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The virus has killed more than 422,000 people and infected upward of 25 million across the U.S., according to an NBC News tracker.
- 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.
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Minnesota reports first known case of Brazil coronavirus variant in the U.S.
Minnesota public health officials announced what appears to be the first known case of the coronavirus' Brazil P.1 variant in the nation.
The patient with variant is a resident of Minneapolis/St. Paul who became ill after traveling to Brazil, the Minnesota Department of Health said.
The strain was found among the 50 random samples analyzed every week as part of the state's variant surveillance program, according to the health department. The Brazil variant is a distinct variation from those seen in Britain and South Africa and thought to be more transmissible than the coronavirus strain that was prevalent at the beginning of the pandemic.
"The good news is that we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate," Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said Monday.
Police use tear gas, water cannon amid rioting over Covid restrictions in Netherlands
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Groups of youths confronted police in Dutch towns and cities Monday night, defying the country’s coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks. Police in the port city of Rotterdam used a water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd of rioters.
Police and local media reported trouble in the capital, Amsterdam, where at least eight people were arrested, the central city of Amersfoort, where a car was turned on its side, and other towns before and after the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew began.
It was the second night of unrest in towns and cities across the Netherlands that initially grew out of calls to protest against the country’s tough lockdown, but degenerated into vandalism by crowds whipped up by messages swirling on social media.
Biden ups vaccine goal to 1.5 million shots a day, says vaccine to be widely available by spring
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said he expects anyone who wants a vaccine to be able to get one by the spring and he upped his vaccination goal for his first 100 days in office.
Biden said Monday he now thinks the country can administer 1.5 million shots a day in the coming weeks and give 150 million vaccinations over the next 100 days, “with the grace of god.”
In December, Biden set a goal of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days and at the time, no vaccine had been cleared for use. But with states ramping up their vaccination efforts in recent weeks, the country is already averaging Biden's goal of around 1 million shots a day.
In order to reach his new goal, Biden said the federal government is going to have to set up more vaccination sites, hire more people to administer the vaccines, and ensure there are enough supplies of things like syringes. He is asking Congress for more than $400 billion to fund those efforts.
“It is going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we've ever tried in this country, but I think we can do that,” Biden said. He said that by summer “we're gonna be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity” including making the vaccine available for children.
California is ramping up its lagging vaccination effort, governor says
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the nation’s most populous state was ramping up its lagging vaccination effort, tripling the number of doses given daily between the beginning of the month and Jan. 15.
On Jan. 4, 43,000 doses were administered across the state, he said. Eleven days later, that number was 131,000. The state’s goal is to continue to substantially increase that number, he said.
Experts have attributed the slow rollout to everything from the state’s size to limited federal funding, and California’s efficient health care system, with its lack of extra medical workers trained to administer the vaccinations.
Newsom said Monday that California is “like a large ship. It takes a little to shift course.”
He also announced the launch of a centralized vaccination scheduling system that can be accessed through a smartphone app. The platform is being tested in two of the state’s largest counties — San Diego and Los Angeles — and will be rolled out across the rest of California by early February, he said.
Google to put vaccination sites on its search and map apps
Google said Monday that its search and map apps would soon display information about where to get Covid-19 vaccinations, beginning in four states.
“In the coming weeks, Covid-19 vaccination locations will be available in Google Search and Maps, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, with more states and countries to come,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.
Information about vaccinations has been hard to come by in some places, and Pichai said searches for “vaccines near me” had increased fivefold since the beginning of the year. He said Google would rely on authoritative sources, such as government agencies and retail pharmacies, to gather the information.
Google is contributing $150 million in advertising credits so that public health agencies and nonprofits can run announcements and information campaigns, Pichai said. He also said Google planned to make select buildings available as needed for vaccination sites.
White House to hold Covid-19 briefings three times a week
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Monday that the Biden administration will hold "science-led" Covid-19 briefings roughly three times a week.
The briefings, featuring public health officials and members of the administration's Covid-19 response team, will begin on Wednesday and continue regularly "for the foreseeable future," Psaki told reporters.
She said the briefings will focus on bringing the public "key updates" on the virus and the federal government's response to the pandemic.
Vaccine tourism on the rise as wealthy international tourists eye an opportunity in the U.S.
Shortly before the Covid-19 vaccine made its debut last month in the United States, an Indian travel agency called Gem Tours & Travels announced it was registering customers for an exciting new package: four-day trip from Mumbai to New York City with a coronavirus shot thrown in for about $2,000.
"Vaccine tourism," Nimesh Shah, the company's business development specialist, called it.
“We are only taking registrations of Indians with a valid 10-year U.S. visa,” Shah told ThePrint. “We are not taking any money but just collecting data for the moment. We are proud to have coined the term ‘vaccine tourism’.”
Soon, competitors like the Kolkata-based Zenith Holidays were registering customers for vaccination packages.
Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, condemned the companies for peddling these junkets. But Zenith Holidays, which generally does not offer travel packages to the U.S., still has on its website a "Vaccine Tourism" tab where customers can fill out a registration form, click send, and within minutes an email from the company pops up in their inbox promising more information soon.
“Thank you for showing interest in our Holiday,” the email states.
Just how many Indians signed up for such a vaccination junket to the U.S. was not immediately clear because neither Shah nor anyone from Zenith Holidays responded to several emails from NBC News or an inquiry posed via the registration form.
But the very idea that somebody with money but no immediate access to the scarce Covid-19 vaccine could fly to another country to get a shot was raising both outrage and ethical questions.
London police break up illegal party attended by hundreds of people
The Metropolitan Police broke up an illegal rave attended by 300 people on Saturday in defiance of Covid-19 regulations, the agency said in a news release.
Officers were deployed to the east London neighborhood of Hackney around 1:30 a.m. after receiving reports of an unlicensed music event. They made multiple attempts to engage with the organizers who were uncooperative and at one point padlocked the doors to prevent police from entering the space.
After forcing their way inside, officers discovered 300 people packed in the small space. Seventy-eight attendees were issued £200 fines.
“This was a serious and blatant breach of the public health regulations and the law in relation to unlicensed music events,” said Chief Superintendent Roy Smith, who responded to the incident. “Whilst we will always seek to engage and explain, the message to those who have a total disregard for the safety of others and breach the law so blatantly is clear, our officers will act swiftly and decisively”
London has been hit especially hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The city has reported more than 628,000 cases and more than 12,000 deaths from the virus, according to data from Public Health England.
Elderly British newlyweds describe joy of being vaccinatedJan. 25, 202101:31
California lifts regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders
California lifted its stay-at-home orders for all regions statewide Monday, citing improving coronavirus conditions, health officials announced.
The order had been in place for large swaths of the state, covering the San Joaquin Valley, the Bay Area and Southern California.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement Monday. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. Covid-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
The move means outdoor dining and personal services could now resume.
Statewide counties will return to a system of county-by-county restrictions that decide which activities and businesses are open, the statement said. The statement added four-week intensive care unit capacity projections for the three regions previously under the stay-at-home orders were above 15 percent, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order.
With the order, California also ended a curfew limiting nonessential activities between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Budweiser will sit out Super Bowl, funnel marketing dollars to boost vaccine awareness
Budweiser will not be running a commercial during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years.
Instead, the Anheuser-Busch InBev beer will use the marketing dollars to support Covid-19 vaccine awareness and access.
Budweiser isn’t the only iconic brand sitting out the game. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have said they won’t be running in-game ads for their namesake sodas. Pepsi is instead focusing on its sponsorship of the halftime show, which stars The Weeknd. PepsiCo’s other brands, including Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay, are planning on airing commercials during the game.
Last year’s Super Bowl drew about 100 million viewers, but attracting those eyeballs comes with a hefty price tag for advertisers. A 30-second commercial during the football game will set companies back about $5.5 million this year.
U.S. goal to squeeze more Covid shots from Pfizer vials hampered by syringe production
The world’s largest syringe maker does not have the capacity to substantially increase U.S. supplies of specialty syringes needed to squeeze more doses from Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine vials in the coming weeks, an executive said in an interview.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, one of two authorized for U.S. emergency use, is shipped in vials initially indicated to hold five doses. Six doses can be drawn with special syringes, called low dead space syringes, which minimize the amount of vaccine left in the syringe after use.
Syringe maker Becton Dickinson has contracted with the U.S. government to provide 286 million syringes for use with Covid-19 vaccines, including around 40 million low dead space syringes, and is fully prepared to deliver on that agreement, said Troy Kirkpatrick, the company’s senior director of public relations.
Low dead space syringes are a niche product and Becton Dickinson had not discussed plans with the U.S. government to substantially boost their output when they began preparing for the vaccine rollout last year, he said.
“We are ready to support the U.S. government but we are trying to make sure everyone understands that those devices are not something we have infinite capacity to produce and bringing up new lines does take time,” Kirkpatrick said.
The United States added 2,173 Covid-19 deaths, 146,379 cases Sunday
Another 2,173 new Covid-19 deaths were recorded across the United States on Sunday, according to NBC News' tally.
The country also added 146,379 new cases.
While the daily total of new coronavirus cases has fallen 15 percent in the last two weeks, the number of daily deaths is up 12 percent.
Overall, there are more than 25.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 420,000 deaths as of Monday morning.
No states set daily records Sunday.
N.Y.C. postponing the opening of Yankees Stadium, Citi Field vaccination mega sites
New York City is postponing the opening of Covid-19 vaccination mega sites at Yankees Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, because there isn't enough supply of doses, city officials told NBC New York's Andrew Siff.
The city has 20,000 doses left this week, and only 100,000 fresh ones arriving. It needs some 200,000 to open the sites at the baseball stadiums.
Fauci says drop in Covid cases not due to vaccine: 'We don't want to get complacent'
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday said that a drop in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in most of the country cannot likely be attributed to vaccines, meaning people should continue to be as cautious as possible.
"I don’t think the dynamics are what we’re seeing is significantly influenced, yet — it will be soon — but yet by vaccine," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC's "TODAY" show.
The chief medical adviser to the president said the drop was more likely due to a natural plateauing of cases following a spike after the holiday season.
"We don't want to get complacent and think ... 'Oh, things are going in the right direction, we can pull back a bit, because we do have circulating in the country a variant from the U.K. that's in over 20 states right now," Fauci said, pointing out that the variant is more easily transmitted from person to person.
WHO in Wuhan is probing Covid's origins as politics hangs over mission
A team of scientists from the World Health Organization is in China investigating mysteries of the pandemic more than a year after it broke out: where the coronavirus came from and how it spilled over into humans.
The long-awaited trip, initially hampered by delays by China, has started what could be a lengthy process of piecing together the virus’s origin to answer key questions about the pathogen and how to prevent similar — and possibly worse — future outbreaks.
But the world will be watching the results of the investigation — and China’s willingness to cooperate will also be the focus of intense interest around the world.
That the trip is happening more than a year after the virus was first identified has stoked concern that the government has not been transparent in its handling of the virus. And political quarrels have emerged, particularly between China and the United States, with the Trump administration assigning blame on China for the pandemic.
Moderna working to upgrade vaccine, develop booster to target South African variant
Moderna announced Monday that the company is working to upgrade its vaccine to better protect against the new South African strain of the coronavirus.
While the vaccine protects effectively against the new, more easily transmitted U.K. variant, antibody levels are diminished sixfold by the South African variant, said a statement from the company.
According to Moderna, the vaccine should still be effective against the South African variant, which Dr. Anthony Fauci also said on NBC's "TODAY" show Monday, but Moderna is nevertheless working to specifically target that variant.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said on CNBC on Monday that while the current vaccine should protect against the variant, it is "unknowable what will happen in six months, in 12 months."
"Immunity may go down over time," he said, adding that the new work on the vaccine is being done out of an "abundance of caution."
"We cannot be behind — we cannot fall behind this virus," Bancel said.
U.K. prime minister considers quarantining foreign travelers in hotels
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday he was looking to tighten the United Kingdom's border controls because of the risk of "vaccine-busting" new Covid-19 variants.
"We have to realize there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in — we've got to be able to keep that under control," he told reporters at a vaccination center.
Johnson added that the government was “actively working on” the option of quarantining international travelers in hotels upon their arrival.
He said the United Kingdom was on target to reach its vaccination targets for vulnerable groups by Feb. 15. So far, it has given 6.3 million people their first vaccine shot.
Merck discontinues two Covid-19 vaccine candidates
Pharmaceutical giant Merck said Monday that it was discontinuing the development of two Covid-19 vaccine candidates after early clinical trial data showed an "inferior" immune response.
Merck said in a statement posted on its website the decision to scrap the two vaccine candidates followed its review of findings from Phase 1 clinical studies.
The company said the studies showed that both candidates were generally well-tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other Covid-19 vaccines.
Public and private schools show a pandemic learning divideJan. 24, 202102:42
Israel begins vaccinating students ages 16-18
Israel has begun vaccinating students between the ages of 16-18 in a bid to enable them to take their exams.
The announcement from the health ministry that the vaccination program was opening up to some school pupils came last week and one Israeli health plan told NBC News it had started administering doses Sunday.
The development comes as Israel decided to halt passenger flights to and from the country from midnight Monday to Jan. 31.
Anti-lockdown protests turn violent in the Netherlands, 240 arrested
Clashes broke out in several Dutch cities over the introduction of new nationwide lockdown measures Sunday, resulting in more than 240 arrests, according to police and local media.
Police used water cannons, dogs and mounted officers to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, according to eyewitnesses. Nearly 200 people, some of them throwing stones and fireworks, were detained in the city.
One of the demonstrations took place in Amsterdam’s Museum Square, violating a ban on public gatherings. The violent protests were prompted by tougher social distancing measures, announced by the government. The new nationwide measures include a nightly curfew for the first time since World War II.
Dutch military police said in a tweet that they were deployed to at least two additional cities in the south to support local law enforcement and contain the violence.
Israel bans international flights amid fears of new variants
Israel is set to stop all international travel from Monday night as it seeks to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.
The flight ban will come into effect at midnight and last until the end of the month, according to a statement released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.
"Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a Cabinet meeting.
Exceptions for departures include emergency medical evacuations and attending a funeral overseas of a close relative.
The country's borders have already largely been closed to foreigners during the pandemic, with only Israeli passport holders allowed entry.
Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for Covid-19
MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Sunday that he had tested positive for Covid-19. His symptoms were light and he was receiving medical treatment, he said.
"As always, I am optimistic," said López Obrador, 67, who has resisted wearing a mask.
Mexico is in the grip of a second wave of the pandemic, and it has the fourth-highest death toll worldwide. The Health Ministry on Sunday reported 10,872 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 530 deaths, bringing its totals to 1,763,219 infections and 149,614 deaths.