First in line: Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old woman from Coventry, England, received the first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial, The New York Times reports. Keenan said she was looking forward to seeing friends and family in the new year, after spending most of this year alone. The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 67.8 million people around the globe, and killed more than 1.5 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. More than 1.7 million people in the United Kingdom have contracted the virus, and more than 61,000 have died.
- Also: The Trump administration reportedly passed up the opportunity in the summer to secure up to 500 million more doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine after the initial order of 100 million, which could result in a delay between the first and second batch of vaccine deliveries as the pharmaceutical companies fill other international orders, The Guardian reports. The New York Times and the Associated Press broke the news just a day before President Trump planned to take credit for the speedy development of the vaccines at a White Houses summit today.
Lock it down: Some 85 percent of California residents—33 million people—are under renewed stay-at-home orders this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus from overwhelming hospitals, Dakin Andone reports for CNN. The regions of Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley were forced to adopt stricter restrictions when regional hospital intensive care unit capacity dropped below 15 percent; the Bay Area adopted the stay-at-home restrictions voluntarily, before ICU capacity dropped that low. The orders close bars, hair salons, museums, movie theaters and indoor recreational facilities; restaurants are take-out and delivery-service only, and travel is prohibited except for essential activities. Retail stores are allowed to operate at 20 percent capacity.
- Also: Hours after President Trump tweeted that his personal attorney Rudy Guiliani had tested positive for Covid, the Arizona Legislature abruptly announced it was shutting down for a week, Jaclyn Peiser writes for The Washington Post. Guiliani spent more than 10 hours the previous Monday with Republican lawmakers from the state listening to allegations of election fraud, with participants maskless and not social distancing. The 76-year-old former New York mayor was admitted to a hospital on Sunday.
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Winter is coming: With temperatures dropping around the country, making sleeping outside less comfortable and safe, homeless shelters are bracing for increased demand while coronavirus restrictions are still in effect, limiting the number of people they can take in, Daniella Silva reports for NBC News. “Right now in the country, there’s not one city that has enough shelter space for all the homeless people in their community,” said Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. And the number of homeless individuals is rising because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
Rewriting history: Chinese authorities are pushing the theory that the coronavirus originated outside of the country, distorting scientific research to posit that Italy or India was the source, or that the virus could have come in on packaged food, Javier C. Hernández reports for The New York Times. The propaganda campaign is muddying the waters before the World Health Organization can investigate how the virus jumped from animals to humans, and effectively redirects scrutiny and criticism—within China’s borders at least—from how the Communist Party handled the initial outbreak.
Big break: There has been a global increase in break-ups and divorces since the pandemic began, Maddy Savage reports for the BBC, from China to Sweden to the United States. Experts have put forward many possible reasons for this uptick: The increased stress that comes with living in a pandemic; money troubles from unemployment; inequitable distribution of domestic labor and childcare; or simply that the increased time together exacerbated problems that had previously been hidden or suppressed by work and social habits.
Defending the vote: Dozens of armed protestors gathered outside the home of the Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson this weekend as she tried to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with her four-year-old son, Tim Stelloh reports for NBC News. The protesters blame Benson for her role as the state’s chief election officer, saying she allowed a rigged election. President Trump has refused to accept his loss and has baselessly claimed he won. “Through threats of violence, intimidation and bullying, the armed people outside my home and their political allies seek to undermine and silence the will and voices of every voter in this state, no matter who they voted for,” Benson said in a statement, vowing that she would defend every voter and every vote.
Playing both sides: On Friday, we shared the news that dozens of U.S. companies signed a letter that described action on climate change as a “business imperative” and urged the country to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. But two newsletters, Heated and Popular Information, report that at least six of those companies have contributed to the Republican candidates in the Georgia run-off elections for the U.S. Senate, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (who is also a climate change denier). If just one of the candidates wins re-election, the Senate will remain under Republican control, making meaningful action on climate change difficult at best.
Sunset for morning joe?: Warming temperatures in the coffee-growing regions of the world are making it harder to grow one of the world’s favorite stimulants, and making it less tasty at the same time, Adele Peters reports for Fast Company. The flavor of coffee develops best at temperatures between 64° and 70°F. At those temperatures, the fruit ripens slowly, leaving time for the sugars and complex acids we know and love to develop. As temperatures rise, the fruit ripens more quickly—but the resulting bean is less flavorful. The result could be that in the next few decades, the price of coffee will increase while the quality decreases. “It’s not like we’re not going have any coffee in 2050,” explains Hanna Neuschwander, director of strategy and communications at World Coffee Research. “Someone will produce it. But what will it taste like, and how expensive will it be? … I’m not even talking about the $30-a-pound single-origin stuff. I’m talking about the stuff that gets layered into Folgers to make it taste more interesting than just cardboard.”
Soot-stained: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler has declined to change the fine-particle pollution limits for soot pollution even though EPA staff scientists wrote in a draft report last year that key studies would support tougher standards of between 8 and 10 micrograms. The stricter standard could cut mortality risks by more than 20 percent and possibly save more than 12,000 lives a year, Timothy Puko reports for The Wall Street Journal. EPA officials countered that fine particulate pollution levels in the U.S. are already lower than in France, Germany and Great Britain, and are five times below the global average.
- Also: A California state board, 40 cities and counties and environmentalists want to ban gas hookups in new construction, arguing that they contribute to climate change and can worsen health problems like asthma from indoor pollution, Sammy Roth reports for the Los Angeles Times. The natural gas industry is pushing back, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is thus far noncommittal.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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