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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.