US Presidential Election & Covid-19 updates: Trump, Biden, transition, results, cases, latest news

News summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

US covid-19 cases: 13.92 million

US covid-19 deaths: 273,799 (Source: JHU)

- The US records a new daily record of 2,760 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday

- Trump doesn’t plan to attend inauguration

- UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use, first in the world

- Biden announces all-female senior White House communications team

- 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

- 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: "There is almost certainly going to be an uptick"

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


Browse some of our latest related stories:

Russia reports record 28,145 new coronavirus cases, 554 deaths

Russia confirmed a record 28,145 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, including 7,750 in Moscow, taking the national total to 2,375,546. Authorities also reported 554 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 41,607 since the pandemic began. (Reuters)

Wednesday sees highest daily death toll since pandemic began

The US recorded 2,760 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, which is the highest daily death toll seen since the pandemic began. The previous record of 2,752 was set on 15 April.

This new record was set on on the same day that Covid-19 hospitalizations also reached an all-time high. As the total caseload cases approaches 14 million in the US, 273,799 people have lost their lives in the country due to coronavirus. 

Los Angeles city issues remain-at-home order to all residents

The mayor of the city of Los Angeles announced an emergency order late on Wednesday directing all residents within the city to remain in their homes effective immediately. Mayor Eric Garcetti, temporarily withdrew the earlier 'safer-at-home' order, and issued the new order 'necessary for the protection of life and property' in the city. (Reuters)

Death rates higher than in normal year 

Deaths in every state of the country are higher than they would be in a normal year, according to an analysis of estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths nationwide were 19 percent higher than normal from March 15 to Nov. 14.  

Possible unemployment extensions coming?

Tuesday saw the first rays of light for Congress taking action to provide relief to the US economy since the talks stopped before the 3 November election. Part of the measures proposed include extending unemployment benefits.

Read more:

California reports record covid-19 cases 

On Wednesday California reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases breaking the state’s previous one-day record of 18,000. Following an early summer surge California implemented new restrictions and cases dropped in August and September. The state then relaxed restrictions, allowing more businesses to operate, indoor religious services to resume and many schools to reopen for classroom instruction. But new cases have exploded in recent weeks to the point that the state is averaging 15,000 new cases a day and the infection rate has more than doubled. Governor Newsom, who is currently quarantining, warned Monday that “red flags are flying," saying if numbers don't improve, he would take “drastic action.” 

Ivanka Trump deposed by DC attorney general 

Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition Tuesday with investigators from the Washington, DC, attorney general's office. The deposition is part of the DC attorney general’s office’s lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds "grossly overpaying" for use of event space at the Trump hotel in Washington for the 2017 inauguration. It is alleged that Presidential Inaugural Committee misappropriated more than $1 million raised by the nonprofit by paying $175,000 per day for event space at the Trump Hotel. 

There have been questions surrounding where the money for Trump's inauguration came from. The Trump inaugural committee raised $107 million which was spent on a low key affair compared to previous inaugurations.  By comparison President Barack Obama's inaugural committee raised $53 million for his first inauguration.

No more free rides 

The US Department of Transportation will no longer consider emotional support animals as service animals giving airlines the ability to reduce the number of animals that fly for free. In recent years people have been bringing a more diverse menagerie of animals including miniature horses, pigs and peacocks onto planes to avoid charges for transporting pets. From now on a service animal will be defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.

Minnesota United Loons moving forward 

Despite the pandemic MLS team Minnesota United is enjoying its most successful season since joining the league in 2017. In late November, United added its first MLS Cup Playoff victory and will advance to the Western Conference final.  

However not everything about 2020 has been so great. The team has had to make layoff or furlough staff due to the lack of fans in the stadium. Unlike other MLS teams the club is completely dependent on revenues from the local market. 

The unrest after the killing of George Floyd also impacted the area around their stadium with many buildings left burned out and boarded up. The team has redirected some of its funds to helping its surrounding community to help rebuild along with other community initiatives.

Will Trump fire Barr? 

A senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that President Trump is furious with Attorney General Bill Barr. Yesterday Barr told the AP that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”  

Barr's public comments undermined Trump’s continued insistence that the election was rigged and there was massive voter fraud, which is completely baseless. In addition to the public statements Trump is complaining about steps not taken in a probe of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign. The source indicated there was a chance Barr could be fired but that several people are trying to persuade Trump not to do so.

Christmas and covid-19 at the White House 

The White House is planning to host several indoor holiday parties this season, even though the White House task force is warning states that the pandemic is "in a very dangerous place" and top health officials have cautioned against indoor celebrations. Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, down played the concerns that the gatherings could set a bad example for Americans as they head into the holiday season.  

The White House has been a source of several outbreaks with several top staff and Secret Service agents falling ill. Attendees at Tuesday night’s event were photographed not wearing masks. 

Who will replace Kamala Harris in the Senate? 

Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein from California is supporting Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State since 2014, for the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “I have agreed to support Padilla,” Feinstein told HuffPost on Wednesday. 

Padilla is the clear favorite in the rush to succeed Harris. California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing pressure to appoint someone who is nonwhite or a woman to the seat, since Harris is only the second Black woman ever to serve in the Senate. If appointed, Padilla would be the first-ever Latino senator for a state where Latinos make up about 40% of the population. As the son of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, he would also be one of the first Democrats from Southern California in decades to represent the state in the Senate. 

$900 billion bipartisan stimulus bill

The clock is ticking for Congress to get much needed stimulus money signed off before year’s end as they’re scheduled to go home for the holidays as soon as next week. A brand new proposal brings fresh hopes to break a months-long stalemate.

Read more:

Starbucks offers free coffee for frontline workers

Starbucks brings back its free coffee giveaway for first responders and health care workers as America’s surge in coronavirus cases remains out of control.

Read more:

Trump gives 46-minute conspiracy rant via Facebook 

Trump this afternoon released what he touted as “This may be the most important speech I've ever made.” The video, shot in the White House and released on Facebook, was a three-quarter hour rant about the numerous conspiracy theories that have been floated, Dominion voting machines, absentee ballots, and so on, by Trump and his supporters. 

If you have been following the madness of his legal challenges to the election results then you can save yourself some time. If you have not been following the countless lawsuits that have been filed claiming election fraud, all have failed to prove any election fraud. Even Bill Barr the US Attorney General said that his US Attorneys and the FBI had not found any evidence of election fraud that could change the outcome of the election. 

Record post-election fundraising for Trump 

President Donald Trump and his political operation have raised more than $170 million since Election Day. The massive fundraising has been fueled by Trump's baseless allegations that the election was rigged. The money has been raised in less than four weeks thanks to a barrage of fundraising solicitations to Trump's supporters, urging them to donate to an "Election Defense Fund" 

In reality, a large share of the funds has helped pay off the Trump campaign's debt and could fund the President's future political operation via a political action committee. A donation would have to be over $8000 to go to any of the failing lawsuits. The majority of the funds go to Trump’s new political action committee  Save America.  The money could be used to fund his post-White House political and personal life to pay for travel, staff and other functions, even if Trump never seeks public office again.

Top Dems support smaller relief package 

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will support the trimmed-down bipartisan $908 billion covid-19 aid package as the basis for an ultimate deal. Their support renews hope that Congress could approve aid before the end of the year. The proposal would extend boosted unemployment payments and extend help to cash-strapped local governments. Pelosi and Schumer, who had been pushing for a much larger relief package, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider the proposal.

Mark Kelly

Democrats have one more seat in the Senate 

Democrats have one more seat in the Senate as of Wednesday with the swearing in of Mark Kelly. Kelly was able to take the oath of office right away since he won a special election whereas the other Senators-elect will have to wait until January. He will serve the rest of the late Republican John McCain’s term through 2022, when he will face reelection. 

The GOP’s advantage in the Senate now falls to 52-48. The final balance of the Senate will be decided 5 January when Georgia votes in the two runoff elections for both of the state’s Senate seats. If both Democrats win the balance of power in the Senate will shift in their favor as the body will be divided 50-50 with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris able to cast the deciding vote. 

Photo: Mike Pence swearing in Mark Kelly 2 December by Nicholas Kamm 

The United States has entered the holiday season as covid-19 new cases and hospitalisations are surging.

PICTURE: Visitors pause beside Christmas trees beside the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, USA. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there was no public ceremony for the 2020 National Christmas Tree lighting, but instead the program was recorded and will be available to stream on-demand through the holiday season.

The United States has entered the holiday season as covid-19 new cases and hospitalisations are surging.

Photo: EFE/EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Families struggling for months already to keep a roof over their head and to put food on the table can't afford to wait. They need urgent help right now.

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Speaker of the House
 Trump is not expected to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden

Trump to announce 2024 presidential run on Joe Biden's Inauguration Day 

NBC News had this take last night on Trump’s plans for a 2024 run, and how he may be intending to use them to upstage Joe Biden on Inauguration Day.

President Donald Trump is discussing the possibility of announcing a campaign to retake the White House in 2024 on Inauguration Day and skipping the swearing-in of his successor, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

There is “preliminary planning” underway for a 20 January event to kick off a new Trump bid, the people familiar with the discussions said, though it’s possible the president could make the announcement earlier as no final decisions have been made.

Regardless of the timing of a campaign announcement, Trump is not expected to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, according to the people familiar with the discussions. He also does not plan to invite Biden to the White House or even call him, they said.

Biden transition officials said Trump’s attendance at the inauguration, or lack thereof, won’t affect their plans.

Biden keeps Trump pick as FBI Director

Biden keeps Trump pick as FBI Director

Joe Biden is planning to keep Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2017 after the president fired James Comey, as FBI director, the New York Times is reporting.

Citing an anonymous official on Biden’s team, Biden is planning on “not removing the FBI director unless Trump fired him.”

Biden keeping Wray as director would be a return to norms as FBI directors tend to serve for 10-year terms. The firing of Comey was an exception and eventually led to the investigation of possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

CDC shortens quaratine times for those exposed to covid-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday said it was recommending shorter self-quarantine periods after potential exposure to the coronavirus of seven days with a negative test and 10 days without a test.

Health authorities currently call for a 14-day quarantine after close contact with a person who has covid-19 in order to curb the transmission of the virus.

The CDC still recommends the 14-day quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19, calling the shorter options alternatives it hopes will increase compliance, CDC officials told reporters on a conference call.

The CDC updated its definition of what constitutes close contact in October to include direct physical contact, sharing food utensils, or exposure of 15 minutes spent six feet (1.83 m) or closer to an infected person.

[Reuters]

Georgia election official: Trump has gone too far

In an impassioned speech, Georgian election officiel Gabriel Sterling told reporters that the President's continued refusal to accept the result of the election is harmful to democracy in America and to individuals. He cited cases of intimidation and death threats aimed at election workers, as a direct result of Trump's fictional claims. 

"It's all gone too far! All of it! It has to stop!" Sterling warned. 

WH report: "We are in a very dangerous place"

In stark contrast to the President's message, or lack of, regarding the covid-19 pandemaic, a White House report gives a bleak picture for the next few months. After a record-breakng November (which saw more cases than any other month) and a marked increase in travel around Thanksgiving, Christmas is expected to see resources stretched to breaking point. 

A report sent out to state officials reads: “We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity; a further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall."

As it stands, the US is reporting over 150,000 new cases every day with over 98,000 people currently hospitalised ude to covid-19; both of which are record levels. 

Biden calls on Congress to pass new covid-19 bill

President-elect Joe Biden will talk with workers and business owners on Wednesday about how the coronavirus has affected them as he prepares to confront his highest priority on taking office: the resurgent pandemic in the United States.

The Democrat has promised to act quickly to provide more resources to fight the health crisis, which has killed more than 268,000 Americans. The United States leads the world in the number of daily infections as well as the number of deaths reported.

Biden told the New York Times in an interview published late on Tuesday that he would try to help resolve a monthslong standoff in Congress between Republicans and Democrats over a stimulus package for businesses affected by shutdowns as well as the millions who have lost jobs.

"You have over 10 million people out there who are worried (how) they can pay their next mortgage payment,” Biden said in the interview, and “you have a significantly higher number of people who have no ability to pay their rent.

Failure on the issue could have political consequences for Republicans currently in the majority in the U.S. Senate, he told the newspaper. “When you have cops and firefighters and first responders across the board being laid off, when you’re not getting the kind of distribution of vaccines out to rural America, it has to have some consequences,” he was quoted as saying.

[Reuters]

Health Sec. hopes for prompt vaccine approval

Britain's initial approval of Pfizer Inc's covid-19 vaccine should give Americans confidence as the drugmaker next week moves further toward seeking U.S. approval, Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

"For the American people this should be very reassuring: an independent regulatory authority in another country has found this vaccine to be safe and effective for use," Azar told Fox Business Network. "Here we're going to let the FDA run through its process."

[Reuters]

GOP Governor accuses Trump of conitnuing to spread misinformation

As the days go by the tide of opinion within the Republican party is very clearly turning against President Trump, who continues to spout baseless conspiracy theories regarding the election. Geoff Duncan, Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, told CNN that he is concerned by the accusations the President continues to make, which includes a claim that judges and electoral officials were "making deals" over the result. 

In response, Duncan said: "What is alarming is the amount of misinformation that continues to flow... That's not what democracy is about." He also urged the President to rethink his post-election approach, essentially calling for Trump to end his ill-fated legal campaign to overturn the election result in the courts. 

Duncan was also concerned about the consequences that Trump's disruption will have on the GOP's chances of retaining control of the Senate in the Georgia runoff race scheduled for 5 January: "I think short term we run the risk of alienating voters for our Senate race that is coming upon us for Sen. Loeffler and Sen. Perdue. And we need them,"

 

What has Congress said about the government shutdown deadline?

If the Senate and the House of Representatives are unable to agree a new government spending bill before 11 December, many federal programmes will be cut short and staff will be placed on furlough.

Read more:

Georgia elections official tells Trump to stop inspiring violence

Gabe Sterling an elections official in Georgia called out Trump for inspiring violence around the election results and Republicans' failure to condemn it.

More on that here:

Pfizer

BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine will be sent by plane or ferry to UK

BioNTech will send the Covid-19 vaccine it has developed with Pfizer in temperature-controlled boxes to Britain by ferry or plane as it prepares to deliver the shots in the next few days, a senior executive said on Wednesday. The comments were made by chief business and chief commercial officer of the German biotech Sean Marett in a briefing after Britain approved the vaccine, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe to become the West's first country to formally endorse a jab it said should reach the most vulnerable people early next week.

Marett said the vaccine can be transported after leaving storage for up to six hours at 2°- 8°C during delivery to facilities including care homes, and it can also last for five days in a normal fridge. His comments will allay some concerns that the shots need to be stored at minus 70°C, equivalent to the Antarctic winter, which may be difficult for nursing homes and other locations where the shots will be administered first.

Republican states will fight Biden's emissions cuts plan

The governors of five Republican states are ready to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden if he tries to require the power sector to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The litigious stance reflects just one of the many obstacles Biden will face as he seeks to deliver on a campaign promise to bring the US economy to net zero emissions by 2050 to combat climate change. Biden's pledge includes a goal of cutting net emissions from the power sector – a top source of nationwide greenhouse gases - to zero by 2035, though the president-elect has yet to detail how he intends to make it happen.

Lawsuits from states could halt implementation of any Democratic plan, as they did in 2016. "We can all agree that lower emissions are better, but we should also all be able to agree that cost-prohibitive, counterproductive regulations for the sake of catering to an extreme wing of a political party is destructive," said Bailey Martin, a spokeswoman for Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Republican-governed Mississippi, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Arkansas said they would challenge any new federal policies requiring the power sector to cut carbon emissions. Utah and Missouri, also under Republican governors, said they would review proposals before deciding. The seven were among 27 states that sued in 2015 to block the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama administration’s signature effort to address climate change by requiring deep cuts in power-sector emissions. Fifteen other states in the lawsuit, including four now under Democratic leadership, either declined to say how they would respond to a new emissions reduction order or did not respond to requests for comment. 

US Covid-19 hospitalizations: the five most affected states

The total confirmed coronavirus cases in the US hit 13.726,304 million on Wednesday - nearly 100,000 patients are in hospital fighting the virus. According to data compiled by The Atlantic, the highest number of hospitalisations per state are as follows:

South Dakota: 618

Nevada: 516 

Indiana: 514

Nebraska: 469 

Montana: 463

 

"Dr. Atlas did more damage in 130 days than you could possibly imagine"

Former health policy director for the Obama White House Dr. Kavita Patel joined other US health experts in criticising Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of Trump's Covid-19 taskforce and senior adviser who man feel wrongly played down the severity of the pandemic, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths. 

Dr. Patel told MSBC, "Dr. Atlas did more damage in 130 days than you could possibly imagine. You've got people who, even as they are dying in the hospital ward, don't necessarily agree that we should use masks, for example. That takes its toll, not just on medical workers, it takes its toll on the people driving buses, people operating machinery, the people delivering our mail... on everyone".  

"Someone's Going To Get Killed" - Georgia official blasts Trump's election fraud claims

Gabriel Sterling, a top election official with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, has criticised Donald Trump for inciting violence with his unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the state's ballot counting during last month's elections. Georgia is carrying out a second recount of votes at the express request Trump's camp.  "It's all gone too far! All of it! It has to stop. Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed," Sterling said in a press conference on Monday. "It's not right."

US records second largest single-day high of Covid-19 deaths

There were 2,597 new deaths recorded in the United States on Tuesday, bringing the total number of Covid-19 fatalities to 270,691 with more than 13.726,306 people having suffered the virus. Tuesday's figure has only been surpassed once - on 15 April, at the height of the pandemic when six more deaths were recorded. And as coronavirus hospitalizations continue to rise, the number of deaths is predicted to get even worse.

Pfizer

When and how will Covid-19 vaccines become available?

On Wednesday, Britain became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe after its regulator cleared a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use in record time. Pfizer, with partner BioNTech SE, and rival Moderna have released trial data showing their Covid-19 vaccines to be about 95% effective at preventing the illness, while AstraZeneca last month said its vaccine was on average about 70% effective. The companies have said distribution could begin almost immediately after any approval, with governments around the world to decide who gets them and in what order.

Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have already started manufacturing their vaccines, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be rolled out from early next week in Britain. This year, Pfizer said it would have enough to inoculate 25 million people, Moderna will have enough for 10 million people and AstraZeneca will have enough for more than 100 million people. The US Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will manage distribution in the United States, with some 20 million people expected to be inoculated by the end of the year. Some 60 million to 70 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine could be available per month beginning in January and most Americans will have access to shots by mid-2021, the government said on Tuesday. In the European Union, it is up to each country in the 27-member bloc to start distributing vaccines to their populations.

Upon authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC has said first in line for vaccinations would be about 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents in long-term care facilities. The FDA is set to meet on 10 December to discuss whether to recommend emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Essential workers, a group of 87 million people who do crucial jobs that cannot be done from home, are the likely next group. This includes firefighters, police, school employees, transport workers, food and agriculture workers and food service employees. Around 100 million adults with high-risk medical conditions and 53 million adults over the age of 65, also considered at higher risk of severe disease, are the next priority.

U.S. public health officials said vaccines would be generally available to most Americans in pharmacies, clinics and doctors offices starting in April so that anyone who wants a shot can have one by the end of June. It is unclear when a vaccine will be available for children.

Britain could start a roll-out of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month. The country had ordered 40 million doses - enough for just under a third of the population. Older care home residents and their carers will be the highest priority to receive the vaccine, followed by those over 80 years of age and frontline health workers. The European Union (EU), Japan, Canada and Australia are all running rapid vaccine regulatory processes. Italy expects to receive the first deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and AstraZeneca's shot early next year. Spain plans to give vaccines in January. In Bulgaria, the country's chief health inspector expects the first shipments in March-April. Hungary's foreign minister said doses would land in the spring at the earliest. Germany, home to BioNTech, expects to roll out shots in early 2021 with mass vaccination centres in exhibition halls, airport terminals and concert venues.

COVAX, a programme led by the World Health Organization and the GAVI vaccine group to pool funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to buy and distribute vaccines to dozens of poorer countries, has raised $2 billion. Its first goal is to vaccinate 3% of the people in these countries with a final goal of reaching 20%. It has signed a provisional agreement to buy AstraZeneca's vaccine, which does not require storage in specialized ultra cold equipment like the Pfizer vaccine. It is expected, but not certain, that less wealthy countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, such as India, will receive vaccines at low or no cost under this programme in 2021. Other countries, such as those in Latin America, may buy vaccines through COVAX. Several are also striking supply deals directly with drugmakers.

Vaccine makers and governments have negotiated varying prices, not all of which are public. Governments have paid from a few dollars per AstraZeneca shot to up to $50 for the two-dose Pfizer regimen. Many countries have said they will cover the cost of inoculating their residents.

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. 

.