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Coronavirus vaccines are not being given as quickly as projected

The president had been expected to sign the bill, 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 Jan. 4, 2021.

With only nine days to go, it's unlikely the U.S. will meet the original goal of having 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the year, members of the White House's Operation Warp Speed have said.

"The process of immunizations — shots in arms — is happening slower than we thought it would be," Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said during a media briefing Wednesday.

The news came after President Donald Trump threw a wrench into the massive year-end spending and coronavirus relief bill, leaving the country on edge as the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections loom over the holiday season.

If Trump doesn't sign the bill, it will likely delay Americans getting any checks, shut the government down and allow some other coronavirus relief programs to expire.



Russia counts 29,900 new cases, a daily high

Russian authorities reported 29,935 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily spike in the pandemic.

This is nearly 2,700 infections more than was registered the previous day. Russia’s total of over 2.9 million remains the fourth-largest coronavirus caseload in the world. The government’s coronavirus task force has also registered more than 53,000 deaths in all.

Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed Covid-19 infections and deaths significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.

Earlier this month, mass vaccination against Covid-19 started in Russia with Sputnik V — a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine that is still undergoing advanced studies among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Russia has been widely criticized for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August after it had only been tested on a few dozen people.

Taiwan fines EVA Air $35,000 after pilot blamed for Covid infection

Taiwan's Transport Ministry on Thursday fined EVA Airways Corp T$1 million ($35,000) after the government blamed one of its pilots for a rare locally transmitted case of Covid-19 because he failed to follow disease prevention rules.

Taiwan had until this week not reported domestic transmission since April 12, thanks to early and effective moves to stop the virus, including mass mask wearing and strict quarantines for all arrivals.

But the government was jolted by Tuesday's announcement of the domestic infection of a woman who is a friend of a New Zealand pilot confirmed to have been infected earlier this week having flown routes to the United States.

EVA Air has fired the pilot, who has not been named and is being treated in hospital.

The case has ignited public anger after the government said he had not reported all his contacts and the places he had been, nor worn a face mask in the cockpit when he should have.

Israel imposing third national COVID-19 lockdown

Israel will impose a third national lockdown to fight climbing Covid-19 infections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The curbs will come into effect on Sunday evening and last for 14 days, pending final cabinet approval, a statement from Netanyahu's office said.

The restrictions include the closure of shops, limited public transport, a partial shutdown of schools and a one-kilometer restriction on travel from home, except for commuting to workplaces that remain open and to purchase essential goods.

With regard to Israel's Christian minority, the Health Ministry said that during Christmas, prayers at houses of worship would be limited to gatherings of 10 people in closed spaces and 100 people in open areas.

With a population of nine million, Israel has so far reported more than 385,000 cases of Covid-19 and 3,150 deaths from the virus. On Wednesday, the Health Ministry said it had found four people infected with the new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain.

New virus variant appears to emerge in Nigeria

Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official said Thursday, but he added that further investigation was needed.

The discovery could add to new alarm in the pandemic after similar variants were announced in Britain and South Africa, leading to the swift return of international travel restrictions and other measures just as the world enters a major holiday season.

“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters. He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will be analyzing more samples.

“Give us some time ... it’s still very early,” he said.

The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.

California is first state to record 2 million Covid cases

California has seen more than 2 million Covid-19 cases, becoming the first state to do so late Wednesday, according to NBC News' count.

More than 2,015,960 cases have been confirmed and more than 23,600 people have died across the state since the pandemic began this year. 

California currently has the fasting growing Covid-19 case count in the nation, according to that count. Almost the entire state is under stay-at-home rules. California has averaged more than 43,000 cases a day in the past week, according to NBC News figures.

Florida has had more than 1.2 million cases and Texas has had more than 1.6 million cases, according to NBC News' count.

How the pandemic is impacting kids with special needs

LA mayor's daughter, 9, tests negative for virus week after positive result

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his 9-year-old daughter tested negative for the coronavirus Wednesday, a little more than a week after she tested positive.

Garcetti said he was relieved by the negative test but said for too many households, the outcome has been worse. He shared the result in a video address the same day that saw Los Angeles County break a daily record for reported Covid-19 deaths.

"We know that this emergency is our darkest day, maybe the darkest day in our city's history," Garcetti said.

Los Angeles County's health department on Wednesday reported the highest number of new deaths and hospitalizations since the pandemic began, with 145 deaths and 6,155 people with Covid-19 hospitalized. The share of tests returning as positive has grown to over 16 percent.

Garcetti urged people to cancel any plans to visit loved ones. While there has been positive news about vaccines, the mayor said: "That's no reason to let our guard down. It's no reason for a Christmas wave to build on a Thanksgiving wave that's nearly drowning us already."

An inside look at University of Arkansas basketball's Covid protocols

Colorado begins vaccinating workers in prison system

DENVER — Colorado’s prison system has begun vaccinating its workers as the coronavirus continues to spread in its facilities.

Corrections department spokesperson Annie Skinner said Wednesday that frontline health care workers are the focus of the vaccination effort in state prisons. But she adds that other prison workers have also received shots to avoid wasting any doses whenever there is some left over.

Skinner says other prison workers to be vaccinated so far include those who guard prisoners who are hospitalized and those who transport inmates.

She did not immediately have a tally of how many prison workers have received the shots so far.

California's next senator's top priority is 'Covid, Covid, Covid'

Covid-19 patient kills fellow Covid-19 patient in California hospital, officials say

A man being treated for Covid-19 allegedly killed a fellow Covid-19 patient at a hospital in California last week, officials said.

Jesse Martinez, 37, was arrested and charged with murder, a hate crime enhancement and elder abuse after he allegedly struck his 82-year-old hospital roommate with an oxygen tank on Dec. 17.

Martinez allegedly became upset when the victim began to pray, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The two men were patients at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

Click here to read the full story. 

More than 5 million screened at airports since Friday

In a sign that people are traveling for the Christmas holiday despite warnings around the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 5 million air travelers were screened at airports between Friday and Tuesday.

Transportation Security Administration numbers show that more than 1 million people were screened at airports on Friday for the first time since Nov. 29, which followed Thanksgiving. 

The numbers of people screened each day are far below last year's figures; the decrease generally has been more than by half each day.

Health and other officials in some parts of the country where the virus has been surging have pleaded with people to stay home and not gather.

The AAA said earlier this month that it expected at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to last year’s holiday season but still estimated that as many as 84.5 million Americans may still travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3.

'Slower than expected': Covid vaccines are not being given as quickly as projected

With only nine days to go, it's unlikely the U.S. will meet the original goal of having 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the year, members of Operation Warp Speed said Wednesday.

"That objective is unlikely to be met," Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said during a media briefing Wednesday. "The process of immunizations — shots in arms — is happening slower than we thought it would be."

What Slaoui's team can commit to is the number of doses to be distributed. "We're getting the vaccines out as fast as they are available," Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said during the briefing.

As of Wednesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the past two weeks.

Click here to read the full story. 

Zoom lifting 40-minute call limit on Christmas, New Year holidays

Zoom announced it will be lifting its 40-minute call limit, allowing for unlimited call lengths on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 

“COVID-19 has changed how we live, work, and celebrate in 2020, and like everything else this year, the holiday season doesn’t look the same,” the video conferencing service said in a statement. “Whether coming together on the final day of Hanukkah, celebrating Christmas, ringing in the New Year, or marking the last days of Kwanzaa, those connecting with friends and family won’t get cut short.”

The announcement comes as the U.S. is seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and experts believe upcoming holiday gatherings will lead to a further surge in cases. The CDC has advised Americans to avoid unnecessary travel and to celebrate the holidays only with members of their immediate households. 

Houston-Oklahoma City game postponed after James Harden breaks NBA Covid rules

Los Angeles County hospitals losing control as Covid-19 cases rise

Trump threw a wrench into Covid relief. What could happen next?

President Donald Trump on Tuesday threw a wrench into the massive year-end spending and coronavirus relief bill, leaving the country on edge as the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections loom over the holiday season.

Trump said in a video posted to his Twitter account that the bill passed on Monday contained too many provisions unrelated to the pandemic and complained that the direct payments to Americans were too low.

But if Trump doesn't sign the bill, it will likely delay Americans getting any checks, shut the government down and allow some other coronavirus relief programs to expire.

No one is quite sure how things will play out.

Click here to read the full story. 

U.S. hits milestone: 1M people have gotten first dose of Covid vaccine

More than 1 million people in the United States have received an initial dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, a milestone achieved 10 days after vaccines were first administered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The first approved vaccines in the nation were developed separately by companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and went to health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities. On Sunday, a CDC advisory committee recommended that people ages 75 and older and front-line essential workers be next in line to receive the vaccines.

The growing number of vaccinations comes as the Trump administration said it will buy an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, ensuring that every American who wants to be vaccinated can be by June. This comes on top of the 100 million doses already purchased by the U.S. government.

"There is currently a limited supply of Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S., but supply will increase in the weeks and months to come," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. "The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as large enough quantities are available."

'Covid conga line': Republicans in NYC criticized for maskless holiday dance party

A group of Republicans in New York City came under fire after a viral video showed maskless partygoers dancing in a conga line at a holiday party in Queens.

In the video that was widely circulated on social media, nearly a dozen partygoers — none of whom were wearing a mask — are shown dancing and singing to the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing,” while one man appeared to be holding a flag in support of President Donald Trump.

More than 40 people can be seen dancing on the floor or sitting at a nearby table in the dining room.

Click here to read the full story.

Cuomo: Buffalo Bills propose 6,700 fans allowed to attend playoff game with prior testing

North Carolina couple die from Covid-19 on same day

Image: Doris Knox Pope and Sherwood Lee Pope
Doris Knox Pope and Sherwood Lee Pope.Rose and Graham Funeral Home

Just a week and a half before Christmas, a North Carolina couple married for 61 years died from Covid-19.

Sherwood Lee Pope, 82, a retired maintenance worker, and Doris Knox Pope, 78, a retired furniture upholsterer, of Coats, North Carolina, died on Dec. 14 after being hospitalized for over a week at University of North Carolina Rex Hospital. The couple died side-by-side holding hands, according to an obituary.

Shelton Pope, one of the couple’s three sons, told NBC News affiliate WRAL that his parents started feeling sick the weekend after Thanksgiving. Sherwood and Doris both had underlying health conditions, the family told WRAL, which made them high-risk cases after contracting the virus. 

The couple were originally in separate hospital rooms, but when both took a turn for the worse, hospital staff moved them into the same room, the family said. 

"They agreed to put them in the same room to be beside each other so they could hold hands and just be with each other," Shelton Pope told WRAL. “They were holding hands when they left this world and went to the pearly gates. He left shortly before she did."

North Carolina has reported more than 492,000 cases and over 6,400 deaths from Covid-19, according to an NBC News tally.

First vaccines rolled out to NYC's EMS workers

New York City's emergency medical services workers began lining up for Covid-19 vaccinations Wednesday, a significant undertaking for a department that had seen thousands of members become infected with the coronavirus since March.

Vaccines produced by the biotechnology company Moderna were being distributed to the training headquarters of the EMS and the FDNY Fire Training Academy, both in Queens, and FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn.

"Today has been a long-awaited moment for the EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors who have bravely responded to well over 1 million emergency medical calls this year, all throughout New York City," Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507 in Queens, said in a statement.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics will be vaccinated over the next several days, officials said, and the FDNY anticipates vaccinating 450 people per day at each location. Firefighters will be vaccinated beginning next week.

The FDNY is the largest municipal firefighting department in the U.S., with 4,400 EMS and 11,000 firefighters. The roll out comes as the FDNY announced the death of Evelyn Ford, a 27-year EMS veteran, from Covid-19 and the 12th member of the agency to die after contracting the virus.

L.A. area hospital sets up 'surge tents' as it copes with dramatic patient influx

Confronted with a dramatic influx of Covid-19 patients, a major hospital in Southern California has set up "surge tents" for patients who visit the emergency room but do not have life-threatening conditions.

Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, a city in Los Angeles County, is said to be "bursting at the seams," according to a local report.

The city of Pasadena shared photos of the tents on Twitter:

Actor Kirk Cameron hosts another caroling event to protest California stay-at-home order

Actor Kirk Cameron held another Christmas caroling event outside of a Thousand Oaks, California, mall to protest the governor's stay-at-home order.

The Tuesday night event at The Oaks mall attracted between 75 and 100 mostly maskless people, according to KABC-TV. People of all ages attended, including children and senior citizens.

The "Growing Pains" actor, 50, shared videos of the caroling on his Instagram Story showing a large crowd standing close together and singing "The First Noel."

The mall said it had asked that the event not be held there and slammed it as "irresponsible."

"In regards to the peaceful protest planned for The Oaks this evening, we do not condone this irresponsible — yet constitutionally protected — event. We share your concern and have notified the Sheriff’s office," the mall said in a Facebook statement on Tuesday.

Cameron confirmed to NBC News that he attended the caroling event and stated that all attendees were encouraged to wear masks. He had no further comment.

Click here to read more

Pandemic forces company holiday parties to go virtual

While most companies are canceling their traditional holiday office celebration this year, a quarter of them planned to keep them, and take the office party digital.

Some are going big, with livestreamed music acts, gingerbread house decorating contests, dance competitions and games. Other firms are just having a casual virtual toast.

Just over 5 percent of companies say they're still hosting in-person gatherings, according to a survey. Of them, about 1 percent say they won't make any modifications due to COVID-19.

Families of Covid victims in Italy take government to court

ROME — Five hundred families of coronavirus victims are taking legal action against Italy's regional and national governments, whom they deem responsible for a series of omissions, mistakes and delays during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The families say the national government and regional authorities in the hard-hit Lombardy region were unprepared for the crisis as the virus hit and did not take actions that could have prevented a national lockdown and subsequent economic damage, as well as loss of life.

Italy became one of the early epicenters of the pandemic, with its health care system pushed to the breaking point. Nearly 70,000 people died from coronavirus in Italy so far, the highest fatality count in Europe.

Click here to read the full story.

Weekly jobless claims fall to 803,000 but remain elevated

Weekly initial jobless claims fell to 803,000, down from a revised level of 892,000.

It's an improvement after two weeks of increases in layoffs, but still represents an increase from early November's recent lows of 711,000.

Businesses are grappling with renewed restrictions as coronavirus cases reach new highs, showing how an economic recovery is predicated on a health recovery.

Britain is host to another mutant coronavirus variant from South Africa, minister says

Already battling one new, possibly more infectious coronavirus variant, the United Kingdom announced Wednesday that it is now host to another perhaps even more transmissible strain of the virus.

Dozens of countries have closed their doors to the U.K. and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has effectively canceled Christmas for millions in an attempt to contain the new variant. The government's scientific advisers are almost certain it is more infectious than others in circulation.

On Wednesday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a press conference that a second variant — similar to the British strain but first arising in South Africa — had now been detected in two U.K. cases.

"Both are contacts of cases that have traveled from South Africa in the past few weeks," Hancock said. "This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the U.K."

Hancock said Britain was quarantining any contacts of these cases, restricting travel with South Africa, and telling anyone who's been to the country in the past two weeks to quarantine themselves immediately.

Biden Covid advisory board member says vaccine distribution must be ramped up

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 advisory board, said Wednesday that vaccines need to be administered at a significantly faster clip.

"We really need to be administering vaccines at rates much higher than we have been," Gounder said in an interview with MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle. "We only did a few tens of thousands in the first week. We need to be doing a million a day, if we want to reach 100 million doses in a hundred days."

Gounder said the solution is a "massive ramping-up of capacity."

She said the advisory board is "doing what we can to plan" the strategy it will put in place when Biden takes the oath of office Jan. 20.

But until then, Gounder said, "we are on the sidelines ... watching this unfold, and it's very anxiety-provoking to see what is happening in hospitals right now, to see hospitals full, ICUs full, doctors and nurses are burned out."

‘Swept under the rug’: Health care workers have died from Covid. How many is unclear.

Monica Leigh Newton said she turned on her car’s hazard lights and drove 100 miles an hour to get her mom, Elaine McRae, to the emergency room in Gulfport, Mississippi, where the older woman worked as a nurse on the Covid-19 floor.

McRae’s oxygen levels that August evening had dropped to a level that could incur brain damage. Newton’s mother never returned home after testing positive for Covid-19 at the hospital. Seventy-two days later in November, she died at the same hospital where she had treated coronavirus patients.

“I was literally watching her deteriorate slowly,” Newton said of her mom, whom she called her best friend and hero. “She was losing everything that I've ever seen in my mom. My mom is the strongest human being in the world and that was just slowly being sucked out of her by this virus.”

What bothers Newton is that no one knows exactly how many health care workers, like her mom, have died of the coronavirus — thus quantifying in some way the sacrifices they made and the suffering they experienced from a disease they worked so hard to defeat.

As the U.S. Covid-19 death toll continues to mount, the deaths of front-line health care workers remain largely unaccounted for. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff have courageously taken on enormous risk during the pandemic, the most consuming health crisis in more than 100 years, but there is no specific death count for them. These are the same people who have received rounds of applause at the end of their shifts and plaudits from the president and high-ranking members of government and industry.

Read the full story here.

NYC health care worker suffers 'serious' reaction to vaccine

A New York City health care worker who had a "significant allergic reaction" after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine is in stable condition, health officials said Wednesday.

The officials cautioned that it was the only report so far of a "serious adverse event" of the more than 30,000 vaccinations administered to health care workers in the city this month. The city's Department of Health did not specifically say whether the worker received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or an alternative vaccine created by the biotechnology company Moderna.

But health officials said side effects and allergic reactions are possible in some people, although uncommon, adding that clinical trials and reports that showed adverse effects associated with the Pfizer vaccine indicated "reactions such as these are rare."

The most common side effects associated with the Moderna vaccine were fatigue, headache and muscle pain, according to Food and Drug Administration documents released last week.

Some NYSE operations to return to remote work amid case surge

Some New York Stock Exchange workers will return to remote working amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the largest city in the U.S.

“On Monday, December 28, 2020, in response to changes in the NYC-area public health conditions, NYSE Designated Market Makers (DMMs) will temporarily return to remote operations (with limited exceptions),” the NYSE said in a statement on Tuesday.

“DMMs will retain their regulatory obligations to maintain fair and orderly markets in all NYSE-listed securities and they will electronically provide liquidity and facilitate the auctions in their assigned securities. The NYSE trading floor will remain open and continue to support all NYSE Floor Broker activity, including ’D Orders,” the statement said.

After a historic closure in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NYSE partially reopened its doors in late May. In the partial reopening, only about 80 floor brokers were welcomed back, about 25% of the number before the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read the full story.

Gov't agrees to buy additional 100 million doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it will buy an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, ensuring that every American who wants to be vaccinated can be by June.

The announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services said that Pfizer will manufacture and deliver up to 100 million doses of the vaccine to government-designated locations. This comes on top of the 100 million doses already purchased by the U.S. government.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million doses by the end of June and 30 million by the end of July. This expands the total number of Pfizer vaccine doses purchased by the federal government to 200 million, HHS said.

Click here to read the full story.

U.S. tallies 3,000-plus reported deaths, 200,000-plus Covid cases

The U.S. counted 3,350 Covid-19 deaths and 204,516 new cases Tuesday as the virus continues its spread.

The nation's toll is at more than 323,000 deaths and 18.3 million infections, according to NBC News' tally.

The U.S. has averaged 218,796 cases per day and 2,755 reported deaths per day the past week. Four weeks ago the country averaged 163,057 cases and 1,535 deaths per day.

These states set single-day records:

  • Mississippi, 79 dead
  • West Virginia, 42 dead
  • Wisconsin, 128 dead

New coronavirus variant likely mutated in one person in southeast England, experts say

The new coronavirus variant — which has prompted dozens of countries to close their doors to the United Kingdom and sparked chaos at British ports — likely first mutated inside a single person in southeast England, the government's expert advisers said Wednesday.

Peter Horby, chair of the U.K. government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, or Nervtag, told British lawmakers Wednesday that the virus was first spotted on Dec. 8 and likely originated in a single person in Kent, a coastal county southeast of London.

After weeks of analysis, Horby said scientists are now "almost certain" that the new variant is more infections than others in circulation — perhaps up to 70 percent more transmissible. He said they do not yet know whether it is any more or less deadly, and whether it would respond any differently to vaccines or antibodies from previous infection.

The variant has an unusually high number of mutations, which usually happens when a person has a long-term infection that allows the virus to change while inside the body, Horby said. This usually happens with people who are immunocompromised, or who have been exposed to treatments such as convalescent plasma, he added.

Despite new lockdown measures imposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the new variant has already been detected in every region of the U.K. and international travel bans have not stopped it being detected across Europe and as far away as Australia. Many experts believe it is likely in the United States already.

'It's been shattering': Heartache and hope in America's Black churches

Black churches have certainly not been spared from the incalculable loss from the coronavirus pandemic.

Churches have long been a haven for Black communities, as places for spiritual nourishment, social connection, community organizing. But with the pandemic hitting Black populations disproportionately, communities are reeling from the loss of pastors and other faith leaders.

The deaths have tested churches' resolve while expanding their imagination about how to function during and, eventually, after the pandemic.

"Covid-19 for the Black church has been devastating," said the Rev. Eric George Vickers, lead pastor of the historic Beulah Baptist Church in Atlanta. "Church is community for us. It's the place for spiritual guidance, social awareness, home training, encouragement, you name it. The loss this year can't be properly explained or expressed. It can only be experienced."

With widespread sorrow, however, does come some sense of hope.

Read full story here.

Anger boils over in Dover as stranded truckers demand to leave U.K.

DOVER, England — Truck drivers scuffled with police and sounded their horns in protest around the English port of Dover as a partial blockade by France designed to contain a highly infectious coronavirus variant angered thousands stranded before Christmas.

Paris and London agreed late on Tuesday that drivers carrying a negative test result could board ferries for Calais from Wednesday after much of the world shut its borders to Britain to contain the new mutated variant.

A British minister said the military would start testing drivers but he warned that it would take time to clear the backlog, hammering Britain's most important trade route for food just days before it leaves the European Union's orbit.

Huge lines of trucks have been stacked on a motorway towards the Eurotunnel Channel Tunnel and Dover in the southeast county of Kent, while others have been parked on the former nearby airport at Manston.

TV footage showed drivers honking their truck horns and flashing lights in unison in protest.

The mental health toll of being a 'model minority' in 2020

In a year that saw the closing of businesses, skyrocketing unemployment and ongoing hate incidents concurrent with the public health crisis, the severity of Asian Americans’ struggles has been minimized at best or gone unnoticed at worst, experts say.

Many trace the invisibility of the community’s challenges, in part, to the mythical characterization of the racial group as compliant, successful and faring well — tropes that have long obscured the reality of their struggles.

Asian Americans are the racial group least likely to reach out for help. And that fact — coupled with an already existing belief that AAPIs don't struggle — has only exacerbated pandemic-related problems for the community.

The group is roughly three times less likely than whites to seek mental health help. While Asian Americans report fewer mental health conditions than their white counterparts, they are more likely to consider and attempt suicide.

“Especially when you when you talk about the invisibility of some of their issues, in a sense, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Richelle Concepcion, president of the Asian American Psychological Association, told NBC Asian America.

Read full story here.

In France, a pandemic dilemma over holiday rights for elders

PARIS —  Until Jan. 3, France is springing nursing home residents for the holidays. The aim is to alleviate some of the mental suffering and solitude of the pandemic by allowing multi-generation family reunions, which have been off-limits during repeated lockdowns for fear of relatives infecting each other.

And so a year full of sorrows and privations is ending with nursing home residents and their families facing the agonizing dilemma of whether a few days, or hours, of communal Christmas and New Year's cheer are worth risking lives for. As well as trips out of the nursing homes, the three-week window of relaxed rules also allows families to visit home residents — including those infected with Covid-19.

On the other hand, even without the pandemic, this might be the last chance for many elderly people to celebrate Christmas with their families.

The year-end gift of freedom also comes with strings attached: Residents face a government-mandated week of solitary confinement in their rooms when they return. 

U.S. reports more Covid deaths than ever before

The United States on Tuesday saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day, according to a count of reports by NBC News.

The 3,350 reported deaths break a previous single-day high that was set just last week, on Dec. 16.

In the last week, 18,980 people have died in the U.S. related to Covid-19, a faster rate than any other time during the pandemic, that NBC News tally shows.

There were 204,516 Covid-19 cases reported in the U.S. on Tuesday. The single-day record for reported cases was on Friday with 248,259 cases, according to NBC News' count.

Overall, the U.S. has seen more than 18.2 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., and more than 323,000 people have died, according to NBC News' count.