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Today’s In Crisis headlines

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(NEW YORK) — Here are today’s In Crisis headlines:

Unemployment claims rise for second straight week as 885,000 apply for benefits
At least 885,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, up 23,000 from the week prior.  That’s according to data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.  That number is an increase of 23,000 from the previous week’s numbers, which themselves were revised further upward by 9,000, to 862,000.  The escalating claims reflect an economy being battered anew by pandemic-fueled layoffs, business restrictions and closures, and continue to reflect the highest unemployment level since the Great Recession.  There are currently more than 20.6 million Americans collecting some form of unemployment benefits, compared to 15 million at the height of the Great Recession.

Whether the economy will receive any government relief remains to be seen.  Sources tell ABC News they expect a deal “soon” on a congressional coronavirus relief package.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday night “We’re still close, and we’re gonna get there.” The deal is said to include $600 stimulus checks that would go to working-class Americans, though negotiators are still discussing the qualifying income level.  The bill could be ready for the House to vote on it as early as Friday, with a Senate vote following Saturday. 

COVID-19 numbers

Here’s the latest data on COVID-19 coronavirus infections and deaths.

Latest reported numbers globally per Johns Hopkins University
Global diagnosed cases: 74,346,881
Global deaths: 1,651,891.  The United States has the most deaths of any single country, with 307,512.
Number of countries/regions: at least 191
Total patients recovered globally: 42,094,012

Latest reported numbers in the United States per Johns Hopkins University
There are at least 16,981,302 reported cases in 50 states + the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.  This is more than in any other country.
U.S. deaths: at least 307,512.  New York State has the greatest number of reported deaths in the U.S., with 35,927.
U.S. total patients recovered: 6,298,082 (no update available)
U.S. total people tested: 222,681,418

The greatest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is in California, with 1,714,945 confirmed cases out of a total state population of 39.51 million.  This ranks second in the world after Maharashtra, India, which has 1,886,807 reported cases.  England, which has 1,642,110 reported cases, ranks third in the world, while Texas is fourth, with 1,534,831 confirmed cases out of a total state population of 29 million.

Record number of single-day COVID-19 deaths Wednesday as nation nears 17 million cases
For only the third time since the pandemic began in March, the United States on Wednesday recorded more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day.  The Covid Tracking Project reports 3,400 deaths on Wednesday, a new single-day record.  Johns Hopkins University puts the day’s death toll even higher, at 3,656, with 247,403 new cases recorded, compared to 230,728 according to the Covid Tracking Project.  The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., in Washington state, on January 21 of this year.  More than one person is dying of COVID-19 in the U.S. every 30 seconds.  Deaths in the Southern U.S. are also at an all-time high.

The grim statistics come as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is on the cusp of exceeding 17 million, most likely in the next 24 hours, based on the current, escalating rate of infection, which the Covid Tracking Project reports as 211,221 new cases per day on average for the past seven days.  There were also 113,029 new hospitalizations reported Wednesday, another new single-day record

FDA meets today to consider Moderna COVID-19 vaccine EUA request
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to meet today to consider a new COVID-19 vaccine Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) request, this one from Moderna.  If the EUA is approved, as it’s expected to be, it would clear the way for Moderna to begin shipping their vaccine nationwide, making it the second FDA-authorized vaccine in the U.S. seven days, following the FDA’s EUA grant for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11. 

While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine authorization triggered the immediate shipment of some 6.4 million vaccine doses, distribution of the Moderna vaccine is expected to be on a much larger scale because there’s more of it, with nearly six million initial doses currently ready to ship to 3,285 U.S. locations — double the amount of Pfizer-BioNTech first doses, because Moderna had more time to manufacture and accumulate vaccine since mid-November.  And while Moderna uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19, Moderna’s is easier to handle and transport because it doesn’t require storage at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, a does Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine.

Healthcare workers, first responders and others on the front lines of COVID-19 management, and therefore at greatest risk of infection, are the first to be vaccinated.  The elderly and other at-risk people will be next, with estimates for the broader population to begin vaccination in March or April, with immunizations expected to be complete by June.  That process could be accelerated if a third vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson and currently in phase 3 human trials, is shown to be effective.  Those results are expected by January, with FDA authorization possible soon after, depending on trial results.

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