Photo: Christiano Betta, Creative Commons License 2.0

Lots of big coronavirus news, some of it even hopeful, so let's get right into it. We definitely need some good news, because the virus continues to spread out of control. Thursday's New York Times stats are once again terrible, with at least 2,923 deaths (the Washington Post says more than 3,300, and we don't know what accounts for the difference), 223,570 new cases, and 107,258 people hospitalized across the US. More than 291,000 Americans have died from the pandemic.

The New York Times map of hot spots looks like one of those apocalyptic global warming forecasts:



We Almost Have A Vaccine

America moved one big step closer to having a coronavirus vaccine yesterday, as a panel at the Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend emergency approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 17 to 4, with one member abstaining, to recommend that the agency approve the vaccine, and the FDA is expected to complete the approval process within the next few days — possibly as early as today. Once the emergency approval is in place, the federal government will start distributing the first doses of the vaccine, which will go first to healthcare workers and the elderly. To work, the vaccine has to be administered in two doses, about three weeks apart.

The downside of the Pfizer vaccine is that it's the one that needs to be stored and transported at super-cold temperatures — minus 95 degrees Fahrenheit — until right before it's used, which may make the logistics of getting it to rural areas a challenge. The FDA is also likely to approve Moderna's vaccine soon; the company says it can be safely stored at minus 4 degrees F for up to six months, so it doesn't require quite as much special handling.

And let's not forget that, over the summer, the Trump administration ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — so enough for 50 million people — but decided against pre-ordering additional millions of doses. Because Pfizer committed to provide hundreds of millions of doses to other countries, we may be looking at June or July. Fortunately, there are additional vaccines in the pipeline. Trump's vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, promises the US will be able to vaccinate 100 million Americans, roughly a third of the population, by the end of February, and that the entire population could be immunized by June. (Various public health officials are calling for more people to get just one dose, at a 75 percent or so success rate, rather than hoarding the second dose for fewer people getting vaccinated at a 95 percent success rate.)

If that timeline actually turns out to be accurate, we'll happily give ourselves a good angry glare for being skeptical right now.


CDC Director Predicts Daily 9/11's Worth Of Deaths For Two To Three Months

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned yesterday that the US should expect to see about 3,000 deaths a day from COVID-19 for the next two to three months. It's the sort of impressive achievement you'd expect in a country where huge numbers of people still refuse to wear masks or refrain from gathering in large groups indoors. Remember when the sudden death of nearly 3,000 people in one day prompted so much national trauma that the US had to start two wars that still haven't ended? Not that we're suggesting any new wars, but the current numbness seems ... bizarre.


New Hampshire House Speaker Dies Of COVID-19, Gov. Sununu Pissed

On Dec. 2, Republican state Rep. Dick Hinch was sworn in as the new speaker of New Hampshire's House of Representatives. A week later, on Wednesday, he was found dead at his home; yesterday, state Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced a coroner had determined Hinch died of COVID-19.

The Washington Post reports that in the weeks prior to his death, Hinch and other New Hampshire Republicans were happily flouting public health orders, to own the libs. About 50 GOP legislators, including Hinch, held a big indoor party Nov. 9 to celebrate the election; none of the attendees wore masks. And then on Nov. 20, Hinch and his GOP caucus held another mostly maskless indoor meeting at a ski resort — on the same day Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued a statewide mask order. Sununu condemned the meeting at the time, calling it "poorly managed."

At a presser yesterday, Sununu praised Hinch as a "tireless leader" and called him a close friend, but added that Hinch's death was a "cautionary tale" about refusing to wear a mask. And he laid into GOP leaders who made a point of not wearing a mask:

"For those who are just out there doing the opposite just to make some ridiculous political point, it is horribly wrong," Sununu said. "Please use your heads. Don't act like a bunch of children, frankly."

He was pretty mad about it, although it's worth noting that Sununu himself held off mandating mask use until the state was already well into the current surge of COVID-19 cases.

Ellen DeGeneres Tests Positive

Ellen DeGeneres announced yesterday that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be quarantining. Production of "The Ellen Degeneres Show" will be shut down until at least January.

NPR reports that

In the last two weeks, in-studio guests on Ellen have included Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, Diane Keaton, Bryan Cranston and, on Wednesday, Leslie Odom Jr. — though guests have been distantly seated from DeGeneres. Along with the crew and staff, the show has also allowed a small number of in-studio audience members since late October.

Good luck to all of 'em.

Even as the vaccines start going out, we're all going to have to keep masking, social distancing, and just staying home as much as possible to get this horror under control. Let's all be careful out there.

[NYT / CNBC / NYT / WaPo / WaPo / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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