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 more than 325,000 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:
►Republicans blocked an effort Thursday to increase direct payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000 in the latest stimulus package. Democrats said they would try to push the increase through after President Donald Trump said this week he wanted bigger direct checks sent out.
►The federal government is close to delivering 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine during the month of December, as promised, but states are taking longer than expected to get those doses into people's arms. Here's what officials are saying about immunizations.
►The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects there will be 378,000 to 419,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. by Jan. 16, according to a projection published Wednesday.
►The Transportation Security Administration said it screened a pandemic-record 1,191,123 individuals at airports across the country on Wednesday. While Wednesday's total was still down 38% from the same weekday a year ago, which was Christmas Day, it was the fourth day during the Christmas holiday rush that traveler counts topped 1 million.
►California has become the first state to surpass 2 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, a somber marker reached only by seven countries.
►A Black doctor who said she received racist treatment while hospitalized with COVID-19 has died, her son told the New York Times. Dr. Susan Moore said her white doctor in Indiana "made me feel like I was a drug addict" and did not take her complaints of pain seriously. Her son told the Times that while she eventually received care that "adequately treated" her pain, the case shows, as Moore put it, "how Black people get killed, when you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves."
►Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow has been transferred to the intensive care unit at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport to continue treatment for COVID-19, his spokesman told USA TODAY Network on Wednesday.
►Colorado has begun vaccinating workers insides its prisons as COVID-19 continues to spread in the facilities. Annie Skinner, a corrections department spokesperson, said frontline health care workers in prisons were the focus of the vaccination efforts but other workers have received shots to avoid wasting doses. Criminal justice advocates have pushed for prisons to be prioritized in vaccination efforts because outbreaks have been rampant in facilities across the U.S.
►In Oregon, one person who was sick went to work and later tested positive for COVID-19. That has led to two separate outbreaks, one of which has killed at least 7 people and the other forced 300 to quarantine, the Oregonian reported.
? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 18.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 326,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 78.9 million cases and 1.7 million deaths.
? What we're reading: A new variant of coronavirus, with 17 mutations compared with its most recent ancestor, is spreading fast in the U.K. Here’s what scientists know.
Here's a closer look at today's top stories:
Government program tapped to pay for COVID-19 vaccine injuries rarely sides with consumers
In March, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared that all claims of injury from COVID-19 vaccines would be handled through a program run by his agency.
Because the vaccine is for a once-in-a-century virus and hasn't been approved for routine use, anyone who seeks compensation for a serious side effect will be directed to a little-known federal program that rarely sides with consumers.
That program, the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, has rejected 90% of vaccine-injury claims over the last decade.
In contrast, the federal government's "vaccine court," which handles claims mainly involving routine childhood vaccines, has paid about 70% of claims from 2006 through 2018.
As COVID-19 vaccines are being shipped to millions of Americans, some attorneys and consumer advocates question whether people will get a fair review in the rare cases of alleged harm.
– Ken Alltucker
COVID-19 antibodies may protect from virus for 6 months or longer, studies find
Evidence from two new studies suggest that antibodies from getting COVID-19 may provide protection against future infection.
Researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute found that people with antibodies from natural infection were less likely to test positive again for up to six months and maybe longer, according to one of the studies published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research looked at 12,500 health workers at Oxford University Hospitals in the U.K.
The second study, still undergoing peer-review, involved more than 3 million people who had antibody tests from two private labs in the United States. Only .03% of those who initially had antibodies later tested positive for the coronavirus, compared with 3% of those who lacked such antibodies.
The findings are “not a surprise,” said Joshua Wolf, an infectious disease specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis who is not affiliated with the study. “But it’s really reassuring because it tells people that immunity to the virus is common.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
40 million Americans could be left homeless as federal eviction moratorium expires in January
Millions of Americans are on the verge of being evicted with the federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of January, unleashing what advocates say could be a housing catastrophe of historic proportions: Without federal intervention, they fear, as many as 40 million people could be displaced amid an ongoing and still worsening pandemic.
“We’re facing potentially the worst housing and homelessness crisis in our country’s history,” said Diane Yentel, CEO and president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C.
The eviction moratorium approved by the CDC was originally set to end Dec. 3 and is expected to be extended through January by Congress under a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that also includes offering $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.
But critics say the order’s vague wording has led to inconsistent implementation and allowed determined landlords to find loopholes. Moreover, tenants often aren’t aware of the order, and without legal representation, many aren’t equipped to follow through in court. Read more here.
– Marc Ramirez, Sarah Taddeo and Tiffany Cusaac-Smith
How to persuade someone to take the COVID-19 vaccine
The vaccines are coming. Now, how many Americans will actually get them?
USA TODAY spoke with psychology experts to get advice on what you can do to encourage your family, friends and community members to get the vaccine. Here are some tips:
- Don't judge people: Shame is not nearly as effective in changing behavior as some might think.
- Don't dismiss people's concerns: Reasonable skeptics are not going to trust the vaccine just because someone says they should. If someone is skeptical of Big Pharma, for example, don't disregard that.
- Is this person vaccine-hesitant or a hardcore anti-vaxxer? Asking questions will help you understand if people are persuadable and what may persuade them.
- Model the behavior you want to see: Telling people you plan to get the vaccine and posting a photo on social media when you do is far more potent than anything else you share.
Read more of their recommendations here.
– Alia E. Dastagir
Christmas Eve is Dr. Fauci's 80th birthday. Here's how he's celebrating during the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci will be celebrating his 80th birthday on Thursday, Christmas Eve.
However, similar to his Thanksgiving celebrations, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert will be spending his birthday and the holidays reconnecting with family over Zoom.
Fauci has three adult daughters who all live in different parts of the country.
“The Christmas holiday is a special holiday for us because Christmas Eve is my birthday. And Christmas Day is Christmas Day. And they are not going to come home … that’s painful,” he told The Washington Post. “But that’s just one of the things you’re going to have to accept as we go through this unprecedented challenging time.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Contributing: The Associated Press