Coronavirus updates: Joe Biden pledges to deliver 100M doses in 100 days; US reaches 15M infections; Ohio-State Michigan football game off – USA TODAY

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The U.S. surpassed 15 million coronavirus cases Tuesday – with almost exactly 1 in 22 Americans having tested positive – while the United Kingdom became the first western government to start vaccinating its population.

The U.S. could begin its own mass vaccination within days. And it can’t come soon enough. With about 4.3% of the world’s population, the United States represents about 22% of the world’s reported cases. With 284,887 deaths, the United States represents about 18.4% of the world’s reported deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s dashboard

Meanwhile, Mexico announced plans to begin vaccinating its people later this month, starting with health workers. Russia is beginning mass vaccinations as well. But there is a hitch: Recipients aren’t supposed to drink alcohol for almost two months. That’s a tough ask in a country where some polls indicate only about 25% of the population was willing to get vaccinated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has heralded the Russian vaccine as the world’s first, but distrust of the medical establishment has tamped down public appetite for the shots. Tens of thousands of Russians have been vaccinated, however, including many health care workers and members of the military.

What you should know today:

  • President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday outlined his top three goals once he’s sworn into office, with one being to deliver 100 million vaccinations during the first 100 days. The vaccinations are expected to require two inoculations for each person, so his goal would be to vaccinate 50 million people. 
  • An FDA panel on Thursday will consider an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine now being used in England. Around 50 hospitals in the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service started administering the COVID-19 inoculation to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers.
  • A second member of President Trump’s legal team, Jenna Ellis, has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
  • For the first time in more than 100 years, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University won’t face off in its annual rivalry game due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

📰 What we’re reading: A USA TODAY survey finds most states are ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccineto health care workers but maybe not all who are next in line. Here’s how all 50 states are scrambling to dole them out.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported 15 million cases and over 284,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 67.9 million cases and 1.5 million deaths.

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

Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis reportedly positive for COVID-19

Jenna Ellis, an attorney representing the Trump campaign in its election challenges, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to White House officials who spoke with Axios and The New York Times. She had reportedly attended a senior staff Christmas party on Friday.

Ellis is the second member of President Donald Trump’s legal team and the most recent in a list of close associates who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Rudy Giuliani, 76, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal attorney, tested positive and was admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center on Sunday.

Giuliani called into WABC radio Tuesday from the hospital. He said that he had received the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir and expected to be “clear” by Sunday. He also confirmed that Ellis had tested positive.

New HHS data shows COVID-19 surging at hospital ICUs

Data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sheds new light on the dire impact of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s hospitals. HHS for the first time released weekly figures for more than 4,500 facilities, providing a detailed portrait of the virus in individual hospitals. 

As of last week, there were more than 21,000 patients in intensive care units across the nation, according to the data, which hospitals file daily or weekly with guidance from the White House. USA TODAY found close to 500 hospitals where acute coronavirus patients took up most of their intensive care beds. The map below depicts the average number of ICU patients confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 for the week of Nov. 27 through Dec. 3.

Hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense Health Agency and Indian Health Service are not included in the HHS data release. 

COVID-19 cases are soaring nationwide, with 200,000 added every day, according to USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 100,000 patients were hospitalized in ICUs and other units as of last Thursday, straining capacity at hospitals across the country. In the last seven days, more than 15,000 Americans died of the disease.

– Aleszu Bajak

4 lions at Barcelona Zoo test positive

Four lions at a zoo in Barcelona, Spain, have tested positive for COVID-19, according reports from Reuters and BBC on Tuesday. 

Three female lions and one male were tested after displaying mild symptoms, according to the reports. Two staff members were also positive for the virus, and an investigation was underway to determine how the animals were infected, the outlets said.

It’s not the first time a large cat has tested positive for COVID-19. In April, federal officials confirmed that four tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo had tested positive.

California issues push alert about stay-at-home order

The majority of California is under new orders from the state not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes. California authorities sent a cellphone text alert Tuesday to two major regions of the nation’s most populous state to remind them and urge them to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Southern California and a large swath of the Central Valley shut down after more than 85% of beds in intensive care units were occupied in those regions. Dropping to so few available beds is concerning for local hospital systems as COVID-19 cases are predicted to continue to increase. They join several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, which implemented similar stay-at-home orders without waiting to cross into the threshold that would require action by the state.

– Nicole Hayden, Melissa Daniels and Larry Bohannan, The Desert Sun

Joe Biden reveals 3 health goals for first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden outlined three health goals to combat COVID-19 during his first 100 days in office: to have everyone where masks during that period, to distribute 100 million vaccinations and to reopen many schools if the virus is brought under greater control.

Biden said he developed the goals in consultation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He announced the goals while introducing his appointees, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services and Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general.

As his first goal, Biden, who will be sworn in Jan. 20, said he would sign an executive order on his first day to require mask wearing in federal buildings and on interstate transportation such as planes, trains and buses. The Trump administration rejected a request to take a similar step.

“We’re going to require masks wherever possible,” Biden said. “It’s not a political statement, it’s a patriotic act.”

– Courtney Subramanian and Bart Jansen

North Carolina announces curfew, stay-at-home order

North Carolina residents will now have to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to a new order announced Tuesday aimed at slowing the steady rise of cases and hospitalizations. 

“The stakes are dire,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a press conference. “This is truly a matter of life and death.”

The order also requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and more to close at 10 p.m.

There are a few exemptions: travel to and from work; to obtain food, medical care, fuel or social services; or to take care of family.

Tuesday’s announcement comes as the state reported more than 4,600 new cases. The state now has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 cases since March.

Ohio State-Michigan football game called off due to virus surge

The University of Michigan on Tuesday called off its rivalry game against Ohio State University that had been scheduled for Friday, marking the first time in more than 100 years “The Game” will not be played.

The university cited an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and student-athletes in quarantine. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel released statement saying the team had not been cleared to participate in practice.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals,” Manuel said. “This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”

– Orion Sang

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee extends restrictions through holidays

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that he is extending current restrictions on businesses and social gatherings through Jan. 4 due to a continued spike in cases that is straining the state’s hospital system. The restrictions that took effect last month include limiting restaurants and bars to to-go service and outdoor dining. They had been set to expire Dec. 14. Inslee also announced $50 million in additional grants for businesses, on top of the $135 million in grants, loans and other assistance he announced two weeks ago to help businesses and workers impacted by the restrictions.

158 arrested at illegal party in Los Angeles County

More than 150 people were arrested last weekend at an illegal party in Los Angeles County, where coronavirus cases are surging, authorities said. The raid Saturday night in Palmdale came after Sheriff Alex Villanueva vowed to crack down on “super-spreader events.” 

A statement from the sheriff’s office said 158 people were arrested, adding that such parties typically involve drugs, alcohol, weapons, minors and prostitution. Sheriff’s Lt. Paul Zarris told KTTV deputies received a tip about the party and that people inside were not wearing masks.

Sheriff’s officials said they want to send a message to other potential party promoters and attendees. “We just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen, especially in our area,” Zarris said. 

Third vaccine, from AstraZeneca and Oxford, shows promise

Data on a candidate COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is strong enough to present to regulators in the U.K., Europe and elsewhere around the world, the collaborators said Tuesday. But they don’t expect approval from the U.S. without more data from American volunteers. 

The team presented data in the medical journal, The Lancet, the first late-stage trial information to be published under peer review. The vaccine was shown to be 70% effective among the more than 11,000 participants, but 90% effective for a subset of about 2,700 participants who received a half-dose of the vaccine the first time and a full-dose of the vaccine the second. It’s not yet clear whether that improved effectiveness was due to a statistical fluke.

– Karen Weintraub and Adrianna Rodriguez

Russia: Vaccine recipients shouldn’t drink booze for 8 weeks

Russia has begun mass immunizations but is warning recipients they must abstain from drinking alcohol for eight weeks for the inoculations to be effective. The head of Russia’s consumer safety agency, Anna Popova, said recipients should not drink for two weeks prior to getting the first of two doses required for the vaccine. Alcohol also should be avoided for the three weeks between the first and second dose, then for three weeks after the second dose, Popova said. 

“It’s a strain on the body. If we want to stay healthy and have a strong immune response, don’t drink alcohol,” she told the Moscow Times.

Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the state-run Gamaleya research center that developed Sputnik V, was a bit less rigid. Gintsburg said that while alcohol should not alcohol abused before or after vaccination, “a single glass of champagne never hurt anyone.”

FDA issues encouraging report on fate of first vaccine candidate

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a 53-page report Tuesday supporting  earlier findings that the vaccine candidate from Pfizer and BioNTech is safe and effective. The earlier findings found the vaccine is safe and will prevent 95% of people from becoming sick with COVID-19. 

The companies are asking the FDA for authorization to use the vaccine in people ages 16 and up. They have also begun testing the vaccine in ages 12-15, but have not yet accumulated enough data to request authorization in that age group. 

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, said he received a briefing on the material in recent days.

“The group I was with who heard the data arrived interested and left the presentation enthusiastic,” Schaffner said. “The extraordinary thing is that there were no major areas of concern.”

Karen Weintraub

White House rejects claim it passed on buying more Pfizer vaccine doses

The White House is dismissing reports that the administration passed on buying additional doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before other countries cut their deals. The New York Times was first to report that before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses already committed.

The Times, citing people familiar with the talks, said the White House never made the deal – “a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line.” Senior administration officials, however, told reporters the story was “false” and that negotiations were ongoing. 

“We feel absolutely confident that we will get the vaccine doses, for which we’ve contracted, and we’ll have sufficient number of doses to vaccinate all Americans who desire one before the end of the second quarter 2021,” a senior administration official said.

David Jackson and Courtney Subramanian

COVID-19 explosion a stunner, even for the experts

Public health experts warned for some time that a winter surge would come. But four who spoke with USA TODAY said they have been stunned by the dismal trajectory of the virus over nine grueling months, and they never expected the nation to be in as bad of a position as it is right now. November broke records that December is already pursuing.

“I don’t think there’s a single person anywhere who thought that we would still be facing this in December, let alone that this would be at such a peak at this particular time,” said Dr. Robert Amler, dean of New York Medical College’s School of Health Sciences and Practice and a former chief medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ryan W. Miller

British grandmum, William Shakespeare are first to get vaccinated

England on Tuesday became the first western country to start vaccinating its population against a virus that has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and sickened tens of millions more. Margaret Keenan, a grandmother who turns 91 next week, received the first shot at University Hospital Coventry.

“It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for,” Keenan said. Second in line: a man named William Shakespeare. Billy to his friends.

Fifty hospitals in the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service started administering the COVID-19 inoculation to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or have outpatient appointments scheduled. Some nursing home workers also received the vaccine. 

– Kim Hjelmgaard

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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