Coronavirus updates: UK to receive first Pfizer COVID vaccine supply; wedding may be linked to nursing home deaths; NYC students return

Jessica Flores

Ryan W. Miller
 
| USA TODAY

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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, and distribution is 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.

At least seven patients at long-term care facilities in one Washington county have died in COVID-19 outbreaks possibly connected to a wedding that some staff members attended, health officials said.

The causes of death in four other cases were pending at the three facilities in Grant County. The county’s health department said some members of the staff who have since tested positive for COVID-19 attended a “large wedding” on Nov. 7. The health department alerted attendees to get tested on Nov. 16 and said COVID-19 outbreaks at the long-term care centers were reported Nov. 20.

“Because staff in these facilities care for entire units, direct contact with associated patients is not known,” the county health department said in a statement Thursday.

The Arizona Legislature will close for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19.

The president announced Giuliani had tested positive for the virus Sunday afternoon, less than a week after the former New York City mayor visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. The 76-year-old was later admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center.

Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans – including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers – at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix last Monday. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines and posing for photos. 

Giuliani also met privately with Republican lawmakers and legislative leadership the next day, according to lawmakers’ social media posts. And Democratic legislators noted Sunday evening that some representatives-elect who’d attended the Hyatt event attended an orientation for new lawmakers later in the week, possibly exposing additional legislators and Capitol staff.

– Maria Polletta, Arizona Republic

The Greek government said Monday that it would extend core lockdown restrictions through Christmas after a month of new virus restrictions did not bring down levels of COVID-19 as much as government officials had hoped.

Schools, courts and restaurants will remain closed through Jan. 7, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced Monday. Non-essential travel between Greece’s administrative regions will also be banned.

In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced local restrictions that close restaurants and bars and switch students from the 5th grade and older to distance learning. The new measures come after a “worrying” increase in infections in recent weeks, Frederiksen said.

Lithuania’s government also decided Monday to tighten restrictions. Meanwhile in Germany, a medical panel recommended that nursing home residents, people over 80 and key medical personnel in acute and elderly care should receive coronavirus vaccines first when they become available.

An Ohio club has been cited for “egregious violations” of public health orders after undercover agents said they observed about 500 people attending a concert there Saturday night. 

Columbus’ Aftermath was cited by the Ohio Investigative Unit for improper conduct and disorderly activities in violation of its liquor permit, according to a news release.

The club was packed with hundreds of patrons who made no attempts to maintain social distancing, and most of the crowd and employees were not wearing facial coverings, the release said. Agents also observed patrons standing, walking freely and sharing alcoholic beverages from the same bottle, passed between groups.

Aftermath’s owner or representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

– Dean Narciso, The Columbus Dispatch

A COVID-19 vaccine could start having an impact on some people’s lives as soon as January, Moncef Slaoui, the science adviser of the White House Operation Warp Speed said Sunday.

Slaoui, who is leading the vaccine development and distribution plan for the government, said “we have light at the end of the tunnel.” Still, he urged Americans to continue social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands.

“We may start to see some impact on the most susceptible people probably in the month of January and February,” Slaoui told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” when asked when infections will lower.

For most Americans, though, wondering when life will start getting back to normal: “We’re talking about April or May,” Slaoui said. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is less bullish on the timing, saying last month he expects it to be the second or third quarter of 2021. Read more about Slaoui here.

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

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 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