USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed more than 350,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other top news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.
In the headlines:
► Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday he would speed up vaccine approval and beef up border controls to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and promised to consider declaring a state of emergency.
► Statistics about poverty and hunger in rural America have been available for years, and many rural schools have taken steps to combat hunger with government and locally run programs. But some teachers say those statistics have taken on new meaning since the pandemic began.
► Funeral homes in Southern California say they are turning away grieving families as they run out of space with bodies piling up. One funeral home is averaging six times its normal rate, or about 30 body removals a day. The head of the California Funeral Directors Association says mortuaries are being “inundated.”
► Texas hit a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations Sunday as a surge continued to strain state medical resources following holiday travel and gatherings.
► President-elect Joe Biden won’t get a traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue after he takes the oath of office, but he will get a presidential escort to the White House.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 20 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 351,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 85 million cases and 1.8 million deaths.
COVID-19 was disastrous in December. The United States reported 6,360,221 new cases — beating November’s record by 1.9 million. And November had more than twice as many cases as any previous month of the pandemic, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The United States reported 77,572 deaths in December, more than 16,800 deaths above the previous monthly record set in April.
One American died from the coronavirus about every 35 seconds.
The current surge has been by far the worst across the country. Weekly deaths peaked in December in 30 states. More bad news: The winter holidays also brought changes in who gets tested, how many testing sites are open, and how fast labs and governments reported data. So some of December’s numbers will end up be tabulated in January. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s premiere infectious disease expert, warned last week that January likely will be worse than December
– Mike Stucka
President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. Fauci, appearing on ABC’s “This Week”, also rejected President Donald Trump’s claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.
“All you need to do … is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Although there’s very little data on how pregnant and nursing mothers will respond to a COVID-19 vaccine, professional organizations and individual doctors say the benefits are very likely to outweigh the risks. According to a November study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women are significantly more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, to end up on a ventilator, and to die from COVID-19 than women of the same age and health status who aren’t pregnant.
So far, none of the large clinical trials of vaccines have included pregnant or nursing mothers, which is “incredibly disappointing,” said Dr. Geeta Krishna Swamy, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Duke Medical Center, who helped write the vaccine guidelines for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
– Karen Weintraub
The sudden collapse of Florida basketball player Keyontae Johnson this month deepened Adama Washington’s belief of what spared her daughter from the same fate — if not death.
Demi Washington, a sophomore basketball player at Vanderbilt, announced on Twitter Dec. 7 she would miss the rest of the season. She disclosed she had been diagnosed with myocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart that has been linked to COVID-19.
It was detected by a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam after three other tests failed to uncover any abnormality, according to Adama Washington.
Yet the cardiac MRI exam she said may have saved her daughter is not mandated by most college conferences, with the Big Ten and Big 12 being the only Power Five conferences to require the test be administered to athletes who test positive for COVID-19.
“There’s this belief that cardiac MRI is the gold standard for diagnosing myocarditis, and that belief is predicated on the fact that it is the best tool that we have for looking for heart injury,’’ said Dr. Aaron Baggish, director at the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “But it is not a perfect tool.”
– Josh Peter
Pope Francis said he was very saddened that some people during COVID-19 pandemic holiday lockdowns managed to slip away on vacations while so many are suffering economic problems or are ill.
During noon prayer remarks Sunday at the Vatican, Francis said that “we don’t know what 2021 has in store for us.”
But, he added, “what each of us and all of us together can do is to commit ourselves a little more to taking care of others” and of the environment, “our common home.”
Throughout the pandemic, the pontiff has stressed caring for those most in need and obeying anti-contagion measures.
Contributing: The Associated Press