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Jan. 5 Coronavirus updates: Supreme Court justices will receive vaccine

Fauci on Biden vaccination plan of 100M doses in first 100 days: "It can be done."
Image: A person sits alone while commuting on the Staten Island Ferry amid the coronavirus pandemic
A person sits alone while commuting on the Staten Island Ferry amid the coronavirus pandemic on Monday in New York.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

Live coverage has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest reporting on Covid-19.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown in England to slow down the spiral in new cases of Covid-19 on the same day the U.K. started the rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

The increase in cases is likely fueled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus that was first detected in England in November.

Loss of smell and taste can linger after Covid or come back different

Before the pandemic, Dr. Jennifer Spicer used to savor waking up early. In those quiet morning hours, she'd get precious alone time with her dog and brew up a mug of her favorite coffee, using beans from an Atlanta roaster.

Now, she can barely take a sip without spitting the coffee out. 

"I cannot even go in a coffee shop. It smells so bad," said Spicer, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. "It's really awful."

The abrupt change in Spicer's senses has, by now, an all-too-common culprit: Covid-19

A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that 86 percent of patients with mild forms of Covid-19 developed loss of sense of taste and smell, compared with 4 percent to 7 percent of those with moderate to severe cases.

Read the full story here.

China says still working on details of WHO Covid visit after criticism over delays

China said Wednesday it was still negotiating with the World Health Organization the dates and itinerary for a visit by international experts looking into origins of Covid-19, after the head of the agency criticized Beijing for not finalizing permissions for the mission.

The dates and itinerary need to be finalized, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

An international team of experts had been due to visit the central city of Wuhan in January, where the pandemic first appeared a year ago. China has strongly opposed calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, saying such calls are anti-China, but has said it's open to a WHO-led investigation.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that members of the international scientific team began departing from their home countries as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government. China however, didn't authorize their entry into the country.

Image: A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a mass vaccination center in Veghel, Netherlands on Wednesday.
A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a mass vaccination center in Veghel, Netherlands. Wednesday marked the start of Holland's inoculation program, which began nearly two weeks after most other European countries.Piroschka van de Wouw / AP

NFL encouraging teams to offer stadiums as vaccination sites

The National Football League is encouraging teams to offer up stadiums and other facilities as vaccination sites for the general public against the coronavirus illness Covid-19.

The NFL said in a statement that more information would be released in the coming weeks, but that teams are being encouraged to offer the facilities if practical. 

"We have encouraged clubs to contact their state and local health departments to offer stadiums and practice facilities if practical to serve as site for vaccinating the general public," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "These will be decisions between the clubs and their local officials based on need, location and availability."

Vaccinations are being given to front-line workers and vulnerable populations, but health experts have said vaccinating the general public is likely months away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations on who should be vaccinated first.

Your stimulus check might be delayed if you filed your taxes with an online tax preparer

Stimulus checks may be delayed for some customers, the IRS and major tax prep software companies warned this week.

The lag could affect as many as 14 million people, a banking industry source told NBC News.

The second round of economic impact payments, which provide for $600 per adult and qualifying dependent child, started going out at the end of December.

“These payments may begin to arrive in some accounts by direct deposit as early as tonight and will continue into next week,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted on Dec. 29.

Click here to read the full story. 

Israel leads world in Covid vaccinations

'There was no plan': Private health care workers shafted over vaccine distribution

A San Diego anesthesiologist whose job puts her at high risk of catching Covid-19 says the difference between herself and a hospital administrator is this — the administrator probably got the coronavirus vaccine before she did.

Dr. Jessica Hollingsworth contends the wording of the federal and state guidelines for distributing the vaccine has enabled big hospital chains to inoculate their employees “regardless of role” while private or contracted health care workers like herself who work with coronavirus patients are stuck at the back of the vaccination line.

Specifically, Hollingsworth cited the guideline which states that if the vaccine is scarce, which has been the case ever since the rollout began last month, then health departments can reallocate the shots based on “type of facility” — as well as the role the recipient plays in the pandemic fight.

“In San Diego, vaccine has been given to IT workers, billing administration, tele-workers, PR staff, engineering department, etc. that are affiliated with a hospital conglomerate but do not have and never will have responsibilities that involve direct patient care contact with COVID+ or otherwise ill patients,” Hollingsworth said in a letter she sent on New Year’s Eve to the California Department of Public Health that she shared with NBC News.

Click here to read the full story. 

Three states have worst Covid infection rates of anywhere in the world

Arizona, California and Rhode Island are among the hardest-hit places in the world at this stage of the pandemic, with the highest rates of Covid-19 infections per capita, according to a data analysis by NBC News.

The sobering figures, reflected as rolling seven-day averages of new reported cases, highlight just how dire the situation is in the U.S., particularly as a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus has emerged in several states.

Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new Covid-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. That rate not only leads the U.S., but is the highest in the world, according to NBC News data. For comparison, the Czech Republic, the country with the highest per-capita rate of infection, has reported 653 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days.

Rhode Island and California also have higher per-capita rates of infection than any other country. Over the past seven days, Rhode Island reported 671 new cases per 100,000, and California had 658 per 100,000.

Click here to read the full story.

California college installs Covid-19 test vending machines throughout campus

As students return to campus for the spring semester, University of California San Diego is providing a new way for the campus community to complete its required Covid-19 testing. 

The university has installed vending machines in nearly a dozen locations on campus that distribute self-administered Covid-19 tests free of charge for students and faculty.

“I'm a big fan of the testing especially with everyone coming back from winter break, there's definitely inherently a lot more risk with all the students that kind of traveled and are coming back now, so having the testing requirements increase will definitely help keep everyone safe,” first year medical student Bryan Diggs, who was using one of the vending machines Monday, told NBC San Diego

Students must return the completed test to drop boxes located next to the vending machines within 72 hours of administering the test. According to the university’s Covid-19 testing dashboard, results are returned, on average, within 30 hours. 

“While UC San Diego is one of the few colleges in the nation with low rates of infection and a large student body on campus, the university remains vigilant to reduce transmission of virus in our community to the greatest extent possible,” the university’s Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said in a press release.

The vending machines are part of the university’s “Return to Learn” program that requires students living or coming to campus to get tested for the virus on a weekly basis

Soccer pro Alex Morgan tests positive for Covid-19

Soccer star Alex Morgan revealed Tuesday that she is recovering from Covid-19.

The 31-year-old, who has won the FIFA Women’s World Cup twice as part of the United States women’s national soccer team, said she and her family were infected with the virus while in California over the holidays.

“We are in good spirits and recovering well,” she tweeted. “After our isolation is completed, I will follow US Soccer's return to play guidelines to ensure my body is fully recovered and I can join my teammates back on the field soon. Be safe and happy new year.”

Grammy Awards postponed due to 'deteriorating' coronavirus situation in Los Angeles

The 2021 Grammy Awards will no longer take place this month in Los Angeles and will broadcast in March due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

The Recording Academy announced that the annual show would shift from its original Jan. 31 broadcast to March 14.

"The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do," the academy said in a statement to NBC News.

The Grammys will be held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis in California, has surpassed 10,000 Covid-19 deaths and has had 40% of the deaths in California. It is the third state to reach the 25,000 death count.

Click here to read the full article. 

Georgia confirms first case of highly contagious U.K. variant

Georgia confirmed on Tuesday its first case of Covid-19 from the new, more contagious coronavirus variant that is thought to have first emerged in the United Kingdom.

The state’s public health office said the case involves an 18-year-old male with no recent travel history. Georgia is now the fifth state in the U.S. to identify the variant among new infections. Cases involving the new strain have also been reported in Colorado, California, Florida and New York.

The patient in Georgia is currently in isolation at home, and public health officials said they are working to identify his close contacts. 

“The emergence of this variant in our state should be a wake-up call for all Georgians,” Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “Even as we begin roll out of a Covid-19 vaccine, we must not let down our guard and ignore basic prevention measures — wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.”

The new variant, which has already been reported in more than 30 countries, is estimated to be between 50 percent and 70 percent more contagious, though it does not seem to be more deadly or cause more severe illness.

FDA warns Congress about Covid test that may give false results

The Office of the Attending Physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, is responding to a public FDA warning issued yesterday that the coronavirus test administered on the Hill can be subject to false results, according to a memo obtained by NBC News.

In the memo, Monahan writes, “The Office of Attending Physician is presently monitoring a notice released this evening by the FDA regarding the performance characteristics of the Curative test to detect coronavirus using the RT-PCR system. This test system in presently used in the CVC test center at the Capitol. This test uses a tip-of-the-nose swab obtained by our patients under medical supervision.”

Monahan asserts the test "is the most accurate available" and inaccurate results plague all Covid-19 testing.

He adds they expect more information in the coming days from the FDA. The memo was fiorst reported by Politico. 

Testing at the Capitol was made available in November to all members, staff and reporters working on the Hill after months of pushback to the idea from House and Senate leadership.

There is a heavy reliance on this testing system by the thousands who work in the building on a daily basis. The full House and Senate return from all across the country as they prepare to certify the Electoral College results Wednesday.

Click here for the full story. 

Beloved Oklahoma physical therapist dies from Covid: 'All she wanted to do was help people'

On their first date 25 years ago, Chris Kalinski realized that Rose Giroux, the woman he would eventually marry and have two sons with, knew just about everybody in Norman, Oklahoma.

They met at the physical therapy office where Rose had just started working and Chris, a college student, had been receiving treatment from a different therapist.

On that first date, they went to the store to buy ingredients to cook a romantic dinner together. Once inside, they split up, each tackling half of the grocery list.

"I walk into the freezer section and I see her talking to somebody — and it was my dad," Chris said. "I walked up and I go, 'I didn't know you knew each other, did you meet my dad like randomly or what?,'

"She said, 'Oh no, he's one of my patients.'"

Rose had a reputation around Norman of being the caretaker for just about everybody. So, when she died of Covid-19 on Nov. 23 — just six days shy of what should have been her 49th birthday — it came as a great comfort, but little surprise, to her husband to receive letters from strangers and hear stories from those whose lives she had touched.

Click here to read the full story.

Sandy Hook massacre first responder dies from Covid-19

One of the first Connecticut state troopers to respond to the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 has died from Covid-19. 

Retired Trooper First Class Patrick Dragon of Brooklyn, CT died from the virus on Jan. 2 at Hartford Hospital, the Connecticut State Police said in a statement on its Facebook page. 

Trooper First Class Patrick Dragon.
Trooper First Class Patrick Dragon.Connecticut State Police

Dragon was an officer with the Connecticut State Police for 20 years and retired in 2018. During his time with the agency, Dragon served as a patrol trooper, resident trooper and as a detective in the Eastern District Major Crime Squad and the Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit. 

Upon his retirement, he worked as a police dispatcher for the Foster Police Department in Foster, RI. He was remembered as a kind and caring friend to all who met him, Foster Police Department Chief David Breit said in a statement

Cleveland Browns head coach, 4 others test positive

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches and two players have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the NFL team's first playoff game in nearly two decades.

"Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority," the team said in a statement Tuesday.

The Browns are scheduled to play Sunday at 8:15 p.m. against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in their first postseason appearance since 2002. 

Italy extends travel restrictions another week

ROME — The Italian government has extended travel restrictions and other measures for another week in its modified Christmas season lockdown to try to head off a new surge in coronavirus infections.

A decree approved by the Cabinet early Tuesday extends the measures to Jan. 15. At the same time, the government agreed to begin letting high school students return to class starting next week, but only in limited numbers. High schools have been on remote learning since the end of October, though elementary and middle schoolers have been attending in-person school since the start of the academic year.

Italy, the first country in the west to be slammed by the virus, has been trying to control its latest wave of infections with localized restrictions. After two months of restrictions, infections have plateaued but hospitals are still under pressure, hundreds of people are still dying every day and officials fear cases could surge again due to holiday get-togethers.

Italy has reported over 75,600 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic, but experts say many COVID-19 deaths were not counted early in the pandemic.

U.S. closes in on 21 million Covid-19 cases

The country is on the verge of counting its 21 millionth Covid-19 case, after recording 222,349 cases and 1,822 deaths Monday.

As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. has 20.9 million cases and 354,313 deaths according to NBC News' tally.

The U.S. averaged 2,569 deaths and 213,000 cases per day the past week. Four weeks ago that number was an average of 2,390 deaths and 225,000 cases per day.

Monday, Rhode Island set single-day records of 78 deaths and 4,759 cases and 78 deaths, although the state had reported zero cases and deaths since Dec. 30 2020.

Netherlands last E.U. country to administer vaccinations

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government came under heavy criticism from lawmakers Tuesday for its Covid-19 vaccination plan that only starts to administer its first shots on Wednesday, making it the last European Union nation to begin vaccinations.

“This is outrageous," Geert Wilders, leader of the largest Dutch opposition party, said during a debate that was arranged during Parliament's winter recess. “It is not a strategy, but chaos — total chaos — and the preparations were poor and too late.”

Last month, the Netherlands watched from the sidelines as other E.U. nations began vaccinations on Dec. 27 in what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a “ a touching moment of unity.”

Wilders called the Netherlands “the village idiot of Europe.”

The Netherlands took delivery of thousands of doses of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech late last year. But they have remained in freezers in a central storage location while the government finalized its vaccination plans, despite having months to work out how and where to administer the shots.

“What a failure by this Cabinet, that they are still in the freezer!" said Lodewijk Asscher of the Labor Party.

'Not good enough': Calif. Governor says vaccine rollout too slow

California Governor Gavin Newsom criticized the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccine in his state, where 1.3 million doses have been shipped but only 454,000 doses have been injected so far.

That means only one percent of the state's 40 million residents have received any coronavirus vaccine, according to the governor.

California reached new highs in daily Covid-19 cases during the holiday season even as officials there said that a new, more infectious British virus Coronavirus variant had been discovered in residents with no history of travel

Hospitals in the state are struggling with more than 22,000 Covid-19 patients, with 4,700 of them in intensive care units, according to the state's Department of Public Health. 

Labor unions and producers on Sunday called for film and television production in Southern California to be paused "until more hospital beds become available."

Across the country local governments are struggling to distribute vaccine doses as quickly as they receive them.

The federal government has largely left state governments to decide how to distribute vaccine that they receive; for his part, Newsom said, “the vaccines don’t arrive magically in some state facility.”

Indonesia prepares to begin vaccinations, prioritizing working-age people over the elderly

As Indonesia prepares to begin mass inoculations against Covid-19, its vaccination plan looks strikingly different to the U.S. and other Western countries, prioritizing working-age adults instead of the elderly.

The country will begin its inoculation program on Jan. 13, the country's health minister said on Tuesday, and President Joko Widodo is scheduled to get the first shot. Indonesia's first doses will be of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, whose clinical trials involved people between the ages of 18 and 59.

Authorities have said they would await recommendations from the country's drug regulators to decide on vaccination plans for the elderly. By vaccinating more socially mobile and economically active groups first, the government hopes it can quickly reach herd immunity. 

Economists have argued a successful vaccination program covering around 100 million people will help jumpstart the economy, as they are more likely to resume economic activity such as spending and production.

Mexico approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

MEXICO CITY — Mexico approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Monday, hoping to spur a halting vaccination effort that has only given about 44,000 shots since the third week of December, about 82% of the doses the country has received.

Prior to this, the Pfizer vaccine was the only one approved for use in Mexico. Mexican regulators approved the AstraZeneca shot on Monday.

Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo López-Gatell said he erroneously reported approval for Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino, noting it had not yet submitted full study results for safety and efficacy.

Mexico has pinned much of its hopes on the inexpensive, one-shot CanSino vaccine. “It will makes things a lot easier for us,” López-Gatell said.