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Dec. 3 Coronavirus updates: U.S. experiences highest number of daily deaths live updates: Latest news on Covid vaccine distribution and CDC guidelines

December 3 news about the coronavirus pandemic. The United States records the highest number of daily deaths, infections and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.
Image: Cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing as dusk falls over downtown on Dec. 2, 2020 in Los Angeles.
Cars line up at Dodger Stadium for Covid-19 testing as dusk falls over Los Angeles on Wednesday.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' continuing coverage of Covid-19

The United States has set three grim records, recording the highest number of daily deaths, new infections and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

According to an NBC News tally, the U.S. reported 2,777 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 205,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, more people than ever are hospitalized. The Covid Tracking Project reported that 100,000 people were hospitalized across the country.

Racial disparities create obstacles for Covid-19 vaccine rollout

Despite the potential for a vaccine within weeks, distrust of the medical community by Black andLatino people, who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, remains high as elected leaders and public health professionals work to prioritize its distribution.

Fueled by a dark history of medical experimentation and unequal access to care, people in Black and Latino communities struggling with high Covid-19 rates are among those least likely to get vaccinated, health advocates say. Overcoming systemic racism and the collective trauma associated with it will be paramount as officials rush to distribute vaccines to hard-hit communities, they warn.

"The people who need it the most are the same who don't trust it," said Sernah Essien of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, an international advocacy group working to ensure equitable vaccine access. "Without considering racial equity, we deepen the cracks that systemic racism has already created in our health care system."

The message is being heard at the highest levels.

Read full article here.

After first round of vaccine distributions, bulk of planning remains unfinished

Heidi Przybyla

A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced its guidelines for the first phase of the most ambitious national vaccination campaign in modern history.

Yet beyond the guidelines advising states about how to deploy their vaccines — and a large Defense Department operation to deliver them — the Trump administration hasn't prepared for a major federal role, a lack of planning that is causing significant anxiety among state and local health officials.

The significant checklist of unmet federal responsibilities underscores the challenges ahead for President-elect Joe Biden, who inherits most of the burden for executing a successful nationwide campaign to vaccinate all Americans, potentially without the billions of dollars in additional funding that will be needed.

Read full article here.

More than 2,800 in U.S. reported dead Thursday

Colin Sheeley

The U.S. on Thursday again surpassed its record for coronavirus-related deaths when more than 2,800 people were confirmed dead from Covid-19, according to an NBC News tally.

The previous record came just one day earlier when the county also saw the highest number of new infections and hospitalizations.  

Thursday was the third straight day the U.S. reported more than 2,000 deaths in a day. More than 276,700 people in the U.S. have died from the virus since the pandemic began. 

Navajo Nation headed for lockdown amid 'major health care crisis'

A stay-at-home lockdown was announced Thursday in the Navajo Nation as officials there say its hospitals are grappling with a "major health care crisis."

In a statement, the office of the president and vice president ordered residents in the nation, which has a population of roughly 172,000 people and is spread across 27,000 square miles in three southwestern states, to stay at home for non-essential activities beginning Monday.

Weekend curfews will begin Dec. 11 and continue through the end of the month.

“We have been in a state of emergency since the pandemic began here on the Navajo Nation, but that has now elevated to a major health care crisis,” said Dr. Loretta Christensen, Chief Medical Officer for Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

“Our health care experts are now saying that the current wave or surge is far more severe and troublesome than the wave that we saw in April and May, perhaps four or five times larger according to projections,” she said.

Christensen said there is already a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and medical personnel.

More than 17,000 Navajo have been infected, or nearly 10 percent of the population. Six hundred and sixty-three people have died.

Dallas-Fort Worth businesses roll back business capacity

North Texas, including the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, is rolling back occupancy allowances for businesses as the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations has risen, a top government executive said.

Restaurants, gyms, retail stores, offices and other places are now limited to 50 percent capacity, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday. Since October, that limit had been 75 percent.

The reductions were triggered under the governor's executive order because the number of Covid-19 patients in regional hospitals has been greater than 15 percent of hospital beds for seven straight days, Jenkins said.

Jenkins and the judge Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth the rollback would happen immediately. In Texas, the elected official who is the chief executive for county government is called the county judge.

Ohio firefighter dies from Covid complications

A 30-year veteran of the Washington Township, Ohio, Fire Department died Thursday from complications from Covid-19, the town announced in a Facebook post. 

Lieutenant Jeff Guernsey worked with the department since the beginning of his career in 1990. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Guernsey family," Township Administrator Jesse Lightle said. "Their grief is unimaginable and our hearts go out to them.”

Guernsey was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, serving in the Navy. He was also part of the Washington Township honor guard. He is survived by his wife and four children. 

“Washington Township has lost a truly remarkable person," Fire Chief Scott Kujawa said. "Jeff could make any of us smile." 

Pray and fast for people affected by COVID-19, Oklahoma governor says

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called on residents to pray Thursday for people affected by Covid-19 as new coronavirus cases continue to rise across the state.

In a statewide declaration of “prayer and fasting,” Stitt said “we must continue to ask God to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting and provide renewed strength and wisdom to all who are managing the effects of COVID-19.” 

He added that it is “important to find safe ways to gather” and that churches and faith communities “have an incredible opportunity during this season to provide hope to Oklahomans who are struggling.”

Some Christian doctors implored worshippers to observe the day safely, and health officials have called on Stitt to implement more robust measures to prevent the spread of the virus, like a statewide mask mandate.

The state has seen a 21 percent rise in cases over the last two weeks and a 35 percent increase in deaths, according to an NBC News analysis. Nearly 2,000 people have died from the virus since March, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Delaware to temporarily halt in-person learning at schools

Delaware Gov. John Carney said Thursday that state schools will halt in-person learning later this month and move to virtual and “hybrid” models in January amid a dangerous surge in coronavirus infections.

The order takes effect Dec. 14, Carney’s office said in a joint statement with the state Division of Public Health. Students will attend school virtually through Jan. 8. A combination of in-person and remote learning will begin three days later, the statement said.

While schools have remained relatively safe environments through the pandemic, Carney said, administrators and teachers “face significant operational challenges as we see more community spread.”

“If we pull together and follow the public health advice, we can get more children in classrooms, and get through this difficult winter,” he said.

What parents should know about vaccine trials for children

Lubbock, Texas, reports that it has no more hospital beds

The city of Lubbock, Texas, has reported that it's out of hospital beds as the nation faces a record number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

There were 22 patients in need of the final 17 open beds, according to the city's Covid-19 dashboard. The news of negative beds in Texas comes on the same day California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new regional stay-at-home based on dwindling intensive care unit availability. 

Newsom's order requires non-essential businesses to close for three weeks when the region's ICU bed capacity falls under 15 percent. 

Texas is not currently under any stay-at-home orders. More than 22,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Texas, with confirmed cases just shy of 1.3 million by a few thousand as of Thursday afternoon.

Biden asks Fauci to stay on, will call on Americans to wear masks for 100 days

Dartunorro Clark

President-elect Biden said Thursday that he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay in his current role, and to also serve as a chief medical adviser.

Fauci had told NBC News on Thursday he would stay in his current role and work closely with the new administration.

Biden, in an interview with CNN, said that he’d be “happy” to get publicly vaccinated conditional on Fauci saying that it is safe. He also said that when inaugurated he will ask Americans to wear a mask for 100 days.

"It is important that we in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks but beyond that, where the federal government has authority I'm gonna issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked," he said.

He added, "Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. 100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction ... if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably."

Hundreds protest closing of Staten Island bar that refused Covid-19 measures

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Wednesday night outside a Staten Island bar that shut down after refusing to follow Covid-19 measures, authorities said.

The large demonstration came a day after Mac’s Public House, a bar in an area where the city prohibits indoor dining, was forced to close its doors after it violated multiple health and liquor laws, the New York City Sheriff’s Office said.

The protesters, some of whom weren’t wearing masks, blocked traffic and demanded the business reopen as deputies stood outside the tavern. The bar had operated without a liquor license and served patrons food and alcohol indoors past the city’s 10 p.m. curfew, NBC New York reported.

The crowd also took aim at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for enforcing Covid-19 restrictions on indoor dining services, according to the station.

Click here to read the full story. 

'A matter of days': Pence on start of vaccine distribution

Ryan Beals

Stacey Khizder

Ryan Beals and Stacey Khizder

At a roundtable in Memphis, Tennessee this afternoon focused on the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, Vice President Mike Pence said that we are “within a matter of days of distributing tens of millions of Covid vaccinations to the American people.”

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been submitted for approval by the Food and Drug Association. If approved, Pence said that they will be made available to Americans within 24 hours, beginning with frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents and staff.

Pence also noted that pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens should start administering the vaccine “literally 48 hours” after FDA approval as part of this public-private partnership, and stressed that the vaccine would first go to those at long-term care facilities. 

Also present at the roundtable were Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and FedEx Chairman Frederick Smith, among other local leaders. 

Raj Subramaniam, CEO and President of FedEx Corporation said that because of the company’s international footprint, they will be able to help facilitate the transfer of both vaccine doses and personal protective equipment around the world, “in a matter of days.”

Speaking about administering the vaccine to long term health facilities, Azar said, “We've paid for the vaccines. We paid for the shipping costs, and the administration costs for these private sector partners will be covered,” adding that this includes those without insurance.

Adding to this, Redfield called the vaccine a “game changer,” detailing how states will begin to place orders for the vaccine by the end of this week. He asked those at the roundtable to help create a culture of “vaccine confidence” through promoting the use of the vaccine and engaging communities to build trust.

Rebecca Hankins contributed to this report. 

Fauci meets with Biden transition team

Dr. Anthony Fauci formally met with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team for the first time on Thursday to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci told NBC News he participated in a “very productive Zoom meeting," which lasted for an hour, with Biden’s team. Fauci said they discussed “a variety of Covid-related topics.” A senior transition official said Jeff Zients, who’s expected to be the incoming administration’s Covid-19 czar, led the discussion for the Biden team.

In an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" ahead of the virtual meeting, Fauci said he has talked informally with members of Biden's team, including Zients, to coordinate the response to the pandemic.

Click here to read the full story.

Former President Jimmy Carter urges Americans to get Covid vaccine

Jimmy Carter, the nation's longest-lived former president, is urging Americans to get coronavirus vaccines as soon as they are able to.

A spokesperson for Carter, 96, and his wife Rosalynn, 93, said the former first couple "are in full support of Covid-19 vaccine efforts and encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized as soon as it becomes available in their communities."

The couple did not volunteer to take the vaccine on camera, as former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did earlier Thursday, but their statement did note the couple has long been pro-immunization.

"Rosalynn Carter became a staunch advocate for vaccines as First Lady of Georgia and subsequently cofounded Vaccinate Your Family in 1991 to ensure equitable access to vaccines for people of all ages and to remove barriers to immunization," the statement said.

Jimmy Carter, who was the country's 39th president, has lived longer than any other former commander-in-chief in U.S. history. The couple has made fewer public appearances in recent years as the former president has dealt with a variety of health issues.

California governor introduces new stay-at-home order amid Covid-19 surge

California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a new regional stay-at-home order on Thursday, days after he said that most of the state’s intensive care beds could be over capacity within weeks amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The order, which will be applied by region, will require bars, wineries, hair salons and other nonessential businesses across five areas to close for three weeks once the region’s intensive care capacity falls below 15 percent, he said.

Statewide travel will also be temporarily halted, Newsom said, but schools will remain open and he encouraged people to visit parks and exercise. Restaurants can continue to serve takeout and delivery, he said.

Four of the five regions are expected to fall below the 15 percent threshold within days, he said. Only one — the San Francisco Bay area — will likely come later.

Click here to read the full story. 

Austin mayor apologizes for taking Mexico vacation while urging residents to stay home

The mayor of Austin, Texas, has apologized for traveling to Mexico during the pandemic.

Responding to a story first reported Wednesday in The Austin American-Statesman, the mayor, Steve Adler, admitted he traveled in early November to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — and while abroad, he even recorded a message urging Austinites to stay home to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In a video posted online Wednesday, Adler said, "I need to set a clearer example so that my message is unambiguous, and for the failure to do that I sincerely apologize."

Click here to read the full story. 

Airbnb restricts New Year's Eve reservations to prevent partying and Covid spread

Airbnb announced new restrictions on one-night reservations to prevent New Year's Eve partying, an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Guests without a positive review history will be subjected to a two-night minimum stay for New Year's Eve, the company said Thursday. All customers will be required to attest that they will not throw an unauthorized party, and risk legal action from the company if they break the rules. 

"We believe this plan will help prevent large gatherings while supporting the type of safe, responsible travel that benefits guests, hosts and the neighborhoods they call home," Airbnb said. 

Kentucky religious school defies Covid mandate, court ruling by continuing in-person class

A Kentucky religious school has defied state order to close in-person learning amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, despite a recent court ruling affirming the mandate.

Classes at the Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope reportedly remained in session on Tuesday even after the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed an order to close schools from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Maryville Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jack Roberts, who is also the school’s administrator, told NBC affiliate WHAS that the governor’s mandates “aren’t really law.”

Roberts told WHAS Tuesday that he intends to continue in-person education, even if the case is eventually lost at the Supreme Court.

“We'll have to give account to the supreme God of heaven as to how we do things,” Roberts said. “That’s the conviction we have as to why we are still here and why we're still open.”

Click here to read the full story. 

Solid majority of Americans now say they'd take a Covid-19 vaccine, new survey finds

A majority of Americans said they would “definitely or probably” get a Covid-19 vaccine if one were available today and the number is climbing, according to the latest Pew Research Center poll.

The 60 percent affirmative on getting a coronavirus vaccine figure in the newest poll is up from the 51 percent in September who said they were ready to get the shot, the poll showed.

“Public confidence has grown that the research and development process will yield a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19,” the Pew researchers concluded.

Still, about two in 10 people polled said they would not get vaccinated and were “pretty certain” more information about the effectiveness of the new drug would not change their minds.

The survey of 12,648 U.S. adults was conducted online from Nov. 18 through Nov. 29 as the Covid-19 crisis was accelerating across the country at a record pace.

WWII veteran released from Alabama hospital after recovering from Covid

Major Lee Wooten, a 104-year-old World War II veteran, was released from an Alabama hospital after recovering from Covid-19.
Major Lee Wooten, a 104-year-old World War II veteran, was released from an Alabama hospital after recovering from Covid-19.Courtesy Holly Wooten McDonald

A World War II veteran was discharged from an Alabama hospital days before his 104th birthday after spending nearly a week in the hospital battling Covid-19. 

Major Lee Wooten, who was stationed in Paris rebuilding railroads that were bombed by U.S. troops during the war, was first diagnosed with Covid-19 on November 23, his granddaughter Holly McDonald told NBC News. After his symptoms worsened, Wooten was rushed to the emergency room and hospitalized on November 25. 

McDonald said she was worried for her grandfather as her sister had been on a ventilator after contracting the virus in August. 

But after a six-day stay at Madison Hospital in Madison, Alabama, Wooten recovered and was released on Tuesday.

In a video posted on Madison Hospital’s Facebook page, masked healthcare workers line the atrium of the hospital with congratulatory signs and balloons singing “Happy Birthday” as Wooten is wheeled out of the hospital.

“We feel very blessed and overwhelmed with relief,” McDonald told NBC News about his discharge from the hospital. “He just really loves to live life and be out there. That’s the secret to his longevity.”

Which people get the Covid-19 vaccine first? States will determine your place in line

These days, across America, the phone rings frequently with the same question at health departments, pharmacies, doctors' offices and advocacy groups: a line is forming for a Covid-19 vaccine, and people want to know where they stand.

The answers are often vague, whether posed to local officials or labor unions, associations for heart disease or diabetes, CVS corporate headquarters or leading professors of public health: "Stand by." "We have not heard from the federal government." "We just don't know yet."

New federal recommendation only covers Phase 1a, and the question of who counts in each of those first phase categories has yet to be determined. The rest of the population still does not know where they will fall within the amorphous later phases — or even how they will find out. Though professional groups have suggested frameworks for the CDC, there is still no complete federal plan.

Click here to read the full story.

At 102 years old, New York woman beats the coronavirus — twice

Angelina Friedman, a 102-year-old New York woman who lived through the 1918 flu pandemic and survived cancer, has now beat the coronavirus — twice, her daughter says.

The first time Friedman was diagnosed with Covid-19 was in March after she was transferred from a nursing home in Lake Mohegan, where she's a resident, to the hospital for a minor leg procedure.

Her daughter, Joanne Merola, said that the diagnosis came as a surprise because her mother wasn't sick.

"She was never really symptomatic the first time around. The worst symptom she had was a fever that lasted maybe 10 days," Merola said in a phone interview Thursday.

But in October, shortly before Friedman's 102nd birthday, she was diagnosed with the virus again.

Click here to read the full story.

U.N. chief pans countries who ignored Covid facts, WHO guidance


UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday decried countries — without naming names — who rejected the facts about the coronavirus pandemic and ignored guidance from the World Health Organization.

Guterres addressed a special session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on the coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and spread globally, so far infecting more than 100 million people and killing nearly 1.5 million.

"From the start, the World Health Organization provided factual information and scientific guidance that should have been the basis for a coordinated global response," Guterres said.

"Unfortunately, many of these recommendations were not followed. And in some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignoring of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction," he said.

President Donald Trump cut funding to the WHO earlier this year and announced plans to quit the Geneva-based body over accusations it was a puppet of China, which the WHO denied. The U.S. withdrawal would have taken effect in July next year, but U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said he will rescind the move.

Walmart gives another round of employee bonuses, bringing 2020 total over $2.8B

Walmart will give another round of cash bonuses to full- and part-time hourly employees, the company said Thursday. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, will distribute up to $700 million in bonuses for this round alone, bringing the 2020 total up to over $2.8 billion. This payout will be the fourth since the pandemic began, following bonus distribution in April, June and August. 

In addition to cash bonuses, Walmart provided early bonus payouts to employees this spring. Other essential retailers and grocers, such as Kroger and Target, have given their frontline workers hazard pay or temporary wage increases to supplement their income during the pandemic.

Several large companies, including Walmart, have recently come under fire for not resuming those payments as coronavirus cases and holiday demand surge. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union recently signed a letter to the nation’s top grocery retailers demanding reinstated hazard pay and paid sick leave, among other safety measures. 

Lon Adams, Slim Jim jerky recipe creator, dies of Covid

The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — Alonzo “Lon” T. Adams II, the man who created the formula for Slim Jim beef jerky sticks, has died from complications of Covid-19. He was 95.

Lynn Barrow of Brown-Wynne Funeral Home in Raleigh, North Carolina, confirmed Wednesday that Adams died on Nov. 28. A graveside funeral service was held Wednesday, Barrow said.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Adams was a World War II veteran who survived the Battle of the Bulge despite being shot in the head.

While Slim Jims were first created in 1928, the current formula is Adams' work. It was described by The New York Times in 1996 as a lengthy process that calls for processed ground beef, chicken meat and other parts, along with a range of spices and chemicals. Adams worked on the jerky recipe for more than 20 years at GoodMark Foods in Garner, North Carolina, from 1968 until his retirement in 1991.

Food processor Conagra Brands bought GoodMark Foods in 1998.

Adams is survived by two children and three grandchildren.

Covid vaccine could be available in NYC in less than 2 weeks

The new Covid-19 vaccine is expected to make its New York City debut in less than two weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

“The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here,” de Blasio said in a radio interview on New York 1010WINS.

The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine (254,250 doses) are due to arrive as early as Dec. 15 and the Moderna vaccine (211,275 doses) are expected to land in the city on or around Dec. 22, de Blasio said. 

High-risk health care workers, nursing home staffers and residents will get the first shots, the mayor said.

“It’s absolutely crucial to protect those who protect all of us,” de Blasio said. “And we know from a painful experience how much we have to focus on our nursing home residents and the good people who work in our nursing homes.”


State Dept. employees told to avoid holiday parties as Pompeo invites hundreds to indoor gatherings

Abigail Williams

State Department leadership is instructing employees to avoid hosting non-mission-critical events in person and “opt for virtual events,” even as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invites hundreds to celebrate the holidays at large indoor parties.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will bring some changes to this year's holiday season,” according to a notice dated November 25.  “With much of our team working remotely and in light of rising cases across the country, the Bureau of Administration wants to reiterate the Department's commitment to responsible physical distancing and mission-critical only gatherings.”

While the holiday parties at the State Department will offer guests festive alcoholic drinks and traditional holiday fare, the notice also made clear employees would not have the same privilege warning “[Management] will not be approving alcohol waivers for gatherings in Department facilities during this time.”

Instead, the State Department suggested employees try virtual alternatives including, “photo contests of door decorations, virtual holiday mask or sweater competitions and virtual hangouts.”

The note from leadership was first reported by the Washington Post.

Criminals offering fake coronavirus vaccines, Interpol warns

Interpol has issued a global alert that warns that criminals "have been advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines," particularly online.

The alert comes in the wake of news that the U.K. has approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, to be first administered this month, and the U.S. is likely to follow suit soon.

Approved vaccines in the U.S. will be administered in person by healthcare professionals.

“Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives," Inerpol's secretary general, Jürgen Stock, said a statement.

SCOTUS tosses out ruling on California Covid restrictions against religious institutions

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a federal court ruling in California in a dispute over the effect on churches of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic restrictions.

 The ruling that was tossed out had rejected a claim by a group of churches, which said the restrictions on public gatherings treated churches less favorably than businesses and other organizations.

 The Supreme Court on Thursday sent the case back to the district judge, with instructions to reconsider it in light of the court’s ruling last week that blocked Covid restrictions on religious institutions in New York. 

Fauci to speak to Biden transition team for the first time Thursday

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, will be speaking to members of Biden's presidential transition team Thursday for the first time. 

"I'm going to be meeting with them today, by Zoom," Fauci said in an interview on CBS News' "The Takeout" podcast.

"So today will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the transition between me and the Biden team," Fauci said. "I'm very pleased that today we're having the first discussion about a number of things, vaccinations and things like that."

Facebook bans false claims about Covid-19 vaccines


Facebook on Thursday said it would remove false claims about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts, following a similar announcement by Alphabet’s YouTube in October.

The move expands Facebook’s current rules against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. The social media company says it takes down coronavirus misinformation that poses a risk of “imminent” harm, while labeling and reducing distribution of other false claims that fail to reach that threshold.

Facebook said in a blog post that the global policy change came in response to news that Covid-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world.

Read the full story here.

California sheriff tests positive after refusing to enforce Covid measures

A California deputy tested positive for the coronavirus after refusing to enforce the governor's Covid-19 orders, authorities said.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office said Sheriff Scott Jones reported mild symptoms last week after being exposed to another employee who later tested positive, KRON-TV reported. His symptoms included a fever, congestion and a headache, according to the station.

On Nov. 24, Jones said he refused to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order amid a rise in Covid-19 cases in the state, the station reported.

“I have a tremendous amount of faith in folks to make those assessments relative to Covid,” Jones said at the time.

Officials said Wednesday the sheriff was expected to recover and is under quarantine with his family, the station reported. It was unclear whether his family members tested positive. 

Weekly jobless claims fall to 712,000, beating expectations

The number of claimants for initial weekly jobless benefits fell last week to 712,000, as the labor market struggles to rebuild itself amid a continued surge in Covid-19 infections.

The data, released Thursday by the Department of Labor, beat economists' expectations of 780,000 claims. In the prior week, total claims had ticked up sharply to a newly revised 787,000.

While claims remain well below the pandemic peak of 7 million in March, the weekly totals continue to represent three times the pre-pandemic average.

The United States set three grim records on Wednesday, recording the highest number of daily deaths, new infections and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

The worsening public health outlook comes as millions of unemployed Americans are set to lose their benefits at the end of the year as emergency federal assistance expires.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Treasury secretary, described the current economic situation as "an American tragedy."

Bill Gates says 'almost all the vaccines are going to succeed’

Bill Gates, who has warned for years of a global disease outbreak, said he expects almost all Covid-19 vaccines to succeed, but warned Americans not to get a false sense of security and urged them to continue following public health protocols until the vaccine is widely distributed.

Gates told Savannah Guthrie in an interview on the "TODAY" show Thursday that he anticipates a surge in the spring unless Americans "double down on our behavior."

"The most impactful thing is associating with people less, wearing a mask," Gates said. "This is a war — we're all in it together."

He added that while vaccine distribution would be difficult because “the federal government has abdicated some of its responsibilities in a public health crisis,” Gates said he remained optimistic.

"I would immediately step up and take the vaccine," he said. 

Hackers targeting supply chain that keeps coronavirus vaccines cold, experts warn

Hackers backed by foreign governments are targeting companies involved in shipping and storing the coronavirus vaccine at a low enough temperature to keep it from spoiling, IBM said in research released Thursday.

The announcement is the latest in a series of cybersecurity research reports that point to foreign governments employing hackers to break into the networks of groups working to rush out a vaccine, and comes as the U.S. prepares to ship refrigerated boxes of vaccines across the country this month.

While not every potential vaccine requires the same refrigeration, the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which was approved Wednesday in the U.K. and may soon become the first coronavirus vaccine approved for distribution in the U.S., has to be shipped in special boxes of dry ice that can only rarely and briefly be opened. The White House has claimed as many as 20 million doses of the vaccine could be distributed in the U.S. in December.

Read the full story here.

California reports a record 28,000 Covid cases, the most in a day in any state yet

On Wednesday, California counted 28,251 Covid-19 cases, the most any state has counted in a day. This comes amid the 200,000 cases and 2,700 reported deaths recorded countrywide.

The U.S. has averaged 165,671 cases and 1,603 dead per day the last week, up from an average of 128,058 cases and 1,106 reported deaths per day four weeks ago.

These states and territories joined California in setting new single-day records:

  • Illinois, 266 dead
  • Kansas, 119 dead
  • Mississippi, 2,457 cases
  • Nebraska, 110 dead
  • New Jersey, 4,705 cases
  • New Mexico, 40 dead
  • Oklahoma, 54 dead
  • Puerto Rico, 22 dead
  • Vermont, 222 cases

U.S. logs 14 million cases after setting three grim records

The United States surpassed 14 million Covid-19 cases on Wednesday only hours after the country set three records, including the highest number of daily deaths, new infections, and hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

The U.S. logged 2,777 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 205,000 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, according to a NBC News tally. Meanwhile, hospitalizations reached a new high of 100,000 people, The Covid Tracking Project reported.

“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said during a briefing.

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World leaders slated to speak at special U.N. session

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are slated to speak at the U.N. General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to Covid-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives, shattered economies in countries rich and poor.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir says when he took the reins of the assembly in September it would have been better to hold the high-level meeting in June. Nonetheless, he said Wednesday that the session “provides a historic moment for us to come together to beat Covid-19.”

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton volunteer to get coronavirus vaccine on camera

Kelly O'Donnell

Wilson Wong and Kelly O'Donnell

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton volunteered to help build public trust in a coronavirus vaccine by taking a shot on camera.

Aide Freddy Ford said Bush would "do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated." Angel Ureña, a spokesperson for Clinton, echoed Bush's statement, saying the 42nd president would also take the shot in a "public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same."

Obama told SiriusXM Radio that he would also follow suit.

"I will be taking it, and I may end up taking it on TV or having a film just so people know that I trust this science," Obama said. "What I don't trust is getting Covid."

Russia sets new daily record in cases

The Associated Press

MOSCOW — Coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Thursday, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.

Russia’s total number of Covid-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.

The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses. Virus-related restrictions vary from region to region but are largely mild.

Africa needs Covid vaccine for 60% in 2-3 years, official says

The Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says 60% of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years.

The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters on Thursday that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”

African health officials are taking heart in vaccine progress, but concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year.

When will Americans actually get the Covid vaccine? Officials offer different timelines.

Health officials and public health experts have offered conflicting answers in recent days about when the first Americans will finally get Covid-19 vaccine shots.

An advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration will meet on Deccember 10 to consider whether to grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer for its vaccine candidate. After the vote, the decision moves to the FDA itself.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group recommended Tuesday that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for the vaccines. The CDC is expected to accept the recommendation.

FDA scientists are reviewing data on two vaccine candidates, made by Pfizer and Moderna. There are expected to be enough doses to immunize 20 million people by the end of the month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday at a briefing for Operation Warp Speed, the government's effort to fast-track a vaccine.

But even if the FDA's group of independent vaccine experts votes to advise authorizing the Pfizer vaccine, it's still unclear how soon after the Dec. 10 meeting the agency will make the final decision whether to authorize it for emergency use, a necessary step before any shots are administered.

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Let government employees work from home after the pandemic, former cyber leaders say

Former cybersecurity chiefs from five U.S. agencies are calling for the government to let more government employees work from home even after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The group, comprised of former Chief Information Officers at agencies like the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, jointly argued for the shift in an online pamphlet released Thursday.

"Senior government managers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage the changes brought about by the pandemic," the former CIOs wrote, saying allowing the practice can improve morale and save taxpayers money.

Many federal employees rapidly shifted to working from home in the early days of the pandemic, initially prompting cybersecurity concerns that they were creating opportunities for hackers, though they have since settled into some accepted best practices.

Prince Harry suggests Covid may be nature's rebuke