The U.S. is heading toward 15 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 as daily cases are averaging close to 200,000. The reported death toll has topped 282,000 with hospitalizations now over 100,000. Experts warn the grim figures don’t yet account for spikes related to Thanksgiving travel. Hospitals and the 911 emergency call system are being stretched to their breaking point as frontline health workers scramble to care for patients.
In California, San Francisco and four other Bay Area counties proactively went into a strict lockdown Sunday to prevent more infections, even though the area does not yet meet Governor Gavin Newsom’s threshold for a full lockdown. Under the new order, businesses including hair salons and spas, theaters, museums, sports venues and bars must close. Restaurants will be limited to takeout and delivery. Nearly 85% of California residents will now be under stay-at-home orders through Christmas.
In news from Washington, D.C., President Trump announced Sunday his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19. He was reportedly admitted to a D.C. hospital.
In immigration news, over 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children in U.S. custody have tested positive for COVID-19 since March.
In economic news, the Labor Department’s job report released on Friday showed U.S. job growth slowed significantly in November, with 245,000 jobs added last month — less than half the jobs added in October. This comes as a bipartisan group of senators says they are hopeful they will reach an agreement on a new stimulus bill very soon. A series of stimulus programs keeping millions of Americans and small businesses afloat are set to expire in the coming weeks if lawmakers fail to pass new legislation.
Globally, coronavirus cases have now topped 67 million and 1.5 million known deaths. In Iran, authorities have extended measures including curfews and travel restrictions as the death toll went past 50,000 over the weekend. South Korea is tightening its restrictions as cases spike, limiting gatherings and ordering gyms and karaoke bars to close.
Bahrain has become the second country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after the U.K., where the first doses of the vaccine are set to be administered starting Tuesday. Meanwhile, Moscow began distributing its Sputnik V shot to clinics this weekend and said it is rolling out its nationwide voluntary vaccination program this week. And Indonesia has received its first shipment of a Chinese-manufactured coronavirus vaccine from Sinovac Biotech.
In India, the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine could be available for purchase by March, according to a major manufacturer, in the first indication that COVID-19 vaccines will become available in the private market in some places.
The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said coronavirus vaccines must be treated as public goods.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines. This is a global crisis, and the solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities.”
The WHO is also warning against complacency in other public health measures as vaccines start to roll out, emphasizing “vaccines do not equal zero COVID.”
In Georgia, two Senate debates were held Sunday night ahead of the state’s January 5 runoff election, which will decide who controls the U.S. Senate. In the first debate, Senator David Perdue refused to take part, so Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff stood on stage along with an empty podium set aside for Perdue. In the second debate, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler sparred with Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock. Loeffler refused to admit Trump lost the November election.
On Saturday, Trump held a campaign rally in Georgia with Perdue and Loeffler. Trump spent most of the rally falsely claiming that he had won in the November election. He also attacked Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Earlier on Saturday Trump called Kemp to urge him to call the Republican-led state Legislature back into session so it could appoint Trump-supporting electors essentially to overturn the election. Kemp refused to do so.
Joe Biden’s team will start receiving intelligence briefings from the Pentagon starting today as the presidential transition gets further underway. Biden is also set to meet for the first time with the White House chief vaccine adviser, Moncef Slaoui, this week.
Meanwhile, Biden has tapped California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra has filed at least 100 lawsuits against Trump, including against his immigration and environmental policies. He led the fight, alongside 20 other states and Washington, D.C., to defend the Affordable Care Act as it was being attacked by Trump and the Republican Party. He has also voiced support for Medicare for All in the past. Becerra previously served as a Los Angeles congressmember and was the first Latino to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.
House Democrats voted for New York Congressmember Gregory Meeks to become the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He will be the first African American in the role. Meeks beat out Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro, whom many progressives were backing. Environmental and labor advocates have called out Meeks’s staunch support of free trade deals, including the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Activists say Meeks worked with Colombian politicians tied to right-wing paramilitaries to push a pro-corporate agenda.
In a major victory for immigrant rights, a federal judge Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully and immediately restore DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in its original form. This means some 300,000 young people will be able to apply to DACA for the first time. It also restores work authorizations to two years and will make it easier for applicants to travel abroad before their application is approved.
Friday’s order comes over three years after Trump moved to end the landmark program in 2017, throwing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and their families into uncertainty. Since it was passed in 2012, DACA has granted protection from deportation and a work permit to at least 700,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children.
The House of Representatives voted Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and to expunge nonviolent convictions for marijuana-related offenses. The MORE Act also authorizes a 5% sales tax on marijuana products to be reinvested in community grants and programs including job training, legal aid and substance abuse treatment for communities who were disproportionately targeted by the “war on drugs.” This is California Congressmember Barbara Lee, who co-sponsored the bill, speaking on the House floor ahead of Friday’s historic vote.
Rep. Barbara Lee: “Black and Brown people are targeted more frequently than white Americans despite equal rates of use. Additionally, prison sentences for Black and Brown people are more likely to be lengthier than white people. Black men receive sentences over 13% longer than white men, and nearly 80% of people in federal prisons for drug offenses are Black or Latino.”
In Peru, lawmakers have repealed a highly contested agricultural law, following five days of demonstrations and roadblocks led by farmworkers across the country and after at least one person was killed Thursday when police opened fire on protesters. On Friday, Peru’s newly appointed interim president, Francisco Sagasti, sent a bill to Congress revoking the law, which sought to increase agricultural exports and give exporters tax breaks. Farmworkers said it benefited corporations while slashing their wages and worsening working conditions.
Mourners gathered Saturday for the funeral of Ali Abu Alia, a Palestinian teenager who was killed by Israeli forces Friday. Israeli soldiers shot the teen in the stomach during a protest in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian officials called the act a war crime. The European Union Delegation to the Palestinians called for a full investigation, tweeting, “Children enjoy special protection under international law. How many more Palestinian children will be subject to the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli security forces?”
In Yemen, at least eight civilians were killed and 13 others injured Thursday in an artillery attack on an industrial compound in the port of Hodeidah. Yemen’s Saudi-backed government blamed Houthi rebels for the deaths. The latest fighting in Yemen has exacerbated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — where the United Nations warns about 80% of Yemen’s 30 million residents are in need of assistance. World Food Programme director David Beasley said Friday that Yemen tops the list of nations at risk of famine due to war, disease and the climate crisis.
David Beasley: “We are now looking, literally, at 2021 being the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations. … We have to prioritize, as I say, the icebergs in front of the Titanic. We’ve really got to give priority to famine, destabilization and migration.”
Beasley predicts a record 235 million people around the world will need humanitarian aid next year — a 40% increase from 2020. The World Food Programme will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, International Human Rights Day.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has claimed victory in parliamentary elections. Turnout was unusually low, at just over 30%, after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a boycott of the election. Maduro is calling on incoming President Joe Biden to abandon the U.S.’s interventionist agenda in Venezuela and drop all sanctions.
Back in the United States, in Ohio, activists are demanding justice for Casey Christopher Goodson Jr., a 23-year-old Black man who was fatally shot Friday by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy outside Goodson’s home in Columbus. Family members say Goodson was carrying a Subway sandwich and was returning from a dentist’s office when he was shot in the back three times by the sheriff’s deputy. Authorities had been searching for a suspect in the area Friday afternoon, when they say a man allegedly drove by waving a gun, prompting deputies to confront him. Authorities later said they recovered a handgun, but did not say where it was found. Family members say Goodson had a concealed-carry permit for a handgun. They are demanding the release of bodycam footage, police reports, and for an independent autopsy and investigation.
In Minnesota, Indigenous-led water protectors have launched a series of direct actions against the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, which would carry more than 750,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day through fragile ecosystems — endangering lakes, rivers and wild rice beds. Activists say the pipeline violates treaties signed by the U.S. in 1854, 1855 and 1867. Anishinaabe water protector Dawn Goodwin of the White Earth Reservation held a sit-in protest in the path of a pipeline construction crew on Friday.
Dawn Goodwin: “Treaties are the supreme law of the land!”
Water protectors are also sounding the alarm over thousands of out-of-state workers brought in to work on construction of the Line 3 pipeline, warning they may add to a massive COVID-19 outbreak that’s already overwhelming hospitals in rural Minnesota.