US Presidential Election & covid-19 news summary for 30 November 2020

US elections and covid-19 latest news

News summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

US covid-19 cases: 13.51 million

US covid-19 deaths: 267,792  (Source: JHU)

- Scott Atlas, Trump's pandemic advisor, has resigned from the role

- Victories for Biden confirmed by electoral officials in Arizona and Wisconsin

- Biden announces picks for economic team, with Janet Yellen as treasury secretary

- Moderna vaccine shows 100% efficacy against severe covid-19

- Covid-19 hospitalisations in the US hit new record high of 93,238 on Sunday

- Vaccine maker Novavax has pushed back the start of a US-based, late-stage trial

- Trump calls for Georgia Governor to 'overrule' Sec. of State, clinging to desperate 'fraud' claims

- Fauci warns of post Thanksgiving surge of cases

Pfizer's covid-19 vaccine begins its journey to US from Belgium ahead of FDA approval

- Bill Gates warns of thousands of January and February deaths

- New York schools set to reopen next week confirms mayor De Blasio

- Joe Biden starts to put together new cabinet 


Browse some of our latest related stories:

Many Americans ability to get by will depend on Congress passing new stimulus

Unless the US Government can once again come together and pass new legislation to keep suffering Americans afloat who are still unemployed or find themselves out of work as the latest surge of cases continues to swell, they will have to rely on their state unemployment benefits if they still have any left. Expanded unemployment benefits put in place in the spring to tackle the economic consequences of the coronavirus will expire at the end of the year.

Do Republicans want to make a deal on coronavirus stimulus?

For much of the last six months, lawmakers in the Capitol have attempted to find agreement on the second large-scale stimulus package to help Americans survive the economic fallout of the pandemic. But after an initial swell of bipartisan sentiment to pass the CARES Act back in March, the two parties have remained far apart since then.

The GOP's Senate majority has blocked the HEROES Act, but with only weeks of his presidency remaining will Trump persuade McConnell to strike a deal?

Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine set to arrive in California in mid-December 

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that California will receive its first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the middle of December. The vaccine is still awaiting FDA approval which is expected to come in December. A limited number of California’s 2.4 million health care workers will receive the first 327,000 doses. Later this week it will be announced which health care workers will get priority. 

Denmark seeks solution to “zombie mink” 

17 million farmed mink were culled in Denmark after it was found that covid-19 had passed from humans to the animals and back again. The mink were dumped into a pit and covered but began resurfacing it is believed due to gases produced from their decomposition. Now there are worries about the corpses contaminating the groundwater and a nearby lake. The government is studying if the dead mink can be safely dug up and incinerated.  

Colorado works to pass covid-19 relief 

In a special session, the Colorado state legislature met to address the economic situation in the state due to covid-19. If the bills make it out of committee and to the floor for a vote that could go into effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor. The state plans to use $200 to $350 million in state revenue that was above expectations. Priorities include small business relief, housing assistance and utility assistance among others. 

Republican Senators express reservations about Biden’s OMB pick 

President-elect Biden has chosen Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget that will be central to Biden enacting his economic policies. She is the president of the Centers for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, which would give her broad range of experience to run the OMB.  

Tanden has been critical of GOP members of the Senate via Twitter which has led several Republican Senators to warn that her partisanship may complicate her confirmation. With the current state of partisanship in Washington Biden may have a harder time than past Presidents in getting his nominees confirmed. 

Carli B apologies for Thanksgiving family gathering 

Despite the CDC warnings about traveling and large family get-togethers being possible super-spreader events large numbers of Americans traveled to be with family this Thanksgiving. Carli B found herself in hot water with her Twitter followers after she shared that she had a large number of family members over for Thanksgiving at her house. In her defense she shared that she had paid to get everyone tested beforehand but according to the CDC that is not a safe strategy. A negative test does not mean that an individual has not caught the virus nor will remain negative. 

Trump’s pandemic advisor Scott Atlas resigns

Scott Atlas has resigned from his post as President Trump's coronavirus pandemic advisor, shortly before his 130-day detail as a Special Government Employee (SGE) was due to expire. Atlas had been a vocal proponent of the controversial 'herd immunity' policy.

It is not yet known if Trump will name a replacement for the short-term role. 

CNN: China released "misleading data" on early covid-19 cases

A whistleblower has shared documents with CNN which show the extent of the crises in China during the early stages of the global pandemic. The report alleges that Chinese authorities knew more about the true extent of the danger than they revealed publicly, hampering other nations' abilities to combat it. 

The report claims that as well as deliberately misleading other worldpowers, the intitial response in Wuhan and other affected areas was hit by organisational issues: "China's system took on average 23 days to diagnose confirmed patients, and testing failures meant most received negative results until January 10."

Can you still get unemployment benefits if you are let go?

As the coronavirus continues to surge through the US many states are placing restrictions on businesses through limiting opening hours and capacity inside which will invariably lead to a new round of layoffs. With states imposing new restrictions more people are finding themselves out of work. Depending on why you lost your job you may be entitled to benefits.

Key states confirmed for Biden despite Trump lawsuits

The ongoing legal battles have had little impact for the President and, despite his legal team's protestation, all six key battleground states who decided the election for Biden have certified their results. It marks the nadir of Trump's bungled attempts to litigate his way to victory. 

It should be noted that there is still the chance for the President to appeal in some states. Wisconsin, for example, allows five days after the certification for appeals to be lodged. Trump has promised to continue to fight but this may prove to be a step too far. 

California may return to stay-at-home order in coming days

Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday he may impose tougher coronavirus restrictions over the next two days, including a possible stay-at-home order, to counter surging covid-19 hospitalizations that threaten to overwhelm intensive care units.

Newsom said projections show ICU admissions are on track to exceed statewide capacity by mid-December unless public health policies and social behavior patterns are altered to curb the spread of the virus.

Newsom told reporters during an online briefing the next round of restrictions under consideration may include an order similar to California's first-in-the-nation statewide stay-home mandate,  imposed in March, at the outset of the pandemic.

Los Angeles County, the state's most populous, has already taken such a step, banning nearly all social gatherings of people from more than one household, around the clock, for the next three weeks, under an order that took effect on Monday.

[Reuters]

Biden win certified in Wisconsin

Another victory for the President-elect has been confirmed today as the chair of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, Anne Jacobs, certified the state's election result. Shortly after Arizona was certified for Biden on Monday, another battleground state has officially awarded its Electoral College votes to the Biden-Harris ticket. President Trump has pledged to challenge the result. 

In a written response to Trump's desperate attempts to disrupt the election, Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul launched an attack on the undemocratic nature of the President's strategy. In a statement on Monday, he noted that Trump’s recount was focused on the state’s two most populous counties, which have the highest populations of Black residents.

“I have every confidence that this disgraceful Jim Crow strategy for mass disenfranchisement of voters will fail,” said Kaul. 

 

Sen. Schumer calls for pre-inauguration cabinet hearings

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer has told the Upper House that he believes that hearings to decide on President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet should be held before he officially takes office. Hearings give members of the Senate the chance to vet Biden's nominees before they are put to a vote after he becomes President on 20 January. 

Schumer said: “The Senate should follow precedent and hold hearings on President-elect Biden’s nominees in January immediately after the Georgia elections, before inauguration." This references the fact that President Trump's nominees had hearings before Inauguration Day, although he struggled to have his picks confirmed. 

Only two of Trump's Cabinet picks were confirmed on day one of his administration, compared to six for his predeccessor President Obama. 

First teen fatality in Madison, Wisconsin from covid-19 

A high school junior has become the first teenager to die from covid-19 in Dane County. Wisconsin is currently fighting extremely high infection rates across all 72 counties and the states hospitals are near capacity. Some localities have placed restrictions but several statewide restrictions were halted by the courts. Governor Tony Evers’ statewide indoor capacity restrictions were halted by an appeal court in October and state Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal. 

Madison area schools have been shuttered since March and all classes are done online. No other staff or student has died from covid-19 in the school district. 

Experts warn of post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge before vaccines arrive

After a Thanksgiving weekend when the number of people traveling through US airports reached its highest since mid-March, a top government official said on Monday some Americans could begin receiving coronavirus vaccinations before Christmas.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar said Pfizer Inc's covid-19 vaccine could be authorized and shipped within days of a 10 December meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration tasked with reviewing trial data and recommending whether it warrants approval.

[Reuters]

Biden names top economic officials

On Monday President-elect Joe Biden named his pick to replace Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary as his White House cabinet takes shape. The Senate will still have to confirm each of his nominees before they are officially confirmed, and Republicans have already made clear that they will be voting against one of Biden's picks. 

Arizona certifies state's election results for Biden

The state of Arizona has officially confirmed its 11 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, as was projected on Election Night. This is simply the confirmation of a Biden victory that was called weeks ago but has been the subject of fierce rebuttal from the Trump campaign who launched a number of failed lawsuits in the state. 

Arizona was the first key state to flip during the election, with Fox News making a shock Election Night call to project Joe Biden as the winner. The state, usually solidly Republican, was the first one won by Trump in 2016 to fall and Fox received a number of angry Election Night phonecalls from Trump and his advisors, who accused the network of erroneously calling for Biden.

Nearly four weeks later, it appears that they made the right call. 

WHO warns of covid-19 'amnesia' if we do not learn the lessons

The World Health Organization's top emergency expert said on Monday that the world risked future pandemics if it suffered "amnesia" and did not learn from the current coronavirus crisis.

"I have seen the amnesia that seems to descend upon the world after a traumatic event, and that's understandable," Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva. "But if we do this again like we did after SARS, like we did after H5N1, like we did after H1N1 pandemic, if we continue to ignore the realities of what emerging and dangerous pathogens can do to our civilization, then we are likely to experience the same or worse again within our lifetimes," he said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also urged countries not to politicize the hunt for the origins of the new coronavirus, saying that would only create barriers to learning the truth. "We need to know the origin of this virus because it can help us to prevent future outbreaks," Tedros said. "There is nothing to hide. We want to know the origin, and that's it."

US President Donald Trump's administration, which has accused China of hiding the extent of the outbreak and the Geneva-based global health body of being too close to Beijing, has criticised the terms of a WHO-led international investigation into the origin of the pandemic.

[Reuters]

 

Biden announces picks for economic team

President-elect Joe Biden has today named a number of key figures on his treasury team that will be spearheading the economic recovery from the pandemic. The team will be led by Janet Yellin, a former chair of the Federal Reserve and one of four women in prominent roles. If she is confirmed by the Senate, she will become the first woman to hold the post of treasury secretary. 

At this stage these are only nominations from Biden, as they still need to pass the Upper House. The only one expected to face significant push-back from Senate Republicans is Neera Tanden, who would become the first woman of color and first South Asian American to become director of the Office of Management and Budget if confirmed. However a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said Tanden "stands zero chance of being confirmed" after making "an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators". 

Los Angeles nurses

LA protesters call for better conditions for medical staff

People in Los Angeles, California, attend a protest for frontline medical workers demanding more personal protective equipment (PPE), coronavirus testing and staff, amid surging covid-19 case numbers in the state.

(Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

TSA screened 1.18 million airline passengers on Sunday - the most since March

The United States' Transportation Security Administration says it screened 1.18 million airline passengers in the country on Sunday, the highest number since mid-March but still about 60% lower than the comparable day last year.

The number of passengers screened on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year was 2.88 million, the highest ever recorded by the agency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month urged Americans not to travel during this week’s Thanksgiving holiday to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus as cases of covid-19 spike around the US.

Trump calls for Georgia Gov. to 'overrule' SoS

President Trump has tweeted a call on Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to overrule the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, on the matching of signatures during the state's recount.

Raffensperger correctly said that matching the absentee ballot on the inside to the signature on the outer envelope is impossible, because the ballots are - as per the rules - separated from the envelopes when they are opened to protect voter privacy.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter admin has had to add a line once again.

Will the Electoral College decision end things?

Almost a month has now passed since Election Day 2020 and the transition of power has certainly not gone as smoothly as many would have hoped, especially given the crucial importance of dealing appropriately with the current coronavirus pandemic.

That said, the wheels of the democratic system of the United States are still turning, and the Electoral College will soon make their decision known.

Here's what happens and when:

Time to end the fraud narrative

Despite calling his loss to Joe Biden corrupt, President Trump also wants his supporters to go out and vote for incumbent Republican Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the runoff elections in January.

It is hard to see why. If Democrats, along with corrupt Republicans, along with every election official in the state, and every county official and local volunteer, and the management of the Dominion voting machines, and perhaps the Venezuelan government, and perhaps the Department of Justice and FBI and whatever other co-conspirators all worked together to steal the state from Trump . . . why would they not also steal the election for the Democrats running for Senate?

What is the point of voting if the elections are rigged, as the president insists?

If the president is telling the truth, why should Georgia Republicans participate in the charade of an election scheduled for January 5?

And if the president isn’t telling the truth . . . why shouldn’t Georgia Republicans — or anyone else — come out and say that he isn’t telling the truth?

Jim Geraghty says time should be called on the fraud that is the 'stolen election' narrative.

Yellen for Biden's Treasury

US President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to be his treasury secretary and announced other members of his economic team on Monday, the Biden transition team said in a statement.

The Democrat's picks include Wally Adeyemo as deputy treasury secretary, Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget and Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, the transition team said.

Stimulus in waiting

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take over at the White House from outgoing President Donald Trump, Emily France take a look at the prospects of a major coronavirus stimulus package being pushed through both before and after Biden’s January inauguration.

Two coronavirus vaccines available in US in coming weeks

Following the Moderna news reported earlier, the first two vaccines against the novel coronavirus could be available to Americans before Christmas, Health Secretary Alex Azar has said.

The Food and Drug Administration's outside advisers will meet on 10 December to consider authorizing Pfizer Inc's covid-19 vaccine. That vaccine could be approved and shipped within days, with Moderna's following one week behind that, Azar said.

'So we could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people's arms before Christmas,' Azar said on CBS' 'This Morning.'

The federal government will ship the vaccines through its normal vaccine distrubution system, with state governors determining where they should go first, Azar said.

'They will be determining which groups to be prioritized. I would hope that the science and the evidence will be clear enough that our governors will follow the recommendations that we will make to them,' Azar said.

He said he and Vice President Mike Pence will speak to all the nation's governors later on Monday to discuss the vaccines and which groups of people should be prioritized to get them first.

Do you know someone dumb enough?

“In this day and age, people want something that tends to affirm their views and opinions,” said Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, who has found a business opportunity in feeding Donald Trump supporters the fantasy that the president could still win the election.

All successful TV programmers have some mercenary in them, of course, but even by those standards, Mr. Ruddy is extreme. He has turned Newsmax into a pure vehicle for Trumpism, attacking Fox News from the right for including occasional dissenting voices.

And when Trumpism turned this month from an electoral strategy into a hallucinatory attempt to overturn the election, Mr. Ruddy saw opportunity: Newsmax, available on cable in most American households and streaming online, became the home of alternate reality.

Moderna's mRNA coronavirus vaccine

Moderna Inc became the second US company to release full results from a large study of its experimental vaccine, saying it was 94.1% effective against covid-19. It will seek emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration and conditional approval from the European Union on Monday.

Its analysis was based on 196 cases of covid-19, 185 of which received a placebo with 11 receiving the vaccine. There were 30 severe cases in the placebo group and none among those that got the vaccine.

The 196 cases included 33 adults aged 65 or over, and 42 participants from diverse communities including 29 people who identified as Hispanic, 6 Black Americans, 4 Asian Americans and 3 people who are multiracial.

The success rate was just slightly less than the interim analysis result of 94.5% but Moderna said the difference was statistically insignificant. It follows a final analysis by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE in which their experimental vaccine was 95% effective.

Novavax delays US covid-19 vaccine trial again

Vaccine maker Novavax Inc said on Monday it has pushed back the start of a US-based, late-stage trial for its experimental covid-19 vaccine and now expects it to begin in the coming weeks instead of November. It is the second time that Novavax, which already has a late-stage UK trial underway, has rescheduled the Phase 3 trial after first flagging an October start, hampered by issues in scaling up its manufacturing.

Novavax plans to use vaccine material produced at commercial scale for the trial in the United States and Mexico and has been working closely with the US Food and Drug Administration to greenlight the use of the vaccine made at a North Carolina plant. The company also said it has completed enrollment for its 15,000 participant UK trial and expects interim data as soon as the first quarter of 2021. It has previously said that the UK trial could be the basis for some global regulatory approvals.

More than 25% of enrollees in the UK trial are over the age of 65, while a large proportion of volunteers had underlying co-morbid medical conditions generally representative of the population. Novavax is also running a fully enrolled Phase 2b trial in South Africa, which has 4,400 volunteers including 245 who are medically stable, HIV positive participants. Efficacy data from that trial could also be available in the first quarter of next year.

Cyber Monday is here!

The online-focused cousin of Black Friday has begun.

In our articles below we've picked some suggestions of great discounts to whet your whistle from three behemoth retailers, and we've looked at the opening hours.

Post-Trump, EU considers how to 'renew and reinvigorate' ties with US

The European Union will begin discussions on Monday on how best to 'renew and reinvigorate' transatlantic relations after the departure of US President Donald Trump, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.

Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries will consider five broad policy areas on which they see greater opportunities for cooperation when Joe Biden takes over as president after four years of strained ties since Trump introduced his 'America First' policy.

'The arrival of a new administration and congress ... is an opportunity for the EU to renew and reinvigorate its strategic partnership with the US based on mutual interests,' said the document prepared for envoys.

'The EU should agree a set of concrete priorities on which to engage the new US leadership,' it said. The document identified the main policy areas as: health including fighting the covid-19 pandemic, boosting economic recovery, combating climate change, promoting peace and security and upholding shared values including a belief in multilateral rules.

The Croods 2 leads sluggish Thanksgiving holiday weekend

Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the most popular times to go to the movies. Crowd pleasers like "Frozen," "Coco" and  "Knives Out" have propelled attendance and generated many, many millions in ticket sales over the holiday weekend in years past, cementing various box office records to boot.

This year, studios and movie theater owners are settling for scraps.

Only one new movie, Universal and DreamWorks' "The Croods: A New Age," was released in theaters. The animated sequel to 2013's unexpected hit "The Croods" surpassed expectations, generating $9.71 million over the weekend and $14.22 million since opening on Wednesday. That's considered a success in the age of coronavirus, but it's hardly what Universal was expecting when the studio initially greenlit the follow-up.​​​​

Joe b

Biden transition kicks into gear, as Trump acknowledges dwindling legal options

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil his picks for several top economic positions as early as Monday when he will also finally receive his first classified intelligence briefing, an essential step towards taking control of national security.

While Biden's transition to the White House appeared to be hitting its stride, the president-elect was hobbling after fracturing his foot while playing with his dog on Sunday.

The incoming administration has been hampered for weeks by President Donald Trump who has refused to concede claiming, without evidence, that Biden's Nov. 3 electoral victory was due to fraud.

Biden was expected to name leading members of an economic team that will have to combat the crushing blows to U.S.  workers and businesses from the coronavirus pandemic.

In contrast to Trump, who largely picked white men for key positions, Biden's early appointments were shaping up to be highly diverse, including an all-women communications team unveiled on Sunday night.

Fauci

Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in weeks after Thanksgiving

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated that the U.S. may see “surge upon a surge” of the coronavirus in the weeks after Thanksgiving, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

dollar

Dollar hits two and a half year low even as equity rally stalls

The dollar hit its lowest in two and a half years in early London trading on Monday while riskier currencies dipped slightly as the global equities rally paused for breath.

Global market sentiment surged in November, causing the dollar to fall and riskier currencies to benefit, as investors' risk appetite was boosted by Joe Biden's victory in the US presidential election, a series of positive covid-19 vaccine developments and hopes for further stimulus.

The dollar was set for its biggest monthly loss against a basket of currencies since July, having wiped 2.5% off its value in November. At 0836 GMT it was at 91.654.

The New Zealand dollar, which is on track for its biggest monthly gain since 2013, hit a new two-year high overnight, then declined steadily. In early London trading, it was flat on the day at 0.7034 versus the dollar.

vaccine

Vaccine hopes for 2021

Ten covid-19 vaccines could be available by the middle of next year if they win regulatory approval, but their inventors need patent protection, the head of the global pharmaceutical industry group said.​​

 

Biden: 'America is back and ready to lead the way'...

 

EU proposes new post-Trump alliance with U.S. in face of China threat

The European Union is seeking to forge a new alliance with the United States to bury the tensions of the Trump era and meet the challenges posed by China, the Financial Times reported, citing a draft plan.

The plan proposes rebuilding ties with common fronts on issues from digital regulation to tackling the covid-19 pandemic, the FT said.

Relations between the United States and Europe have been strained under President Donald Trump. The EU and most of the bloc's states have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden. "As open democratic societies and market economies, the EU and the US agree on the strategic challenge presented by China’s growing international assertiveness, even if we do not always agree on the best way to address this," the FT cited the draft plan as saying.

Second stimulus check: latest on US coronavirus relief bill

Holiday season has thrown a spanner in the works as the need for economic relief in the US gets more and more urgent and existing support nears expiry.

Election USA 2020: why did Donald Trump pay $3 million for recount in Wisconsin?

 

US election and coronavirus: latest news

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

We'll also be keeping you updated on all the latest developments on the coronavirus 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.

The incumbent has, however, instructed the General Services Administration to start the transition process. 

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