VIRUS TODAY: Congress prepares to vote on relief package

·2 min read

Here's what's happening Monday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:


—Congress is preparing to vote on a long-awaited $900 billion pandemic relief package, delivering long-sought cash to businesses and individuals as well as resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. The package would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans.

—California’s overwhelmed hospitals are setting up makeshift extra beds for coronavirus patients, and a handful of facilities in hard-hit Los Angeles County are drawing up emergency plans in case they have to limit how many people receive life-saving care.

—President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television as part of a growing effort to convince the American public the inoculations are safe. The president-elect took a dose of Pfizer's vaccine at a hospital not far from his Delaware home.

THE NUMBERS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. increased over the pasts two weeks from 2,190 on Dec. 6 to 2,625 on Dec. 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATH TOLL: The U.S. death toll stands at 317,858 people, about 5,000 more than the population of Stockton, California.

QUOTABLE: “The prisoners feel so helpless because they can’t control it and they can’t stop it. They feel like they’re sitting ducks — and they are.” — Matt Tjapkes of Humanity for Prisoners, a nonprofit dedicated to inmates’ medical rights in Michigan. A survey conducted by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press found that most states have lifted restrictions on transferring prisoners that were imposed earlier this year to limit spread of the virus.

ICYMI: Companies are testing drugs that mimic the way the body fights COVID-19, hoping they can fill a key gap as vaccines remain months off for most people. One company tested more than 3,300 antibodies before choosing two for its drug, which has gone into the arm of a U.S. president and others fighting COVID-19.

ON THE HORIZON: A second vaccine, produced by Moderna, is due to start arriving in states. It joins Pfizer’s in the nation’s arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic.


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