Virus Updates: US Sets One-Day Records for Cases, Deaths

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As the United States continues to roll out the Pfizer vaccine for health care workers and nursing home residents, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed Tuesday the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, bringing a second shot to the cusp of U.S. authorization.

The vaccine campaign is offering hope in the fight against the pandemic that has infected over 16 million and killed more than 307,000 in the U.S. alone, according to a tally by NBC News.

US Sets One-Day Records for Cases, Deaths

An NBC News tally confirmed there were 230,365 new COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. on Wednesday for a new single-day record. The previous record was reported on Dec. 10, with 229,928 cases. 

Wednesday also marked a single-day record for deaths in the U.S., with 3,234 the previous single-day record for deaths was also reported on Dec. 10, with 3,110 deaths.

Biden, Pence to Get Vaccine 'Publicly'

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as next week, a transition official tells NBC News.

"I don't want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take," Biden told reporters Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware. "When I do it, I'll do it publicly so you can all witness my getting it done."

Also Wednesday, officials announced Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will "publicly receive a COVID-19 vaccine to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people."

Surgeon General Jerome Adams will also receive the vaccine at the White House event.

Tyson Fires 7 at Iowa Pork Plant After COVID Betting Inquiry

Tyson Foods says it has fired seven top managers at its largest pork plant after an independent investigation into allegations that they bet on how many workers would test positive for the coronavirus.

The company said the investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed troubling behavior that resulted in the firings at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa.

Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks says the "behavior exhibited by these individuals does not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action.” Banks traveled to the Waterloo plant on Wednesday to discuss the actions with employees.

Tyson Facing Another Lawsuit Over Employee COVID-19 Death

The family of a Tyson Foods employee is alleging in a lawsuit that he died from COVID-19 after the meat processing giant failed to implement safety protocols to guard against the coronavirus at the Iowa plant where he worked.

Michael Everhard, 65, of Fonda, died of COVID-19 June 18, three weeks after being diagnosed with the virus. His family contends he became infected at the Storm Lake plant, where he worked for 27 years, The Sioux City Journal reported.

The lawsuit, filed by Everhard’s three children, argues that Tyson and its managers required him and other employees to continue working in an environment “rife with coronavirus” and didn’t implement safety precautions to protect them from contracting the virus, Storm Lake attorney Willis Hamilton said.

In response, Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston said the company has implemented several measures at its facilities that meet or exceed federal guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit will test legislation signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in June that shields businesses from many virus-related lawsuits — provided they followed public health guidance. Republicans who backed the law said it was needed to protect businesses against frivolous lawsuits. Democrats opposed it, saying it would benefit businesses that failed to adequately protect their workers.

Republicans in Congress have sought to pass a similar provision limiting virus-related liability for businesses, but were forced to drop it in the latest round of negotiations on a new stimulus bill.

That’s about 25% of the staff who work at the Iowa plant.

It's the latest legal action taken against the Arkansas-based company since the pandemic began. In November, Tyson suspended top officials at its pork plant in Waterloo over allegations that they bet on how many workers would get infected during a coronavirus outbreak. At least 1,000 workers were infected and six died.

Secretary of State Pompeo Quarantines After Virus Exposure

The State Department says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has come into contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining.

The department said Wednesday that Pompeo had tested negative for the virus but was being monitored by medical professionals. The department said it would not identify the infected person with whom Pompeo came into contact for privacy reasons.

The announcement comes as Pompeo and the department have been criticized for hosting holiday parties amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pompeo had been expected to attend President Donald Trump’s Cabinet meeting later Wednesday although the appointment was not listed on his public schedule.

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CDC Report: COVID Cases Among Kids Often Linked to Social Gatherings, Not School

A new report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that children were more likely to get COVID-19 at a social gathering without masks than at school.

The study published Tuesday looked at 397 children in Mississippi under the age of 18 who were tested for the coronavirus. It found no measurable difference in positive or negative test results among those who reported attending school in-person or going to daycare. However, children who also reported attending social gatherings such as birthday parties, playdates or weddings, without masks or distancing, within the previous two weeks were 140% more likely to test positive.

The CDC concluded that "close contact with persons with COVID-19 and gatherings with persons outside the household and lack of consistent mask use in school were associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, whereas attending school or child care was not associated with receiving positive SARS-CoV-2 test results." It added that consistent use of face masks and social distancing continue to be important to prevent COVID-19 spread.

California Ups Order of Body Bags, Reminding That COVID Remains Deadly

Tempering the excitement generated by COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday offered a grim reminder that the disease remains deadly, saying the state has ordered 5,000 more body bags for distribution to morgues in three counties, including Los Angeles, NBC Los Angeles reports.

"This is a deadly disease, a deadly pandemic, and we're in the middle of it right now,'' Newsom said. "We're near the end, but we're in the middle of the most acute peak as it relates to what we refer to as the third wave -- the third and what we hope is the final wave of this disease.''

Newsom said 142 coronavirus-related deaths were reported statewide in the past 24 hours. Over the past week, the state averaged 163 deaths per day -- up from 41 per day one month ago.

According to the governor, the state has 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units on standby at counties and hospitals across California for use is local facilities become overwhelmed by virus fatalities.

Florida Gov. DeSantis Reiterates Commitment to Keeping Restaurants Open

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his commitment to keeping the state's restaurants open on Tuesday, saying the risk of getting coronavirus is less at a restaurant than it is at home, NBC South Florida reports.

DeSantis held a news conference at Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach, where he said service industries including restaurants, lodging, and hospitality have "taken it on the chin."

He said contact tracing has not shown that large amounts of people are getting infected at restaurants.

DeSantis' comments came as Florida has seen increases in COVID-19 infections following the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Associated Press/NBC
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