Between 9,500 and 19,500 Americans could die of COVID-19 during Christmas week, CDC warns

Table of Contents

♦ Field hospitals have opened in Rhode Island as cases surge there.

Jobs report will show how much pandemic is squeezing hiring — 1:08 a.m.

By Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

Friday’s monthly US jobs report will help answer a key question overhanging the economy: Just how much damage is being caused by the resurgent coronavirus, the resulting curbs on businesses and the reluctance of consumers to shop, travel and dine out?

The Labor Department will issue the November jobs report at 8:30 a.m.

Data shows Americans couldn’t resist Thanksgiving travel — 12:06 a.m.

By Stephen Groves, The Associated Press

Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving, driving only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignoring the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, data from roadways and airports shows.

Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20% lower than a year earlier, but it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5% less than the pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data, which provided an analysis to The Associated Press.

Spit in a tube and mail it in: A new frontier in coronavirus testing — 10:07 p.m.

By Miriam Jordan, New York Times

Testing has long been one of the keys to controlling the spread of a virus that with the onset of winter is entering its most dangerous phase. Yet even as cases per capita have rocketed, securing a test has become enough of an ordeal that many people have been dissuaded from even trying.

That has begun to change in recent weeks as a handful of communities across the country have rolled out the first do-it-yourself home saliva tests, which require users to simply dribble into a test tube, seal it and send it to a lab. As the tests become widespread, they could provide a less-uncomfortable alternative to nasal swabs and enable more people to safely return to work and school in the months before a vaccine is widely available.

Newton School Committee OK’s hybrid plan for city high schools — 9:49 p.m.

By John Hilliard, Globe Staff

Newton’s School Committee approved a plan Wednesday to reopen the North and South high schools to in-person student instruction starting in late January, which will bring them in line with the city’s other schools that already offer classes inside buildings.

The high schools’ hybrid program will also live-stream lessons for remote students and allow both in-person and distance learners to participate in the same classes. Officials had pledged to prepare a roadmap for bringing high schoolers back into their buildings, and many families had called on the district to resume in-person teaching.

Pfizer scaled back vaccine output targets earlier this year — 8:39 p.m.

By Robert Langreth, Bloomberg

Pfizer Inc. scaled back its Covid-19 production targets earlier this year after the drugmaker ran into difficulties securing all the materials it needs to produce the shots at a large scale.

In news releases through September, Pfizer had said that it aimed to manufacture up to 100 million vaccine doses this year. But in several releases in November, the company cut that to an estimate of up to 50 million doses. Pfizer is developing its vaccine with Germany-based BioNTech SE.

A Pfizer spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday that multiple factors slowed the company down, including the time it took to source large quantities of the raw materials needed to produce the shots. But the company said it has finished bringing its manufacturing up to scale and it is now producing vaccines at a rapid pace.

Hospitals work to reduce risk of COVID spread among employees — 8:29 p.m.

By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, Globe Staff

Massachusetts hit a daily record for new cases on Thursday, and while local hospitals still have enough capacity, more than 1,300 patients with the virus are hospitalized across the state — a figure that has been rising steadily since the end of summer.

Hospitals are trying to keep their workers safe with constant reminders against congregating in groups. They’ve removed truckloads of furniture from cafeterias, break rooms, and conference rooms.

These are not just precautions; COVID outbreaks have been traced back to hospital employees who ate together without maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, at Mass. General, Brigham and Women’s, and many other hospitals.

What we know about COVID-19 vaccines in Mass. — and what we don’t — 8:19 p.m.

By Deanna Pan and Robert Weisman, Globe Staff

Sometime this month, the first Massachusetts residents could begin to get vaccinated against COVID-19, hopefully signaling the beginning of the end of the grueling pandemic. But the record-time arrival of these vaccines raises a host of questions from a wary and beleaguered public: How bad are the side effects? How long will immunity last? Will I have to keep wearing a mask after my shots?

The Globe reached out to public health authorities in Boston and across the country to tell readers what the experts do — and don’t — know about the vaccines that hundreds of thousands of us will be receiving in the coming months.

Baker anticipates start of COVID-19 vaccine rollout will be ‘a little lumpy’ — 8:13 p.m.

By Robert Weisman and Deanna Pan, Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday the pending rollout of a logistically daunting COVID-19 vaccine distribution program “will probably be a little lumpy” at first, suggesting the early days of vaccinations will be challenging.

But the governor for the first time confirmed that residents of the state’s nursing homes and other senior care facilities will be among the first to get vaccinated, along with doctors, nurses and others on the medical front lines.

Rhode Island COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to climb during two-week pause — 6:27 p.m.

By Amanda Milkovits, Globe Staff

The spread of the coronavirus in Rhode Island is showing no sign of slowing, Governor Gina M. Raimondo said Thursday, but “help is on the way.”

During her weekly press conference, the governor said the state is expecting to receive the first COVID-19 vaccines by the middle of this month — after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives approval — and will be able to administer thousands of doses immediately.

Between 9,500 and 19,500 Americans could die of COVID-19 during Christmas week, CDC warns — 6:14 p.m.

The recent spate of good news about a vaccine was leavened by a sobering update released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that forecasts thousands of new COVID-19 deaths in the United States over the next four weeks, including an estimated 9,500 to 19,500 deaths the week of Christmas alone.

The CDC’s National Ensemble Forecast, which aggregates models from 37 different groups, projects that by the end of December, the overall US death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, could reach 303,000 on the low end and 329,000 on the high end.

Among first acts, Biden to call for 100 days of mask-wearing — 6:11 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he’s pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That’s made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans.

UK and US officials spar over ‘vaccine nationalism’ — 5:06 p.m.

By Benjamin Mueller, New York Times

British and US officials sparred Thursday over how Britain had beaten the United States to authorizing a coronavirus vaccine, a debate encompassing regulatory standards and politics that has heated up as wealthy countries vie to receive the first shipments of vaccines.

Vaccines’ side effects risk sidelining health workers while cases surge — 4:57 p.m.

By Angelica LaVito and Riley Griffin, Bloomberg

Covid-19 vaccine side-effects that range from fevers and chills to headaches and joint pain could keep some doctors and nurses from working amid a nationwide surge in hospitalizations.

Health systems are gearing up to vaccinate key hospital staff with the Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. coronavirus shots, which could start shipping in the U.S. in a matter of weeks, pending emergency-use authorizations.

Earlier this week, federal advisers recommended U.S. health-care workers be immunized first, along with residents of long-term care facilities. For hospitals, that could pose significant scheduling issues at a time when many are filling up. More than 100,000 Americans were hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

What does Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine pilot program really mean for Rhode Island? — 4:21 p.m.

By Amanda Milkovits, Globe Staff

Thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Rhode Island by mid-December, but that’s not because the state is participating in Pfizer’s vaccine pilot program.

The pilot program is intended to help the pharmaceutical giant work out the logistics of distributing their vaccine nationally, not give certain states earlier access to the long-awaited shots.

The four states in the program (Rhode Island, Texas, Tennessee, and New Mexico) were chosen for their immunization infrastructure, population diversity, relative sizes, and their need to reach people in urban and rural settings.

Fauci slams UK regulator for rushing Pfizer’s vaccine review — 3:51 p.m.

By John Lauerman, Bloomberg

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease specialist, slammed the U.K.’s drug regulator, saying that it rushed to clear the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

The U.K. watchdog, called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said Wednesday that it had approved the Pfizer vaccine. That means the shot will likely be used in Britain before the U.S. and the European Union.

California imposes new virus rules based on ICU capacity — 3:48 p.m.

By The Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday he will impose a new stay-at-home order for areas where capacity at intensive care units falls below 15%.

Newsom announced the new plans amid an unprecedented surge of new coronavirus cases in the nation’s most populous state amid fears that hospitals could be overwhelmed within weeks.

As Biden weighs health team, Fauci is expected to stay on — 2:51 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Job prospects for the pandemic’s most recognizable public figure — Dr. Anthony Fauci — are not in question. The government’s top infectious-disease specialist isn’t a political appointee and thus will continue at his post heading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci told CBS on Thursday that he would have “substantive discussions” with Biden’s team later in the day about “the transition between me and the Biden team.”

Delta to begin contact tracing effort for international passengers — 2:48 p.m.

By Kelly Yamanouchi

More than eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines says it is launching the first U.S. airline contact tracing effort for passengers on international flights to this country.

Starting Dec. 15, most international passengers will be asked to voluntarily submit contact information. However, those flying Delta’s Rome-Atlanta route will be required to provide the information as part of a pilot program that launches the same week. In an effort to eliminate quarantine requirements, passengers on that route will be tested for the virus before and after the flight.

Pelosi, McConnell discuss COVID relief as pressure builds — 2:35 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Capitol Hill’s top leaders spoke about COVID-19 relief and other unfinished business Thursday, adding to tentative optimism that a medium-sized aid package might break free after months of Washington toxicity and deadlock.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — frequent rivals but proven dealmakers — spoke on the phone, a conversation that came the day after Pelosi signaled a willingness to make major concessions in search of a COVID rescue package.

With COVID-19 caseloads spiraling and the daily death toll equaling records, the momentum for finally passing a second major relief bill is undeniably building, especially after President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats endorsed a $908 billion bipartisan framework to build an agreement.

By Natalie B. Compton, The Washington Post

With the coronavirus pandemic breaking grim records in the United States, Airbnb has announced stringent restrictions for New Year’s Eve bookings to discourage unauthorized house parties and large gatherings in the interest of public health.

The protocols will make it more difficult for guests without a history of positive reviews on the platform to make local and last-minute reservations.

Pandemic is pushing America’s 911 system to breaking point, ambulance operators say — 2:15 p.m.

By William Wan, The Washington Post

The pandemic has pushed America’s 911 system and emergency responders to a breaking point, with ambulance operators exhausted and their services financially strained.

The situation since the novel coronavirus struck last winter has grown so dire that the American Ambulance Association recently begged the Department of Health and Human Services for emergency funding of $2.62 billion in a letter.

“The 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point,” wrote Aarron Reinert, the association’s president in a Nov. 25 letter obtained by The Washington Post. “Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge.”

Where are all the memorials to Americans killed by COVID-19? — 2:08 p.m.

By Cate McQuaid, Globe Correspondent

At the end of August, the city of Detroit staged Detroit Memorial Day. Hundreds of blown-up photos of Detroiters who had died of COVID lined the streets of Belle Isle. Church bells rang. Fourteen funeral processions led by hearses made the circuit.

Seeing images on Twitter, I gasped in relief. Somebody was acknowledging the mass casualties. Someone was making a space to mourn.

Three months and roughly 100,000 deaths later, there still aren’t many COVID memorial projects. Neither Boston nor Cambridge has announced plans for one.

US virus deaths top 3,100 in a single day for the first time — 1:50 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The U.S. recorded over 3,100 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, obliterating the record set last spring, while the number of Americans hospitalized with the virus has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time and new cases have begun topping 200,000 a day, according to figures released Thursday.

The three benchmarks altogether showed a country slipping deeper into crisis, with perhaps the worst yet to come, in part because of the delayed effects from Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans disregarded warnings to stay home and celebrate only with members of their household.

Across the U.S., the surge has swamped hospitals and left nurses and other health care workers shorthanded and burned out.

‘Nobody sees us’: Testing-lab workers strain under demand — 1:24 p.m.

By Katherine J. Wu, New York Times

Nearly a year into a pandemic that has claimed more than 272,000 American lives, some 192 million tests for the coronavirus have been processed nationwide. Millions more will be needed to detect and contain the virus in the months ahead. Behind these staggering figures are thousands of scientists who have been working nonstop to identify the coronavirus in the people it infects.

Across the nation, testing teams are grappling with burnout, repetitive-stress injuries and an overwhelming sense of doom. As supply chains sputter and laboratories rush to keep pace with diagnostic demand, experts warn that the most severe shortage stymieing America’s capacity to test is not one that can be solved by a wider production line or a more efficient machine. It is a dearth of human power: the dwindling ranks in a field that much of the public does not know even exists.

A Hawaii couple knew they had coronavirus before flying. They boarded a flight anyway and were arrested, police say — 1:20 p.m.

By Andrea Salcedo, The Washington Post

Before Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson boarded their flight from San Francisco to Hawaii on Sunday, the couple knew they had already tested positive for coronavirus. But when the time came for their trip home with their 4-year-old child, the couple ignored the advice of airport officials who instructed them not to travel and walked onto the United Airlines plane with both their luggage and a virus that’s already killed at least 272,000 Americans.

The couple was arrested shortly after landing at Lihue Airport and now face second-degree reckless endangerment charges, a spokesperson with the Kauai Police Department told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

If convicted, Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

By The Associated Press

Facebook said Thursday it will start removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, in its latest move to counter a tide of coronavirus-related online misinformation.

In the coming weeks, the social network will begin taking down any Facebook or Instagram posts with false information about the vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.

The U.S. tech giant is taking action as the first COVID-19 vaccines are set to be rolled out. Britain this week became the first country to give emergency authorization for a vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, and innoculations could start within days. Regulators in the U.S., the European Union and Canada are also vetting vaccines.

Sharp increase in Mass. COVID-19 cases likely does not include expected Thanksgiving surge — 1:13 p.m.

By Dasia Moore, Globe staff

Massachusetts on Wednesday reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases, but experts warn that the worst is yet to come.

Of the 4,613 cases reported, many are likely unrelated to Thanksgiving travel and gatherings, epidemiologists said. Since it can take up to 14 days for a person to test positive for COVID-19 after exposure — and sometimes far longer for an infected person to become seriously ill — current data do not yet reflect the expected post-holiday wave of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, they said.

“It’s only been seven days [since Thanksgiving], and we have an additional week from now to start seeing all of the cases of COVID-19 from the holiday, so it is very concerning that we’re already seeing a record number of cases,” said Dr. Jose Figueroa, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It suggests that things are only going to get worse.”

Baker says high number of COVID-19 cases in state shows widespread community transmission — 11:46 a.m.

By Travis Andersen, Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday said the grim data released the day before on new COVID-19 infections shows widespread community transmission, a stark reminder that residents need to stay vigilant despite the reported potential breakthroughs on vaccine development.

“Obviously the numbers that were reported yesterday indicate that we have community transmission across the Commonwealth,” Baker told reporters following a tour of the COVID-19 field hospital slated to open Sunday at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Five graphics that show the devastating severity of the pandemic right now — 11:25 a.m.

By Christina Prignano, Ryan Huddle, and Vince Dixon

The coronavirus pandemic is exploding around the country with a severity that continues to reach new heights as each day passes. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all climbing nationwide, straining hospital systems and prompting increasingly dire warnings from public health officials.

On Wednesday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the coming months could be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

The latest coronavirus numbers in the US starkly illustrate that point. Taken together, they paint a sobering picture of a country in the throes of a new surge and sound an ominous alarm about what could come next.

Boston University men’s hockey team pauses all activities after positive COVID-19 test — 11:21 a.m.

By Andrew Mahoney, Globe Staff

The Boston University men’s hockey team has paused all athletic activities and canceled Saturday’s game at UConn after a positive COVID-19 test.

According a statement from the school, the positive test came from a member of the team’s Tier 1 personnel, which includes athletes, coaches, managers, and support staff. Tier 1 personnel are tested three times a week in accordance with NCAA, Hockey East, and university protocols.

In the gloom of this dark COVID night, he completes his appointed holiday rounds — 10:43 a.m.

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Columnist

It’s early on a weekday morning – an unusually warm one for December – and Steve Guerra is already deep into his work. There’s a patina of sweat on his brow and – as ever – a live-wire spring in his step.

That urgent pace is an essential part of his job, like steady hands on a surgeon. A prerequisite.

He’s on the move. Perpetual motion. One doorstep to the next. And now, as Christmas approaches, he’s in the middle of a crunch time like none other. In the middle of an historic pandemic that has re-arranged life everywhere – one that is pushing that old dictum that the mail must go through to its limits.

After bar manager’s arrest in New York City, COVID-19 culture wars escalate in NYC — 8:41 a.m.

By Corey Kilgannon, New York Times

NEW YORK — When Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated a 10 p.m. curfew at bars, Mac’s Public House, a tavern on Staten Island, stayed open after hours.

When the state suspended the pub’s liquor license, the general manager announced a way to skirt the law: by serving food and alcohol for free — still indoors — in exchange for a contribution.

Keith McAlarney, the bar owner, ignored cease-and-desist notices and rapidly accruing fines, he said. McAlarney painted an orange rectangle out front and declared the bar an “autonomous zone.” He publicly taunted Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he called “de Bozo,” to come down in person and take the license off the wall.

But this week, the city and the state struck back, making this tavern a flash point in the COVID-19 culture wars that have turned some business owners and party hosts into rebels against pandemic restrictions.

Former presidents say they’ll get vaccine to show it’s safe — 4:26 a.m.

By Brittany Bowker, Globe Staff

When the vaccine is ready, so will be the nation’s three most recent former presidents.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have all said they are willing to get the COVID-19 immunization — once deemed safe by infectious disease experts — and do so publicly in order to build public trust around the novel vaccine.

“Absolutely I’m going to take it,” Obama said in an interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison scheduled to air Thursday. “People like Anthony Fauci, who I know and I’ve worked with, I trust completely … I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it.”

Police break up 400-person party at Long Island mansion — 1:18 a.m.

By New York Times

The first calls that police received about an enormous gathering at a castle-like mansion on Long Island came shortly after midnight Monday, authorities said. Neighbors reported a suspicious number of cars racing around and vehicles parked bumper-to-bumper on their normally quiet streets.

As more reports came in — including one from the home’s owner, who had rented his property to a guest on Airbnb and discovered the gathering while watching his security cameras from afar — the police went to the house, a lavish stone building in Brookhaven, New York.

When they arrived, they found as many as 400 people gathered for a party, officials said, in an explicit violation of New York state limits on private gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 world leaders to speak at UN session on COVID-19 — 12:11 a.m.

By Associated Press

Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen government ministers are scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly’s special session that opens Thursday to discuss the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic, which has claimed 1.5 million lives and shattered economies in both rich and poor countries.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said when he took the reins of the 193-member world body in September that it would have been better to hold the high-level meeting in June. Nonetheless, he said Wednesday that the session “provides a historic moment for us to come together to beat COVID-19.”

CVS to give out COVID-19 treatment in nursing homes — 11:50 p.m.

By New York Times

CVS has reached a deal with the federal government to give out a COVID-19 antibody treatment in patients’ homes and long-term care facilities, the pharmacy chain announced Wednesday, providing a new way for certain high-risk patients to get a drug aimed at keeping them out of the hospital.

The treatment, called bamlanivimab and developed by Eli Lilly, has been administered mainly at hospitals since it received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration less than a month ago. Since then, the federal government has distributed to state health departments nearly 170,000 doses of the treatment, although only some of those doses have been given to patients so far. The federal government has purchased 950,000 doses to last into January, including the doses that have already been distributed.

East Bridgewater coronavirus cluster connected to private club — 10:56 p.m.

By Jeremy C. Fox, Globe Correspondent

East Bridgewater officials are reporting rising coronavirus cases, including a cluster connected to a private club in town, and urge anyone who visited the club in late November to get tested, the town said Wednesday.

The cluster that emerged this week was traced to the Commercial Club, and anyone who went to the club from Nov. 16 to Nov. 27 should be tested, even if they haven’t been contacted by public health workers, East Bridgewater officials said in a statement.

US deaths have passed the spring peak; more than 2,760 reported dead — 10:20 p.m.

By New York Times

The US on Wednesday recorded its single-worst death toll since the pandemic began, and on a day when COVID-19 hospitalizations also hit an all-time high.

During the pandemic’s first peak in the spring, the high point for recorded deaths was 2,752 on April 15. On Wednesday, it was at least 2,760, according to the New York Times.

The number of COVID-19 patients in US hospitals also surpassed 100,000 for the first time, nearly double the number from spring during the coronavirus’s deadly first wave, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Rhode Island House Task Force details COVID-19 vaccine challenges — 8:30 p.m.

Mass. reports highest one-day total reported during pandemic — 5:50 p.m.

By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts rose by 4,613, the highest one-day total reported during the pandemic, as the numbers rebounded strongly from a decline in recent days. The new cases brought the state’s total to 225,787, state public health officials said.

The death toll from confirmed cases increased by 46 to 10,588, the Department of Public Health reported.

46 new coronavirus cases in two days on Nantucket; schools going remote for remainder of week — 5:07 p.m.

By Travis Andersen, Globe Staff

Forty-six new cases of COVID-19 were reported at Nantucket Cottage Hospital on Monday and Tuesday, prompting local schools on the island to shift to remote learning for at least a couple of days, officials said.

The hospital confirmed the tally in a statement posted to its website, calling the 46 infections the highest two-day tally “by far” since mid-March.

A total of 81 new cases have been identified in the past week, with a seven-day positivity rate of 7.6 percent, according to the statement.

Moderna plans to test its coronavirus vaccine in children, too — 5:05 p.m.

By The New York Times

Moderna said Wednesday that it would soon begin testing its coronavirus vaccine in children ages 12 to 17. The study, listed Wednesday on the website, is to include 3,000 children, with half receiving two shots of vaccine four weeks apart and half getting placebo shots of salt water.

But the posting says the study is “not yet recruiting,” and Colleen Hussey, a spokeswoman for Cambridge-based Moderna, said it was not certain when the testing sites would be listed or start accepting volunteers. A link on the website to test centers was not yet working, and Hussey said she was not sure when it would become active.

Winter could be ‘most difficult time in the public health history’ of the US, CDC director says — 4:56 p.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday the upcoming months could be “the most difficult in the public health history of this nation” because of the stress on the country’s health care system from the coronavirus.

“The reality is, December and January and February are going to be tough times,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, speaking at an event with the US Chamber of Commerce. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

Redfield warned that total deaths in the US could near 450,000 by February if people don’t follow public health recommendations to mitigate the virus’s spread.

Swamped hospitals scramble for COVID-19 pandemic help — 3:29 p.m.

By The Associated Press

US hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are trying to lure nurses and doctors out of retirement, recruiting students and new graduates who have yet to earn their licenses and offering eye-popping salaries in a desperate bid to ease staffing shortages.

With the virus surging from coast to coast, the number of patients in the hospital with the virus has more than doubled over the past month to a record high of nearly 100,000, pushing medical centers and health care workers to the breaking point.

Fed and Treasury urge Congress to approve more coronavirus relief — 3:03 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic.

In his most direct comments so far, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that it’s “very important” for Congress to provide economic support.

New funding would serve as a “bridge” for the economy to get from the current environment in which virus infections are spiking, to next year when vaccines should be widely available, Powell said.

Majority of PPP money in Mass. went to a small number of companies — 1:20 p.m.

By Anissa Gardizy, Globe Staff

Of the billions of dollars Massachusetts companies received as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, more than half of the money went to fewer than 5 percent of the companies who received loans, according to data released Tuesday night from the Small Business Administration.

Details on the Treasury Department’s federal lending program, which was designed to help small businesses withstand the pandemic, show a relatively small number of businesses — and some well-known chains — have received most of the funds, both nationally and locally.

In Massachusetts, nearly 118,000 companies were approved for loans, totaling more than $14 billion in PPP aid, according to the SBA. Just 2 percent of recipients, or 2,382 companies, received more than one-third of the total loan amounts, each receiving at least $1 million in loans.

CDC urges Americans to stay home over holiday season, get tested if they do travel — 12:26 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to stay home over the upcoming holiday season and consider getting tested for coronavirus before and after if they do decide to travel.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home.

That’s the same advice they had over Thanksgiving but many Americans traveled anyway. With COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise, the CDC added the testing option.

Putin orders ‘large-scale’ vaccination of doctors, teachers — 11:27 a.m.

By Daria Litvinova, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the start of a “large-scale” COVID-19 vaccination of doctors and teachers late next week with the Sputnik V shot, which has yet to complete advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

Putin’s statement comes hours after Britain became the first country in the West to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine from US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

Sputnik V has been touted in Russia as the world’s “first registered COVID-19 vaccine” after it received regulatory approval in early August. However, the move drew considerable criticism from experts, because at the time the shots had only been tested on several dozen people.

Putin said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V jab “has been produced or will be produced in the next few days.”

New York City bar owner who defied coronavirus restrictions arrested — 10:01 a.m.

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — An owner of a New York City bar that was providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions was arrested after a sting in which plainclothes officers went inside and ordered food and beverages, the city sheriff’s office said.

Protesters shouted as deputies arrested Danny Presti, the co-owner of Mac’s Public House on Staten Island, on Tuesday.

The tavern is in an area designated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an orange zone because of spiking COVID-19 rates and was not supposed to be serving customers indoors. But the owners had declared the bar an “autonomous zone,” a nod to protesters who claimed control over a Seattle neighborhood in June.

Germany records highest daily death toll since start of pandemic — 8:05 a.m.

By The Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany on Wednesday reported a record 487 new coronavirus deaths — the country’s highest daily toll since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The country’s disease control center also said 17,270 people had contracted the virus in the last 24 hours.

The country’s health minister said Tuesday that daily death numbers are way too high and reminded his compatriots that behind every single number there’s a tragedy and a human life lost. Germany has seen 17,123 people die in the pandemic,

Germany implemented a so-called “lock down light” about month ago with schools and stores remaining open. That has led to a stagnation of new infections, but the numbers have not been going down again like in other European countries which have had much stricter anti-corona measures in recent weeks.

Germany is waiting for approval of an anti-COVID vaccine by the end of the year, and has started setting up mass vaccination centers across the country that are supposed to be ready within two weeks

British regulators say ‘no corners have been cut’ in assessing vaccine — 8:03 a.m.

By The Associated Press

LONDON — British regulators insisted that “no corners have been cut” during the assessment of the the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, which was cleared for emergency use on Wednesday.

In a briefing after the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency became the first regulator worldwide to approve the vaccine, its chair, Dr. June Raine, said the public can be “absolutely confident” that its standards are equivalent to those anywhere around the world.

Regulators also revealed the order by which the vaccine will be rolled out across the country over the coming weeks and months, beginning next week. The U.K. has ordered around 40 million doses of the vaccine, which can potentially immunize 20 million people as two doses are required.

Residents in nursing homes and their carers will be offered the vaccine first followed by those aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers. From there, the priority plan largely follows age groups.

According to Munir Pirmohamed, chair of a medicines panel, people will be immune seven days after the second dose.

UK grants first emergency-use approval of a COVID-19 vaccine — 2:35 a.m.

By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff

The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country to clear a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, allowing Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, to start providing a vaccine they developed to people most at risk for catching the virus or becoming severely ill.

The drug companies have an agreement with Britain to immediately start supplying 40 million doses now that the country’s drug regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has authorized emergency use. That will be enough for 20 million people, given that the vaccine requires two shots. Vaccinations are expected to start within days.

CDC to shorten COVID-19 quarantine to 10 days, or 7, with test — 8:22 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to shorten the recommended length of quarantine after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19, as the virus rages across the nation.

According to a senior administration official, the new guidelines, which are set to be released as soon as Tuesday evening, will allow people who have come in contact to someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or 7 days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the onset of the pandemic.

It’s holiday party season at the White House. Masks are encouraged, but not required — 8:20 p.m.

By The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The red and gold party invitations make no mention of the coronavirus, nor do they acknowledge the holiday message that public health officials have been trying to emphasize to Americans: Stay home.

Instead, the invitations are the latest example of how President Donald Trump is spending his final weeks in office operating in an alternative universe, denying the realities of life during the pandemic.

“The president and Mrs. Trump request the pleasure of your company at a holiday reception to be held at the White House,” reads the cursive text, displayed under a presidential seal.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills quarantines after likely COVID-19 exposure — 7:10 p.m.

By Jeremy C. Fox, Globe Correspondent

Maine Governor Janet Mills is quarantining after a member of the State Police unit assigned to protect her developed COVID-19-like symptoms on Monday, she announced Tuesday night.

Mills began her quarantine at the Blaine House, her official residence, on Tuesday, and will continue until Dec. 12, in compliance with guidance from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Maine public health officials, according to a statement from Mills’s office.

COVID surge reaches Maine, which reports 20 new deaths — 6:30 p.m.

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff

The surge in COVID-19 cases sweeping the country also has reached Maine, where state officials Tuesday reported 20 new deaths, the largest increase in coronavirus-related fatalities since the pandemic began in March.

Although the deaths represent the most in any single update by the state, nearly all the fatalities occurred over a week-long span dating to Nov. 23. They had not been reported until Tuesday because of delays connected to the long holiday weekend, state officials said.

Also Tuesday, Governor Janet Mills, who imposed strict travel bans to the state ahead of Thanksgiving, revealed she is going into quarantine after a member of the State Police unit assigned to protect her developed COVID-19-like symptoms on Monday.

Federal panel recommends initial coronavirus vaccine doses go to health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities — 5:45 p.m.

By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

A little-known federal advisory committee on Tuesday recommended that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be the first to receive vaccines for the coronavirus.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted in a virtual meeting on the plan for prioritizing the initial doses of the vaccine.

The two top-priority groups add up to about 24 million people, officials said. Pfizer and biotech firm Moderna are expected to produce 40 million doses of their two-dose vaccines, or enough for about 20 million people, by the end of the year. About 330 million people live in the United States.

Pelosi, McConnell offer new stimulus plans to jumpstart talks — 3:55 p.m.

By Bloomberg News

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered a new proposal for a stimulus package and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he is circulating among Republicans his own revised plan, which has the backing of President Donald Trump.

The sudden emergence of fresh plans for pandemic relief indicated a new stage in a monthslong saga that’s so far failed to produce a compromise — even as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Neither Pelosi nor McConnell offered any details about their latest proposals. McConnell warned that time is running out to agree on a stimulus before the end of the year and there was no point in passing any legislation that Trump won’t sign before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

‘Very dark couple of weeks’: US morgues and hospitals overflow — 3:51 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Nearly 37,000 Americans died of COVID-19 in November, the most in any month since the dark early days of the pandemic, engulfing families in grief, filling obituary pages of small-town newspapers and testing the capacity of morgues, funeral homes and hospitals.

Amid the resurgence, states have begun reopening field hospitals to handle an influx of patients that is pushing health care systems — and their workers — to the breaking point. Hospitals are bringing in mobile morgues. And funerals are being livestreamed or performed as drive-by affairs.

Health officials fear the crisis will be even worse in coming weeks, after many Americans ignored pleas to stay home over Thanksgiving and avoid people who don’t live with them.

The impact of kids being out of school this year could be ‘pretty detrimental,’ Walsh says — 3:46 p.m.

By Felicia Gans, Globe staff

Long-term remote learning could have a “detrimental” impact on Boston’s students, the majority of whom have been learning remotely since March, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Tuesday, but he defended the city’s decision to keep most students home for now as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

“I know that there are parents all across the city … saying, ‘Reopen schools.’ I support you,” he said. “But right now today, right now today, we are not prepared for that.”

Ideally, Walsh said, he would love to have children in school if it was safe to do so, acknowledging that the time away from the classroom could create a significant learning gap.

Advisory panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots — 2:49 p.m.

By The Associated Press

An influential government advisory panel convened on Tuesday to answer one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak: Who should be at the front of the line when the first vaccine shots become available?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held a virtual, open-to-the-public meeting where it was scheduled to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and nursing home patients.

The two groups encompass around 23 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

‘Time is of the essence here.’ High-risk groups await state vaccine plan — 2:20 p.m.

By Robert Weisman and Deanna Pan, Globe staff

With the first COVID-19 vaccines set to arrive in Massachusetts in less than three weeks, groups most vulnerable to the deadly virus — from front-line health workers to residents of hard-hit communities — are waiting for a state plan on how to allocate initial doses in what’s shaping up as the largest vaccination program in history.

Members of a state vaccine advisory group say they now expect Massachusetts could receive enough two-shot allotments to inoculate 300,000 residents in the first batch, considerably more than they’d anticipated two weeks ago. As drug makers Pfizer and Moderna press forward with their bids for federal emergency use authorization, they think both vaccines could be available in the state by mid- to late December.

“Current projections are something on the order of 300,000 [allotments] in the first month or so, and it will take a couple months or so to deliver all of those doses,” said Dr. Robert Finberg, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and a member of the state’s vaccine advisory group.

FDA chief called to White House as Trump pushes for vaccine — 2:00 p.m.

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the agency responsible for approving any COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S. was summoned to the White House Tuesday as an increasingly frustrated President Donald Trump complained approval wasn’t coming faster.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called in Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, for a meeting as the agency weighed whether to allow emergency use of the first vaccines that could help defeat the coronavirus.

Trump has been livid with the FDA for not moving faster on the vaccine, blaming it in part for his reelection loss. He has also leveled unfounded claims that drug companies deliberately delayed vaccine development to hinder his chances.

Baker urges people to continue to take coronavirus precautions as more holidays approach — 1:43 p.m.

By Martin Finucane, Globe staff

Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday pointed to declines in air, bus, train, and auto travel around the Thanksgiving holiday, compared with last year, as a sign that people had heeded public health advice meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, he urged people to keep up their guard as they celebrate the December holidays.

The decline in travel, which came after public health officials suggested that people limit their celebrations, “means that many people understood that this year that Thanksgiving Day event, that Thanksgiving weekend, needed to be different,” he said.

California considers stay-at-home orders as hospitalizations jump — 12:44 p.m.

By The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California could see a tripling of hospitalizations by Christmas and is considering stay-home orders for areas with the highest case rates as it tries to head off concerns that severe coronavirus cases could overwhelm intensive care beds, officials said Monday.

“The red flags are flying in terms of the trajectory in our projections of growth,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic, action.”

Hospitalizations have increased 89% over the past 14 days and nearly 7,800 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Monday. About 12% of Californians testing positive are likely to need hospital care within the next two to three weeks.

The biggest concern is intensive care cases, which have increased 67% in the past two weeks. If that continues, it would push ICU beds to 112% of capacity by mid-December.

That statistic is likely to drive state-mandated stay-at-home orders in 51 of California’s 58 counties that already are seeing the most restrictions on business activities, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services.

USS Constitution Museum temporarily closes, again, due to coronavirus — 11:27 a.m.

By Malcolm Gay, Globe staff

In what could be an ominous sign of a new round of pandemic-related closures, the USS Constitution Museum announced Tuesday that it would shutter immediately to help minimize the spread of coronavirus.

Museum president and chief executive Anne Grimes Rand said they decided to close the museum temporarily amid rising case counts and following the US Navy’s recent decision to halt public tours of the USS Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides,” the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel that’s still afloat.

“It seems like the right thing to do,” said Rand, who leads the cultural nonprofit independently of the Navy. “We’re much better together than separate.”

79 inmates, 20 staffers at Hampden County jails test positive for coronavirus — 11:10 a.m.

By Travis Andersen, Globe staff

Seventy-nine inmates jailed in Hampden County facilities and 20 staffers are currently positive for coronavirus, according to a statement Tuesday from Sheriff Nick Cocchi’s office.

The statement said Cocchi recently ordered a precautionary round of testing for all staff and persons in department custody, following spikes in infection rates in Massachusetts and across the nation.

Cocchi’s office supervises about 1,300 people in various levels of security, including civil commitments, across five facilities in western Massachusetts, according to the department’s website. Tuesday’s statement didn’t provide a breakdown of how many infections were recorded at each location.

Bipartisan Senate group pitching $900 billion stimulus plan — 10:45 a.m.

By Bloomberg News

A bipartisan group of senators is set to unveil a $908 billion stimulus proposal, according to people familiar with the plan, in an effort to break a monthslong impasse that’s now threatening to tip the economy back into contraction.

Neither Republican nor Democratic leadership has signed on to the plan, however, leaving it facing the same long odds that a failed bipartisan House proposal faced before Election Day. President-elect Joe Biden has so far backed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pushed a $2.4 trillion bill.

Under the new proposed compromise, businesses would get a roughly $300 billion infusion for a version of the Paycheck Protection Program of forgivable loans, and state and local governments would get $240 billion, including money for schools, according to two people familiar with the proposal.

Without patients or staff, Madrid opens new $119M hospital — 8:24 a.m.

By The Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — Authorities in Spain’s capital on Tuesday held a ceremony to open part of a 1,000-bed emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients that critics say is no more than a vanity project, a building with beds not ready to receive patients and unnecessary now that the virus and hospitalizations are waning.

Around 200 health professionals gathered Tuesday at the entrance of the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital in Madrid as officials entered the state-of-the-art facility, built in 100 days at a cost of 100 million euros ($119 million), twice the original budget.

Health workers’ unions criticized the project, saying the investment should have gone instead to shoring up an existing public health system run down by years of spending cuts.

New CDC study suggests COVID-19 may have been in the US in December 2019 — 7:40 a.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe staff

Although the earliest cases of coronavirus were first identified in the United States this past January, the findings of a government study published Monday suggest that people may have first been infected in December.

The conclusion reached by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bolsters prior evidence that the virus may have begun spreading across the globe earlier than first believed — including one earlier model from researchers at Northeastern University that projected more than 100 people in Boston had likely been exposed by mid-February.

BioNTech, Pfizer ask Europe to OK vaccine for emergency use — 5:30 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say they have submitted an application for speeded-up, conditional approval of their coronavirus vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.

The two companies said Tuesday that the submission, which occurred Monday, completes the rolling review process they initiated with the agency on Oct. 6.

The move comes a day after rival Moderna said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow the use of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Trump science adviser Scott Atlas is leaving White House job — 8:02 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Dr. Scott Atlas, a science adviser to President Donald Trump who was skeptical of measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, is leaving his White House post.

A White House official confirmed that the Stanford University neuroradiologist, who had no formal experience in public health or infectious diseases, resigned at the end of his temporary government assignment. Atlas confirmed the news in a Monday evening tweet.

Atlas joined the White House this summer, where he clashed with top government scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, as he resisted stronger efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 267,000 Americans.

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