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 355,000 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:
►The U.S. could soon be giving at least a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.
►The Grammy Awards have been postponed. Music’s biggest awards show, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, will no longer take place this month due to rising COVID-19 cases in California.
►Almost 30% of working professionals say they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely, according to an online survey of 1,022 professionals conducted by LiveCareer, an online resume and job search consulting service.
►The pharmacist suspected of intentionally spoiling 500 doses of vaccine at a Wisconsin hospital was released from jail after a prosecutor indicated he’s not positive the vaccine was actually destroyed. Steven Brandenburg, 46, had concerns the vaccines could change people’s DNA, an unfounded claim that has been debunked.
►Forty-eight of the 100 hospitals across the nation with the highest proportion of COVID-19 patients are in California, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data analyzed by USA Today for the last week of December. “What I see is devastation,” said Annette Greenwood, chief nursing officer at Riverside Community Hospital in Southern California.
►Cleveland Browns football coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19 along with two additional staffers and two players. The team said Stefanski and the others won’t be in attendance for a playoff game Sunday in Pittsburgh.
►Not every country is struggling with its vaccine rollout – Israel has already provided first doses to over 14% of its 9 million people, according to Our World in Data. The Times of Israel credits various factors, including a “relatively small but densely-packed population and highly-professional, community-integrated health services.” Less than 2% of Americans have been vaccinated.
►”Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, who died in November of pancreatic cancer, taped a message for what turned out to be his final week of shows urging support for victims of the coronavirus epidemic. “We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we’re going to get there,” he said in a message that aired Monday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 21 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 356,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 86.2 million cases and 1.86 million deaths.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blames hospital officials in one county
During a tense exchange with a CNN reporter on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed the largest hospital operator in Southwest Florida for causing seniors in one county to wait in long lines and even camp overnight for access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
DeSantis on Monday was responding to a question from CNN’s Rosa Flores in Miami. DeSantis repeatedly tried to cut off Flores before she could finish her question.
“We distributed vaccines to hospitals, and the hospital said, ‘First come, first serve. If you show up, we’ll do it.’ So, they didn’t use a registration system. There wasn’t anything that was done. And there’s a lot of demand for it.”
Lee Health, a publicly operated health care organization, did not respond directly to DeSantis’ charges when asked about them Tuesday. But Lee Health spokesman Jonathon Little said the organization is doing its best to distribute its limited amount of vaccine.
– Kaitlin Greenockle and Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press
The College Football Playoff championship game could be postponed with Ohio State dealing with COVID-19 issues ahead of its matchup with Alabama.
The Buckeyes, who were missing key contributors in their Sugar Bowl defeat of Clemson in their national semifinal, could be without a position group if the game is played as scheduled on Jan. 11, according to multiple reports. The playoff committee announced last week a Jan. 18 makeup date if the game in Miami Gardens, Florida, is unable to be played on time.
Ohio State has been dealing with coronavirus issues since November when its game against Illinois was canceled after multiple positives within the program, including coach Ryan Day.
– Erick Smith
A hospital in Northern California quickly vaccinated 850 people after a freezer that was holding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines failed, prompting officials to do an emergency distribution of the vaccines before they spoiled.
An outage Monday left the refrigerator at the Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Mendocino County without power. By the time hospital officials realized the freezer had malfunctioned, they had 2.5 hours to distribute the vaccines, which have a shelf life of 12 hours at room temperature, Cici Winiger, Adventist Health spokeswoman, told the Ukiah Daily Journal.
The hospital sent 200 doses to Mendocino County Public Health that were dispensed to county workers, including sheriff’s deputies and jail staff. Jail inmates also received the vaccine, Winiger said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Monday tracking the progress made by states to administer COVID-19 vaccine. So far, about 15.4 million doses have shipped throughout the country. That’s just shy of the 20 million doses U.S. officials had promised to distribute by the end of 2020.
However, health experts are more concerned with the lag in COVID-19 vaccinations. Only about 4.5 million people have received their first dose as of Tuesday, the CDC reports. That means just 30% of available doses have been used.
While some states have been more successful overcoming the obstacles to vaccinate their residents with available doses, other states – such as Kansas, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana and Virginia – seem to be falling behind.
– Aleszu Bajak and Adrianna Rodriguez
Federal law enforcement agencies’ response to the coronavirus pandemic has been inconsistent, with employees saying policies on masks and social distancing were not enforced, according to a survey conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The anonymous survey, which received responses from more than 6,000 law enforcement employees, found that 64% said COVID-19 affected their ability to do their jobs. While some employees said they were satisfied with their agency’s response to the pandemic, one employee said management has “downplayed” the threat.
“Although our leadership team instructed people to wear masks, it was not enforced, and at times, employees were shamed by coworkers for wearing masks,” an employee said.
– Kristine Phillips
Half of the almost 2,300 Chicago public school teachers ordered to return to work Monday to prepare for in-person instruction did not return, school board officials said Tuesday.
Chicago Public Schools required pre-K and some special education teachers to return to classes Monday in advance of in-person education resuming Jan. 11. But only 49.7% of teachers and 70% of paraprofessionals returned, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said Tuesday. The absentees will face “progressive discipline,” Jackson said.
“We cannot sit back and allow a generation to just falter,” Jackson said. “A year from now, there’s going to be a reckoning around those students who have been sitting at home, not being properly served.”
More than 10,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union are opposed to the city’s reopening plan and are calling on officials to delay the return “until the pandemic is under control,” according to the union.
It’s possible to test positive for the coronavirus even after getting vaccinated.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses per patient to be fully effective. The first Pfizer-BioNTech dose is more than 50% effective in preventing COVID-19, and the second dose increases that protection to about 95%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it can take weeks for a person’s body to build up immunity after getting vaccinated.
“That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick,” the agency said. “This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.” Read more.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
As COVID-19 continues to overwhelm California hospitals, Los Angeles County officials are trying to ration medical supplies and hospital space. The Los Angeles Emergency Medical Services Agency issued two memos Monday instructing emergency responders to limit the use of supplemental oxygen and not transport patients who cannot be revived in the field.
Cases are skyrocketing in Los Angeles County, which has now reached more than 800,000 cases, County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said Monday. Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and opening gyms to serve as health care units, Solis said. Oxygen is in high demand, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews arrived in the county Saturday to update oxygen delivery systems in the area.
“We are pushing the limits of the hospital infrastructure,” Solis said. “… Care now has to be rationed.”
Contributing: The Associated Press