Coronavirus Alert: America Has Deadliest Day, FDA Panel Likely to Okay Second Vaccine, Former Trump Advisor Says ‘We Want Them Infected,’ Allergic Reaction in Two Vaccine Recipients
Here is the latest news, data, and expert insights on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center maintains an ongoing count of the COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States and worldwide. As of 3:36 p.m. on December 17, the tally is:
Total cases worldwide: 74,687,157 (up from 73,817,374?Wednesday)
Total deaths worldwide:?1,657,132 (up from 1,642,722 Wednesday)
Total cases in the United States:?17,110,219 (up from 16,782,029 Wednesday)
Total deaths in the United States: 309,334 (up from 305,268 Wednesday)
Total recovered:?42,193,387 (up from 41,833,864 Wednesday)
The United States recorded its highest number of deaths, infections, and hospitalizations. Based on data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, NPR calculated?that more than 3,600 Americans died from COVID-19 on Wednesday — more than on any day since the pandemic began.
The COVID Track Project tallied more than 247,000 new infections on Wednesday — a new record for daily cases. Also as of Wednesday, a total of 113,090 Americans were hospitalized — more than ever since the start of the outbreak.
Newsweek said that average daily cases this week are highest in these seven states: Rhode Island, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota, Arizona, and Nevada.
An "explosive" surge is sweeping California. With California recording more than 53,000 new cases on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, "We’re experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge,"?according to USA Today. Two people are dying every hour in the county. The number of infections on Wednesday in California was about 50 percent higher than the day before.
The FDA committee is expected to approve Moderna's vaccine Thursday. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel of independent advisors is meeting on Thursday to review and vote on whether to recommend emergency authorization for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The Wall Street Journal said that the committee is likely to vote in favor of the vaccine, and the FDA is expected to grant emergency use by Friday. The Moderna vaccine was developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and found to be 94.1 percent effective in trials involving about 30,000 patients.
Two Alaskan healthcare workers have had allergic reactions to the vaccine. As reported by CBS News on Thursday, one female healthcare worker in Alaska experienced a serious allergic reaction after receiving the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and was hospitalized. The individual, who is middle-aged and has no previous history of allergies, is in stable condition. The emergency room director at the hospital said the worker suffered an anaphylactic reaction, with increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, and skin rash and redness, but the reaction was not life-threatening. A second male worker experienced a less serious allergic reaction of “eye puffiness, lightheadedness, and scratchy throat.”
The medical director of Britain's National Health Service, Stephen Powis, MBBCh, PhD, had cautioned people with a history of significant allergies not to get Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after two people reported severe adverse reactions on the first day of vaccinations, according to Reuters.
"We want them infected," wrote a former top health advisor. In emails made public Wednesday, former Department of Health and Human Services adviser Paul Alexander wrote that there is “no other way” to tackle COVID-19 except by establishing “herd immunity” by allowing low-risk groups to expose themselves to the virus, according to Forbes. “Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle-aged with no conditions, etc., have zero to little risk — we want them infected," wrote Alexander.
Unemployment has ticked up again. The U.S. Department of Labor shared figures Thursday showing that the number of Americans filing jobless claims for the first time rose for the second week straight, climbing by 23,000 to 885,000 — a three-month high. Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told The Wall Street Journal, “The next few months will be pretty rough for the labor market as you do see businesses having to contend with this latest wave of COVID cases.”
Mike Pence is set to receive the vaccine on Friday. The White House announced that Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence will be vaccinated publicly on Friday. They will be joined by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who will also receive the vaccine. By getting the vaccine publicly, the White House said it hopes to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people.” CNN said that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to get the vaccine early next week. A White House official told CNN that President Trump will not get the vaccine until it is recommended by his medical team.
French President Macron has tested positive. French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the BBC on Thursday. A host of European leaders said they would self-isolate, having attended a summit in Brussels with Macron last week.
Pfizer vaccine vials may hold an extra dose. The FDA tweeted that vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that are expected to hold five doses may yield six or sometimes seven doses. The FDA wrote, “It is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable.” David Kessler, MD, a former FDA commissioner, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that it’s normal for vaccine vials to hold some extra doses.
The NFL plans to invite vaccinated healthcare workers to the Super Bowl. The NFL announced Wednesday that it hopes to celebrate Super Bowl LV on February 7, 2021, with vaccinated healthcare workers. Logistics are yet to be finalized, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to Rob Higgins, president of the Tampa Super Bowl Host Committee, saying that he hoped the Super Bowl could be “an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings.”
Tom Cruise delivered a blistering attack to workers who broke COVID-19 protocols. The U.S. Sun published audio of Tom Cruise tearing into workers who broke COVID-19 rules on the set of Mission: Impossible 7. He flew into a rage after spotting two crew members standing within six feet of each other. Cruise shouted, “If I see you do it again, you’re f***ing gone.” Filming, which had shut down in February due to the outbreak, resumed in September with strict safety procedures on set.
The United States is negotiating with Pfizer to produce more vaccine. Sources have told The New York Times on Wednesday that the Trump administration is negotiating with Pfizer to produce tens of millions of additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for Americans in the first half of next year. Reporting by the Associated Press revealed that the Trump administration had decided last summer not to buy millions of additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Most Americans can expect vaccination by the end of February.?U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on Tuesday that most Americans can expect to get the vaccine as soon as late February. He noted that he doesn’t know how many Americans have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far, but that those figures should arrive in the coming days.
Thousands of vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine began arriving in all 50 states on Monday, and about 2.9 million doses are expected to be distributed over the week, according to the Washington Post.
Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are prioritized to be inoculated first, based on a recommendation made at the beginning of the month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The FDA granted emergency use authorization for the first coronavirus vaccine December 11 after a 22-member advisory panel approved its use.
Santa may be a superspreader. A local official from Ludowici in the Eastern European–Western Asia country of Georgia posted on Facebook that around 50 youngsters may have been exposed to the coronavirus during a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus during the city’s annual Christmas parade.
Social media is spreading false information that the vaccine causes infertility. A report in USA Today warns that false information may be spreading on social media suggesting that the COVID-19 vaccine may cause infertility. An item on Facebook marked as “false information” appears to be a news article declaring that the vaccine is “female sterilization.” Documents posted by the FDA show that the vaccine does not produce any serious side effects.
Vaccine trials reported four cases of brief facial paralysis. CNBC reported that the federal government will closely monitor occurrences of Bell’s palsy — a partial paralysis in the face — among people who receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine after four people in Pfizer-BioNTech trials and three people in the Moderna trials developed the condition. The condition usually passes within weeks. Sara Oliver, MD, an officer at the CDC, said during the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on December 11 that there is “no known or expected causal relationship between the vaccine and Bell’s palsy.”
Most nursing homes won’t start vaccinations until December 21. USA Today has found that the majority of nursing homes in the United States will not start vaccinating staff and residents against COVID-19 until December 21, and some will have to wait until the following week. The paper revealed that long-term care facilities and nursing homes were not getting the initial immunizations because of a CDC arrangement with pharmacy chains, including CVS and Walgreens, to facilitate vaccination of staff and residents. The CDC’s Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care program?launches next Monday.
The FDA approved a new over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 test that provides results in 20 minutes.?On Tuesday, the?FDA issued emergency authorization?for the over-the-counter?Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, which allows consumers to find out if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in as little as 20 minutes.
The test differs from previous at-home diagnostic tools because consumers do not have to wait for a lab to return results. An individual can buy the kit in a drug store, swab their nose at home, and then run it through an analyzer that connects with a software application on a smartphone to help perform the test and interpret results. Studies have shown that the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test correctly identified 96 percent of positive samples and 100 percent of negative samples in individuals with symptoms.
Midwestern states are seeing a drop in new cases. In what U.S. News & World Report calls “a hopeful sign,” Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nebraska have seen decreases in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 over the past couple of weeks. All, however, are still experiencing an alarming number of deaths and hospitalizations because of the earlier surge of cases.
Pompeo is quarantining after hundreds skip his indoor party. According to CNN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quarantining after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. The State Department said Pompeo has tested negative. On Tuesday, Pompeo threw an indoor party, for which he sent out 900 invitations. However, only a few dozen people showed up, according to The Week. Pompeo went ahead with party plans despite warnings from the CDC against large holiday gatherings.
A survey found that one-quarter of Americans don’t want the vaccine. A survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Tuesday has revealed that about one-quarter (27 percent) of the public remains hesitant of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying they probably or definitely would not get a vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists. Vaccine hesitancy is highest among Republicans (42 percent), those ages 30 to 49 (36 percent), and rural residents (35 percent). About 35 percent of Black adults (a group that has borne a disproportionate burden of the pandemic) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated, as do one-third of those who say they have been deemed essential workers (33 percent).
A White House security official lost his foot to COVID-19. Bloomberg News?has found that Crede Bailey, the head of the White House security office, has had his lower right leg and the big toe of his left foot amputated because of severe COVID-19. The 54-year-old has been hospitalized for three months, but is now said to be recovering. Friends have raised over $35,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help him pay for his rehabilitation and “staggering” healthcare costs.
A new variant of the virus has been found in the United Kingdom. The Telegraph reported on Monday that a variant of coronavirus has been identified in England. At least 1,000 have been identified with the with the new strain and the numbers appear to be increasing rapidly. Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants.” He added that there is “nothing to suggest” that the new variant will not respond to the vaccine.
Australia and New Zealand plan a "travel bubble" as both countries virtually eliminate the virus. CNBC reported that New Zealand and Australia have agreed to allow quarantine-free travel with between the two countries in the first quarter of 2021. Both New Zealand and Australia have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in their countries through nationwide coordinated efforts of tracking, tracing, and strict lockdowns.
Sharon Lewin, the -Melbourne-based director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, told the Washington Post, “I never thought we would -really get to zero, which is amazing. I've been going out nonstop, booking restaurants, shopping, getting my nails done, and my hair cut.”
Elective surgeries have been postponed in at least 116 hospitals. Becker’s Healthcare provides a list of hospitals across the nation that are suspending elective procedures because they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. At latest count, more than 116 facilities made the list.
Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana ordered all hospitals in his state to delay elective surgeries from December 16 to January 3, saying that “the state of Indiana is on fire,” according to IndyStar.
More Americans are stealing food. An investigation by the Washington Post published December 10 found that people are increasingly shoplifting food as unemployment numbers climb and an estimated 54 million Americans are struggling with hunger.
Racism is making the outbreak deadlier for Black Americans, the CDC has found. Yahoo! News obtained an internal CDC report this week indicating that problems of inequality and discrimination are putting Black Americans at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus and also making the virus more deadly for them. The report states, “Discrimination can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shapes social and economic factors that put some people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of COVID-19.”
Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline has suffered a vaccine setback. Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline announced December 11 that they are delaying advanced trials of their experimental coronavirus shot after it failed to produce a strong enough response in older people, pushing its potential availability to the end of next year.
A study shows that infections can happen in five minutes from 20 feet away. Research published November 30 Journal of Korean Medical Science indicates that it’s possible to become infected with the coronavirus within five minutes of exposure at a distance of 20 feet from the infection source.
Plastic surgery has increased during the pandemic as people dislike their look on Zoom. An investigation in the investigation in the Washington Post Monday revealed that plastic surgery is experiencing a “Zoom boom.” Plastic surgeons say that demand for procedures is up as individuals seek to improve the way they look on Zoom calls.
The CDC says, "Stay home for the holidays."?The CDC on December 2 urged?Americans not to travel over the upcoming holidays as infections, hospitalizations, and deaths soar. If you must travel, the CDC advises that you get tested one to three days before the trip and again three to five days afterward.
The CDC says quarantine may be shortened to 10 days, or seven with a negative test. The CDC issued new guidance this week suggesting that the length of quarantine after exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 can be reduced from 14 days to 10 days, according to CNN. If the exposed person receives a negative test result, the quarantine can be cut even further to seven days. The change comes after close study of the incubation period for the virus.
One hundred healthcare systems have asked America to mask up to fight deluge of cases. A total of 100 healthcare systems across the country have teamed up to create a public service announcement (PSA)?urging Americans to mask up.
The final words of a former state senator: "We messed up." When a former state senator, Larry Dixon, a Republican who was also a former executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died December 4 of COVID-19 at the age of 78, his final words were, “We messed up. We let our guard down,” according to NBC News. Dixon also said, “Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately.”
A woman has been sick with COVID-19 for nine months and counting.?A story in the Washington Post Wednesday detailed how 35-year-old Ashley Antonio of Canada has been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, body aches, fatigue, and headaches, for nine months. Antonio, who has been in and out of the hospital four times, told the Post, “I’m definitely worried it will be permanent.”
A Texas doctor died of COVID-19 in the unit he oversaw. Carlos Araujo-Preza, MD, a 51-year-old pulmonologist, had been treating hundreds of serious coronavirus cases in Houston until he contracted the coronavirus in October. After spending two two weeks on a ventilator, Dr. Araujo-Preza died on November 30, according to NBC News.
Vaccine volunteers may experience intense symptoms after second shot. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered in two doses given three weeks apart. CNBC reported Tuesday that some trial participants experienced significant symptoms after receiving the second dose, including headaches, severe chills, fatigue, and muscle pain. Vaccine manufacturers have alerted the public that the inoculations could produce side effects similar to mild COVID-19 symptoms.
Vaccinated individuals may still need to mask up to prevent transmission. In an investigation from The New York Times, scientists share concerns that vaccinated people may still pass the illness to others and will still need to wear face coverings go help prevent spreading the virus.
Johnson & Johnson expects to file for vaccine authorization in February. Johnson & Johnson's chief scientist told Reuters that?the company expects to have all the trial data it needs to file for authorization of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine by February or earlier.
Around the World
More than 137,000 in the United Kingdom vaccinated in first week. The British government announced Wednesday that more than 137,000 inoculations have been given in the first week since the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was distributed across the nation. The majority of the vaccines have been administered to those age 80 and older, home care workers, and U.K. National Health Service staff through more than 70 sites.
Germany and the Netherlands are going into strict lockdown over Christmas. As infection rates remain high, Germany will go into a hard lockdown through the Christmas holidays, with nonessential shops and schools closing on Wednesday, according to BBC News. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has also imposed a tough new nationwide lockdown, closing schools, nonessential shops, museums, and gyms as of midnight Tuesday until January 19, according to ABC News.
An Australian vaccine has been scrapped after producing false results. The BBC said Friday that Australia is abandoning a once-promising vaccine candidate developed by Australian firm CSL and the University of Queensland (UQ) after it generated HIV antibodies in some trial participants, although further testing revealed that HIV was not present.
Italy has banned inter-regional travel during holidays. The Guardian said Thursday that Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has barred travel between towns within the country from December 20 to January 6. “If we drop our guard now, the third wave is just around the corner,” Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza told parliament on December 2.
An arthritis drug may help speed recovery.?Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine on December 11 showed that the anti-inflammatory medication baricitinib taken in combination with the antiviral remdesivir reduced time to recovery for people hospitalized with COVID-19. Severely ill patients who needed a high dose of supplemental oxygen or a noninvasive form of ventilation recovered eight days faster when baricitinib was included in their drug regimen.
Convalescent plasma fails with severe COVID-19, a study says. One of the treatments that doctors have been exploring to treat the novel coronavirus is convalescent plasma therapy, which uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others recover. In a new study published November 24 in The New England Journal of Medicine, however, researchers from Argentina found that COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia who received convalescent plasma did not show clinical improvement, and the treatment did not lower their risk of dying compared with placebo.
The pandemic could end if 70 percent of people wore masks, a study found. In the Physics of Fluids on November 24, the American Institute of Physics presented data showing that the coronavirus outbreak could be stopped if at least 70 percent of the population consistently wore masks in public.
An early mutation may have helped the virus spread. A report in The New York Times?November 24?reviewed research showing how a mutation in the novel coronavirus may have contributed to the virus’s quick transmission around the globe.