UK variant may already be in US, Fauci says; air travel spikes despite health warnings — 6 COVID-19 updates

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A record 115,351 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. as of Dec. 21, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Five more updates:

1. Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package the night of Dec. 21, reports The New York Times. The aid bill now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for signing. Americans could start receiving direct relief payments as early as next week, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. For a full breakdown of the relief package, click here.

2. The fast-spreading COVID-19 variant found in the U.K. is probably already in the U.S., Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. Dr. Fauci said imposing a U.K. travel ban would be a "rather dramatic step" for the U.S., though more than 40 other countries have already closed their doors to Britain, reports The New York Times. Pfizer and Moderna are both testing their vaccines against the new variant, according to CNN.

3. The U.S. recorded its busiest weekend for air travel during the pandemic, despite health officials' warnings to stay home for the holidays, reports The Washington Post. More than 3.2 million people flew Dec. 18-20, marking the only time during the pandemic that air travel surpassed 1 million daily passengers for three consecutive days. 

4. Dr. Fauci and other top health officials are set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 22, reports Politico. Dr. Fauci, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and front-line health workers will receive doses of Moderna's vaccine at an NIH event in Maryland.

5. The National Institutes of Health is creating a study to determine why some people have severe allergic reactions to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, reports The Washington Post. The study aims to identify the vaccine component most likely responsible for anaphylaxis and will recruit volunteers with a history of severe allergic reactions to receive the vaccine under clinical supervision, according to Daniel Rotrosen, MD, director of the division of allergy, immunology and transplantation at the NIAID. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 18,043,824
Deaths: 319,466

Counts reflect data available as of 8:35 a.m. CST Dec. 22.

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Dec. 22
Surgeon general: Trump has 'medical reason' for delayed COVID-19 vaccination
25 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Dec. 22


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