Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 30, 2020

McConnell blocks Senate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, Biden criticizes pace of vaccinations, and more


McConnell blocks Senate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked the Senate from considering a House bill seeking to increase coronavirus stimulus checks to individual Americans to $2,000 from $600. President Trump had called for the hike, and the Democrat-controlled House approved the increase on Monday. McConnell came under pressure as several Republicans broke ranks and came out in support of $2,000 individual payments. McConnell noted that Trump had also called for repealing liability protections for big social media companies and investigating the November election. He said the Senate would look into considering all three issues together. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the first $600 checks were going out Tuesday night.


Biden criticizes pace of vaccination effort

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration's coronavirus response, saying that the vaccination campaign was moving too slowly and promising to speed it up. Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year, but so far that number has reached only just over 11.4 million doses. "As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," Biden said. The comments came as the U.S. on Tuesday reported more than 3,700 new coronavirus deaths, a single-day record. Hospitalizations also hit a record high, and public health officials are warning that cases will spike after holiday gatherings. "We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation," Biden said.


Warner's girlfriend warned police he was building bombs

Anthony Quinn Warner's girlfriend warned police he was making bombs in his RV 16 months before the vehicle exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, The Tennessean reported Tuesday. Officers went to talk to the girlfriend. Her attorney told officers that Warner "knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb," according to the police report. Police then knocked on Quinn's door several times, but he didn't answer. Police saw the RV behind the house, but it was behind a wood fence. "They saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter his home or fenced property," police spokesman Don Aaron said. The bombing killed Warner and three others, damaged dozens of buildings, including an AT&T facility, and temporarily disrupted regional communications.


California hospitals overwhelmed as COVID cases spike

California on Tuesday extended stay-at-home orders for Southern California and San Joaquin Valley as the two regions' hospital intensive-care units remained perilously close to zero capacity due to spiking coronavirus cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) warned residents to brace for a "surge on top of a surge" of coronavirus cases as new cases from holiday travel emerge. The state added more than 300,000 cases in the seven-day period that ended Dec. 22. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno set records for new infections. At one Los Angeles hospital, five overflow tents outside have been filled, leaving staffers to put gurneys in the hospital's gift shop, chapel, and conference room. Nationwide, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high of 121,235 on Monday. Tennessee had the highest per capita rate of infections.


UK is first to approve Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine

The United Kingdom approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Wednesday, the first nation in the world to do so. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the second coronavirus vaccine approved in less than three weeks by the British government, is being heralded as a cheaper and easier to distribute alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Clinical trials showed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was roughly 62% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 cases, and reportedly no person who received the vaccine has been hospitalized. Like the previously approved Pfizer vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca formulation is intended to be administered in two doses, but the British government said it would prioritize giving as many people as possible a single dose, which has been shown in both cases to provide significant resistance.


Colorado reports 1st U.S. case of fast-spreading coronavirus variant

Colorado on Tuesday reported the first U.S. case of the fast-spreading coronavirus variant first detected in Britain. The new, more infectious strain fueled a COVID-19 surge in the United Kingdom, prompting the country to impose a tough lockdown around London. Other countries also imposed restrictions on travelers from the U.K. Colorado health officials said the person infected in their state was a man in his 20s with no history of travel. "There is a lot we don't know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said. "The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely."


Earthquake kills at least 6 in Croatia

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck central Croatia on Tuesday, killing at least six people and at least 26 more. Several towns were reduced to ruins, and emergency crews continued to search for survivors in the rubble. The epicenter was near the towns of Petrinja and Sisak, 27 miles southeast of the capital, Zagreb. It was the largest earthquake to hit Croatia this year. "We are doing everything we can to help the citizens of Petrinja and surrounding areas in this dramatic and tragic situation," Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said in a tweet. "The destructive earthquake has taken human lives, destroyed homes, and we deeply sympathize with every person and every family that has been harmed." The region's largest hospital was nearly destroyed, with the most seriously ill moved to one remaining building for treatment.


2 officers involved in Breonna Taylor shooting to be fired

The Louisville Metro Police Department has moved to oust the officers who fired the shot that killed Breonna Taylor and who got a judge's approval to raid her home, according to attorneys for the men. Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the fatal shot, and Detective Joshua Jaynes, who prepared the search warrant, had been reassigned pending the investigation. Taylor, a Black emergency room technician, was not the target of the raid. In June, detective Brett Hankison was fired because some of his shots entered a neighbor's apartment. In another case that has prompted protests over the use of deadly force by police, the Justice Department said it would file no criminal charges in the 2014 police killing of Tamir Rice, a Black 12-year-old who was playing with a toy gun.


Congressman-elect from Louisiana dies of COVID-19

Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) died on Tuesday due to complications from COVID-19, his campaign manager announced. He was 41. Letlow, who was married and had two small children, announced on Dec. 18 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was hospitalized in Shreveport, Louisiana, the next day and tweeted on Dec. 21 that he was thankful for the "continued outpouring of prayers and support," and that he was "confident" that with the help of doctors, he would be "on the mend soon." He was transferred to the intensive care unit after his condition worsened. Letlow had served as chief of staff to former Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) before being elected to fill that seat with 62 percent of the vote. He was due to be sworn in Sunday.


Fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98

Fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who has been credited with transforming the business of fashion, died in France, the French Academy of Fine Arts confirmed Tuesday. He was 98. Cardin, the son of Italian immigrants, was known for his clean, curved lines, and bold colors. He started out tailoring for designer Christian Dior, but by 1950 had opened his own fashion house. In 1959, Cardin released a mass-produced ready-to-wear collection with the French department store Printemps, resulting in his ejection from the small syndicate of haute couture designers. Licensing and branding deals put his name on everything from clothes to cars, and furniture to frying pans. Critics said he was diluting his brand, but the strategy extended his influence and legacy.


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