Here are the most recent COVID-19 headlines and helpful tidbits. As always, I’m happy to answer questions, accommodate requests, and take suggestions as they arise. This update will not publish on 12/24, 12/28, or 12/31. Please take a look at the newest additions to the Helpful Articles/Media section. If you ever find you’ve stopped receiving these updates, you can re-subscribe here. To access the most recent archives, click here.
- Congressional leaders on Sunday reached a hard-fought agreement on a $900 billion stimulus package that would fund the distribution of vaccines and send immediate aid to Americans and businesses to help them cope with the economic devastation of the pandemic.
- NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and HHS Sec. Alex Azar will be vaccinated on Tuesday morning during an event at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.
- The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an expert panel which advises the CDC, said in a meeting today that adults over 75 and frontline essential workers should be in second Covid-19 vaccine priority group.
- The committee also voted to recommend that the third stage of the national vaccination program focus on adults 65 to 74, people 16 to 64 years old with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in the second phase.
- Find slides from the meeting here.
- Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA) has been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
- Virginia and Maryland are each sending 8,000 extra COVID-19 vaccine doses from their own supply to D.C. as the city scrambles to inoculate health care workers amid the worsening pandemic. Under the current distribution formula, which is based on residency, D.C. received 6,825 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — a figure Mayor Muriel Bowser said would cover less than a tenth of the city’s health care workers who are first in line to receive the vaccine.
- The NIH announced last Thursday that it has begun two Phase 3 clinical trials evaluating investigational monoclonal antibody therapeutics for people hospitalized with COVID-19.
- The trials are part of the ACTIV-3 master protocol, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID)
- On Friday, the FDA approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for EUA. The vaccine requires two doses like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but it does not require ultracold storage.
- Roughly 6 million doses of the vaccine will be shipped to more than 3,700 locations around the country this week, adding to the nearly 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that were dispatched mostly to health care workers starting last week.
- Health care workers at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center were among the first people to receive Moderna’s vaccine on Monday.
- OWS estimates there will be enough vaccine doses available to vaccinate 20 million people in December, 30 million in January, and 50 million by the end of February.
- President-elect Joe Biden received the coronavirus vaccine on live television on Monday at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., sending a message to Americans across the country that the vaccine is safe to take. Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all received the first dose of the vaccine on Friday.
- The CDC has published and updated a significant number of COVID-19 and vaccine materials and resources on its dashboard. Please continue to check these for information on things like recommended quarantine periods and return-to-work guidance. To highlight a few of the recent updates:
Updates from the States
- Out of the cases under investigation detected by U.S. surveillance, there are 17,790,376 total cases and 316,844 deaths. One American is dying from COVID-19 every 33 seconds.The CDC data closes out the day before reporting.
- The U.S. is now averaging 2,613 new coronavirus deaths per day – more than triple the seven-day average from two months ago. In the week ending Dec. 19, 16 states hit a record number of new deaths. California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas have all recorded more than 1,000 deaths in the past week.
- The total number of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. has increased by 13.6 percent in the past week. Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina have all set weekly records for newly diagnosed cases. Tennessee is identifying new COVID-19 cases at the highest per capita rate in the country.
- Nearly a third of hospitals across the country have more than 80 percent of their ICU beds filled. There are 115,351 people hospitalized across the country with COVID-19 according to the COVID Tracking Project.
- Hospitals and ICUs across the country are reaching their breaking point. Statewide, California reported 2.1 percent availability of ICU beds on Friday. California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services said many hospitals in the state may also soon run out of room for patients who need to be admitted but do not require intensive care. Just 8 percent of ICU and inpatient beds were available across Arizona on Sunday, and ICUs in Utah have hit 99.4 percent capacity.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he has asked the DoD for 10 teams of 20 health care workers to assist the state’s hard-hit health care facilities.
- Multiple governors and state officials – including authorities from Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – said they will be allocated 20 to 40 percent fewer vaccine doses than expected in their second shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the federal government.
- Vaccinations in New Jersey nursing homes will begin a week late, Dec. 28, instead of today, after state officials missed the deadline for federal approval by one day.
- West Virginia is leading the nation in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration, having doled out nearly 91 percent of its available doses. Gov. Jim Justice (R) said his state is ready to roll out the Moderna vaccine.
- The head of Oklahoma’s largest teachers union praised Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Monday for moving school personnel to phase two of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
- Dozens of protesters trying to force their way into Oregon’s State Capitol building on Monday were met by officers in riot gear, as lawmakers gathered for a one-day special session amid growing tension over coronavirus restrictions in the state.
- Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) extended a state of emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic for an additional 60 days.
- Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed an EO to limit public gatherings to no more than 10 people. The governor urged Tennesseans to limit holiday gatherings to only those living in their household.
- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced the end of several restrictions implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In-person classes can resume at high schools and colleges, indoor venues such as movie theaters can reopen with capacity limits and other safety precautions, and outdoor group fitness activities can also resume. The new guidelines will remain in place until Jan. 15.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced an update in the metrics used to inform local school district decisions for in-person learning.
- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced the launch of WI Exposure Notification, a new mobile app to assist in notifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. The app will go live for Wisconsinites next week.
- Pennsylvania’s health department unveiled a new digital case investigation tool, the Connect & Protect Form, to allow for more efficient COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. The state already has a contact tracing app available.
- Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed an EO that suspends and modifies tax deadlines and collection efforts for tax bills that become due and payable on Jan. 1; suspends municipal assessor certification program requirement; and allows caterer liquor permittees to sell and provide closed or sealed containers of alcoholic beverages.
- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said Monday that he’s “basically begging” Massachusetts residents not to travel for Christmas.
- Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed an emergency proclamation reducing the state’s mandatory self-quarantine period for travelers entering the state and traveling between counties from 14 to 10 days.
- Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (D) tested positive for COVID-19.
- South Carolina first lady Peggy McMaster and Tennessee first lady Maria Lee have both tested positive for COVID-19.
- Useful state data:
- Use Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 U.S. map as a resource for media, policymakers, and communities to view a collection of critical public health data in one online destination and better understand and track the COVID-19 pandemic in populations both large and small across the country. NPR’s map can also be used to monitor you state’s heat wave.
- NASHP has developed a COVID-19 State Action Center which serves as a state-level policy dashboard. Governing is also keeping a running tally of coronavirus news and impacts at the intersection of the health and economic crises in the states and localities.
- This site from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides state-level information on cases/deaths, social distancing measures, health policy actions, and more.
- This series of maps shows how states are responding to COVID-19.
- The E.U. granted authorization on Monday for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for millions of doses to be transferred by Pfizer to the bloc’s 27 member states. Immunization is expected to begin in most countries over the next few days and gather speed in early January.
- The E.U.’s drug authority, the European Medicines Agency, is expected to give its decision on the Moderna vaccine authorization request on Jan. 6.
- The creators of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine Monday signed a memorandum of intent with British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca to work together on developing a vaccine, a major boost to Russia’s efforts to advance its vaccines to the global market. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that by working together with AstraZeneca, Russia was following WHO advice to pool COVID-19 vaccine efforts.
- More than 40 countries across the globe have shut down travel from England in response to reports of a more contagious strain of COVID-19 in England, though scientists have yet to determine whether the new strain is indeed more contagious.
- France imposed a 48-hour suspension of freight transit across the English Channel, leaving thousands of truck drivers stranded in their vehicles on Monday as the roads leading to England’s ports were turned into parking lots.
- Saudi Arabia announced a one-week ban on international travel.
- Air passengers from the U.K. arriving in Germany were detained at airports on Sunday night.
- Spain announced that only Spaniards and residents of Spain will be allowed to fly to Spain from Britain, and implemented tighter border checks with Gibraltar, the British territory located at the southern tip of Spain.
- Hong Kong on Monday closed its borders to travelers from Britain.
- Israel is halting air travel to most foreign nationals beginning on Wednesday.
- Peru suspended flights from Europe for two weeks and has put its health and travel authorities on high alert.
- Eight countries, including The Netherlands, Germany, and Turkey, have barred travelers from South Africa, where cases of the new strain have also been reported.
- Qatar received its first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, just hours after regulators approved it for use in the Gulf state. Qatari officials say the country will inoculate all residents free of charge.
- Nigeria is advising its sub-regions to limit public gatherings and close bars and night clubs over the next five weeks amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Lagos, the country’s largest city, has ordered schools to shut indefinitely, banned concerts, carnivals, and street parties, and asked certain civil servants to work from home.
- Morocco will impose a three-week curfew from 9 PM to 6 AM starting on Wednesday, to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Shops, malls, and restaurants will have to close at 8 PM across the country.
- Seoul, South Korea has banned gatherings of more than five people, though weddings and funerals are capped at 50 people. The restrictions, which will go into effect on Wednesday, will remain in place through Jan. 3. As of Sunday, there were just four intensive care unit beds remaining in the greater Seoul area. The government has ordered private hospitals to free up more than 300 beds to be used for coronavirus patients.
- Authorities in Sydney, Australia have put about a quarter of a million people in the city’s northern beach suburbs into a strict lockdown and restricted gatherings across the rest of the city in a bid to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak.
- Ontario, Canada will enter sweeping COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday that will last until at least Jan. 23. Most stores, aside from pharmacies and groceries, will be closed except for delivery and curbside pickup. Indoor gatherings will be limited to groups made up of household members with the exception of weddings and religious services involving no more than 10 people. The majority of students will shift to online learning after their holiday break, and residents are being urged to avoid all but essential travel.
- Citing poor pay, lack of medical insurance, and inadequate PPE, doctors across Kenya went on strike on Monday as coronavirus cases continued to rise nationwide.
- A 63-year-old coronavirus patient has been arrested in Hong Kong after he escaped from a hospital isolation ward. Hong Kong has strict quarantine and isolation requirements for people who contract the virus and their close contacts.
- Thailand has eased travel restrictions for citizens from 56 countries in a bid to boost the country’s pandemic-hit tourism industry. Visitors will be required to undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.
- Thai authorities this week plan to test more than 10,000 people connected to a major seafood market after a spike in COVID-19 cases. The cluster around the shrimp market, a hub for migrant workers, marks Thailand’s worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Here is the most recent edition of the WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Update and here is the most recent edition of the WHO’s Weekly Operational Update.
- Global Cases: 75,704,857 Total Deaths: 1,690,061
Science, Lifestyle, and Economy
- A mutant strain of the coronavirus, called B.1.1.7, prompted strict lockdown measures in England and halted travel between the U.K. and more than 40 countries following reports that the mutant virus is spreading between people more quickly. Scientists are not yet sure of the strain’s importance or whether it is more contagious. It has also been detected in South Africa and Australia.
- WHO officials said Monday that there is no evidence at this point to suggest that the new coronavirus variant discovered in the U.K. “is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality.”
- The CDC said it is monitoring reports of severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The NIH said Monday it is planning a study to find out what’s behind the handful of severe allergic reactions that have been reported. Medical experts say that Pfizer’s vaccine is still safe for the general public, noting that allergic reactions are extremely rare and expected on a small scale with any type of vaccine.
- More than 3 million elderly and infirm residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities may face delays in getting coronavirus vaccines as the facilities confront the difficult task of obtaining consent, consumer advocates say.
- More than a million travelers a day passed through American airport security checkpoints on each of the last three days, a spike in holiday travel that comes despite warnings from the CDC against travel.
- Delta Air Lines said on Monday that it will require pre-departure COVID-19 tests from passengers leaving the U.K. who are flying to New York.
- Virgin Atlantic will also require all travelers from London to the United States to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before departure under a new pre-departure screening beginning Dec. 24.
- Health officials are administering the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine in Indigenous communities across the U.S., one of the populations most vulnerable in the pandemic. About 68,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will initially be distributed among the population, the Indian Health Service said.
- Stanford Medicine apologized on Friday for its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan – a plan that came under fire for leaving out nearly all of its medical residents and fellows, many of whom regularly treat COVID-19 patients.
- During a “Sesame Street” town hall with CNN on Saturday, NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci assured kids Santa Claus would be able to visit them on Christmas, because he traveled to the North Pole to vaccinate Santa personally.
- After moving their entire football operation to Arizona for what they initially hoped would be just a three-week stay, the San Francisco 49ers will finish the 2020 regular season in the desert. A team spokesman said the decision was made to remain in the Phoenix area through the end of the NFL season after Santa Clara County announced it would be extending its COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on contact sports, through at least Jan. 8.
- There were nearly 12,000 more deaths than expected among young adults between March and July, according to new research published last week in JAMA.
- The WHO keeps a running list of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which you can view here. STAT News also has a resource tracking COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. The New York Times has a very helpful vaccine tracker as well, which you can view here. This AVAC pipeline tracker is great, too.
- The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has an extensive list of commercial and lab-developed tests.
- Continue to look at the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis’s (OPA) expert-curated portfolio of COVID-19 publications and preprints. The portfolio includes peer-reviewed articles from PubMed and preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv, ChemRxiv, and arXiv. It is updated daily with the latest available data and enables users to explore and analyze the rapidly growing set of advances in COVID-19 research.