Covid-19 & US election summary 08/12: Trump, Biden, results, vaccine, cases, latest news

News Summary:

US coronavirus cases: 15.01 million
US coronavirus deaths: 284,887 (Source: JHU

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

- Biden names health team picks, nominating Xavier Becerra as secretary of health 

- Georgia recertifies Biden win, Sidney Powell lawsuit thrown out

- Amid resistance, California imposes strict stay-at-home orders

- Rudy Guliani tests positive for coronavirus

- US records 1 million infections in 5 days

Browse some of our latest related stories:

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States disagree on who's essential to get vaccinated

States disagree on who's essential to get vaccinated

Companies and industry groups lobbying to get their U.S. workers to the front of the line for covid-19 vaccination are running into a patchwork of state plans and confusion over who is essential, and who is not.

Inoculation against the disease caused by the novel coronavirus is key to safely reopening large parts of the economy and reducing the risks of illness at crowded meatpacking plants, factories and warehouses.

But before one needle has entered the arm of an American worker, confusion has broken out over who exactly is considered essential during a pandemic.

With initial vaccine doses limited and strong federal guidance lacking, it has fallen to U.S. states to determine who will be first in line to receive a vaccine, and who will have to wait well into next year.

State vaccine distribution plans reviewed by Reuters showed broad discrepancies over who would be considered essential, with some states clearly outlining specific worker groups and others not providing any clarity.

Generally, states have broad discretion when it comes to vaccine distribution and policy and are able to issue vaccination mandates for their residents.

Pelosi backs putting $1,200 checks for people in next covid-19 bill

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she supported including another round of $1,200 direct payments for Americans in a fresh package of coronavirus relief under discussion in Congress.

A proposal for $908 billion in relief - put forward by a bipartisan group of lawmakers last week and endorsed by Pelosi, a Democrat, as a basis for negotiations - does not include funding for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks like the ones included in a previous covid-19 aid package last spring.

But trying to add such payments now could complicate negotiations between lawmakers, who are already spinning their wheels over provisions to help state and local governments, which Democrats want, and protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a top Republican priority. 

Pelosi, in a quick hallway conversation with reporters, said she hoped $1,200 checks could be included. "I hope so. But that's really more up to the president (Donald Trump) if he would be agreeable to do that, but we're all for it," she said.

Both parties are under mounting pressure to deliver a fresh infusion of coronavirus aid to families and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has killed over 283,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work. 

Biden expected to ride Amtrak to the inauguration 

CNN confirms reporting that President-elect Joe Biden could arrive on an Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, DC for his inauguration ceremony. The same way he long bridged his life at home and his job in politics. It would be a fitting moment for the man who took roughly 8,000 round trips on that same route during his time as Senator and Vice-President earning him the nickname "Amtrak Joe."  

Biden's deep ties to Amtrak and rail travel hark back to his earliest days in the US Senate. After losing his wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, Biden rode the rails to and from Washington nearly every day to help raise his sons, Hunter and Beau. Biden became one of the rail system's biggest proponents on Capitol Hill. 

"No-one reasonably would buy more from any of those vaccines" - 'Warp Speed' chief on US decision not to purchase more Pfizer doses

‘Operation Warp Speed’ chief Dr Moncef Slaoui says the US passed up the chance to buy more than 100 million doses of Pfizer’s covid-19 shot in the summer to ensure the country had a “portfolio” of potential vaccines, amid the “risk that some may work and some may not work”.

"We selected six different vaccines to build a portfolio to manage the risk that some may work and some may not work, but also to ensure that as more than one would work that we would accumulate vaccine doses from this portfolio of vaccines," Dr Slaoui told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Tuesday.

"If somebody came to us and said, let's buy more of this vaccine or that vaccine, no-one reasonably would buy more from any one of those vaccines because we didn't know which one would work and which one may be better than the other.

“Once the vaccine's performance becomes known is the right time, given the strategy we've taken, to go and order more vaccine doses, which we may be doing.”

Asked by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos about a potential executive order by President Donald Trump preventing the US from providing vaccine doses it has bought to other countries before America’s needs have been fulfilled, Dr Slaoui said he could not shed any light on the exact contents of such an order.

"Frankly, I don't know and, frankly, I'm staying out of this. I can't comment," he said.

Krebs sues Trump campaign and lawyer for defamation 

Christopher Krebs the former top US cybersecurity official responsible for securing November’s presidential election filed a lawsuit accusing the Trump campaign and its lawyer Joe diGenova of defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” DiGenova said on a talk radio show broadcast by Newsmax that Krebs “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” 

The lawsuit also names Newsmax an aider and abettor. Krebs seeks a jury trial, money and punitive damages and an injunction ordering Newsmax to remove video of the incident. Krebs was fired 17 November by President Trump after he refuted the president’s claims of widespread election fraud.  

'Operation Warp Speed' didn't want to "put all eggs in one basket" on Pfizer vaccine

A Trump administration official says those managing ‘Operation Warp Speed’, the White House’s drive to deliver a coronavirus vaccine to the American people, did not buy more than 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot in the summer because they wanted to “diversify” the options open to them.

Having passed up the opportunity to purchase more doses, the US is facing a struggle to meet demand for the vaccine, which has proved 95% effective in combatting the virus in clinical trials and may be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the end of the week.

Admitting that ‘Operation Warp Speed’ “shouldn’t have closed the door” on buying more than the initial 100 million doses, the official said, per CNN: "The plan was to diversify and don't put all your eggs in one basket.”

Unaware that the Pfizer jab would be so effective, they wanted to ensure they had candidate vaccines from a range of developers lined up, the official added.

Minneapolis City Council votes to shift police funding 

In a preliminary vote city council members approved a plan to shift $8 million from the Police Department to other city services. They also agreed to create a new fund that could offset some of those cuts, if the council votes again to approve the release of the money. Additionally they opted to reduce the target number of officers in future years.  

Council members said they were trying to strike a balance between protecting people from violent crime and fulfilling a promise to transform public safety after George Floyd’s death. 

Mayor Jacob Frey said he will veto the plan if approved by the city council.  He was very much opposed to changing the longer-term staffing plans before the city receives the results of a staffing study due back next year.

FDA confirms Pfizer data on vaccine 

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday published documents that confirmed the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech provides strong protection against covid-19 before a meeting of its vaccine advisory group. Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their two-dose vaccine had an efficacy rate of 95 percent after two doses administered three weeks apart. The new analyses show that the protection starts far earlier than expected within about 10 days of the first dose. 

Furthermore, the vaccine worked well regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age. Although the trial did not find any serious adverse events caused by the vaccine, many participants did experience aches, fevers and other side effects. The New York Times

US will need to buy more vaccine to meet demand

The Trump administration locked in 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine last summer but may have trouble getting more as demand outstrips supply.

Read more:

Time has expired for Trump challenges 

8 December is the so-called “safe harbor” date for the presidential election, a milestone established in federal law for states to conclude any disputes over the results. The date was established in an 1887 statute intended to prevent uncertainty about the winner of the presidential election. 

Trump’s failure to gain traction in litigation, with his lawyers and allies failing to block crucial states from declaring Joe Biden the winner, means the safe harbor deadline stands as another potentially insurmountable reason for the courts to decline to intervene. During the 2000 dispute between George W. Bush and Al Gore, as the court’s majority essentially awarded the presidency to Bush, the justices cited the looming deadline as a reason Florida could not initiate a new manual recount.

Biden wins Georgia again 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertified Georgia’s presidential election results on Monday, again finding Joe Biden as the winner following three counts of ballots. The recertification is a yet another blow to President Donald Trump, who has for weeks baselessly claimed a "rigged" election in the state and attacked election officials for not overturning the results in his favor. Monday's certification locks in the state's results for Biden before the December 14 Electoral College vote.  

"Today is an important day for election integrity in Georgia and across the country," Raffensperger said in a statement. "Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably." Trump has continued to inveigh against Raffensperger, a Republican, and called for additional signature verification which is procedurally impossible at this point.

Another legal setback for Trump 

A federal judge on Monday rejected Michigan Republicans' effort to have their state's election results decertified. The lawsuit against Michigan's governor and other state officials was filed the day before Thanksgiving, days after Michigan's vote count had been certified which showed Biden ahead by more than 150,000 votes.  

The complaint alleged widespread malfeasance from elections officials and voting fraud, and asked the court to order the governor to "transmit certified election results that state that President Donald Trump is the winner of the election." 

Judge Linda Parker denied a request for an injunction submitted by a group of President Trump's electors against state officials, finding that their lawsuit is "far from likely to succeed in this matter." Gregory Rohl, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Hill that they will weigh whether to appeal Parker's decision.

Patient who got covid-19 vaccine in UK inspires Twitter users

William Shakespeare from Warwickshire in England was one of the first people to receive the newly approved covid-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial on Tuesday. 

The 81-year-old had the injection at University Hospital Coventry on Tuesday, 20 miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of his namesake, England’s greatest dramatist and poet. 

Shakespeare’s shot inspired Twitter users, who joked “The Taming of the Flu”, “The Two Gentlemen of Corona”. Some asked if Margaret Keenan was patient 1A, then was Shakespeare “Patient 2B or not 2B?”. 

Florida authorities raid home of Rebekah Jones 

Rebekah Jones is a former state official who has said she was ousted this year for refusing to censor the state's coronavirus data. Florida law enforcement exercised a warrant which said a person at Jones' home who was using her email address illegally gained access to a state-run communications platform and sent a group text 10 November. In a message Monday, Jones denied sending the 10 November text.

Chuck Yeager at 97 has passed away 

Chuck Yeager, who is best known for being the first to break the sound barrier passed away Monday evening.  His passing was announced via his official Twitter account in a message by his wife. “It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America's greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever." 

He hailed from West Virginia coming from humble beginnings. He was a fighter ace in World War II before moving on to test advanced aircraft. On October 14, 1947 he became the first to break the sound barrier as popularized in the book and movie The Right Stuff

90-year-old woman receives first vaccine

90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, administered by Matron May Parsons.

"I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it — if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too," Margaret said.

FLOTUS Melania Trump tweets about "history" being made at White House

With reference to a tennis court. 

The choice of the first lady to highlight gratitude for a tennis pavilion when the US is on its knees with the economic and coronavirus crises, is truly bizarre. 

One million new coronavirus infections were recorded in the last five days in America.

Will a second stimulus check arrive before new year?

No, and here's why:

Millions of hungry Americans

Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for first time

AP: The deadly pandemic that tore through the nation’s heartland struck just as Aaron Crawford was in a moment of crisis. He was looking for work, his wife needed surgery, then the virus began eating away at her work hours and her paycheck.

The Crawfords had no savings, mounting bills and a growing dread: What if they ran out of food? The couple had two boys, 5 and 10, and boxes of macaroni and cheese from the dollar store could go only so far.

A 37-year-old Navy vet, Crawford saw himself as self-reliant. Asking for food made him uncomfortable. “I felt like I was a failure,” he says. “It’s this whole stigma ... this mindset that you’re this guy who can’t provide for his family, that you’re a deadbeat.”

Hunger is a harsh reality in the richest country in the world. Even during times of prosperity, schools hand out millions of hot meals a day to children, and desperate elderly Americans are sometimes forced to choose between medicine and food.

Now, in the pandemic of 2020, with illness, job loss and business closures, millions more Americans are worried about empty refrigerators and barren cupboards. Food banks are doling out meals at a rapid pace and an Associated Press data analysis found a sharp rise in the amount of food distributed compared with last year. Meanwhile, some folks are skipping meals so their children can eat and others are depending on cheap food that lacks nutrition.

Those fighting hunger say they’ve never seen anything like this in America, even during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

The first place many Americans are finding relief is a neighborhood food pantry, most connected to vast networks of nonprofits. Tons of food move each day from grocery store discards and government handouts to warehouse distribution centers, and then to the neighborhood charity.

Latest update on covid-19 stimulus bill talks

What's happening with talks on two potential stimulus bills? Do they include provisions for $1,200 checks and when could either one be passed into law?

Read the full story:

Gen. Lloyd Austin

Biden taps retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defence secretary

Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief if confirmed, report the AP.

Xavier Becerra tapped for Biden's top health czar

Joe Biden makes a surprise pick for the nation’s next top health official. Xavier Becerra will be central to how the administration handles the pandemic.

Read the full story:

Walter Reed doctor who criticized Trump fired 

CBS News is reporting that the ER physician who publicly criticized President Trump's decision to go out for a drive with Secret Service agents to greet supporters while he was hospitalized with covid-19 has been removed. Dr. James Phillips is chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University and worked as an attending physician on a contract basis for Walter Reed. Walter Reed officials deny they made the decision to remove him telling CBS that contractors make the decision of who to schedule at the medical facility. 

Senator Ted Cruz offers his legal talents 

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has offered to do the oral arguments for the side of two Pennsylvania Congressmen if the case goes before the Supreme Court. Republican Representative Mike Kelly and congressional candidate Sean Parnell are seeking to invalidate the mail-in votes in Pennsylvania. They argue that no excuse mail-in voting is unconstitutional and want the Supreme Court to hear their appeal after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected their challenge. Joe Biden won the absentee ballots by an overwhelming margin of nearly 75 percent. 

Hello and welcome

Hello and welcome as we begin our live blog this Tuesday morning, 8 December 2020. We'll be bringing you all of the news and reaction following the US elections as Joe Biden and his team prepare to enter office in January. We'll also keep you up to date with all the latest coronavirus-related developments from the US and around the globe.