This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, December 11th, 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. After being shut downfor several weeks, NYC public schools began to partially reopen on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.
Get answers to questions you may have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
- NYC Blows Past All Three COVID Indicators For First Time
- "It's An Ugly Death": Staten Island Families Grieve Loved Ones Lost To COVID As Others Buck Restrictions
- As Rapid Antigen Testing Grows, New York State's Virus Positivity Rate Comes Under Scrutiny
- NYC Musicians, Comedians, Dancers & More Will Be Able To Perform Outdoors Starting This Spring
10 p.m. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday night granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, a late night approval that had reportedly been expedited by one day after pressure by the Trump administration.
The decision culminates a historic effort by scientists, who developed a life-saving vaccine in just 11 months, one that may finally spell the end of a global tragedy that has killed nearly 1.6 million and sickened and ruined the livelihoods of so many more.
More than 294,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19 and nearly 16 million have been infected.
In a statement, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn called the FDA's authorization "a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic" and described the agency's process as "an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts."
He added: "The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide.”
A total of 2.9 million doses are expected to be delivered to states and large cities across the country next week.
The U.S. now becomes the sixth country, after the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, to approve the vaccine for emergency distribution. European countries are expected to follow suit in the next several weeks.
New York state is expected to receive the 170,000 doses of the vaccine as soon as this weekend. The first shipments will provide the first shots of the two-dose vaccine. Another 346,000 doses of the yet-to-be approved Moderna vaccine are set to arrive later this month.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday announced that the city was planning to open a vaccine command center on Monday to ensure a speedy and fair distribution.
"High risk" health workers and nursing home resident and staff will receive their shots first. The city and state have both signed up for a federal program that will enlist CVS and Walgreens to administer shots in nursing homes. That should begin by December 21st, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Earlier in the day, the Washington Post reported that White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, threatened to fire Hahn if his agency did not approve the vaccine on Friday. Earlier, Trump criticized Hahn in a tweet, calling the FDA “a big, old, slow turtle.”
Hahn dismissed the report as untrue.
Read more about New York City's vaccine rollout.
U.S. Could Start Vaccinating Next Week, Health Secretary Says
On the heels of an advisory committee's favorable recommendation, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the first coronavirus vaccine in the United States.
“We could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week,” said Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, during an interview Friday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America.
"High risk" healthcare workers, such as emergency room doctors and nurses, along with nursing home residents and staff are first in line to receive the vaccine.
New York state is expecting an initial shipment of 170,000 doses as early as this weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said.
Of those doses, 72,000 will be sent to New York City, although city health officials are preparing to receive additional direct shipments from the federal government.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday announced that the city would open a vaccine command center beginning on Monday to manage the mass vaccinations, ensuring speed as well as equity.
Azar said the authorization from the FDA could come within "days," although experts expect regulators will expedite the process. On Friday, the FDA released a statement saying that the agency "will rapidly work toward” authorization of Pfizer's vaccine, which was developed with the German company BioNTech.
"The agency has also notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution," the FDA added.
A vaccine cannot come soon enough for Americans. On Thursday, states reported more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It marked the second day in a row that fatalities have crossed that all-time high threshold.
There are currently 107,000 people hospitalized for coronavirus across the country, another record number.
New York on Thursday reported 92 fatalities. Current hospitalizations have surpassed 5,000. Both indicators are the highest they have been since May.