Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: US to Require Negative COVID Test for Travelers From UK

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More Americans traveled by plane on Dec. 23 than any single day since March, officials said, despite pleas from officials to stay home for the holidays.

As Americans gather with family for Christmas, some officials are worried it could exacerbate already spiking numbers of Coronavirus cases and deaths.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has not yet signed off on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package Congress approved and sent to him late Monday night. On Wednesday, the president called for the bill's proposed $600 direct stimulus payment to be increased to $2,000. Thursday morning, Democrats attempted to increase the stimulus to $2,000, but Republicans rejected the move.

The U.S. has recorded more than 18 million coronavirus cases and over 327,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from the U.S. and elsewhere:

US to Require Negative COVID-19 Test From Air Travelers From the UK

All people traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States by air will be required to test negative before arriving in the U.S., the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday night.

Effective Monday, travelers must receive a negative viral test result no more than 72 hours before departure from the U.K., the CDC said in a statement.

The mandate comes after a new, and more contagious, strain of the coronavirus was detected in the U.K. Several other countries across the world have issued similar mandates in an attempt to curb the spread of the new strain.

The CDC currently has the U.K. at a Level 4 risk warning for COVID-19.

Nurses Fear What's to Come: ‘Walk Down Our Unit for a Day'

Despite warnings from public health experts to stay home, over 1.19 million travelers passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints Wednesday — down by about 40% from a year ago, but the highest one-day total since the crisis took hold in mid-March.

Nurses in overtaxed hospitals are exhausted, terrified of what’s next and angry at those who ignore pleas to stay home and stay safe.

Nurse Jenny Carrillo’s voice breaks as she describes looking into the eyes of patients struggling to breathe. She works at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, which saw a record number of COVID-19 patients this week.

It comes as California hits 2 million infections just 44 days after reaching 1 million. Hospitals in California have been pushed to the brink, and it’s expected to get worse as people travel and gather for Christmas and New Year’s.

Read the full story here.

Chicago Radio Stations Play ‘Silent Night' at Same Time Christmas Eve to Remember 2020

Three Chicago radio stations will play "Silent Night" simultaneously on Christmas Eve, as a church calls on people to take a moment of solemnity to remember the difficult year, NBC Chicago reports.

At 9:09 p.m. CT, the Christmas classic will be heard from radios across the city, as people are asked to pause and remember the hardships of 2020.

"This Christmas Eve it’s time to shine the light of hope. For a brief moment, let’s come together as Chicagoans, shine a light and break through the darkness," the website reads.

Read the full story here:

California Church Plans Christmas Eve Service in Defiance of Health, Court Orders

A church in San Jose, California, plans to hold an indoor Christmas Eve service Thursday evening despite public health and court orders against it, as well as fines that are stacking up with each violation, NBC Bay Area reports.

Calvary Chapel San Jose's leaders and their attorneys say their faith protects them from the virus and federal law allows them to hold services where and when they want. They have scheduled an indoor candlelight service for 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the church website.

Pastor Mike McClure already has been slapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after defying the county's health order by holding indoor services with hundreds in attendance, many of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing.

Santa Clara County health officials have pleaded with the church to cancel masses due to packed intensive care units and rapid infection rates across the county, the Bay Area and the state. Earlier this month, a judge agreed with the county and ordered the church to halt indoor services.

County health officials are afraid an event such as Thursday night's could become a super spreader that has the potential to sicken and even kill a lot of people.

Even with all the sanctions and court losses, McClure continued to defy the order, saying God's word is "a bigger law." His attorneys, who planned to appeal the injunction, continue to question the constitutionality of the county's health order.

Read the full story here.

Despite Warnings, Americans Travel for Holidays

The CDC advised Americans to stay home for the holidays to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Americans had other ideas.

More than 1.1 million people traveled by airplane on Dec. 23, the most Americans to fly on a single day since March, according to data from the Tranportation Security Administration.

The recent rise in the number of travelers echoes a similar increase around Thanksgiving. The day before that holiday, 1,070,967 people went through TSA checkpoints, NBC News reported. It was part of a spike in travel in the seven days leading up to Thanksgiving that brought more than 6.8 million people to airports.

But all data around COVID -- number of cases, number of hospitalizations, number of deaths -- is rising around the country, officials urged Americans not to travel for the holidays.

"Travel may increase your chance of spreading and getting Covid-19," the CDC says in a message on its website. "CDC continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

House Republicans Reject $2,000 Stimulus Checks After Trump Voices Support

The fate of a coronavirus relief package remains up in the air Thursday after Republicans rejected an effort by House Democrats to pass $2000 direct stimulus payments.

Democrats attempted to pass the payments by unanimous consent -- meaning any single member of the House could block it -- after President Donald Trump said he opposed the $2 trillion pandemic aid and federal funding bill because it sends $600 rather than $2,000 deposits. As expected, the attempt was rejected. The House is now adjourned until Monday.

The full bill — which Congress passed Monday after Trump took no role in the talks in which lawmakers crafted it — included $900 billion in coronavirus relief.

The bill included $600 direct payments, rather than the $1,200 sum passed as part of the CARES Act in March, because most of Trump’s Republican Party aimed to cap the plan’s overall cost. In criticizing the year-end legislation, Trump also pointed to foreign aid spending — which Washington includes in funding bills every year.

The House attempted to pass the $2,000 payments during a pro forma session, a brief meeting of the chamber where typically only a few members attend.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would call the House into full session on Monday for a full vote on a standalone bill to increase the payments to $2,000.

"To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need," Pelosi said.

President Trump is rejecting the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress after months of gridlock. In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the president complained the bill's $600 cash payment to Americans was too small.

California Becomes First State to Record 2 Million COVID-19 Cases

California has seen more than 2 million COVID-19 cases, becoming the first state to do so late Wednesday, according to NBC News' count.

More than 2,015,960 cases have been confirmed and more than 23,600 people have died across the state since the pandemic began this year. 

California currently has the fastest growing COVID-19 case count in the nation, according to that count. Almost the entire state is under stay-at-home rules. California has averaged more than 43,000 cases a day in the past week, according to NBC News figures.

Associated Press/NBC
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