Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The AM Rundown: FDA Confirms Pfizer Vaccine's Effectiveness

CLEARING WAY FOR LIKELY EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION: The Food and Drug Administration yesterday released its first scientific evaluation of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine and confirmed that it offers strong protection, including in older people, and appears to be safe with no serious side effects. That clears the way for an FDA advisory committee to likely approve emergency use of the vaccine at a meeting Thursday, with a final FDA decision and the first vaccinations possibly following within days. 

But the continuing positive news about the Pfizer vaccine, as well as the Moderna vaccine which is likely to be approved not long after, and with other vaccines in the pipeline as well, come as the fall and winter surge of the virus is continuing to rage. Deaths in the U.S. are now averaging more than 2,200 a day, numbers we last had in the early dark days of April, and confirmed cases are passing 200,000 a day for the first time. Further, experts are warning it's going to get worse, as cases from over Thanksgiving arrive at stressed hospitals, and with the Christmas and New Year's holidays ahead. There have been more than 286,300 deaths in the U.S. as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University's count, and more than 15 million confirmed cases. The Covid Tracking Project said there were 213,000 new cases yesterday, 2,622 deaths, and more than 104,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

Trump Holds White House Event: President Trump held a White House event yesterday celebrating the expected approval of the first vaccine in the U.S., the Pfizer vaccine. The administration is seeking to assure that the vaccine is safe and lay out its plans to get it to the American people. However, officials from the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden, who will oversee most of the vaccination program, weren't invited. Trump also signed an executive order restricting the federal government from delivering any of its own vaccine doses to other nations until there is excess supply, but it wasn't clear what the practical impact of the order would be. 

Biden Lays Out Coronavirus Priorities for First 100 Days: President-elect Joe Biden yesterday laid out three priorities related to the pandemic for his first 100 days in office as he introduced his health care team. They are: a call for all Americans to voluntarily wear masks during those 100 days; a commitment to administer 100 million vaccines; and a pledge to try to reopen a majority of the nation’s schools. Biden also said he'd require masks in federal buildings and on interstate travel on planes, trains and buses, however that would just mandate policies that are already largely being carried out. He further said he'd urge governors and mayors to impose similar requirements in their jurisdictions.

➤ADMIN.'S COVID AID PROPOSAL WOULD GIVE AMERICANS $600, BUT ELIMINATE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT IN COMPROMISE PLAN: While a bipartisan group of lawmakers is continuing to work on a $908 billion compromise package to offer more coronavirus relief to Americans, the Trump administration yesterday offered a $916 billion package that would send a $600 payment to most Americans, but eliminate a $300 per week unemployment benefit in the compromise bill. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin presented the offer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they'd rather let the bipartisan group take the lead. The sticking points in the bipartisan bill have been liability protection for businesses and schools from lawsuits related to the coronavirus that Republicans wants, and financial assistance for state and local governments that are struggling economically because of the pandemic that Democrats want.

➤SUPREME COURT REJECTS GOP EFFORT TO REVERSE CERTIFICATION OF BIDEN'S PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION WIN: The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected a bid by Republicans to reverse Pennsylvania's certification of President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the state and its 20 electoral votes. The court refused without comment to intervene in a lawsuit led by Republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and a GOP congressional candidate in the state, Sean Parnell, who lost to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb. Attorneys for the state of Pennsylvania and former Governor Tom Wolf had called the lawsuit's claims "fundamentally frivolous," and its request, quote, "one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic." The Republicans had argued Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional, but just one Republican state lawmaker voted against its passage last year.

➤ARMY FIRES, SUSPENDS 14 OFFICERS, ENLISTED OVER VIOLENCE AT FORT HOOD: The Army said yesterday that it had fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood over a pattern of violence at the Texas base, including murder, sexual assault and harassment. Also ordered were policy changes to deal with what the Army said were chronic failures of leadership at the base that allowed to situation to exist. The Army's actions came after a year in which at least 25 soldiers at Fort Hood died as a result of suicide, homicide or accidents. Among them was 20-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillen, who was bludgeoned to death by a fellow soldier, and who was missing for two months before her remains were found.

📖REPORT: KELLYANNE CONWAYS GETS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR BOOK DEAL: Kellyanne Conway, a former Senior Counselor to President Trump who unexpectedly left the White House at the end of August after having been with Trump since the 2016 presidential campaign, during which she was his campaign manager for the final three months, has landed a multi-million dollar book deal, according to the Daily Mail. Conway's memoir will give the most, quote, "unvarnished, eye-popping" account of Trump's presidency, the Mail cited an insider as saying. Exactly what Conway is being paid for the book isn't clear, but the Mail said she's expected to get the biggest advance ever for a Trump tell-all book, and cited the insider as saying she could potentially make tens of millions of dollars more for the rights. The Mail said there was a "bidding war" in the publishing world for Conway's story after she stepped down.

💰POLL: MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS HAD FINANCIAL SETBACKS AMID PANDEMIC: More than two-thirds of Americans, 68 percent, said they'd had financial setbacks amid the pandemic this year due to job loss, falling household income, or pulling money out of savings, according to a new survey from Fidelity. To deal with their financial setbacks, Americans plan to do things including cutting expenses, relying on credit cards or personal loans, and dipping into emergency savings. Looking ahead to their finances in the upcoming year, over 38 percent said they'll spend 2021 in "survival mode," meaning they'll focus on their current situation instead of long-term goals to try to get through the year. Considering what they're worried about financially, 46 percent are concerned about the pandemic's impact on the economy, 35 percent on unexpected expenses, and 34 percent of the rising cost of food and other daily essentials.

🎧APPLE INTRODUCES $549 HEADPHONES THAT COSTS TWICE AS MUCH AS AIRPODS: Apple is testing just how generous you want to be this holiday season, whether for yourself or for a gift recipient, introducing headphones that cost $549, twice as much as AirPods and much more than similar headphones from Bose and Sony that offer many of the same features. The over-the-ear headphones, called AirPods Max, are wireless and have noise cancellation. Apple began accepting orders for them yesterday, but they won’t be in stores until December 15th. It remains to be seen if Apple fans will be willing to pony up that much money for headphones. AP notes that when Apple introduced its internet-connected speaker, the HomePod, in 2018 it cost $349, also much more than similar internet-connected speakers from Amazon and Google. But the sales may not have been as high as expected, with Apple eventually reducing the HomePod price to $299, and releasing a small version last month for $99.

🍕GRUBHUB’S ‘YEAR IN FOOD’ DATA SHOWS AMERICANS HAD UNEXPECTED PIZZA CRAVINGS IN 2020: Grubhub’s “Taste of 2020” report shows that pizza is still one of America’s favorite foods. The company says people ordering food late at night most-often ordered pizza, but that pizza puffs became “232% more popular” this year compared to 2019, and buffalo chicken pizza orders also jumped up 226 percent in 2020. A pizza puff is similar to a calzone, but instead of being baked, a piece of dough is molded into a pocket and gets deep-fried—it’s filled with cheese- and tomato-based fillings. Also, Grubhub says Hawaiian pizza is “America’s favorite pizza,” as the flavor was ordered 689 percent more in 2020 than it was in 2019.

🍩GEORGIA DUNKIN’ EMPLOYEE STABBED BY CUSTOMER UPSET THAT THE CHAIN RAN OUT OF DOUGHNUT FLAVOR: Violence is never the answer. A 17-year-old Dunkin’ employee working in Georgia is recovering after being stabbed in the arm by an angry customer on Saturday night at a Union City location of the chain. Reports say a man and woman initially went through the drive-thru, and police say the man was upset that Dunkin’ ran out of a certain doughnut flavor. A video clip on Twitter shows fists flying between the man and the store employee before the man pulls out a knife. The woman appears to try and intervene before backing away. Police say the victim was stabbed in the upper arm during the brawl, and are asking anyone with information on the attack to contact them at 770-964-1333. Currently the attacker is unidentified.

🎄WHAT’S ACTUALLY SAFE TO DO FOR THE HOLIDAYS DURING THE PANDEMIC? -The pandemic has pretty much ruined everything this year, and we must tread carefully into the holiday season as it continues. In fact, we should be celebrating differently this year. You really shouldn’t be traveling to visit people outside of your own household, but if you do so anyway you should travel by car, and you should arrive early so you can isolate for a while before seeing your loved ones. If you’re heading to a different state you should also check that state’s guidelines for any travel restrictions. Also, infectious disease expert Scott Weisenberg says you should avoid prolonged close contact with people, particularly indoors. You’ll be safest celebrating outdoors while maintaining physical distance, and should limit any gathering to a very small group. If you’re insisting on meeting indoors keep the gathering small and be sure to open the windows and wear masks, and also stick to hanging out with people who have a similar risk-tolerance to you, especially if you’re planning to eat dinner in their presence. Also, experts say your safest bet is to postpone any gatherings until it’s much, much safer to do so—and that might not be until after spring 2021 as vaccines are on the horizon. Ultimately staying safe and healthy is more important than putting yourself and loved ones at risk for the sake of season traditions.

🏈RAVENS DOWN COWBOYS 34-17: The Baltimore Ravens downed the Dallas Cowboys 34-17 last night at home, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was playing for the first time since November 22nd after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Jackson threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, carrying 13 times and running for 94 yards. Jackson was one of 23 Ravens who spent time on the Covid-19 list because they had the virus, and about a half-dozen are still on it. The game was played on Tuesday because Baltimore’s previous game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week had been pushed back three times due to the Ravens' Covid cases.

🏈BRYANT PULLED BEFORE RAVENS-COWBOYS AFTER TESTING POSITIVE: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant left during warmups before last night's (December 8th) game against his former team, the Dallas Cowboys, with what Baltimore said was an "illness." Bryant tweeted that he'd tested positive for the coronavirus, and, frustrated, tweeted later, "I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit for the rest of the season... I can’t deal with this." But he later posted more tweets, including saying, "Yea I’m coming back... I’m being smart." Bryant, who signed with the Ravens in October, was with the Cowboys from 2010 to 2017.

🏈HURTS TO START FOR EAGLES INSTEAD OF WENTZ: Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson announced Tuesday (December 8th) that Jalen Hurts will start for the team at quarterback on Sunday instead of Carson Wentz. Hurts had replaced Wentz in the third quarter of Philly's 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday. Pederson said, "We’re not where we want to be as an offense. I looked at the whole thing and decided that for this week to look for that spark again to try to get the team over the hump, to try to get everybody playing better." The Eagles are 3-8-1 on the season.

🏈MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE CANCELED DUE TO COVID-19 CASES: Michigan on Tuesday (December 8th) canceled its annual college football game against Ohio State because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases in Michigan's program. This will be the first time in 102 years that the season-ending match, known simply as "The Game," won't be played. Covid-19 outbreaks have disrupted more than 110 games across major college football since August.

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