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 330,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. 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:
►Officials in Canada have confirmed the first two known Canadian cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom. The new strain appears to be more infectious but doesn’t seem to make people any more sick. It has also been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, France, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
►On the same day that the world surpassed 80 million cases, the United States death toll surpassed 330,000. That means that about 1 in 1,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
►Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet are set to lapse at midnight Saturday night — unless President Donald Trump signs an end-of-year COVID relief and spending bill. That legislation had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections.
►Pope Francis on Saturday was eschewing a customary post-Christmas public appearance from a Vatican palazzo overlooking St. Peter’s Square to do his part in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he is offering a blessing and remarks on television from the library of the Apostolic Palace.
►Countries throughout the European Union have received their first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. Authorities plan to administer the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a coordinated Sunday effort. But officials in Hungary disregarded the campaign and started administering vaccines on Saturday.
►California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a video posted on Facebook and Twitter that the number of Californians hospitalized because of the coronavirus could double in 30 days if current trends continue.
►South Korea, previously a success story in handling the coronavirus pandemic, is grappling with a severe uptick in cases during Christmas week: 1,241 on Christmas Day alone. That’s the largest daily increase the nation has ever seen.
►The Duke women’s basketball team is ending its 2020-21 season after just four games because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Friday evening.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 18.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 331,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 80 million cases and 1.7 million deaths.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
President-elect Biden to Trump: COVID relief bill ‘needs to be signed into law now’
Days after President Donald Trump suggested that he would not likely sign a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package unless it increased individual direct payments to $2,000, President-elect Joe Biden issued a searing statement condemning his soon-to-be predecessor for his “abdication of responsibility.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
Listing the ramifications of not signing the bill, including the end of an eviction moratorium, a lack of small business and individual relief and funding for vaccine distribution, Biden said the bill is “critical” and “needs to be signed into law now.”
He did acknowledge that this package is only “a first step and down payment” for future aid.
Hit hard by COVID, some indigenous people are hesitant to get a vaccine
For many, the promise of a vaccine offers hope and relief. But Josie Passes, a member of the Crow Tribe in Montana, is wary of its long-term consequences.
Though tribal communities have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19 nationwide, Passes is not alone in her reluctance. As tribes begin to receive and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, many tribal members hesitate to get immunized.
Some people fear Indigenous populations will be used as “guinea pigs,” while others are reluctant to trust the Indian Health Service. Some feel invincible, as tribes have survived devastating diseases such as smallpox and violent massacres. Many would prefer to wait and observe the effects of the vaccine as more people receive it.
Experts say this skepticism is warranted. Tribes have experienced disinvestment, incompetence and brutality at the hands of the federal government. The consequences of this neglect transcend generations and manifest today as systemic inequalities, many of which were further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
– Nora Mabie, Great Falls Tribune
Black doctor dies of COVID-19 after reporting racist treatment at hospital
A Black doctor who died of COVID-19 after weeks of battling the virus said she was mistreated and delayed proper care at an Indiana hospital because of her race. Dr. Susan Moore, 52, died Dec. 20 following multiple hospitalizations for complications from COVID-19, first at IU Health North and later at Ascencion-St. Vincent in Carmel, Indiana.
Her frustrations with the care provided at IU Health were chronicled on Facebook in multiple updates. The first came Dec. 4 when she said delays in her treatment and diagnosis were motivated by the color of her skin.
Citing patient privacy, an IU Health spokesperson declined to speak specifically to the case but shared a written statement on behalf of IU Health North:
“As an organization committed to equity and reducing racial disparities in health care, we take accusations of discrimination very seriously and investigate every allegation,” the statement reads. “Treatment options are often agreed upon and reviewed by medical experts from a variety of specialties, and we stand by the commitment and expertise of our caregivers and the quality of care delivered to our patients every day.”
– Justin L. Mack and Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star
Will small movie theaters survive a slow holiday season?
The COVID-19 crisis has devastated movie theater owners of all sizes, but small independent owners are feeling it more profoundly. Nationwide, a handful already have gone dark permanently and 70% of small- to midsize movie theaters are at risk of shutting down without federal aid, according to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO).
Many are scrambling to survive with private screenings and popcorn specials, among other strategies. Their loss would be a big blow to America’s cultural life. They represent a major source of independently produced, more serious art films. And in an age dominated by sleek multiplexes, their grand old, marquee-adorned theaters often provide the only entertainment in America’s small and rural towns.
Fortunately, salvation appears on the horizon. A little-noticed provision of the $900 billion COVID relief bill passed by Congress this week would provide $15 billion to struggling small movie theaters, live entertainment and performing arts venues and museums. A last-minute lobbying campaign by NATO added movie theaters and $5 billion to theoretically cover their financial needs.
– Paul Davidson
His father developed the polio vaccine. This is what he thinks about COVID-19.
Dr. Peter Salk vaguely remembers the day he was vaccinated against polio in 1953. His father, Dr. Jonas Salk, made history by creating the polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh and inoculated his family as soon as he felt it was safe and effective.
Cases of polio peaked in the early 1950s, but it arrived every summer disabling an average of more than 35,000 people each year for decades, sometimes causing paralysis and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public officials closed swimming pools, movie theaters, amusement parks and other pastimes that naturally came with summer vacation.
Jonas Salk’s vaccine helped wipe polio from most of the world, something that many people hope will happen with the coronavirus vaccine. However, Salk warns eradicating polio from the United States was a long and difficult journey, and he doesn’t expect eliminating COVID-19 will be any easier.
“It’s going to be a long road, just even getting enough vaccines out to people around the world … this virus does not respect borders,” said Salk, a doctor and a part-time professor of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh, where his father developed the polio vaccine. “It travels by airplane everywhere in the world and unless this virus can be contained everywhere, it’s going to continue to spread and be a problem.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Contributing: Mike Stucka; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Biden tells Trump to sign relief package; 80M cases