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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.
- 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.
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.