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As calls for schools to reopen grow louder across the country, many teachers are saying: vaccinate us first.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended reopening schools as soon as possible with mask-wearing and other safeguards in place, but teachers in cities such as Chicago remain resistant to returning.
As of Wednesday, about a third of all students in the United States have not had any in-person education since March, a situation repeated across the world.
- 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
Delayed doses, unfulfilled requests and last-minute allocations: Inside the vaccine rollout
Since Covid-19 vaccine distribution started last month, every week has been a test of patience for Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert.
"Right now, I can't book vaccine appointments for next week or the following week," said Ruppert, who is the health commissioner for Rockland County, New York, a small suburb outside New York City. "We don't know how many doses we'll get, so we don't know how to organize staffing or how many volunteers we need."
Ruppert can't plan ahead because she has no idea how many doses the county will receive until that week, making it impossible to book appointments in advance without the risk of having to abruptly cancel them, a situation that has already developed in cities across the U.S., including New York.
"It's a week-to-week kind of thing," Ruppert said. "It's like hurry up and wait."
WHO team in Wuhan visits hospital that treated early Covid-19 cases
WUHAN, China — A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of Covid-19 on Friday visited a hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was one of the first to treat patients in the early days of the outbreak.
After meeting with Chinese scientists earlier in the day, the team went to the Hebei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine.
Zhang Jixian, director of the hospital's department of respiratory and critical care, has been cited by state media as the first to report the novel coronavirus, after treating an elderly couple in late 2019 whose CT scans showed differences from typical pneumonia.
"Extremely important 1st site visit. We are in the hospital that treated some of the first known cases of COVID-19, meeting with the actual clinicians & staff who did this work, having open discussion about the details of their work," Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-led team, wrote on Twitter.
British researcher seeing symptoms of 'Covid tongue'
There may be another addition to the growing list of strange possible symptoms of the new coronavirus: “Covid tongue.”
A British researcher who is helping to track Covid-19 warning signs is reporting more cases of infected people complaining of tongue discoloration, enlargement and other mouth problems.
“Seeing increasing numbers of Covid tongues and strange mouth ulcers. If you have a strange symptom or even just headache and fatigue stay at home!” Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, tweeted this month.
Novavax says its vaccine 89.3 percent effective
An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the biotech company Novavax is 89.3 percent effective at preventing Covid-19, the company announced Thursday.
Results from Novavax's Phase 3 trial in the United Kingdom demonstrated the vaccine candidate's efficacy and showed that it protected against the U.K. variant of the virus. Results from another trial, in South Africa, showed that it was also effective against the variant that emerged there, although efficacy was lower.
Stanley Erck, president and CEO of Novavax, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said the trial results show that the vaccine "has the potential to play an important role in solving this global public health crisis."
L.A. mayor vaccinated though he's not in priority group
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made clear in December that he would wait his turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, echoing county policy that nursing home residents, people 65 and older and medical workers will be first in line.
“I’m not jumping any queue,” he said.
But the 49-year-old Democrat was quietly vaccinated last week at the recommendation of medical personnel, after spending several days assisting health care workers at a large coronavirus vaccination center at Dodger Stadium.
His office said Wednesday he received the first dose of the vaccine Jan. 21, his fifth day working at the site where he was “interacting with hundreds of Angelenos each day.”
Over 1,000 Columbia students on tuition strike, demanding pandemic concessions
More than 1,000 Columbia University students are withholding this semester's tuition as they demand that the Ivy League school in New York City lower its cost amid financial burdens and the move to online classes prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students initiated the tuition strike last Friday, when payments for the semester were due. In a sweeping list of demands, students accused the school of demonstrating a "flagrant disregard for initiatives democratically supported within the community." The striking students are asking the school to lower tuition by at least 10 percent and to increase financial aid.
The letter also asks the school to end its expansion into and gentrification of West Harlem, defund its university police force and bargain in good faith with campus unions.
Fauci backs CDC's recommendations on reopening schools
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that he supports re-opening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines.
“I would back the CDC recommendations because that is really based on data… we need to try and get the children back to school and that's the goal of President Biden that in the next one hundred days to get the K to eights back in school,” Fauci said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
The CDC said in a recent study that schools should bring back in-person learning as soon as possible if social distancing and masks are mandated. The research, published online in the journal JAMA, offered guidance for local officials, school administrators, and parents on how to open schools safely while limiting the spread of Covid-19.
California lawmakers vote to extend eviction moratorium as Covid continues to stifle economy
California lawmakers voted to extend the state's eviction moratorium through June 30 as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to create economic uncertainty for millions of renters.
Under the proposed legislation, $2.6 billion in federal funds would be used as rental subsidies and would reimburse landlords 80 percent of unpaid back rent that occurred between April 2020 and March 2021 if the landlords agree to forgive the remaining 20 percent.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he will sign the legislation.
“These bills aren’t perfect and will not solve the problem in the long run, but we had to take action now to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from falling into homelessness in the next couple of months," said Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Democrat who represents Santa Monica and surrounding communities. "For many, this would be a potential death sentence."
Democrats prepare to go it alone on Covid relief if Republicans don't cooperate
WASHINGTON — Democrats are discussing a path to bypass Republicans and approve an aggressive Covid-19 relief package on a party-line basis as prospects for bipartisan support for President Joe Biden's top priority diminish.
White House economic adviser Brian Deese and Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zientz held a call Thursday with Senate Democrats as they grapple with whether to cut a slimmed-down deal or use a process known as reconciliation to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote rule to avoid a filibuster.
"The sentiment is this: We would like Republicans to work with us to be part of the solution to deliver emergency help, but we can’t wait, it’s urgent, and we need to double-track this process,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who was on the call, told reporters. “So we will continue to reach out to Republicans, but I’m a big supporter of having an insurance policy in place through reconciliation.”
Beloved Asian American photographer Corky Lee dies after bout with Covid-19
Acclaimed New York photographer Corky Lee, who passionately chronicled the Asian American experience through his lens, died Wednesday following a brief bout with Covid-19, his family said.
He was 73.
“He did what he loved and we loved him for it,” according to a family statement. “His passion was to rediscover, document and champion through his images the plight of all Americans but most especially that of Asian and Pacific Islanders.”
One of his most famous shots was snapped at the site of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, where America was finally united, coast-to-coast via the transcontinental railroad a century and a half earlier.
In Florida, with its large Brazilian community, worries over Covid variant
MIAMI — Even though Teresa Frade was infected with Covid-19 over the summer and already got both doses of the vaccination, she is still apprehensive about visiting her family in Brazil.
The last time she was there was in late February last year, and she returned just before Florida went into lockdown.
Frade, 54, a health care worker in South Florida is not sure if she has can get reinfected with the Brazilian variant that has ravaged parts of the South American country and worries whether it can spread here.
Florida leads the country with the highest number of cases caused by the more transmissible and possibly more deadly Covid-19 variant from the United Kingdom, but new concerns are emerging over the potential spread of the Brazilian variant, also more contagious.
Peru mourns its 'pandemic soldiers,' doctors who died treating Covid
LIMA, Peru — Black-and-white pictures of dozens of men and women, some in their 30s and others much older, line the perimeter of a bright yellow building overlooking the Pacific, a two-story-tall black ribbon covering part of the facade and a Peruvian flag at a half-staff near the door.
The makeshift memorial is for fallen “pandemic soldiers” — doctors who have died since the coronavirus struck this South American nation last year and unraveled the public health care system.
“Our country, like the other countries in the world, is not prepared for this pandemic. Even more so, the most affected are developing countries like ours,” said Dr. Gerardo Campos, a spokesman for the Medical College of Peru.
The college represents physicians and its headquarters is the site of the memorial, where a cleaning worker wearing a face mask recently dusted off each photo and placed flowers in front of them.
Several hundred doses of Moderna vaccine may have spoiled at Vermont hospital
Several hundred doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine may have spoiled at a Springfield, Vermont, hospital after being stored at the wrong temperature.
The doses were distributed to Springfield Hospital. The state health department said on Wednesday that it was monitoring the situation and was looking into whether the doses were still viable.
"They have not been discarded as yet," the agency said in a statement. "At this time, we’re still seeking final guidance from the manufacturer on the potential loss of doses due to a temperature excursion."
Department spokesman Ben Truman told NBC News on Thursday that officials were still in talks with Moderna about how to handle the situation.
Covid death toll at N.Y. state nursing homes 50 percent higher than reported, AG says
The New York state health department underreported the Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent, the state’s attorney general charged Thursday.
More nursing home residents died from the coronavirus than the department's "published nursing home data reflected and may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent,” Attorney General Letitia James' investigators concluded in the report.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” she said in a statement.
New York leads the nation in the number of Covid-19 deaths with 43,734, according to the latest NBC News tally, most of which occurred in the early days of the pandemic when public health officials were trying to figure out how the disease was spreading.
First U.S. cases of South African Covid-19 variant found in South Carolina
South Carolina health officials announced on Thursday the detection of two cases associated with the Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa — the first recorded cases of this variant in the United States.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control said experts agreed that existing vaccines would work against this variant. While this variant does appear to spread easier and quicker, the department said there was "no evidence to suggest that the B.1.351 variant causes more severe illness."
The DHEC added that there was no known travel history or connection between the two adults who tested positive for the variant — one was from the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and the other from the Pee Dee region.
Late Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified state health officials that one sample contained the Covid-19 variant first found in South Africa, according to NBC affiliate WIS. The other case was discovered at the DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory, the station reported.
The variant has been detected in 30 other countries, according to the station.
The CDC said in a statement on Thursday that the agency would continue to monitor the Covid-19 variant and recommended that people avoid travel at this time.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC's interim public health director, said in a statement that the variant was an "important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over."
“While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited. Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now. We are all in this together,” she said.
Can the U.S. keep Covid variants in check? Here's what it takes.
The Covid-19 variants that have emerged in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and now Southern California are eliciting two notably distinct responses from U.S. public health officials.
First, broad concern. A variant that wreaked havoc in the U.K., leading to a spike in case numbers and hospitalizations, is surfacing in more places in the U.S. This week, another worrisome variant seen in Brazil surfaced in Minnesota. If these or other strains significantly change the way the virus transmits and attacks the body, as scientists fear they might, they could cause yet another prolonged surge in illnesses and deaths in the U.S., even as case numbers have begun to plateau and vaccines are rolling out.
On the other hand, variants aren't novel or even uncommon in viral illnesses. The viruses that trigger common colds and flus regularly evolve. Even if a mutated strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, makes it more contagious or makes people sicker, the basic public health response stays the same: monitor the virus and any mutations as they move across communities. Use masking, testing, physical distancing and quarantine to contain the spread.
2 children die at Texas hospital in the same week
Covid-19 claimed the lives of two children at a pediatric hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, this week.
Cook Children's Medical Center, a leading pediatric hospital, said in a statement that a 9-year-old and a child under the age of 1 who both had the virus died this week. The baby's death was announced Monday, and local media reports suggested the 9-year-old passed away sometime Tuesday.
The hospital did not release other information about the children due to HIPAA rules.
University of Michigan students told to stay home due to Covid-19 variant
University of Michigan students were told to stay home by county authorities Wednesday, in hopes of curbing the spread of a contagious coronavirus variant.
The Washtenaw County Health Department's recommendation means nearly all classes at the Ann Arbor campus will be likely be remote until at least Feb. 7.
"Students are being asked to remain at their campus-area addresses and to not gather with others outside of their household members," according to a health department statement.
"Students are permitted to leave their residence only to participate in limited activities, including in-person classes, work or research that cannot be completed remotely, obtaining food and medical care and other approved activities."
WHO team in Wuhan for Covid origins study leaves quarantine
The mission has become politically charged as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.
A major question is where the Chinese side will allow the researchers to go and whom they will be able to talk to.
Yellow barriers blocked the entrance to the hotel, keeping the media at a distance. Before the researchers boarded, workers in full protective gear could be seen loading their luggage onto the bus. The driver wore a full-body white protective suit and the researchers wore masks.
U.S. is in a 'race against time' with new coronavirus variants, scientists warn
The United States is in a race against time to vaccinate as many people as possible before other potentially more worrisome variants of the coronavirus emerge, according to experts.
Vaccination efforts in the U.S. have been hamstrung by delivery issues, insufficient supply and hesitancy to get the shots. But to avert another surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths, scientists say it may be necessary to rethink how the vaccines are rolled out to ramp up the number of shots administered and to protect against new strains of the virus.
"We really are in a race against new variants," said Wan Yang, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "We need to prepare as much as possible before things increase to a level that puts more strain on our health care systems."
South Dakota has successful vaccination program but high infection rate
South Dakota has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the country, but it’s also got one of the most successful vaccination programs in the land.
So far, health workers have been able to administer 82,823 doses, a rate of 9,362 per 100,000 people, that is seventh best in the country, according to the latest federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
And the reason it’s been so successful is because South Dakota already has a well-established vaccination program in place, said Victor Huber, a biomedical sciences professor at the University of South Dakota.
“Since South Dakota has an excellent infrastructure in place for delivering vaccines, this is an example of our state benefitting from those efforts being applied to the delivery of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines,” Huber said in an email to NBC News. “This is a good sign for our state moving forward.”
South Dakota, which has a population of just 885,000, has a Covid-19 infection rate of 27.18 percent, which is the sixth worst in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University. The state has recorded 107,608 cases and 1,739 deaths due to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to NBC News data.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican and ardent Trump supporter, has been harshly criticized for her hands-off approach to the pandemic by the public health establishment but remains popular with voters in the conservative state.
Miami Heat to welcome back fans with help of Covid-sniffing dogs
The Miami Heat will have fans in the stands Thursday night for the first time in months with the help of some particularly fast and accurate Covid-19 detectors — virus-sniffing dogs.
Ticket holders will be screened by Covid-19 detection dogs when they arrive at America Airlines Arena for the 8 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Clippers, officials said on the team's website.
The dogs will walk past each fan upon arrival, according to a video posted to the site. If a dog sits down, the dog is indicating that it has detected the virus, and the person and their party will not be allowed in the arena.
The Heat website specifies that the Covid-sniffing dogs have been specifically trained to identify the virus and won't sit down in the presence of someone who has simply been vaccinated.
Lebanon's coronavirus lockdown stokes hunger, fear among desperate families
Shadia has run out of rice for her family of nine.
The Syrian mother had hoped the 5 kilos she bought last week would be enough to feed them for the duration of the draconian national lockdown that Lebanon imposed Jan. 14 in response to surging coronavirus case numbers.
More than a week later, however, little food is left in the family's single-room bungalow. A 24-hour curfew is in place, with residents allowed outside only for what are officially deemed "emergencies." Supermarkets across the country are closed.
The lockdown, which initially had been scheduled to last 11 days, has now been extended until Feb. 8, leaving Shadia, 33, and her husband frantic about how their family will survive. In addition to the lack of food, the terra cotta roof of their home has collapsed, leaving the family to huddle together on the floor under blankets to stay warm.
Fauci: Covid-19 vaccine rollout must prioritize people of color
The U.S. Covid-19 vaccine rollout must account for the virus' disproportionate impact on people of color, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with the New England Journal of Medicine.
"I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of," Fauci, who is the president's chief medical advisor as well as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. "We don't want in the beginning that most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."
Fauci's comments come amid a reported distrust in the medical community among racial minorities in the U.S. Triggered by a dark history of medical experimentation and less access to care, people in Black and Latino communities struggling with high Covid-19 rates are among those least likely to get vaccinated, according to health advocates.
"You absolutely have to respect the hesitancy of the minority population. They keep coming back and saying the history of Tuskegee," Fauci added, referring to the infamous 1932 experiment, in which the U.S. government denied African-American men treatment for syphilis and documented how the disease destroyed their bodies for nearly four decades in Alabama.
Michael Strahan tests positive for Covid-19, but 'feeling well'
ABC News' "Good Morning America" host Michael Strahan tested positive for Covid-19, the show said in an announcement on Thursday.
Strahan's co-hosts explained his absence this week at the top of the show, saying he contracted the coronavirus, but was "feeling well."
"He wanted us to let you know that he has tested positive for Covid. He's at home quarantining right now," co-host Robin Roberts said.
Coanchor George Stephanopoulos added that the former professional football player sent his gratitude for the well wishes and clarified that all staff and crew members were cleared to be on the show. Last April, Stephanopoulos and his wife were diagnosed with Covid-19.
U.S. counts fewer than 200,000 daily cases for 10th day in a row
Wednesday the U.S. counted 3,846 reported deaths and 153,439 new Covid-19 cases, according to NBC News' tally.
This was the 10th day in a row that case counts have numbered less than 200,000.
In the last week, the U.S. averaged 3,336 deaths and 166,045 cases per day. Four weeks ago the U.S. averaged 2,653 deaths and 229,991 cases per day.
As of Thursday morning, the country registered 25.7 million cases and 430,759 deaths total.
These states set single-day records Wednesday:
- Alabama, 276 dead
- Oklahoma, 65 dead