Coronavirus updates: 2 allergic reactions to Pfizer vaccine in U.K. prompt warning; Los Angeles restaurants win court battle – USA TODAY


People who have a “significant history” of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine pending an investigation of two adverse reactions reported on the first day of the U.K.’s mass vaccination program, British health officials said Wednesday.

That could cause a dilemma in the U.S., where Pfizer’s vaccine candidate could win emergency use approval from the FDA within days. Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said both affected patients were “recovering well” and that the directive came “on a precautionary basis.” 

Vaccines are urgently needed in the U.S., where more than 2,500 deaths and over 215,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday alone. The nation soared beyond 15 million total infections this week with no indication the latest surge is ebbing.

News you should know today:

  • Talks on a new stimulus package are coming down to the wire. Unemployment benefits for 12 million Americans could run out in less than three weeks.
  • COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are at record levels, and the rising case toll from holiday travel has created an unprecedented surge with no relief in sight.
  • Los Angeles County public health officials must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend a ban on outdoor dining beyond Dec. 16, a judge ru.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 15.1 million cases and 286,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 68.1 million cases and 1.55 million deaths.

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

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

Michigan teen caught virus after high school required her to take SAT

Michigan family says their daughter was infected by the coronavirus after Bloomfield Hills High officials incorrectly told her she had to take the in-person SAT exams as a requirement for graduation. The 17-year-old was diagnosed soon after taking the test and spent nearly two months recovering in her bedroom while isolating from her high-risk mother. The tests are offered only with in-person supervision and usually in large groups. 

According to state education officials, Michigan has no requirement that students take the SAT or any other test to earn high-school diplomas, although districts may require the test. Many universities waived standardized testing due to the pandemic.

Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press

Protests shut down meeting on mask mandate in Idaho

Idaho public health officials meeting to vote on a proposed four-county mask mandate  abruptly shut down the proceedings Tuesday amid concerns that raucous protests outside the health department building and the homes of some health officials were threatening public safety. The meeting ended minutes after one health board member tearfully said she had to rush home because her 12-year-old son was home alone and protestors were banging outside the door.

The protest at the health building was organized, at least in part, by a loose multi-state group called People’s Rights created by Ammon Bundy. Bundy gained national attention and stoked the so-called “patriot movement” after leading armed standoffs at his father’s Nevada ranch in 2014 and at a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016.

Bipartisan COVID-19 relief package: No stimulus checks?

Congress is working to pass a proposed COVID-19 relief bill as millions of Americans face losing their jobless benefits at the end of the month. The bipartisan proposal is expected to include about $300 per week in bonus federal unemployment payments for roughly four months, providing relief just as emergency aid payments at regular benefit levels are set to expire at year’s end. That would be a lower amount than the $600 per week that jobless Americans had received under the CARES Act until late July. The plan is also expected to extend base benefits through March.

The bipartisan package is also expected to leave out another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. The White House, however, has offered a plan providing no additional unemployment money in favor of $600 stimulus checks – an offer panned by Democrats. A potential deal is coming down to the wire as 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. Eviction moratoriums for renters and protections for student borrowers are also set to expire, as well as a federal program for paid family leave.

– Jessica Menton

‘We messed up’: Ex-Alabama lawmaker warns of virus before death

Before his death from COVID-19 former Alabama state senator Larry Dixon spoke to his wife Gaynell of 53 years from his hospital bed and asked her to relay a warning.

“Sweetheart, we messed up. We just dropped our guard,” Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist and friend of Dixon’s, recalled him saying.

Dixon, 78, died Friday from complications of COVID-19. Thrasher said his longtime friend had been mostly careful, but may have contracted the virus after gathering with friends. Alabama and much of the country is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving gatherings. The state in the last two weeks has set records for the number of cases reported each day and the number of people in state hospitals with COVID-19.

“The last thing he told her was, ’Gaynell, I love you. We’ve got to tell people this is real,” Thrasher said.

A tester wears personal protective equipment as she speaks to a patient at a mobile COVID-19 testing site on Tuesday in Auburn, Maine.

Los Angeles restaurants win court battle over closures

Los Angeles County’s health director acted “arbitrarily” and didn’t prove the danger to the public when she banned outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus cases surged last month, a judge ruled Tuesday in a case other businesses may use to try to overturn closures and restrictions. The county failed to show that health benefits outweigh the negative economic effects before issuing the ban, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant wrote. He also said the county did not offer evidence that outdoor dining presented a greater risk of spreading the virus. Chalfant said the Department of Public Health must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend the ban beyond Dec. 16.

“By failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end,″ the judge wrote.

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. 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. 

The nation also reported 104,600 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

– Aleszu Bajak

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press


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