COVID-19 pandemic "is not over yet" as U.S. vaccine rollout starts

Many Americans hope the rollout of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, stressed it "is not over yet" and urged the public to continue to abide by protective measures.

The U.S. reported on Wednesday the highest daily number of new COVID-19 infections, nearly 250,000.
There was also a record number of daily deaths, 3,656, according to Johns Hopkins University. At the current rate, 150 Americans test positive every minute, and one death is reported every 34 seconds.

California alone reported almost 54,000 new infections in one day.

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Winter storms across parts of the U.S. are adding challenges to vaccine delivery. A couple of shipments had to be returned on Wednesday to California and Alabama after the temperature within the specialized freezer containers got too cold.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize emergency use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.

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The resurgence of coronavirus cases is not helping the U.S. economy and labor market. The Labor Department reported on Thursday that 885,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. It is the highest weekly number since September.

Once again, states and cities are tightening safety measures and enforcing restrictions. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned the next three to six months will likely be difficult for those out of work and small businesses.

U.S. lawmakers are reportedly nearing an agreement on a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal. It could provide money for vaccine distribution and for schools, jobless benefits of $300 a week and $600 for individuals under a certain income threshold.

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