Daily U.S. COVID deaths hit new record, prompting pleas to scale back Christmas
By Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States' daily death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 3,000 for the first time, prompting pleas for Americans to scale back Christmas plans even with vaccines on the cusp of winning regulatory approval. COVID-19 deaths reached 3,253 on Wednesday, pushing up the U.S
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States' daily death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 3,000 for the first time, prompting pleas for Americans to scale back Christmas plans even with vaccines on the cusp of winning regulatory approval.
COVID-19 deaths reached 3,253 on Wednesday, pushing up the U.S. total since the start of the pandemic to 289,740, with a record 106,219 people hospitalized with the highly infectious respiratory disease.
Healthcare professionals and support staff, exhausted by the demands of the pandemic, have been watching patients die alone as millions of Americans refuse to follow medical advice to wear masks and avoid crowds in order to contain the spread.
The one-day death toll exceeded the number of lives lost from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"No Christmas parties. There is not a safe Christmas party in this country right now," Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, told CNN on Thursday.
"It won't end after that but that is the period right now where we could have a surge upon a surge upon a surge," Osterholm said.
Potentially helping to rein in the outbreak, a vaccine could start reaching healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents within days.
A panel of independent medical experts was due to decide on Thursday whether to recommend to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a vaccine from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE for emergency use authorization.
FDA consent could come as early as Friday or Saturday, followed by the first U.S. injections on Sunday or Monday, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program, told Fox News.
A second vaccine developed by Moderna is a week behind.
Biden, who takes over for President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, has set a goal of vaccinating 100 million people within the first 100 days of his administration.
U.S. Army General Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said all the vaccine doses remained in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies.
"But we've worked many rehearsals and planning cycles ... and that's why I'm confident that as soon as EUA (emergency use authorization) comes aboard, we'll start packing to the final destinations and distribution will begin within 24 hours," Perna said.
In the meantime, intensive care units at hundreds of hospitals across the country were at or near capacity, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed.
Ten mostly rural counties in California reported having no ICU beds on Wednesday, according to state health figures analyzed by Reuters.
Besides the human cost, the pandemic has forced millions out of work as state and local officials impose restrictions on social and economic life to contain the outbreak.
Congress, meanwhile, has struggled to end a months-long stalemate over economic assistance.
Disagreements remain over business liability protections demanded by Republicans and aid to state and local governments sought by Democrats before a final deal is reached on pandemic assistance.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bernadette Baum aand Steve Orlofsky)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.