Coronavirus updates: Former FDA head says to use all vaccine doses right away; more than a quarter of US cases reported since 11/16 – USA TODAY

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More than a quarter of America’s coronavirus cases have been reported since Nov. 16, showing how widespread and aggressive the current COVID-19 surge is, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Most of the country’s cases have been reported since Oct. 4, the analysis also found. On Sunday, Georgia became the sixth state to report 500,000 cases. Vermont, the state with the fewest cases, surpassed 5,000 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, New York City welcomed some of its students back into the classroom Monday after a shutdown kept them in a virtual-learning setting for a few weeks.

And in California, most of the state 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.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 14.9 million cases and over 283,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 67.4 million cases and 1.54 million deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Are there side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines? How much will they 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.

Former FDA head: Use all vaccine doses now, then follow up with second

The U.S. government should use its entire inventory of coronavirus vaccines right away instead of saving half of it to complete the two-dose treatment down the road, the former head of the FDA said.

The federal government hopes to have close to 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, and it plans to distribute half of them in December and hold back the rest to administer the second shot to the same people in January.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who’s now a board member of the vaccine-making company Pfizer, says that’s the wrong approach.

“We should get as many shots in our arms as possible right away,” Gottlieb told the USA TODAY Editorial Board on Monday. “The idea that we need to cut (the doses) in half and give half of it now and hold onto it, so we have supply in January to get the second dose … I just fundamentally disagree with that.”

Gottlieb said he anticipates another 40 million doses should be ready in time for the second shot of the regimen. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose to be administered three weeks after the first one, while the Moderna vaccine calls for a second shot four weeks after the initial one. Both have shown about 95% effectiveness in trials.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Warriors’ Draymond Green, James Wiseman test positive

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, a three-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and rookie center James Wiseman have tested positive for the coronavirus, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Both players missed Monday’s first group practice of training camp and will have to quarantine for 10-12 days. The absence from the team could be especially detrimental for Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft, as he begins his NBA career after playing only three games in college.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: This is ‘a very critical time’ in virus fight

Get ready for even worse COVID news over the rest of the holidays.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the upcoming holiday season may be even worse than Thanksgiving in terms of spreading the coronavirus. Fauci told CNN on Monday that the prospects for virus transmission as people travel “may be even more compounded than what we saw at Thanksgiving.”

Fauci said “it’s a very critical time in this country right now” with the virus surging and more important than ever for people to take precautions like avoiding indoor gatherings, wearing masks and social distancing. The U.S. has been averaging nearly 200,000 new COVID-19 cases a day during the current surge.

— The Associated Press

Tennessee lawmaker flown to hospital with COVID-19

Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd has been hospitalized with COVID-19 after attending a House Republican caucus meeting with nearly 70 lawmakers on Nov. 24.

Byrd, 63, was flown by helicopter to a Nashville hospital over the weekend. Fellow Republican state Rep. Mike Carter was hospitalized earlier this year after contracting the coronavirus.

Nursing home group urges residents get first shot at vaccine

Nursing home residents and workers should get top priority for the nation’s limited vaccine supply, advocates say.

American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living officials on Monday urged governors to ensure nursing home residents and workers are immunized with the two-dose vaccine by March 1.

Last week, an influential advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended residents of long-term care facilities join frontline health workers as the first priority group for vaccines. But governors and state health departments can decide who gets first dibs on the vaccine.

About one in five nursing home residents with COVID-19 die from the illness, according to the CDC. “The single best way to very quickly reduce the number of COVID deaths is to get the population vaccinated who is dying from the disease,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

– Ken Alltucker

South Carolina teacher dies of COVID as colleagues seek return to virtual classes

The weekend death from COVID-19 of a third-grade teacher has provided further impetus for a South Carolina teacher group to ask school districts to return to virtual classes at a time when coronavirus cases are surging in the state.

The family of Staci Blakely, 50, asked the Lexington One School District to announce her death publicly to remind people how serious the disease can be, District Superintendent Greg Little said in a statement. Blakely, who taught for 28 years, was diagnosed with the virus Nov. 11.

At least four school districts in South Carolina have returned to all virtual learning. Nearly a quarter of the state’s districts are teaching in person every day.

Pearl Harbor ceremony held without survivors because of pandemic

The yearly Pearl Harbor commemoration in Honolulu has joined the extensive list of public events impacted by the coronavirus. A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m. Monday, the same time the attack by Japanese forces on an American naval base began in 1941, but public health measures imposed because of the pandemic meant no survivors were present this year.

The military broadcast video of the ceremony live online for survivors and members of the public to watch from afar. USS Utah survivor Warren Upton, 101, said he would have liked to attend in person but couldn’t for safety reasons. He planned to watch the ceremony from his home in California.

More than 2,400 people died in the Pearl Harbor attack, which prompted the U.S. to formally enter World War II.

California rolls out COVID alert app amid surge

California hopes a smartphone app will help stem the worrisome spike of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state, which has prompted the imposition of several restrictions. The app, called CA Notify, would alert people if they spent time near someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the voluntary tool Monday and said people can opt in to use it starting Thursday by activating it through the settings menu on iPhones or downloading the app on Android phones. The technology was developed in a joint effort between Apple and Google.

Officials say the tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, then sends notifications when one of the phone users in that group tests positive for the virus.

Sixteen other states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., have already made the system available, though most residents don’t use it. The app has been used on a pilot basis on University of California campuses.

Newsom has issued a set a new, restrictive mandates that went into effect Sunday night across most of the state and will be in place for at least three weeks. 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.

– Nicole Hayden, Palm Springs Desert Sun, and John Bacon

Navajo Nation nearing ICU capacity

Nearly all intensive care unit beds on the Navajo Nation reservation were being used as  health care workers fear having to make difficult decisions about providing care with limited hospital resources.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Sunday evening that there are few options to transport patients to other regional hospitals that are near full capacity. “This second wave of COVID-19 is much more dire and much more severe than the first wave we had in April and May,” Nez said in a statement.

The tribe extended its stay-at-home order, which took effect Monday, to stop the spread of the virus.

UK to receive Pfizer vaccine supply

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 Thursday, and distribution is expected to start within 24 hours of authorization.

Arizona Legislature closes after Rudy Giuliani’s visit last week

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.

Trump 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. Giuliani, 76, 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

Ohio club cited after 500 attend concert in violation of COVID-19 orders

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.

– Dean Narciso, The Columbus Dispatch

Operation Warp Speed chief: Vaccine’s impact will be felt by some by January

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.

A sign regarding mask use to help curb the spread of COVID-19 hangs on Sunday outside a business in Vancouver, British Columbia.

NYC elementary students return to classroom

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 school students.

De Blasio has vowed to try to keep the nation’s largest school district open, using new testing protocols instead of relying on local infection rates to determine whether classrooms should shutter.

Acting mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, tests positive for COVID

Austin Quinn-Davidson, 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 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.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: Mike Stucka and The Associated Press

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