coronavirus

As the months of 2021 unfurl, and we all setting in to the realization that the coronavirus is still with us, it's nice to know there is a timely distraction available for anyone looking forward to the Spring planting season. Those who have cultivated their gardening obsession over the years know what I'm talking about: seed catalogs! We've covered this topic in the past, but this year's crop of new publications has resulted in some real delight.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of meatpacking plants across the country have struggled to contain outbreaks.

While millions wait for a lifesaving shot, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus continues to soar upward with horrifying speed. On Tuesday, the last full day of Donald Trump's presidency, the official death count reached 400,000 — a once-unthinkable number. More than 100,000 Americans have perished in the pandemic in just the past five weeks.

Dr. Andrew Carroll — a family doctor in Chandler, Arizona — wants to help his patients get immunized against covid, so he paid more than $4,000 to buy an ultra-low-temperature freezer from eBay needed to store the Pfizer vaccine.

But he’s not sure he’ll get a chance to use it, given health officials have so far not said when private doctor’s offices will get vaccine.

“I’m really angry,” said Carroll.

This time last year, the world was heading into a pandemic that would upend everything and cost 1.9 million lives — and counting. The promise of the new year is that vaccines are finally here and offer a way out.

Health experts warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better. And that is happening. December was the deadliest month of the pandemic in the United States. The vaccines have made people optimistic, but the process has been slow.

Dr. Anthony Fauci — head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who will be President-elect Joe Biden's chief medical adviser — said Thursday that the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been slow because it came during the holiday period.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, experts and educators have feared that open schools would spread the coronavirus further, which is why so many classrooms remain closed. But a new, nationwide study suggests reopening schools may be safer than previously thought, at least in communities where the virus is not already spreading out of control.

When the coronavirus hit the U.S., hospitals issued strict limitations on visitors. Nurses and doctors started acting as liaisons to the sick and dying for family members not allowed at bedsides. As deaths reach new daily highs, that work is not getting any easier. The emotional toil of adapting to new dynamics with patients and families at one rural hospital in Livingston, Mont., is a case study of what health care workers are grappling with all over the country.

Gary Carden sits on the reclining chair in front of the tavern he's owned and managed for two and half decades in the north central Washington town of Nespelem, on the Colville Reservation. The 63-year-old is on the concrete porch with his two dogs, Sissy and Harold.

"She's the older dog," he says, "and that's probably the best thing that happened to her is finding her a small buddy, 'cause he's so active and keeps her active."

The head of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech expressed confidence that his company's vaccine would be effective against a coronavirus variant rapidly infecting people across London and southern England.

U.K. officials have warned the new variant is likely to be more contagious than the various strains already circulating, though there is no evidence suggesting it is more deadly.

Meatpacking plants were among the first coronavirus hot spots in Missouri. Across the country, at least 45,000 workers in these plants have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Food and Environment Reporting Network. More than 200 have died.

Annessoir Annelus — a refugee and pillar of the Haitian community — was one of them.

In a 20-0 vote, with one abstention, a panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Moderna be authorized for emergency use in adults during the pandemic.

If the agency authorizes the vaccine for emergency use, as is expected, it would become the second to be deployed in the U.S to fight the coronavirus.

The vote in favor of the vaccine was taken to answer the agency's question: Do the benefits of the Moderna vaccine outweigh its risks for use in people age 18 and older?

All throughout high school, Brian Williams planned to go to college. But as the pandemic eroded the final moments of his senior year, the Stafford, Texas, student began to second-guess that plan.

"I'm terrible at online school," Williams says. He was barely interested in logging on for his final weeks of high school; being online for his first semester at Houston Community College felt unbearable.

"I know what works best for me, and doing stuff on the computer doesn't really stimulate me in the same way an actual class would."

The U.S. on Wednesday reported the highest number of new cases of the coronavirus and the most COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

As of 1:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 3,600 Americans died Wednesday from complications of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking coronavirus infection data.

Now that federal regulators have authorized one COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. — and appear close to authorizing another — it seems Americans are growing less reluctant about receiving an inoculation themselves. The Kaiser Family Foundation, or KFF, released a poll Tuesday showing a significant leap in the number of people saying they definitely or probably would get vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first coronavirus test that people will be able to buy at a local store without a prescription and use for immediate results at home to find out if they're positive or negative.

The test will cost about $30 and be available by January, according to the Australian company that makes it, Ellume.

The Food and Drug Administration released a detailed analysis Tuesday morning of the COVID-19 vaccine from drugmaker Moderna that supports the authorization of the company's vaccine for emergency use.

The FDA's briefing document along with one from Moderna were posted two days before a group of experts will convene to advise the agency on whether to grant the vaccine emergency authorization for use, or EUA, during the pandemic.

More than 300,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

It is the latest sign of a generational tragedy — one still unfolding in every corner of the country — that leaves in its wake an expanse of grief that cannot be captured in a string of statistics.

"The numbers do not reflect that these were people," says Brian Walter, whose 80-year-old father, John, died from COVID-19. "Everyone lost was a father or a mother, they had kids, they had family, they left people behind."

A Trump administration spokesman on Sunday said top officials in the three branches of government would be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but later in the evening, the president himself said most White House staff members will have to wait.

An important federal advisory committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added its vote of support for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

In an emergency meeting Saturday, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the first COVID-19 vaccine for use for people 16 or older in the U.S, expressing hope that the vaccine would help curb the spread of the disease that has killed more than 295,000 people in the U.S.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 21

Now that the Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccines to be deployed in the U.S., you may have a lot of questions about what this means for you and the people you love. Here's what we know so far:

Who specifically is eligible for the vaccine now?

These last few days have been chaotic at the Nimiipuu Health Clinic on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho.

The director, Dr. R. Kim Hartwig, is trying to manage testing and treating patients for COVID- 19 and other diseases, while also racing to get a plan in place to distribute a vaccine.

"It's not something that we have a timeline [for], it's like, I got a call and was told, 'You're gonna get a vaccine in two weeks, get a plan together,' " she says.

The Food and Drug Administration's authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine could come within a day or two, a member of an FDA panel of experts that recommended an OK for the vaccine said Friday. But Dr. Paul Offit, a member of that panel, cautioned it could be next fall before life gets back to normal after the pandemic.

That fall prediction would depend on two-thirds of the American population getting the vaccine, he told NPR's Morning Edition.

Most mornings, Paulino Ramos sat under the small tree at the entrance of a busy Home Depot parking lot near Downtown Los Angeles. Other day laborers hanging around on the corner knew they could find their friend there, waiting in the shade for construction jobs. But in early September, they noticed Ramos, the sturdily built demolition worker, looked weak.

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Updated April 5, 2021 at 10:40 AM ET

Note: This story will be updated periodically, as new data are released.

The Food and Drug Administration has found that there are "no specific safety concerns" that would stop the agency from approving the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use.

Career scientists at the FDA analyzed the data from the ongoing Pfizer trial to form their own conclusions about its safety and efficacy.

Stephen Hahn, who heads the FDA, says the public analysis is a "very, very important part of our promise to the American people that we won't cut corners in how we assess the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine."

In August, local officials in Washington, Mo., a small city an hour west of St. Louis, voted against requiring residents to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says millions of people in high-risk groups will likely "start rolling up their sleeves" to get a COVID-19 vaccine soon.

China's economy is roaring back as Americans gobble up everything from its cellphones to its health masks, raising the stakes for trade relations with the United States as President-elect Joe Biden gets set to take over.

Data on Monday showed China notched a record $75.4 billion trade surplus in November after exports from China to the rest of the world jumped 21.1% compared to a year ago.

When COVID-19 restrictions reduced his work schedule at the National Institutes of Health, Sam Smith decided to turn to another time-consuming job: applying to medical school.

He'd always wanted to go into medicine, but what was happening in the world had a big impact on the kind of medicine he hopes to practice. Now Smith wants to specialize in infectious diseases.

The experience of the past year "makes me think, there's probably going to be another pandemic" in the future, said Smith, 25. "So I want to be on the front lines of the next one."

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