Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: US Sees Record Number of Daily COVID Cases, Deaths

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The United States has recorded more than 21 million cases and 360,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News. Health officials fear the surge in cases and deaths will continue as post-holiday air travel hit its highest level on Sunday since mid-March.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing the number of shots dispensed to about 4.8 million, government health officials said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the U.S. could soon be vaccinating some one million people a day. “Any time you start a big program, there are always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation's top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.

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

US Sees Record Number of Daily Cases, Deaths

The United States reported a record number of new coronavirus cases and deaths on Wednesday.

The U.S. saw 265,135 COVID-19 cases and 3,855 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

Since Jan. 1, the U.S. has recorded 1,342,168 new coronavirus cases and 15,055 deaths.

Health Secretary Says More Drug Stores Will Give Vaccine Shots

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the government will begin allowing more drugstores to start giving shots to speed coronavirus vaccinations. Some governors and other politicians are turning up the pressure after a slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the U.S. could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day.

The European Union has given approval to the Moderna vaccine. The decision gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use against the coronavirus. The U.K. says it has vaccinated 1.3 million people and plans to have almost 1,000 vaccination centers operating by the end of this week.

The national pharmacy chain CVS Health said Wednesday that it has completed coronavirus vaccinations at more than 100 long-term care facilities in Missouri, but that it still has 500 more to go.

The U.S. Department of Health and Senior Services last year selected CVS Health and Walgreen to administer vaccinations at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the U.S. In Missouri, vaccinations began Dec. 28.

US Reports 29 Severe Allergic Reactions to Vaccine Shot

U.S. health officials say they have reports of at least 29 people developing severe allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccines, but they stress that the risk for most people is low.

The CDC on Wednesday released its latest count of side effects suffered by more than 5.3 million people who have been vaccinated. The 29 had suffered anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that can be controlled through an epinephrine injection.

That’s a rate of about 5.5 cases per million people, which is roughly four times higher than the rate seen in a study of people who got flu shots.

The CDC also published a more detailed study of the first 1.9 million Americans vaccinated as of Dec. 23. Among that group, 21 of suffered the severe allergic reaction. CDC had full data on 20 of the cases, and none of them died, agency officials said. Nineteen got epinephrine and four were hospitalized.

Anyone who has a severe reaction to a first dose should not get a second dose of the vaccine, the CDC says.

Texas Congressman Tests Positive for COVID After Receiving First Vaccine Dose

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady has tested positive for the coronavirus less than one month after first receiving a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"As recommended, I received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Dec 18 & also recently tested negative for Covid on New Years Day," Brady tweeted. "Begin treatment tomorrow. Shld be fine."

The top Republican on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, who was on the House floor this week and interacted with fellow members, said he was in quarantine.

Hospitals Struggle to Keep Up in COVID-19 Hotspot California

Hospitals in California are so swamped by the coronavirus that the state has ordered hospitals with available space to accept patients from others that have run out of intensive care beds.

The public health order issued Tuesday could result in patients being shipped to Northern California from Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, where 14 counties also were ordered to delay nonessential “and non-life threatening” surgeries.

For much of the year, California managed to avoid a catastrophe. But now the virus is raging and California remains at or near the top of states with the most new cases per capita.

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, where patients are being housed in its former gift shop, a chapel, tents and hallways, had more COVID-19 patients on Tuesday than its total capacity. The hospital, which serves a largely Black and Latino population in the south part of the city, has a capacity of 131 patients but was treating 215 patients, 135 of them with COVID-19, said Jeff Stout, the interim chief nursing and operating officer.

The hospital was emblematic of the worsening situation in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with about 10 million residents. A COVID-19 surge has created a shortage of oxygen and led to a directive to ambulance crews in the county to stop transporting patients they can’t revive in the field.

Health Officials to Hold Briefing on Operation Warp Speed and Vaccine Distribution

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense will hold a briefing on Operation Warp Speed and the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The briefing is slated to begin at 11 a.m. ET.

NYC Issues ‘Urgent' Warning for People Over 75 as Hospitalizations, Deaths Rise

New York City health officials issued a new and heightened warning Wednesday to people age 75 and up, citing concerning case growth rates and more disturbing numbers on hospitalizations and deaths in the last 30 days, NBC New York reports.

That age group has accounted for 6% of new citywide cases over the last 30 days but 30% of hospitalizations and 58% of deaths in the same time, health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. The positivity rate for that demographic is higher than the rolling citywide one (about 12% versus 9.3%). More than half of the new cases are thought to be community spread, while 38% are likely cases of household transmission, he added.

"This message is as urgent as it's ever been," Chokshi said. "Avoid activities outside of the home except for essential purposes, including medical care and other necessities. Remain vigilant. Don't let the numbers make you numb."

That's also been the consistent message from New York state, where health officials are expected to learn this week — and as early as Wednesday — whether three individuals tied to the upstate jewelry store traced to the state's first case of the more contagious U.K. strain also have the variant.

Read the full story here.

Mutant Strain Confirmed to Be in Georgia, Too

Georgia officials say they have confirmed the state’s first case of the coronavirus variant that was first seen in the United Kingdom.

The Georgia Department of Health said Tuesday that lab tests found an 18-year-old Georgia man is infected with the variant. It says the man had no travel history and is in isolation at his home.

Cases of the United Kingdom variant have also been reported in Colorado, California, Florida and New York.

Georgia health officials say preliminary information suggests the variant is significantly more contagious. State health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey urged residents to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and washing their hands frequently.

Loss of Smell and Taste Can Linger After COVID or Come Back Different, Study Finds

Before the pandemic, Dr. Jennifer Spicer used to savor waking up early. In those quiet morning hours, she'd get precious alone time with her dog and brew up a mug of her favorite coffee, using beans from an Atlanta roaster.

Now, she can barely take a sip without spitting the coffee out, NBC News reports.

"I cannot even go in a coffee shop. It smells so bad," said Spicer, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. "It's really awful."

The abrupt change in Spicer's senses has, by now, an all-too-common culprit: COVID-19

A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that 86 percent of patients with mild forms of COVID-19 developed loss of sense of taste and smell, compared with 4 percent to 7 percent of those with moderate to severe cases.

Read the full story here

As COVID-19 cases climb, so are the number of "long haul" patients whose physical and mental symptoms persist long after others recover. Research suggests as many as ten percent of coronavirus patients go on to become long haulers, with symptoms that continue for weeks or even months.

NFL Encouraging Teams to Offer Stadiums as Vaccination Sites

The National Football League is encouraging teams to offer up stadiums and other facilities as vaccination sites for the general public against the coronavirus illness COVID-19, NBC News reports.

The NFL said in a statement that more information would be released in the coming weeks, but that teams are being encouraged to offer the facilities if practical. 

"We have encouraged clubs to contact their state and local health departments to offer stadiums and practice facilities if practical to serve as site for vaccinating the general public," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "These will be decisions between the clubs and their local officials based on need, location and availability."

Vaccinations are being given to front-line workers and vulnerable populations, but health experts have said vaccinating the general public is likely months away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations on who should be vaccinated first.

Read the full story here

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady Tests Positive for COVID-19

Rep. Kevin Brady, R.-Texas, announced Tuesday night on Twitter that he tested positive for the coronavirus and is now in quarantine.

Brady, who was on the House floor voting on Sunday and Monday, added that he will "Begin treatment tomorrow" and should "be fine."

Brady said he received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 18 and had tested negative on New Year's Day.

Associated Press/NBC
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