will also be available in January.
Two tech groups say they’ll merge efforts on digital vaccine cards
Two groups of technologists said Wednesday they were combining their work to speed up the development of digital vaccine cards, so that people may eventually be able to use a smartphone app to prove they’ve gotten a Covid-19 vaccine.
Digital vaccine certificates, or passports, are expected to be in demand next year as a possible requirement for international air travel or in-person gatherings. They would be an electronic version of the paper-based “yellow cards” that have been around for decades, but they’re not a reality yet because of complications around privacy and interoperability.
One of the tech groups, the Linux Foundation Public Health, was involved in earlier efforts to roll out pandemic-related apps that alert users when they’ve been exposed to someone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus. The foundation said it would host the work of the other group, the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative, which sprung up this year specifically to work on digital vaccine cards.
The two groups plan to work with public health authorities on challenges including the ethics of digital vaccine cards, said Lucy Yang, co-lead of the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative.
Twitter to remove false vaccine conspiracy theory tweets
Twitter announced on Wednesday it would remove false or misleading claims about Covid-19 vaccines. The move follows similar actions by YouTube in October and Facebook in December.
Twitter said it would remove tweets that advance “harmful or misleading narratives,” including false claims about the vaccines that have been “widely debunked about the adverse impacts of receiving vaccinations” and false claims that Covid-19 is “not real or not serious.”
The changes will begin until next week, and the company will also ban tweets about global conspiracy theories that suggest vaccines are “used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations.”
Conspiracy theories around Covid-19 vaccines have spread unabated on social media since the summer, according to a recent report from First Draft, a global nonprofit organization that researches online misinformation. Vaccine-related conspiracy content accounted for some 10 percent of total vaccine posts, according to the report.
Anti-vaccination groups have created organized campaigns since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, some claiming outlandish global conspiracies about secret societies and microchips. The conspiracy theories have gone wildly viral on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, including the repeatedly debunked viral video “Plandemic,” which took off due to coordinated cross-promotion by anti-vaccine groups that existed well before the pandemic.
'Don't be afraid': In Puerto Rico, respiratory therapist gets first Covid vaccine
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico— A respiratory therapist who treated the first two COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Puerto Rico became the first person in the U.S. territory to be vaccinated against the virus on Tuesday.
Yahaira Alicea had treated an Italian couple who visited the island aboard a cruise ship in March. The woman later died. Alicea said it was a fearful moment for her that wore her down physically and emotionally as she urged everyone to get vaccinated.
“This is what we want, for this pandemic to end,” Alicea said. “Don’t be afraid.”
A health official approached Alicea with the needle as both smiled: “Let’s make history.”
California police department held superspreader event, community groups say
California police agency after dozens of its maskless officers gathered under one roof and stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna and other top department brass "knowingly and willfully" organized "a super spreader event," the People of Long Beach and Long Beach Reform Coalition said in a complaint to the city's Citizen Police Complaint Commission.
"Not only was the assembly a violation of Health Department mandates but also a direct contradiction and demonstration of impunity that countered Mayor Robert Garcia's pleas" for "all persons, including city employees to practice social distancing and wear masks," according to the groups' complaint, filed on Monday.
Direct cash payments under consideration as lawmakers near Covid aid deal
WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and the White House are nearing agreement on a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that will likely include a new round of direct payments, three sources familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday.
The emerging package will include enhanced federal jobless benefits, small business funding and money to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. The dollar amount of the stimulus payments has not yet been determined — some aides said it could be $600-per-person while others said it may be higher.
Negotiators have not yet settled on an income cap for the direct payments, as was done for the previous round of payments approved in March.
The proposal, which is still being finalized and does not have leadership agreement, is not expected to include liability protections for employers or state or local funding, two sticking points in negotiations that prevented Congress from passing meaningful Covid-19 legislation for months.
Operation Warp Speed: Covid-19 vaccine deliveries on track
An additional 886 shipments of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine are scheduled for delivery to health care systems nationwide on Thursday and Friday, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, said during a media briefing Wednesday.
Together with deliveries that have already been distributed, a total of 1,522 shipments of the vaccine will have been shipped in the first week. Each shipment contains about 1,000 doses.
Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, each shipment has a temperature monitoring system. Perna said that while most shipments have gone smoothly, a few boxes sent to California and Alabama arrived at the incorrect temperature. Those boxes were removed from distribution before any shots could be given and replaced.
The first doses of the vaccine have gone to health care workers. Several states are now starting vaccinations in long-term care facilities, or will be doing so imminently. They are Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and West Virginia. By Monday, 1,110 long-term care facilities are anticipated to have the vaccine, with thousands more long-term care facilities added daily, Perna said.
Pompeo in quarantine after close contact with Covid-positive person
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in quarantine after he came into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday.
"For reasons of privacy we can’t identify that individual," the spokesperson said. "The Secretary has been tested and is negative. In accordance with CDC guidelines, he will be in quarantine."
Pompeo has come under scrutiny for hosting indoor holiday parties at the State Department, flouting CDC guidelines about limiting gatherings due to the pandemic. He had previously been expected to host similar such receptions on Tuesday and Wednesday, though it's unclear if those were canceled.
The spokesperson said Pompeo is being closely monitored by the department's medical team.
Covid-19 vaccines are being hoarded by rich countries — poor ones are missing out
LONDON — Lost among the jubilation of America's vaccine rollout this week is an uncomfortable reality: The world's poorest countries will have to wait months and possibly years to see any doses at all.
The U.S., Canada, Britain and the European Union have pre-ordered enough Covid-19 shots to inoculate their populations several times over, subject to regulatory approvals.
In this critical game of medicine logistics — where supply is small but demand immediate and universal — campaigners and some officials accuse these wealthy nations of snapping up orders and hoarding more than they need.
The People's Vaccine Alliance, a collaboration between several aid groups including Oxfam and Amnesty International, has said that unless drastic measures are taken nearly 70 poor countries will be unable to vaccinate 90 percent of their populations next year.
Restaurants worry bipartisan coronavirus deal is cutting them out
The White House and congressional leaders are nearing the finish line on a bipartisan Covid-19 relief deal. But they’re running up against objections from a coalition of restaurants who argue the emerging plan will leave them without enough aid to get through the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group of chefs and owners formed to advocate for aid during the pandemic, has been decrying the emerging proposal throughout the last month as insufficient. Instead they’re urging Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide $120 billion in grants to smaller bars and restaurants to make up revenue lost due to coronavirus.
On paper, their task should be easy. Lawmakers of both parties are eager to back aid for local bars and restaurants. The bill has 50 sponsors in the Senate and over 200 in the House. Over 160 members sent a letter to House and Senate leaders earlier this month, including other members of leadership like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asking for it to be included in relief talks.
"If Mitch McConnell brought this to the floor this would pass easily,” Tom Colicchio, the Top Chef judge, restaurateur, and IRC co-founder, told NBC News. "Easily.”
Retail sales plunged in November, as shoppers stayed home amid rising Covid cases
Retail sales fell for a second straight month in November, likely weighed down by raging new Covid-19 infections and decreasing household income, adding to growing signs of a slowdown in the economy's recovery from the pandemic recession.
Retail sales dropped 1.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. Data for October was revised down to show sales falling 0.1 percent instead of climbing 0.3 percent as previously reported. October's decrease was the first since April, when stringent measures to control the first wave of coronavirus cases crippled the economy.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales declined 0.5 percent last month. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.
Viral 'Dreams' TikTok star tests positive for Covid
Nathan Apodaca — the man who went viral on TikTok after skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" — has tested positive for Covid-19.
Apodaca, who lives in Idaho, announced his positive diagnosis on Tuesday in an Instagram post, asking for prayers. The TikToker has been traveling to and from Los Angeles working on multiple projects since his rise to fame, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He followed up his announcement with a video of himself gleefully dancing to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
U.S. dips below 200,000 cases for first time in a week
The U.S. recorded 176,668 Covid-19 cases Tuesday, dipping below 200,000 for the first time in a week with December's lowest case count.
The country reported 2,956 deaths, according to NBC News' tally. The CDC has predicted up to 60,000 Americans could die of the disease from now until the beginning of January.
These states reported single-day death records Tuesday:
- Missouri, 240 dead
- Oregon, 53 dead
- West Virginia, 34 dead