Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says father, who is a doctor in FL, received Covid-19 vaccination
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Doha Madani

2h ago / 9:51 PM UTC

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, shared a photo Tuesday of her father, a doctor, receiving his Covid-19 vaccination at his Florida hospital. 

Sandberg shared her father’s post, in which he said he had tears in his eyes when he walked in for his appointment as he hoped for “the beginning of the end of this pandemic.” Her father is a doctor with Florida’s Memorial Hospital System.

The Facebook executive shared her own emotional response to the moment. 

“As my father writes, vaccinations are the only hope to protect all of us,” Sandberg wrote. “I hope and pray that people will understand this and take the steps they need — including vaccination — to protect themselves and everyone else so this pandemic will come to an end.”

Corky Siemaszko

2h ago / 9:38 PM UTC

Pelosi says masks mandatory while in US House chamber

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is vowing to muzzle any member who isn’t wearing a mask.

“Members will not be recognized if they are not wearing a mask and recognition will be withdrawn if they remove the mask when speaking,” the House Press Gallery reported Tuesday on its Twitter account.

Pelosi mandated in July that all Members don masks while on the floor after Rep. Louie Gohmert, an outspoken conservative Republican who refused to wear one, tested positive for Covid 19.

While President Donald Trump politicized the wearing of masks by mostly refusing to wear one in public, the California Democrat has amassed a collection of brightly-colored masks and has turned them into both a silent rebuttal of the commander in chief as well as a fashion accessory. 

Lauren Egan

2h ago / 9:28 PM UTC

McConnell says Senate will not leave until Covid aid is passed

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that the Senate would not leave Washington for the holidays until a coronavirus aid package is passed, adding he supports waiting until next year to tackle the most divisive components in order to reach a deal.

McConnell’s comments come as lawmakers are trying to hammer out an agreement by Friday when Congress hits the deadline to pass legislation to keep the government funded. Leaders from both parties hope to attach the Covid-19 aid package to the government funding bill.

“We’re not leaving, I assure you, we’re not leaving until we finish this package,” McConnell promised on Tuesday.

Read more at NBCNews.com. 

Tim Fitzsimons

3h ago / 9:19 PM UTC

Washington town hosts large anti-mask rally

Hundreds of people came to the city of Mossyrock, Washington last weekend to protest against coronavirus public health restrictions, according to NBC affiliate KING.

The city of 820 people and its mayor, Randall Sasser, have attracted attention for defying state health orders designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Sasser told radio station KIRO that he believes some of these measures are designed to “get us accustomed to always following what they say” for, he believes, “something bigger that they have planned to keep us under their thumb,” referencing gun control and monetary policy.

The Saturday gathering was organized by Patriot Prayer, a far-right group that has hosted pro-President Donald Trump and pro-gun rallies.

Read the full story here.

Kristen Welker and Monica Alba

3h ago / 9:12 PM UTC

Pence likely to get vaccinated by end of week

Vice President Mike Pence is likely to receive a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Both sources say it is possible Pence, who is the head of the coronavirus task force, will get the vaccine on-camera but nothing has been finalized.

Pence signaled he would get the vaccine soon during a roundtable in Indiana earlier Tuesday: “I look forward in the days ahead to receiving the vaccine myself, and [I’ll] do so without hesitation.”  

As for President Trump, the timing is still unclear. During Tuesday’s briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president “is absolutely open to taking the vaccine. He’s been emphatic about that to me privately, and to you all publicly. But he did recently recover from Covid, he has the continued protective effects of the monoclonal antibody cocktail.” 

Denise Chow

5h ago / 7:07 PM UTC

FDA authorizes first at-home, over-the-counter Covid test

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first test for Covid-19 that can be purchased at drug stores without a prescription and taken at home.

The test, developed by the Australian digital diagnostics company Ellume, received emergency use authorization from the FDA. The test does not require sending samples to a lab, similar to how at-home pregnancy tests work.

The Ellume Covid-19 Home Test is an antigen test, which is designed to detect fragments of viral proteins that trigger an immune response in the body. Results are delivered via a smartphone app in as little as 20 minutes, according to the company.

The test involves collecting a sample with a nasal swab that users then place into a Bluetooth-connected analyzer that syncs with a smartphone app. Results are delivered through the app and can be shared with health care professionals, according to Ellume.

Ellume said it expects to produce more than 3 million of the tests in January with a likely cost of $30 or less. They will be available in pharmacies, drug stores and online, the company told NBC News in an email.

Read the full story here.

Ben Popken and Andrew W. Lehren

2h ago / 9:37 PM UTC

Celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch received $4.4 million in PPP funds

Celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch received a $4.4 million loan from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, data released under FOIA shows.

The Lakewood Church, based in Houston, Texas, received the loan in July.

“Lakewood suspended its in-person services for more than seven months…impacting its ability to collect substantial donations during those services,” church spokesperson Andrea Davis told NBC News in an email.

With the PPP loan, the church “has been able to provide full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families,” covering 368 full and part-time workers.

Multimillionaire televangelist Joel Osteen and his pastor wife, Victoria, received no PPP funds and have not taken a salary since 2004, Davis said.

In an April letter to the Small Business Administration, which approved the loans, progressive religious organizations and advocacy groups argued that taxpayer funding of clergy payrolls was unconstitutional.

In total, over 90,000 religious groups received a combined sum of $7.3 billion in PPP loans, according to NBC News analysis, and five of the top 10 U.S. megachurches received PPP loans, including Osteen’s.

“As far as we are aware, this is the first time that the government has backstopped the payrolls of religious groups on this scale,” Maureen O’Leary, spokesperson for the Interfaith Alliance, one of the religious organizations that co-signed the letter, told NBC News in an email.

“While SBA does not comment on individual borrowers, SBA publicly announced that faith-based organizations were eligible for PPP and EIDL in April,” agency spokesman Jim Billimoria said via email.

Corky Siemaszko

5h ago / 7:22 PM UTC

20 million Americans could be vaccinated by end of year, according to Operation Warp Speed doctor

If all goes as planned, 20 million Americans could be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the this year, Operation Warp Speed’s top scientist said Tuesday.

“Between the two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, we expect to have immunized 20 million of our American people and keeping 20 million doses for their second immunization a few weeks later,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. 

Slaoui also said the soon-to-be-authorized Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer vaccine, has been shown to be extremely effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“My expectation is that prevention of disease by these vaccines will last quite long,” he said.

Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said earlier that after the federal Food and Drug Administration officially authorizes the Moderna vaccine nearly 6 million doses will be shipped to more than 3,000 locations across the country starting Monday.

Tim Fitzsimons

6h ago / 5:43 PM UTC

Sick Santa and Mrs. Claus may have exposed 50 Georgia kids to Covid

A Santa parade and photo-op in Georgia last Thursday may have exposed up to 50 children to Covid-19 after Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus later tested positive for the virus.

Long County Board of Commissioners chairman Robert D. Parker confirmed the positive tests and downplayed the risk of the possibly dozens of exposures in a statement posted on the Board’s website.

“While this is cause for concern, I feel that it is important to note that exposures happen every day as we go about our day to day lives, often without any knowledge,” the statement said.

Click here for the full story

Sara G. Miller

6h ago / 5:27 PM UTC

Over-the-counter home Covid test authorized by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to an over-the-counter Covid-19 test Tuesday. 

The Ellume Covid-19 Home Test is an antigen test that provides results in as little as 20 minutes.

Users collect a sample using a nasal swab. The sample is analyzed with a device that connects to a smartphone, and results are provided on an app.

According to the FDA, the test correctly identified 96 percent of positive samples and 100 percent of negative samples in people with symptoms. The rates were slightly lower in people without symptoms. 

The tests will be available in January. 

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