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 330,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 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:
►Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed at midnight Saturday after President Donald Trump failed to sign an end-of-year COVID relief and spending legislation. The fate of the benefits, stimulus checks and other measures remained uncertain as Trump demanded larger checks while railing against other spending he views as excessive.
►European Union nations on Sunday began administering their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. Health care workers, the elderly and leading politicians got some of the first shots across the 27-nation bloc.
►Officials in Canada have confirmed the first two known Canadian cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom. The new strain appears to be more infectious but doesn’t seem to make people any more sick. It has also been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, France, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
►The U.S. death toll has surpassed 330,000, meaning that about 1 in 1,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
►Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, a Republican, announced Sunday in a Facebook post that he and his wife, Kim, have tested positive for COVID-19.
►South Korea, previously a success story in handling the coronavirus pandemic, is grappling with a severe uptick in cases during Christmas week: 1,241 on Christmas Day alone. That’s the largest daily increase the nation has ever seen.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 19.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 333,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 80.7 million cases and 1.76 million deaths.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
An increase in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed the push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). President-elect Joe Biden has expressed commitment to renew the act that expired last year but he faces a tough challenge if Republicans keep control of the Senate after Georgia’s runoff elections next month. But an increase in domestic violence calls and arrests across the country may put pressure on the Senate GOP to restart stalled reauthorization efforts.
Comprehensive data on the impact of COVID on domestic violence is not readily available as a large number of incidents may be going unreported, experts fear. However, limited data has shown an uptick in cases as families are stuck at home with their attackers. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9% increase in calls between March 16 – when many states issued lockdown orders – and May 16, compared with the same period in 2019.
– Kaanita Iyer
Days after President Donald Trump suggested that he would not likely sign a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package unless it increased individual direct payments to $2,000, President-elect Joe Biden issued a searing statement condemning his soon-to-be predecessor for his “abdication of responsibility.” “It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” he said in a statement.
Listing the ramifications of not signing the bill, including the end of an eviction moratorium, a lack of small business and individual relief and funding for vaccine distribution, Biden said the bill is “critical” and “needs to be signed into law now.” He did acknowledge that this package is only “a first step and down payment” for future aid.
For many, the promise of a vaccine offers hope and relief. But Josie Passes, a member of the Crow Tribe in Montana, is wary of its long-term consequences.
Though tribal communities have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19 nationwide, Passes is not alone in her reluctance. As tribes begin to receive and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, many tribal members hesitate to get immunized.
Some people fear Indigenous populations will be used as “guinea pigs,” while others are reluctant to trust the Indian Health Service. Some feel invincible, as tribes have survived devastating diseases such as smallpox and violent massacres. Many would prefer to wait and observe the effects of the vaccine as more people receive it.
Experts say this skepticism is warranted. Tribes have experienced disinvestment, incompetence and brutality at the hands of the federal government. The consequences of this neglect transcend generations and manifest today as systemic inequalities, many of which were further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
– Nora Mabie, Great Falls Tribune
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press