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In the U.S., members of Operation Warp Speed recommended that states should expand access to Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 65 and older, as well as adults with underlying health conditions.
Meanwhile, after months of delays, a team of experts from the World Health Organization has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan on a mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
China has resisted calls for an international inquiry into the source of the virus — conscious of the negative stigma the country has already suffered in the now global pandemic — but has agreed to let a WHO team in.
- 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.
1 in 3 L.A. residents have been infected with Covid-19, new modeling shows
LOS ANGELES — As Los Angeles County rapidly approaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, new modeling data suggests 1 in 3 residents have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The estimate is based on scientific modeling and would mean that 3 million of L.A. county's 10 million residents have, at some point, contracted the virus.
The modeling also suggests that about 1 in 115 residents are currently infectious to others. One week ago that estimate was 1 in 125 people.
On Wednesday, the county's public health director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said L.A. has experienced a 1,000 percent increase in Covid-19 cases since Nov. 1. She also warned that the region has not yet seen the full scope of the full post-holiday surge.
Dr. Ruth, 92, gets first dose of Covid-19 vaccine
Renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who will turn 93 later this year, received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, according to an Instagram post Thursday.
Westheimer said she normally attends a book fair at the Javits Center, but "this time I came and I just got my shot."
"I was a little scared to tell the truth," she added. "It's nothing, so I'll be back here for the second shot in February."
WHO scientists arrive in China to investigate virus' origins
A team of scientists arrived in China on Thursday for a much-anticipated investigation led by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.
The researchers landed in Wuhan, the city where the virus was thought to have emerged, and will now undergo a two-week quarantine. The investigation comes more than a year after the coronavirus was first identified and was held up by delays from Chinese officials — a move that drew uncharacteristic criticism from WHO leadership earlier this month.
Few details about the trip have been made public, but the scientists are expected to probe where the coronavirus came from and how it spilled over into humans.
The research delegation includes biologists and infectious disease experts from nine different countries, including the United States, Japan and Germany. Fifteen scientists were expected land in Wuhan Thursday, but two researchers remain in Singapore after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to the WHO. Those individuals will now undergo additional testing, agency officials said in an update on Twitter.
U.K. bans travel from all of South America and Portugal over Covid variant
Travel to the U.K. from all of South America and Portugal will be banned from Friday over concerns about the Brazilian coronavirus variant, Britain’s government said Thursday. Panama and Cape Verde will also be included in the ban.
Travel from Portugal would be suspended “given its strong travel links with Brazil - acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter, although he said that hauliers from the southern European country would be exempt to allow the transport of essential goods.
British and Irish nationals and those with U.K. residence rights would be allowed to return but they should self-isolate for 10 days along with their households, he added.
New Jersey to give smokers early access to Covid vaccine
New Jersey announced Wednesday that smokers will be among its residents who get early access to Covid-19 vaccines.
The state expanded its vaccination program to include all those over 65 and people with underlying health conditions, like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The state also put smokers on that list.
"Smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from Covid-19," New Jersey health commissioner Judith Persichilli said at press conference announcing the new guidelines.
New Jersey, which was one of the first states in the country to experience an intense Covid-19 outbreak, has recorded more than 600,000 Covid cases and 20,000 deaths.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for Covid-19
Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., said Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining at home.
In a series of tweets and a statement released by his office, Espaillat said he received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and understands that the effects “take time.”
“I have continued to be tested regularly, wear my mask and follow the recommended guidelines,” he said. “I will continue my duties representing New York’s 13th congressional district remotely until I have received clearance from my doctor.”
Espaillat spoke on the House floor during the impeachment proceedings Wednesday but wore a mask.
1 person dies every 6 minutes: How L.A. became the nation's largest coronavirus hot spot
LOS ANGELES — In Los Angeles County, 10 people on average test positive for the coronavirus every minute. Every six minutes, someone dies from Covid-19, according to county public health data.
The startling figures come as California’s most populous county rapidly approaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic started last year.
According to the county public health officials, more than 958,400 people in L.A. have been infected with the virus and nearly 13,000 people have died as of Wednesday. The numbers are equally sobering across the state. California has nearly 2.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 31,000 deaths as of Wednesday, according to NBC News counts. A more contagious variant of the virus has also been detected in the region.
Epidemiologists and elected officials are confronted with an uncomfortable question as L.A.’s Covid-19 crisis metastasizes: How did Los Angeles become the center of the pandemic?
Weekly initial jobless claims soar to 965,000
The latest weekly initial jobless claims soared to 965,000 last week, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor, as the economy struggles to contain the fallout from rising coronavirus infection rates across the country.
Last week's figure is far higher than economists' forecasts of 800,000 claims, and is the largest total since last August, when the economy made a brief recovery over the summer.
First-time jobless claims have remained below 1 million for five straight months, after hitting a record total of 7 million in late March. However, the weekly figure continues to be around four times higher than the pre-pandemic average.
Close to 4,000 reported dead in the U.S., one million vaccinated
The U.S. counted 3,976 reported Covid-19 deaths, 234,158 cases and about one million total vaccinations Wednesday, according to NBC News' tally.
The country averaged 3,381 deaths per day the past week, the highest average yet during the pandemic.
In total, 23.1 million people have been infected and 385,698 have died, as of Thursday morning.
More than 10 million have begun vaccinations, according to the CDC.