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Dec. 9 Coronavirus updates: Countries across the world prepare to vaccinate millions

Millions of people in the U.S. and across the world could be vaccinated this month.
Image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and and his Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, center, attend the arrival of over 100,000 of doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, at the arrival of over 100,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at the Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.Abir Sultan / AP

Live coverage of this blog has ended, click here for NBC News' ongoing coverage of Covid-19.

For the first time, more than 3,000 Covid-19-related deaths were recorded in the United States on Wednesday. More than 290,000 people have died from the coronavirus across the country since the beginning of the pandemic this spring.

As at least 15 U.S. states step up their own efforts to encourage people to take a Covid-19 vaccine, countries across the world are hurtling ahead with unprecedented plans to vaccinate millions of vulnerable adults and frontline healthcare workers.



719d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf tests positive for Covid-19

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is self-isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus, his office said in a statement. 

Wolf, a Democrat, said he is asymptotic and "feeling well." His wife, Frances, is awaiting results of her test.

“As this virus rages, my positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from COVID, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease," Wolf's statement read in part. "I ask all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household, and, most of all, take care of each other and stay safe.”

 

719d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

Idaho health board ends meeting after protests outside site, members’ homes

An Idaho public health meeting ended abruptly Tuesday evening after protesters converged around the city’s health department building and outside the homes of multiple health officials.

The Central District Health meeting in Boise, Idaho, where members were expected to discuss a Covid-19 health order, ended just 15 minutes into the agenda due to safety concerns related to the protests, various city officials said. A photographer with NBC News affiliate KTVB on the scene outside the health department estimated there were several hundred protesters present, most of whom were not wearing masks.

Health board members were listening to a presentation by Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, an Idaho hospital company, when a board member interrupted him and said there were protesters outside her home, according to KTVB.

"My 12-year-old son is home by himself right now and there are protesters banging outside the door," Central District Health board member Diana Lachionado said, according to KTVB. "I'm gonna go home and make sure he's OK."

Idaho is one of many states in which government efforts to institute pandemic mitigation measures have been met with protests, but it's unclear how widespread those sentiments are. A Pew Research Center survey from August found that 69 percent of Americans thought governments had lifted outbreak restrictions too quickly.

Read the full story here.

719d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

Gov. Cuomo announces vaccine allocations by region based on nursing home residents, staff

The first doses of Covid-19 vaccine could arrive in New York “as soon as this weekend,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

First in line for the initial shipment of 170,000 doses of the Pfizer-made vaccine will be high-risk health care workers and nursing home residents, the governor said.

“Staff at every hospital will have access to this allocation,” Cuomo said. 

And while 90 distribution centers have been set up around the state, the majority of first shots (72,000) are heading to New York City.

New York was the hardest hit state in the early days of the pandemic and still leads with nation with 35,987 Covid-19 deaths, according to the latest NBC News data.

719d ago / 6:22 PM UTC
719d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

Brazil registers highest COVID-19 daily death toll in almost a month

BRASILIA, Dec 8 - Brazil reported 51,088 additional confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 842 fatalities from COVID-19, its Health Ministry said on Tuesday, marking the highest death toll since Nov. 14.

The South American country has now registered 6,674,999 cases since the pandemic began, while its official death toll has risen to 178,159, according to ministry data. Brazil has the world’s third highest case count, after the United States and India, and second highest death toll.

Easing quarantines in Brazilian cities have led to crowded bars and restaurants, giving some the impression that life has returned to normal. With the approaching holiday season, experts worry that COVID-19 will spread even faster.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

Facebook removes some large health misinformation pages

Facebook has removed several large pages associated with a coordinated network of websites pushing health misinformation around natural cures and vaccines.

The removal of at least nine pages follows new research from the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy think tank. The GMU research linked the networks back to five so-called alternative health websites, which they found operating 20 Facebook pages with a combined 65 million followers.

The most popular removed Facebook page, The Idealist, had 16 million followers and mixed funny or inspirational posts alongside links to the junk news websites, a common growth tactic of spammers. The websites garnered more than 71 million interactions on Facebook this year, according to the research. 

The websites behind the network have a history of publishing content that misleads readers about health topics, including misinformation about vaccines and false claims that the flu vaccine is dangerous.

The pages flagged by GMF were removed under Facebook’s spam policies, according to company spokesperson Andy Stone. 

The removal comes as Facebook faces pressure to contain health misinformation around the pandemic and as Covid-19 cases and deaths spike around the country. In the last month, Facebook has removed several of the largest anti-vaccination pages and groups, and announced it would start removing false claims about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.

“Content from the sites our researchers found swamped information coming from authoritative sites like the CDC and WHO — nearly 10 to 1,” said Karen Kornbluh, GMF’s senior fellow and director of its Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative. “It undermines faith in scientific and medical experts and softens the ground for more dangerous conspiracy theories.”

719d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

American Airlines offering at-home Covid-19 tests for travelers flying to U.S. states with restrictions

American Airlines passengers, starting Wednesday, are able to purchase at-home Covid-19 testing kits if they are planning to fly to a U.S. state with coronavirus-related travel restrictions. 

The domestic preflight testing program was announced by the airline on Tuesday in partnership with LetsGetChecked, a company that offers a variety of health-related at-home tests. Customers can purchase the testing kits for travel on or after December 12. 

American Airlines previously offered at-home Covid-19 testing kits for travelers flying to international destinations that required a negative test prior to or upon arrival. 

“We’ve made great strides to help open international travel with our testing partners, and we recognize the need for similar domestic travel solutions,” Chief Customer Officer for American Airlines Alison Taylor said in a press release. “As travel requirements continue to quickly evolve, we’re simplifying the research and COVID-19 testing fulfillment process for an overall more seamless travel experience.”

The airline said it will continue working with LetsGetChecked to expand the testing as state requirements change. Currently, 14 U.S. states of territories have Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the airline industry. In late September, as many as 50,000 airline workers were furloughed and tens of thousands were laid off after Congress failed to pass relief aid to the industry.  

719d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

Health Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

The Canadian government, on Wednesday announced the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19.

Health Canada said the vaccine was submitted for review on October 9 and "after a thorough, independent review of the evidence, Health Canada has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the Department's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements for use in Canada."

The vaccine is indicated for use in patients ages 16 and up. "Pfizer-BioNTech are running further clinical trials on children of all age groups and the indication could be revised in the future to include children if the data from these studies support it," Health Canada wrote.

719d ago / 4:39 PM UTC

Coach K wonders out loud: Should college basketball be played in pandemic?

Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on Tuesday night questioned whether his sport should be played, as America embarks on what's feared to be a dark winter of coronavirus spread.

“I don’t think it feels right to anybody,”  Krzyzewski said following his team's 83-68 loss to Illinois.  “I mean everyone is concerned.”

Krzyzewski stopped short of calling for a halt to college basketball. But he seemed to hint the sport could stop temporarily, as vaccinations roll out in early 2021.

"You have 2,000 deaths a day,” said Krzyzewski, who leads all active coaches in wins. “You have 200,000 cases, a million and a half last week. You have people saying that the next six weeks are going be the worst. To me, it’s already pretty bad. And on the other side of it, there are these vaccines that are coming out that where people say by the end of the month 20 million vaccine shots will be given, especially to our healthcare (workers) and the other who need it.  By the end of January or in February, another 100 million.  Well, should we not reassess that? And see just what would be best?" 

The NCAA's wildly popular postseason basketball tournament, known as March Madness, was one of the first major cultural casualties of the pandemic earlier this year. The annual competition is usually held in cities across America, but the NCAA announced last month that its 2021 tournament would be played entirely in one region, so to limit travel and lessen the chance of spread.

719d ago / 4:31 PM UTC

Texas launches program to provide Covid-19 rapid tests to small businesses

Texas announced a program to provide Covid-19 rapid tests to the state’s small businesses in an effort to keep them open during the pandemic. 

Governor Greg Abbott announced the program on Monday in partnership with the Texas Department of Emergency Management. The program will provide testing supplies to small businesses who choose to participate in the program, allowing them to administer rapid tests to their employees. 

"This effective strategy will help us detect and mitigate this virus while ensuring that Texas remains safely open for business," Governor Abbott said in a press release

The launch will include participation from Chamber of Commerce organizations in Amarillo, Edinburg, El Paso, Laredo and Lubbock with plans to ramp up the program across the state. The program is similar to one designed for the Texas school system that provided access to rapid tests for all teachers in the state, which was implemented in October.

Texas has reported more than 1.3 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to the latest NBC News data. It is just one of three U.S. states that has reported more than one million cases, the data shows. 

719d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

U.K. probing if allergic reactions linked to Pfizer vaccine

LONDON — British regulators warned Wednesday that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

The U.K.’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is looking into whether the reactions were linked to the vaccine. The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified what their reactions were.

In the meantime, the regulator has issued the warning for anyone who has had a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food. That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

Britain settles in for arduous reality of coronavirus vaccination after euphoria of being first

LONDON — Now the camera flashes have stopped, an arduous journey begins.

The United Kingdom drew the gaze of the world Tuesday by administering the first clinically approved vaccine to patients. It was a rare moment of optimism in a hellish year.

But for all the morale-boosting symbolism and political tubthumping, this vaccine will make little practical difference to the vast majority of people for months to come.

A procession of mostly elderly patients — one memorably named William Shakespeare — earned rounds of applause and global attention as the first recipients of this groundbreaking medicine. But British doctors and nurses now face an unglamorous slog this winter that will be repeated in countries across the world.

The number of people receiving shots will be low at first — and it will take time to make any dent in a pandemic that's killed more than 62,000 people in the U.K. and more than 1.5 million around the world.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 3:15 PM UTC
719d ago / 3:14 PM UTC

Santa's gone remote, but video calls take some extra magic

Santa Claus is just like the rest of us in the pandemic, pivoting to remote, practicing social distancing, and working harder for the same pay.

Men who professionally portray Santa estimate they have seen a 30 to 50 percent drop in income from doing video call visits instead of a traditional mall, retail, or hired event, all while putting in as many hours.

Some say they miss the old magic. “I can’t hold babies, I don't have any children on my knee,” one Santa said.

And, like everyone else, Santas are weighing their choices and risks. One Santa portrayal artist said he turns down multiple requests per week from families contacting him through a gig message board who want a completely “old-fashioned” experience.

“They’re looking for Santa to come to the house for an hour. Five kids and 20 adults, and they want the kids to sit on Santa's knee without a mask,” he said.

“I get where you’re coming from, and feel for you folks,” he said. “But let’s try again next year.”

Read the story here.

719d ago / 3:01 PM UTC

158 people arrested after massive 'super-spreader' party in Los Angeles County

More than 150 people were arrested and a juvenile sex trafficking victim was rescued after Los Angeles County authorities shut down a massive underground party.

Deputies broke up the party Saturday night at a vacant home in Palmdale, northeast of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference on Tuesday that organizers broke into the home and used a rental truck to move their party equipment.

"This is how brazen this operation was," Villanueva said, calling the party a "super-spreader" event that could become a "deadly source of contagion" during the coronavirus pandemic.

"As you can see, this was a flagrant violation of the governor's health order. But also please understand that even without the health order, these actions were criminal in nature," he said.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 2:47 PM UTC
719d ago / 2:36 PM UTC

As coronavirus surges, countries spend more on economic aid. But not the U.S.

and

The U.S. is facing a new wave of Covid-19 outbreaks straining hospitals, workers, businesses, and schools.

In this, the country is not alone: Wealthy nations across Europe are facing a major surge in new infections too, as is Canada. But unlike their economic peers, elected leaders in the U.S. have left citizens to face the current crisis without any additional financial cushion from their government.

In the United Kingdom, the conservative government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended relief to workers that had been set to expire — a lifeline for millions contending with new lockdowns across the country. In Germany, officials approved more funding to compensate businesses affected by health restrictions. And in Canada, a new budget plan lays out more aid to businesses in hard-hit sectors to complement ongoing subsidies for workers, including $2,000 a month for those who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 1:58 PM UTC

Public health meeting abruptly ends in Idaho as anti-mask protesters gather at official's home

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho public health officials abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday evening after the Boise mayor and chief of police said intense anti-mask protests outside the health department building — as well as outside some health officials’ homes — were threatening public safety.

The request from Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and the Boise Police Department came just a few minutes after one health board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, tearfully interrupted the online meeting to say she had to rush home to be with her child because protesters were banging outside her front door.

The board had been expected to vote on a four-county mask mandate in Idaho’s most populated region.

Coronavirus is so widespread in Idaho that hospital officials have repeatedly warned they are becoming overwhelmed and could be forced to implement “crisis standards of care” — where the patients most likely to survive are given access to life-saving treatment because there aren’t enough of the resources to go around — as soon as the end of the year.

719d ago / 1:40 PM UTC

The U.S. counts 222,211 Covid infections Tuesday, a new record

The U.S. hit a new peak in daily Covid-19 infections Tuesday, counting 222,211 diagnoses of the disease, according to an NBC News tally. Driven by more than 20,000 new cases in California and Ohio, and another 10,000-plus in Texas and Arizona. This is the fifth day in the last week that case counts have been above 200,000.

The U.S. reported 2,271 deaths, and as of Wednesday morning, the Covid-19 death count was at 287,506.

In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 205,601 cases per day and 2,260 deaths per day. That's up from 158,396 cases and 1,176 deaths per day four weeks ago.

These states set single-day records:

  • Arizona, 12,314 cases
  • Ohio, 25,721 cases
  • Oregon, 35 deaths
  • Tennessee, 100 deaths
  • Washington, 7,621 cases
719d ago / 1:36 PM UTC

'Cruise to nowhere' halted after elderly woman tests positive for Covid

SINGAPORE — An elderly passenger on board a Royal Caribbean “cruise to nowhere” has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, prompting the voyage to be cut short as the vessel returned to Singapore on Wednesday.

The 83-year-old guest onboard the Quantum of the Seas tested positive for Covid-19 after reporting to the ship’s medical center with diarrhea, said Annie Chang, director of cruise at Singapore’s Tourism Board.

The passenger had tested negative prior to boarding, Chang said.

“The passenger was immediately isolated and his initial close contacts were identified and isolated,” she said in a statement, adding that the close contacts have since tested negative.

Chang said all leisure activities onboard the Quantum of the Seas had ceased immediately and passengers and crew were asked to stay in their cabins until contact tracing is completed. She said all onboard will undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing before leaving the terminal.

719d ago / 1:22 PM UTC

Pelosi, Schumer blast $916B White House coronavirus relief proposal

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer late Tuesday rejected a Trump-backed $916 billion coronavirus relief proposal that was offered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said the plan proposes a $600 direct payment for individuals and $1,200 for couples, which is half the payment delivered by the March pandemic relief bill, the Associated Press reported.

In a joint statement, Schumer and Pelosi described it as progress that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., endorsed the cost of the package, but they signaled that the proposal was obstructing bipartisan negotiations already underway among lawmakers. The Democratic leaders also made clear that the reduction in unemployment benefits from what's on the table is something they could never support.

Click here for the full story.

719d ago / 1:12 PM UTC

As coronavirus surges, countries spend more on economic aid. But not the U.S.

and

The U.S. is facing a new wave of Covid-19 outbreaks straining hospitals, workers, businesses, and schools.

In this, the country is not alone: Wealthy nations across Europe are facing a major surge in new infections too, as is Canada. But unlike their economic peers, elected leaders in the U.S. have left citizens to face the current crisis without any additional financial cushion from their government.

In the United Kingdom, the conservative government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended relief to workers that had been set to expire — a lifeline for millions contending with new lockdowns across the country. In Germany, officials approved more funding to compensate businesses affected by health restrictions. And in Canada, a new budget plan lays out more aid to businesses in hard-hit sectors to complement ongoing subsidies for workers, including $2,000 a month for those who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic.

The U.S. has gone the opposite direction, letting benefits for workers and businesses expire with no agreement yet in Washington on a new aid package.

Click here to read the full story.

719d ago / 12:13 PM UTC
719d ago / 12:10 PM UTC

Merkel's Christmas warning as Germany posts record death toll

and

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the country may not be able to have a traditional Christmas, as the national death toll reached a record daily high of 590 on Wednesday. 

"As hard as it is — and I know how much love has gone into setting up the Glühwein [mulled wine] stands and waffle stalls — this is not compatible with the agreement we made to only take food away to eat at home.

"I'm sorry. I am really am, from the bottom of my heart. But if the price we pay is 590 deaths a day then that is unacceptable in my view."

Shops and hotels are closed in Germany until Jan 10. Almost 20,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Germany so far.

719d ago / 11:37 AM UTC

U.S. forces in South Korea apologize for rule-breaking events

American armed forces in South Korea apologized Wednesday for holding parties that "displayed poor judgment and actions" and were in violation of Covid-19 health measures.

In a statement, U.S. Forces Korea said that two events, one at United States Army Garrison — Humphreys and one at Osan Air Base, "do not reflect USFK’s commitment to mitigating the spread of Covid-19." Both facilities are closed until further notice.

The statement didn't provide details of how the rules were broken but the Korean Yonhap news agency reported that some party-goers did not wear masks or follow social distancing rules.

719d ago / 11:21 AM UTC

U.K. investigates possible allergic reactions to Covid shot

LONDON — U.K. regulators say people who have a “significant history’’ of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said health authorities were acting on a recommendation from the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the nation’s medicines regulator.

“As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA has advised, on a precautionary basis, that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,’’ Powis said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”

719d ago / 11:16 AM UTC
719d ago / 10:05 AM UTC

Netanyahu says he intends to be first person vaccinated in Israel

and

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of the first doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in Israel Wednesday and said he intended to be the first person in the country to be vaccinated. 

“I want the citizens of Israel to be vaccinated, and to do so I want to set an example for them,” he said at a ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. 

Netanyahu said he believed in the vaccine and that he expected to receive approval for it in coming days. 

“This is a holiday for Israel,” he added.