NEW YORK (WABC) -- Although thousands more Americans are set to be inoculated with the Moderna vaccine this week, the coronavirus continues to surge across much of the country.
The U.S. is currently averaging over 211,000 new COVID-19 cases every day, and just in the first 20 days of December, the country has already logged more 4 million confirmed cases. Additionally, there have been nearly 50,000 reported death recorded so far this month.
Last week, the U.S. reported more than 1.5 million COVID-19 cases, roughly equivalent to 150 Americans testing positive for the virus every minute.
Friday also marked the country's highest single-day new case total, with nearly a quarter of a million cases, 249,709 new cases, and earlier last week, the U.S. recorded its deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 3,656 reported deaths.
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Here are more of today's headlines:
New NYC vaccination campaign unveiled
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the details of a new citywide campaign called "NYC Vaccine for All." Already the largest vaccination effort in New York City's history, the goal of the campaign is to educate people and provide reassurance that the two federally authorized coronavirus vaccines are "safe, effective and free."
Concern mounting after EMT who helped man with COVID-like symptoms on United flight falls ill
An EMT who performed CPR on a passenger with COVID-like symptoms who died on a Los Angeles-bound flight is now concerned that he may have contracted the potentially deadly virus.
Tony Aldapa was on the diverted United flight on Dec. 14 when the plane headed to Los Angeles International Airport was diverted during a medical emergency. A man suffered what was initially deemed a heart attack. Several passengers with medical experience stepped in to help resuscitate the man, including Aldapa who reportedly performed CPR for almost an hour.
Santa Claus granted NY COVID quarantine travel waiver for Christmas
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking steps to ensure Santa Claus is able to travel around the state this Christmas Eve.
Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Health has granted Santa a waiver to travel to New York for Christmas.
Moderna vaccine arrives in Connecticut
The second approved vaccine to combat COVID-19 began arriving in Connecticut on Monday as a state advisory panel met to discuss who gets vaccinated next. Workers at Hartford Hospital began unloading 8,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine shortly after 10:30 a.m. to the applause of health care workers.
Critical care nurse Mandy Delgado was the first at the hospital to get a Moderna shot, saying she was hopeful vaccinations will eventually lead to fewer patients being admitted with the virus.
"Working in critical care, I've been exhausted, overwhelmed, seeing patients come in needing more oxygen and able to talk and progressively getting worse, then actually dying, and families not being there," she said.
Gov. Ned Lamont said the state expects to receive 63,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week as well as 24,375 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That is in addition to the 31,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine the state received last week, Lamont said.
Letters to Santa reveal toll pandemic is taking on kids
Writing letters to Santa is a tradition for children every year, but this year, those annual requests are taking on new meaning. Many of this season's letters reflect the reality of a year that was incredibly difficult for so many.
NYC unveils mental health resources for students
The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on so many, including children, and New York City schools plan to address it with mental health screenings for students. Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced their mental health plan to support students this fall as part of the 2021 Student Achievement Plan.
Dr. Fauci to get vaccine Tuesday
Dr. Anthony Fauci will get the Moderna vaccine alongside several frontline workers to help build confidence in the faccine.
Murphy extends public health emergency in NJ, announces date change for special elections
Gov. Phil Murphy is extending the public health emergency in New Jersey for an additional 30 days.
"Unless extended, these emergencies expire after 30 days," he said. "Given where we are currently, we must remain in a proper footing to continue responding to this pandemic."
Murphy also signed an executive order moving the upcoming February fire district elections, March special school elections and all other special elections to April 20, 2021.
Cuomo asking airlines to add NY to list of countries requiring coronavirus tests
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are questioning why six flights are arriving at JFK Airport daily from the United Kingdom, despite a new variant of the coronavirus spreading there.
"This is very concerning, this new strain they have found in the U.K.," Cuomo said Monday during his briefing. "The strain, according to Boris Johnson, is 70% more transmittable. They don't know if there is any higher rate of death. They don't know if the vaccine is as affective with the new strain. 'A working assumption' is that the vaccine works."
Cuomo said 120 countries now require a negative test before arriving from the U.K., and some European countries have begun closing their borders. The U.S. has not, however, and Cuomo called that "reprehensible."
Nursing home COVID vaccine rollout begins in New York
Hundreds of nursing homes across New York began administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and staff Monday, and the first doses of the newly authorized Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in New York City. Health officials say New York City is vaccinating at twice the pace of the rest of the country, with 42% of vaccine doses having been administered in New York City, over double the national average of 19%.
"Hope is on the horizon in New York City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We are moving full steam ahead to get out healthcare workers and nursing homes the vaccines they need to win the battle against the virus once and for all."
Dr. Fauci tells kids he vaccinated Santa Claus on 'Sesame Street' coronavirus town hall
We all know Santa Claus has a high-risk, but very essential job. That's why it's reassuring to know that he got vaccinated against COVID-19 by the country's top infectious disease expert himself. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Elmo and his "Sesame Street" friends in a special Town Hall episode that he traveled to the North Pole and vaccinated Santa Claus himself so that he can safely deliver presents this Christmas.
"I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go," Dr. Fauci said. "He can come down the chimney, he can leave the presents, he can leave and you have nothing to worry about."
Congress set to act on $900 billion pandemic relief package
After months of Washington gridlock, Congress is set to act on a $900 billion pandemic relief package, finally delivering long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. The relief package, agreed to on Sunday and expected to draw votes in Congress on Monday, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that if the stimulus bill becomes law, direct deposits to Americans could start by the beginning of next week.
Joe Biden to receive COVID-19 vaccine Monday
President-elect Joe Biden will receive his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television as part of a growing effort to convince the American public the inoculations are safe. Monday's event will come the same day that a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, will start arriving in states, joining Pfizer's in the nation's arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 317,000 people in the United States and upended life around the globe.
"I don't want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take," Biden has said of his decision. Biden and his wife, Jill, will also thank health care workers at the facility where they receive the shots, his incoming press secretary has said.
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