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

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: 14.36 million

US covid-19 deaths: 278,932 (Source: JHU)

- Over 100,000 covid-19 patients are currently in hospital, a new record

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

- Trump doesn’t plan to attend inauguration

- Former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to receive covid vaccine on TV

- 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:

US could see see 200,000 deaths in next 3 months, warns CDC boss

The head of the US CDC, Robert R. Redfield, has warned that the US could witness another 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the next three months if people don't follow measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing seriously, The Hill reported. 

"The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation," he said.

 

Biden to initiate 100 day mask mandate

Biden to initiate 100 day mask mandate

(CNN) President-elect Joe Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday that he will ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days after he takes office, in a sign of how Biden's approach to the virus will be dramatically different to President Donald Trump's response.

"Just 100 days to mask, not forever. 100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction," Biden told Tapper during his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since winning the election. The full interview will air at 9 p.m. ET.

Biden said that where he has authority, like in federal buildings or in interstate transportation on airplanes and buses, he will issue a standing order that masks must be worn. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that wearing a mask can help protect the both the person wearing the mask and those around them from transmitting the virus.

Biden also said he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to be a chief medical adviser and part of his Covid-19 response team when his administration begins next year.

Biden said the conversation happened on Thursday afternoon. CNN reported earlier in the day that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, had a planned meeting with Biden's transition team.

Trump election trials funding extremely successful 

According to the Trump campaign, it has raised almost $208 million since election day in a joint effort with the Republican National Congress.

The Trump campaign has launched aggressive appeals to supporters to fund his failing legal battles.

Fauci apologises for UK covid vaccine approval critique

Dr. Fauci apologized after casting doubt on the UK's approval of the Pfizer vaccine, saying in a BBC interview that he 'did not mean to apply any sloppiness' to the regulatory process.

Ivanka Trump claps back at campaign funds misuse case

The Hill: Ivanka Trump, the president's oldest daughter and senior adviser, confirmed Thursday that she was deposed as part of a Washington, D.C., investigation into the use of inauguration funds, decrying the probe as a "waste of taxpayer dollars."

"This week I spent 5+ hours in a deposition with the Democrat D.C. AG’s office where they questioned the rates charged by the Trump Hotel at the inauguration," Trump said in a statement, which she posted to social media. "I shared with them an email from 4 years ago where I sent instructions to the hotel to charge 'a fair market rate.'"

"This ‘inquiry’ is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars," Trump added.

Trump spoke to investigators as part of a lawsuit alleging the misuse of inauguration funds. The D.C. attorney general in January sued the Trump Organization and the Presidential Inauguration Committee, accusing the groups of misusing more than $1 million raised by the committee by “grossly overpaying” to use event space at the Trump hotel in D.C. for the 2017 inauguration.

As tragic covid record breaks in US, Trump left speechless

President fails to address the newly surging coronavirus crisis, instead remaining focused on false voter fraud claims.

California coronavirus: new stay at home order

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new, regional stay-at-home order Thursday as an "emergency brake" to curb the rampant spread of covid-19 in California.

The state is being broken into five regions: Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. When the region's ICU hospital capacity falls below 15% capacity, the new stay-at-home order is triggered for a period of at least three weeks.

No regions are immediately affected, but current projections show all regions except the Bay Area meeting that dire threshold in the next few days. The Bay Area is currently projected to drop below 15% ICU capacity later this month.

When the stay-at-home order is triggered, bars, wineries, nail salons, hair salons and barbershops, and other personal care services will need to close.

Schools that have received a waiver to reopen can stay open, as can all "critical infrastructure."

Biden getting "all of the same intelligence" as Trump

Joe Biden formally underway, the incoming president is now getting "all of the same intelligence" as President Trump, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told CBS News in an interview Thursday.

Pence says covid-19 vaccine available in days

As he headed to talks with the Centers for Disease Control on a distribution plan, Pence hints that approval from the FDA is imminent.

The government in the UK approved the vaccine yesterday, the first country in the world to do so.

Who are the biggest fans of the $900bn stimulus bill?

A brand new proposal this week renewed hopes of breaking a months-long stalemate, which is still stalling the negotiations on coronavirus economic relief.

Read the full story:

Giuliani arrives in Georgia ahead of judiciary hearing

President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani has arrived in Georgia to lead the Trump campaign's ongoing fight against the election result. Earlier today the state's lawmakers had already answered a series of questions on the state's voting system, outlining the measures in place to ensure it was carried out securely

Trump's legal team suffered another courtroom defeat early on Thursday as the Supreme Court in Wisconsin refused to hear their case, citing errors in the filing and lack of material evidence for their claims. The result was a 4-3 defeat for the President, which surprised Democratic Gov. Tony Evers who said: “I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous."

Biden pledges to make covid vaccine free to all Americans

In a tweet posted on his official account, President-elect Joe Biden promised to make the vaccine free for all Americans once he is in office. This matches the aim of the Trump administration to make the vaccine available free-of-charge, although the President had predicted distribution would begin before Election Day. 

The US is now just waiting on emergency use authorisation from the FDA before Operation Warp Speed can begin distributing the vaccines. The UK approved the Belgium-made Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use yesterday, and reports suggest that the first doses have now landed. 

Over 100,000 covid-19 patients are currently in hospital 

The number of hospitalized US coronavirus patients surpassed 100,000 on Thursday, as former presidents volunteered to get vaccinated on television if needed to boost confidence in the safety of inoculations that promise to slow the raging pandemic.

With covid-19 threatening to produce a 9/11-like death toll of 3,000 per day over the next two months, and nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases reported on Wednesday, US healthcare officials are running out of tools to constrain the virus.

Vaccines offer a ray of hope, with two promising candidates poised to receive emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration this month. But inoculations face opposition from significant numbers of Americans who reject medical science, as well as from those wary of the safety of vaccines developed at record speed.

A Gallup poll released Nov. 17, found 58% of Americans say they would get a covid-19 vaccine, up from 50% in September. That is not enough, experts say, to achieve widespread immunity, meaning that the pandemic would continue to spread. 

[Reuters]

Another Team Trump legal challenge fails in Wisconsin

The President's legal team has been hit with a major setback today as an appeal to take claims of electoral fraud in Wisconsin to the state's Supreme Court was rejected. Following the state's election result being certified earlier this week, Trump had five days to launch an appeal, which he duly did. 

However an error-strewn lawsuit filed against Wisconsin Elections Commission has been dismissed. The case called for more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties to be discounted entirely, due to alleged inconsistencies in how they were processed. 

Attorneys for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called the lawsuit "a shocking and outrageous assault on our democracy. ... [Trump] is simply trying to seize Wisconsin’s electoral votes, even though he lost the statewide election.”

Covid-19 vaccine distribution begins in the UK

Earlier this week the United Kingdom became the first nation to approve a coronavirus vaccine and SkyNews reports that the first shipments have already arrived. The UK government's pharmaceutical regulators authorised the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine for emergency use and has ordered 40 million doses, enough to immunise 20 million people. 

On Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that there would be "immense logistical challenges" in distributing the vaccine, and that it would take "some months" before he could be confident that the most vulnerable had been protected. 

Can Trump pardon Ivanka, Donald Jr, Eric and Giuliani?

The President has already saved Roger Stone and Michael Flynn from prosecution and reports claim he is considering presidential pardons for senior advisors. Sources close to Donald Trump have confirmed that the President has consulted advisors regarding presidential pardons for his children and long-time attorney Rudy Giuliani. 

Trump continues battle against Section 230 legislation

The President's public campaign against what he calls "big tech", continues into the final weeks of his presidency. The legislation grants social media companies a degree of immunity from any liability for third-party involvement on their platform. Essentially, it allows Facebook and Twitter to remain separate from posts produced by their users. It has become an important cornerstone in the functioning of the internet as we know it. 

“Repealing Section 230 is itself a threat to national security,” Internet Association Interim President and CEO Jon Berroya said in a statement. “The law empowers online platforms to remove harmful and dangerous content, including terrorist content and misinformation.”

In fact, Trump is so desperate to see its removal that he is threatening to veto the upcoming defence budget bill, which provides federal funding for the military. In a tweet sent on Wednesday, Trump wrote: "if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill"

“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”

Fauci to meet with Biden transition officials

In an interview with CBS the government's lead pandemic scientific advisor Dr Anthony Fauci revealed that he is to meet with representatives from President-elect Biden's team today to work on the ongoing respnse to covid-19. Ron Klain, Biden's recently-announce White House Chief of Staff, becomes the first from Biden's team to speak directly with Dr Fauci. 

 

In a far-ranging interview, Fauci criticised Trump’s nightly covid briefings, which he believes became too politicised. Fauci also announce that he will be retaining his role at the National Institutes of Health into the Biden adminstration. 

'Vaccine nationalism' would cost wealthy nations in the long run

Rich nations stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in economic output over the next five years if poorer countries do not get equal access to covid-19 vaccines, a report said on Thursday as concerns grow about "vaccine nationalism".

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) seeks to plug funding gaps in its ACT Accelerator programme for global COVID-19 treatments, researchers said their findings showed there was a financial - as well as a moral - case for ensuring equal access.

"Governments are increasingly focusing on investments that can help their own economies to rebound," said Hassan Damluji, deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which commissioned the report by the Eurasia Group research firm. "The ACT Accelerator is precisely one of those investments. It is both the right thing to do, and an investment that will pay dividends by bringing the global economy back from the brink, benefiting all nations."

As nations prepare to roll out mass covid-19 vaccination programmes, with Britain becoming the first to approve a vaccine for use this week, there has been concern that "vaccine nationalism" could see poorer countries left behind.

The WHO says the programme needs $38 billion - of which about $28 billion is still outstanding, without which lower-income countries will not be able to get prompt access to covid-19 drugs including vaccines.

[Reuters]

Legal challenge to Trump's pardon for Flynn

Campaign group Free Speech For People have starting procedings to challenge Trump’s presidential pardon of his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. They allege that the pardon violates terms of the Constitution as it was made for personal reasons rather than "for the public interest". 

The brief filed by Free Speech For People reads: “the ‘Executive Grant of Clemency’ issued by President Trump to the defendant was not made in good faith for the public interest, but rather for reasons of self-dealing, self-protection, or other bad faith personal purposes, and therefore violated the Faithful Execution Clauses.” 

Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to get covid vaccine on live TV

Three former Presidents have confirmed that they would be willing to receive the covid-19 shot on live TV in the hope that it will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. Freddy Ford, George W. Bush's chief of staff, told CNN the former President has reached out to the current administration to offer support:

"A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated," Ford told CNN. 

Obama told a radio station SiriusXM: "People like Anthony Fauci, who I know, and I've worked with, I trust completely... I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting Covid."

Both Pfizer and Moderna are currently awaiting emergency use authorisation from the FDA before their vaccines can be rolled out nationwide. If Pfizer's 10 December hearing is successful then General Perna, head of Trump's Operation Warp Speed task force, hopes to have the first vaccines distributed within 24 hours. 

Ivanka Trump questioned under oath over alleged misuse of inauguration funds

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, was questioned under oath this week as part of a civil lawsuit alleging misuse of nonprofit funds for Donald Trump's inauguration four years ago. District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine claims that Donald Trump's real estate business and other entities misused nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family.

According to the suit, a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation called the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Racine's lawsuit alleged that in one case, the nonprofit paid more than $300,000 to hold a private reception at the Trump hotel for the president's three oldest children - Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric - on the inauguration evening of Jan. 20, 2017.

“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” Racine said earlier this year. His lawsuit seeks to recover the $1 million that was allegedly funneled directly to the Trump family business.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The inaugural committee has said its finances were independently audited, and that all money was spent lawfully.

[Reuters]

Bipartisan stimulus bill: what’s in the $900 billion proposal?

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.

Congress has an 11 December deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. This has brought hope that the lame-duck session could see some coronavirus stimulus spending tied in with the bill. All parties say they're eager to take some action but the devil is in the details. Read more...

U.S. mayors 'bleak' about recovery from pandemic's effects

The nation's mayors hold bleak outlooks about the future of U.S. cities after the coronavirus pandemic, a major survey showed on Thursday, worried that workers will avoid offices and public transit and neighborhoods will not recover for years to come.

City leaders fear small closed-down businesses will not quickly be replaced by new ones, and renters, immigrants and minority-owned businesses will suffer long-term distress, said the annual Menino Survey of Mayors, conducted through August by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities. Nearly half of the 130 mayors surveyed said they expect dramatic cuts to school budgets, and about a third foresee major cuts to transit and social services.

 “We knew it would be bleak, but maybe it was even more so than I expected,” said David Glick, associate professor of political science at Boston University and co-author of the study. Past findings have indicated where to expect policy changes, and this year’s results point to a focus on schools and on downtown commerce and business, Glick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. (Reuters)

UK to receive Pfizer vaccine in "hours, not days"

The UK will recieve its first delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the next few hours, England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has said.

"We expect to receive [the Pfizer vaccine] very shortly in the UK, and I do mean hours, not days," said Van-Tam said on BBC’s Five Live radio show.

On Wednesday, the UK Department of Health said up to 800,000 doses of the vaccine -- enough to inoculate 400,000 people -- will be made available next week. 

Moscow to open COVID-19 vaccination centres on Saturday - mayor

Moscow will open its new Covid-19 vaccination centres on Saturday and the first people to receive the shot will be teachers, doctors and social workers, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday.

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a large-scale voluntary vaccination programme against Covid-19 to begin next week across Russia, saying teachers and doctors should be first in line to get the flagship Sputnik V vaccine.

People in Moscow will be able to register for the jab online from Friday, Sobyanin said in a statement on his website. Russia, which has resisted imposing stringent lockdown measures, reported a record 28,145 new infections earlier on Thursday, including 7,750 in Moscow. (Reuters)

Biden on picking Neera Tanden for the OMB

Yesterday, Joe Biden nominated Neera Tanden to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the president-elect continues to name his picks for what is set to be the most diverse administration in US history.

"[Neera] was raised by a single mom on food stamps -- an immigrant from India who struggled, worked hard and did everything she could for her daughter to live out the American dream," said Biden.

"And Neera did just that. She understands the struggles that millions of Americans are facing. And she'll be the first woman of color from South Asia to lead the OMB."

Photo of Anthony Fauci (AFP)

Fauci says UK didn't srutinize Pfizer vaccine as carefully as FDA 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claimed that the UK did not srutinize the Pfizer vaccine as carefully as FDA, after Britain became the first country in the world to approve the vaccine on Wednesday.

“The way the FDA is, our FDA is doing it, is the correct way,” Fauci said in an interview on Fox News (via CNN). “We really scrutinize the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine."

“I think if we did any less, we would add to the already existing hesitancy on the part of many people to take the vaccine because they're concerned about safety or they're concerned that we went too quickly."

“So, it's almost a damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, because if you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” he said. 

“We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA. The UK did not do it as carefully and they got a couple of days ahead,” he said. “I don't think that makes much difference. We'll be there. We'll be there very soon.”

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)

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 3,157 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. 

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