3h ago / 4:09 AM UTC
North Texas, including the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, is rolling back occupancy allowances for businesses as the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations has risen, a top government executive said.
Restaurants, gyms, retail stores, offices and other places are now limited to 50 percent capacity, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday. Since October, that limit had been 75 percent.
The reductions were triggered under the governor’s executive order because the number of Covid-19 patients in regional hospitals has been greater than 15 percent of hospital beds for seven straight days, Jenkins said.
Jenkins and the judge Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth the rollback would happen immediately. In Texas, the elected official who is the chief executive for county government is called the county judge.
3h ago / 3:41 AM UTC
Ohio firefighter dies from Covid complications
A 30-year veteran of the Washington Township, Ohio, Fire Department died Thursday from complications from Covid-19, the town announced in a Facebook post.
Lieutenant Jeff Guernsey worked with the department since the beginning of his career in 1990.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Guernsey family,” Township Administrator Jesse Lightle said. “Their grief is unimaginable and our hearts go out to them.”
Guernsey was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, serving in the Navy. He was also part of the Washington Township honor guard. He is survived by his wife and four children.
“Washington Township has lost a truly remarkable person,” Fire Chief Scott Kujawa said. “Jeff could make any of us smile.”
4h ago / 2:43 AM UTC
Pray and fast for people affected by COVID-19, Oklahoma governor says
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called on residents to pray Thursday for people affected by Covid-19 as new coronavirus cases continue to rise across the state.
In a statewide declaration of “prayer and fasting,” Stitt said “we must continue to ask God to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting and provide renewed strength and wisdom to all who are managing the effects of COVID-19.”
He added that it is “important to find safe ways to gather” and that churches and faith communities “have an incredible opportunity during this season to provide hope to Oklahomans who are struggling.”
Some Christian doctors implored worshippers to observe the day safely, and health officials have called on Stitt to implement more robust measures to prevent the spread of the virus, like a statewide mask mandate.
The state has seen a 21 percent rise in cases over the last two weeks and a 35 percent increase in deaths, according to an NBC News analysis. Nearly 2,000 people have died from the virus since March, according to Johns Hopkins University.
6h ago / 1:14 AM UTC
Delaware to temporarily halt in-person learning at schools
Delaware Gov. John Carney said Thursday that state schools will halt in-person learning later this month and move to virtual and “hybrid” models in January amid a dangerous surge in coronavirus infections.
The order takes effect Dec. 14, Carney’s office said in a joint statement with the state Division of Public Health. Students will attend school virtually through Jan. 8. A combination of in-person and remote learning will begin three days later, the statement said.
While schools have remained relatively safe environments through the pandemic, Carney said, administrators and teachers “face significant operational challenges as we see more community spread.”
“If we pull together and follow the public health advice, we can get more children in classrooms, and get through this difficult winter,” he said.
7h ago / 12:06 AM UTC
Lubbock, Texas, reports that it has no more hospital beds
The city of Lubbock, Texas, has reported that it’s out of hospital beds as the nation faces a record number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
There were 22 patients in need of the final 17 open beds, according to the city’s Covid-19 dashboard. The news of negative beds in Texas comes on the same day California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new regional stay-at-home based on dwindling intensive care unit availability.
Newsom’s order requires non-essential businesses to close for three weeks when the region’s ICU bed capacity falls under 15 percent.
Texas is not currently under any stay-at-home orders. More than 22,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Texas, with confirmed cases just shy of 1.3 million by a few thousand as of Thursday afternoon.
7h ago / 11:43 PM UTC
Biden asks Fauci to stay on, will call on Americans to wear masks for 100 days
President-elect Biden said Thursday that he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay in his current role, and to also serve as a chief medical adviser.
Fauci had told NBC News on Thursday he would stay in his current role and work closely with the new administration.
Biden, in an interview with CNN, said that he’d be “happy” to get publicly vaccinated conditional on Fauci saying that it is safe. He also said that when inaugurated he will ask Americans to wear a mask for 100 days.
“It is important that we in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks but beyond that, where the federal government has authority I’m gonna issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked,” he said.
He added, “Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction … if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably.”
8h ago / 11:21 PM UTC
Hundreds protest closing of Staten Island bar that refused Covid-19 measures
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Wednesday night outside a Staten Island bar that shut down after refusing to follow Covid-19 measures, authorities said.
The large demonstration came a day after Mac’s Public House, a bar in an area where the city prohibits indoor dining, was forced to close its doors after it violated multiple health and liquor laws, the New York City Sheriff’s Office said.
The protesters, some of whom weren’t wearing masks, blocked traffic and demanded the business reopen as deputies stood outside the tavern. The bar had operated without a liquor license and served patrons food and alcohol indoors past the city’s 10 p.m. curfew, NBC New York reported.
The crowd also took aim at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for enforcing Covid-19 restrictions on indoor dining services, according to the station.
Ryan Beals and Stacey Khizder
9h ago / 10:17 PM UTC
‘A matter of days’: Pence on start of vaccine distribution
At a roundtable in Memphis, Tennessee this afternoon focused on the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, Vice President Mike Pence said that we are “within a matter of days of distributing tens of millions of Covid vaccinations to the American people.”
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been submitted for approval by the Food and Drug Association. If approved, Pence said that they will be made available to Americans within 24 hours, beginning with frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents and staff.
Pence also noted that pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens should start administering the vaccine “literally 48 hours” after FDA approval as part of this public-private partnership, and stressed that the vaccine would first go to those at long-term care facilities.
Also present at the roundtable were Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and FedEx Chairman Frederick Smith, among other local leaders.
Raj Subramaniam, CEO and President of FedEx Corporation said that because of the company’s international footprint, they will be able to help facilitate the transfer of both vaccine doses and personal protective equipment around the world, “in a matter of days.”
Speaking about administering the vaccine to long term health facilities, Azar said, “We’ve paid for the vaccines. We paid for the shipping costs, and the administration costs for these private sector partners will be covered,” adding that this includes those without insurance.
Adding to this, Redfield called the vaccine a “game changer,” detailing how states will begin to place orders for the vaccine by the end of this week. He asked those at the roundtable to help create a culture of “vaccine confidence” through promoting the use of the vaccine and engaging communities to build trust.
Rebecca Hankins contributed to this report.
8h ago / 10:32 PM UTC
Fauci meets with Biden transition team
Dr. Anthony Fauci formally met with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team for the first time on Thursday to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci told NBC News he participated in a “very productive Zoom meeting,” which lasted for an hour, with Biden’s team. Fauci said they discussed “a variety of Covid-related topics.” A senior transition official said Jeff Zients, who’s expected to be the incoming administration’s Covid-19 czar, led the discussion for the Biden team.
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” ahead of the virtual meeting, Fauci said he has talked informally with members of Biden’s team, including Zients, to coordinate the response to the pandemic.