Coronavirus updates: Moderna vaccinations set to begin Monday; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urges feds to ban flights from UK; 317K US deaths

  • In Politics
  • 2020-12-21 09:00:12Z

USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed nearly 320,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

►Immunizations using the nation's second COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, are expected to begin Monday, three days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized its emergency rollout.

►The list of European Union nations banning travel from the U.K. is growing to prevent the spread of a new infectious variant of coronavirus. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria announced travel restrictions hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled Christmas shopping and gatherings. Canada also announced a ban restricting travel from the U.K.

►New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging federal officials to either ban flights from the U.K. or require all passengers to get tested for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.

►Hawaii's rural island of Kauai had only 61 confirmed coronavirus cases from March through September due to aggressive measures in place. Once the state launched a pre-travel testing program in October to revive the economy, Kauai went from having no infections at all in early October to at least 84 new cases in seven weeks and the island's first COVID-19 death.

►President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will get vaccinated Monday, Biden's office said. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will receive their doses the following week.

►While acknowledging Tennessee as "ground zero for a surge in sickness," Gov. Bill Lee on Sunday night tightened statewide restrictions on social gatherings for the next 30 days but stopped short of a mask mandate. The state ranked No. 1 in the country for COVID-19 infections in the past week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted for population.

???? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 17.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 317,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 76.7 million cases and almost 1.7 million deaths.

Here's a closer look at today's top stories:

Here's what's included in second COVID-19 relief package

Lawmakers struck a nearly $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus deal Sunday that includes another round of stimulus checks and badly needed jobless benefits for struggling Americans, ending a long standoff in Washington with one of the biggest rescue bills in U.S. history.

After months of impasse, negotiations came down to the wire as 12 million people are set to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. The deal includes restarting a $300 boost to the federal unemployment insurance benefit, extending eviction moratoriums for renters for an unspecified amount of time and a $600 direct payment to most Americans.

The measure will be tied to a $1.4 trillion must-pass spending bill that will fund federal agencies and programs through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Congress is expected to pass a one-day extension of government funding Sunday to give lawmakers one more day to review the deal to avert a partial government shutdown deadline.

For the bill to become law, both the House and Senate must pass the legislation, and President Donald Trump will need to sign it. Both chambers are expected to debate and vote on the package Monday. Here's what is in the stimulus package.

- Jessica Menton

Pregnant women face complicated vaccine decision, experts say

Although there's very little data on how pregnant and nursing mothers will respond to a COVID-19 vaccine, professional organizations and individual doctors say the benefits are very likely to outweigh the risks.

Pregnant women appear to have the same chance of catching COVID-19 as everyone else. But they may fare worse if they do, according to a November study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that pregnant women should base their decision in part on how much virus is circulating in their community, as well as the risks from a COVID-19 infection. A conversation with a clinician may be helpful, according to the guidelines, "but it should not be required prior to vaccination, as this may cause unnecessary barriers to access."

- Karen Weintraub

Essential workers recommended next for COVID-19 vaccine

Key workers regularly exposed to the public, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers and grocery-store employees, will be next in line for a COVID-19 vaccine priority, based on a recommendation Sunday by a CDC panel.

They would follow front-line health care workers and staff and residents in long-term care facilities in receiving vaccines, possibly as early as February. The panel also voted in favor of those age 75 and older to be part of that vaccine phase.

"Essential workers are at high risk because of exposure, by virtue of being in contact with others, in performing their duties. Prevention of disease in essential workers may reduce transmission to others," said Dr. Kathleen Dooling, a CDC physician who is co-lead on the advisory panel.

- Elizabeth Weise

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Moderna vaccine; stimulus relief bill; UK travel ban


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