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Today’s In Crisis headlines

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

Trump demands Congress amend COVID-19 relief bill to increase payments
President Trump is demanding that Congress amends the just-passed COVID-19 relief bill to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 per person and $4,000 for couples, and get rid of “wasteful” items.  In a Twitter video Tuesday night, the president declared, in part, “Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package. And maybe that administration will be me.”  Trump is apparently confusing the $1.4 trillion spending bill, which funds the government through 2021, with the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill.  The two were passed together as one package, but nearly everything the president complains about in the video is related to the spending deal, and not the COVID-19 relief bill.

Both the House and Senate passed the coronavirus relief bill Monday night after months of contentious stop-and-start negotiations.  It includes payments of $600 to qualifying Americans, with additional payments based on marital and dependent status.  The bill also provides $300 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021.  Benefits passed in March under the CARES Act are set to expire Saturday.

In order to amend the relief bill, both chambers of Congress would have to unanimously vote to do so —  which appears unlikely, given the heavy lift required to arrive at the current bill – although Democrats, who wanted more than the $600 of relief, have already said they’re willing to sign off on more.  While the current bill passed with enough votes to override a presidential veto, Trump could employ a so-called “pocket veto,” refusing to act on the bill or return it to lawmakers before the expiration of the current 116th Congress.  That would make it impossible for Congress to hold a veto override vote, and would end any hope of COVID-19 relief for Americans before the 117th Congress convenes January 3.

Additional 803,000 unemployment claims filed last week
Americans filed an additional 803,000 unemployment claims in the week ending December 19, according to numbers released Wednesday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.  That’s slightly better than expectations and a decrease of 89,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised up from 885,000 claims to 892,000.  Those numbers are still higher than any seen pre-pandemic.  Additionally, the total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending December 5 was 20,363,675, a decrease of 283,170 from the previous week.  By comparison, there were 1,757,802 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2019.

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: 78,130,493
Global deaths: 1,719,973.  The United States has the most deaths of any single country, with 322,849.
Number of countries/regions: at least 191
Total patients recovered globally: 44,116,768

Latest reported numbers in the United States per Johns Hopkins University
There are at least 18,238,233 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 322,849.  New York State has the greatest number of reported deaths in the U.S., with 36,724.
U.S. total people tested: 233,878,643

The greatest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is in California, with 1,964,863 confirmed cases out of a total state population of 39.51 million.  This ranks first in the world.  Maharashtra, India, is second, with 1,902,458 reported cases.  England, which has 1,804,923 reported cases, ranks third in the world, while Texas is fourth, with 1,626,934 confirmed cases out of a total state population of 29 million.

Government purchases additional 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
In a joint statement Wednesday morning, the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense announced the purchase of 100 million additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.  This brings the total doses of Pfizer’s vaccine bought by the federal government to 200 million.  The terms of agreement state Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million of those doses by the end of June 30, 2021, and the remaining doses no later than July 31, according to the statement.  HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement, “This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021.”

Experts warn of new COVID-19 post-holiday surge; December on track to be deadliest month
As Americans head home for the holidays, health experts are warning of the possible profound impacts of a potential COVID-19 surge if people don’t observe pandemic prevention measures, including skipping holiday travel and family gatherings.  The U.S. saw a significant increase in coronavirus infections following summer vacations and the Thanksgiving holiday, with December now the worst month in the U.S. in terms of confirmed cases.  The Covid Tracking Project reports as of Tuesday, there were 117,777 people hospitalized with COVID-19 – another new single-day record – and over 3,000 deaths, with an average 2,654 people dying each day over the past seven days. 

December is on pace to surpass April to become the deadliest month in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.  Additionally, 2020 is on track to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths topping three million for the first time ever.  Based on the leading causes of death for 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is likely the third leading cause of death this year, behind heart disease and cancer.

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