NEW YORK (WABC) -- December is now the worst month on record in terms of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., as over 4.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus in the last 22 days -- roughly equivalent to 143 Americans testing positive every minute.
And as Americans head home for the holidays, health experts are warning of the possible "catastrophic impacts" of a potential coronavirus surge that could hit the United States if families do not keep their festive gatherings and traveling to a minimum.
Holidays have proven to be a catalyst of COVID-19 infections across the country. Earlier this year, after each summer holiday, the U.S. reported a significant uptick in infections across the country, and experts say Thanksgiving has played a major role in the country's largest viral surge to date.
Still, the CDC reported Wednesday that the U.S. has passed an early but important milestone in bringing the pandemic to an end. More than 1 million people received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the past 10 days.
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Here are more of today's headlines:
COVID-19 reaches Antarctica, last untouched continent
The pandemic has finally reached every continent on Earth. Chilean authorities announced that at least 58 people that were at two military bases in Antarctica or on a navy ship that went to the continent tested positive for the new coronavirus. So far no other country with a presence in Antarctica has publicly reported any other cases.
1M receive 1st dose of COVID vaccine
The U.S. has passed an early but important milestone in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. The CDC reports more than 1 million people received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the past 10 days. With COVID cases surging nationwide, this comes at a critical time.
New study says pregnant women unlikely to transmit COVID to newborns
A new study found it's unlikely pregnant women can pass coronavirus to their newborns. Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied 127 pregnant women admitted to hospitals this year, 64 of whom tested positive for COVID -- but none of their babies did. The study found the virus is in respiratory fluids, but not the bloodstream or placenta. Doctors say more research is still needed.
NJ hits more than 100 daily deaths -- again
For the first time since the end of May, New Jersey reported more than 100 coronavirus deaths on back-to-back days, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday. Also concerning, COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by more than 100 each of the last two days. The state reported 4,919 new cases. The positivity rate on Saturday was 12.97%.
Frontline healthcare worker vaccination ramps up in New Jersey
The vaccination of frontline healthcare workers against COVID-19 is ramping up in New Jersey Wednesday. Governor Phil Murphy watched the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine being given to employees at a drive-thru site in front of Ocean Health Initiatives Center in Toms River. The center hopes to vaccinate 200 people after a trial run of more than 60 on Tuesday. After getting their vaccinations, the health care workers waited in a 15-minute observation area to make sure they did not suffer any adverse reactions.
NYC EMT dies from COVID-19, 27-year veteran is FDNY's 12th virus fatality
The same day New York City EMTs began getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the FDNY announced the death of a 27-year veteran EMT from the coronavirus. Evelyn Ford died Tuesday night at the age of 58. She served as citywide dispatcher, coordinating emergency medical response to large scale emergencies, including major fires and mass casualty incidents.
"One of the good people at EMS, one of the people who serves us, passed away," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Her name was Evelyn Ford. EMT, 27-year member of EMS. She went in 1994. She was working for emergency medical dispatch unit. Very, very sad, just now, as we get to turn the corner, the vaccine has finally arrived, we lose a good woman who has served us so well for so long."
FDNY EMTs, paramedics start receiving COVID-19 vaccine in New York City
FDNY EMTs and paramedics are the first of New York City first responders to get the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, with firefighters and members of the FDNY set to being receiving the shot next week. The department says 450 of those who have been showing up at homes and caring for patients since the start of the pandemic are receiving the Moderna vaccine. Next in line, starting December 29, are firefighters and NYPD officers.
New COVID quarantine compliance required for international and UK travelers visiting NYC
New York City announced some new regulations for travelers coming in from the United Kingdom, in response to news of a new variant of the coronavirus. Starting Wednesday, passengers traveling from the UK will receive a DOH Commissioner's Order to quarantine via certified mail. UK travelers will be personally served DOH Commissioner's Order to quarantine by the Sheriff's Office. The Travel Unit will door knock to ensure compliance of these orders.
"This is going to be the busiest travel time of the year when you think about all these days, up through New Year's intensive travel time," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We need people not to travel but if they do, we're going to be very, very stringent about the rules."
NYC health care worker suffers 'significant allergic reaction' to COVID vaccine
A health care worker in New York City suffered a "significant allergic reaction" to the coronavirus vaccine. The health care worker with the Mount Sinai system has been treated and is in stable condition. The reaction has been reported to the CDC, which will likely publish a case report. This is the only report of a side effect so far in New York City. More than 30,000 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered in New York City as of Wednesday morning.
Pfizer-BioNTech to supply 100 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to the US
The U.S. government has struck a deal to acquire tens of millions of additional doses of Pfizer's vaccine in exchange for helping the pharmaceutical giant gain better access to manufacturing supplies, according to a statement from the drug maker. The additional doses bring the total U.S. order to 200 million, Pfizer officials said Wednesday. The United States will pay the drug maker $1.95 billion for the additional doses. All 200 million doses are expected to be delivered by July, 2021.
"Securing more doses from Pfizer and BioNTech for delivery in the second quarter of 2021 further expands our supply of doses across the Operation Warp Speed portfolio," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. "This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021."
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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