COVID Live Updates: US passes grim 300,000 deaths milestone as vaccine campaign gets underway

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak.

The number of dead rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is equivalent to repeating a tragedy on the scale of Hurricane Katrina every day for 5 1/2 months. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.

"The numbers are staggering -- the most impactful respiratory pandemic that we have experienced in over 102 years, since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease expert, said days before the milestone.

The U.S. crossed the threshold on the same day health care workers rolled up their sleeves for Pfizer's COVID-19 shot, marking the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in American history. If a second vaccine is authorized soon, as expected, 20 million people could be immunized by month's end.

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Here are more of today's headlines:

New Jersey restaurant takes advantage of limited capacity for toy drive
One restaurant in New Jersey is reserving tables to help children and families in a special way for the holiday season. At Positano Restaurant in Wayne, some of the best seats in the house are actually reserved for gifts.

Cuomo, de Blasio warn of coronavirus shutdown in NY if COVID rates rise
Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that if the state's coronavirus positivity doesn't change, a shutdown could be necessary. All non-essential businesses would be forced to shut down as they did back in the spring, and the governor mentioned the criticism he's getting for shutting down indoor dining in New York City and said businesses should actually be happy.

"You should be happy, because if we don't change the trajectory, we're going to go to shut down, and then your business is going to close," Cuomo said. "That, my friends, is a real problem. Worry about that, because that is a real worry. Deaths are a worry, and the shutdown of the economy are the real worries, and they are viable worries."

NYC critical care nurse given first COVID vaccine in the US
The director of critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJ) in Queens has become the first person in the United States to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in a non-trial setting. Sandra Lindsay, RN, received the vaccine just after 9 a.m. Monday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo looked on from Albany via livestream.

"The person who is going to take the first vaccine in the state of New York, maybe the first vaccine shot in the United States, Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse, it's a pleasure to be with you," Cuomo said. "And you are in Long Island Jewish Medical Center, which is in Queens. Good things come from Queens."

Indoor dining ends in NYC as winter storm approaches
Indoor dining ended in New York City for at least two weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions. The demands on restaurants with a winter storm coming this week have some calling this an endless nightmare, and saying it's impossible to survive. Indoor dining ended in the city as of 10 p.m. Sunday. Now restaurants are only allowed outdoor seating and takeout, but with storms headed our way it's not likely anyone will be dining outside. The city has come up with some terminology restaurants must pay close attention to.

NJ anticipates state's 1st COVID vaccinations
Governor Phil Murphy is calling Tuesday a "momentous day" as the first COVID-19 vaccinations are set to be administered in Newark. Murphy said Monday health care workers will be administered the state's first vaccines. Murphy said the state has received the "first roughly 76,000 vaccines doses," and he added as more vaccine shipments arrive, the state's vaccination program will become much more robust over the coming weeks.

"Tomorrow is a big day," he said. "It is a day for honoring the brave health care workers who have been putting in long, fraught hours to protect lives and secure public health. For them, for us all, let's keep fighting."

ABC News/Ipsos poll shows support for getting COVID vaccine, but divide on timing
A new ABC News/IPSOS poll shows many Americans are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but there is a divide over when to be inoculated. More than 8 in 10 Americans would choose to be inoculated, according to the poll released Monday morning. But it's more complicated when you look at when people want to be vaccinated. Forty percent of those polled said they would get is as soon as possible, while another 44% want to wait a bit before getting vaccinated.

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