Monday morning news – December 7, 2020

COVID-19 infections continue to rise » COVID-19 infections continue to surge across the country with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC’s Meet the Press… 

BIRX: There isn’t a state without increasing cases right now except Hawaii. And we have to listen to what we know works, which is masks, physically distancing, washing your hands, but not gathering. We cannot gather without masks.

For the first time, new cases topped 200,000 each of the last four days, including a record high of nearly 240,000 cases on Friday. That represented a sevenfold increase in just one month’s time. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News Sunday

AZAR: We’re seeing these surges in cases in the United States, but also in Germany, France, U.K., Spain. It’s about behavior and cold weather. 

Globally, nearly 700,000 people test positive each day. And with sparse testing in many countries, it’s likely that now more than a million people contract the virus every day. 

Hospitalizations and deaths are also up across most of the globe. 

UK prepares to administer first coronavirus vaccine shots to public » In the U.K. Sunday, refrigerated trucks hauled thousands of doses of the new coronavirus vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, to distribution centers.

Officials expect to have 800,000 doses ready to go inside special subarctic temperature freezers when the immunization program launches tomorrow. 

Hospital staff in the U.K. have been training for the vaccine rollout. Victoria Barke is among the officials overseeing the effort. She said it won’t be easy. The biggest challenge…

BARKE: I’d say it’s the scale that you have to deliver the vaccine at. We obviously deliver the flu vaccine every single year. But we’re now having to deliver at a much faster pace. We would usually deliver the flu vaccination every number of months. 

The U.K. was the first country to authorize the vaccine for emergency use. Large scale trials showed it to be about 95 percent effective. 

Slaoui: I “expect” FDA to approve vaccine, positive impact in Jan., Feb. » Meantime, in the United States, The FDA could greenlight the vaccine by the end of this week. 

Dr. Moncef Slaoui is chief adviser to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program. He told CBS’s Face the Nation

SLAOUI: Based on the data that I know, I expect the FDA to make a positive decision, but of course, it’s their decision.

Members of an FDA panel will meet on Thursday to review Pfizer and BioNTech’s application for emergency use. One week later, they’ll review Moderna’s application for its vaccine. 

Slaoui said the vaccines could have a positive impact as soon as next month. 

SLAOUI: We may start to see some impact on the most susceptible people probably in the month of January and February. But on a population basis, for our lives to start getting back to normal, we’re talking about April or May.

A CDC panel has recommended that healthcare workers and nursing home residents be first in line for the vaccine. That could help to curb the growth of COVID-19 deaths beginning early next year. But a wider vaccine rollout is still months away. 

EU, UK engage in last-ditch post-Brexit trade talks » Negotiators have returned to the bargaining table for perhaps a final attempt to strike a trade deal between the U.K. and the European union. 

Britain left the EU back in January, but it remains a part of the bloc’s single market and customs union through Dec. 31st. 

If they can reach a deal by then, it would ensure that neither side slaps tariffs or quotas on the goods they trade with one another. 

But as of now, they’re nowhere near shaking hands. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen…

LEYEN: Significant differences remain on the three critical issues: Level playing field, governance, and fisheries. Both sides underline that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not solved. 

Fisheries play an outsized role in the talks. The EU has demanded widespread access to U.K. fishing grounds that historically have been open to foreign trawlers. But in Britain, gaining control of the fishing grounds was a huge issue for many Brexiteers who pushed for the country to leave the EU.

Today is a critical day for trade talks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will decide tonight whether there’s even a point in continuing negotiations.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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