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Congress passes coronavirus relief bill, but Trump criticizes deal

President Donald Trump had been expected to sign the bill in days, but he then called for bigger payments. He didn't directly say he would veto it.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading the Coronavirus liveblog from Dec. 23, 2020.

The United States on Tuesday saw more Covid-19 deaths than ever before, a grim milestone in a month that has seen records set and then surpassed.

Across the country, 3,350 Covid-19 deaths were reported, according to NBC News' tally. The previous highest number of deaths reported in a single day was Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump criticized a massive Covid-19 relief package that had just been passed by Congress.

Trump said in a video that he wanted the bill to be amended to increase the $600 direct payment to $2,000, as well as other changes. Trump didn't explicitly say he would veto it, but his remarks suggested that he might.

Students thank professors in Zoom classes for 'keeping our spirits high' during pandemic

Students from The College of New Jersey, York University, and Chapman University surprised their professors during Zoom classes to thank them for their work during a challenging year.


i’m crying and you are. high key gonna miss him so much, he was so nice🥺 #fyp #professor #appreciationpost #university #education #crying

♬ original sound - Arielle

Prof. Mario Di Paolantonio of York University in Toronto, where he's been an educator for over 20 years, spent time reworking his in-person coursework for online learning due to the pandemic and found this surprise by his Educational Studies students to be "a real gift."

"I think there was this feeling of thanks, not just to me, but for the whole thing that we managed to do, that we we did something educational, in spite of it all," Di Paolantonio, 55, told NBC News. "Very difficult conditions, you know, with people being in their own homes, with some having childcare issues as well, and other things...but they committed they got through it, we got through it."

Kaitlyn Gong, a student at Chapman University in Southern California — taking classes remotely from Oakland — said learning virtually was "not easy at all" for her first semester. She credits Prof. James Brown for pushing her to succeed and was among the students who surprised him over his Zoom class to thank him. "And he's done such a great job at keeping our spirits high," Gong, 18, told NBC News

"Sometimes when you get to the end of the semester, and you give your last lecture, students will stand up and applaud or something like that," Brown, 71, told NBC News. "That's very moving too, but this is, you know, it's a different format for some who’ve been teaching in this format. And so holding up the signs, yeah, was unique."

Covid vaccine could be adjusted for mutations, BioNTech CEO says

Holiday church gathering in North Carolina leads to 97 Covid cases and counting

A holiday celebration at a church in a small town in North Carolina has led to 97 Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday morning, and this number is expected to grow in the coming days, a spokesperson for the local health department told TODAY.

The gathering took place at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, located south of Asheville, over the Dec. 5 weekend and was a multi-day event, according to a statement from the Henderson County Department of Public Health and its communications manager, Andrew Mundhenk. As of Dec. 17, the county had linked 75 cases to the event, and the health department is still working to identify close contacts of attendees.

Of the confirmed 97 cases, all are among attendees, Mundhenk said. The health department is not aware of any deaths at this time. However, "some cases" from the event have resulted in hospitalizations, Mundhenk said. The health department did not have specifics on how many.

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Biden assures his Covid relief plan will include more stimulus checks

Man who fell ill on United flight from Florida died of Covid-19, coroner confirms

Covid-19 caused the death of a traveler who fell ill aboard a flight from Florida to California last week, Louisiana authorities said Tuesday.

Jefferson Parish coroners listed "acute respiratory failure" and "Covid-19" as causes of death for Isaias Hernandez, a 69-year-old Los Angeles resident.

Hernandez had been aboard a westbound United Airlines flight from Orlando to Los Angeles last Monday. After falling ill, two fellow travelers — a nurse and EMT — performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him, witnesses said.

The flight was diverted to New Orleans and Hernandez died that night at a hospital in Kenner, Louisiana, according to the coroner's report.

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What scientists still want to know about the new coronavirus variant in the U.K.

new variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom has sparked alarm across the globe, but scientists say there is still much to learn about whether these changes to the virus make it more infectious.

The variant, called B.1.1.7., has a handful of mutations in its genetic code. Some of these mutations slightly alter the virus’s so-called spike protein, which allows it to bind to and infect cells. These alterations to the spike protein could potentially make the virus spread easier.

But whether the new variant is in fact more transmissible is a major question for scientists.

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Birx addresses reports about Thanksgiving travel, says she will retire soon

In a new interview with Newsy TV, White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks out following an Associated Press report about her Thanksgiving travel.

Asked whether she intends to stay working in the government in the incoming Biden administration, Birx said that she will be “helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire.”

Though she didn’t name the AP report directly, Birx highlighted “what was done in the last week to my family.” She said that she intends to “be helpful through a period of time,” but added that “this experience has been a bit overwhelming, it’s been very difficult on my family.”

As the AP reported earlier this week, Birx, who had before the holidays urged Americans to limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” traveled to her Delaware vacation home over Thanksgiving weekend with several family members.

"They've tried to be supportive, but to drag my family into this, when it's my daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months ... These are all very difficult things," she told Newsy.

European Union throws isolated Britain a lifeline over coronavirus border closures

BRUSSELS — The European Union executive threw Britain a lifeline on Tuesday after it became stranded in Covid-19 isolation, recommending that E.U. members roll-back sweeping border closures to allow freight to resume and people to return home for Christmas.

Much of the world shut their borders to Britain after a mutated variant of the coronavirus was discovered spreading swiftly across southern England, halting a chunk of trade with the rest of Europe and leaving truckers stranded.

With lines of trucks snaking to the horizon in Kent, England, and supermarket shelves stripped just days before Christmas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to get French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain.

Johnson and his advisers said the mutated variant of the virus, which could be up to 70 percent more transmissible, was spreading rapidly but that it had been identified because British scientists were efficient at genomic surveillance.

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Massachusetts implements stricter Covid-19 rules

Governor Charlie Baker announced additional Covid-19 restrictions in Massachusetts on Tuesday as the state continues to fight a rising case load.

The new rules, which go into effect the day after Christmas, limit indoor capacity at restaurants, performance venues, gyms, personal services, and other businesses to 25 percent. Indoor gatherings will also be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors.

The governor also announced further guidelines on elective surgeries, telling hospitals "to postpone or cancel all nonessential inpatient elective invasive procedures in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity," beginning on Saturday.

Massachusetts has recorded more than 327,000 cases of Covid-19, including more than 11,700 deaths, according to an NBC News tally.

Antarctica sees first coronavirus cases after 36 people reportedly test positive

Antarctica, as of last week, was the only continent on the planet free of the coronavirus.

But that appears to have changed after 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base tested positive for the virus, according to local media reports.

Twenty-six members of the Chilean military and 10 maintenance workers stationed at the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme in the Antarctic Peninsula tested positive, authorities told the Chilean news program 24 Horas.

The reports did not specify when coronavirus was detected in the 36 people.

The Chilean Antarctic Institute did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.