USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed more than 340,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.
In the headlines:
►One day after Colorado confirmed the first known U.S. case of a new coronavirus strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said a case of that strain has also been reported in the nation’s most populous state. Meanwhile, Colorado officials said they were investigating a possible second case of the variant, which is believed to be more contagious but not more deadly.
►The United States on Tuesday reported a record 3,725 deaths, Johns Hopkins University data shows. That’s more than double the deaths reported a day earlier. Holidays have closed labs, government offices and testing sites, creating delays.
►China’s state-owned company Sinopharm said Wednesday that it has an efficacious coronavirus vaccine. Data from Phase III clinical trials shows the vaccine made by its Beijing Institute of Biological Products is 79% efficacious, according to a press release.
►Britain on Wednesday authorized emergency use of a second COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, becoming the first country to greenlight an easy-to-handle shot that its developers hope will become the “vaccine for the world.” Meanwhile, the British government has extended its highest tier of restrictions to three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus has reached most of the country.
►California extended its regional stay-at-home order for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, where there is 0% ICU capacity. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said the order is in effect “for the time being” with no set expiration date for the restrictions, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ghaly said ICU projections will determine when the orders will be lifted.
► The Cleveland Browns added three more players to their COVID-19 list Tuesday just days before Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. There are now a total of nine players on the COVID-19 reserve list.
► Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died Tuesday with COVID-19. Letlow, 41, was admitted to a hospital on Dec. 19, a day after announcing he tested positive for the virus. He won the 5th Congressional District seat earlier this month in a runoff election against fellow Republican state Rep. Lance Harris.
►Americans who have direct deposit set up through the Internal Revenue Service could have received their stimulus payment as early as Tuesday night, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Paper checks will begin to be mailed Wednesday, according to a press release from the Treasury Department. The new round of stimulus includes $600 direct payment to qualifying individual Americans, or $1,200 for couples.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 19.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 340,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 82 million cases and about 1.8 million deaths.
📰 What we’re reading: In New York, the nursing home death toll remains elusive, but it is certainly higher than the official total.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
Dawn Wells, the actress best known for her role as Mary Ann in the ’60s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday from COVID-19 complications, her representative told USA TODAY. She was 82.
Wells died Wednesday morning at 7:30 in Los Angeles from “causes related to COVID,” representative Harlan Boll told USA TODAY in an email. He said she “passed peacefully . . . in no pain.”
Portrayed as a perky wholesome Kansas farm girl, Wells told USA TODAY in 2019 the series always provided some life lessons beyond the comedy.
“It was a fun, silly show that made you laugh and didn’t preach to the audience,” she said. “But there was an awful lot in the character of Mary Ann that kids could learn from today: She was fair, she pitched in to help, she had standards, she wasn’t worried about a $500 purse, and she would be your best friend you could trust.”
— Hannah Yasharoff
A long-delayed education campaign aimed at encouraging Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine will launch in January, federal health officials said Tuesday.
The new, science-based campaign will include TV, radio and print ads that officials say will emphasize the power of the vaccine to stop the spread of the virus and help communities.
The public information campaign lags behind the nation’s vaccination effort, which began on Dec. 14 with frontline health care workers. But managing expectations is a crucial part of guiding the program, officials said.
– Elizabeth Weise
Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, he announced Wednesday “in the spirit of full transparency and accountability.” The announcement comes after Harmon received his first vaccination dose against the coronavirus alongside a bipartisan delegation in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday.
Harmon and his wife have mild symptoms, he said in a statement. He was possibly exposed shortly before or after taking the vaccine, Harmon said.
“While the timing of my positive test comes one day after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said in the statement, “I still have full faith in the vaccine itself, and the need for as many people to receive it as quickly as possible.”
It can take weeks for a person’s body to build up immunity after getting vaccinated, per the CDC, and “That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”
– Sarah Ladd, Louisville Courier Journal
The United States’ fall surge is not alone, with record numbers popping up around the world, Johns Hopkins University data shows.
Global COVID-19 deaths hit a record last week, with 81,693 people dying in the week ending Dec. 23, with someone dying on average every 7.4 seconds in the world. The U.S. share of the deaths at the time was 22.9% – nearly double what it had been less than two months earlier.
Global coronavirus cases peaked in the week ending Dec. 16, when 5,247,355 cases were reported – or nearly 9 cases every second. The European Union peaked in mid-November, but other areas with large populations are surging now, including the United Kingdom, Brazil and Russia.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has accounted for roughly 30% of the world’s cases, though it has about 4.3% of the world’s population.
– Mike Stucka
Britain on Wednesday authorized emergency use of a second COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country to greenlight an easy-to-handle shot that its developers hope will become the “vaccine for the world.”
Britain has bought 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and plans to begin injections within days. The shot is expected to be relied on in many countries because of its low cost, availability and ease of use. It can be kept in refrigerators rather than the ultra-cold storage some other vaccines require.
Partial results from studies in almost 24,000 people in Britain, Brazil and South Africa suggest the shots are safe and about 70% effective for preventing illness from coronavirus infection.
Will malls survive COVID-19?
In recent years, the future of shopping malls has been in doubt as online shopping gained steam and one-time anchor retailers like Sears and Macy’s struggled financially and shuttered stores. Then came COVID-19.
Now, as coronavirus vaccines roll out across the U.S., top-tier shopping centers are likely to bounce back in the new year, retail experts predict. But those that were in trouble before the COVID-19 crisis may disappear more quickly, as shoppers bypass them for malls offering a more upscale experience, or simply choose to click and shop online.
“In 2021, the good malls will continue to do well,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consultancy GlobalData. “It’s the weaker ones that will suffer…The future of the mall isn’t doomed or completely redundant. It’s just that 2021 will be a year of reckoning for underperforming properties.”
– Charisse Jones and Kelly Tyko
Contributing: The Associated Press