VIRUS TODAY: Huge study on another COVID vaccine is underway

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Administrative worker Sander Edmondson, left, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Hospitals in central and Southern California are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients and state officials are poised to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders there as conditions worsen before the post-holiday surge hits. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Here’s what’s happening Monday with the pandemic in the U.S.:


— A huge study of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate is getting underway Monday as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the nation’s first shots. The candidate made by Novavax Inc. is the fifth to reach final-stage testing in the U.S. Some 30,000 volunteers are needed to prove if this vaccine — a different kind than its Pfizer and Moderna competitors — really works and is safe.

— Homicides in Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities have topped 2019 numbers as violence surged during the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities and some experts say there is no one clear-cut reason for the spike. They point to social and economic upheaval caused by COVID-19, hostility toward police following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, and a historic shortage of jobs and other resources in poorer communities as contributing factors. It’s happening in cities large and small, Democrat- and Republican-led.

— Nearly 1.3 million people went through U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, the highest one-day total in more than nine months, despite fear that travel will lead to more cases of COVID-19. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1,284,599 on Sunday, the most since March 15. More than 10 million people have traveled by air since Dec. 18, including six days with at least 1 million people getting screened. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious disease, said that level of travel could lead to a further increase in COVID-19 cases. Fauci said crowded airports make it difficult to maintain social distance, and holiday gatherings combine people from different households.

THE NUMBERS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased in the last two weeks from 2,421.3 on Dec. 13 to 2,207.1 on Dec. 27, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATH TOLL: The number of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. stands at more than 333,000.

QUOTABLE: “I think the pandemic — COVID — has had a significant emotional impact on people across the country,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said about a sharp increase in homicides in his city this year. “Individuals are not processing how they manage disputes. Whether domestics, arguments, disputes over drugs, there’s this quickness to use an illegally carried firearm.”

ICYMI: President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a government shutdown. His delay in signing the measure resulted in a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions and threatened a shutdown in the midst of the pandemic. In a statement, Trump repeated his frustrations with the bill for providing only $600 checks to most Americans instead of the $2,000 that his fellow Republicans already rejected.

ON THE HORIZON: Avalanche forecasters and search-and-rescue groups are worried that skiers and snowboarders — many of them inexperienced — will again turn to the backcountry this ski season to avoid large crowds or reservation systems at resorts. Sales of backcountry-related gear are up 76% compared with last year, according to an industry trade group.


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