COVID-19 Updates and Tracking
- US begins COVID-19 vaccinations in moment of hope The U.S. began vaccinating people against COVID-19 on Monday, a sign of hope that the pandemic, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people in America and sickened millions more, will soon come to an end. The first vaccinations outside clinical trials represent a key victory in the fight against COVID-19, almost a year after the virus was first identified in the country and began its attack on American lives and the economy. Read more at the Hill.
- Hogan: Maryland will forgive $75 million in COVID-19 small business relief loans Maryland small businesses that accepted COVID-19 relief loans from the state will not be required to pay that money back, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday. The state will forgive $75 million in small business loans by converting those payments into grants, Hogan said.
- The Republican governor also announced he is taking executive action to protect businesses from sudden or substantial increases in their unemployment taxes. The state's unemployment system has been strained this year as hundreds of thousands of Marylanders sought benefits during the pandemic. Read more here.
- California Gov. Newsom faces recall campaign over coronavirus restrictions California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is facing a recall effort over the state's COVID-19 restrictions and his apparent flouting of the safety measures at an upscale restaurant last month. The Associated Press reported Monday that the campaign to recall Newsom and trigger a special gubernatorial election is gaining steam. Organizers told the AP they have about half of the 1.5 million signatures needed by March. Such campaigns often aim higher than the required number of signatures in the event some are thrown out. The last successful California recall effort was in 2003, which threw Democrat Gray Davis out of office and resulted in the election of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). Read more at the Hill.
- Gov. Inslee extends Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, gyms Washington’s latest round of sweeping COVID-19 restrictions will stay in place through the holiday season and into the new year. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a three-week extension of the wide-ranging limits he ordered Nov. 15 — which include shutting down indoor dining and gyms and limiting social gatherings — through Jan. 4. “This is because we remain concerned about COVID activity and we still do not have a clear picture of the situation following the Thanksgiving weekend,” Inslee said. He said it’s possible that improvements in infection rates could lead him to “recalibrate,” but said “we don’t know enough yet about the pandemic’s course to be able to do that. This remains an extremely alarming situation.” Read more at Seattle Times.
- St. Louis County extends COVID-19 restrictions through Christmas St. Louis County is extending its COVID-19 restrictions, keeping them in place at least through Christmas. County Executive Sam Page made the announcement Monday morning, saying the “Safer at Home” health orders will be extended for another two weeks. “The number of cases and hospitalizations remains too great,” Page said Monday. “There is simply too much of the virus in our community to let this public health protocol today.” Read more here.
- Boston Closes Bowling Alleys, Museums, Gyms As Coronavirus Cases Rise Again The city of Boston will take a step back in its reopening plans starting Wednesday, as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Mayor Marty Walsh announced Monday that Boston will move to a "modified" phase two, step two of its economic reopening plan — and that mayors in cities surrounding Boston soon will order similar restrictions in response to increasing strain on the health care system. Museums, movie theaters and aquariums will close. Gyms and fitness centers will be shuttered for "general use," though one-on-one training may continue with space restrictions. Indoor recreational activities like rock climbing, driving ranges and bowling alleys will shut down. Read full story here.
- Getting Covid Vaccines to People Will Cost States Billions They Don’t Have State leaders say they are short billions of dollars in funding needed to successfully provide Covid-19 vaccinations to all Americans who want to be inoculated by health officials’ June goal. The federal government is providing the vaccine, along with syringes, needles, face masks and shields. But state leaders say they must hire medical workers, provide community outreach and education, set up vaccination clinics and ensure storage capacity for vaccines. Some states are also concerned about having enough supplies, such as gloves and gowns, to protect health-care workers as well as people getting vaccinated. Read more at the WSJ.
- Oregon hospitals, medical centers prep for COVID vaccine distribution With the US Food and Drug Administration authorizing the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country, Oregon hospitals are preparing to deploy their allocation of doses. The FDA granted its blessing over the weekend — meaning hospitals like the Oregon Health and Science University and Kaiser Permanente need to be ready to go. Storage and distribution of the vaccine demand serious planning. OHSU Pharmacy Services has five ultra-cold freezers with enough physical space for a significant amount of COVID-19 vaccines. The freezers were purchased prior to the pandemic and are used to store commercially available specialty drugs. OHSU’s Research Mission also has a number of ultra-cold freezers and cold rooms to store research drugs, which could be reallocated to COVID-19 vaccine storage if needed. Read more at KOIN.
- Cuomo: Gyms and salons in Orange Zones allowed to reopen with restrictions Gov. Andrew Cuomo released data on Friday we've been asking to see for a long time on contact tracing. The data would help determine if certain businesses, which he had ordered restricted or closed amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, were actually more of a source of spread than others allowed to stay open. Read more here.
- Tracking massive vaccine operation in Michigan On Monday afternoon, the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived at facilities in Metro Detroit. However, it does take some time to thaw the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNtech. As the vaccination program gets started, the State of Michigan is reporting new cases of the coronavirus. Read more here.
- States Try to Rescue Small Businesses as U.S. Aid Is Snarled With the economic recovery faltering and federal aid stalled in Washington, state governments are stepping in to try to help small businesses survive the pandemic winter. The Colorado legislature held a special session last week to pass an economic aid package. Ohio is offering a new round of grants to restaurants, bars and other businesses affected by the pandemic. And in California, a new fund will use state money to backstop what could ultimately be hundreds of millions of dollars in private loans. Other states, led by both Republicans and Democrats, have announced or are considering similar measures. But there is a limit to what states can do. The pandemic has ravaged budgets, driving up costs and eroding tax revenues. And unlike the federal government, most states cannot run budget deficits. Read more here at the NYT.
- Georgia: A Both Parties Invest in Early Voting, Which Starts Today Early voting in Georgia started today. 2017 GA-06 candidate Jon Ossoff (D) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) “launched separate bus tours over the weekend.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Democrats are looking to engage the same momentum that led them to dominate early voting in the general election to help them get voters to the polls ahead of the holidays for the two Senate runoffs. Across the aisle, “Republicans are striving to bank a million votes before Christmas ... as a fail-safe against Democrats’ well-oiled absentee ballot campaign,” out of concern that “interest in the Senate races will taper off next week.” (McClatchy) Read more here at National Journal.
- Iowa Democratic Party Releases Autopsy of Bungled Caucus The Iowa Democratic Party released an autopsy of its bungled caucus that revealed “aggressive” meddling from the DNC as well as a failure from the state party to have a Plan B. Recall that the Iowa caucus was marred by technical issues, and the party eventually certified former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) as the winner weeks after the caucus was held. The AP decided not to call a winner, saying that “reporting irregularities and potential errors” made the outcome uncertain. (Des Moines Register) Read more here.
- State Senate Runoff Will Test Direction of State Party “Nothing less than the direction of the Texas Republican Party could be written in the results of a North Texas special election” for state Senate “next Saturday.” “On paper, the runoff” pits state Rep. Drew Springer (R) “against an unlikely new Republican star,” businesswoman Shelley Luther (R), “who won national notoriety and overnight conservative credibility when she was briefly jailed in early May for opening her Salon à la Mode in North Dallas” despite Gov Greg Abbott’s (R) stay-at-home order. The race “is a chance to take the temperature of the party’s faithful ahead of a 2022 gubernatorial primary, one that could pit a weakened” Abbott against state party chair Allen West. Read more here.
- Virginia GOV: During a Facebook Live event Friday evening, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R) walked back her decision to run as an independent candidate, and announced she will now be seeking the Republican nomination despite her opposition to the state party's decision to select its nominee through a convention rather than a primary. Chase: “I’ve been listening to the people for the past week, and they want me to run as a Republican.”
- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has been named chair of the Republican Governors Association for 2021 after spending 2020 as vice chair. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has been named vice chair. Read the release here.
- New Hampshire: “The sudden death of” New Hampshire state House Speaker Dick Hinch (R) “was caused by COVID-19, a medical examiner ruled Thursday, sparking renewed criticism of state lawmakers who have defied safety guidelines during the pandemic.” Read more at the Boston Globe.
- NJ: Doug Steinhardt will run for governor against Phil Murphy New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s fiercest critics for the last three years, has decided to seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2021, filing incorporation papers with the state to establish a campaign committee on Wednesday evening. A formal announcement that Steinhardt will seek to challenge Murphy is imminent, the New Jersey Globe has learned. Steinhardt will also step down from his post as GOP state chairman in order to run for governor. A notice of a regular quarterly meeting is going out today and he will announce his resignation at that time. Steinhardt’s entrance into the race pits him in a primary fight with former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R—Hillsborough). Read more at the New Jersey Globe.