Coronavirus updates: Biden receives 2nd dose of vaccine; members of Congress exposed to virus during riot lockdown; Zoo gorillas have virus – USA TODAY

Elinor Aspegren Adrianna Rodriguez Doyle Rice   | USA TODAY

USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed 375,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other top news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

►Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first cases among such primates in captivity. The park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, told the Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas that live together at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.

►The United States reported its 375,000th coronavirus death Monday, Johns Hopkins data showed.

►Germany’s BioNTech, which developed the first COVID-19 vaccination on the market with American partner Pfizer, says it expects to produce 2 billion doses in 2021 with ramped-up manufacturing. The company said in a presentation Monday to the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that it’s also looking to expand vaccinations to include pregnant women and children. 

► President-elect Joe Biden received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday. Biden and his wife, Jill, each received their first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21 at ChristianaCare Hospital in Newark, Delaware, as part of a campaign of high-level officials to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and effective. 

► The attending physician for Congress said Sunday elected officials and their staff  were potentially exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 while the U.S. Capitol was locked down during an armed incursion by pro-Trump rioters. Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann also tweeted Sunday that he had tested positive for the virus after coming into contact with another member of Congress.

► Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China on Thursday for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, the government said Monday. The trip was originally scheduled for last week but was delayed after Chinese officials said the itinerary was still under negotiation. 

► Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest public school system, will reopen its doors Monday to 6,000 pre-kindergarten and special education students for the first time since March.

► Johns Hopkins data shows we have a record for deaths in a week for a consecutive day, at 22,676. At that rate an American dies every 27 seconds. Cases in a week are the second-worst on record, at 1,710,110.

► Anger and frustration are surging across the U.S. as the federal government leaves states to handle the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 22.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 375,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 90.2 million cases and 1.9 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: Millions of Americans with intellectual disabilities, at ‘particularly high risk’ for COVID-19, are still waiting for vaccinations.

A Chinese study, published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet, found that more than 75% of COVID-19 patients reported symptoms six months after hospital discharge.

In what the British journal said was the largest study so far of so-called “COVID-19 longhaulers,” researchers looked at 1,733 patients from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus pandemic originated.

More than 60% of patients reported fatigue and muscle weakness, about 25% reported sleep difficulties and hair loss, and 23% reported anxiety and depression.

Researchers said a lung function assessment found “a considerable proportion” of patients had a pulmonary diffusion abnormality six months after showing symptoms, 22% to 56% across different levels of severity. 

Through Friday, states had received 22.1 million doses of the vaccines. Of those, about 6.7 million – less than one-third – had been administered.

Federal officials point to a host of reasons for the lag in vaccine distributions, including vaccination systems still gearing up, federal funding that hasn’t yet been disbursed to states and a requirement that states set aside vaccines for long-term-care facilities. 

Add to that two holidays, bad weather in some areas and the need to train medical professionals to prepare and administer two vaccines that require special storage and handling.

A hodgepodge of rules and procedures across the country adds to the confusion. In Florida, for example, seniors 65 and older are in the first phase of vaccine distribution. In Texas, seniors and medically fragile people are in the second phase. In New York, they are in the third phase. Read more here.

– Andrea Ball


How the new RNA technology is used to create the COVID-19 vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine is using new technology that has never been used before in traditional vaccines. Here’s how an mRNA vaccine works.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Top scientists have created an online guide to arm people with scientific facts and practical tips to fight lies, hoaxes and conspiracy theories that are threatening public trust in the COVID-19 vaccines.

More than two dozen leading experts in vaccine psychology, education and virology say they volunteered contributions to The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook to take on misinformation and propaganda spread by anti-vaccination activists that could lower vaccination rates and cause needless deaths. 

Even as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals overflow with critically ill patients, opposition to the vaccines is resonating, not just with fringe communities, but with swaths of mainstream America. Studies show that belief in COVID-19 falsehoods can dissuade people from getting the vaccine.

– Jessica Guynn

Two major variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have emerged in recent weeks, but neither is more dangerous than the virus that has circulated for the last year, experts say, and available vaccines should remain effective.

Viral mutations cause concerns because they can make tests, treatments and vaccines ineffective, and change the properties of a disease, making it more or less transmissible and dangerous.

The new variants appear to be pushing out older ones, raising worries about whether the changes will affect the course of disease or efforts to rein it in. So far, though, the new variants do not seem to be a cause for huge concern.

In more than a year of circulation, the virus has mutated many times, but only these most two recent variants – one that appeared first in the United Kingdom and the other in South Africa – seem to make a substantial difference in its function. Read more here.

– Karen Weintraub

When a code blue is sounded at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, California, signaling a cardiac arrest, nurse Yesenia Avila says a little prayer.

“We’ve never seen this much death before,” Avila said Friday. “I’ve been in health care for 22 years, and I’ve never been scared. Right now, I am … I fear for my children.”

Every bed in the ICU is full most of the time as the COVID-19 surge rages forward. If a bed is open, nurses said, it often means a patient died.

California health authorities reported Saturday a record one-day total of 695 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under unprecedented caseloads. California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 29,233, according to the state Department of Public Health’s website.

Los Angeles plans to convert its largest testing site in Dodgers Stadium to a mass vaccination center this week, KTLA-TV reports, aiming to vaccinate up to 12,000 people a day when its fully operational. 

– Tom Kisken, Ventura (Calif.) County Star

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Coronavirus updates: Biden receives 2nd dose of vaccine; members of Congress exposed to virus during riot lockdown; Zoo gorillas have virus – USA TODAY

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