10 things you need to know today: November 9, 2020

George W. Bush congratulates Biden, Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective, and more

Biden in Delaware
(Image credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

1. George W. Bush congratulates Biden as Trump refuses to concede

Former President George W. Bush on Sunday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory, even as President Trump continued to refuse to concede and make unfounded claims that Democrats had cheated. "Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country," Bush said in a statement. Bush added that Trump has the right to pursue legal challenges but "the outcome is clear." The president's campaign has filed challenges in battleground states. Judges in Michigan and Georgia threw out Trump lawsuits for lack of evidence. CNN reported that first lady Melania Trump, and Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, urged him to accept Biden's victory, although Axios said Kushner favored pursuing "legal remedies."

The Texas Tribune CNN

2. Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine candidate over 90 percent effective in interim analysis

A coronavirus vaccine candidate in development from Pfizer and BioNTech was found to be more than 90 percent effective against COVID-19 in a first interim analysis, the companies announced on Monday. In an analysis of 94 subjects infected with the coronavirus, the companies said that the early data "indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 percent." This was a better rate than anticipated. Pfizer previously said it could seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine candidate later in November, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said "today is a great day for science and humanity," adding, "We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks."

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The Wall Street Journal The Washington Post

3. Record coronavirus wave pushes total U.S. cases to 10 million

The latest wave of coronavirus infections continued to gain strength on Sunday, with the total number of U.S. cases reaching 10 million. The latest million came in just the last 10 days, with four straight days of 100,000-plus increases. The seven-day U.S. average is over 100,000, far beyond the levels in other countries. The death toll stood at more than 237,000 as of late Sunday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that the total could reach 256,000 by Nov. 21. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said that the election of Joe Biden, who advocates more aggressive measures to fight the pandemic, could reduce "the political pressure of denying COVID" and empower scientists to "speak with an unmuzzled voice now."

The New York Times

4. Attention shifts to Georgia Senate runoffs

After news outlets projected over the weekend that Joe Biden had won the presidential election, Democrats and Republicans shifted their attention to two Georgia Senate runoffs expected to determine which party controls the Senate. No candidate won an absolute majority in either of the Senate contests in Georgia, so the seats will be determined in Jan. 5 runoffs. Republicans need at least one of the seats to hold onto a narrow majority, which they see as necessary to block Biden's agenda, including tax hikes on the wealthy. Democrats, who need to flip both seats, see the votes as crucial to building their momentum and passing Biden's policies. "I don't think it's possible to overstate how big these races are," said Nse Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project, which focuses on mobilizing young voters of color.

The Washington Post

5. Biden announces COVID-19 task force picks

President-elect Joe Biden announced his 13-member COVID-19 task force on Monday. "Our work begins with getting COVID under control," Biden said over the weekend after news organizations projected him as the winner in enough states to give him more than the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House. Biden named three co-chairs: former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a key Biden adviser; former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University professor. The task force will turn Biden's campaign proposals for tackling the coronavirus into a governing blueprint, including free testing, hiring contact tracers, and providing clear guidance.

The New York Times

6. Astronauts arrive ahead of SpaceX's 2nd crew launch

Four astronauts on Sunday arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for SpaceX's second crew launch next weekend. NASA has relied on Russian spacecraft to get astronauts into orbit since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The SpaceX mission marks the beginning of NASA's use of private companies to make regular crew rotations at the International Space Station. Boeing will fly its first crew next summer. This SpaceX flight will have twice as many astronauts as its first test flight earlier this year. "Make no mistake: Every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "But it's also true that we need to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station."

The Associated Press

7. Suu Kyi's party declares victory in Myanmar elections

Myanmar voters crowded polls Sunday in the country's second truly contested elections in decades. The ruling National League for Democracy party of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared that it had won enough seats in Parliament to retain power. The state Union Election Commission has not finished tallying the votes, which it previously said could take a week. No figures were immediately available on the turnout, but the clearly high participation level was interpreted as a sign of voters' commitment to democracy after decades of dictatorship by the still-powerful military. The NLD was widely expected to win, with Suu Kyi's popularity for fighting for democracy under military dictatorships overshadowing the deterioration of the party's relations with ethnic minority-based parties.

The New York Times The Washington Post

8. Stock futures skyrocket after Pfizer coronavirus vaccine news

U.S. stock futures shot higher early Monday after Pfizer and BioNtech announced that trial data suggested their COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 90 percent effective. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 4.3 percent higher two hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up by 3.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Wall Street was already on track to open the week with gains and extend last week's post-election rally. Analysts said investors were expressing relief that former Vice President Joe Biden had won enough states for a clear Electoral College victory, but Republicans appeared likely to hold onto a narrow Senate majority, setting the stage for the kind of gridlock that blocks drastic policy change that markets don't like.


9. Eta moves into Gulf of Mexico after crossing Florida Keys

Tropical Storm Eta moved off the southwest coast of Florida early Monday after crossing Cuba and the Florida Keys. The storm had top sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, and was expected to return to hurricane strength after moving over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Eta brushed South Florida with high winds, heavy rains, and the threat of dangerous storm surge. Hurricane warnings were lifted for the Keys, and a hurricane watch was lifted in South Florida. Forecasters warned that Eta, which killed dozens in Central America, could hit Florida twice, taking a turn to the west into the Gulf of Mexico before heading northeast and making a second landfall farther north on the state's Gulf Coast.

Weather.com NPR

10. Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek dies at 80

Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died Sunday morning after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer, the show confirmed in a tweet. He was 80. He was reportedly surrounded by family and friends when he passed away "peacefully." Trebek had been under treatment for pancreatic cancer for more than a year. He publicly revealed the diagnosis from the Jeopardy! set in March 2019. Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for a record-setting run of nearly 37 years, beginning in 1984. He hosted more than 8,000 episodes, surpassing the record set by The Price is Right host Bob Barker's 6,828 episodes between 1972 and 2007. During Trebek's long run, he won six Daytime Emmys.

BuzzFeed News The New York Times

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