Congress is rushing to pass a proposed COVID-19 relief bill. Here’s what is in the package and what it means for you.
People with a “significant history” of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine pending an investigation of two adverse reactions reported on the first day of the U.K.’s mass vaccination program, British health officials said Wednesday.
That could cause a dilemma in the U.S., where Pfizer’s vaccine candidate could win emergency use approval from the FDA within days. Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said both affected patients were “recovering well” and that the directive came “on a precautionary basis.”
Vaccines are urgently needed in the U.S., where more than 2,500 deaths and over 215,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday alone. The nation soared beyond 15 million total infections this week with no indication the latest surge is ebbing.
News you should know today:
- Talks on a stimulus package are coming down to the wire. A bipartisan proposal had included about $300 per week in bonus federal unemployment payments but left out another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. The White House now proposes $600 stimulus checks but no unemployment bonus. Stay tuned.
- COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are at record levels, and the rising case toll from holiday travel has created an unprecedented surge with no relief in sight. Hospitals are preparing for crisis-care mode – when there’s too many patients and not enough staff.
- At least one judge is feeling small business’ pain. Los Angeles County public health officials must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend a ban on outdoor dining beyond Dec. 16, a judge ruled.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 15.1 million cases and 286,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 68.3 million cases and 1.55 million deaths.
📰 What we’re reading: About a quarter of the U.S. deaths from the coronavirus – nearly 74,000 – have been nursing home residents and caregivers. They have masks and gloves, and there’s more testing capacity. But what nursing homes really need is more help, advocates say.
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Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations and governor of South Carolina, says her sister-in-law has died of the virus in Ohio. Rhonda Nelson, 53, lived in West Milton and died Nov. 25. Ohio has reported more than 500,000 coronavirus cases and 7,103 deaths.
“Today we said goodbye to Michael’s sister, Rhonda, who passed the day before Thanksgiving of Covid,” Haley said on Twitter. “She ministered to many inside and outside of the church. She loved God, her family & all who knew her. She will be missed.”
A 91-year-old British grandfather has won the internet’s heart after giving CNN a frank interview after being among the first people in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
The interview with Martin Kenyon came after the United Kingdom began its first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, administering injections to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or have outpatient appointments scheduled as well as some nursing home workers. The video of Kenyon spread quickly around social media, with one version racking up more than 5 million views on Twitter.
“Well, there’s no point in dying now when I’ve lived this long, is there?” Kenyon told CNN outside London’s Guy’s Hospital on Tuesday. “I hope I’m not going to have the bloody bug now.”
– Ryan Miller
A Michigan family says their daughter was infected by the coronavirus after Bloomfield Hills High officials incorrectly told her she had to take the in-person SAT exams as a requirement for graduation.
The 17-year-old was diagnosed soon after taking the test and spent nearly two months recovering in her bedroom while isolating from her high-risk mother. The tests are offered only with in-person supervision and usually in large groups.
According to state education officials, Michigan has no requirement that students take the SAT or any other test to earn high-school diplomas, although districts may require the test. Many universities waived standardized testing due to the pandemic.
– Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press
Idaho public health officials meeting to vote on a proposed four-county mask mandate abruptly shut down the proceedings Tuesday amid concerns that raucous protests outside the health department building and the homes of some health officials were threatening public safety. The meeting ended minutes after one health board member tearfully said she had to rush home because her 12-year-old son was home alone and protesters were banging outside the door.
The protest at the health building was organized, at least in part, by a loose multi-state group called People’s Rights created by Ammon Bundy. Bundy gained national attention and stoked the so-called “patriot movement” after leading armed standoffs at his father’s Nevada ranch in 2014 and at a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016.
Without masks and a vaccine, we could reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19, but deaths would skyrocket. We break down the science of it.
Congress is working to pass a proposed COVID-19 relief bill as millions of Americans face losing their jobless benefits at the end of the month. The bipartisan proposal is expected to include about $300 per week in bonus federal unemployment payments for roughly four months, providing relief just as emergency aid payments at regular benefit levels are set to expire at year’s end. That would be a lower amount than the $600 per week that jobless Americans had received under the CARES Act until late July. The plan is also expected to extend base benefits through March.
The bipartisan package is also expected to leave out another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. The White House, however, has offered a plan providing no additional unemployment money in favor of $600 stimulus checks – an offer panned by Democrats. A potential deal is coming down to the wire as 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. Eviction moratoriums for renters and protections for student borrowers are also set to expire, as well as a federal program for paid family leave.
– Jessica Menton
Before his death from COVID-19 former Alabama state senator Larry Dixon spoke to his wife Gaynell of 53 years from his hospital bed and asked her to relay a warning.
“Sweetheart, we messed up. We just dropped our guard,” Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist and friend of Dixon’s, recalled him saying.
Dixon, 78, died Friday from complications of COVID-19. Thrasher said his longtime friend had been mostly careful, but may have contracted the virus after gathering with friends. Alabama and much of the country is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving gatherings. The state in the last two weeks has set records for the number of cases reported each day and the number of people in state hospitals with COVID-19.
“The last thing he told her was, ’Gaynell, I love you. We’ve got to tell people this is real,” Thrasher said.
Los Angeles County’s health director acted “arbitrarily” and didn’t prove the danger to the public when she banned outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus cases surged last month, a judge ruled Tuesday in a case other businesses may use to try to overturn closures and restrictions.
The county failed to show that health benefits outweigh the negative economic effects before issuing the ban, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant wrote. He also said the county did not offer evidence that outdoor dining presented a greater risk of spreading the virus. Chalfant said the Department of Public Health must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend the ban beyond Dec. 16.
“By failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end,″ the judge wrote.
Data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sheds new light on the dire impact of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s hospitals. HHS for the first time released weekly figures for more than 4,500 facilities, providing a detailed portrait of the virus in individual hospitals.
As of last week, there were more than 21,000 patients in intensive care units across the nation, according to the data, which hospitals file daily or weekly with guidance from the White House. USA TODAY found close to 500 hospitals where acute coronavirus patients took up most of their intensive care beds. Hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense Health Agency and Indian Health Service are not included in the HHS data release.
The nation also reported 104,600 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
– Aleszu Bajak
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
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