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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.
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.
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.
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.
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