COVID Live Updates: New Jersey reports 1st day over 100 deaths since June 3

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- New Jersey saw its first day over 100 coronavirus fatalities since June 3, reporting Tuesday 104 new deaths as well as an additional 4,686 positive cases.

The state's positivity rate is still above 10%.

Meanwhile, the United States is seeing its worst month yet of the pandemic with December averaging more than 2,600 deaths a day.

There is also a new daily hospitalization record with more than 115,300 people fighting the disease in hospital beds.

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Here are more of today's headlines:



FDNY COVID vaccine
EMTs and paramedics at the FDNY will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday. Officials say 450 members will get their shots at three FDNY facilities. Next in line, starting Dec. 29, are the firefighters and NYP officers.

Nearly 12,000 NYC students removed from in-person learning
Officials say 11,790 students have reverted to fully remote learning after their parents did not return their permission slips for coronavirus tests.

The city told parents of returning students that they must have a coronavirus testing consent form on file when in person learning resumed. The city Education Department said 91% of the 131,000 blended learning students in grades K through 5 now have permission slips on file.

The other 9%, or 11,790 students, will now be transferred to fully remote learning by their principals.

Biden urges Americans to avoid big holiday dos
President-elect Joe Biden says that the nation has a long way to go in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and is encouraging Americans to avoid large gatherings over the Christmas holidays.

Biden says that "we all have to care enough for each other that we have to stay apart for just a little bit longer. I know it's hard."

Biden spoke Tuesday in a live year-end address from his home state of Delaware. He warned that experts are warning things are going to get worse before they get better and that tens of thousands of Americans are expected to die in the months ahead, even with vaccines.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Deborah Birx says she will retire
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, said Tuesday she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden's team with its coronavirus response as needed. Birx, in an interview with the news site Newsy, did not give a specific timetable on her plans.

"I will be helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire," Birx told the news outlet.

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."

Governor Cuomo says NY hospitals, labs to test for UK variant
New York officials are concerned about the UK variant of the coronavirus and say more testing is key to stopping the spread. Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he's working with several hospitals and labs in the state to begin testing for the variant.

"If it's here, we want to know it, we want to isolate it immediately," he said.

Wadsworth Laboratory has begun aggressive research of the new, highly contagious COVID-19 strain. Already, Wadsworth has looked at more than 3,700 virus sequences identified in New York, but has yet to find the U.K. variant present in any of the samples. Additionally, Wadsworth and the Department of Health have forged agreements with six hospitals from across the State to obtain additional samples and is continuing to make arrangements with other hospitals to do the same. Those hospitals with agreements already in place include: Montefiore, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Northwell Long Island, University of Rochester, Albany Medical Center, and Saratoga Hospital.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins in NJ
Two healthcare workers at Hoboken University Medical Center in New Jersey became the first hospital employees to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning. Dr. John Rimmer, of the Emergency Department, and Dinorah Vargas, who works in the intensive care unit, received their first dose of the vaccine. Dr. Rimmer says he understands the public skepticism about getting the shots, but that the science behind the vaccine is good and it may prevent future spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise offered a tour of Hudson County's first Vaccine Distribution Center, which is expected open later this week.

US deaths in 2020 top 3 million, by far most ever counted
2020 will go down as the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time - due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic. Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019. U.S. deaths increase most years, so some annual rise in fatalities is expected. But the 2020 numbers amount to a jump of about 15%, and could go higher once all the deaths from this month are counted. That would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in World War I and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46% that year, compared with 1917.

COVID-19 outbreak at New Jersey Amazon warehouse prompts temporary closure
A COVID-19 outbreak at the Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey has prompted the facility's closure until after the Christmas holiday. The facility known as "PNE5" closed its doors over the weekend after an increase in asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. The company is not specifying the exact number of employees, however, an estimated 3,500 people work at the site. An Amazon spokesperson said that through the company's COVID-19 testing program they noticed the spike in cases and decided to proactively close the site until December 26. The company also says it doesn't expect any holiday shipping delays as a result of the closure.

Congress passes COVID-19 relief package with $600 stimulus checks for most Americans
Congress passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package Monday night that would finally deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year. The bill goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the coming days.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, HHS Sec. Alex Azar receive COVID-19 vaccine at NIH event
The nation's top infectious disease expert has received the initial dose of the newest COVID-19 vaccine alongside other federal health leaders who helped oversee its development. Dr. Anthony Fauci received his first shot of the two-dose regimen alongside National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Each received the vaccine co-developed by NIH and Massachusetts drugmaker Moderna. Six health care workers from NIH's research hospital also received vaccination shots at the event. The vaccinations Tuesday at the NIH campus outside Washington are part of a broader government effort to bolster public confidence in the safety of two COVID-19 vaccines recently cleared by U.S. regulators.

European Union recommends against nonessential travel to United Kingdom
The European Union recommended Tuesday that all 27 member countries should discourage all nonessential travel to and from the United Kingdom until further notice. With EU countries imposing ad-hoc restrictions on U.K. travel following the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, the European Commission urged them to take a coordinated approach, but not prevent people in the U.K. or Europe from returning to their homes. EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said "member states should take coordinated action to discourage nonessential travel between the U.K. and the EU. At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and U.K. citizens from returning to their homes."

COVID relief bill passed by Congress to end 'surprise' medical bills
People with private health insurance will see the nasty shock of "surprise" medical bills virtually gone, thanks to the coronavirus compromise passed by Congress. The charges that can run from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars come from doctors and hospitals that are outside the network of a patient's health insurance plan. It's estimated that about 1 in 5 emergency visits and 1 in 6 inpatient admissions will trigger a surprise bill. Although lawmakers of both parties long agreed that the practice amounted to abusive billing, a lobbying war between doctors and insurers had thwarted a compromise, allowing the impasse to become a symbol of dysfunction in Washington.

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.

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