By MORGAN WINSOR, EMILY SHAPIRO, ERIN SCHUMAKER, IVAN PEREIRA and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 74.4 million people worldwide and killed over 1.6 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.Here’s how the news developed Thursday. All times Eastern:
Dec 17, 10:38 pmCongress to have access to vaccine starting nowAll members of Congress can get vaccinated now, according to a letter from the Capitol Hill attending physician obtained by ABC News.In the letter, sent Thursday night to all members of Congress and staff, Dr. Brian P. Monahan said he was notified by the National Security Council that Congress will be provided with a specific number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet “long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.””The small number of COVID19 vaccine doses we will be provided reflects a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines as it is distributed throughout the country,” he said in the letter.Monahan told members of Congress to call to schedule their vaccines in advance.”My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine. The benefit far exceeds any small risk,” he said.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both already announced Thursday that they will be getting the vaccine soon based on Monahan’s guidance.Members will get vaccinated first, then “we will follow a process to identify the continuity-essential staff members in the various divisions of the Capitol community in the coming weeks,” Monahan said in his letter.After that, “the appointing process will then continue until the small vaccine supply is exhausted. A second dose scheduling process will then begin later.”Dec 17, 10:10 pmNew cases, hospitalizations reach all-time highs in USThe U.S. reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases and current hospitalizations on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.There were 241,620 new cases, 3,438 new deaths, and 114,237 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. With over 42,000 deaths, December is already the second deadliest month of the pandemic, according to the project.”For the second week in a row, more COVID-19 deaths were reported in the United States than at any other time in the pandemic,” it said Thursday in its weekly analysis.
Dec 17, 9:50 pmHHS Secretary Alex Azar’s wife tests positive for COVID-19The wife of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has tested positive for the coronavirus, Azar said in an email to agency staff Thursday evening obtained by ABC News. Azar said he and his children have tested negative for the virus, and he is planning to keep up his work “while strictly adhering to CDC guidelines for essential workers, continuing to practice social distancing, wearing a mask, and monitoring for any symptoms.” In the email, Azar said his wife initially got a negative test result from an instant test. ABC News has asked HHS which test was used to confirm his wife’s positive diagnosis. The secretary has kept a high profile this week during the rollout of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and attended a White House Cabinet meeting.Dec 17, 9:37 pmLA mayor quarantining after daughter tests positiveLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday he is quarantining after his 9-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19.During a COVID-19 update, the mayor said that he and his wife have tested negative for the virus, and his daughter has mild symptoms.Garcetti, who gave his update live from his home instead of his usual podium at City Hall, said he has no idea how his daughter contracted the virus.”We follow very strict protocols in our household,” he said. “We haven’t mixed households. There’s no behavior that she has engaged in that doesn’t adhere strictly to the protocols of our health officials.”The numbers in LA right now are alarming, Garcetti said, as city test sites are seeing a seven-day positivity rate of 19.6%; some have a positivity rate higher than 30%. Intensive care unit capacity in the region is at 0%. Beds can be added, he said, but there’s also a staffing shortage. There are currently 5,100 people hospitalized in Los Angeles County, 1,035 of them in ICUs. “There are more people in the ICU today than all COVID-19 hospitalizations about a month ago,” Garcetti said.
Dec 17, 5:21 pmFDA advisers recommend Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency authorizationA panel of independent experts voted 20 to 0 to recommend Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization. One person abstained in Thursday’s vote.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted yes on the following question: “Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine outweigh its risks for use in individuals 18 years of age and older?”The committee’s recommendation now goes back to the FDA, which will discuss any issues raised in the meeting and finalize a decision about emergency authorization.If an EUA is issued, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee will meet Friday to discuss recommendations for who should take the Moderna vaccine. The FDA authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNTech, last Friday.-ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs
Dec 17, 3:14 pmAlaska health care worker suffers ‘serious’ allergic reaction to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccineAn Alaska health care worker was hospitalized Wednesday, shortly after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.She was released from the hospital Thursday morning.The unnamed staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, “showed signs of an anaphylactic reaction” 10 minutes after inoculation, “with increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and skin rash and redness,” according to a press release.”She was given epinephrine and Benadryl, admitted to the hospital, and put on an intravenous epinephrine drip,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in a statement Wednesday night. “Her reaction was serious but not life threatening.”The staff member, who had no known previous allergies or adverse reactions to vaccines, “is recovering and will remain another night in the hospital under observation,” according to the press release.”She is still encouraging her colleagues to get the vaccine,” the hospital said.It’s the first known adverse allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, which was granted emergency-use authorization in the United States last Friday.A second staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital “experienced eye puffiness, light headedness, and scratchy throat” 10 minutes after being injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, according to the press release.”His reaction was not considered anaphylaxis,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in the statement Wednesday night. “He was taken to the Emergency Department and administered epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl. He felt completely back to normal within an hour and was released.””He too does not want his experience to have a negative impact on his colleagues lining up for the vaccine,” the hospital added.Both incidents were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Bartlett Regional Hospital said “is providing guidance and support.” The symptoms in each case were discovered during the 15-minute observation period after inoculation recommended by the CDC.“We were expecting these things and we had all the right systems in place,” Charlee Gribbon, an infection control practitioner at Bartlett Regional Hospital, who is overseeing a mass operation to vaccinate as many staff as possible, said in a statement Wednesday night.Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said there are “no plans to change our vaccine schedule, dosing or regimen.”
Dec 17, 3:02 pmSouthern California’s ICU capacity down to 0%Southern California’s intensive care unit capacity fell to 0% on Thursday.The state’s San Joaquin Valley region, which spent many days at 0.0%, is now reporting 0.7% ICU capacity. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered regions to issue a stay-at-home order for at least three weeks if their ICU capacity falls below 15%. The Bay Area’s ICU capacity has fallen to 13.1% and will begin its stay-at-home order Thursday. The Greater Sacramento area, where ICU capacity is at 11.3%, is also under a stay-at-home order. Northern California is the state’s only region not under the order. California reported 52,281 new daily cases on Thursday, close to the record high set one day ago. If California were a country, it would have more daily COVID-19 cases than the U.K., India, France, Italy, and Mexico.On Wednesday, the Golden State reported a record 53,711 new cases. ABC News’ Bonnie Mclean and Matt Fuhrman contributed to this report.
Dec 17, 2:24 pmUp to 27,700 more deaths possible by Jan. 9, CDC forecast findsAnother 15,800 to 27,700 COVID-19 deaths are expected in the U.S. by Jan. 9, according to a forecast released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.This would bring the nation’s pandemic death toll to between 357,000 and 391,000. ABC News’ Brian Reiferson contributed to this report.
Dec 17, 2:09 pmCalifornia reports 52,281 new daily casesCalifornia reported 52,281 new daily cases on Thursday, close to the record high set one day ago. On Wednesday, the Golden State reported a record 53,711 new cases.Dec 17, 1:53 pmEU to start vaccinations Dec. 27Europe will begin vaccinations on Dec. 27, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. “It’s Europe’s moment,” she tweeted.
Dec 17, 1:45 pm2 Americans deaths reported every minute in last 24 hoursThe U.S. surpassed 17 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, just five days after the country surpassed 16 million cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.The milestone came hours after the U.S. reached new record highs in daily deaths, cases and hospitalizations.A staggering 3,656 American deaths were reported on Wednesday — resulting in an average of two deaths every minute in the last 24 hours.Across the U.S., 17,581 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the last week, more deaths that any other week since the start of the pandemic.There are currently 113,069 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project, marking the eleventh consecutive day that the nation has hit a record high of current hospitalizations. There are now nearly 40,000 more Americans currently hospitalized than one month ago.ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.
Dec 17, 1:25 pmFDA, CDC investigating anaphylactic reactions to Pfizer vaccineAt the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Thursday on meeting about a potential recommendation of an emergency use authorization of Moderna’s vaccine, officials discussed concerns over anaphylactic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine.Dr. Doran Fink, deputy director-clinical of the Division of Vaccines and Related Products Applications at the FDA, highlighted the two cases of allergic reactions — one of which was anaphylaxis — in health workers in Alaska on Wednesday.Last week, in the U.K., there were also two cases of anaphylaxis after the Pfizer vaccine was administered. As a result, prior to emergency authorization, the FDA clarified its guidance, saying it is safe for people with any history of allergies, but not for those who might have a known history of severe allergic reaction to any “ingredient” of the vaccine.Fink said the FDA anticipates there may be more reports of allergic reactions to the vaccines, and they will be investigated as they occur.The FDA is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to further investigate cases in the U.S. The FDA is also working with Pfizer to further revise the fact sheets and prescribing information for the vaccine to highlight CDC guidelines for post-vaccination monitoring and management of allergic reactions.Fink noted that this “revision will be in addition to the information already included in the contraindications and warnings, including the facilities where vaccines are being administered should ensure that medical treatment for managing serious allergic reactions is immediately available.”Fink said the same recommendations will be done for the Moderna vaccine, if it is authorized for use under an EUA.ABC News’ Anne Flaherty, Stephanie Ebbs, Sophie Tatum and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.Dec 17, 11:31 amSnowstorm delays some NJ vaccine deliveriesIn New Jersey, Wednesday night’s snowstorm has delayed some vaccine deliveries, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.Murphy said he was “not aware of any place that was expecting it that won’t get it” because of the storm. “It just may be a little later than otherwise expected.”Dec 17, 11:00 amCOVID-19 likely leading cause of death in USBased on early data, COVID-19 is now likely the leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of heart disease and cancer, according to a research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association.The official death statistics will not be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until next year.By October, “COVID-19 had become the third leading cause of death for persons aged 45 through 84 years and the second leading cause of death for those aged 85 years or older,” JAMA said. “Between November 1, 2020, and December 13, 2020, the 7-day moving average for daily COVID-19 deaths tripled, from 826 to 2430 deaths per day, and if this trend is unabated will soon surpass the daily rate observed at the height of the spring surge.”The letter concluded, “The need for the entire population to take the disease seriously—notably to wear masks and maintain social distance—could not be more urgent.”ABC News’ Sony Salzman and Shiela Beroukhim Afrahimi contributed to this report.Dec 17, 10:01 amPutin says he still hasn’t received Russian vaccineRussian President Vladimir Putin revealed Thursday that he still hasn’t been inoculated with his country’s COVID-19 vaccine because the shot is not yet permitted for people older than 60.”For those like me, the vaccine hasn’t reached us yet,” Putin, 68, told reporters from the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow during his annual end-of-year press conference, which was held online due to the pandemic. “I am quite a law-abiding person, I listen to our specialists and so far haven’t taken it.”However, Putin said he “definitely” will get the so-called Sputnik V vaccine once those over 60 are allowed to.Russia controversially registered Sputnik V in August before starting crucial late-stage clinical trials, declaring itself the first country in the world to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine. The Russian government has said the trials so far show a vaccine efficacy of 91-95%.Although key Phase 3 trials for Sputnik V are currently ongoing, the Russian government has already launched a mass vaccination program.Putin told reporters that Russian scientists are looking into developing a “light” version of Sputnik V that would only require one dose instead of two, allowing for faster mass immunization. Putin noted the lighter version would be slightly less effective than the existing one but would produce antibodies faster.”It will work quicker,” he said. “The level of protection will be less, but all the same — it’ll get up to 85%.”ABC News’ Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.
Dec 17, 9:23 amTokyo raises alert to highest after record rise in casesTokyo raised its alert for medical preparedness to the highest level on Thursday for the first time, as hospital beds across Japan’s bustling capital fill up with COVID-19 patients.Following a coronavirus committee meeting, Tokyo officials raised the alert level to “red” and warned that the city’s health care system was on the verge of crisis.The move comes after 822 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tokyo on Wednesday, the highest single-day count the city has recorded since the start of the pandemic.Wednesday’s tally shatters Tokyo’s previous record of 678 new cases confirmed a day earlier, according to data released by the Tokyo metropolitan government.
Dec 17, 8:52 amEuropean leaders go into quarantine after French president tests positiveSeveral European leaders announced Thursday that they are going into quarantine after French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19.Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who had lunch with Macron at the French presidential palace in Paris on Wednesday, said he is self-isolating as a preventative measure and canceling any events that require his physical presence. Costa said he also took a COVID-19 test on Thursday morning as was originally planned ahead of his now-canceled trip to Africa.Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, who had lunch with Macron in Paris on Monday, said he will suspend all his activities and quarantine until Dec. 24Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who met with Macron in Brussels last week, said he will get tested Thursday and then self-isolate while he awaits the result.Dec 17, 8:51 am885,000 US workers filed jobless claims last week Some 885,000 workers filed for unemployment insurance last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday, as the pandemic continues to upend the labor market.This is an uptick of 23,000 from the previous week’s figure.More than 20 million people are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Nov. 28, the DOL said. For the comparable week in 2019, that figure was 1.8 million.The latest economic data comes as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the country. The United States on Wednesday hit a record high of 247,403 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,656 additional deaths from the disease.The latest tally of weekly unemployment claims also comes as lawmakers have struggled to reach a deal on new relief. On Wednesday, after months of stalled negotiations, a source told ABC News that congressional leaders were close to reaching a deal that could include enhanced federal unemployment benefits.The national unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.7% last month, according to the DOL’s most-recent jobs report. In February, prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5%.
Dec 17, 7:41 amTexas woman dies from COVID-19 just two months after giving birthJennifer Mendoza, of Grapevine, Texas, gave birth to her fourth child in October.A few days after coming home from the hospital with her healthy baby girl, Mendoza developed breathing problems.Mendoza returned to the emergency room and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. She never went home.Mendoza died on Dec. 3, her 34th birthday, according to a report by Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV. She is survived by her husband and four young children.”Her kids were everything,” Mendoza’s brother, David Mendoza, told WFAA in a recent interview. “To her last minute, she still kept fighting for them.””I’m going to tell them every day for the rest of their lives that their mother was the most beautiful person on this earth,” he added, “the most compassionate and the most big-hearted.”
Dec 17, 7:17 amUS on track to get 2nd vaccine as FDA panel reviews Moderna dataThe United States is on the cusp of a second vaccine for COVID-19, with a key Food and Drug Administration panel set to review data Thursday from Moderna that suggests its two-dose vaccine is safe and 94% effective.An endorsement from the independent federal advisers would pave the way for an official green light by the FDA to begin distributing next week some 5.9 million Moderna doses to the nation’s front-line health care workers and nursing home residents. An internal assessment by the FDA already found that the Moderna data show the benefits likely outweigh the risks.The Moderna batch would be in addition to the 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that started to roll out this week after being the first to get emergency-use authorization.One primary difference is that the Modern vaccine requires fewer specific handling instructions because it does not need ultra-cold storage conditions like the Pfizer/BioNTech one.Moderna also is seeking authorization to use its vaccine on people ages 18 and older, whereas Pfizer’s enrollment of older teens in clinical trials this fall paved the way for authorization of anyone 16 and older.
Dec 17, 6:35 amFrench president’s wife is self-isolating but has no symptomsBrigitte Macron, the 67-year-old wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, is self-isolating and will be tested for COVID-19 soon, although she is not showing any symptoms, her office said in a statement Thursday.France’s presidential palace had announced earlier that Emmanuel Macron, 42, tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating.”Brigitte Macron is a contact case and has no symptoms of the disease,” her office said. “She also tested negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday, December 15, before making a visit to a pediatric ward at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris. She has placed herself in isolation and will continue her work by videoconference. She will be tested very soon as a precaution.”
Dec 17, 6:09 amAlaska health care worker suffers ‘serious’ allergic reaction to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccineAn Alaska health care worker was hospitalized Wednesday, shortly after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.The unnamed staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, “showed signs of an anaphylactic reaction” 10 minutes after inoculation, “with increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and skin rash and redness,” according to a press release.”She was given epinephrine and Benadryl, admitted to the hospital, and put on an intravenous epinephrine drip,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in a statement Wednesday night. “Her reaction was serious but not life threatening.”The staff member, who had no known previous allergies or adverse reactions to vaccines, “is recovering and will remain another night in the hospital under observation,” according to the press release.”She is still encouraging her colleagues to get the vaccine,” the hospital said.It’s the first known adverse allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, which was granted emergency-use authorization in the United States last Friday.A second staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital “experienced eye puffiness, light headedness, and scratchy throat” 10 minutes after being injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, according to the press release.”His reaction was not considered anaphylaxis,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in the statement Wednesday night. “He was taken to the Emergency Department and administered epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl. He felt completely back to normal within an hour and was released.””He too does not want his experience to have a negative impact on his colleagues lining up for the vaccine,” the hospital added.Both incidents were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Bartlett Regional Hospital said “is providing guidance and support.” The symptoms in each case were discovered during the 15-minute observation period after inoculation recommended by the CDC.“We were expecting these things and we had all the right systems in place,” Charlee Gribbon, an infection control practitioner at Bartlett Regional Hospital, who is overseeing a mass operation to vaccinate as many staff as possible, said in a statement Wednesday night.Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said there are “no plans to change our vaccine schedule, dosing or regimen.”
Dec 17, 5:16 amFrench President Emmanuel Macron tests positiveFrench President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19.The Elysee Palace, the official residence of the president of France, announced Macron’s diagnosis in a statement Thursday morning.”This diagnosis was established following an RTPCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms,” the palace said.Macron will self-isolate for seven days in accordance with public health instructions.”He will continue to work and carry out his activities remotely,” the palace said.With more than 2.4 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19, France has the fifth-highest tally in the world, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.Dec 17, 4:30 amA record 113,069 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19There were 113,069 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the United States on Wednesday, according to data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the U.S. outbreak.It’s the highest number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations that the U.S. has logged since the start of the pandemic.Dec 17, 4:08 amUS hits fresh record highs of 247,403 new cases and 3,656 deathsThere were 247,403 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, marking a fresh record high, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.It’s the 44th straight day that the U.S. has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Wednesday’s tally shatters the country’s previous all-time high of 231,775 new cases confirmed on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.An additional 3,656 deaths from the disease were also registered nationwide on Wednesday, setting yet another record. It’s only the fourth time since the pandemic began that the country has reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day. The country’s previous peak of 3,300 fatalities was recorded on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.A total of 16,979,777 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 307,501 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4 and reaching 200,000 for the first time on Nov. 27.
Dec 17, 12:06 amInterior Secretary David Bernhardt tests positive for COVID-19Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt has tested positive for COVID-19. The department spokesman, Nicholas Goodwin, confirmed the news Wednesday, after an inquiry from The Washington Post.Bernhardt received his test results prior to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet meeting Wednesday and did not attend the session.”He is currently asymptomatic and will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine,” Goodwin said in an email.As a result of Bernhardt’s diagnosis, various high-ranking department officials who were in close contact with him this week are now getting tested.He is the third top official at the department known to have tested positive for the virus since November. Interior’s top attorney, Daniel Jorjani, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith also tested positive.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.