U.S. Vaccines May Start Friday Amid Covid’s Worst: Virus Update

Vaccinations in the U.S. could begin as early as Friday, with the Food and Drug Administration set to vote on emergency-use authorization for the Pfizer Inc./BioNtech SE shot the day before, an FDA adviser told NBC News.

As states put in their orders for vaccines -- and began deciding who will get them first -- California set another record for infections. New York City’s outbreak continued to worsen, as North Carolina again recorded its highest infections and hospitalizations. Fatalities across the U.S. are rising sharply.

The U.K. plans to begin vaccinations in the week of Dec. 14, as authorities worldwide move to a new stage in tackling the pandemic. Moscow began jabs on Saturday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the nation can maintain high spending next year to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Key Developments:

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New York State Reports More Than 10,000 Cases (4:01 p.m. NY)

New York state reported 10,761 new cases, its second consecutive day above 10,000 --at the highest level since the peak of the outbreak in April.

Total hospitalizations rose almost 100 to 4,318. The statewide positive-test rate, which has been rising rapidly, dropped slightly to 5%, though it rose to more than 11% in a hot spot in Westchester County just north of the city. Another 69 people died.

Alabama Infections at Highest Level in Outbreak (3:30 p.m. NY)

Alabama reported 3,390 new cases, the fifth consecutive day over 3,000, keeping infections at their highest level since the start of the pandemic. The state reported 46 deaths, in a week when fatalities have spiked: The seven-day average this week was 44, compared to 31 week before Thanksgiving. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high on a seven-day average, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

California Cases Climb to Record (2:23 p.m. NY)

California added a record 25,068 new cases, bringing the total to 1.3 million. It also reported 209 new deaths for a total fatality count of 19,791.

The state has been warning about the surge in cases and the strain on hospital beds, particularly those in intensive-care units. The number of ICU beds have fallen by 45 to 1,628, a new low, as hospitalizations increased 3.2% to 10,273.

A wide swath of the San Francisco Bay area has imposed stay-at-home rules through Christmas and New Year’s Day, while Los Angeles warned that the number of cases could top 500,000 by the end of the year.

U.S. Covid Shots Could Begin Friday, Doctor Says (2:21 p.m. NY)

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE could be in use by Friday if the Food and Drug Administration approves an emergency use authorization, James Hildreth, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told NBC News.

The panel is scheduled to vote on the matter after reviewing the vaccine’s data at a meeting on Thursday.

“If the FDA Commissioner decides to issue approval, the EUA, on that day when the vote is taken, as early as Friday of next week we could see vaccinations happening across the country,” Hildreth said on NBC’s “Weekend Today.”

New Jersey Reports Cases Over 5,000 (2:17 p.m. NY)

New Jersey reported 5,367 new cases, the second time this week over 5,000. The state’s infections are at the highest level since the start of the pandemic. Total hospitalizations fell slightly, and another 53 fatalities were reported.

France’s Drop in New Cases Stalls, Hospitalizations Decline (1:56 p.m. NY)

France’s reported confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 12,923 on Saturday to 2.28 million. The seven-day average of new cases rose by 0.5% to 10,397, climbing for the first time in more than two weeks.

The rate of positive Covid-19 tests remained at 10.7% for a third day, following three weeks of declines. Hospitalizations and patients in intensive care for Covid-19 continued to fall from their mid-November peak. Deaths linked to the virus increased by 214 to 54,981.

The government started easing some lockdown measures a week ago, allowing non-essential stores to reopen.

Italy’s Outbreak Continues to Ease (12:40 p.m. NY)

Italy reported 21,052 new cases Saturday, confirming the downwards trend from last week. Daily fatalities dropped to 662 from 814 on Friday.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on SkyTg24 television on Saturday that strict anti-Covid measures are a necessity to avoid a new uptick in virus cases that would swamp hospitals and cause a further increase in deaths.

Asked about vaccine distribution, he said the timing will depend on the European Medicines Agency and that the Italian government plans to administer the vaccine on a voluntary basis once it’s available.

Arizona’s Daily Cases Top 5,000 Again (12:19 p.m. NY)

Arizona reported 6,799 new cases on Saturday, the fourth time this week that the state recorded more than 5,000 daily Covid-19 infections. During the state’s earlier surge last summer, Arizona never hit the 5,000-a-day mark.

The mayors of four Arizona cities have called on Republican Governor Doug Ducey to take stronger actions to curtail rising cases. The most important measure, they’ve said, is passing a statewide mask mandate to supplement existing local requirements.

North Carolina Breaks Records (12:07 p.m. NY)

North Carolina reported 6,018 new cases, another record at the end of week in which daily cases passed 5,000 three times. Hospitalizations rose to a record 2,171.

NYC Infections and Hospitalizations Tick Up (12 p.m. NY)

New York City’s outbreak continues to widen: Mayor Bill de Blasio reported increases in new infections, 2,179 on a seven-day average in the latest count, and new hospitalizations, 158. The positive-test rate declined slightly to 5%, on a seven-day average.

Maine Hits Record for Weekly Cases (11:36 a.m. NY)

Maine reported a record daily average number of cases, 265 over the last week, the state’s Center for Disease Control reported Saturday. On Friday, Nirav Shah, the agency’s director, called the spread “ferocious” in a state that has so far avoided a major outbreak. He warned that tracking infections would have to scale back to focus on the most vulnerable most likely to cause further spread.

Germany to Spend Up to $7.3 Billion on Vaccination Drive (11:23 a.m. NY)

Germany will spend as much as 6 billion euros ($7.3 billion) on vaccinating its population against the coronavirus.

“That’s a lot of money,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a conference in Berlin on Saturday. Still, the cost of “not getting it under control is higher,” he said.

By contrast, the nation will likely spend as much as 20 billion euros on November support for restaurants and cafes, he said. Germany aims to begin mass vaccinations by the summer of next year, Spahn said earlier in an interview with T-Online.

Embattled Georgia Reports Record Cases (10:40 a.m. NY)

Georgia, where two runoff races next month will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, reported the most Covid-19 cases in a single day.

Cases increased by 6,376 on Friday, almost double the daily average over the preceding seven days, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Another 77 people in the state died from causes linked to the virus.

President Donald Trump is traveling to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for the two Republican Senate candidates.

U.K. Opposition Leader Self-Isolates (9:48 a.m. NY)

Kier Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party in the U.K., has gone into self-isolation after a member of his staff tested positive. Starmer is well and not showing any symptoms of Covid-19, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Dutch Infection Rate Worsens for Second Day (9:31 a.m. NY)

The number of new cases in the Netherlands increased for the second day in a row. There were 6,577 new reported infections on Saturday, up from 5,921 on Friday and 5,634 on Thursday, ANP said. Measures by the Dutch government had previously lowered the daily number of cases to below 5,000 from 10,000 or more.

U.S. Fatalities Accelerate Sharply (8:26 a.m. NY)

U.S. deaths are up on average of 34% this week versus last week, or about 500 more per day. The nation reported 2,637 fatalities on Friday, the fourth day this week above 2,500, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Friday’s fatalities were below Thursday’s record of 2,867.

Compared to a month ago, total deaths have risen 134%. The Midwest, which was hit first in the now nationwide surge, and the South are leading the increases, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Saudi Cases Ease; Iran Tops 50,000 Deaths (7:40 a.m. NY)

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry reported 190 new cases, the first daily count below 200 in eight months. Iran’s total Covid-19 fatalities since the start of the pandemic climbed above 50,000, making it the eighth country to breach that number. The nation had 321 deaths overnight, down from 347 a day earlier. The number of daily new infections fell 9% in the last 24 hours to 12,151, bringing total known cases to 1,028,986, the health ministry reported.

U.K. to Start Local Vaccine Services From Dec. 14 (7:30 a.m. NY)

Local services will start in week of Dec. 14, with a goal of delivering 975 doses per site to priority patients that week, NHS England said in a letter sent to doctors on Friday.

Vaccines must be used quickly, and sites will initially receive 3.5 days’ worth of supplies, which can be stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, the letter said. The Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot must be kept at freezing temperatures longer term. Sites involved in the first wave of deployment will be given more details Monday about vaccine supplies and fridges for storage. People over 80 will get shots first.

Danish Mink Virus Mutation Spreads (6:54 a.m. NY)

There has been a marked increase in the number of Danes infected by a form of the coronavirus with mutations that originated in mink farms, Berlingske reported, citing SSI, the Danish government agency for fighting infectious diseases. The estimated number of cases is approaching 2,700.

Germany Can Maintain Spending, Merkel Says (6:15 p.m. HK)

Germany can carry on spending “large sums” next year to help the economy through coronavirus upheavals, Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of a parliamentary vote on the federal budget next week.

“We were able to deploy large sums in 2020 and we will be able to do so in 2021 because we have managed our finances well in the past years,” Merkel said. Debt-funded stimulus measures were necessary this year to prevent far costlier bankruptcies and job losses, she said.

Still, the nation can’t maintain this support forever and it will have to start working off the exceptional debt from 2023, Merkel said in her weekly podcast. “We already see enormous budgetary challenges for the coming years.”

Hungary Reports Record Deaths (4:40 p.m. HK)

Hungary set another daily record for Covid-19 related deaths, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban prepares to announce whether virus curbs will be relaxed for the holiday period.

The nation had 193 daily deaths and 5,525 new infections, its virus task force said in a statement on Saturday. Orban is scheduled to announce on Monday whether some restrictions will be eased for the upcoming holidays, including a curfew and a ban on public gatherings. The prime minister has said that his virus advisers oppose any loosening of curbs put in place almost a month ago.

Russia Starts Vaccinations as Cases Hit Record (4:23 p.m. HK)

Moscow started widespread vaccination of front-line workers and other high-risk people on Saturday, following an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. More than 5,000 people signed up in the first five hours of registration on Friday, Moscow’s mayor said on his blog. The Kremlin has resisted a broad lockdown, putting the responsibility for imposing restrictions on regional governments.

Russia reported a record 28,782 cases in the past day, the government’s virus response center said Saturday. That raises the total to 2.4 million, the fourth-most in the world.

U.S. Vaccines May Start Friday Amid Covid’s Worst: Virus Update

German Cases Slow; Intensive-Care Bed Use Rises (4 p.m. HK)

Days after Germany extended its partial lockdown into next year, authorities reported a rise of 15,403 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 24,158 the previous day. Deaths stood at 480 over the last 24 hours, below the record of 510 in mid-April. The number of occupied intensive-care beds ticked higher, with 82% in use, up from 81% the previous day. Germany has a further contingent of reserve beds.

Singapore Airlines Readies Vaccination Flights (2:40 p.m. HK)

Singapore Airlines will prioritize freight capacity for shipping Covid-19 vaccines and it will soon conduct test flights to trial procedures, the Straits Times reported. The carrier has seven Boeing Co. 747-400 freighters ready to carry vaccines. Its passenger fleet can also be used to ramp up capacity.

Tokyo Posts Record 584 New Daily Cases (2:12 p.m. HK)

Tokyo reported a daily record of 584 new Covid-19 infections Saturday, bringing an accumulative total of reported cases to 43,377 in the capital, with 55 serious cases.

U.S Cases Rise by a Record 228,419 as of Dec. 4 (1:42 p.m. HK)

The number of confirmed U.S. Covid-19 cases rose by a record 228,419 on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

U.S. Vaccines May Start Friday Amid Covid’s Worst: Virus Update

Some U.S. Hospitals Ready to Deploy Vaccines (10:10 a.m. HK)

Some U.S. hospitals are ready to deploy the coronavirus vaccine once they receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

President-elect Joe Biden earlier said he’ll take a vaccine to demonstrate its safety to Americans and that he’ll work to ensure the vaccine and treatment of any side effects are provided free.

“I think that my taking the vaccine and people seeing me take that vaccine is going to give some confidence,” Biden said at a news conference in Delaware on Friday. “In the meantime I need to make sure that the vaccine is both free and available. And that any follow-up to the vaccine is free and available -- that relates to any health complications from it. So there’s ways we can deal with some of these issues.”

Los Angeles Covid-19 Deaths Could Surpass 11,000 by Year End (9:37 a.m. HK)

Los Angeles is on track to record 500,000 cases of Covid-19 by the end of the year and deaths could surpass 11,000 at the current pace of infection, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. One in 20 people in the greater Los Angeles area will be infected, he said.

That was after California reported 22,018 new coronavirus cases Friday, topping the previous record of about 20,000 hit just two days ago. Five of the biggest counties in the San Francisco Bay area are imposing shelter-in-place rules from Dec. 6 through Jan. 4 as they seek to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed as the coronavirus surges. The counties include San Francisco, Oakland and much of Silicon Valley.

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