USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the U.S. marked the stark milestone of more than 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 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:
► Vice President Mike Pence will “publicly” receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday morning at the White House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday night said he will take the COVID-19 vaccine “in the coming days,” encouraging Americans to get vaccinated when it becomes available to the public.
► Benny Napoleon, the sheriff of Michigan’s largest county and a former Detroit police chief, died Thursday after spending weeks in the hospital with COVID-19, his family said. He was 65.
► The two health care workers in Alaska who experienced adverse reactions just 10 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine were released from Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau on Thursday, according to the Anchorage Daily News. One worker experienced anaphylaxis and was hospitalized for two nights, while the second had a mild reaction and was released after about an hour.
► Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a news briefing Thursday announced he and his wife are quarantining after their 9-year-old daughter, Maya, tested positive for COVID-19. Garcetti and his wife tested negative, he said.
► As Oregon nears 100,000 coronavirus cases, Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended her declaration of a state of emergency until March 3, 2021. The previous order was set to expire in early January. The state reported 1,339 new cases Thursday, bringing the total 98,936, according to state data.
► Coach Kelvin Sampson on Thursday revealed that all 15 players on the University of Houston basketball team have tested positive for the coronavirus at some point this year, ABC13 Houston reported. Only six players have been cleared for practice this week, the station reported.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 17.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 310,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 74.9 million cases and 1.66 million deaths.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
Moderna vaccine set to become the second cleared by FDA
An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given a thumbs up to the nation’s second COVID-19 vaccine. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn could officially authorize the vaccine as early as Friday, and delivery could begin nationwide by Monday.
The independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 20-0 with one abstention to support mRNA-1273, a vaccine made in collaboration with the U.S. government by Moderna, a decade-old Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company.
“There’s no doubt in my mind – it looks like the benefits outweigh the risks from what I’ve seen,” said Dr. Steven Pergam, a committee member and infectious disease and vaccine expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, expressing the group’s consensus.
Unlike the vaccine the FDA authorized last week, made by Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech, the Moderna one will be approved for use only in adults. Moderna recently expanded its research trial to teenagers, but they have not been enrolled long enough to draw conclusions.
– Karen Weintraub
Restaurants face bleak winter during COVID-19
Restaurants around the country have struggled for months to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, facing layoffs and pay cuts and investing in personal protective equipment and outdoor dining infrastructure.
Now there’s another problem: The start of winter weather portends what could be an even darker few months for the dining industry as restaurants struggle to balance safety measures for their patrons and staff with meeting their bottom lines.
“We need to brace ourselves for an even worse period for the restaurant industry,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
Restaurant sales were about $65 billion in the months before the pandemic but plummeted to $30 billion in April, according to Census Bureau data. They peaked in September at $55.7 billion but declined in October and November.
– Ryan W. Miller, Grace Hauck and Kelly Tyko
Supreme Court denies religious challenge to Kentucky COVID limits
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Kentucky can force parochial as well as public schools to close temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic, but only because those restrictions are set to expire early next year.
Gov. Andrew Beshear ordered all public and private K-12 schools closed for in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23, limiting them to remote or virtual learning. The order allowed elementary schools that are not in hard-hit areas to reopen Dec. 7 but kept middle and high schools closed until Jan. 4.
Because the schools begin a holiday recess Friday, the justices did not insist that religious schools be allowed to open now. Instead, they denied a challenge from the state’s Republican attorney general and a religious school that argued the closings violated the Constitution’s promise of freedom of religion.
“We deny the application without prejudice to the applicants or other parties seeking a new preliminary injunction if the governor issues a school-closing order that applies in the new year,” the court said in an unsigned order.
– Richard Wolf
Contributing: The Associated Press