USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed more than 350,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other top 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.
In the headlines:
►The U.S. could soon be giving at least a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press Tuesday.
►The Grammy Awards have been postponed. Music’s biggest awards show, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, will no longer take place this month due to rising COVID-19 cases in California.
►Almost 30% of working professionals say they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely, according to an online survey of 1,022 professionals conducted by LiveCareer, an online resume and job search consulting service.
►The pharmacist suspected of intentionally spoiling 500 doses of vaccine at a Wisconsin hospital was released from jail after a prosecutor indicated he’s not positive the vaccine was actually destroyed. Steven Brandenburg, 46, had concerns the vaccines could change people’s DNA, an unfounded claim that has been debunked.
►Forty-eight of the 100 hospitals across the nation with the highest proportion of COVID-19 patients are in California, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data analyzed by USA Today for the last week of December. “What I see is devastation,” said Annette Greenwood, chief nursing officer at Riverside Community Hospital in Southern California.
►Cleveland Browns football coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19 along with two additional staffers and two players. The team said Stefanski and the others won’t be in attendance for a playoff game Sunday in Pittsburgh.
►Not every country is struggling with its vaccine rollout – Israel has already provided first doses to over 14% of its 9 million people, according to Our World in Data. The Times of Israel credits various factors, including a “relatively small but densely-packed population and highly-professional, community-integrated health services.” Less than 2% of Americans have been vaccinated.
►”Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, who died in November of pancreatic cancer, taped a message for what turned out to be his final week of shows urging support for victims of the coronavirus epidemic. “We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we’re going to get there,” he said in a message that aired Monday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 20.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 356,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 86 million cases and 1.8 million deaths.
Ohio State-Alabama national football title game could be postponed
The College Football Playoff championship game could be postponed with Ohio State dealing with COVID-19 issues ahead of its matchup with Alabama.
The Buckeyes, who were missing key contributors in their Sugar Bowl defeat of Clemson in their national semifinal, could be without a position group if the game is played as scheduled on Jan. 11, according to multiple reports. The playoff committee announced last week a Jan. 18 makeup date if the game in Miami Gardens, Florida, is unable to be played on time.
Ohio State has been dealing with coronavirus issues since November when its game against Illinois was canceled after multiple positives within the program, including coach Ryan Day.
– Erick Smith
Hospital quickly vaccinates 850 people after freezer fails
A hospital in Northern California quickly vaccinated 850 people after a freezer that was holding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines failed, prompting officials to do an emergency distribution of the vaccines before they spoiled.
An outage Monday left the refrigerator at the Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Mendocino County without power. By the time hospital officials realized the freezer had malfunctioned, they had 2.5 hours to distribute the vaccines, which have a shelf life of 12 hours at room temperature, Cici Winiger, Adventist Health spokeswoman, told the Ukiah Daily Journal.
The hospital sent 200 doses to Mendocino County Public Health that were dispensed to county workers, including sheriff’s deputies and jail staff. Jail inmates also received the vaccine, Winiger said.
– The Associated Press
Grammys postpone awards show over COVID-19 concerns
The Grammy Awards have been postponed. Music’s biggest awards show, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, will no longer take place this month due to rising COVID-19 cases in California. The Recording Academy is now aiming to hold a new ceremony in March.
The smaller scale event was set to be held at Staples Center, hosted by Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” and broadcast on CBS. Only presenters and performers would be in attendance, and the show would feature no audience.
– Patrick Ryan
Kansas, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia most behind in giving COVID-19 vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Monday tracking the progress made by states to administer COVID-19 vaccine. So far, about 15.4 million doses have shipped throughout the country. That’s just shy of the 20 million doses U.S. officials had promised to distribute by the end of 2020.
However, health experts are more concerned with the lag in COVID-19 vaccinations. Only about 4.5 million people have received their first dose as of Tuesday, the CDC reports. That means just 30% of available doses have been used.
While some states have been more successful overcoming the obstacles to vaccinate their residents with available doses, other states – such as Kansas, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana and Virginia – seem to be falling behind.
– Aleszu Bajak and Adrianna Rodriguez
This is why vaccinations across nation are way behind schedule
Public health experts show little surprise at the news that vaccinations across the nation are well behind an ambitious early schedule.
There are always bugs when you “translate from paper to practice,” said Kelly Moore, deputy director of the Immunization Action Coalition, an education and advocacy group. Federal plans didn’t give enough consideration to the need for scheduling and organizing clinics, educating patients and caregivers, and resolving the small problems that always crop up, Moore said. Plus, people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine have to be watched for 15 minutes, to ensure that they don’t have an allergic reaction. This requires hospitals to set aside space and personnel.
“There were a lot of aspirational goals set by federal officials,” Moore said. “The delivery of a box of vaccine to a clinic door is the easiest part of the process.”
– Karen Weintraub
Federal agents struggle to do jobs amid pandemic
Federal law enforcement agencies’ response to the coronavirus pandemic has been inconsistent, with employees saying policies on masks and social distancing were not enforced, according to a survey conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The anonymous survey, which received responses from more than 6,000 law enforcement employees, found that 64% said COVID-19 affected their ability to do their jobs. While some employees said they were satisfied with their agency’s response to the pandemic, one employee said management has “downplayed” the threat.
“Although our leadership team instructed people to wear masks, it was not enforced, and at times, employees were shamed by coworkers for wearing masks,” an employee said.
– Kristine Phillips
Half of Chicago public school teachers ordered to return Monday did not
Half of the almost 2,300 Chicago public school teachers ordered to return to work Monday to prepare for in-person instruction did not return, school board officials said Tuesday.
Chicago Public Schools required pre-K and some special education teachers to return to classes Monday in advance of in-person education resuming Jan. 11. But only 49.7% of teachers and 70% of paraprofessionals returned, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said Tuesday. The absentees will face “progressive discipline,” Jackson said.
“We cannot sit back and allow a generation to just falter,” Jackson said. “A year from now, there’s going to be a reckoning around those students who have been sitting at home, not being properly served.”
More than 10,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union are opposed to the city’s reopening plan and are calling on officials to delay the return “until the pandemic is under control,” according to the union.
‘Bizarre, disorganized effort’: Wisconsin struggles to roll out vaccines
Wisconsin lags behind nearly all of the Midwest in getting health care workers and first responders vaccinated and has received fewer doses than other states of its size.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the state 10th out of 12 in the Midwest in getting a first dose of the vaccine to its residents on a per capita basis. Wisconsin has administered roughly a third of the doses it has received — the ninth lowest of the 12 states in the Midwest, but a little better than the nationwide average.
“It’s chaos,” said Kalpana Kumar, a Pewaukee-based private practice medical doctor. “It’s like shouting into a well. It’s just one of those very bizarre, disorganized efforts.”
– Molly Beck, Mary Spicuzza, Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Got the first dose? You are not out of the woods yet
It’s possible to test positive for the coronavirus even after getting vaccinated.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses per patient to be fully effective. The first Pfizer-BioNTech dose is more than 50% effective in preventing COVID-19, and the second dose increases that protection to about 95%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it can take weeks for a person’s body to build up immunity after getting vaccinated.
“That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick,” the agency said. “This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.” Read more.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Emergency personnel in LA County must decide who gets to go to hospital
As COVID-19 continues to overwhelm California hospitals, Los Angeles County officials are trying to ration medical supplies and hospital space. The Los Angeles Emergency Medical Services Agency issued two memos Monday instructing emergency responders to limit the use of supplemental oxygen and not transport patients who cannot be revived in the field.
Cases are skyrocketing in Los Angeles County, which has now reached more than 800,000 cases, County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said Monday. Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and opening gyms to serve as health care units, Solis said. Oxygen is in high demand, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews arrived in the county Saturday to update oxygen delivery systems in the area.
“We are pushing the limits of the hospital infrastructure,” Solis said. “… Care now has to be rationed.”
Schools shut down across England as latest lockdown begins
Schools and colleges across England shut their doors Tuesday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson grappled with a surge in COVID cases and deaths fueled by an extremely contagious variant sweeping the nation.
A blanket lockdown expected to last until mid-February calls for Britons to leave home only for necessities such as essential work, grocery shopping or to escape domestic abuse. Johnson revealed an ambitious vaccination schedule calling for all care home residents and their carers, everyone aged 70 and over, all frontline health and social care workers, and the extremely vulnerable will be offered one dose of a vaccine by mid-February.
Contributing: The Associated Press