USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as vaccines begin to roll out nationwide. Just this week, the US marked the stark milestone of more than 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other important 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.
Top headlines today:
- Day two of vaccine rollout is happening across the U.S. Health care workers in Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey and Puerto Rico received their first doses Tuesday.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci said that both the current president and the incoming one — as well as their vice presidents — should get the new COVID-19 vaccine.
- The vast majority of nursing homes in the United States won’t start vaccinating residents and staff against COVID-19 until Dec. 21, and some won’t start until Dec. 28, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first home COVID test that doesn’t require a prescription or sending a sample to a lab was authorized Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s expected to cost about $30.
The rapid antigen test by Australian manufacturer Ellume can be used on people age 2 years and up, with or without symptoms. Test users would only need to swab the inside of their nose, apply a solution to the sample and place it in a cartridge. Results are reported in 15 minutes on a cell phone app.
Citing Ellume, NPR reported Tuesday that the home test would be available in January.
Currently available home tests require either a prescription or the time-consuming step of getting the sample to a lab and waiting for a result.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Ellume’s home test is “a major breakthrough for Americans’ ever-expanding access to convenient COVID-19 testing options.”
– Ken Alltucker
One in six persons who share a home with a COVID-19 patient will catch the disease as well, a significantly higher rate than observed from previous respiratory diseases like SARS and MERS, a new meta-analysis shows.
The study, published on JAMA Network, indicates that even as public health officials promote stay-at-home policies to curb spread of the coronavirus, household transmission remains a major factor in the pandemic.
The study found a “secondary attack rate” of 16.6% in households, compared to 7.5% for SARS and 4.7% for MERS. The contagion rate increased to 18% in cases where the infected person had symptoms. Adults were more likely to catch the virus than children, 28.3% to 16.8%, and spouses fared the worst among all family contacts, getting infected in 37.8% of all cases.
Fauci says Trump, Pence, Biden and Harris should get vaccinated
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who will be retained by the new administration to help lead the nation’s response to the pandemic, said the current president and the incoming one — as well as their vice presidents — should get the new COVID-19 vaccine.
President Donald Trump may have immunity after developing the disease in early October, but Fauci said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it’s uncertain how long that presumed protection lasts. Therefore, Fauci recommended that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence get vaccinated.
The same goes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and they should get the vaccine “as soon as we possibly can,” Fauci said, adding of Biden, “You want him fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January.”
One of the frequent questions asked with the coronavirus vaccine rollout is whether people who have been previously infected should still get inoculated. After all, the one benefit from contracting the disease is supposed to be a level of immunity.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY Network, posed the question to medical professionals in the area. All four doctors who responded said yes, get the shot, although it would be polite to let others who have not been infected get immunized first, considering demand for the vaccine currently outstrips supply.
“Natural infection immunity seems to wear out after two to three months,” said Dr. Stephen Blatt, medical director for infectious diseases at TriHealth in Cincinnati. “We are hoping that the vaccine will provide longer-lasting immunity.”
– Terry DeMio, Cincinnati Enquirer
One in 20 Americans has tested positive for COVID-19, Johns Hopkins University data and Census Bureau population estimates show.
The United States is now reporting more than 1.5 million cases each week, at a rate of about 150 every minute, a USA TODAY analysis shows. Even New York state, America’s initial epicenter, is now reporting coronavirus cases at a rate faster than it did in the spring. Every state except Florida and Hawaii have reported more cases in a week of November or December than they have at any time in the pandemic.
– Mike Stucka
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress has proposed a $908 billion coronavirus relief package that would include $300 a week in additional unemployment insurance but no direct payments for qualifying Americans.
The package, split into two bills in an effort to skirt some of the issues that have prevented an agreement for weeks, would also include an extension of eviction moratoriums for renters and the temporary suspension of student-loan payments.
Economists have stressed the need for additional aid as 12 million Americans could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. Congress has until the end of the week to strike an agreement that can be tied to longer-term spending legislation.
– Jessica Menton
A nurse who volunteered to be New Hampshire’s first person vaccinated was given her dose of the COVID-19 vaccine outside on a chilly Tuesday morning.
“This is a typical New England-New Hampshire day, so nothing we can’t handle,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in the 27-degree weather.
Heidi Kukla, the intensive care nurse who received the first vaccine, said she asked to go first “because I know a lot of people have reservations about getting the vaccine.”
“They’re worried about how fast it was produced, what the long-term effects may be, but I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing worse than being a patient on a ventilator in an ICU anywhere in this country right now with COVID, and the anguish of the family members that can’t be there,” Kukla said.
Health care workers at Maine Medical Center in Portland were the first people to receive the vaccine in the state Tuesday as it began its rollout, state health officials confirmed.
“We are off and running,” said Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah as the state joined others in starting its vaccine distribution.
Like other states, Maine is starting by inoculating health care workers and people in long-term care facilities.
The United States may have two coronavirus vaccines by the end of the week as data released Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared safe and highly effective. An independent advisory committee to the FDA will review the data in an all-day meeting Thursday. If it decides that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks, then the vaccine is expected to be authorized later in the week by the FDA commissioner.
Then, an independent advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data on Friday and, if the FDA authorizes it, will vote on Saturday whether to add the vaccine to the nation’s vaccine schedule for adults.
As with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, it will then begin to be distributed across the country, likely Monday. Moderna’s vaccine will be given only to adults as the company has not accumulated enough data to include minors in its authorization request to the FDA. This means it will not be given to 16- and 17-year-olds, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
– Karen Weintraub and Adrianna Rodriguez
A nurse at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, was the state’s first health care worker vaccinated and received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Tuesday on her 56th birthday. “This is the best birthday present ever,” Maritza Beniquez said.
Beniquez was inoculated 286 days after the first patient in New Jersey was diagnosed with the coronavirus and nearly a year after reports of a previously unknown disease emerged from central China.
After receiving the shot, Beniquez said, “Thank you God!” She smiled and made a fist with her right arm, then clasped her hands together as if in prayer.
– Lindy Washburn and Ashley Balcerzak, The Bergen Record
Puerto Rico began vaccinating health care workers Tuesday when a respiratory therapist who treated the first two COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the U.S. territory received her first shot. Yahaira Alicea urged everyone to get vaccinated, saying, “This is what we want, for this pandemic to end.”
Alicea treated an Italian couple in March that had fallen ill with the virus and were visiting Puerto Rico on a cruise. The woman later died, and Alicea said it was a fearful moment for her that wore her down physically and emotionally.
The vast majority of nursing homes in the United States won’t start vaccinating residents and staff against COVID-19 until Dec. 21, and some won’t start until Dec. 28, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monday’s rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine brought confusion nationwide as it became clear long-term care facilities and nursing homes were not taking part in the initial immunizations, despite the CDC’s decision last week to include residents in the first phase of distribution.
That’s because the majority of long-term care facilities opted to take part in a federal program that uses pharmacy chains, including CVS, Walgreens and others, to facilitate vaccination.
The Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care program will launch Monday for jurisdictions that opted to use the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. More than 1,100 vaccination clinics at long-term care facilities across the country are scheduled to be conducted that day, CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.
– Elizabeth Weise and Tom Mooney
Vaccine roll outs will start with health care workers and then will be phased out to other portions of the population. Several states reported that their first shipments arrived Monday, including in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
Tuesday morning, the first vaccinations in Illinois were given at Loretto Hospital on Chicago’s West Side and at the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.
Meanwhile, Tennessee officials say the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine won’t arrive at hospitals until Thursday, days after some facilities expected to begin vaccination, as Tennessee falls behind other states.
More Americans say they’d get vaccine
An increasing number of Americans said they’d definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were deemed safe by experts and made free for the public, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.
In December, 71% of Americans said they’d get the vaccine, up from just 61% in September. Meanwhile, over a quarter of Americans are “vaccine hesitant,” saying they probably or definitely would not get one.
EU to assess Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine next week
The European Union’s health regulators moved up a meeting to assess the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Monday after facing pressure from Germany’s health minister and other European nations.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters earlier Tuesday that the goal was for approval before Christmas and vaccinations to begin before the end of the year.
First wild animal to test positive in US
A mink in Utah is the first wild animal to test positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Monday. The animal was part of wildlife surveillance for the virus in infected mink farms in Utah, Michigan and Wisconsin between Aug. 24 to Oct. 30. The agency said there is no evidence that the virus has spread in wild populations around infected mink farms.
Contributing: The Associated Press