COVID Live Updates: US adds record death count for 2nd consecutive day

New York News
NEW YORK (WABC) — The United States reported another single-day record high in COVID deaths for the second consecutive day.

3,744 deaths were reported Wednesday, surpassing the previous 3,725 deaths reported Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As the year 2020 soon comes to an end, Wednesday’s total puts the December death toll well above 70,000 – by far the deadliest month of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, an investigation is now underway after COVID-19 vaccines were intentionally removed from refrigeration in Wisconsin.

The FBI and FDA are looking into the person who left 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine out of a hospital fridge.

After an internal investigation, it was first believed to be human error, but the worker in question has admitted they intentionally removed the vaccine.

More than 500 doses had to be thrown out. The worker has since been fired.

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Here are more of today’s headlines:

NY suspends visitation at state prisons amid outbreaks
New York suspended visits to state prisons starting Wednesday because of a rise in coronavirus cases among inmates and staff and in surrounding communities.

The state Department of Corrections, which first suspended most in-person visits in mid-March, reopened prisons to visitors in August. New York then restricted visits at prisons in designated hot spots starting in October, but most prisons have remained open for visits.

Prior to Sept. 24, the prison system had seen 774 total confirmed cases. Since then, New York prisons have recorded three times as many new virus cases: more than 2,170, including more than 1,000 in December alone. State prisons have reported the death of three inmates with COVID-19 since mid-December, according to data reported by the state Department of Corrections.

New COVID variant confirmed in California
The new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first observed in the United Kingdom has now made its way to Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. The variant is described as far more contagious than earlier variants of the coronavirus, but not necessarily more deadly or likely to make an infected person more sick. It has also been confirmed in Colorado. Newsom said he learned the new variant was in California Wednesday morning. He did not specify what part of Southern California or how many patients have been infected.

Nassau and Suffolk counties report high positivity rates
Nassau County is reporting 1,273 residents testing positive for COVID-19 of 12,161 tested, putting the county’s daily positivity rate at 10.5% — the highest since reopening. Nassau’s hospital systems are reporting 664 COVID-19 related hospitalizations with 66 in ICU and 40 ventilated patients. Residents were urged to celebrate the New Year responsibly.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County officials said the numbers are shocking.

“Not only is this the highest number of new cases reported since the onset of the pandemic, but the double-digit positivity rate puts us right back to where we were in early May. On December 1st, we had a positivity rate of approximately 4 percent, today we are at 12.8 percent. In less than a month, the rate has tripled,” County Executive Steve Bellone said. “We are the only ones who can change these numbers. We have seen this virus spread during the holiday season through small gatherings in homes where people are more likely to let their guard down. As we approach New Year’s Eve, I urge Suffolk County residents to limit gatherings and to do what we know works, wear face coverings and socially distance.”

CA hits a daily death record
California reported 432 COVID related deaths in 24 hours, the equivalent of one person dying every three minutes in the state. There are currently 20,612 people hospitalized in the state, which has a 12.2% positivity rate over past 14 days.

Limited number of fans to attend Bills’ playoff game
A few thousand fans will be in attendance for the Buffalo Bills’ playoff game, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. An agreement between the Health Department, the team and the NFL will allow around 6,700 socially distanced, mask wearing fans to watch the game from the stands. Every fan will be tested before the game Cuomo said it’s the first step in New York’s pilot testing plan to help guide business reopenings.

Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ dies of COVID-19 at 82

Dawn Wells, best known for her role as on the classic sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday from complications related to COVID-19. She was 82.

‘Autonomous zone’ Staten Island bar has summonses dismissed, attorneys say
A New York City pub that ignored social distancing orders and declared itself an autonomous zone now plans to operate once again after what it calls a “landmark case for small business owners in New York State.” Attorneys for Mac’s Public House in Staten Island say the city dismissed more than 25 criminal summonses for the establishment, which stayed open for indoor dining and past curfew despite being in an orange zone amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Expect a very different New Year’s Eve in Times Square
If ever a year’s end seemed like cause for celebration, 2020 might be it. But the coronavirus scourge that dominated the year is also looming over New Year’s festivities and forcing officials worldwide to tone them down. Big public blowouts like the annual party in Times Square are being turned into TV- and digital-only events. The iconic New Year’s ball is atop the roof of 1 Times Square on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd streets, with 192 new Waterford crystal triangles set to drop at the stroke of midnight. But unlike year’s past, there will be no large crowd of revelers gathered.

Indoor sports to resume in NJ Saturday
Indoor sports in New Jersey will resume Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday. The state reported 4,664 new positive test results. The percent positive on December 26 was 15.19%. The number of hospitalizations dropped slightly to 3,727. Murphy announced 99 additional deaths.

Church bells in NY to honor US COVID deaths
Church bells across New York City tolled at noon Wednesday to honor the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the coronavirus pandemic. All churches throughout the Archdiocese of New York, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, rang their bells Wednesdayto honor the 322,000 people who have died from coronavirus in the U.S.

NY preparing for worst-case scenario as new COVID variant detected in US
Could the Javits Center once again turn into an emergency COVID-19 hospital? New York is getting ready just in case as a new COVID variant has been detected in the US.

Colorado National Guard member has 1st reported US case of virus variant
A Colorado National Guard member has the first reported U.S. case of a new and seemingly more contagious variant of the coronavirus that has set off alarm in Britain, while a second case is suspected in another Guard member, health officials said Wednesday. The two were sent on Dec. 23 to work at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak of the virus in a small town outside Denver, said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s epidemiologist. A state laboratory detected the cases after it began looking for signs of the variant after its spread was announced in England earlier this month, she said. Staff and residents at the nursing home who have tested positive for the coronavirus are having their samples screened for signs of the variant, and so far no evidence of it has been found, Herlihy said.

Doctors explain vaccine effectiveness after nurse gets COVID-19 after taking 1st dose
In Southern California, a nurse began showing symptoms of COVID-19 six days after getting the vaccine, then tested positive two days later. Experts say that’s because it takes time for the antibodies to develop in your body.
“I have no problem putting needles in people as a doctor, I do not particularly enjoy having needles put in me,” said Dr. Amy Herold, chief medical officer at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California.

Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus mutation?
Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant? Experts believe so, but they’re working to confirm that. A coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom has caused alarm because of the possibility that it might spread more easily. But even if that turns out to be true, experts say the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out will likely still work on the variant. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said data coming from Britain indicates the vaccines still will block the virus. But the U.S. also will do tests to be sure.

‘Dancing Nurse’ gets COVID-19 after helping in New York, Texas
A woman who became known as the ‘Dancing Nurse’ for moves that lifted patients’ spirits and fellow staff in San Diego is sharing her story of battling COVID-19. Nurse Ana Wilkinson worked on the frontlines in New York and most recently, Texas. She has been treating coronavirus patients since the pandemic began. She was still going strong in early December, returning home from Texas. She was eager to be one of the first to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

UK approves use of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca

Britain on Wednesday became the first country to authorize an easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine whose developers hope it will become the “vaccine for the world.” The approval and a shift in policy that will speed up rollout of the vaccine in the U.K. comes as a surge in infections threatens to swamp British hospitals. The Department of Health said it had accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to authorize emergency use of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca.
“The rollout will start on Jan. 4 and will really accelerate into the first few weeks of next year,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told told Sky News. Britain has bought 100 million doses of the vaccine.

$600 stimulus checks – direct deposits and paper – being sent out: Mnuchin
President Donald Trump’s push for bigger $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks stalled out in the Senate as Republicans blocked a swift vote proposed by Democrats and split within their own ranks over whether to boost spending or defy the White House. The roadblock mounted Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not be sustainable as pressure mounts. Trump wants the Republican-led chamber to follow the House and increase the checks from $600 for millions of Americans. A growing number of Republicans, including two senators in runoff elections on Jan. 5 in Georgia, have said they will support the larger amount. But most GOP senators oppose more spending, even if they are also wary of bucking Trump. Senators will be back at it Wednesday as McConnell is devising a way out of the political bind, but the outcome is highly uncertain.

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