The USA has a second case of a more contagious COVID-19 strain. A senator is ensuring a dramatic fight to overturn Joe Biden's win. And have you checked your bank account today? You could be $600 richer.
It's Ashley, bringing you the news for the last time in 2020! Let's do this.
But first, has someone filed for unemployment in your name? Here's how scammers steal millions meant for out-of-work Americans.
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First Colorado, now California. The coronavirus strain is spreading.
One day after Colorado confirmed the first known U.S. case of a new coronavirus strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom, California reported its first case. Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said the case was confirmed in Southern California Wednesday afternoon. Fauci said he was not surprised by the finding in California. "We likely will be seeing reports from more states," Fauci said. And that's not all: Colorado officials also said they were investigating a possible second case of the variant in their state.
The bad news is that the new strain appears to be more infectious than the original. According to models, it has an increased transmission rate of 70% compared with other variants.
The good news is there’s no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.
The best news might be that vaccine makers routinely take mutations into account. Seasonal influenza vaccines, for example, include a variety of viral strains already circulating and allow for some that could develop later.
The USA on Tuesday reported a record 3,725 deaths, Johns Hopkins data shows. That's more than double the deaths reported a day earlier. And America is not alone: Global COVID-19 deaths hit a record last week: 81,693 people died in the week ending Dec. 23, someone dying on average every 7.4 seconds in the world.
Check those bank accounts
Your $600 coronavirus relief payment may have arrived. Americans who have direct deposit set up through the IRS could have received their payment as early as Tuesday, and paper checks started to go out Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department. If you were wondering where things stand on payments being bumped up to $2,000, it seems unlikely. After blocking quick passage of a measure that would increase the payments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced a bill Tuesday that includes contentious issues that Democrats are not likely to support and, thus, would kill any chances of increasing aid payments. If the government does sign into law an additional boost, the Treasury said the payments would go out "as quickly as possible."
What everyone’s talking about
A West Point cheating scandal involved mostly athletes, including 24 football players on the Liberty Bowl team.
Detective Myles Cosgrove failed to "properly identify a target" when he fired 16 rounds into Breonna Taylor's apartment the night she was killed.
Battling the pandemic: Overworked doctors, nurses are getting vaccinated. Here's why you should, too.
"It saved my kid's life": Why aren't all college athletes with COVID-19 getting MRI exams?
More store closings? These are the most vulnerable major retailers of 2021 as pandemic continues.
Sen. Hawley says he will object to certification of Electoral College results
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a close ally of President Donald Trump, is the first senator to announce he will object to the Electoral College results next week when Congress meets to officially certify President-elect Joe Biden's win. The move will ensure a dramatic (though probably doomed) congressional fight to overturn Biden's win (he won the Electoral College vote 306-232 on Dec. 14). A faction of conservative House Republicans, led by Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, said they will object to electoral votes from some battleground states that Biden won, such as Pennsylvania and Georgia. Hawley, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, said, "At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act."
Police were warned the Nashville bomber was 'capable of making a bomb’
Sixteen months before Anthony Quinn Warner's RV exploded in Nashville on Christmas, police officers visited his Tennessee home after his girlfriend reported he was "building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence," documents show. Authorities said they couldn't find any reason to detain Warner at the time. Warner blew up a city block, killing himself, injuring three others and causing massive destruction. In the explosion aftermath, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Warner was "not on our radar" before the bombing, but a Metro Nashville Police Department report from Aug. 21, 2019, shows that police – and the FBI – were aware of alleged threats.
Debunked conspiracy theories quickly circulated amid uncertainty after Nashville bombing.
Best of 2020: Travel
USA TODAY editors came together to select the best stories of 2020. (Trust us, it wasn't easy.) Every day until we ring in 2021, I'll be rounding up some of the year's most powerful stories:
"Do you belong here?": Lawsuits allege Hilton, other hotels discriminated against Black guests
"No way this room was sanitized": Despite assurances, hotels get mixed reviews on COVID-19 cleanliness, masks.
What it's like to stay at a Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We do a lot of crying": American couple in quarantine for coronavirus separated in Japan, USA.
COVID-19 takes 'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells, Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow
"Gilligan's Island" star Dawn Wells, best known for her role as Mary Ann, died at 82 of COVID-19 complications. The actress, who died Wednesday in Los Angeles, played the girl next door on the 1960s sitcom. Her roommate on the show, Tina Louise, is the last cast member still alive.
Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, weeks after winning the seat in a runoff. Letlow, a Republican, announced Dec. 18 he tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined at his Richland Parish home before being transferred to a hospital as symptoms persisted. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
A break from the news
🎉 Weird New Year's Eve drops to watch: A fish named Wylie, a lighted blueberry and cheese.
☕️ 17 things less than $25 with rave reviews: Yeti coffee mug, beard kit, milk frother.
👩💻 Are you willing to pay for email? How about podcasts? Here are our tech predictions for 2021.
Happy New Year, friends of The Short List! Stay safe, and I'll see you on the other side (aka, 2021).
This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 strain, Colorado, Josh Hawley, aid checks: Wednesday's news