Biden tells Trump to sign relief package; 80M cases
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In the headlines:
►Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed at midnight after President Donald Trump failed to sign an end-of-year COVID relief and spending legislation. The fate of the benefits, stimulus checks and other measures remained uncertain as Trump demanded larger checks while railing against other spending he views as excessive.
►European Union nations on Sunday began administering their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. Authorities plan to administer the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a coordinated Sunday effort.
►Officials in Canada have confirmed the first two known Canadian cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom. The new strain appears to be more infectious but doesn’t seem to make people any more sick. It has also been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, France, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
►The world has surpassed 80 million cases and the United States death toll has surpassed 330,000. That means that about 1 in 1,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
►Pope Francis on Saturday was eschewing a customary post-Christmas public appearance from a Vatican palazzo overlooking St. Peter’s Square to do his part in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he offered a blessing and remarks on television from the library of the Apostolic Palace.
►California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a video posted on Facebook and Twitter that the number of Californians hospitalized because of the coronavirus could double in 30 days if current trends continue.
►South Korea, previously a success story in handling the coronavirus pandemic, is grappling with a severe uptick in cases during Christmas week: 1,241 on Christmas Day alone. That’s the largest daily increase the nation has ever seen.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 18.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 331,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 80 million cases and 1.7 million deaths.
Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:
Days after President Donald Trump suggested that he would not likely sign a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package unless it increased individual direct payments to $2,000, President-elect Joe Biden issued a searing statement condemning his soon-to-be predecessor for his “abdication of responsibility.”
“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” he said in a statement.
Listing the ramifications of not signing the bill, including the end of an eviction moratorium, a lack of small business and individual relief and funding for vaccine distribution, Biden said the bill is “critical” and “needs to be signed into law now.” He did acknowledge that this package is only “a first step and down payment” for future aid.
For many, the promise of a vaccine offers hope and relief. But Josie Passes, a member of the Crow Tribe in Montana, is wary of its long-term consequences. Though tribal communities have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19 nationwide, Passes is not alone in her reluctance. As tribes begin to receive and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, many tribal members hesitate to get immunized.
Some people fear Indigenous populations will be used as “guinea pigs,” while others are reluctant to trust the Indian Health Service. Some feel invincible, as tribes have survived devastating diseases such as smallpox and violent massacres. Many would prefer to wait and observe the effects of the vaccine as more people receive it.
Experts say this skepticism is warranted. Tribes have experienced disinvestment, incompetence and brutality at the hands of the federal government. The consequences of this neglect transcend generations and manifest today as systemic inequalities, many of which were further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
– Nora Mabie, Great Falls Tribune
A Black doctor who died of COVID-19 after weeks of battling the virus said she was mistreated and delayed proper care at an Indiana hospital because of her race. Dr. Susan Moore, 52, died Dec. 20 following multiple hospitalizations for complications from COVID-19, first at IU Health North and later at Ascencion-St. Vincent in Carmel, Indiana.
Her frustrations with the care provided at IU Health were chronicled on Facebook in multiple updates. The first came Dec. 4 when she said delays in her treatment and diagnosis were motivated by the color of her skin. Citing patient privacy, an IU Health spokesperson declined to speak specifically to the case but shared a written statement on behalf of IU Health North:
“As an organization committed to equity and reducing racial disparities in health care, we take accusations of discrimination very seriously and investigate every allegation,” the statement reads. “Treatment options are often agreed upon and reviewed by medical experts from a variety of specialties, and we stand by the commitment and expertise of our caregivers and the quality of care delivered to our patients every day.”
– Justin L. Mack and Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star
The COVID-19 crisis has devastated movie theater owners of all sizes, but small independent owners are feeling it more profoundly. Nationwide, a handful already have gone dark permanently and 70% of small- to midsize movie theaters are at risk of shutting down without federal aid, according to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). Many are scrambling to survive with private screenings and popcorn specials, among other strategies. Their loss would be a big blow to America’s cultural life. They represent a major source of independently produced, more serious art films. And in an age dominated by sleek multiplexes, their grand old, marquee-adorned theaters often provide the only entertainment in America’s small and rural towns.
Fortunately, salvation appears on the horizon. A little-noticed provision of the COVID relief bill passed by Congress this week would provide $15 billion to struggling small movie theaters, live entertainment and performing arts venues and museums. A last-minute lobbying campaign by NATO added movie theaters and $5 billion to theoretically cover their financial needs.
– Paul Davidson
Contributing: Mike Stucka; The Associated Press