U.S. vaccination plans take shape but don’t relax restrictions

WASHINGTON, DC (Reuters) – U.S. health officials will hold an emergency meeting next week to recommend that a coronavirus vaccine awaiting approval be given first to healthcare professionals and people in facilities long-term care.

FILE PHOTO: Man takes coronavirus test at Thanksgiving meal at Los Angeles Mission homeless shelter as the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic continues, in Los Angeles, California, United States, November 25, 2020. REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson / File Photo

The meeting, announced Friday by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee on vaccinations, suggests the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be on the verge of clearing the long-awaited drug for distribution, at least to those considered. the most vulnerable.

United Airlines has started carrying shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it’s approved, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will vote on Tuesday to recommend that the FDA allow healthcare professionals and long-term care facilities to be the first two groups to procure initial vaccines, a carrier said. word of the CDC.

A green light for any vaccine would be good news for Americans, which political leaders have blocked under increasingly aggressive measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Los Angeles County health officials on Friday banned all public and private gatherings for at least three weeks and urged residents to stay home as much as possible.

The county exempted religious services and demonstrations from order, citing constitutional protections in an apparent recognition of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that rejected New York state’s restrictions on churches and synagogues.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, dismissed the Supreme Court’s ruling as “irrelevant,” saying it was narrowly tailored to specific areas that are no longer subject to limits.

But the ruling could lead to legal challenges against similar limits on places of worship in other states, including California.

“It is fair to say that this Supreme Court ruling has broader implications and that governors would do well to take inspiration from it in any attempt to single out places of worship for disparate treatment,” Randy Mastro, senior counsel for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn in the case, told Reuters.

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said this week that his latest COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings also apply to indoor religious services, reducing the maximum number of worshipers from 100 to 50.


Americans already tired of eight months of lockdowns entered the holiday season on Friday under pressure to stay home, avoid gatherings and cut Christmas shopping.

A day after the nation celebrated a low-key Thanksgiving, malls and retailers imposing strict COVID-19 rules saw fewer shoppers for the traditional Black Friday start to holiday shopping.

“Remember, avoid the crowds and shop at your home this Black Friday,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a first-term Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

Around 90,000 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals as of Friday, a number that doubled last month to the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

“This is the reality we face when COVID-19 is allowed to spread unchecked – intensive care units at full capacity, not enough healthcare workers available,” the governor of New Brunswick said. Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, in a tweet.

Grisham, a Democrat, did not say who she said let the virus spread unchecked. The governor imposed a lockdown forcing all “non-essential” businesses to close and residents to stay at home.

About 880 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday in New Mexico. According to the county’s Facebook page, a hospital in rural Curry County was the last to reach capacity in its intensive care unit.

Some politicians and health experts feared Americans traveling on Thanksgiving could spread the contagion. Many listened to the advice to stay home on Thursday, but others chose to travel, saying they were willing to risk illness to see their families.

On Thanksgiving eve, typically one of the busiest travel days of the year in the United States, more than 1.07 million people have passed through U.S. airports – most of the day since the start of pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

More than 4 million people passed through airports Sunday through Thursday, up from more than 11 million for the same period last year, according to data from the TSA.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Melissa Fares in New York, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Diane Bartz and David Shephardson in Washington, Anurag Maan in Bangalore and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Written by Dan Whitcomb; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Tarrant, Robert Birsel

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