The United States confirmed more than 200,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday and more than 1,500 new deaths, capping the deadliest week of the U.S. outbreak since April. Nearly 16,000 people have died of COVID-19 across the U.S. in the last week, and public health officials warn the worst could be yet to come. This is top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “What we have now is a challenge ahead of us of the bleak months of December and January where we have a baseline of infections that literally is breaking records every day with regards to number of infections, number of hospitalizations and numbers of deaths. The numbers are really stunning. We can do something about it, but that something right now is public health measures.”
U.S. hospitalizations are at a record high, with more than 102,000 COVID-19 patients filling beds. Intensive care units in hospitals from coast to coast are rapidly filling to capacity, and New Mexico’s governor warns doctors may soon have to ration care.
Executives with the drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have declined an invitation to meet at the White House today for what President Trump is billing as a “vaccine summit.” The event appears to be an effort by Trump to pressure the Food and Drug Administration to rapidly approve the drug companies’ COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA is currently reviewing data from Pfizer’s clinical trials and could allow emergency use of its vaccine by the end of the week.
This comes as The New York Times reports the Trump administration turned down an offer by Pfizer last summer to lock in supplies of its coronavirus vaccine, giving other countries a chance to get in line ahead of the U.S. for the drug’s limited initial supply.
This morning, the United Kingdom began administering its first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to elderly residents. Ninety-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan was first in line.
Margaret Keenan: “I’m happy it’s happened. And now I’ve done it, and hopefully it’ll help other people come along and do as I did, you know, try and do the best to get rid of this terrible thing.”
Meanwhile, there are new questions about the rollout of vaccines in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reports Pfizer expects to ship half as many doses of its vaccine as planned in 2020, and the medical news site STAT reports frontline U.S. healthcare workers think the Trump administration’s pledge to vaccinate 20 million people in December seems unrealistic.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Homeland Security Committee chair, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, has invited members of a fringe medical association to testify on the coronavirus pandemic. The lead witness, Dr. Jane M. Orient, has expressed anti-vaccine views and has pushed the use of hydroxychloroquine — an antimalarial drug once promoted by President Trump, which can cause heart rhythm problems and showed no benefit in treating COVID-19. Another witness testifying today, Dr. Ramin Oskoui, has falsely claimed that masks and social distancing don’t work at combating the spread of coronavirus.
President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly preparing to pick retired General Lloyd Austin to be his secretary of defense. If confirmed, Austin would become the first African American to head the Pentagon. Austin is the former chief of U.S. Central Command, where he oversaw U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. After retiring in 2016, he joined the board of Raytheon and became a partner in Pine Island Capital Partners, a venture capital fund focused on military-related companies. Austin will need a legal waiver from Congress to take the position due to laws designed to preserve the civilian control of the military.
The selection of Austin is being seen as a victory for antiwar groups who had fought against the possible selection of Michèle Flournoy as defense secretary due to her past support of wars in Iraq, Libya and other countries.
CNN reports President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives multiple times over the past week asking him to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It’s at least the third state where Trump has tried to have lawmakers ignore the will of voters in order to send an alternate Electoral College slate to formally pick the next president. Trump remains unsuccessful in his effort. Today is the so-called safe harbor deadline for states to certify their election results.
On Monday, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state recertified Joe Biden’s win after a recount requested by the Trump campaign. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting implementation manager, blasted Trump’s legal team for spreading selectively edited videos falsely implying election workers had rigged the election.
Gabriel Sterling: “What’s really frustrating is the president’s attorneys had this same videotape. They saw the exact same thing as the rest of us could see, and they chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video.”
Nearly 1,500 lawyers from around the U.S. have signed an open letter to the American Bar Association condemning Rudy Giuliani and other Trump campaign lawyers for subverting democracy, saying they could be disbarred for violating their oath to the U.S. Constitution. The lawyers write, “A license to practice law is not a license to lie.”
Giuliani was hospitalized with COVID-19 Sunday after he consistently refused to wear a mask or practice social distancing in multiple public appearances around the U.S. Both chambers of Arizona’s state Legislature and Michigan’s House of Representatives have suspended work following Giuliani’s positive test, after lawmakers came in close contact with Giuliani and his team.
Michigan’s secretary of state says dozens of armed Trump supporters gathered outside her home Saturday evening demanding she overturn Joe Biden’s electoral win in Michigan. Jocelyn Benson says she was putting up Christmas decorations with her son when the armed group began making “loud and threatening” demands that she “stop the steal” — echoing rhetoric spread by President Trump. Benson spoke Monday with CNN.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson: “As someone who started my career investigating hate groups and hate crimes, I’ve seen firsthand how hateful words and rhetoric, particularly from leaders in positions of power, can lead to hateful actions by followers.”
In October, the FBI arrested over a dozen far-right militia members accused of plotting to kidnap and murder Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
In Florida, armed police raided the home of Rebekah Jones on Monday. She is the data scientist who was forced to resign in May as the lead software developer for Florida’s coronavirus data portal after she refused to censor information about Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak. Police seized her computers and pointed guns at her children. Jones posted video of the raid on Twitter.
Police officer 1: “Police! Come down now!”
Police officer 2: “Search warrant!”
Rebekah Jones: “Do not point that” —
Police officer 1: “Bring your children!”
Police officer 2: “Come down the stairs!”
Rebekah Jones: — “gun at my children! He just pointed a gun at my children!”
Rebekah Jones accused Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis of sending the Gestapo after her. She wrote on Twitter, “This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.” Florida authorities said the raid was part of a probe into a recent hack of the Florida Health Department’s website, but Jones said she hasn’t had access to the site in six months.
In environmental news, the Trump administration has rejected setting tougher standards on industrial soot emissions despite evidence linking the deadly air pollutant to increasing COVID-19 deaths and other respiratory illnesses. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler made the decision, ignoring his own scientists at the EPA who found strengthening the emissions rule could save up to 34,000 lives a year.
Melinda Coleman, the mother of late sexual assault survivor and advocate Daisy Coleman, died by apparent suicide Sunday — four months after Daisy’s death by suicide. Melinda was 58 years old. Melinda’s passing was announced by the group SafeBAE, a youth-led organization co-founded by Daisy raising awareness on sexual assault in middle and high schools. In a statement, the group said, “The bottomless grief of losing her husband, Tristan, and Daisy was more than she could face most days.” Melinda’s son Tristan was killed in a car crash two years ago.
In 2016, Democracy Now! interviewed Melinda at the Sundance Film Festival, where Daisy described her harrowing experience with sexual assault in the Netflix documentary “Audrie & Daisy.”
Melinda Coleman: “I’m really proud of her. I think she’s been incredibly strong. And I just think she’s a great person, and I’m so happy she’s in my life. And she’s my hero.”