Coronavirus updates: US sees deadliest day – again; most of California headed to new stay-at-home orders; Navajo Nation ‘in crisis mode’ – USA TODAY

President-elect Joe Biden plans to ask Americans to wear a face mask for 100 days after he is inaugurated to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, and he pledged to publicly take a vaccine when it’s available to encourage the public to get vaccinated.

“Just 100 days to mask, not forever. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction,” Biden said during an interview Thursday with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Biden also said he’d “be happy” to join former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in getting the vaccine in public to prove it is safe. “When Dr. Fauci says we have a vaccine that is safe, that’s the moment in which I will stand before the public.”

Biden’s statements came on what was the deadliest day of the pandemic in the U.S., with 2,897 deaths. Thursday broke Wednesday’s record of deadliest day when 2,804 people died, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The U.S. also recorded its 14 millionth COVID-19 infection Thursday.

Here’s what to know Friday:  

  • California warned that the rise of cases can overwhelm the state’s health care system within weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a regional stay-at-home order that would go into effect when a region hits the ICU capacity threshold. Four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two,” he said.
  • The Navajo Nation requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government. Health officials serving the Navajo Nation have warned of supplies and hospital bed shortages.
  • Warner Bros. is releasing all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day as theaters, a move that experts say should certainly alarm theater chains and could very well sound the death knell for moviegoing as we know it. 
  • Job gains have slowed for five straight months with November only adding 245,000 jobs with unemployment dipping to 6.7%. Meanwhile, Congress has been deadlocked over a new relief package, but key lawmakers this week voiced optimism about reaching a deal on a roughly $1 trillion measure before the holidays.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 14 million cases and over 276,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 65 million cases and 1.5 million deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: USA TODAY’s editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll embarked on a mission to learn why some Americans deny the severity of COVID-19, despite overwhelming evidence otherwise. With the help of USA TODAY’s intrepid health reporters, she hopes that facts can change minds and counter misinformation.

🙂Some good news:  An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday. Read about it here

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

A high schooler lost both her parents to COVID-19, within hours of each other

An Arizona high school student lost both of her parents this week to COVID-19. 

Tony and Lisa Vasquez died of complications due to COVID-19, the family confirmed through friends. They were both admitted to the hospital after struggling with COVID-19 complications and died within hours of each other — Tony on Wednesday evening and then Lisa Thursday morning.

They leave behind their daughter, 17-year-old Brisa Vasquez.

– Madeline Ackley, Arizona Republic

US adds 245K jobs in November, signaling further decline in job growth

U.S. employers added a disappointing 245,000 jobs in November despite the looming halt of extended jobless benefits and other federal lifelines for millions of Americans.

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Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated that 486,000 jobs were added last month. Job gains have consistently slowed for five straight months since peaking at 4.8 million in June.

While the nation has recovered 56% of the 22.2 million jobs wiped out in the health crisis, the gains are offset by a resurgent virus across most of the country as states begin to re-implement stay-at-home orders and other restrictions.

– Paul Davidson

What are the ethics of keeping COVID-19 vaccine trials going?

The first two COVID-19 vaccines to complete clinical trials have been so successful they raise concerns for the next ones. Is it ethical to give people a placebo when a lifesaving vaccine is available? Should those who received placebos in the first two trials be given preferential access to active vaccine to thank them for their sacrifice? There is no consensus among ethicists and public health officials on either point.

Typical vaccine trials last for two years. Both the group receiving the vaccine and the group receiving a placebo are followed to ensure safety and indicate how long the vaccine’s protection will last. 

“We don’t have the full profile on these vaccines,” said Norman Baylor, president and CEO of Biologics Consulting and a former director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the Food and Drug Administration.

Continuing to compare the placebo and active vaccine groups could help researchers better understand how different demographic groups, such as the elderly, respond to the vaccine and identify any unexpected longer-term health issues. That information will never become available, Baylor said, if placebo recipients are vaccinated in the coming months. Read more here. 

– Karen Weintraub

Warner Bros. releasing all 2021 movies on HBO Max, a ‘seismic’ move

In a potentially massive blow for the future of moviegoing, Warner Bros. announced Thursday that it’s releasing all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day as theaters. The films will be available to HBO Max subscribers at no extra charge and will stream for one month. After they leave the platform following the 31-day streaming period, the movies will still be available to see in theaters. 

The studio’s 2021 slate includes hotly anticipated sequels and would-be blockbusters such as “Dune,””The Suicide Squad,” “Matrix 4,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, in a statement. “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

– Patrick Ryan and Bryan Alexander

Fauci said he accepted Biden’s offer to be his chief medical officer

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that he accepted President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to be his chief medical officer.

“Absolutely, I said yes right on the spot,” Fauci told Savannah Guthrie on the “TODAY” show.

Biden said he asked Fauci to remain in his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while also advising him as a chief medical officer.

United bans couple that flew knowing of positive COVID-19 test

United said Thursday that it banned the couple that boarded a flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Hawaii, after knowingly testing positive for COVID-19.


The Kaua‘i Police Department confirmed to USA TODAY that Wailua residents Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson were taken into custody Sunday for “placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death.”

According to a police report, Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, were ordered by the Quarantine Station at the San Francisco International Airport to isolate after testing positive for the highly contagious virus. 

The couple, however, defied airport orders and boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to the islands. United said in a statement that all passengers must complete a checklist confirming they have not tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days before flying.

Newsom announces regional stay-at-home orders in California

Four of five California regions could meet the threshold to enter new stay-at-home orders “within a day or two” as intensive care unit bed capacity drops and COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm the state’s hospitals, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Newsom announced the new approach to stay-at-home orders, which divides the state into five broad regions and would close businesses and curb travel in those with intensive care unit bed capacity below 15%. Previous stay-at-home rules were based on infection rates, and the new strategy is set to go into effect Saturday.

California’s virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October and now stand at 8,240, including 1,890 in intensive care units. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said.

Navajo Nation ‘in crisis mode’ amid medical shortages

The Navajo Nation on Thursday requested a Major Disaster Declaration from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge amid shortages of medical supplies, personnel and hospital beds. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez announced the declaration in a virtual town hall after hearing from public health officials and health care workers about shortages and challenges across the Nation.

The declaration, which can only be signed into effect by President Donald Trump, would bring a wide range of additional infrastructural and financial resources to the Navajo Nation, Nez said. These would include reimbursements for general fund spending and mental health resources for doctors, children and front-line workers.

Nez also announced an extension until Dec. 27 of the Nation’s current lockdown, which was initially due to expire Sunday. The Nation also will reinstate a 57-hour weekend curfew for three weeks beginning at 9 p.m. on Dec. 11. 

– Emily Wilder, Arizona Republic

Facebook plans to remove false posts about COVID-19 vaccines

As vaccines to fight the novel coronavirus near deployment, Facebook says it will ramp up its fight against misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on its social media platforms.

“This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm,” the company said in a blog post Thursday.

The platforms plan to remove vaccine claims that have been debunked by public health experts on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has a coronavirus information site that includes a discussion this week between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

But the sites won’t immediately begin enforcing the policy. “Since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more,” Facebook said. 

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– Mike Snider

Delaware issues stay-at-home order, statewide mask mandate

Delaware officials announced a stay-at-home advisory Thursday, “strongly” urging people to not gather with those not in their immediate household. The stay-at-home advisory runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11. It does not apply to those traveling to and from work. 

The advisory, made by Gov. John Carney and the Division of Public Health, also includes a statewide mask mandate that requires Delawareans to wear a face covering anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household.

Carney is also recommending that schools pause in-person learning from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8, with plans to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11. However, school districts that wish to remain in hybrid learning may do so.  

– Natalia Alamdari, Sarah Gamard and Jeff Neiburg, Delaware News Journal

Southwest Airlines warns 6,800 workers of first layoffs in its history

Southwest Airlines’ streak of no layoffs, a longtime bragging point for company executives, may come to an end in early 2021.The nation’s largest airline on Thursday sent warnings to nearly 7,000 workers about potential layoffs.

Companies are required to send notices about looming large job cuts by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). Other airlines, most notably American and United, have already issued notices and laid off tens of thousands of workers. Southwest has been in negotiations about pay cuts and other cost savings with its unions since October to offset what it has said are more than $1 billion in “overstaffing costs” due to the depressed travel demand from the pandemic.

“Our absolute goal is to preserve every job at Southwest Airlines; however, due to a lack of meaningful progress in negotiations, we had to proceed with issuing notifications to additional employees who are valued members of the Southwest family,” Russell McCrady, vice president of labor relations said in a statement.

The airline said the layoffs will take place on March 15 or April 1 depending on the employee group unless negotiations with unions are successful or the government offers another round of federal aid to airlines. 

– Dawn Gilbertson

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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