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Dec. 17 Coronavirus updates: Total reported U.S. cases top 17 million

Congressional leaders and the White House near agreement on a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief deal.
Image: A medical worker reads a poem to Daniel Kim, 48, as he leaves St. Jude Medical Center after five months after surviving the coronavirus disease in Fullerton
A medical worker reads a poem to Daniel Kim, 48, as he leaves St. Jude Medical Center after five months hospitalized with Covid-19 in Fullerton, California on Wednesday.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

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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.

It comes as the U.S. experienced the deadliest day of the pandemic yet, with nearly 3,300 deaths. The country also set a record for the highest number of recorded cases in one day with 232,086 Covid-19 cases recorded.

Early Thursday, the total number of cases reported in the U.S. topped 17 million, according to NBC News' count. More than 308,000 people have died.

Southern California ICU beds at 0 percent capacity

Intensive care unit bed capacity is down to 0 percent in Southern California, the state's most populous region, public health officials warned Thursday. 

ICU capacity in the San Joaquin Valley is also down to dangerously low levels - 0.7 percent as of Thursday. In Northern California, about 25 percent of ICU beds are open. In the Bay Area, where capacity is at 13 percent. 

State public health officials also announced that California is steadily creeping towards 2 million cases as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the state. It currently has 1,723,362 confirmed cases.

Coca-Cola slashes U.S. workforce 12%

The Coca-Cola Co. is cutting 2,200 jobs globally, including 1,200 in the U.S and 500 in their home state of Georgia, a spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.

The Atlanta-based company which began the year with over 86,000 employees also expects to reduce nearly 50 percent of its brands.  


“The pandemic was not a cause for these changes, but is has been a catalyst for the company to move faster,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson told NBC News.

The reductions affect both corporate and operating unit positions, but not employees of its bottlers.

Washington state Covid-19 vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 percent next week, governor says

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that the state's Covid-19 vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 percent next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed Washington officials of the downsize in coronavirus vaccines without any explanation, according to Inslee who called it "disruptive and frustrating."

"Our state remains committed to getting all doses we are allocated out to healthcare providers and into the arms of Washingtonians. While we push for answers, that commitment will not change," Inslee said on Twitter. 

Front-line workers in Phoenix receive Covid-19 vaccine at drive-thru location

Health care workers and first responders started to receive Covid-19 vaccines at a drive-thru location in Phoenix on Thursday. HonorHealth Medical, a nonprofit hospital system, is organizing the rollout and has the capacity to vaccinate 1,000 people a day. In 21 days, the front-line workers will return to the site to receive their second dose. 

“This is quite a collaboration among healthcare organizations and state and local health agencies to identify the right health care workers and first responders, and get thousands of people signed up,” said Dr. Richard Gray, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Empty stores in New Jersey to be used as vaccination centers

Empty Kmart and Sears stores in New Jersey will be converted into vaccination centers when the vaccine arrives in the state, according to the Essex County Executive office.

A vacant Sears store at the Livingston Mall and A Kmart store in West Orange are among five sites in Essex County that have been designated as vaccine distribution centers.

The Sears store at Livingston Mall, which is owned by Simon Property, closed earlier this year. The West Orange Kmart closed in February. Transformco, which owns both Sears and Kmart, did not respond to an NBC News request for comment.

Amazon asks CDC to prioritize vaccines for many of its workers

Amazon, the country’s second largest employer, is pushing for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize its workers for receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

The e-commerce giant requested its fulfillment center, data center and Whole Foods Markets workers receive the vaccine “at the earliest appropriate time,” according to a letter sent to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

Amazon is one of dozens of companies, including DoorDash and Uber, who are lobbying for their employee ranks to be among the first to receive the vaccine.

Lord Speaker of U.K. House of Lords gets vaccinated

Giants offensive coordinator sidelined by positive Covid-19 test

New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett watches workouts before a game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 11, 2020.Michael Ainsworth / AP file

New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the team's next game, the football club announced on Thursday.

The team also said it is contract tracing and will not practice on Thursday: "At this point, there appear to be no high risk close contacts. We are awaiting confirmation from the league. Out of an abundance of caution, the Giants will meet remotely and will not practice today." 

Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will call plays Sunday when the Giants host the Cleveland Browns in a prime time game televised by NBC.

Garrett is best known for working 10 years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Giants staff earlier this year.   

The CDC banned evictions for those affected by Covid. Why are tenants being thrown out on the street?

The day before Thanksgiving, Steve Cowley, a beverage salesman, was at home in Pensacola, Florida, when someone started pounding on the front door. It was the county sheriff serving an eviction notice.

Cowley, 36, had nowhere to go. Out of work because of Covid-19 and behind on his rent, he was doing his best to survive on $275-a-week unemployment checks. His car had been repossessed, he said, so he could not live in it, a common refuge for evicted tenants.

The sheriff's visit surprised Cowley because he'd provided the county court with documentation required under the federal eviction moratorium issued in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ban aimed to let renters affected by Covid stay in their homes, even if they couldn’t pay their landlords.

But Patricia Kinsey, the only judge hearing eviction cases in Escambia County, where Pensacola sits, ordered Cowley out of his home, documents show. Kinsey sided with a lawyer for Cowley's landlord, a big Canadian company that owns 19,000 rental units in North America, who’d argued that the CDC order was unconstitutional. Agreeing with the landlord’s lawyer, Kinsey ruled that the CDC moratorium represented an "unlawful taking" by the U.S. government of landlords’ private property — rental income.

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Covid job losses devastate domestic workers, who are largely unseen

Judith Bautista found out she was out of a job in June when a moving truck pulled into the home of the family she worked for during the past eight years.

“They tell me they buy a mansion in another state,” Bautista said, “and from one day to another one, they say ‘that's it, you don't have a job.'"

Bautista, 36, the family's nanny, has been a domestic worker in New York City ever since she immigrated from Puebla, Mexico, at the age of 17. She specializes in caring for children and teens with special needs.

Like many other domestic workers, her job came to an end when her employer decided to move out of the city due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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