Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Dec. 10, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.

The United States set a single-day record on Wednesday of more than 3,000 deaths from the coronavirus, with Texas, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania leading the way in each reporting more than 200 dead. Meanwhile, a group of independent experts will review data on the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine Thursday in what could be the country’s final hurdle in rolling out the first doses of a vaccine.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world.

Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting can be viewed here in full:

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Exposure feared after New Hampshire speaker dies of COVID-19

The speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives died of COVID-19, a medical examiner ruled Thursday, a day after the Republican’s unexpected death, raising concerns that other members of one of the world’s largest legislative bodies might have been exposed at their swearing-in last week.

Dick Hinch, who was sworn in Dec. 2 as leader of the state’s newly Republican-led, 400-member Legislature, died Wednesday. He was 71 and had been starting his seventh two-year term in the state House.

His death was announced Wednesday night by his office, which did not give details of what it called “this unexpected tragedy.” Hinch is the first New Hampshire speaker to die during the session, according to House Clerk Paul Smith.

The swearing-in of the House and the 24-member state Senate was held outdoors at the University of New Hampshire because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hinch was photographed wearing a mask, though it did not cover his nostrils.

—Associated Press
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Bodycam video: COVID-19 analyst delayed cops serving warrant

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Bodycam video released by a Florida law enforcement agency on Thursday shows that officers tried multiple time to contact a former Department of Health employee who the state says sent an unauthorized message about COVID-19 data.

The more than 20 minutes of video released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows officers knocking on Rebekah Jones’ door multiple times and attempting to call her before serving a search warrant Monday morning.

Jones, who has not been charged with any crime for the message, said Thursday that she, her husband and two children were asleep when the officers arrived. Speaking in a YouTube interview with Florida Today, Jones said she needed to get dressed and told her husband to take the children upstairs because she thought the officers were arresting her and she didn’t want them to see that.

Jones helped create the state’s dashboard of coronavirus data. She was fired from her post in May after she raised questions about the data. She had been reprimanded several times and was ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.

The message that led to the raid implored employees still at the Health Department “to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero.”

—Associated Press

Pregnant people have been excluded from initial vaccination trials in many countries

About 70% of health-care workers worldwide are women, meaning many are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and, in theory, toward the front of the line for a coronavirus vaccine as they begin to be distributed.

But there’s a catch: Vaccination programs from Russia to the United Kingdom are excluding women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning for a pregnancy as the vaccine candidates were not clinically tested on these populations as part of their initial trials.

On Tuesday, Britain launched the West’s first mass coronavirus vaccination using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. But guidance from the U.K. government has excluded pregnant women from the shots.

“Evidence so far reviewed … raises no concerns for safety in pregnancy,” Public Health England explained on its website. But “because of the new formulation of this particular vaccine … [it] wants to see more nonclinical data before finalising the advice in pregnancy.”

The advisory continued, “It is standard practice when waiting for such data on any medicine, to avoid its use in those who may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding. This will be kept under review as more evidence becomes available.”

Russia’s recent initial rollout of its Sputnik vaccine similarly did not include this demographic.

—The Washington Post

‘A whole lot of uncertainty and stress’: Unemployment benefits for 100,000 Washingtonians may end soon

For many of the nearly 100,000 Washingtonians who get emergency pandemic unemployment benefits, the uncertainty over the future of the federal program has been agonizing.

The program, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), expires the day after Christmas unless Congress acts to extend it.  

But Congress and the White House remain deadlocked over PUA, which covers contractors, the self-employed, part-time workers and others who aren’t eligible for regular jobless benefits. Although Gov. Jay Inslee has promised to step in with a relief package of at least $54 million if Congress fails to act, details — including a weekly payment amount — have yet to be settled. And any state relief likely would be only temporary. 

With an extension of federal relief on hold, some states have considered stopgap measures. On Tuesday, as Inslee extended tougher business restrictions for three weeks, he also promised to cover PUA recipients if Congress failed to extend the program before the Dec. 26 expiration.

“We will not allow people to fall off that cliff in the state of Washington,” Inslee said.

But how the state will prevent that is still being worked out.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts
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There are lots of essential workers out there. Which ones get the vaccine first?

Uber says its drivers should get priority access to the coronavirus vaccine because they provide crucial transportation to health care workers and the general public.

Teachers say they need priority access to the vaccine to keep schools open and welcome students into classrooms.

Meatpackers say they should get priority so they can provide access to safe and affordable food.

And waste workers say they need the vaccine ahead of others so they can haul away garbage to prevent the spread of disease.

The U.S. rollout of COVID-19 vaccines looks imminent. But supplies will be limited in the early going, so companies and trade groups are jockeying to push their workers closer to the front of the line.

—Los Angeles Times

FDA advisers recommend Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine with agency action expected soon

WASHINGTON – Federal advisers endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Thursday, making it all but certain the Food and Drug Administration will authorize the vaccine on an emergency basis within hours or days, kicking off an unprecedented effort to inoculate enough Americans to stop a rampaging pandemic.

But the prospect of relief from the coronavirus came on a day when 107,000 people were hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and a record 3,347 deaths were reported by state health departments, topping the milestone reached one day earlier. Within days, the country will likely surpass 300,000 deaths since the pandemic’s arrival.

The worsening situation has heightened attention to the vaccine approval process. The thumbs’ up from the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee was the culmination of an all-day meeting during which the panel heard presentations on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, including plans to monitor its longer-term safety.

The key moment came just after 5:30 p.m., when the agency asked its independent advisers: “Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine outweigh its risks for use in individuals 16 years of age and older?”

The committee voted yes, 17 in favor, four against and one abstained.

—The Washington Post

Aberdeen prison confirms first inmate death due to COVID-19

Stafford Creek Corrections Center, a men's prison in Aberdeen, confirmed its first COVID-19 death among inmates on Thursday, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC).

"The Washington Department of Corrections offers its condolences to the family and friends of the decedent and remains committed to continue science-based health practices and following the established COVID-19 screening, testing and infection control guidelines as the Department works to contain and mitigate any spread of the virus," the department said in a statement.

The man died at a local health care facility Thursday, according to DOC. No other information about him was immediately available.

This is the fourth COVID-19-related death among DOC inmates, the statement said. One state correctional officer has also died from a virus-related illness.

Stafford Creek, which on Thursday reported 242 COVID-19 cases at its facility, continues to quarantine living units to limit transmission rates and, because of a recent increase in infections, has initiated "restricted movement," the statement said.

Other correctional facilities in the state are reporting hundreds of coronavirus cases, including 779 at Airway Heights Corrections Center, 340 at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, 402 at Washington Corrections Center and 346 at Washington State Penitentiary, as of Thursday evening.

"The Department of Corrections is committed to mitigating, containing and ceasing the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities and providing for the health and safety of the incarcerated, staff and the community," the statement said.

—Elise Takahama
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For a nation on edge, antacids become hard to find

First it was toilet paper. Then it was meat.

Now, it’s antacids.

People searching online or in stores for over-the-counter tummy soothers are finding that they can’t easily buy antacid medications like Tums, Pepcid and its generic version, famotidine, in parts of the country. A few weeks ago, Wegmans Food Markets took the step of limiting shoppers to two packets of famotidine products per trip.

During a pandemic that has seen bursts of hoarding, this may be the most unexpected.

Americans are stressed. They’re concerned about the rising number of coronavirus cases. They worry about their jobs. Remote learning is a nightmare, and grocery shopping is no walk in the park. Not to mention the elections. And now, here come the holidays. The result is that some people are dealing with “Pandemic Stomach,” acid-churning episodes that are increasing demand for over-the-counter and prescription antacids.

And antacids have also been popular with those who have yet to have any indigestion or heartburn. People began stocking up on them after preliminary studies suggested famotidine could reduce the symptoms of coronavirus. Another buying wave hit this fall when President Donald Trump was treated for coronavirus and White House officials said he was on famotidine, along with zinc and vitamin D.

For those in need of relief, the shortages are maddening.

—The New York Times

US Jews plan smaller Hanukkah celebrations amid virus

A man on a bicycle pauses on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan near what has been described as “the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah,” Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in New York, on the first night of Hanukkah, the annual eight-day Jewish festival of lights. Due to coronavirus restrictions, a limited and socially-distanced crowd was allowed to attend. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A man on a bicycle pauses on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan near what has been described as “the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah,” Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in New York, on the first night of Hanukkah, the annual eight-day Jewish festival of lights. Due to coronavirus restrictions, a limited and socially-distanced crowd was allowed to attend. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jewish Americans from a variety of branches of the faith are celebrating Hanukkah with smaller-than-usual gatherings this year, in hopes of keeping the year-end holiday safe but still joyful as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

Many Jewish Americans are already accustomed to more intimate celebrations of a holiday focused more on the home than on the synagogue, including Haredim or ultra-Orthodox communities. So the recent successful Supreme Court challenge to New York restrictions on in-person worship by some Orthodox groups won’t mean much as far as their Hanukkah plans.

But celebrating Hanukkah during a pandemic still poses a challenge to some Jewish Americans, for whom the holiday has risen in prominence in part because its social elements and timing line up with non-Jewish holidays such as Christmas.

That has often provided a reason to host get-togethers, said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America, a plaintiff in the court case.

But such large gatherings are “not an essential part of the holiday on any level whatsoever,” he added. “So to Haredim, to us ultra-Orthodox, it’s not something that’s going to cramp our style.”

Hanukkah is not affected by the restrictions on electronic device usage that observant Jews heed during the sabbath and holy days, allowing for virtual celebrations.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

State confirms 2,923 new COVID-19 cases -- 755 in King County -- and reduces number of deaths by 166

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,923 new coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, and reduced the number of deaths by 166.

The DOH removes deaths from the statewide total when the primary cause of death is determined not to have been COVID-19.

The numbers also came with this disclaimer: "Today’s total case counts may include up to 300 duplicates. Negative test results data from November 21, 2020 through today are incomplete, as are positive test results from November 30 - December 6, 2020, thus testing numbers should be interpreted with caution.

"The COVID-19 Disease Activity tab is the most accurate representation of COVID activity and is updated daily as new cases are identified and duplicates are resolved."

In King County, the state’s most populous, 755 new cases were reported, and the number of deaths was reduced by 50, to 894.

The update brings the state’s totals to 192,413 cases and 2,850 deaths, meaning that 1.5% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. 

The DOH also reported that 12,084 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 88 new hospitalizations as of Wednesday.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 51,596 COVID-19 diagnoses and 894 deaths.

DOH's method of reporting new cases each day differs from The Times', which was today’s total cases minus the previous day’s total cases.

The DOH’s report of new cases each day may include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests, etc.

—Nicole Brodeur
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‘Tis the pandemic season: White House parties on amid virus

A U.S. Marine Corps band performs in the Entrance Hall of the White House during the 2020 Christmas preview, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A U.S. Marine Corps band performs in the Entrance Hall of the White House during the 2020 Christmas preview, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — It’s the season for holiday gatherings, both official and informal. But it’s also still very much pandemic season, and COVID-19 infection numbers are setting records in the nation’s capital.

The District of Columbia government faces a unique challenge in balancing those two factors, as the capital is riddled with federal government property, where the D.C. government has limited enforcement powers.

President Donald Trump’s administration has pushed ahead with as many as two dozen holiday events, including Thursday night’s Congressional Ball. The D.C. Health Department can’t do much more than track the numbers and hope its virus guidelines are being followed.

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive soon, with the first batch reserved for health care professionals and first responders. But health officials warn that it could be months before the vaccine is readily available to the general population, and the average case rate in Washington has set records every day for the past week.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

China advises flight attendants to wear diapers to avoid COVID-19 risks in lavatories

China’s transportation officials are recommending flight attendants wear disposable diapers and avoid restrooms at all costs on flights serving countries with high rates of coronavirus cases, according to documents from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The recommendation to employ diapers and avoid in-flight bathrooms altogether applies on flights to and from countries with infection rates exceeding 500 cases per million people. The United States’ coronavirus case rate exceeds that limit as of Dec. 10, at more than 660 cases per million.

The guidance is part of a lengthy document detailing technical guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus on planes, which also states that flight and cabin crew should, on lower-risk flights, designate their own private lavatory and sanitize it before and after every use. The document was issued on Nov. 25, according to CNN.

The advice to wear a diaper falls under a section covering recommended personal protective equipment.

“Personal protective equipment for cabin crew: surgical masks, double-layer disposable gloves, goggles, disposable nonwoven hat, disposable gown, disposable shoe covers. Flight attendants are advised to wear diapers,” the CAAC states. “Avoid using restrooms unless under special circumstances to decrease risk of infection.”

Studies in recent months have suggested that plane cabins are lower-risk coronavirus environments than previously thought when passengers wears masks. But doctors have also signaled that lavatories on long-haul flights are at a substantial risk of being contaminated with the coronavirus. According to reporting by The Washington Post, Boeing is developing airplane lavatories that can sanitize themselves in under three seconds.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

San Diego to fight ruling letting strip clubs stay open

While California’s new stay-at-home order has shut down restaurant dining, shuttered salons and kept church services outside, two strip clubs in San Diego are still welcoming patrons nightly, protected by a court order.

San Diego County officials on Wednesday voted 3-2 to appeal a judge’s ruling that has allowed Pacer Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentleman’s Club to stay open after the establishments sued over being ordered to close their doors.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction Nov. 6, protecting the establishments from enforcement actions by state and local officials, though the businesses must still adhere to a 10 p.m. curfew and close early.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Southern California is driving record COVID-19 deaths with no signs of letting up

 Deaths from COVID-19 in California are reaching record levels this week, a grim sign of how even advances in medical care and a younger demographic of those infected are no match for the relentless spread of the coronavirus.

California this week broke its single-day record for COVID-19 deaths — 219 on Tuesday and health officials expect deaths to continue spiking in the coming weeks as it’s becoming clear many people got infected during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The coronavirus is now infecting mostly younger adults. But once the virus spreads into older people — those age 50 or higher — the likelihood of death is much higher.

Read the story here.

—Los Angeles Times

UW Medicine readies rollout of COVID-19 vaccine

UW Medicine is getting ready to deploy its allocation of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as Pfizer seeks emergency authorization for its use, the medical system said in a statement Thursday.

The vaccine will be distributed based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, which target front-line health-care workers.


Freezers that can keep the MRNA vaccine viable at minus-70 degrees Celsius are in place at all UW Medicine hospital locations, said Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, director of Harborview Medical Center's Infectious Diseases Clinic.

Dhanireddy said it's still important, however, to continue social distancing and masking.

—Christine Clarridge

One-day US deaths top 3,000, more than D-Day or 9/11

Just when the U.S. appears on the verge of rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine, the numbers have become gloomier than ever: Over 3,000 American deaths in a single day, more than on D-Day or 9/11. One million new cases in the span of five days. More than 106,000 people in the hospital.

The crisis across the country is pushing medical centers to the breaking point and leaving staff members and public health officials burned out and plagued by tears and nightmares.

All told, the crisis has left more than 290,000 people dead in the U.S, with more than 15 million confirmed infections.

The U.S. recorded 3,124 deaths Wednesday, the highest one-day total yet, according to Johns Hopkins University. Up until last week, the peak was 2,603 deaths on April 15, when New York City was the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak.

Wednesday’s toll eclipsed American deaths on the opening day of the Normandy invasion during World War II: 2,500, out of some 4,400 allied deaths. And it topped the toll on Sept. 11, 2001, as well: 2,977.

Kyla Harris, 10, writes a tribute to her grandmother Patsy Gilreath Moore, who died at age 79 of COVID-19, at a symbolic cemetery created to remember and honor lives lost to COVID-19, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Officials announced that a new COVID-19 testing site will be opening in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Kyla Harris, 10, writes a tribute to her grandmother Patsy Gilreath Moore, who died at age 79 of COVID-19, at a symbolic cemetery created to remember and honor lives lost to COVID-19, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Officials announced that a new COVID-19 testing site will be opening in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Read the story here.

—Heather Hollingsworth, The Associated Press
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DeGeneres: Positive test for coronavirus but ‘feeling fine’

 Ellen DeGeneres says she has tested positive for COVID-19 but is “feeling fine right now.”

Ellen DeGeneres said she has tested positive for COVID-19 but is “feeling fine right now.” The producer of her daytime talk show says production has been put on hold until January. (Photo by Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP, file)
Ellen DeGeneres said she has tested positive for COVID-19 but is “feeling fine right now.” The producer of her daytime talk show says production has been put on hold until January. (Photo by Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP, file)

Production on her daytime talk show has been paused until January, producer Telepictures said in a statement that followed DeGeneres’ Thursday announcement.

In an Instagram post, DeGeneres said anyone who was in close contact with her has been notified, adding that she’s following “all proper CDC guidelines,” a reference to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’ll see you all again after the holidays. Please stay healthy and safe,” DeGeneres said in her post.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out in the pandemic

Early in the pandemic, Joo Park noticed a worrisome shift at the market he manages near downtown Washington: At least once a day, he’d spot someone slipping a package of meat, a bag of rice or other food into a shirt or under a jacket. Diapers, shampoo and laundry detergent began disappearing in bigger numbers, too.

Since then, he said, thefts have more than doubled at Capitol Supermarket — even though he now stations more employees at the entrance, asks shoppers to leave backpacks up front and displays high-theft items like hand sanitizer and baking yeast in more conspicuous areas. Park doesn’t usually call the police, choosing instead to bar offenders from coming back.

“It’s become much harder during the pandemic,” he said. “People will say, ‘I was just hungry.’ And then what do you do?”

The coronavirus recession has been a relentless churn of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. The government stimulus that kept millions of Americans from falling into poverty earlier in the pandemic is long gone, and new aid is still a dot on the horizon after months of congressional inaction. Hunger is chronic, at levels not seen in decades.

The result is a growing subset of Americans who are stealing food to survive.

Read the story here.

—Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham, The Washington Post

Trump and friends got coronavirus care many others couldn’t

Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Donald J. Trump are not the sturdiest candidates to conquer the coronavirus: older, in some cases overweight, male and not particularly fit. Yet all seem to have gotten through COVID-19, and all have gotten an antibody treatment in such short supply that some hospitals and states are doling it out by lottery.

Now Rudy Giuliani, the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to contract COVID-19, has acknowledged that he received at least two of the same drugs the president received. He even conceded that his “celebrity” status had given him access to care that others did not have.

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, is  the latest in Trump’s inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for COVID-19, as hospitals across the country ration care. (Erin Schaff / The New York Times, file)
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, is the latest in Trump’s inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for COVID-19, as hospitals across the country ration care. (Erin Schaff / The New York Times, file)

“If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital frankly,” Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, told WABC radio in New York. “Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”

Giuliani’s candid admission once again exposes that COVID-19 has become a disease of the haves and the have-nots. The treatment given Trump’s allies is raising alarms among medical ethicists as state officials and health system administrators grapple with gut-wrenching decisions about which patients get antibodies in a system that can only be described as rationing.

In fact, the antibody treatments are so scarce that officials in Utah have developed a ranking system to determine who is most likely to benefit from the drugs, while Colorado is using a lottery system. Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado, said that giving the powerful access was patently unfair.

Read the story here.

—The New York Times
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African health official blasts ‘terrible’ vaccine inequality

The World Trade Organization has been asked by South Africa and India to waive some intellectual property rules to allow for faster, easier access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

“But a small group of high-income countries and their trading partners have opposed it including Brazil, the European Union, Canada, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement with Amnesty International supporting the waiver.

As the world watches mass vaccinations begin in Britain, John Nkengasong said Africa might not see vaccines until after the second quarter of 2021.

The director for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will be "extremely terrible" to see rich countries receiving COVID-19 vaccines while African countries go without, especially as a new surge in cases begins on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Nkengasong urged the United Nations to summon a special session to discuss the ethical, fair distribution of vaccines.

A freshly-dug grave sits at the Motherwell Cemetery in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 that the country is now experiencing a Covid-19 pandemic second wave. (AP Photo/Theo Jeftha)
A freshly-dug grave sits at the Motherwell Cemetery in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 that the country is now experiencing a Covid-19 pandemic second wave. (AP Photo/Theo Jeftha)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

As virus cases dip, western Switzerland reopens restaurants. But for how long?

While much of Switzerland is preparing for tighter lockdown restrictions because of COVID-19, the country’s French-speaking regions are going in the other direction — allowing restaurants to reopen on Thursday after a drop in cases from one of the world’s highest rates of infection roughly a month ago.

Authorities in five cantons, or regions, around the cities of Geneva and Lausanne are allowing restaurants to reopen, under strict conditions. But federal officials have said new nationwide restrictions could be ordered on Friday and start this weekend — leaving restaurateurs and their eateries in limbo and unsure about which rules to follow in coming days.

A waiter wearing a face protection mask serves food at the restaurant La Bavaria during the reopening lunch after 5 weeks of closure in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. While much of Switzerland is preparing for tighter lockdown restrictions because of COVID-19, the country’s French-speaking regions are going in the other direction, allowing restaurants to reopen. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
A waiter wearing a face protection mask serves food at the restaurant La Bavaria during the reopening lunch after 5 weeks of closure in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. While much of Switzerland is preparing for tighter lockdown restrictions because of COVID-19, the country’s French-speaking regions are going in the other direction, allowing restaurants to reopen. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Mauro Poggia, a member of Geneva’s regional council in charge of safety, health and employment, said said the easing of lockdown measures was a “relief” but acknowledged: “We know the third wave is ahead of us.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Trump virus coordinator Birx seeks role in Biden government

FILE – In this April 22, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Birx was brought into President Donald Trump’s orbit to help fight the coronavirus, she had a sterling reputation as a globally recognized AIDS researcher and a rare Obama administration holdover. Less than 10 months later, her reputation is frayed and her future in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration uncertain. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
FILE – In this April 22, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Birx was brought into President Donald Trump’s orbit to help fight the coronavirus, she had a sterling reputation as a globally recognized AIDS researcher and a rare Obama administration holdover. Less than 10 months later, her reputation is frayed and her future in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration uncertain. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

When Dr. Deborah Birx was brought into President Donald Trump’s orbit to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, she had a sterling reputation as a former U.S. Army physician, a globally recognized AIDS researcher and a rare Obama administration holdover.

Less than 10 months later, as Trump’s time in office nears its end, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator’s reputation is frayed. And after serving every president since Ronald Reagan, her future in the incoming Joe Biden administration is uncertain.

Over the course of the pandemic, Birx drew criticism from public health experts and Democratic lawmakers for not speaking out forcefully against the Republican president when he contradicted advice from medical advisers and scientists about how to fight the virus.

Birx has made clear that she wants to stick around to help the Biden administration roll out vaccines and persuade the American people to be inoculated. She has reached out to Biden advisers; But according to someone familiar with Biden transition deliberations, her reluctance to publicly challenge Trump when he downplayed the virus has left some in Biden’s transition skeptical that she retains credibility with the public.

Read the story here.

—Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine faces last hurdle before US decision

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine faces one final hurdle as it races to become the first shot greenlighted in the U.S.: a panel of experts who will scrutinize the company’s data for any red flags.

Thursday’s meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel is likely the last step before a U.S. decision to begin shipping millions of doses of the shot, which has shown strong protection against the coronavirus.

The FDA panel functions like a science court that will pick apart the data and debate — in public and live-streamed — whether the shot is safe and effective enough to be cleared for emergency use. The non-government experts specialize in vaccine development, infectious diseases and medical statistics. The FDA is expected to follow the committee’s advice, although it is not required to do so.

The FDA’s decision comes as the coronavirus continues surging across much of the world, claiming more than 1.5 million lives, including more than 289,000 in the U.S.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Washington State University to store, help distribute COVID-19 vaccine

Washington will begin rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, and Washington State University is set to help with the logistics.

As the distribution process moves along, WSU will have a direct role in receiving, storing and helping to distribute the vaccine throughout parts of Eastern Washington.

Specialized freezers will be employed for COVID-19 vaccine storage at the state’s request, said Colleen Kerr, WSU’s vice president for external affairs. As an R1 research institution, a doctoral university that prioritizes significant levels of research activity, as defined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education, WSU has ultracold freezers capable of storing doses of the vaccine at suitable temperatures, Kerr said.

Meanwhile, WSU pharmacy students have been trained to administer the vaccine, college officials said.

A vial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE ahead of being administered at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.  Photographer: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
A vial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE ahead of being administered at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Photographer: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

“It will be a moment of complex coordinating and collaborating, and I think it’ll really allow us to fulfill our land-grant mission in the state,” said Kerr, referring to WSU’s status as a land-grant institution.

Read the story here.

—Greg Mason, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Catch up on the past 24 hours

• Today is a key vaccine day, and Washington state could get more than 60,000 doses next week if Pfizer's shot gets a green light. The FDA's commissioner talked with The Seattle Times about what's ahead for the vaccine as a panel of independent experts weighs its safety and effectiveness today. Here are the live stream and updating story. The hearing comes after the U.S. endured a record-high day of deaths.

• Is it OK to stop wearing a mask after getting a vaccine? No. A UW vaccine expert explains why masks and social distancing will still be recommended.

• Infected after 5 minutes, from 20 feet away: A new study is raising concerns that the widely accepted 6 feet of social distance may not be enough.

• The Gates Foundation is significantly boosting its fight against COVID-19 with an additional $250 million to get vaccines to the world’s poorest people. Wealthy nations have locked up much of the initial supply, raising fears in Africa — where the second wave is hitting hard — that vaccines won't arrive until the second half of 2021.

• UW football has paused team activities because of rising COVID-19 cases within the program. Saturday's game at Oregon is a big question mark.

• A small town ignored the virus, because “we trusted each other.” Then people in Mitchell, S.D., started dying. This is a story of what changes when the pandemic becomes personal, and the medical emergency helicopter comes nearly every day.

• A Florida man refused to mask up in Best Buy. Then he coughed, spit and sneezed all over the store, police said. It's not the only mask-related confrontation that's led to criminal charges.​​​​​​

• Australia largely beat the virus, but at a cost: It left thousands of residents stranded abroad.

—Kris Higginson
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