US presidential election & covid-19 restrictions, 16 november: Trump vs Biden results | Updates

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US election and covid-19 live: 16 November 2020

News summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

US covid-19 cases: 11.2 million

US covid-19 deaths: 247,116 (Source: JHU)

- Georgia's recount continues and 2,600 ballots were found in Floyd county. 800 for Trump and 1,800 for Biden

- Brad Raffensberger accuses fellow Republicans of pressuring him to dismiss legal ballots in Georgia

- US biotech firm Moderna announces its covid-19 vaccine has achieved a 94.5% effectiveness rate in phase-three trials

- Trump campaign drops part of Pennsylvania election lawsuit

- After seemingly coming the closest yet to accepting election defeat in a tweet saying Joe Biden "won", Donald Trump later insists: "I concede NOTHING!"

Browse the latest stories on the US election:

One year on

It has been 365 days since the first covid-19 case was reported.

"We could effectively end this pandemic in 2021"

The combination of at least two effective coronavirus vaccines and the number of people who previously had covid-19 could help end the pandemic next year, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday.

After big Thanksgiving dinners, plan small Christmas funerals, health experts warn

Mississippians should plan “to have very small Thanksgiving gatherings” with only nuclear family members this year to stay safe amid the covid-19 pandemic, Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and other public health officials warned on Friday.

You’re going to have a lot of sick folks who caught (covid-19) during Thanksgiving. We know this is the perfect milieu, having young folks and old folks and folks with chronic illness around the table, and then death,” Dobbs said during a sober Mississippi State Medical Association Zoom meeting with fellow physicians on November 12.

The state’s top health official urged Mississippians who are having small holiday gatherings to observe 6 feet of social distancing and to hold the gatherings outdoors, where the chance of transmission is lower.

We don’t really want to see Mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas,” MSMA President Dr. Mark Horne said during the meeting, concurring with the state health officer.

“We’re going to see some of that. It’s going to happen,” Dobbs replied. Horne agreed.

“It’s going to happen. You’re going to say hi at Thanksgiving, it’s so nice to see you, and you’re either going to be visiting her by Facetime in the ICU or planning a small funeral by Christmas,” the MSMA president said.

What does Biden plan for refugees in the US?

One of the departments where Trump has been most aggressive; immigration, is in for an overhaul under Joe Biden.

Read the full story:

Covid-19 map graphic shows surge all too clearly

A frightening graphic map shows the stark contrast in coronavirus response by political governance across the USA.

Want to know what Biden might do in his first 100 days?

NPR have already compiled the key plans for you. 

What's Biden planning for student debt?

President-elect Joe Biden's plan for student loan forgiveness doesn't go as far as plans touted by some of his former challengers for the Democratic nomination, but it could result in student loans being canceled for millions of people, explains Newsweek.

Americans collectively hold more than $1.5 trillion in student loans and the financial burden caused people to delay marriages, purchase homes and having children. With some legislators, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, pushing for widespread forgiveness, Biden's election victory sparked hope that relief was on the horizon.

Under Biden's plan listed on his website, his administration would forgive undergraduate loans for people who have "responsibly made payments" for 20 years. Those payments would be 5 percent of a borrower's "discretionary income," defined as "income minus taxes and essential spending like housing and food" over $25,000.

Borrowers would automatically be enrolled in the program but could opt-out if they chose to do so.

Joe Biden says Trump blocking Covid plans will lead to more deaths

Joe Biden says Trump blocking Covid plans will lead to more deaths

"The idea the president is still playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension. You’d think he’d at least want to go off on a positive note", US president-elect, Joe Biden said after a meeting with  CEOs and labor leaders.

"I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started," he said.

Biden warned that if outgoing president Donald Trump continues blocking a US transition of power as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, 'more people may die'. 

800 for Trump trends on Twitter

In light of news that in the 2,600 ballots in Floyd County recently discovered that had not been previously reported, 800 were for Trump and the rest, around 1,800 were in Biden's favour. 

The recounting of 5 million ballots cast by Georgia voters during the presidential election has run smoothly.

Governor Cuomo and Donald Trump's vaccine feud

It started with a press conference from the White House, then it was all downhill from there. Trump and Cuomo’s relationship went from cold to arctic.

Read the full story:

Georgia sec. of state says he's being pressured to dismiss legal votes

Georgia sec. of state says he's being pressured to dismiss legal votes

Brad Raffensperger says fellow Republicans are pressuring him to find ways to exclude ballots.

In this Washington Post scoop the Georgia Secretary of State had called out his fellow Republicans for putting him under increasing pressure to toss out legal ballots.

He specifically accuses Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.

The atmosphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”

The pressure on Raffensperger, who has bucked his party in defending the state’s voting process, comes as Georgia is in the midst of a laborious hand recount of about 5 million ballots. President-elect Joe Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the initial count.

The normally mild-mannered Raffensperger saved his harshest language for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who is leading the president’s efforts in Georgia and whom Raffensperger called a “liar” and a “charlatan.”

Alaska refuge going on the block 

The Trump administration is rushing to make drilling leases available for sale in Alaska’s Artic National Wildlife Refuge, possibly days before President-elect Biden is sworn in.  Protected for four decades, in 2017 the Republican-led Congress approved legislation to open up the pristine landscape to oil development.  

We all need to turn the other cheek 

Peter Wehner asks us to move on with our lives and leave behind the animosities of the last four years and live up to Lincoln’s standard, even if he set the bar higher than most can reach, we can at least try. 

Gavin Newsom apologies for not practicing what he’s preaching 

Governor Newson of California acknowledged his error of attending an expensive dinner party with people from other households.  As a backdrop to the governor’s addressing his own behavior is the fact that 94 percent of Californians were entering into “purple tier” restrictions, the strictest level of restrictions imposed by the state. 

Michigan sets up new rules to control covid-19 spread

Michigan has joined other states in reimposing a series of stricter coronavirus rules to control the ever-expanding number of infections in the state. Find out what the new rules are.

Trump

Wisconsin recount would cost Trump $7.9 million

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said on Monday that a statewide vote recount would cost an estimated $7.9 million - money that President Donald Trump's campaign would have to pay in advance should it request one. President-elect Joe Biden won the crucial battleground state in the 3 November election by a margin of 0.7 percentage point, or about 20,000 votes, with 99% of ballots counted, according to Edison Research.

Under state law, because the margin of Biden's win was less than 1% but greater than 0.25%, Trump as the second-place finisher has the right to request a recount, but must first pay to cover the expenses of the operation. Wisconsin's chief election official, Meagan Wolfe, said in a statement that county clerks had, as required by law, carefully estimated their costs for recounting Wisconsin's 3.2 million ballots "We still have not received any indication that there will or will not be a recount," she said, adding that cost estimate was 'significantly higher' than the actual costs of the 2016 recount there because it included extra funds for larger spaces required for social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as security for those spaces, and a greater number of absentee ballots.

Biden

Biden calls on Congress to pass new Covid-19 relief package

President-elect Joe Biden has called on Congress to come together and pass a new coronavirus relief package. In remarks on the economy, Biden urged lawmakers in both chambers to pass a package similar to the one first passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May and then revised in October. "Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and business, then we can start to build back better than before," Biden said.

Vaccine

Covid-19 vaccine technology could help defeat other diseases

Breakthrough technology that transforms the body into a virus-zapping vaccine factory is poised to revolutionise the fight against Covid-19 but future pandemics and even cancer could be next, scientists say. The initial success of so-called messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines in late-stage trials by Moderna as well as Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is the first proof the concept works. Both experimental vaccines had efficacy rates above 90% based on interim findings, which was far higher than expected and well above the 50% threshold U.S. regulators insist upon for vaccines.

Now scientists say the technology, a slow-motion revolution in the making since the discovery of mRNA nearly 60 years ago, could speed up the development of new vaccines. The traditional method of creating vaccines – introducing a weakened or dead virus, or a piece of one, to stimulate the body's immune system – takes over a decade on average, according to a 2013 study. One pandemic flu vaccine took over eight years while a hepatitis B vaccine was nearly 18 years in the making. Moderna's vaccine went from gene sequencing to the first human injection in 63 days. With BioNTech and Pfizer's Covid-19 candidate on a similar trajectory, both could win regulatory approval this year, barely 12 months since the coronavirus first emerged. Other companies are pursuing the technology such as Germany's CureVac also has an mRNA vaccine candidate, though has yet to start a late-stage trial and is hoping it will get the green light after July 2021.

"We'll look back on the advances made in 2020 and say: 'That was a moment when science really did make a leap forward'," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, which is backed by the Wellcome Trust.  Among Moderna's most advanced projects, besides its COVID-19 vaccine, are mRNA compounds to treat ovarian cancer or Myocardial ischemia, which are also in the second test phase. 

Trump demands to see Georgia signature match

Donald Trump refuted the ballot recount in Georgia, the battleground state which he lost to Joe Biden, arguing that his team has not seen the signature match on mail-in ballots. Signature mismatches on ballots are discounted.

Trump may settle for partial Afghan withdrawal, despite Pentagon shakeup-sources

President Donald Trump's new Pentagon leadership team has not yet signalled an imminent, total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, raising expectations among allies that Trump might settle for only a partial reduction this year, sources said. Trump fired his defense secretary, Mark Esper, and appointed other top Pentagon officials last week after longstanding concerns that his priorities were not being dealt with urgently enough at the Defense Department. They included ending the 19-year-old Afghan engagement by Christmas, an ambitious target that opponents of the country's longest war welcomed but which Trump's critics warned could be reckless given ongoing militant violence plaguing Afghanistan.

 

wall st

A person walks past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at Wall Street on November 16, 2020 in New York City. Wall Street stocks rose early following upbeat news on a coronavirus vaccine and merger announcements in the banking and retail industries. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

Georgia Democrats challenge Republicans to debate in Senate runoff

Democratic candidates in a pair of US Senate runoff races in Georgia on Monday challenged the two incumbent Republican senators to debates ahead of a 5 January vote that will decide control of the Senate.

Democrat Jon Ossoff said he had accepted invitations from six media outlets to debates, and urged Republican rival Senator David Perdue to join him in the forums. He had already called Perdue a "coward" on Twitter Sunday following media reports that Perdue had declined a chance to debate on 6 December at the Atlanta Press Club.

Likewise, Democrat Raphael Warnock issued a separate challenge to Republican Kelly Loeffler to three televised debates, including one at the Atlanta Press Club, also on 6 December.

Georgia laws require a runoff if no candidate reaches 50 percent. The Ossoff-Perdue race and the Warnock-Loeffler matchup will determine whether Republicans or Democrats lead the Senate after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Democrats need to win both seats to split the Senate 50-50 and give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator since 1996, but Democratic President-elect Joe Biden narrowly leads President Donald Trump there by 49.5% to 49.2% in the recent presidential election. A recount is underway.

"A great day" - Moderna chief medical officer

Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer at Moderna, says it is "a great day" after the US biotech firm announced its coronavirus vaccine had achieved 94.5% efficacy in human trials.

"The overall effectiveness has been remarkable […],” Zaks told the BBC on Monday. “It's a great day.”

Meanwhile, Moderna’s president, Dr Stephen Hoge, told the broadcaster: "I don't think any of us really hoped that the vaccine would be 94% effective at preventing covid-19 disease, that was really a stunning realisation."

Trump refutes reports over Pennsylvania legal action

President Donald Trump and his campaign chiefs are denying that they have dropped part of a lawsuit over the presidential election results in Pennsylvania.

It has been reported that Trump campaign lawyers have abandoned a claim that election officials unlawfully blocked observers from watching the counting of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

However, the Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, has described the reports as "completely erroneous", while the president himself has branded them "Fake News".

"Poll Watchers, and the way they were treated, are a very big deal in the complaint!" Trump tweeted on Monday.

US health sec: "This is really a historic day"

Following Moderna’s announcement that its coronavirus vaccine has been 94.5% effective in human trials, US Health Secretary Alex Azar has spoken of a "historic day" in the fight against the pandemic, and says he is hopeful 20 million Americans will be vaccinated in late December.

"Here we are, 10 months from the date when this virus hit our shores and we’ve got a second 90%-plus effective vaccine for the American people,” Azar told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday. "This is really a historic day.

"We hope that because of Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines […] to have enough by the end of December to vaccinate 20 million of our most vulnerable citizens."

Asked by anchor George Stephanopolous exactly which people would be the first to receive a vaccine, Azar said: "We're going to follow the guidance. Once the full data package is in, then we’re going to follow the guidance of CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]."

He added: "In public health, we do not get 90%-plus effective vaccines often and here we have two vaccines with that type of efficacy".

Dr Fauci

Moderna effectiveness rate "as good as it gets" - Dr Fauci

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious disease expert, has welcomed the news that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine has shown a 94.5% effectiveness rate in human trials.

"It’s just as good as it gets - 94.5% is truly outstanding," Dr Fauci said on Monday, per CNN.

He added: "This is a really strong step forward to where we want to be in terms of getting control of this outbreak."

(Photo: Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Moderna vaccine's temperature advantage over Pfizer jab

A key advantage of Moderna's vaccine is that it does not need ultra-cold storage like Pfizer's, making it easier to distribute.

Moderna expects it to be stable at normal fridge temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius (36 to 48°F) for 30 days and it can be stored for up to six months at -20C.

Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter.

(Reuters)

Moderna vaccine 94.5% effective, US biotech firm announces

US biotechnology firm Moderna has announced that its coronavirus vaccine candidate has achieved a 94.5% effectiveness rate in phase-three clinical trials.

"This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate […]," said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. "This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease."

In the wake of the results, Moderna said it now intends to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorisation.

The news follows an announcement by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer earlier this month that its coronavirus vaccine, developed in collaboration with German firm BioNTech, has shown a 90% efficacy rate in human trials.

Moderna’s statement in full.

Trump

Trump campaign abandons part of Pennsylvania election lawsuit

US President Donald Trump's campaign on Sunday dropped a major part of a lawsuit it brought seeking to halt Pennsylvania from certifying its results in the presidential election, narrowing the case to a small number of ballots.

In an amended complaint filed in federal court, the Trump campaign dropped a claim that election officials unlawfully blocked observers from watching the counting of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The pared-down lawsuit now focuses on a claim that Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully allowed voters to fix errors in their mail-in ballots in violation of state law.

Officials have said the dispute affects a small number of ballots in the state, where Democrat Joe Biden is projected to win by more than 60,000 votes.

(Text: Reuters; photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Trump to enact a series of hardline policies during final 10 weeks

Axios is reporting that Donald Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China, citing senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans.

Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening US national security.

The administration also will crack down on China for its labour practices beyond Xinjiang forced labour camps.

President Trump's legal assault is faltering 

President Trump has made numerous accusations of electoral fraud and challenges to the election results across the US. This is in an effort to slow the certification and the inevitable, Joe Biden won the election.  Of the countless lawsuits that have been filed only one has had any traction, a case from Pennsylvania where a court ruled that the Secretary of State there was not in their authority to grant more time to voters to correct signature mismatches on their mail-in votes.  This affected a small number of ballots cast and won’t offset Biden’s 62,000 lead in the state. But none of his challenges claiming voter fraud have been substantiated. 

Pfizer vaccine’s need for cold storage may limit access to it 

The recent good news regarding Pfizer’s vaccine trial being 90 percent effective gave a ray of hope that the pandemic may be within sight.  However, one of the drawbacks of the vaccine should it be approved is its need to be stored at –70º C (-94º F) which will make distribution a challenge to places where ultra-cold storage is not available. As well there are questions as to if enough glass vials can be produced that can withstand the extreme subzero temperatures. Pfizer says that is working to overcome these issues. 

Health officials struggle to get people to worry about catching covid-19 

In the Midwest, where case numbers are soaring and hospitals are running out of beds getting people to feel the need to wear masks to help stop the spread is a challenge.  People are aware that the virus is dangerous and that their states are in the eye of the hurricane but people don’t want to curtail their lives or just aren’t worried about getting the disease. This has left health officials puzzled about how to slow the surge of cases afflicting the communities they serve. 

Georgia Senator Perdue declines to debate Democrat challenger again 

The election isn’t over in Georgia with the candidates back on the campaign trail after none of the candidates received the necessary 50 percent to avoid a runoff election for both of Georgia’s Senate seats. The runoff elections will be held on 5 January between Senator David Perdue and his challenger Jon Ossoff, as well as Senator Kelly Loeffler and her challenger Reverand Raphael Warnock. 

Perdue cancelled a second debate with his challenger prior to the 3 November election after his rival called him a “crook” for profiteering off of the coronavirus pandemic. He has again refused to participate in a 6 December which would have been hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. 

Trump coronavirus adviser urges Michigan to 'rise up' against new covid-19 measures

CNN - White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas criticised Michigan's new covid-19 restrictions in a tweet shortly after they were announced on Sunday evening, urging people to "rise up" against the new public health measures.

"The only way this stops is if people rise up," Atlas said. "You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp"

Responding to Atlas' tweet on Sunday, Whitmer told CNN, "We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I'm not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel responded to the pair of tweets, casting Atlas' post as, "disappointing, irresponsible, and the reason why the United States finds itself in such desperate circumstances regarding covid-19."

Dr. Fauci says Donald Trump hasn’t attended a covid-19 meeting in 'several months'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious diseases official and a member of the White House taskforce, has joined the call to allow transition talks to begin amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if a normal transition would be to the benefit of public health, he replied: "Of course, that’s obvious. Of course, it would be better if we could starting working with them."

As the calls mount for Trump to leave, the president himself has been virtually silent on the public health disaster swirling around him. According to Fauci, Trump has not attended a meeting of the coronavirus taskforce for “several months”.

US election and coronavirus: latest news

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the US elections, with all the ongoing reaction, breaking news and regular updates of the fall-out from the historic election on 3 November.

We'll also be keeping you updated on all the latest developments to do with the pandemic which is the number one priority for President-elect Joe Biden who is already getting to work on how he plans to govern a very divided United States with Donald Trump still yet to recognise or acknowledge defeat.

In his victory speech, Biden, along with his vice president-elect Kamala Harris, called for unity and cooperation and said he knew how Trump supporters felt. But with so much disinformation filling social media accounts across the country - some driven from the White House - it's clear that desire is going to take some time to fulfil.

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