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Coronavirus update: The UK approves a vaccine, CDC sets vaccination priorities

A cruise line cancels most cruises through March

Photo (c) Images By Tang Ming Tung - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 13,751,282 (13,566,283)

Total U.S. deaths: 271,064 (268,262)

Total global cases: 64,097,151 (63,478,019)

Total global deaths: 1,485,330 (1,472,917)

UK regulators approve Pfizer vaccine

The United Kingdom is the first Western nation to approve a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, selecting the drug produced by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech SE. British officials say they expect to start administering the vaccine within days.

“This will start small and ramp up,” said British Health Secretary Matt Hancock in an interview with the BBC. “The vast majority of vaccinations we expect to be in the New Year.” 

The Pfizer vaccine, and a candidate produced by Moderna, are under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is expected to issue emergency use authorization (EUA) for one or both vaccines later this month.

CDC announces priorities for administering vaccine

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its top priorities for administering any approved COVID-19 vaccines, and it surprised no one. The CDC said frontline health care workers and nursing home residents and staff will be first in line.

After those groups are inoculated, the CDC will prioritize other groups. Leading candidates are first responders and essential workers, such as grocery store employees and truck drivers.

Advisers to the committee say the priorities will be used in the early days, when vaccine supplies are ramping up. It will also promote an orderly rollout of the vaccines.

Norwegian Cruise Lines cancels most cruises through March

With a coronavirus vaccine in sight but cases surging around the world, Norwegian Cruise Lines is taking no chances. It’s extending the suspension of most of its scheduled cruises through March.

The company’s no-sail order had been set to expire at the end of this month. Now, all cruises will be suspended through February, with most of the scheduled cruises canceled until April.

Norwegian said it adopted the new policy as it “continues to work through its return to service plan to meet the requirements of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Records show larger companies got most of the PPP loans

Government data, released under a Freedom of Information Act order, confirms what many small business owners suspected: Large companies received the lion’s share of funds from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The records indicate that about 600 companies, many with franchises spread across the country, received a majority of the loans under the CARES Act. The records also show most of the larger companies received the maximum loan amount allowed by the law.

Despite administration arguments that most of the allocated money to keep businesses afloat was loaned in amounts of $150,000 or less, the newly released records show only 28 percent of the money fit in that category.

How COVID-19 could affect Social Security

There’s been a lot of discussion about how COVID-19 has affected the economy and the job market, but there’s been little talk focused on how the virus could affect the future of Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is now bringing it up.

A CBO projection shows that strains caused by the pandemic will deplete Social Security’s $2.8 trillion reserve over the next decade unless changes are made. With no action, the CBO said there would be cuts of 20 percent or more to benefits starting in 2031.

The report says the pandemic’s massive job losses have reduced the amount of money going to Social Security. It also notes that the pandemic caused many Americans to retire earlier than expected.

Around the nation

  • New York: New York City’s health commissioner says seniors and people with underlying health conditions should limit their activity outside of their home. Those residents are advised to stay in and only leave home to travel to work or school, or for essential purposes including medical care, grocery shopping, or to pick up prescription drugs.

  • Utah: Researchers at the University of Utah Health are planning a study of COVID-19 survivors who continue to suffer the effects of the illness long after they’re recovered. Known as “long-haulers,” these former patients sometimes have lingering symptoms such as memory loss and the loss of their sense of smell.

  • Arizona: A Phoenix-area doctor is reporting the first COVID-19 case that he believes was contracted during a Thanksgiving holiday gathering. "I think we’re going to start to see counts up to 5,000 to 7,000 every day of new cases," said Dr.Andrew Carroll.

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