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Covid live updates: Fauci pushes back on Trump claims, first Oxford-AstraZeneca shots given in U.K.

"The numbers are real," Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Image: Kenyan school children wear face masks while walking to school as they resume in-class learning after a nine-month disruption caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, in Nairobi
Children wear masks in Nairobi on Monday as they resume in-class learning after a nine-month disruption caused by the pandemic.Simon Maina / AFP - Getty Images

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci has pushed back on President Donald Trump's false claims that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is "exaggerated."

"The numbers are real," Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "We have well over 300,000 deaths. We are averaging two to three thousand deaths per day."

U.S. air travel hits new peak after the holidays

More than 1.3 million people in the United States boarded planes Sunday — the most nationwide since the pandemic began — according to data compiled by the Transportation Security Administration. 

The TSA screened 1,327,289 passengers across the country on Sunday, despite pleas from public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid unnecessary travel this holiday season.

“Yesterday would typically be one of the busiest travel days of the year as families return from what is often a two-week school vacation surrounding Christmas and the start of the new year,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein tweeted Monday.

Although air travel overall remains lower than in previous years, the TSA recorded increases around Thanksgiving and Christmas, which suggests that some Americans are continuing to ignore guidelines from the CDC. Nearly 1.2 million passengers passed through airport checkpoints in the U.S. on Dec. 23 and more than 1 million people boarded planes the day before Thanksgiving, according to TSA data.

Some Chicago teachers returning to classrooms Monday

Some teachers in Chicago returned to the classroom Monday for the first time since a statewide shutdown in March, a move met with criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union as some members said they did not feel safe going back into their buildings in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Roughly 5,000 teachers in the Chicago Public Schools district serving preschoolers and special education students were ordered to return to their classrooms on Monday, with students expected to return next Monday, Jan. 11.

 "I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow," Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey told NBC Chicago on Sunday. "Certainly what I’m hearing is that a number of teachers are going to not be showing up at work tomorrow, at least not in person."

Sharkey told the station that about 1,800 members asked for special accommodations, but only about 600 received them. It was not immediately clear Monday morning how many teachers did not report to work. 

Chicago Public Schools said in a statement to NBC Chicago that the “overwhelming scientific evidence, expert guidance and experiences of districts across Illinois are clear: Schools can safely reopen with a comprehensive plan in place.”

Teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade will return to school starting Jan. 25, with those students expected to return on Feb.1. 

College basketball's 'March Madness' will be an all-Indiana affair

College basketball's top-fight post-season tournament, known as "March Madness," will be played entirely in Indiana, in hopes of keeping participants safe from coronavirus, officials said Monday.

The NCAA said in November it was planning to centralize the tournament which is normally staged at 13 arenas across America, not including the play-in games in Dayton, Ohio.

All of the 2021 games will now be played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at Ball State University, Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, Indiana Farmers Coliseum at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Mackey Arena at  Purdue University, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University in Bloomington, and Lucas Oil Stadium, the NCAA said.

The cancellation of March Madness in 2020 was one of the first, major cultural events lost to the pandemic.

NYC to open first pop-up vaccination hubs

New York City will launch its first pop-up vaccination sites beginning Sunday as city officials prepare to ramp up the number of people and types of workers getting vaccinated against Covid-19.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he wants the hardest hit communities in the city to have access to vaccines, and hubs will be coming to three locations: the Bushwick Educational Campus in Brooklyn, Hillcrest High School in Queens and the South Bronx Educational Campus.

"Getting it right in the first few weeks was the trendsetter. Now it's time to sprint," de Blasio told reporters. "This has got to be a seven-day-a-week, 24/7 reality going forward."

Ultimately, the mayor said, he wants to see 100,000 vaccine shots administered this week and at least 250 hubs open citywide by the end of January. He added that he wants other types of health care providers to begin getting vaccinated Monday, including NYPD medical staff, physical therapists, contact tracers, dentists and workers at clinics. Home care and hospice workers can begin getting vaccinated next week.

The push to increase vaccinations in New York City, which was an early hot spot for the coronavirus last spring, comes as public health officials nationwide grapple with ensuring enough Americans get vaccinated in the face of rising Covid-19 cases.

New York nurse who was among first to get vaccine receives second dose

A nurse in Queens, New York, who was among the first people in the country to receive the Covid-19 vaccine has gotten her second dose.

Sandra Lindsay, whose first dose was broadcast live by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 14, got her booster shot Monday, making her one of the first individuals in the United States to be fully vaccinated against the disease. Asked how she was feeling ahead of being injected, the critical care manager at Long Island Jewish Medical Center answered that she was "feeling great." 

Lindsay got the initial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer days after the Food and Drug Administration gave it emergency use authorization. The vaccine has been shown to be 95 percent effective, according to its manufacturers, when administered in two doses three weeks apart. 

After receiving her shot Monday, Lindsay applauded and told reporters, "I know that we're not out of the woods yet. We don't have that herd immunity yet. But the burden feels definitely much lighter today, and I'm very, very grateful to just receive this vaccine in the first place."

As she did with the first one, Lindsay received her second shot at the hospital where she works, which is a part of the Northwell Health system. The health system says Lindsay was the first nurse in America to receive the vaccine. 

Lindsay said that she did not have a fever or any other side effects after receiving her initial dose, and she was not worried about side effects after the second.

"Even if I do get those symptoms, that pales in comparison to getting Covid-19, possibly ending up in one of my ICU beds here, and potentially death," she said. 

Northwell Health has inoculated more than 22,000 health care workers with Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by both Pfizer and Moderna since mid-December.

As Mexico closes migrant shelters due to coronavirus, those seeking refuge face more dangers

SALTILLO, Mexico—Dozens of migrant shelters in Mexico have closed their doors or scaled back operations in recent weeks to curb the ravages of coronavirus, exposing people to greater peril just as migration from Central America to the United States is on the rise again.

Reuters spoke to people responsible for over 40 shelters that had offered refuge to thousands on a route where immigrants without legal documentation often face assaults, robberies and kidnappings—before the pandemic forced them to shut or limit capacity.

The closures are a fresh headache for migrants already coping with reductions to the southern routes of a Mexican cargo train known as "La Bestia" (The Beast) that has long helped them get north.

Fewer shelters mean fewer safe places for Central Americans to take cover, even as many walk hundreds more miles than before, over a dozen migrants told Reuters.

Click here to read the full story.

The U.S. records more than 210,000 new coronavirus cases Sunday

The United States recorded 215,867 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, along with 1,522 new deaths.

The country has logged at least 1,000 deaths a day every day since November 29.

The following states set new single-day case records Sunday:

  • Arizona, 17,234 cases
  • New Hampshire, 1,266 cases
  • Oklahoma, 8,017 cases
  • South Carolina, 8,951 cases

Overall, there have been 20,711,482 recorded cases and 352,340 deaths in the United States as of 10 a.m. Monday.

Azar shoots down idea of giving just one dose instead of two

WASHINGTON — The U.S. health and human services secretary is shooting down the idea of expanding the number of Americans getting a Covid-19 vaccine by giving them only one dose instead of the two being administered now.

Alex Azar says the U.S. is “holding in reserve that second dose” because that’s what the science says to do.

Some health experts have suggested that, with vaccine supplies short, people might get partial protection from a single dose and that should be considered as a way to reach far more people faster. But Azar says “the data just isn’t there to support that and we’re not going to do that.”

The two vaccines approved in the U.S. so far, one by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech and the other by Moderna, each require double doses.

Azar spoke Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Azar says the U.S. has reported 1.5 million vaccinations in the last 72 hours, a “very rapid uptick” that he predicts will continue.

Austria extends lockdown, Germany prepares to

Austria has scrapped plans to allow anyone with a negative coronavirus test to exit lockdown a week early, Austrian health minister Rudolf Anschober said Monday morning.

The closure of nonessential shops as well as hospitality venues is set to be extended by one week until Jan. 24, along with the mandatory stay-at-home order for people in all of Austria’s states.

In neighboring Germany, several media outlets, including the country’s BILD newspaper, have reported that  state leaders are generally in agreement to extend the Covid-19 lockdown until the end of January.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet with the 16 state leaders on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the country and the lockdown extension. 

Austria has reported 6,324 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic and more than 365,000 cases, while Germany's death toll stands at 34,574, with nearly 1.8 million cases reported so far.

Texas teacher behind heartwarming viral video dies at 35

Zelene Blancas, an El Paso, Texas, teacher whose sweet classroom routine went viral in 2018, has died from Covid-19, Sunset Funeral Homes-West confirmed to "TODAY." A verified GoFundMe organized by her family also announced the news on Saturday.

Blancas, 35, taught first grade at Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary. According to the GoFundMe, Blancas first tested positive for the virus on Oct. 20 and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit on Oct. 24.

According to the GoFundMe, Blancas took "all precautions possible" to avoid the virus. According to the Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary website, the school has been conducting classes virtually since March.

In 2018, Blancas went viral after sharing a video of her first-grade students hugging and high-fiving each other. Students were given the option of choosing between a hug, handshake, high-five or fist bump to show kindness to their classmates.

Click here for the full story.