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Coronavirus update: Promising vaccine data confirmed, distribution centers set up nationwide

There was finally a break from new record daily cases

Photo (c) Peter Zelei Images - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 13,399,855 (13,247,386)

Total U.S. deaths: 266,986 (266,074)

Total global cases: 62,924,259 (62,362,397)

Total global deaths: 1,462,989 (1,454,745)

Moderna seeks a green light from the FDA

Moderna is requesting emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after new data confirmed that it is more than 94 percent effective in preventing infections. The trial also provided evidence that the vaccine is safe.

Moderna is the second drugmaker to seek EUA from the FDA. Pfizer, which also reported a successful trial for its vaccine, applied for the same approval earlier this month.

Moderna’s announcement means the vaccine could be available to some Americans -- frontline workers, first responders, and nursing home staff and residents -- before the end of December.

You may not have to travel far to get vaccinated

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that it is working with major retail pharmacy chains -- including Walmart, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens -- to become vaccination distribution centers. 

These firms have begun training staff and securing large refrigeration units to facilitate distribution to the public. Pharmacies increasingly have become basic health service providers, administering the annual flu vaccine. Some, like CVS Health, have established small clinics within their stores.

“We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

Cases trend lower

New cases of the coronavirus are suddenly trending lower. After a record 205,000 new cases reported on Friday, the number dropped to 138,000 on Sunday. But health officials say this is no time to relax.

“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “I don’t want to frighten people, except to say it is not too late to do something about this.”

Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), previously expressed concerns about the large number of Americans who gathered for Thanksgiving. He urged Americans to use extreme cautious heading into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Health systems urge Americans to mask up

A growing number of health systems in the U.S. have a very simple holiday message for Americans: “Wear a mask, for Pete’s sake!”

With a vaccine in sight but with hospitals strained from the surge in new COVID-19 cases, the #MaskUp Twitter campaign is asking Americans to wear a mask and limit contact with people outside their household. If you don’t do it for yourself, the campaign asks you to consider overworked health care professionals.

“You’ve called us heroes,” the Cleveland Clinic said in a press release. “But heroes don’t deserve this.”

Word of the year has selected “pandemic” as the 2020 Word of the Year. The site says the word sums up an unprecedented year in which the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted every sector of society.

"The pandemic has changed everything, including our language," said John Kelly, senior research editor at "From the technical lingo of asymptomatic to coinages like ‘doomscrolling,’ the pandemic suddenly generated a new shared vocabulary for a new lived experience

He said the event drove not only record searches for new or unfamiliar terms but a record in the number of related additions made to 

Around the nation

  • Missouri: There’s mixed virus news in the Show Me state. The death rate in the state is actually falling because more of the people becoming infected are recovering. But state health officials say hospitalizations are still worrisome, with ICU occupancy at 21 percent.

  • Louisiana: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a pastor who faces criminal charges for his defiance of state coronavirus orders. "I am thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has declined to impose a statewide mask mandate, but a growing number of Texas localities are seeing the need for one. Amarillo is one of the latest Texas cities to require citizens to wear a mask in public. “I am responding to what healthcare workers are asking and telling us that we need,” said Mayor Ginger Nelson.

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