10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2020

COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high, Arizona and Wisconsin certify final Biden battleground victories, and more

A medical staffer in Houston
(Image credit: Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

1. New restrictions loom as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record high

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. reached a record 96,039 on Monday, CNN reported, citing the Covid Tracking Project. Several states are responding to spiking coronavirus cases with new restrictions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) warned that the state could run out of hospital beds by mid-December, and hit 112 percent intensive-care bed capacity by Christmas if current trends continue. Newsom said he might soon impose "more dramatic" and "arguably drastic" stay-at-home restrictions for some parts of the state. Los Angeles County issued a stay-at-home order for 10 million people. Rhode Island officials said with some health-care systems already at capacity they were prepared to use field hospitals. In Hawaii, the mayor of Hawaii County said trans-Pacific travelers would have to quarantine for 14 days unless they had tested negative.

CNN The Associated Press

2. Arizona and Wisconsin certify Biden election wins

Arizona and Wisconsin certified their election results on Monday, making President-elect Joe Biden the official winner in both battleground states. Biden beat President Trump by 10,457 votes in Arizona, according to the official results. Wisconsin officials confirmed that Biden defeated Trump by more than 20,000 votes in their state. Biden's lead grew slightly after a partial recount that cost $3 million and was billed to Trump's campaign. Arizona and Wisconsin were the last battleground states to certify their results despite Trump's baseless claims of mail-in ballot fraud. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada certified Biden as the winner last week. Georgia did the same on Nov. 20. Trump attorney Jenna Ellis tweeted: "The certification of Arizona's FALSE results is unethical."

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Bloomberg The Hill

3. Moderna applies for emergency-use approval for vaccine

Moderna announced that its coronavirus vaccine candidate had been shown to be 94.1 percent effective in a large study, and that it had applied on Monday to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization. The drugmaker said that if the vaccine is approved the first Americans could get injections as soon as Dec. 21. The encouraging news came as coronavirus cases are surging and overwhelming hospitals across the country, with public health officials warning that the situation could get even worse due to likely infections among people who traveled or attended large gatherings for Thanksgiving. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company was "on track" to produce 20 million doses by the end of 2020.

The New York Times

4. Controversial Trump coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Dr. Scott Atlas formally resigned Monday as President Trump's special adviser on the coronavirus pandemic. Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases, had faced criticism for downplaying the seriousness of the virus and the effectiveness of wearing masks to reduce the risk of infection. He also had urged the White House to embrace a strategy of "herd immunity," and in November called for people to "rise up" against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's (D) partial shutdown order. Atlas said in his resignation letter, dated Dec. 1, that he had "worked hard with a singular focus — to save lives and help Americans through this pandemic." He also said he "always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence."

Fox News NBC News

5. Lawmakers return with government-shutdown deadline looming

The GOP-controlled Senate reconvened Monday after the Thanksgiving break as lawmakers face a looming Dec. 11 deadline to reach a spending deal to avert a partial government shutdown. The House, which is controlled by Democrats, returns to work on Wednesday. Negotiators have settled on a $1.4 trillion total for the spending bill, but they haven't yet decided how to allot the money. Lawmakers also face mounting pressure to break a stalemate that prevented them from reaching an agreement on a new round of coronavirus relief. Democrats, including President-elect Joe Biden, are calling for a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to help individuals, businesses, local governments, and hospitals deal with the pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pushing for a $500 billion package.


6. Biden, Harris receive 1st President's Daily Brief

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris got their first look Monday at the top-secret President's Daily Brief since winning the 2020 election. President Trump had delayed Biden's access to the PDB, the intelligence community's daily classified summary of secrets and world events, as he contested his loss. Biden was given access to the document in Wilmington, Delaware, while Harris viewed it in a secure room at the Commerce Department. The PDB is tailored to every president's preferences, and Biden has now seen the top-secret briefings prepared for Presidents Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Biden will also be briefed on any CIA covert actions in the works.

The Associated Press

7. CDC study says coronavirus hit earlier than previously thought

The first U.S. coronavirus infections probably occurred in mid-December 2019, about a month before public health officials confirmed the first U.S. case, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Monday. The report, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, said the scientists detected coronavirus antibodies in 106 of 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross in nine states. A person's immune system develops these antibodies after exposure to fight off a virus. Some of the samples were collected a few weeks before the new coronavirus was officially identified in China. The findings supported mounting evidence that the pandemic was already spreading around the world before public health authorities recognized the threat.

The Wall Street Journal

8. Trump post-election fundraising shatters campaign records

President Trump has raised more than $150 million in political donations since Election Day, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Trump's political operation has used the president's baseless allegations of election fraud to drive a fundraising blitz that has broken records set during the campaign. The surge in contributions came largely from small donors responding to roughly 500 post-election appeals to help Trump fight the alleged voter fraud. "I need you now more than ever," said one Trump email. The money has continued streaming in even as courts have thrown out the cases. Much of the money is expected to go into an account for Trump's political activities after he leaves office in January.

The Washington Post

9. Bitcoin price rises to record high

The price of Bitcoin rose to a record high on Monday, three years after it rocketed to its previous peak of $19,783. The cryptocurrency has soared since March, after dropping below $4,000 at the start of the coronavirus crisis. The 2017 spike was driven in part by investors in Asia who were just becoming familiar with cryptocurrencies, but it fell again as people questioned its usefulness. This time, American investors are pushing Bitcoin prices higher as they start treating it as an alternative asset, like gold. Bitcoin allows people to put part of their portfolios in a place safe from the influence of governments and traditional financial systems.

The New York Times

10. Merriam-Webster names 'pandemic' the word of the year for 2020

Merriam-Webster on Monday picked "pandemic" as its 2020 word of the year, saying the term received a massive 115,806 percent spike in searches in March compared to a year earlier. "Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it's fitting that in this exceptional — and exceptionally difficult — year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our word of the year will be," Merriam-Webster said. Runners up included terms related to the COVID-19 pandemic like "coronavirus," "quarantine," and "asymptomatic." But another runner up was "defund," which Merriam-Webster said saw a more than 6,000 percent increase in lookups in 2020 amid calls to "defund the police."

The Associated Press

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