The coronavirus continues to disrupt daily life around the globe, with more than 55.7 million people confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 since Chinese officials implemented the first coronavirus lockdown in the city of Wuhan in January.
But on Wednesday there was potentially good news: Pfizer said its vaccine candidate was 95% effective and it was ready to apply for emergency-use authorization “within days.” This followed Monday’s announcement of preliminary data from Moderna, saying its vaccine candidate was more than 94.5% effective at preventing COVID-19.
News of a potential vaccine comes as the U.S. is repeatedly breaking records. To date, more than 11.3 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.34 million people worldwide, including more than 248,000 Americans, have died.
Read the latest updates below. (To see the latest updates, you may need to refresh the page. All times are Eastern. For earlier updates on the pandemic, go here.)
Pfizer said Wednesday that final results from late-stage trials of the vaccine candidate it developed with BioNTech showed an efficacy rate of 95%. It plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration “within days” for emergency-use authorization.
The drugmaker said the efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity dynamics, and over 94% effective in adults over 65 years old. Pfizer said there were no serious safety concerns with the vaccine.
The announcement comes two days after Moderna announced that preliminary data from its vaccine candidate showed 94.5% effectiveness. Dr. Anthony Fauci said, of the Moderna news: “I’d said I would be satisfied with a 70, 75% efficacy, that something like 95% was really aspirational ... Well, our aspirations have been met, and that is really very good news.”
— Liza Hearon
Despite the pandemic, the North American Aerospace Defense Command will still track Santa Claus’ progress around the globe as he delivers gifts on Dec. 24 as per tradition.
But instead of around 150 volunteers crowded into a room at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to field calls from curious children, there will be fewer than 10 people per shift, the AP reported.
“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “But we’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved.”
— Liza Hearon
The FDA on Tuesday gave emergency approval to Lucira Health’s coronavirus rapid test kit, which can be used entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes. The test will require a prescription for use, however.
The approval represents a step forward in expanding testing beyond health care facilities and testing sites, which have delivered slow results in some areas across the country due to laboratory bottlenecks.
The FDA has been very cautious about approving an at-home use test because of concerns over whether people without medical training can properly test themselves and interpret the results. Read more
— Liza Hearon
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the latest congressional lawmaker to be diagnosed with the virus.
Grassley, 87, said on Twitter that he is “feeling good” and will quarantine at home.
A new study suggests that people who recover from COVID-19 may be protected from the coronavirus for years — a much more optimistic possibility than researchers had previously thought.
Although the study has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, The New York Times labeled it the most comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 immunity to date. A group of researchers from California’s La Jolla Institute of Immunology, among other institutions, found that most of the patients studied had enough antibodies in their system to fight off the virus eight months after infection. That slow rate of decline indicates the antibodies may stick around for several years.
Previous research suggested that coronavirus antibodies offer people protection for three to four months after infection.
— Sara Boboltz
The governors of Ohio and Maryland announced Tuesday that they’re enforcing a curfew in their states to help curb the spread of COVID-19 without shutting down more businesses.
Both states’ curfews will start at 10 p.m. and have exceptions for essential workers, emergencies and other “common sense” situations, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said people need a wake-up call. “This virus has been with us for so long that too many of us have become numb to staggering spiking numbers that are being announced every day,” he said.
— Lydia O’Connor
A new statistic illustrates North Dakota’s alarming coronavirus reality: One out of every 1,000 residents across the state has died of coronavirus, as first reported by Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis.
With a population of around 760,000, according to the Census Bureau, North Dakota is among the least dense states in the country. But the virus has still managed to spread like wildfire, prompting Gov. Doug Burgum (R) to issue a mask mandate for the first time late Friday night. The state has recorded nearly 65,000 cases of the virus, which represents around 8.5% of North Dakotans, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
— Sara Boboltz
Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, has completely changed her stance on mask use as cases surge across her state. Back in July, she said that she had no intention of requiring masks in public spaces, claiming there was “no way to enforce it” and that they are “just kind of a feel-good” tool.
“Our health care system is being pushed to the brink,” Reynolds said Monday evening, noting that one in four hospitalized patients now has the virus. Everyone in Iowa over age 2 will be required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces beginning Tuesday, and indoor events will be capped at 15 people. The state recorded 83,000 new cases in the last month, with almost 30,000 of those coming in the past week.
“If our health care system exceeds capacity, it’s not just COVID-19 we’ll be fighting. Every Iowan who needs medical care will be put at risk,” she explained. “If an ambulance is transferring a COVID-19 patient, it may not be available to respond to an accident on a rural county road. If hospital beds are full, a loved one who suffers a heart attack or a stroke may have to be transported miles away to receive life-saving treatment.”
Reynolds said her family is postponing Thanksgiving celebrations this year in the name of safety and encouraged others to do the same, adding: “No one wants to do this. I don’t want to do this.”
“This isn’t about mandates. This isn’t about government,” she said. “If Iowans don’t buy into this, we’ll lose.”
— Sara Boboltz
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) said that he has been exposed to the coronavirus and will begin quarantining at his home as he awaits test results. Grassley is 87 years old; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that Americans aged 85 or older face the greatest risk of severe illness from the virus.
In a statement, Grassley said he is “feeling well and not currently facing any symptoms.”
— Ja’han Jones
The city of Philadephia on Monday ordered a ban on “indoor gatherings of any size in any location,” except among individuals who live together, from Friday until the new year, in one of the toughest coronavirus restrictions imposed across the country.
“While we won’t prohibit people from leaving home and interacting, we want to strongly discourage that, because it’s increasingly unsafe to interact with anyone,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “We know that’s a very strong policy, but this gets at the most important sites of spread.”
As the U.S. surpassed 11 million COVID-19 cases, New Jersey, California and Ohio ordered new restrictions. New Jersey ordered lower limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings while California banned indoor service in bars and restaurants in most counties.
— Liza Hearon
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced an indefinite “emergency brake” to the state’s reopening process in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
Starting Tuesday, 28 counties will be rolled back to the most restrictive “purple” tier, which means most nonessential businesses will be closed, the Democratic governor said during a press conference. Nine more counties will be rolled back the second-most restrictive “red” tier, meaning some businesses will be allowed to stay open.
The new rollbacks put 94% of California’s population in the most restrictive tier, state officials said. The status of counties now in more restrictive tiers will be assessed daily instead of weekly, and the rules will stay in effect until California’s public health director says that conditions have improved in the state.
The announcement comes amid California’s steepest rise yet in COVID-19 cases. Over the seven-day period ending Sunday, the state averaged 7,985 cases per day, an 89.7% increase from two weeks ago.
“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer.”
— Sanjana Karanth
Multiple members of Congress announced they are self-isolating after exposure to the coronavirus.
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said he tested positive Sunday for the virus. “I received news yesterday that I tested positive for COVID-19,” Walberg said in a statement. “My symptoms are mild and I remain in good spirits.” The congressman urged everyone to adhere to public health guidelines and said he will work from home for the foreseeable future.
Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said they too are in isolation after separately being exposed to people with the coronavirus. According to reports, Pocan learned of his exposure to the virus last Tuesday after driving his mother, who later got a positive test result, to her nursing home.
“Fortunately, the nursing home staff contacted me immediately after learning of my mother’s positive result and I was able to quarantine without delay,” Pocan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many people in Wisconsin don’t get that information in a timely way due to the low number of contract tracers we have hired in Wisconsin.”
In a statement, Lesko said she was in contact with someone “late last week” who has since tested positive for the virus. “At this time, I am not experiencing symptoms,” she announced, adding that she will begin a 14-day quarantine and conduct business from home.
― Ja’han Jones
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert on the White House’s coronavirus task force, applauded early data from biotechnology company Moderna and pharmaceutical company Pfizer that show their respective coronavirus vaccines are highly effective.
“The data are striking,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” about the Moderna data, released earlier Monday. “They’re really quite impressive. ... Now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective. So I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak.”
Fauci said he expects the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorizations for the vaccines. “Doses could be available to high-risk individuals by the end of December,” he told NBC.
— Hayley Miller
For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the U.S. and around the world.
Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study.
A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.
Read more here.
— Hayley Miller
The U.S. has passed 11 million coronavirus cases, with more than 1 million of them added in a week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
In the week of Nov. 8 to Nov. 14, the U.S. added 1,041,075 coronavirus cases, a new record high. The country recorded 7,723 new deaths in the week.
“Record cases over the past week will be record hospitalizations soon,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned in a tweet. He urged Americans to wear masks when outside the home and limit social interactions to ease the burden on hospitals.
— Liza Hearon
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced new restrictions on Sunday aimed at schools and restaurants, among others, as the state grapples with an exponential increase in coronavirus cases.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ new regulations take effect Wednesday and will run for at least three weeks.
They suspend in-person learning at Michigan high schools and colleges, indoor dining at restaurants and bars, organized sports and group exercise classes and all business at casinos and movie theaters. Gyms can remain open for individual exercise with rigid safety measures, and professional and college athletics can continue.
“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve and saved thousands of lives together,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, front-line workers and small businesses.”
Whitmer’s announcement comes as Michigan last week saw its worst seven-day stretch of illness, with more than 44,000 new COVID-19 cases and 416 deaths.
The governor previously faced attacks from the right for her swift responses to the pandemic and at one point became the target of a kidnapping plot by supporters of President Donald Trump.
The new announcement comes less than two months after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 — the law Whitmer used to issue pandemic-related emergency orders in the summer and fall after the GOP-controlled state legislature refused to extend existing declarations.
The governor has since relied on the state’s Public Health Code to continue implementing pandemic-related safety protocols and restrictions.
— Sanjana Karanth