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Coronavirus updates: December is deadliest month for COVID-19; Sunday air travel sets pandemic record; Italy cracks down on anti-vaxxers

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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:

► Nearly 1.3 million people went through U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest level of air travel in more than nine months, despite public health warnings that travel would prompt another surge in cases of COVID-19.

►Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, are scheduled to receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, transition officials said. Harris' vaccination is expected to be done live on camera, CNN reported.

► More than a dozen anti-vaxxer and COVID-denial physicians have been disciplined in Rome, local officials say. All had taken to TV or social media to spread their beliefs. Rome doctors guild chief Antonio Magi told the Italian news service ANSA that such conduct won't be tolerated. Italy is among the nations most severely hit by the pandemic.

► A Chinese court sentenced a citizen journalist who documented the early days of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison, sending a warning to those challenging the government’s narrative of the pandemic.

►Maryland-based biotech company Novavax announced final, Phase 3 testing of its vaccine candidate will begin in the United States and Mexico. Novavax said Phase 1/2 studies demonstrated "a robust immune response." Two vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, have won FDA emergency authorization and two others, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are already conducting Phase 3 trials in the U.S.

►Aurora Medical Center-Grafton in Wisconsin was forced to discard 500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after the vials were "inadvertently removed from a pharmacy refrigerator overnight," Advocate Aurora Health said Monday. Each vial contained 10 doses.

►New York officials are investigating whether a health care provider has fraudulently obtained and distributed a COVID-19 vaccine to the public in violation of state guidelines. "Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Saturday.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 19.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 334,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 81.1 million cases and 1.77 million deaths.

Here's a closer look at today's top stories:

Some college football changes could remain when pandemic is gone

Adaptations to college football recruiting, scheduling and remote learning will very likely last into 2021 and beyond, providing the earliest indications of the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the sport, some experts say. The biggest impact could be on recruiting, conducted virtually since the spring. In lieu of in-person evaluations and visits, programs have relied on drone tours, FaceTime and Zoom to show off facilities and build relationships without leaving campus.

"There’s a whole bunch of things within our office that we changed," Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Once it goes back to normal, we’re still going to be able to use some of these things that we came up with. I’ve always been open-minded, but I’m really open-minded right now."

Paul Myerberg

Black, Latina moms are losing jobs as COVID-19 child care crisis grows

Since March, Black and Latina moms have stopped working, either voluntarily or because of layoffs, at higher rates than white moms. Many are single moms who need child care but can’t access it during the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the COVID-19 recession has affected groups in different ways. Black moms were more likely than Latina moms and white moms to quit their jobs. Latina moms were more likely to be laid off than white and Black moms. This is in part because Latinas were more likely to work face-to-face service positions, such as in restaurants and hotels. Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford University, calls the current economic recession a “she-session” because it’s disproportionately affecting women.

“It was difficult before," Cooper said. "It’s a crisis now."

Claire Thornton

December already the deadliest month for COVID-19

Johns Hopkins University data shows Dec. 25 is when reported deaths from the coronavirus passed the April's death toll of 60,738 people. With several days remaining in December, the record is now 64,953 people through Sunday. On average, that's equivalent to someone in the United States dying every 36 seconds.

December has already been a record month for new cases, even though November was more than twice as bad as any other month. The U.S. broke November's record of 4.4 million cases back on Dec. 22, and now stands at 5,533,230 cases reported in December so far. From earlier surges the record number of cases was the whole month of July, at 1.9 million; the U.S. blew past that mark in just 10 days.

More than 1.1 million people traveled through airports around the United States on Saturday, nearing Wednesday's pandemic travel record – despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay at home.

– Mike Stucka and Hannah Yasharoff

COVID-19 spreading faster in California than most states

California ranked No. 2 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showed. In the latest week, the United States added 1,327,043 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of 12.3% from the previous week. Across the country, six states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

California added 50,141 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing its total to 2,122,806 cases to date. The death toll rose by 237, bringing the total to 24,220.

Officials with the California Department of Public Health noted that Sunday's reported tally of new cases was inflated because Los Angeles data was not included in Saturday's updates because of a glitch; Sunday's report included data from two days from L.A. County.

– Julie Makinen, Palm Springs Desert Sun, and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Trump signs relief bill; Novavax vaccine Phase 3 trials

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