The first Covid-19 vaccine shots were administered by U.S. hospitals Monday, the initial step in a historic drive to immunize millions of people. Deaths in the country passed the grim milestone of 300,000.

In New York, the original epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, critical-care nurse Sandra Lindsay received the first shot in that state at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens. The state is headed toward a second full shutdown if new infections and hospitalizations continue at their current pace, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

European governments are tightening restrictions. London will be placed under England’s toughest coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday. The Dutch government is expected to lay out extra measures and Ireland is facing the possibility of more curbs next month after an easing in December. Germany is set to enter into hard lockdown Wednesday.

Singapore approved Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine and expects the first shipments by the end of the month, when it also plans to ease curbs. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government will suspend its “Go To” domestic travel incentive campaign.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update
  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 72.6 million; deaths surpass 1.6 million
  • Bipartisan U.S. lawmakers propose $908 billion relief package
  • Covid quickens exodus from N.Y., California
  • Europe hit with tougher curbs ahead of vaccine
  • Fauci curious to see secret of Covid shot’s success unlocked

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U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

Border Town Becomes Texas’s Worst Hotspot (8:01 a.m. HK)

The Texas border town of Laredo is running out of intensive-care beds after becoming the worst Covid-19 hot spot in the second-largest US state.

The Laredo area has just four ICU beds available in a region with almost 300,000 residents, state health department data showed. The three-county region has surpassed the hot spots of Amarillo, Lubbock and El Paso in terms of the proportion of hospital capacity taken up by virus patients.

Meanwhile, more than 220,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine are scheduled to arrive in the state this week, the department said in a statement. The doses will be distributed to 110 hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and other facilities.

London Hit by Toughest Covid Restrictions (7:26 a.m. HK)

Millions of Londoners will be ordered to comply with England’s toughest coronavirus rules from Wednesday, as U.K. authorities warned a “new variant” of the disease may be driving a rapid rise in cases. Government scientists at the Porton Down military research facility are analyzing the new variant, which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said may be linked to the recent fast spread of infections in the capital.

The switch to tier 3 rules from tier 2 in London and parts of southeast England will see pubs, bars and restaurants closed, except for serving takeaway meals. Theaters and museums will also shut to the public.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

Vaccine Meets New Cases in California (6:10 a.m. HK)

California Governor Gavin Newsom looking on, a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Los Angeles began vaccinating health-care workers Monday, as the first 33,150 doses arrived in the state. The first round of Pfizer vaccine doses went to four California hospitals — in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Eureka — with 29 more facilities scheduled to receive shipments in the next two days, Newsom said.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

The pandemic continues to rage across the state, and Newsom noted that the number of doses that arrived Monday was roughly equal to the number of new cases recorded in the state on Sunday.

“I’m down here in the spirit that is this moment, enthusiastic that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but mindful that we’re still in the tunnel,” he said at a press conference at the hospital.

California will vaccinate its roughly 2 million health-care workers first, and hasn’t released its plan for giving doses to anyone else, except for residents of nursing homes.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

Munger Sees Virus Impact Fading (4:45 p.m. NY)

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Vice Chairman Charlie Munger said he expects the Covid-19 pandemic to shrink to insignificance in about a year as the vaccines are widely distributed.

“It’s amazing, I watched the polio get totally killed by vaccinations,” Munger, 96, said Monday at a California Institute of Technology event held online. “They’ll spread these vaccines over the world so fast, it’ll make your head spin.”

N.Y.’s Finger Lakes Region State’s Hardest-Hit (3 p.m. NY)

The Finger Lakes have the highest percentage of coronavirus cases and positive tests than any region of New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

There are 681 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the region, about 0.06% of its population, compared with 1,857 in New York City, which is about 0.02% of its population, Cuomo said during a virtual virus briefing. The total testing positivity rate in the Finger Lakes is 8.09%.

The news comes as cases continue to rise statewide.

Of the 159,844 tests conducted on Sunday, 5.66%, or 9,044, were positive, including hot spot areas, Cuomo said. There were 83 virus-related fatalities, and 5,712 hospitalizations, up 302 from the day prior, the biggest jump since early April.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

South Africa Limits Alcohol, Shuts Beaches (2:25 p.m. NY)

South Africa’s government will curb alcohol sales and close some of the nation’s beaches at the height of the summer-holiday season, among a series of new restrictions to rein in surging coronavirus infections.

The government declared the start of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on Dec. 10 as the number of daily new cases doubled this month. The country is fast-approaching 1 million infections, with 866,127 people having contracted the disease so far, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

Czechs Close Bars, Restaurants Again (2 p.m. NY)

The Czech Republic reintroduced measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, reversing a decision two weeks ago to relax restrictions as neighbor Germany imposed a hard holiday lockdown.

The government shut hotels and restaurants, prolonged Christmas school holidays and imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, according to Health Minister Jan Blatny. Shops and services will remain open. The cabinet approved an additional 10 billion-koruna ($460 million) aid package to cover rent and wages of the affected businesses for three months.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

WHO Says It’s Aware of Virus Variant (12:50 p.m. NY)

The World Health Organization is aware of a genetic variant of the virus identified in about 1,000 individuals in the U.K., Executive Director Michael Ryan said during a press briefing on Monday.

“This virus evolves and changes over time, and we’ve seen different variants emerge,” Ryan said. “The question is whether there is significance in public health terms,” since mutations of the virus are “quite common.”

The WHO is working with an international laboratory network to see if the variant is becoming more prevalent internationally, he adds.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

France Sees More than 3,000 New Cases (12:30 p.m. NY)

France reported 3,063 new confirmed Covid cases on Monday, when numbers are usually low due to a lull in testing over the weekend.

U.S. Deaths Surpass 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin: Virus Update

The seven-day average of cases fell for the first time in a week to 12,001. Deaths increased by 371 to 55,282. France is set on Tuesday to end some Covid-19-related restrictions on Tuesday, such as a written justification for trips outside the home. Instead, an 8 p.m. curfew comes into force, with an exception made for Christmas Eve.

N.J. Sees Spike in Ventilator Use (11:30 a.m. NY)

New Jersey’s sickest virus patients, those on ventilators, increased 26% for the week ending Dec. 13. In the most recent 24 hours, 10% more people were breathing with the machines’ assistance, for a total of 491 patients. In all, New Jersey has 3,635 hospital patients, a 9% increase in one week.

The state’s first vaccinations, starting with 76,000 Pfizer Inc. doses for 38,000 people, will start on Tuesday morning in Newark with health-care workers at University Hospital.

Russian Shot’s Effectiveness Is 91% (8:30 a.m. NY)

The efficacy of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is 91%, based on the analysis of the final control point from its Phase 3 trials, its developers said Monday. The calculation was based on data obtained 21 days after the first dose in trial of 22,714 volunteers, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Gamaleya Center said in a statement.

No unexpected adverse events were identified, the developers said, adding that the data will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Netherlands Heading for Tighter Lockdown (7 a.m. NY)

The Dutch government is expected to set out plans on Monday to close non-essential stores from midnight until Jan. 19 after a jump in daily cases, public broadcaster NOS reported.

Museums and theaters are among sites that will also have to shutter, while schools have to close from Wednesday and switch to online classes, NOS said. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will address the nation this evening for the second time during the pandemic. The steps come on top of October’s curbs, which included bar and restaurant closures.

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