USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the U.S. marked the stark milestone of more than 17 million cases and 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.
In the headlines:
► The United States on Friday recorded 249,709 new cases and 2,814 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. The number of new cases set Friday is the highest ever recorded, surpassing the toll set Wednesday by just over 2,000.
►States this week found themselves scrambling to adjust as they received word they would get between 20% and 40% less vaccine next week than they had been told as late as Dec. 9. After days of confusion, the source of the problem was finally clarified Friday night: States were given estimates based on vaccine doses produced, not those that had been OK’d.
► Minnesota State Sen. Jerry Relph, who represented the city of St. Cloud, died Thursday. He tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 13, but his cause of death is unknown at this time.
► The U.K. is imposing stricter lockdowns to curb rapidly spreading infections — possibly linked to a new strain of the virus identified this week. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that nonessential shops, hairdressers and indoor leisure venues will be closed. “It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot proceed with Christmas as planned,” Johnson said.
► A second COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. Trucks will begin moving Moderna’s vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday.
► Negotiations over the gargantuan stimulus package – which would include $600 in stimulus checks and billions in business assistance – are likely to continue this weekend, as Congress passed yet another temporary spending bill late Friday to avoid a looming shutdown.
► Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines carry “a remote chance” of causing a severe allergic reaction. As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations begin ramping up, the FDA is looking into five in the U.S., including a severe reaction in Alaska.
► In Turkey, a fire broke out at an intensive care unit treating COVID-19 patients after an oxygen cylinder exploded, killing nine people.
► President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will be getting their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, according to Biden’s incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki. Among high-profile politicians to receive the vaccine Friday: Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 17.4 million coronavirus cases and is nearing 314,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 75.8 million cases and 1.6 million deaths.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
After years of isolationist and punitive immigration policies from the Trump administration, many immigrants — whose physical and fiscal health has, along with many people of color, been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — might be unwilling to come forward and get vaccinated.
COVID-19 has been particularly merciless to Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans for reasons that include poverty, preexisting health conditions and front-line jobs. This demographic includes many immigrants, with the vast majority of those undocumented hailing from Mexico and Central America. Many of them are critical to farming and meatpacking, and their illness and death represent both a human tragedy and an economic blow.
“The vaccine must be fully available to undocumented Americans, if not, it will put all of us at risk,” said Manuel Pastor, head of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, which uses data and analysis to dissect equity issues. Read more here.
– Marco della Cava, Daniel Gonzalez and Rebecca Plevin, USA TODAY Network
With the COVID-19 vaccine beginning to roll out, how the biggest cities in the United States — economic engines and cultural cauldrons such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Miami — return from the deadliest global health crisis in a century may in some ways foreshadow how the United States bounces back.
Urban planners, economists and architects share a resoundingly positive consensus. They say that buoyed by a younger demographic drawn to jobs, social opportunities and public services, cities will survive this crisis much as they did the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, an echo of European capitals’ resilience after the bubonic plague of the 1300s and cholera outbreak of the early 1800s.
Some even posit that a year from now the United States might be in the midst of a new Roaring ‘20s, a reference to giddy good times that followed the Spanish Flu.
Part of that growth will depend on how quickly and effectively cities pivot in the wake of a landscape-altering pandemic. A lot of that will depend on how fast municipal financial coffers, depleted by lost real estate and sales tax revenue, fill back up or whether federal aid comes to the rescue. Read more here.
– Marco della Cava
A Friday letter obtained by USA TODAY and signed by 25 Democratic members of Congress urges the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to list K-12 teachers and school personnel among the groups of critical workers who will be prioritized in vaccine distribution.
Teachers getting sick from COVID-19 or quarantining because of exposure to the virus has been a major hurtle to keeping schools open in recent months. The letter says that vaccinating teachers will make it easier to reopen schools while also protecting educators, who put themselves at a greater risk for contracting the virus when they teach in-person.
“Prioritizing COVID- 19 vaccinations for K-12 educators and school personnel recognizes the essential work of these professionals, enables a safer return to in-person instruction, and provides the means necessary for tens of millions of workers to breathe life into the American economy,” the letter says.
The letter, addressed to CDC director Robert Redfield, acknowledges states have the final say in vaccination distribution, but the federal agency’s guidance helps shape those policies.
Americans will soon have access to a second COVID-19 vaccine after Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, granted emergency authorization Friday to a vaccine made by Moderna.
The clearance, which is authorization rather than approval because longer-term research is still needed, comes less than a week after the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German collaborator, BioNTech, got a similar OK.
On Thursday, an independent advisory committee reviewed data from human trials of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine, deciding its benefits outweighed its risks. The vaccine, according to a trial that included 30,000 volunteers, protected more than 94% of recipients from active disease, without causing major safety concerns.
Trucks will begin moving the vaccine this weekend, with the first of 5.9 million already manufactured Moderna shots expected to be given on Monday. Moderna says it will be able to deliver 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of December. Another 80 million will be available in the first few months of 2021, under a contract signed in August that brought the U.S. government’s direct financial backing of the company to $2.5 billion.
– Karen Weintraub
Contributing: The Associated Press