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Coronavirus live updates: Health care worker suffers 'serious' reaction to vaccine

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(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 73.9 million people and killed over 1.6 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Thursday. All times Eastern:

Dec 17, 9:23 am
Tokyo raises alert to highest after record rise in cases

Tokyo raised its alert for medical preparedness to the highest level on Thursday for the first time, as hospital beds across Japan’s bustling capital fill up with COVID-19 patients.

Following a coronavirus committee meeting, Tokyo officials raised the alert level to “red” and warned that the city’s health care system was on the verge of crisis.

The move comes after 822 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tokyo on Wednesday, the highest single-day count the city has recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Wednesday’s tally shatters Tokyo’s previous record of 678 new cases confirmed a day earlier, according to data released by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Dec 17, 8:52 am
European leaders go into quarantine after French president tests positive

Several European leaders announced Thursday that they are going into quarantine after French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who had lunch with Macron at the French presidential palace in Paris on Wednesday, said he is self-isolating as a preventative measure and canceling any events that require his physical presence. Costa said he also took a COVID-19 test on Thursday morning as was originally planned ahead of his now-canceled trip to Africa.

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, who had lunch with Macron in Paris on Monday, said he will suspend all his activities and quarantine until Dec. 24

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who met with Macron in Brussels last week, said he will get tested Thursday and then self-isolate while he awaits the result.

Dec 17, 8:51 am
885,000 US workers filed jobless claims last week

Some 885,000 workers filed for unemployment insurance last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday, as the pandemic continues to upend the labor market.

This is an uptick of 23,000 from the previous week’s figure.

More than 20 million people are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Nov. 28, the DOL said. For the comparable week in 2019, that figure was 1.8 million.

The latest economic data comes as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the country. The United States on Wednesday hit a record high of 247,403 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,656 additional deaths from the disease.

The latest tally of weekly unemployment claims also comes as lawmakers have struggled to reach a deal on new relief. On Wednesday, after months of stalled negotiations, a source told ABC News that congressional leaders were close to reaching a deal that could include enhanced federal unemployment benefits.

The national unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.7% last month, according to the DOL’s most-recent jobs report. In February, prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5%.

Dec 17, 7:41 am
Texas woman dies from COVID-19 just two months after giving birth

Jennifer Mendoza, of Grapevine, Texas, gave birth to her fourth child in October.

A few days after coming home from the hospital with her healthy baby girl, Mendoza developed breathing problems.

Mendoza returned to the emergency room and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. She never went home.

Mendoza died on Dec. 3, her 34th birthday, according to a report by Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV. She is survived by her husband and four young children.

“Her kids were everything,” Mendoza’s brother, David Mendoza, told WFAA in a recent interview. “To her last minute, she still kept fighting for them.”

“I’m going to tell them every day for the rest of their lives that their mother was the most beautiful person on this earth,” he added, “the most compassionate and the most big-hearted.”

Dec 17, 7:17 am
US on track to get 2nd vaccine as FDA panel reviews Moderna data

The United States is on the cusp of a second vaccine for COVID-19, with a key Food and Drug Administration panel set to review data Thursday from Moderna that suggests its two-dose vaccine is safe and 94% effective.

An endorsement from the independent federal advisers would pave the way for an official green light by the FDA to begin distributing next week some 5.9 million Moderna doses to the nation’s front-line health care workers and nursing home residents. An internal assessment by the FDA already found that the Moderna data show the benefits likely outweigh the risks.

The Moderna batch would be in addition to the 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that started to roll out this week after being the first to get emergency-use authorization.

One primary difference is that the Modern vaccine requires fewer specific handling instructions because it does not need ultra-cold storage conditions like the Pfizer/BioNTech one.

Moderna also is seeking authorization to use its vaccine on people ages 18 and older, whereas Pfizer’s enrollment of older teens in clinical trials this fall paved the way for authorization of anyone 16 and older.

Dec 17, 6:35 am
French president’s wife is self-isolating but has no symptoms

Brigitte Macron, the 67-year-old wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, is self-isolating and will be tested for COVID-19 soon, although she is not showing any symptoms, her office said in a statement Thursday.

France’s presidential palace had announced earlier that Emmanuel Macron, 42, tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating.

“Brigitte Macron is a contact case and has no symptoms of the disease,” her office said. “She also tested negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday, December 15, before making a visit to a pediatric ward at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris. She has placed herself in isolation and will continue her work by videoconference. She will be tested very soon as a precaution.”

Dec 17, 6:09 am
Alaska health care worker suffers ‘serious’ allergic reaction to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

An Alaska health care worker was hospitalized Wednesday, shortly after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The unnamed staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, “showed signs of an anaphylactic reaction” 10 minutes after inoculation, “with increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and skin rash and redness,” according to a press release.

“She was given epinephrine and Benadryl, admitted to the hospital, and put on an intravenous epinephrine drip,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in a statement Wednesday night. “Her reaction was serious but not life threatening.”

The staff member, who had no known previous allergies or adverse reactions to vaccines, “is recovering and will remain another night in the hospital under observation,” according to the press release.

“She is still encouraging her colleagues to get the vaccine,” the hospital said.

It’s the first known adverse allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, which was granted emergency-use authorization in the United States last Friday.

A second staff member at Bartlett Regional Hospital “experienced eye puffiness, light headedness, and scratchy throat” 10 minutes after being injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, according to the press release.

“His reaction was not considered anaphylaxis,” Bartlett Regional Hospital said in the statement Wednesday night. “He was taken to the Emergency Department and administered epinephrine, Pepcid and Benadryl. He felt completely back to normal within an hour and was released.”

“He too does not want his experience to have a negative impact on his colleagues lining up for the vaccine,” the hospital added.

Both incidents were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Bartlett Regional Hospital said “is providing guidance and support.” The symptoms in each case were discovered during the 15-minute observation period after inoculation recommended by the CDC.

“We were expecting these things and we had all the right systems in place,” Charlee Gribbon, an infection control practitioner at Bartlett Regional Hospital, who is overseeing a mass operation to vaccinate as many staff as possible, said in a statement Wednesday night.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said there are “no plans to change our vaccine schedule, dosing or regimen.”

Dec 17, 5:16 am
French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive

French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Elysee Palace, the official residence of the president of France, announced Macron’s diagnosis in a statement Thursday morning.

“This diagnosis was established following an RTPCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms,” the palace said.

Macron will self-isolate for seven days in accordance with public health instructions.

“He will continue to work and carry out his activities remotely,” the palace said.

With more than 2.4 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19, France has the fifth-highest tally in the world, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Dec 17, 4:30 am
A record 113,069 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19

There were 113,069 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the United States on Wednesday, according to data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the U.S. outbreak.

It’s the highest number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations that the U.S. has logged since the start of the pandemic.

Dec 17, 4:08 am
US hits fresh record highs of 247,403 new cases and 3,656 deaths

There were 247,403 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, marking a fresh record high, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the 44th straight day that the U.S. has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Wednesday’s tally shatters the country’s previous all-time high of 231,775 new cases confirmed on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.

An additional 3,656 deaths from the disease were also registered nationwide on Wednesday, setting yet another record. It’s only the fourth time since the pandemic began that the country has reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day. The country’s previous peak of 3,300 fatalities was recorded on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.

A total of 16,979,777 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 307,501 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.

The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4 and reaching 200,000 for the first time on Nov. 27.

Dec 17, 12:06 am
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tests positive for COVID-19

Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt has tested positive for COVID-19. The department spokesman, Nicholas Goodwin, confirmed the news Wednesday, after an inquiry from The Washington Post.

Bernhardt received his test results prior to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet meeting Wednesday and did not attend the session.

“He is currently asymptomatic and will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine,” Goodwin said in an email.

As a result of Bernhardt’s diagnosis, various high-ranking department officials who were in close contact with him this week are now getting tested.

He is the third top official at the department known to have tested positive for the virus since November. Interior’s top attorney, Daniel Jorjani, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith also tested positive.

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