Coronavirus live updates: US surgeon general urges Americans to get flu shot

Myriam Borzee/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 67.1 million people and killed over 1.5 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 Monday. All times Eastern:

Dec 07, 2:31 pm

Navajo Nation begins 3-week stay-at-home lockdown

Navajo Nation begins a three-week emergency lockdown on Monday, during which residents are required to remain at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Essential businesses, including grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, hay vendors and restaurants providing drive-thru or curbside service, may remain open on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Off-reservation travel is not permitted and on weekends, a full lockdown will be in place.

“The Navajo Nation’s health care system is in a state of major crisis,” Myron Lizer, vice president of Navajo Nation, said in a statement. “We cannot be careless and we have to stay the course.”

The rules include exceptions for essential workers and emergency situations. Residents are permitted to leave their homes for essential food, medicine and supplies, as well as outside exercise within the vicinity of their homes and wood gathering.

The lockdown rules will be in effect until Dec. 28.

Dec 07, 1:10 pm
Ordinary New Yorkers may get vaccines by early April: Fauci

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci painted a grim future for the United States if Americans don’t adhere to public health measures during the holidays. “Without substantial mitigation, the middle of January can be a really dark time for us,” Fauci said during a news conference held by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Americans need to keep social distancing until 75% to 80% of the population can get the COVID-19 vaccine, which would provide an umbrella of community-level protection, Fauci explained. “By the time you get to the beginning of April, you’ll start getting people who have no high priority, just the normal man and woman, New Yorker in the street who’s well, has no underlying conditions [getting the vaccine],” he added.

As of Monday, New York State’s testing positivity rate was 4.7%, according to Cuomo. The governor estimated that more than 70% of infections spreading in the state were connected to small gatherings.

-ABC News’ Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

Dec 07, 10:52 am
US averaging nearly 2,200 COVID-19 deaths per day for 1st time

For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is reporting an average of nearly 2,200 deaths from the disease per day, according to an ABC News analysis of data collected and published by The COVID Tracking Project.

The national seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths per day day is currently 2,171. That figure has increased by 139% in the past month.

Last week, there were nearly 15,000 fatalities from the disease recorded nationwide, including five days where the daily death toll surpassed the 2,000 mark. That’s roughly equivalent to 88 COVID-19 deaths reported each hour.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has reported over 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day for more than a month straight, including three consecutive days where the daily count topped 200,000.

Just in the last month, the national seven-day average of daily new cases has doubled, now averaging 191,736 — the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

There were 1,018,657 cases recorded nationwide in the first five days of December. To put that in perspective, it took nearly 100 days from the first recorded COVID-19 case in the U.S. for the country to surpass 1 million confirmed cases.

Hospitalizations continue to surge to unprecedented levels, with over 101,000 patients currently hopitalized with COVID-19 across the country — a new national record.

In the past two months, current hospitalizations have more than tripled, increasing by 223%.

ABC News’ Benjamin Bell, Brian Hartman, Kim Soorin and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Dec 07, 10:23 am
South Africa urges students to quarantine after ‘super-spreader’ parties

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has called on final-year students who attended end-of-year parties to immediately self-quarantine for 10 days to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus.

Mkhize made the plea to students and parents on Sunday, after numerous people who recently attended “Rage” parties in Ballito and Jeffrey’s Bay tested positive for COVID-19. The events are hosted every year in South Africa as thousands of students celebrate the end of matriculation.

“We confirm that we have now identified a number of COVID-19 confirmed cases arising from these super-spreader events,” Mkhize said in a statement. “This therefore means that if you attended any of these Rage events, you are now regarded as a contact.”

In addition to quarantining, Mkhize also urged attendees to get tested as soon as possible.

South Africa has the highest tally of COVID-19 infections in all of Africa, with more than 814,000 confirmed cases including over 22,000 deaths.

Dec 07, 9:14 am
UK prepares for Tuesday’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been delivered across the United Kingdom, ahead of the launch of the country’s immunization program.

The potentially-life saving vaccine will be administered nationwide starting Tuesday morning, and some 800,000 doses were expected to be in place for the first day of what will be the largest-scale immunization program in U.K. history.

Vaccinations will be rolled out in phases, with elderly care home residents and their carers first on the priority list, followed by anyone else aged 80 and over, as well as frontline health and social care workers.

Last week, the U.K. became the first country in the world to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine was shown in late-stage clinical trials to be more than 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Dec 07, 8:26 am
Biden transition team says Trump administration still hasn’t shared vaccine distribution plans

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team said the Trump administration still has not shared its distribution plans for COVID-19 vaccines.

“We have yet to see any kind of detailed plan,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist who is a member of Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board, said in an interview Monday on CBS This Morning.

“We really need to understand what their plan for distribution is,” she added. “We’ve already been trying to get a handle on how many doses will be available to us from each of the companies and by when, but we do need some internal information on that from the federal government. We also need to understand where they are with their plans.”

Dec 07, 8:07 am
‘My colleagues are dog-tired,’ US surgeon general says in plea to Americans

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged people to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and follow public health guidelines as infections and hospitalizations soar across the country.

“I want the American people to know this virus is incredibly unforgiving, cases are going up, hospitalizations are going up, my colleagues are dog-tired and we need you to hang on just a little bit longer because we’ve got vaccines coming but we want as many people to be alive to get them as possible and a lot of that is going to depend on your behavior,” Adams told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Monday on Good Morning America.

Although “more people than ever are wearing masks,” Adams said he’s “very” concerned by the number of people who still “don’t understand how much spread is occurring by people who don’t have symptoms.”

About 20 million “full doses” of COVID-19 vaccines will be available by the end of the year, according to Adams, who urged every American to be immunized against the virus as soon as a vaccine is authorized and made available.

“It’s a way that we can ultimately end this pandemic, but it doesn’t matter if people won’t get the vaccination,” the surgeon general said. “We know that vaccine levels are only about 50% for adults for flu and they go down to about 40% for African-Americans.”

Adams said he is working with historically black colleges and universities as well as faith communities to bolster vaccine confidence among all populations. The White House is also hosting a vaccine summit Tuesday, he said.

“One thing you can all do right now, it’s national flu immunization week, get your flu shot because half a million people were hospitalized last year with the flu,” Adams said. “We simply can’t afford for that to happen this year with hospitals being overwhelmed.”

The surgeon general said the current surge in infections across the country “is different than earlier surges,” because it’s not about a lack of masks or personal protective equipment, nor is it due to a lack of testing.

“It’s really about health care capacity, and certain places are just being overwhelmed,” he said. “So we know that we can actually help them with their health care capacity by immunizing their health care staff. We’re going to leave it up to the states, but we’re going to give them guidance.”

Adams noted it’s also important to vaccinate those who are most likely to die from COVID-19.

“We know that 40 to 50% of the deaths are occurring in people who are in longterm care facilities who are older,” he said.

Dec 07, 7:29 am
Hong Kong installs vending machines for COVID-19 test kits

Hong Kong has installed vending machines for COVID-19 test kits in 10 subway stations across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The regional government said it will be supplying about 10,000 self-administered test kits to the mass transit authority for distribution to the vending machines across all 10 stations daily, according to a press release.

Hongkongers can purchase the kits using their Octopus transit card.

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases has prompted Hong Kong authorities to tighten restrictions, including banning most social gatherings to just two people. Another 95 new cases were confirmed on Sunday, bringing Hong Kong’s total to 6,898 cases with at least 112 deaths.

Dec 07, 6:57 am
Biden announces key members of health team

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced key nominations and appointments of his health team, a slate of experts and public officials who will lead his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in a statement. “This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on day one to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking, oversee the safe, equitable and free distribution of treatments and vaccines, reopen schools and businesses safely, lower prescription drug and other health costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans, and rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together.”

California Attorney General Xavier Beccera is nominated to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Vivek Muthy, a physician and research scientist, is nominated to be the Surgeon General, a role he served during the Obama administration.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an expert on virus testing, prevention and treatment, is nominated to serve as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an expert on health care disparities, will serve as the COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair.

As Biden said last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci will stay on in his current role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci will also serve as Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19.

Jeff Zients, co-chair of Biden’s transition team who led the Obama administration’s National Economic Council, will serve as coordinator of the COVID-19 Response as well as counselor to the president.

Natalie Quillian, a national security expert, will serve as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 response.

Dec 07, 6:14 am
Germany to begin COVID-19 vaccinations in early January

COVID-19 vaccinations are expected to begin in Germany “in the very first days” of 2021, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff.

In an online interview Sunday with German newspaper Bild, Helge Braun said he and Merkel will get vaccinated “when it’s our turn.” The trained doctor also noted that he’s prepared to help vaccinate people himself.

“That won’t work at every hour of the day or night as chief of staff, but at the weekend I’m prepared to join in,” Braun told the Bild.

The European Union’s drug regulator is expected to make a decision by Dec. 29 on approving the first COVID-19 vaccine for use. In the meantime, Germany is preparing special vaccination centers.

Dec 07, 4:41 am
US reports over 175,000 new cases

There were 175,663 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Sunday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the 34th straight day that the U.S. has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Sunday’s tally is less than the country’s all-time high of 227,885 new cases confirmed on Dec. 4, according to Johns Hopkins data

An additional 1,114 deaths from the disease were also registered nationwide on Sunday, down from a peak of 2,879 fatalities on Dec. 3, according to Johns Hopkins data.

COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over Thanksgiving followed by a potentially very large backlog from the holiday.

A total of 14,760,627 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 282,312 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.

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