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January 8 Covid updates: U.K. approves Moderna vaccine, U.S. records over 4,000 deaths in a day

A new record was set Thursday for both deaths and new cases of Covid-19 across the U.S. on Thursday.
Image: A man crosses a road next to a billboard calling for people to wear masks during a nationwide lockdown following the government's measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, Israel,
A billboard calling for people to wear masks during a nationwide lockdown in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday.Oded Balilty / AP

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

The U.S. recorded more than 4,000 daily Covid-19 deaths for the first time Thursday, the highest one-day total since the pandemic began.

There was also a record number of cases, 268,883, showing that the national outlook is worsening by the day.

That news came as a new mutant variant of the disease first identified in the U.K., which has been shown to be more infectious, has been detected across the country including in Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.

California, Arizona, New York set pandemic records for Covid cases, deaths

Thursday, as the country hit new highs in Covid-19 cases and deaths, several states also set one-day records.

California reported a record number of deaths Wednesday and then broke that record Thursday with 604 deaths, according to NBC News' tally.

New York, with a record 17,609 cases Thursday, has now set case records five of the past nine days.

These states also set single-day records:

  • Arizona, 297 dead
  • Delaware, 1,220 cases
  • Mississippi, 3,255 cases

Economy lost 140,000 jobs last month, in final report of Trump presidency

The economy shed 140,000 jobs in December, a clear indication that the pandemic’s chokehold on economic activity strengthened in the final weeks of last year.

The unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent. 

In the final jobs report of 2020, Friday’s monthly employment snapshot from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a labor market teetering on the brink at the end of a tumultuous year.

Economists say the numbers lay bare the struggles facing American workers, and represent a mandate for President-elect Joe Biden's administration to accomplish two things: Address the immediate financial needs of these households, and develop a longer-term solution that fosters job growth and protects the workers most vulnerable to disenfranchisement.

U.K. approves Moderna vaccine

The United Kingdom's medical regulator said Friday it has recommended Moderna's vaccine for approval.

The British government touted the announcement as a win, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock heralding what he called "another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease."

In reality — as the U.K. rushes to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, with cases and hospitalizations surging across the country — the announcement of the move is largely symbolic. Though the U.K. has bought 17 million doses, no Moderna vaccines will be available in the U.K. until April, Hancock said last year.

Britain was the world's first country to approve a vaccine following full clinical trials, giving the green light to the one developed by BioNTech-Pfizer and then the Oxford University-AstraZeneca candidate last month.

Now, ravaged by a new, fast-spreading variant of the virus, its government has set itself an ambitious target of vaccinating some 15 million vulnerable people by mid-February.

Although only Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have vaccinated more people per capita, according to Oxford University data, the U.K. will still need to significantly increase its pace to get near this goal.

WHO approves delaying time between virus shots

GENEVA — World Health Organization experts on Friday issued recommendations that the interval between administration of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus can be extended to up to six weeks.

WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization, known as SAGE, formally published its advice after a full review of that vaccine, which is the first to get emergency approval from the U.N. health agency to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. It said an interval of 21 to 28 days between the doses is recommended.

But the U.N. health agency also noted that “a number of countries face exceptional circumstances of vaccine supply constraints combined with a high disease burden,” and said some have been considering delaying the administration of a second dose as a way to broaden initial coverage.

The agency said this “pragmatic approach” could be considered as a response to “exceptional epidemiological circumstances.”

E.U. secures 300M more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has secured 300 million extra doses of the coronavirus Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Speaking during a news conference in Brussels on Friday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement will double the number of doses ordered by the 27-nation bloc. The EU commission later said in a statement that the Commission has proposed to member states to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses.

“This would enable the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of this vaccine, which is already being used across the EU. The additional doses will be delivered starting in the second quarter of 2021,” the EU said.

Combined with the contract finalized with Moderna — the second vaccine authorized so far in the region — Von der Leyen said the EU has now the capacity to vaccinate 380 million people, more than 80 percent of the EU population.

A casket, marked with Covid is prepared to be incinerated at a crematorium in Ostrava, Czech Republic

A casket, marked with COVID, is prepared to be incinerated at a crematorium in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Thursday.Petr David Josek / AP

Pfizer study suggests vaccine works against virus variant

New research suggests that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that erupted in Britain and South Africa.

Most of the vaccines being rolled out around the world train the body to recognize that spike protein and fight it. Pfizer teamed with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected its vaccine's ability to do so.

They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, during a large study of the shots. Antibodies from those vaccine recipients successfully fended off the virus in lab dishes, according to the study posted late Thursday on an online site for researchers.

The study is preliminary and has not yet been reviewed by experts, a key step for medical research.

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U.S. records more than 4,000 deaths in a single day

The U.S. reported more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths Thursday, the most in a single day, according to an NBC News tally.

The exact number was 4,110 deaths, and there were 268,883 cases reported, breaking the record for both for the second consecutive day.

On Wednesday, the country set a near identical record of 268,840 cases and posted 3,920 deaths, the highest daily total before Thursday.

This week alone, 1,614,756 new cases and 19,230 deaths were logged.