This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, December 6th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms, as well as 25% indoor dining. Schools are shut down, but will reopen on December 7th to 3K-5th grade students. Certain parts of Staten Island under a zoned shutdown.
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Here's the latest:
4 p.m.: The White House vaccine chief told CNN on Sunday he expects a "significant decrease" in deaths among elderly Americans from COVID-19 by the end of January should the FDA approve emergency use of a vaccine this week.
"The vaccine efficacy, as we have seen it, actually starts reasonably quickly after the first dose of vaccine and then it’s further maintained with the second dose," Mocef Slaoui, the White House's chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to quickly develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday.
"And therefore, I'm hopeful that by the end of the month of January, we should already see quite a significant decrease in the mortality and the severe morbidity associated in the elderly population," Slaoui added.
The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing a vaccine developed by Pfizer as soon as Thursday for emergency use authorization. The Moderna vaccine will undergo review the following week.
Slaoui, a former global vaccines chairman at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, said he anticipates the FDA will approve the Pfizer vaccine, adding the data he's reviewed shows it to be safe and effective.
"I really hope they do it quickly and that the vaccine will be available to our population starting later this week," he said on CNN.
Elderly adults living in longterm care facilities and healthcare staff who take care of them should be vaccinated by the year's end or the middle of January, according to Slaoui.
"Unfortunately, about 40% to 50% of all deaths are happening in the elderly population that's in care homes," Slaoui added.
The federal vaccine advisory committee under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended nursing home residents and healthcare workers get the vaccine first.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner who sits on the board of Pfizer, said late last month which vaccine priority groups are chosen would depend on the goals of the nation's vaccine officials. He said there are about 20 million healthcare workers and 3 million long term care facility residents and staff in the country.
"If your goal is to maximize the preservation of human life with a vaccine then you would bias the vaccine towards older Americans," Gottlieb said on CBS News last month. "If your goal is to reduce the rate of infection, you would prioritize essential workers."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week more than 450,000 doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to be shipped to NYC this month. Both de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have agreed with the federal guidance on prioritizing nursing home residents and healthcare workers. Cuomo said Friday the state would opt in to the federal government's vaccine program through pharmacies to vaccinate nursing home residents.
The distribution of a vaccine is the next historic undertaking in the COVID era—a moment arriving while the country battles rising virus cases and over 2,000 people die every day from coronavirus. On Sunday, the New Yorker reported manufacturing supplies like "chemicals for making the vaccines, glass for vials, plastic for syringes, endless blocks of dry ice" will be a challenge, as well further prioritizing the next groups of people who get the vaccine.
Prashant Yadav, a supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development, told the magazine: "We're talking about vaccinating three hundred million Americans with two doses. ... For that, we need more infrastructure investment."