Coronavirus updates: UK hospitals to receive first batch of Pfizer COVID vaccine; NYC elementary students return to class; 282K US deaths

Jessica Flores

Ryan W. Miller

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About 50 hospitals in the United Kingdom will receive the first batch of the coronavirus vaccine created by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, according to the BBC. Vaccinations will be administered starting Tuesday in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The U.K. became the first country to authorize Pfizer’s candidate vaccine for emergency use last week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to evaluate Pfizer’s vaccine Dec. 10, with distribution expected to start within 24 hours of authorization.

Most of California has entered a new stay-at-home lockdown that will last through the Christmas holiday. Indoor and outdoor dining is banned, people cannot gather with anyone outside their households and hair salons, barber shops and movie theaters must shut down.

Also Sunday, Georgia became the sixth state to report 500,000 cases, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Vermont has the fewest cases of the states, surpassing 5,000 on Sunday. California and Texas each have more than 1.3 million cases.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 14.7 million cases and over 282,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 67.1 million cases and 1.5 million deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Are there side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines? How much will it cost? And what are the ingredients? We’re answering your vaccine questions here.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Some of New York City’s public school students are returning to the classroom Monday after a short-lived shutdown sent them home for virtual learning amid rising COVID-19 infection rates.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced schools were closing for in-person instruction last month, but less than two weeks later said they would reopen Monday for preschool and elementary students.

De Blasio has vowed to try to keep New York City’s public schools, the nation’s largest school district, open moving forward, using new testing protocols instead of relying on local infection rates to determine whether classroom should shutter.

Austin Quinn-Davison, the acting mayor of Alaska’s largest city, is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19, her office announced Sunday. She felt cold-like symptoms beginning on Nov. 29 and isolated at home until taking a test the next day. That test and another test came back negative. However, Quinn-Davidson’s third test came back positive Saturday.

The 41-year-old is experiencing mild symptoms, the office said. Her wife, Dr. Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, has tested negative and is not experiencing symptoms, the mayor’s office said.

Quinn-Davidson became Anchorage’s acting mayor on Oct. 23 following the resignation of Ethan Berkowitz. She’s the city’s first female mayor.

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the health and human services department, a critical appointment amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 280,000 in the U.S. alone.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1-trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.

Becerra’s nomination, which was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by The Associated Press, as Health and Human Services secretary comes as Biden has faced increasing pressure to add more diversity to his administration.

– Kevin Johnson

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, has tested positive for COVID-19. Trump delivered the news by tweet, writing “Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!”

Giuliani, 76, was admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center on Sunday. 

Later Sunday, Giuliani expressed appreciation for “the prayers and kind wishes” on Twitter, adding that he is “recovering quickly and keeping up with everything.”

Giuliani is the most recent in a list of close Trump associates who have tested positive for the virus.

– Matthew Brown

Most Californians will be home for Christmas whether they like it or not under new, restrictive mandates that went into effect Sunday night across much of the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said stay–at–home orders and business shutdowns for regions where hospital intensive care unit capacity falls below 15% can flatten the spiking curve in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, reducing stress on the state’s overburdened health care system until vaccines ride to the rescue.

The restrictions are similar to those established in March when California was among the first states to take action to combat the pandemic. Back then, the state was able to keep the virus relatively under control and soon lifted the measures.

But the virus surge is back with a vengeance, and Newsom said he was compelled by the data to again take action. California, with a population of 40 million people, has reported more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 20,000 deaths.

– John Bacon

The University of Texas has paused activities for its football team after five members of the program tested positive for COVID-19. The football program announced on Sunday that COVID-19 tests had come back positive for three student-athletes and two staffers. The five unnamed members of the football team tested negative this past Friday so they traveled for Texas’ 69-31 win at Kansas State the following day. The positive tests occurred on Sunday.

After the positive test results were received, everyone was sent home. More tests will be administered on Monday and again on Tuesday. According to a statement, “a determination and plan for potential return to activities will be made” after the Tuesday tests.

– Danny Davis, Austin American-Statesman

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press