Biden taps 3 officials for COVID-19 response team; McConnell blocks bill for $2K stimulus checks — 7 updates

U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 124,686 Dec. 29, marking yet another new record, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. 

Six more updates:

1. President-elect Joe Biden added three senior officials to his White House COVID-19 Response team, Politico reported Dec. 29. President-elect Biden selected Bechara Choucair, MD, senior chief community health officer of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, to serve as the nation's COVID-19 vaccine coordinator; Carole Johnson, the commissioner of New Jersey's human services department, as COVID-19 testing coordinator; and Tim Manning, former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Obama-Biden administration, as COVID-19 supply coordinator. 

2. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked consideration of a bill that would send most Americans a $2,000 stimulus check, reports The Washington Post. The House of Representatives voted Dec. 28 to boost stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. The following day, Mr. McConnell blocked the proposal, calling for larger checks, new limitations for large tech companies and investigations into the recent presidential election. "This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus," Mr. McConnell said. 

3. Britain became the first country to grant emergency approval to AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 30, reports The New York Times. The country will soon start administering the vaccine, which AstraZeneca developed with the University of Oxford, to as many people as possible, rather than storing extra vaccine supplies to quickly administer second doses.

4. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than a million people Dec. 28, the seventh time the milestone was hit in just 11 days, according to a Dec. 29 tweet from TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. It was also the third day in a row after Christmas that more than a million people were screened for air travel. 

5. Colorado officials reported the first known U.S. case of the COVID-19 variant that has been circulating in the U.K., according to a Dec. 29 tweet from the office of Gov. Jared Polis. The virus variant was detected in a man in his 20s who has no travel history and is currently in isolation.  

6. California extended strict stay-at-home orders for two regions into 2021, state health officials said Dec. 29, according to The New York Times. The extension was fueled by rising infection and hospitalization rates in California's Southern and Central Valley regions.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 19,516,147
Deaths: 338,656 

Counts reflect data available as of 8:40 a.m. CST Dec. 30.

More articles on public health:

COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Dec. 30
5 things we still don't know about COVID-19
23 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Dec. 30


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