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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.
- 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.
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.
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."
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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