In this special edition episode of States of America, experts answer the biggest questions Americans have about the vaccine, side effects, how it’s getting to you and more.


USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed more than 325,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines: 

►Republicans blocked an effort Thursday to increase direct payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000 in the latest stimulus package. Democrats said they would try to push the increase through after President Donald Trump said this week he wanted bigger direct checks sent out.

►The federal government is close to delivering 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine during the month of December, as promised, but states are taking longer than expected to get those doses into people’s arms. Here’s what officials are saying about immunizations.

►The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects there will be 378,000 to 419,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. by Jan. 16, according to a projection published Wednesday.

►President Donald Trump has threatened to torpedo Congress’ massive COVID-19 relief package, demanding changes that fellow Republicans have opposed.

►California has become the first state to surpass 2 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, a somber marker reached only by seven countries.

►A Black doctor who said she received racist treatment while hospitalized with COVID-19 has died, her son told the New York Times. Dr. Susan Moore said her white doctor in Indiana “made me feel like I was a drug addict” and did not take her complaints of pain seriously. Her son told the Times that while she eventually received care that “adequately treated” her pain, the case shows, as Moore put it, “how Black people get killed, when you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”

►Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera chose not to suspend quarterback Dwayne Haskins after he violated COVID-19 protocols Sunday night, which the team learned of after a social media post showed the second-year pro partying at a strip club without a mask. But Rivera did fine Haskins, and also stripped him of captain status.

►Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow has been transferred to the intensive care unit at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport to continue treatment for COVID-19, his spokesman told USA TODAY Network on Wednesday.

►Colorado has begun vaccinating workers insides its prisons as COVID-19 continues to spread in the facilities. Annie Skinner, a corrections department spokesperson, said frontline health care workers in prisons were the focus of the vaccination efforts but other workers have received shots to avoid wasting doses. Criminal justice advocates have pushed for prisons to be prioritized in vaccination efforts because outbreaks have been rampant in facilities across the U.S.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 18.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 326,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 78.8 million cases and 1.7 million deaths. 

Here’s a closer look at today’s top stories:

40 million Americans could be left homeless as federal eviction moratorium expires in January

Millions of Americans are on the verge of being evicted with the federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of January, unleashing what advocates say could be a housing catastrophe of historic proportions: Without federal intervention, they fear, as many as 40 million people could be displaced amid an ongoing and still worsening pandemic.

“We’re facing potentially the worst housing and homelessness crisis in our country’s history,” said Diane Yentel, CEO and president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C.

The eviction moratorium approved by the CDC was originally set to end Dec. 3 and is expected to be extended through January by Congress under a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that also includes offering $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

But critics say the order’s vague wording has led to inconsistent implementation and allowed determined landlords to find loopholes. Moreover, tenants often aren’t aware of the order, and without legal representation, many aren’t equipped to follow through in court. Read more here.

– Marc Ramirez, Sarah Taddeo and Tiffany Cusaac-Smith

How to persuade someone to take the COVID-19 vaccine

The vaccines are coming. Now, how many Americans will actually get them?

USA TODAY spoke with psychology experts to get advice on what you can do to encourage your family, friends and community members to get the vaccine. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t judge people: Shame is not nearly as effective in changing behavior as some might think. 
  • Don’t dismiss people’s concerns: Reasonable skeptics are not going to trust the vaccine just because someone says they should. If someone is skeptical of Big Pharma, for example, don’t disregard that.
  • Is this person vaccine-hesitant or a hardcore anti-vaxxer? Asking  questions will help you understand if people are persuadable and what may persuade them.
  • Model the behavior you want to see: Telling people you plan to get the vaccine and posting a photo on social media when you do is far more potent than anything else you share.

Read more of their recommendations here.

– Alia E. Dastagir

Why Americans are traveling despite health officials’ advice

Millions of Americans are traveling ahead of Christmas and New Year’s, despite pleas from public health experts that they stay home.

Some are elderly and figure they don’t have many Christmases left. Others are trying to keep long-distance romance alive. Some just yearn for the human connection that’s been absent for the past nine months.

Many people at airports this week thought long and hard about whether to go somewhere and found a way to rationalize it.

Christmas Eve is Dr. Fauci’s 80th birthday. Here’s how he’s celebrating during the  pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci will be celebrating his 80th birthday on Thursday, Christmas Eve.

However, similar to his Thanksgiving celebrations, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert will be spending his birthday and the holidays reconnecting with family over Zoom.

Fauci has three adult daughters who all live in different parts of the country.

“The Christmas holiday is a special holiday for us because Christmas Eve is my birthday. And Christmas Day is Christmas Day. And they are not going to come home … that’s painful,” he told The Washington Post. “But that’s just one of the things you’re going to have to accept as we go through this unprecedented challenging time.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Contributing: The Associated Press


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