Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: AstraZeneca Vaccine Shows Promise; COVID Survivor Warns of Chronic Symptoms

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

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Over the weekend, the United States topped 12 million cases of COVID-19, according to a tally by NBC News, as the third wave's uncontrolled spread led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to renew calls for Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.

In total, 48 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, are experiencing a percentage increase in cases from over the past 14 days. South Dakota and Hawaii are the only two states where cases have plateaued.

In a bit of promising news, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, told CNN that the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine could be approved and ready for immunizations as soon as Dec. 12.

Thus far, the U.S. has recorded more than 258,000 COVID-related deaths, according to NBC News.

Texas Mom Issues Warning to Those Who Don't Take COVID-19 Seriously: ‘You're Playing Russian Roulette'

Erika Stilwell, a Dallas mother of three, contracted COVID-19 in July and says she’s still suffering from lingering effects of the virus and has no idea how long it will last. NBC 5’s Lili Zheng has her story.

A Dallas mother is warning North Texans about COVID-19 as she continues to deal with the lingering effects of the virus months after becoming infected.

Erika Stilwell, a 47-year-old mother of three with no underlying health conditions, contracted COVID-19 in late July and told NBC DFW that after being sick for two weeks and struggling to breathe she ended up being hospitalized for three days.

"I don't remember a lot of it," she said, but added her husband told her stories of the shared look of fear on their faces. "He wasn't able to come in with me when they took me in. I do remember that -- [I was] just really afraid. I may not come back out. We've got three children, so it was a pretty scary time."

Months later, Stilwell said she is still dealing with the effects of the virus to this day.

"I now have COPD and sleep apnea. I've had to do several sleep studies," she said. "I’m on tons of medications. Basically, my lungs just have not healed at all. And no energy. You name it, it's going on."

She said she hopes her story would encourage more people to take the virus seriously.

"I really don’t think it’s like the flu, and I get really frustrated when I hear people say that because it may be like the flu for someone, but you don’t know what it’s going to do long term," she said.

Read the full story on

AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Shown to Be Effective and Cheaper

Drugmaker AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, buoying the prospects of a relatively cheap, easy-to-store product that may become the vaccine of choice for the developing world.

The results are based on an interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective. That means that, overall, when both ways of dosing are considered, the vaccine showed an efficacy rate of 70%.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it potentially easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.

It's also cheaper. AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.

Read the full story here.

Reggaeton Star Bad Bunny Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny has tested positive for the new coronavirus, his representative said Monday.

The announcement came a day after the musician won favorite male Latin artist and favorite Latin album for "YHLQMDLG” at the American Music Awards.

Bad Bunny, whose real name is Benito Martínez Ocasio, was scheduled to sing his hit, “Dákiti,” with Jhay Cortez at the event but canceled without explanation, leaving many fans disappointed. The singer, however, presented the award for favorite Latin female artist remotely.

Publicist Sujeylee Solá told The Associated Press that Bad Bunny wasn't showing any major symptoms as of Monday. She did not provide further details, saying only that the musician was not granting any interviews.

Millions Stick to Thanksgiving Travel Plans Despite Warnings

More than 1 million Americans a day packed airports and planes over the weekend even as coronavirus deaths surged across the U.S. and public health experts begged people to stay home and avoid big Thanksgiving gatherings.

And the crowds are only expected to grow. Next Sunday is likely to be the busiest day of the holiday period.

To be sure, the number of people flying for Thanksgiving is down by more than half from last year because of the rapidly worsening outbreak. However, the 3 million who went through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Sunday marked the biggest crowds since mid-March, when the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the United States.

Many travelers are unwilling to miss out on seeing family and are convinced they can do it safely. Also, many colleges have ended their in-person classes, propelling students to return home.

Read the full story here.

Pregnant Women Were Excluded From COVID Vaccine Trials. Will It Be Safe for Them?

Promising results from three COVID-19 vaccine trials have sparked hope that the worst of the pandemic may soon be over. But these trials have left out one crucial group of people: pregnant women.

In fact, pregnant women historically haven't been included in vaccine trials, said Dr. Stephanie Gaw, an obstetrician and assistant professor at University of California's San Francisco campus, who researches COVID-19 and pregnancy.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends every pregnant woman be vaccinated against influenza and whooping cough, the flu shot in particular was never trialed in pregnant women but was determined to be safe after years of gathering data from women who got it without knowing they were pregnant or women who knew but got it anyway, Gaw told TODAY. This lack of systematic data gathering ultimately leads to delays in FDA approval for the pregnant population, she continued, adding that she has similar concerns about the drugs currently being trialed to treat COVID-19 (rather than prevent it).

"If they're not enrolled in a trial, then we can't do long-term follow-up because the biggest question about doing trials in pregnant women is what happens to the baby," she explained. "In a sense, not doing these trials on pregnant women, basically pregnant women are kind of always in this very uncontrolled trial, real life."

There are, however, no plans to test any COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women, who are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 than their non-pregnant counterparts, research shows.

And whether an emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine will include pregnant women is unclear at this stage. What's more, the plan for vaccine distribution does not explicitly include the pregnant population, despite them being higher risk.

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Family in Isolation After Exposure to Officer Who Tested Positive

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family are in isolation after three of his children were exposed to a California Highway Patrol Officer who tested positive for COVID-19, Newsom said in a tweet late Sunday night.

Newsom said that his entire family tested negative, but will adhere to local guidance by quarantining for 14 days, NBC Bay Area reports.

“We are grateful for all the officers that keep our family safe and for every frontline worker who continues to go to work during this pandemic,” Newsom tweeted.   

Hundreds of Bodies Remain in Brooklyn Disaster Morgue

Hundreds of bodies are still stored in freezer trucks at a disaster morgue set up during New York City’s coronavirus surge in the spring, according to the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

Many of the 650 bodies at the disaster morgue on the Brooklyn waterfront are of people whose families can’t be located or can’t afford a proper burial, officials said. The unit tasked with identifying bodies is set up to handle about 20 deaths a day, but during the peak of the pandemic it received as many as 200 a day, Aden Naka, deputy director of forensic investigations, tells the Wall Street Journal.

Normally, the deceased would have been buried within a few weeks in a gravesite for the indigent on Hart Island in the Long Island Sound. But as COVID-19 deaths surged in New York in April, with as many as 800 deaths in one day, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged that mass burials in temporary graves wouldn’t take place, NBC New York reports.

The medical examiner’s office is having trouble finding relatives of about 230 deceased people, officials said. When next of kin have been contacted, many bodies haven’t been collected because families haven’t arranged burial for financial reasons, nor have they requested free burial on Hart Island.

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