Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: US Deaths Top 300K; Nursing Homes Face Vaccine Fears

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On Monday, the United States saw its first COVID-19 vaccinations but also reached a grim milestone of 300,000 total deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

Hospital workers across the country began unloading precious frozen vials of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday as the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history got underway, with the first shots administered to health care workers in New York.

Early supplies are sparse, and health care workers are first in line, not just doctors and nurses but also janitors and other staff. So are nursing home residents. How well initial vaccinations go will help reassure a wary public when it's their turn sometime next year.

Still, the vaccine is offering hope in the fight against the pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 and infected over 16 million in the U.S. alone.

US Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 300,000

The U.S. surpassed the once-unthinkable threshold of 300,000 COVID-19 deaths Monday, according to an NBC News tally.

The grim milestone was reached on the same day health care workers across the country began receiving the first shots of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine. There have been more than 16.4 million confirmed cases of the deadly virus in the U.S. since the pandemic began earlier in the year.

A recent surge in transmissions has led to record-breaking numbers of hospitalizations and deaths over the last two weeks, with an average of more than 210,000 new infections and nearly 2,500 deaths a day this month.

A record of more than 109,000 people were in the hospital in the U.S. with COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Nursing Homes Face Vaccine Fears

After 110,000 deaths ravaged the nation’s nursing homes and pushed them to the front of the vaccine line, they now face a vexing problem: Skeptical residents and workers balking at getting the shots.

Being first has come with persistent fears that the places hit hardest in the pandemic — accounting for nearly 40% of the nation’s death toll — could be put at risk again by vaccines sped into development in months rather than years. Some who live and work in homes question if enough testing was done on the elderly, if enough is known of side effects and if the shots could do more harm than good.

Internal surveys by groups including the American Nurses Foundation suggest many workers in long-term care facilities are so concerned about the vaccine they would refuse it.

Christina Chiger, a 33-year-veteran nurse’s aide at a nursing home in Tampa, Florida, is exhausted and frightened after a relentless nine months that left two dozen residents dead and made 16-hour shifts common. But she has no plans to take the vaccine, for now at least.

“Will there be side effects? Will it actually work?” she asked. “If we all get sick from taking this, who’s going to take care of our patients?”

Cultural issues could also be at play. People of color make up a majority of aides and other frontline workers in nursing homes, and some minorities express mistrust of medicine that experts see linked with past abuses.

A poll released last week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Black and Hispanic people in the U.S. are far less likely than white people to agree to be vaccinated. Some 53% of whites said they would get the shots, compared with 24% of Blacks and 34% of Hispanics.

First COVID Vaccine Shots Administered to US Health Workers

A registered nurse was the first in New York to receive the coronavirus vaccine Monday morning.

A critical care nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens received the first shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in the state of New York, and reportedly first in the nation.

Northwell Health, the state's largest healthcare provider, began vaccinating workers Monday. The first shot went to critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay, who received the vaccine just after 9:20 a.m. ET during a livestreamed event with gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” said Lindsay.

FedEx Completes First Deliveries of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID Vaccine

FedEx announced in a tweet Monday that it has "safely" completed its first deliveries of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

"We're honored to be able to use our network to transport these critical vaccines in the U.S., and eventually the world," the shipping giant posted just before 7 a.m. on its official Twitter account.

The first inoculations of Pfizer's vaccine could come as soon as Monday, with healthcare workers and nursing home residents first in line.

Trump Says He's Nixing Plans for Early Vaccine at White House

President Donald Trump says he's reversing an administration directive to vaccinate top government officials against COVID-19 while public distribution of the shot is limited to front-line health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Trump made the announcement in a tweet Sunday night, hours after his administration confirmed that senior U.S. officials, including some White House aides who work in close proximity to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, would be offered coronavirus vaccines as soon as this week under federal continuity of government plans.

“People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” Trump said in a tweet. “I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”

It was not immediately clear what effect Trump’s tweet would have on the government’s efforts to protect top leadership.

Los Angeles, San Francisco Counties Break COVID-19 Records

Los Angeles County again broke a record for coronavirus hospitalizations this weekend as San Francisco County reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Statewide, more than 30,000 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported Sunday.

In San Francisco County, health officials reported 323 new cases on Saturday. In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, officials said on Sunday that more than 4,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19. The record-breaking figures in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties come as more than 325,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to California. Millions of residents in the majority of the state are under stay-at-home orders.

CORRECTION (Dec. 14, 11:13 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story reported a daily record for COVID-19 cases had been set on Monday, based on an NBC News tally. NBC News later reported a daily record had not been set.

The Associated Press/NBC
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