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January 22: Biden Covid plan pledges 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days

President Joe Biden will sign two more executive orders Friday, designed to alleviate economic pressures across the U.S.
Image: A member of medical staff reacts as a health worker inoculates her with a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government hospital in Hyderabad
A member of medical staff reacts as a health worker inoculates her with a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government hospital in Hyderabad, India on Friday.Noah Seelam / AFP - Getty Images

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

President Joe Biden will again step up his response to the pandemic with two more executive orders Friday morning, both designed to alleviate economic pressures across the nation.

Elsewhere, countries across the world have welcomed the United States' intention to rejoin global efforts to support vaccine rollouts, as plans to supercharge vaccine delivery nationally get underway.

1044d ago / 1:01 AM UTC
1044d ago / 12:10 AM UTC

L.A. County cases, hospitalizations finally dropping

Los Angeles County had some good news Friday after more than two months of a deadly Covid-19 surge that has killed 4,000 residents since New Year's Day. 

New coronavirus cases decreased this week by 30 percent and the test positivity rate dropped to 12.7 percent from nearly 21 percent earlier in the month, public health officials said. 

Since last Friday, the daily number of people hospitalized has decreased by 8 percent.

“It is clear that careful actions many have been taking this month are making a difference. It is also apparent that the road ahead remains difficult," the county's public health director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said in a statement. "Knowing that it will take months to complete vaccinations, and that there is a more infectious variant, means we need everyone to adhere to the rules that allow us to protect each other.”

1044d ago / 12:05 AM UTC

Amazon plans pop-up clinic to vaccinate 2,000 in Seattle

Amazon on Thursday said it will open a pop-up clinic at its downtown Seattle campus Sunday to vaccinate about 2,000 eligible state residents.

"We're eager to help save lives here in our home state," Jay Carney, Amazon senior vice president for global corporate affairs, said at a news conference with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The clinic, operated with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, will operate for only a day, but Amazon said in a statement the two could pair up again for "future pop up clinic opportunities."

On Wednesday, Washington marked one year since federal health officials announced the first known U.S. coronavirus patient, a man who had traveled home to the Seattle area from the origin of the pandemic, Wuhan, China.

Shortly after Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday, Amazon, which says it has inoculated 1 million employees, offered to help the president accelerate the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

Inslee, meanwhile, announced the state was moving to its next phase of vaccination, which lowers the age limit from 70 to 65. 

1044d ago / 11:11 PM UTC

California technologists create website to track vaccinations

For weeks, Patrick McKenzie had been reading and hearing about the frustrations of people in California trying to make appointments to get coronavirus vaccination for themselves or loved ones.

“The frustration and the fear involved in calling 20 hospitals and hearing no, no, no, no, no. I thought, there has to be a better way to do this,” McKenzie, a software developer at the online payment processing company Stripe, said.

So on the evening of Jan. 13, he tweeted a call to fellow techies to solve the problem. Less than four hours later, he and a team of 70 other technologists wrapped up with a six bullet-point plan.

By noon the next day, the team had launched, a website meant to be a one-stop destination for people looking for information on where and when vaccinations are available across the state. Users can search by region or county, or within a set radius of their ZIP code to find active vaccine distribution sites, eligibility and how to make an appointment.

Read the full story here.

1044d ago / 10:41 PM UTC
1044d ago / 9:02 PM UTC

CDC: Allergic reactions to Moderna vaccine appear to be extremely rare

Of the first 4 million Moderna Covid-19 vaccines to be administered in the U.S., 10 people experienced a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.

Early reports anaphylaxis in people who received the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the U.K. prompted U.S. health officials to pay particular attention to the potential for allergic reactions. Patients without allergies are observed for 15 minutes after getting the shot, and patients with allergies are observed for 30 minutes. Sites administering the vaccines are also expected to be able to treat anaphylaxis.

Of the 10 who experienced anaphylaxis from the Moderna vaccine, nine had other allergies, the CDC reported. Six had to be hospitalized, and four required intubation to help with breathing. All were women.

One person, who had previous allergic reactions to drugs, developed anaphylaxis a full 45 minutes after the initial shot. 

Earlier this month, the CDC released a similar report on the first 1.9 million people who received the Covid-19 vaccines, mostly those made by Pfizer. The rate of anaphylaxis among those recipients was 11.1 cases per million doses given. 

Based on the 4 million Moderna vaccines administered thus far, the CDC said the rate of anaphylaxis is 2.5 cases per million doses given. 

Covid-19 vaccines currently available require two doses for maximum protection, about a month apart. The CDC recommends that anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, with the first dose should skip the second.

1044d ago / 8:23 PM UTC

Boris Johnson warns U.K. variant may be deadlier, but experts say it’s too soon to tell

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested Friday that the coronavirus variant discovered in the U.K. may be deadlier than other versions of the virus, though public health officials stressed that there is much uncertainty around this conclusion.

"In addition to spreading more quickly," Johnson said during a news conference, "it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant that was first identified in London … may be associated with a higher degree of mortality."

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 7:22 PM UTC

CDC says getting different vaccine for 2nd dose possible if there are shortages

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an update to its Covid-19 vaccine guidance that in "exceptional situations" people may receive a different vaccine for the second dose than they received for the first shot. 

In other words, if an individual got the Moderna vaccine as the first dose, the person could, if absolutely necessary, get the Pfizer vaccine as the second dose, and vice versa. 

The CDC stresses, however, that "every effort should be made to determine which vaccine product was received as the first dose, in order to ensure completion of the vaccine series with the same product." The agency notes that there is no data looking at using two different vaccines.

The "exceptional situations" described by the CDC are if the first-dose product that a person received cannot be determined, or if the first-dose product is no longer available. In these situations, the second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first. 

The interchangeability only applies to mRNA vaccines, which includes both Pfizer and Moderna. Future vaccines, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, do not use mRNA. 

The update was posted Thursday. 

1044d ago / 7:21 PM UTC
1044d ago / 6:56 PM UTC

Netherlands bans all flights from the U.K., South Africa, South America

The Netherlands is banning flights from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and some countries in South America, government officials announced Friday.

"The purpose of the flight ban is to prevent the further spread of new variants of coronavirus in the Netherlands and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba," the government said in a statement.

The ban extends to 15 countries in South America, including Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, according to the statement. Healthcare workers and patients are exempt from the bans.

1044d ago / 6:41 PM UTC
1044d ago / 6:37 PM UTC

1,900 Covid vaccine doses ruined by loose freezer plug at Massachusetts VA hospital

A Massachusetts Veterans Affairs hospital said that nearly 2,000 doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine were spoiled after a cleaning contractor accidentally unplugged a refrigerator.

The 1,900 doses were located at a VA facility in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, where on Tuesday VA officials realized that the doses had not been stored at proper temperatures, NBC News Boston reported.

A VA spokesperson told the NBC News affiliate that a contractor "accidentally removed [an electrical plug] while cleaning" and that an investigation is underway to find out why the freezer's alarm system and monitoring system did not work as intended.

The VA also said that replenishments were on the way and that they did not expect that the loss of nearly 2,000 doses of vaccine would impact their vaccination efforts.

Read the full story here.

1044d ago / 5:52 PM UTC

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine trial for kids ages 12-15 has 2,259 participants


Pfizer said Friday that its Covid-19 vaccine trial in children between ages 12 and 15 was fully enrolled with 2,259 participants.

In October, Pfizer became the first pharmaceutical company in the U.S. to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test its vaccine on children as young as 12.

Last month, the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA for people ages 16 and above. There is no existing Covid-19 vaccine for children that has been authorized by the FDA. 

1044d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

Two Georgia educators die from Covid on the same day

Two Cobb County educators died on the same day from Covid-19, sparking demands for the suburban Atlanta school district to switch to remote-only learning.

Kemp Elementary School teacher Dana Johnson was hospitalized with the disease on Dec. 6, according to a GoFundMe set up to raise money for her family. The married mother of three was later diagnosed with double pneumonia and moved to the intensive care unit.

She died on Thursday after battling the virus for more than a month.

A Cobb district spokesperson confirmed the death in a statement on Friday.

"Our hearts go out to the Johnson family and the entire Kemp community. Ms. Johnson was a valuable part of our academic community. The outpouring of support for her family during this difficult time shows how much she was loved and positively impacted those around her," the spokesperson said.

News of Johnson's death came on the same day as that of another district educator. Sedalia Park Elementary School paraprofessional Cynthia Lindsey died Thursday after spending more than a week in the hospital on a ventilator, according to NBC affiliate WXIA-TV in Atlanta.

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 4:58 PM UTC

Britain's Covid daily death toll is one of the worst in the world. What went wrong?

LONDON — The United Kingdom is one of the coronavirus death capitals of the world.

On Wednesday, the country saw its number of recorded Covid-19 fatalities rise by 1,820, and on Thursday by 1,290 again. In total that's twice as many lives lost as in the sinking of RMS Titanic, comparable to ten Boeing 777s crashing all at once.

And until Thursday the U.K. had the highest per-capita daily death toll of any other country in the world — around twice that of the United States — according to rolling analysis by Oxford University.

Its daily per-capita deaths are currently second only to Portugal, but in terms of major powers right now the U.K. is an outlier, boasting as it does the world's fifth-largest economy and vast, publicly funded National Health Service.

So what went so wrong? In trying to explain the unfolding daily tragedy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is quick to point to a new, highly transmissible variant of the virus that appears to have originated in southeast England.

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 4:42 PM UTC

Last-minute vaccine cancellations in New York City catches some off-guard

Thousands of people had their Covid-19 vaccine appointments canceled at the last minute in New York City -- starting Thursday -- when the city announced it was experiencing a supply shortage.

Chris Bastian — who was scheduled to have his first dose on Thursday — only found out that appointments were being postponed while scrolling through Facebook on Wednesday night.

“I was never contacted directly by the city,” Bastian, 61, said. “I went by the vaccine center this [Thursday] afternoon just to make sure and to get whatever information I could, and while I was there another couple arrived and they had an appointment and they had not been notified either.”

The New York City Health Department said in a statement online that over 22,000 appointments for the first dose of the vaccine that were made for Jan. 21-Jan. 24 will be rescheduled to next week, and that those affected should have received an email or phone call to be alerted of the change.

However, Bastian says he received neither.

"I'm not afraid," Bastian said of having his Brooklyn appointment postponed. "My wife and I have been taking very responsible isolating policies — but it's annoying."

"We have heard a few anecdotal reports of individuals not seeing the rescheduled appointment," the NYC Health Department said in an email. "We regret any inconvenience that New Yorkers experienced and we look forward to resuming vaccinations for eligible New Yorkers when our supply has been replenished."

1044d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Michigan to allow indoor dining starting Feb. 1 at 25 percent capacity

Michigan will allow indoor dining at restaurants and bars to resume on Feb. 1, state officials announced Friday. 

Indoor dining will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity, with up to 100 people, and tables must be spaced six feet apart, health officials said in a news release.

“The pause has worked," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, referring to the pause on indoor dining that has been in effect since Nov. 18, around the time the state saw a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases.

"The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and hospitals have dramatically reduced cases and we have saved lives. Now, we are confident that starting February 1, restaurants can resume indoor dining with safety measures in place,” Whitmer said.

The state will also permit concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums starting Feb. 1, health officials said.

1044d ago / 4:02 PM UTC
1044d ago / 4:00 PM UTC

Internet services company Cloudflare offers help for vaccination registration websites

Vaccination registration websites have struggled to keep up with the demand of people trying to make appointments. Internet services company Cloudflare is offering help.

"There are challenges around communicating who is eligible to be vaccinated, registering those who are eligible for appointments, ensuring they show up for their appointments, transporting the vaccine under the required handling conditions, ensuring that there are trained personnel to administer the vaccine, and then doing it all over again as most of the vaccines require two doses," Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a blog post on Friday.

"Cloudflare can't help with most of that problem, but there is one key part that we realized we could help facilitate: ensuring that registration websites don't crash under load when they first begin scheduling vaccine appointments," he continued.

Cloudflare usually offers websites protection from attacks that flood websites with fake traffic. But real web traffic can also cause problems. The company's offering will be "free for any government, municipality, hospital, pharmacy, or other organization responsible for distributing COVID-19 vaccines" and include a "Virtual Waiting Room" to keep people in order as they wait to sign up.

1044d ago / 3:51 PM UTC

Biden's Covid advisory board that helped create pandemic response plan has been disbanded

The Covid advisory board that President Joe Biden set up during the transition to help him develop a plan to respond to the pandemic has been disbanded as of Wednesday, said people involved with the group.

The panel of outside experts was designed to give Biden advice about how to respond to the pandemic during the transition when he couldn’t communicate with federal health experts at the CDC and NIH. Now that he has the full resources of the federal government, the outside group isn’t needed, one of the people said.

Only the co-chairs of the panel, David Kessler, Vivek Murthy, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, have taken on administration positions. Former advisory board member Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he is still advising the Biden administration informally.

Biden released a 198-page pandemic response plan on Thursday that the group helped develop.

1044d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

Texas doctor accused of stealing vial of Covid-19 vaccine

A Texas doctor was charged Thursday with stealing a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to prosecutors.

Dr. Hasan Gokal faces a charge of theft by a public servant after authorities said he stole a vial containing nine doses, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. The alleged incident occurred Dec. 29, when he worked at a vaccination site in Humble, about 20 miles north of Houston.

Gokal was fired after a coworker he confided in reported him to supervisors, according to the office.

Prosecutors said Gokal “disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccine is not wasted but administered to vulnerable populations and front-line workers on a waiting list.”

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 1:35 PM UTC
1044d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

Hoda Kotb and Al Roker share why they're getting the Covid vaccination

The decision by Hoda Kotb and Al Roker to get the Covid-19 vaccination is about much more than just their own health.

The "TODAY" co-anchor and weatherman share their reasons for getting vaccinated in the upcoming issue of People magazine.

Roker, 66, already received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccination live on "TODAY" on Tuesday because he is in the eligible age group of over 65 in New York. Hoda, 56, is awaiting her chance once she is eligible.

"Why am I getting vaccinated? Well, I want to make sure I stay healthy, because I want to make sure I protect my family and my friends and my co-workers," he told People. "Because we're all in this together. If we don't take care of each other, there's no point in going on." 

Kotb's immediate motivation for getting the vaccination is to protect her family, but it's also about more than just them.

"This is who I'm getting vaccinated for when it's my turn: First, for my mother, who's in her 80s; for my fiancé, Joel; for my two children," she told People. "And for every single person who I pass by, who I walk by and who I see. So I am getting vaccinated not only for my family, but for yours too."

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 1:22 PM UTC

Health care workers among 22,000 fans to attend Super Bowl

Health care workers will be among the 22,000 fans in attendance next month when Super Bowl 55 is played in Tampa, Florida, the NFL announced Friday. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital that they are part of the 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who will be able to witness the nation's biggest sporting event. 

"We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings," Goodell said in a statement. 

There will be an additional 14,500 fans in attendance, the league said.

1044d ago / 12:38 PM UTC

More than 4,000 reported dead for second day in a row, California counts a record 753 deaths

The country counted 4,104 Covid-19 deaths and 199,907 new cases Thursday, the second day in a row where more than 4,000 people were reported dead of the disease, according to NBC News' tally.

California accounted for nearly one out of every five of those deaths, reporting a record 753 dead. Utah reported a record 30 deaths.

This is the fourth day in a row of case counts lower than 200,000, the first time the country has had a streak like that since November.

1044d ago / 12:32 PM UTC

Japan denies as 'categorically untrue' report Tokyo Olympics could be canceled


TOKYO — Japanese officials on Friday vehemently denied a newspaper report suggesting that the Olympic Games, due to be held in the country this summer, could be canceled.

The Tokyo Olympics originally planned for 2020 were delayed 10 months ago following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The local Olympics organizing committee said in a statement that the games would go forward as planned and had the support of Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Another statement from the Cabinet Secretariat on behalf of Japan's government also dismissed the report.

"Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will have to be canceled. This is categorically untrue," the statement said.

Click here to read the full story.

1044d ago / 12:22 PM UTC

British health secretary welcomes U.S. rejoining WHO's global vaccine effort

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock was happy to learn that the United States rejoined the World Health Organization and their global vaccination effort, in a tweet he shared Friday. 

"This is how we beat Covid, by working together towards our common goal," the tweet read. 

President Joe Biden's top medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to Geneva's WHO executive board via video conference on Thursday, saying he was "honored" to remain working with United Nations agency to fight the pandemic and confirmed the U.S. would fulfill its financial obligations. Fauci's comments come after former President Donald Trump had begun the process of withdrawing from the organization. 

He added that the U.S would sign up to the WHO's program to “advance multilateral efforts” to curb the spread of the virus The program's aim is to provide 1 billion vaccine shots to low-income countries next year. In December, the program had already raised $2 billion from dozens of developed countries and international organizations. 

1044d ago / 11:36 AM UTC
1044d ago / 11:33 AM UTC

New James Bond film release postponed again due to Covid

James Bond fans will have to wait another six months for the latest film in the British spy series after producers pushed the release date of "No Time to Die" to Oct. 8. 

The film's debut was set to take place in April, after the film was already postponed due to the pandemic. The new release date was shared on the James Bond twitter feed. The news comes as another blow to the movie theater industry, which has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. 

The film will mark Daniel Craig's final appearance as Bond, after making his debut in Casino Royale, 2006.

1044d ago / 10:32 AM UTC

Dave Chappelle tests positive for Covid-19

LOS ANGELES — Dave Chappelle has tested positive for Covid-19 in the midst of a residency in Austin, Texas, a rep for the comedian confirmed to Variety on Thursday.

Chappelle performed the first of a planned five shows on Wednesday night at the Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater, and was scheduled to perform subsequent sets on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The remaining shows have been canceled, and a statement from Chappelle's rep says "ticket holders should contact their point of purchase for refunds."

"Chappelle has safely conducted socially distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter," the statement reads. "Chappelle implemented Covid-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus."

The statement adds that Chappelle is quarantining and asymptomatic. TMZ first reported the news.

1044d ago / 10:16 AM UTC

A Covid-19 peak? Variants muddy forecasts for coming months

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the United States are falling after having hit record levels this month — a welcome sign that the winter surge may finally be leveling off. But as new, potentially more contagious variants of the virus circulate, coronavirus modelers warn that the U.S. is by no means out of the woods yet.

The emergence of new variants isn't altogether surprising, but experts say that without a better understanding of how these strains affect things like transmissibility and the effectiveness of existing vaccines, it's difficult to know how the pandemic may play out.

"There's so much up in the air, and the new variants have thrown a huge monkey wrench into our ability to model things," said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, a professor of medicine and director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "All of those things make the crystal ball very cloudy."

Read the full story here.

1044d ago / 10:13 AM UTC

Biden to sign two executive orders on Covid economic relief, worker protections

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to sign two executive orders Friday to address the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, including expanding food stamps and beginning the process to require that everyone working for the federal government get a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said the orders, which add to a slew Biden has already approved, are "not a substitute" for the massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that Biden hopes Congress will pass, but rather a "critical lifeline" for millions of Americans who need assistance now.

"The American people can't afford to wait. So many are hanging on by a thread," he said.

Read full article here.

1044d ago / 10:12 AM UTC

As national death toll tops 50,000, Germany vows to vaccinate entire population by summer


Germany passed 50,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Friday, according to the country’s disease control center.

Despite infection beginning to decline in the country of 83 million people, 859 deaths in the last 24 hours were reported by the Robert Koch Institute, pushing the death toll to 50,642.

This past week, the German government enforced stricter social distancing measures to tackle its second wave of the coronavirus. The government extended its national lockdown and mandated medical-grade masks in public.

The new record in deaths comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to vaccinate “every German” by the end of summer in a news conference on Thursday.