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Covid live updates: Latest on rising cases and the Covid-19 stimulus package

The relief deal struck Sunday includes checks of up to $600 a person based on income,

Congress struck a deal Sunday on a nearly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package that includes a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

The agreement includes stimulus checks of up to $600 a person based on income, a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week, over $284 billion more in loans for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, vaccine distribution funds and $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools. It also includes the Democrats' priority of $25 billion in rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

The agreement was expected to be reached earlier in the week but hit a roadblock after some Republicans demanded an end to Federal Reserve authorities over emergency lending. Democrats pushed back, accusing the GOP of seeking to sabotage the economy overseen by incoming President Joe Biden.

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Mental health care resources stretched thin during pandemic

In a year of more than 300,000 deaths from a pandemic, job insecurity, a looming eviction crisis and a renewed focus on racial injustice, mental health has been pushed into the public discourse across the country.

Politicians have implemented new strategies to acknowledge disparities in quality of care for people seeking health providers and have attempted to address mental health through policy. But questions remain as to whether systems will change enough to normalize mental health care following a year of collective trauma.

In June, an estimated 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with some form of mental health or substance abuse issues, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in August. There was a threefold increase in adults reporting anxiety and four times the reports of feelings of depression compared to the same time the year before, the CDC found.

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More European Union nations ban travel from U.K.

BERLIN — A growing list of European Union nations barred travel from the U.K. on Sunday and others were considering similar action, in a bid to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from spreading to the continent.

France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on U.K. travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be canceled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

Johnson immediately placed those regions under a strict new Tier 4 restriction level, upending Christmas plans for millions.

France banned all travel from the U.K. for 48 hours from midnight Sunday, including trucks carrying freight through the tunnel under the English Channel or from the port of Dover on England's south coast.

French officials said the pause would buy time to find a “common doctrine” on how to deal with the threat, but it threw the busy cross-channel route used by thousands of trucks a day into chaos.

Hospital staffs stretched thin during California virus surge

LOS ANGELES — Medical staffing is stretched increasingly thin as California hospitals scramble to find beds for patients amid an explosion of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm the state's emergency care system.

On Sunday, more than 16,840 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections — more than double the previous peak reached in July. A state model that uses current data to forecast future trends shows the number could reach 75,000 by mid-January.

More than 3,610 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units. All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have exhausted their regular ICU capacity, and some hospitals have begun using “surge” space. Overall, the state’s ICU capacity was just 2.1% on Sunday.

The enormous crush of cases in the last six weeks has California’s death toll spiraling ever higher. An additional o 161 fatalities were reported Sunday for a total of 22,593.

Many hospitals are preparing for the possibility of rationing care. A document recently circulated among doctors at the four hospitals run by Los Angeles County calls for them to shift strategy: Instead of trying everything to save a life, their goal during the crisis is to save as many patients as possible. That means those less likely to survive won’t get the same kind of care offered in normal times.

Congress reaches deal on $900 billion Covid-19 relief package

WASHINGTON — After months of stalemate, Congress struck a deal on a nearly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package that includes a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

"More help is on the way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday evening on the Senate floor. "Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and the House finalized an agreement."

The agreement includes more stimulus checks, a federal unemployment insurance bonus, more money for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, vaccine distribution funds and funding for schools.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the package beginning later Sunday or Monday.

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CDC advisory group: Older adults, frontline essential workers to get Covid vaccine next

People ages 75 and up and frontline essential workers will be next in line to receive Covid-19 vaccines, according to recommendations from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee.

On Sunday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted in favor of the recommendations, which will go on to the CDC for final sign off.

The new proposal comes less than a week after the first Covid-19 vaccines went out to health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities across the country. That group is referred to as phase 1a. The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to two Covid-19 vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

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What scientists know about the coronavirus variant spreading in the U.K.

Several European countries have banned flights from the U.K. over fears about new coronavirus variant that has forced millions of people in Britain to cancel their Christmas plans.

Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy all announced restrictions on U.K. travel. Others will likely follow suit as scientists warned the new strain spread more quickly than its predecessor.

With U.K. infection levels rising rapidly, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Saturday news conference that London and the U.K.'s southeast would be put under the strictest lockdown rules, known as "Tier 4."

As a result, nonessential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close for two weeks, while people will be restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

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Sen. McConnell: 'We appear to be just hours away' from Covid relief bill

Thailand to test over 10,000 people after record COVID-19 surge

Thailand plans to test more than 10,000 people after a record daily surge in coronavirus cases to over 500, most of which were among migrant workers linked to a shrimp market near the capital, an official said on Sunday.

By Wednesday the authorities aim to conduct 10,300 tests in the southwest province of Samut Sakhon, where the outbreak appeared, and other nearby provinces, a spokesman for Thailand's Covid-19 taskforce, told a news conference.

"Active case findings will continue in several provinces, actually across the country," he said.

Thailand, the first country outside China to report coronavirus infections, has largely kept the outbreak under control with 4,907 cases and 60 deaths.

Fauci tells kids not to worry, he gave Santa Claus the Covid-19 vaccine

Worried children can rest easy after the nation’s leading infectious disease expert assured them on Saturday that Santa Claus has gotten a Covid-19 vaccine.

The world’s most famed gift-giver will be safe to travel around the world on Christmas Eve, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci was answering questions from children during a Sesame Street town hall with CNN when the concern arose.

“Will Santa still be able to visit me in coronavirus this season,” 6-year-old Paxton from Illinois asked. “What if he can’t go to anyone’s house or near his reindeer?”

“I took a trip up there to the North Pole,” Fauci said. “I went there and I vaccinated Santa Claus myself. I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go...Santa Claus is good to go.”

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First shipments of Moderna vaccine roll out, a new weapon in U.S. Covid-19 response

Distribution for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine began on Sunday, just two days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use.

Moderna’s vaccine distribution means the U.S. now has two vaccines in its arsenal to fight the pandemic that has infected more than 17.7 million Americans and claimed more than 317,000 lives.

McKesson, a healthcare supply chain management company, is shipping the vaccine around the country from its distribution centers in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and outside of Louisville, Kentucky.

It began filling its first orders on Sunday, including the vaccine and ancillary supply kits needed to administer the shot. The company said their initial deliveries, at the U.S. government's direction, should arrive by Monday.

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