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Fauci Says U.S. Needs More Time To ‘Catch Up’ On Vaccine Rollout

Health experts warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better. And that is happening. December was the worst month of the pandemic in the United States. The vaccines have made people optimistic, but the process has been slow.

Dr. Anthony Fauci — head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who will be President-elect Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser — said Thursday that the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been slow because it came during the holiday period.

“I think it would be fair to just observe what happens in the next couple of weeks. If we don’t catch up on what the original goal was, then we really need to make some changes about what we’re doing,” he said in an interview.

Fauci also said that a more contagious variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom and now spreading in the U.S. underscores the need to follow public health measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing. And he said that while the U.K. has implemented a lockdown, he doesn’t see “any enthusiasm” for similar nationwide measures in this country.

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Biden urges Trump to sign coronavirus stimulus bill

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday requested President Trump to sign the coronavirus stimulus bill after Trump rejected the bill and asked for higher stimulus payments and less “wasteful” spending.

Biden’s push came as Trump and Congress clashed over the size of direct payments included in the mammoth legislation.

“$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday night. “Remember, it was China’s fault!”

Biden said about 10 million Americans were about to lose unemployment benefits. In addition, an eviction ban was set expire on Thursday night, New Year’s Eve.

“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Biden said in a statement.

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Moderna COVID-19 shots leave warehouses

Shipments of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine began administering early on Sunday, heading for healthcare facilities across United States in an attempt to distribute the second approved coronavirus vaccine.

The distribution of Moderna’s vaccine to more than 3,700 locations in the United States will widen the rollout started last week by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech.

U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program head Moncef Slaoui said the first Moderna vaccine shot, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, would be given on Monday morning.

“We look forward to the vaccine. It’s going to be easier to distribute because it doesn’t require as low temperature as Pfizer,” Slaoui said.

The U.S. government plans to distribute 5.9 million Moderna shots and 2 million Pfizer shots this week.

But an ambitious target to get 20 million Americans started with their first shot of the two-dose vaccine regimen before the end of the year could go into the first week of January, U.S. Army General Gustave Perna told reporters on Saturday.

The start of delivery for the Moderna vaccine will significantly widen availability of COVID-19 vaccines as U.S. deaths caused by the respiratory disease have reached more than 316,000 in the 11 months since the first documented U.S. cases.

Some states are opting to use Moderna’s shots for harder-to-reach rural areas because they can be stored for 30 days in standard-temperature refrigerators. Pfizer’s must be shipped and stored at minus 70 Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) and can be held for only five days at standard refrigerator temperatures.

Initial doses were given to health professionals. Programs by pharmacies Walgreens and CVS to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to long-term care facilities are expected to start on Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide Sunday on who it will recommend to be next in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The populations under closest consideration include essential workers, those over 65 and people with pre-existing conditions.

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Early data show two doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine caused good immune response

Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has a better immune response when a two full-dose plan is followed rather than a full-dose followed by a half-dose booster, the university said on Thursday, citing data from early trials.

The developers of the vaccine candidate, which has been licensed to pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca, have already published later stage trial results showing higher effect when a half dose is followed by a full dose, compared to a two full-dose regime. However, more work needs to be done to establish the result.

The latest details from the Phase I and 2 clinical trials revealed on Thursday made no reference to the half-dose/full-dose program, which Oxford has said had been “unplanned” but approved by regulators.

Once seen as the frontrunner in the development of a coronavirus vaccine, the British team has been overtaken by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, whose shots have been administered in Britain and the United States this month.

Data published earlier from the later Phase 3 trials showed efficacy was 62% for trial participants given two full doses, but a more stronger 90% for a smaller sub-group given first a half, then a full dose.

In its statement on Thursday, the university said it had started two dosing regimes in early stage trials, a full-dose/full-dose regime and a full-dose/half-dose regime, investigated as a possible “dose sparing” strategy.

“The booster doses of the vaccine are both shown to induce stronger antibody responses than a single dose, the standard dose/standard dose inducing the best response,” the university said in a statement.

The vaccine “stimulates broad antibody and T cell functions,” it said.

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Dr. William G. Rothstein, longtime UMBC faculty member dies

Dr. William G. Rothstein, a founding faculty member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who served for nearly five-decade the department of sociology, anthropology and public health, and was an author and expert in the history of medicine in the United States, died at Madonna Heritage Assisted Living Home in Jarrettsville of complications from a stroke. He was 83.

“It’s so easy to talk about Bill Rothstein,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, who is president of UMBC since 1992.

“He was one of the founding faculty members of UMBC, and came here when the doors opened in 1966, and was a man who had superb qualifications,” Dr. Hrabowski said. “He was the consummate educator.”

William Gene Rothstein, son of Meyer Rothstein, owner of a scrap metal business, and his wife, Bertha Ann Rothstein, a homemaker, was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1955 from Crosby High School.

Professor Rothstein earned a bachelor’s degree in 1959 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1961, and his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1965 from Cornell University.

He served from 1964 to 1966 as a research analyst for Prudential Financial Inc. in Newark, New Jersey, then joined the UMBC faculty.

Professor Rothstein was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and to full professor in 1988. In addition to his classroom work, as director of the master’s program in applied sociology, he worked on a one-to-one basis helping them select courses, develop research interests and plan for careers.

“His support and encouragement of these students made him a beloved part of their UMBC experience,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.

Described as being a thoughtful and compassionate mentor, he remained connected to his students long after their graduation and closely followed their careers. He shared dinners, lunches, trips to the symphony, emails and phone calls with them.

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US deaths from COVID-19 pass 300,000

The death toll from the COVID-19 in the United States has crossed 300,000 on the same day the first vaccines against COVID-19 were administered in the country. The country is hardest hit by virus across the globe in terms of number of deaths and cases.

According to a report by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 16 million cases confirmed in the US, where the total population is approximately 300 million.

Experts say the death toll is a serious reminder to follow restrictions despite optimistic inoculation outlook.

There is a surge in infections as the US enters its coldest months.

The healthcare workers on Monday received the freshly-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot. About three million doses are being shipped across the US, and are expected to arrive at more than 600 sites by Wednesday.

The first shots on Monday was the beginning of the largest vaccination campaign in American history. If a second vaccine, produced by Moderna Inc, is authorized in the coming days, officials say 20 million people could be vaccinated by month’s end.

The head of the White House’s vaccine program said that everyone in the country who wants the vaccine should be able to get it by halfway through 2021 if development, approval, and distribution goes according to the plan.

Health experts have warned that the initial doses of the vaccine will not be enough to cut the current surge, which has threatened to overrun healthcare systems in several areas.

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75 infected with COVID-19 after Santa visits nursing home in Belgium

Santa Claus spreads more than good cheer at a nursing home in Belgium, with his visit leaving at least 75 people infected with COVID-19, according to a report.

The alleged super-spreading St. Nick was one of the first to fall sick after his visit to the Hemelrijck care home in Antwerp just a week ago, followed by 61 elderly residents and 14 staff, officials said.

“It was made with the best intent, but it went wrong,” the Mayor of Mol, Wim Caeyers, said of the visit, calling it “a very black day for the care home.”

“It is a very great mental strain to bear for the man that played Saint Nicholas, as well as for the organizers and the staff,” Caeyers said.

“It will be all hands on deck during the coming week,” he said of trying to limit the outbreak.

Staff initially insisted that Santa, who was reportedly the son of one of the residents, wore a mask and adhered to safety protocols, as did those who met him. However, photos of the meet-and-greet quickly proved that to be untrue, the mayor told.

Jannes Verheyen, a representative for Armonea, the company that runs the care home, told that everyone was “shocked” at what happened.

“It makes no sense to condemn people,” he said, with staff instead “motivated” to control the virus’ spread.

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Perdue blasts ‘out of state’ money as Georgia Senate spending expected to hit $500M

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., criticized his Democratic opponent on Sunday for taking money from out of state as analysts predict the twin Georgia Senate runoffs could become the most expensive races in history.

“Well, who would believe that you could spend a half a billion dollars in two Senate seats in one state, but it might happen,” Perdue said. “In my general election, my opponent, just like Kelly Loeffler’s opponent, most of their money is coming from out of state, mostly California and New York.”

“We just resent that to some degree down here because we don’t want people from outside the state coming down here  and trying to dictate what we’re going to do,” he continued.

Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff, while Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is facing Rev. Raphael Warnock.

According to a report 96% of money raised by Ossoff and Warnock through Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue came from out-of-state donors, including $25.8 million from California and $10.6 million from New York.

Perdue and Loeffler aren’t too far behind that percentage with 92%. But controlling for population shows that Georgians are the Republicans’ top donors, while Democrats’ biggest donors were from Washington, D.C.

The Democrats are comfortably beating the Republicans in the fundraising game, and many celebrities have gathered to help the Democrats.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams is reportedly holding weekly briefings for Hollywood managers, agents and entertainment executives on how they can best help Democrats win in Georgia.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kerry Washington and John Legend are among the heavyweights organizing to help Ossoff and Warnock win their races.

“This race has become a national race so this is everybody in the country, Democrats and Republicans, trying to weigh in here to get the majority in the Senate,” Perdue said on Sunday. “If we keep the majority we not only hold a line against the Democratic agenda but we also protect the gains that we made under President Trump over the last four years.”

More than $280 million was spent on the 2020 Senate race in North Carolina, making it one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history.

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Total number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa crosses 255,000

The total number of Iowans hospitalized due to the COVID-19 continued to slowly decrease, according to state data on Saturday.

As of 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Iowa Department of Public Health said that 1,924 people were reported as testing positive for COVID-19, putting the state’s total at 255,009 since the starting of the pandemic. 187,463 people in Iowa are now considered recovered from the disease.

An additional 15 people have been reported as dead from COVID-19. The state’s total number of deaths is 3,212.

820 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, a net decrease of 13 since Friday morning’s report. 170 of those patients are in ICUs, a net decrease of five. 94 of those patients require the need of a ventilator, a net decrease of three. 170 people were newly-admitted to Iowa hospitals with the disease over the past 24 hours, the lowest number of new patients since November 3.

An additional 5,281 people had test results reported by public and private labs over the last 24 hours. The positivity rate for this batch of tests was 36.4%. The positivity rate calculated using this method may differ from the number on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, due to the fact that the state only releases the number of individuals who tested positive or negative for the first time, not the total number of tests including people who have tested more than once.

A total of 1,278,945 people in Iowa have been tested since the start of the pandemic.