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Dec. 14 Coronavirus updates: First federally approved vaccine administered

An estimated 2.9 million doses will be distributed within the first week.

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

The first federally approved coronavirus vaccine was set to arrive at 145 locations across all 50 states Monday, a landmark moment as the nation struggles to contain a virus that's killed 300,000 Americans.

The vaccine, developed by German company BioNTech and its United States partner Pfizer, was given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday night.

Trucks departed Pfizer's plant in Portage, Michigan, on Sunday and the company expects to deliver 2.9 million doses to 636 locations by the end of this week.

Still, the vaccine will not be given to the vast majority of Americans until well into next year. And it will take some time to make even a dent in a pandemic that is killing thousands of people across the U.S. every day — more than ever before.

Navajo Nation to receive its first shipment of Pfizer vaccine

The Navajo Nation on Monday expects to receive nearly 4,000 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, which began rolling out over the weekend, with the first shipments coming to the Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico, and distributed to regional health care centers.

By Tuesday, health care workers and residents of long-term assisted living facilities will start receiving the vaccine first on a volunteer basis, tribal leaders said.

"This is the first step in the vaccine process to help rid this invisible monster from our homes and communities," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement. He added that the tribe was heavily involved in the vaccine process with Pfizer, and that more than 200 people on the Navajo Nation volunteered for the clinical trials.

The tribe, whose lands span Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, grappled early on during the pandemic and had among the highest per capita case rates in the country. The tribe's health department has warned of an "uncontrolled spread" in some communities, and continues to institute stay-at-home orders and the closing of businesses during weekend lockdowns.

FedEx makes first deliveries of Covid vaccine

HHS Sec. Azar says Covid vaccines will be widely available by February or March

In an appearance on the "Today" show Monday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered to locations across the country this week and that the potential approval of additional vaccines could mean that vaccines will be as widely available as flu shots by early spring.

"We hope we will see as much of that used as humanly possible this week," Azar said of the initial shipment of 2.9 million doses.

Azar repeated a claim he made last month that up to 20 million Americans could receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the new year.

Azar said the 20 million figure is "possible" because there is enough vaccine in the U.S. for 20 million to be vaccinated before 2021, for 50 million by the end of January, and up to 100 million people by the end of March.

Azar urged Americans to "please get the vaccine" as soon as you are able and recommended to get it, adding that Americans must keep their vigilance high during the current Covid-19 surge, which is coinciding with the holiday season.

"I want you to be there to get these vaccines, I want you to be there — I want next year's Christmas and holidays, I want everyone in your family to be there, so please be careful over the next several weeks, be very careful," Azar said.

The HHS secretary predicted that with the likely approval of Moderna's apparently safe and effective vaccine, and the potential approval of others from Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca —both of which are scheduled to publish data in 2021 — could mean that Covid-19 vaccines are as easy to obtain as a flu shot by the end of February.

North Carolina, Tennessee top 10,000 Covid cases, California sets new record

California reported 38,468 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, the most any state has reported in a single day according to NBC News' count.

The 214,267 cases reported in the state the past week is more than any country except Turkey, Brazil and India, according to Johns Hopkins figures.

Across the U.S., 205,780 new infections and 1,337 deaths were reported Sunday. As of this morning, 299,597 have died of the virus here since the pandemic began.

The U.S. has averaged 214,941 cases and 2,410 reported deaths per day in the last week.

These states also set single-day records:

  • New York, 12,519 cases
  • North Carolina, 10,561 cases, its first time above 10,000
  • Tennessee, 11,352 cases, its first time above 10,000

Vaccines start arriving across the U.S.

With cargo trucks and planes fanning out across the nation, the first federally approved Covid-19 vaccine was set to arrive in 145 locations in all 50 states Monday.

They are the first of 2.9 doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine the companies expect to deliver across the U.S. this week, arriving at 425 other locations Tuesday and 66 Wednesday, according to Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, speaking at a briefing this weekend.

Having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration last week, the first super-cool boxes of vaccine left departed Pfizer's plant in Portage, Michigan, on Sunday under the guard of U.S. marshals.

The elderly and health and nursing home workers will be prioritized, but most Americans will not receive the vaccine until next year.

Read the full story here.

Japan, South Korea fret as surging coronavirus undermines leaders' support

Japan and South Korea grappled with surging coronavirus cases and growing public frustration on Monday as Japan's prime minister tiptoed around a contentious travel subsidy program while an anxious South Korean president warned of harsh curbs.

Japan reported more than 3,000 new cases on Saturday, yet another record as winter set in, with infections worsening in Tokyo, the northern island of Hokkaido and the city of Osaka. 

South Korea reported a new daily record of 1,030 infections on Sunday, a big worry for a country for months held up as a mitigation success story but still a fraction of the tallies being seen in some European countries and the United States, where vaccines are being rolled out.

Japan, with a focus on the economic costs, has steered clear of tough lockdowns. It tackled its first wave of infections in the spring by asking people to refrain from going out and for businesses to close or curtail operating hours.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week a halt to a campaign that subsidizes domestic tourism was not under consideration, citing economic considerations.

Critics say encouraging people to travel has helped spread infections. Media reported on Monday that Suga could restrict the program after weekend polls showed his support had eroded over his handling of the pandemic.

Across the sea in South Korea, President Moon Jae-in also faces sliding ratings as clusters of new infections fuel criticism over what many see as slack containment.

"Our back is against the wall," Moon said. "This is a crucial moment to devote all our virus control capabilities and administrative power to stopping the coronavirus."

Germany calls on all to forgo Christmas shopping to stop exponential rise in Covid cases

BERLIN — The German government called on citizens Monday to forgo Christmas shopping, two days before the country heads into a hard lockdown that will shut most stores, tighten social distancing rules and close schools across the country.

“I wish and I hope that people will only buy what they really need, like groceries,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said late Sunday. “The faster we get these infections under control, the better it is for everyone.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures beginning Wednesday and running to Jan. 10 to stop the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases. Merkel said existing restrictions imposed in November failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections. Germany has been recording steadily higher confirmed cases and deaths in recent weeks.

On Monday, the country's central disease control center reported 16,362 new cases — that's about 4,000 cases more than a week before. The Robert Koch Institute reported 188 new deaths bringing the overall death toll to 21,975. Last week, the daily death numbers rose to almost 600 cases, but after the weekend the numbers are usually lower because not all states reported new figures on the weekend.

Hospitals across the country had in recent weeks repeatedly warned that they were reaching their limits in caring for COVID-19 patients and that staffing on intensive care units was becoming a problem. On Monday, 4,552 COVID-19 patients were being treated in intensive care in the country, 52 percent of them on respirators.