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Nearly all of California is under regional stay-at-home orders triggered by alarmingly low capacity in intensive care units. Statewide, a sliver of those critical beds were available: 2.1 percent.

The news came as a second coronavirus vaccine received emergency authorization Friday, an unprecedented scientific feat that gives the United States two powerful tools to fight a pandemic that emerged almost exactly a year ago.

Here are some significant developments:

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4:30 a.m.
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WHO-linked plan to start global vaccine rollout in first half of 2021

A multilateral effort to develop and distribute vaccines has secured almost 2 billion doses, potentially allowing some vulnerable groups in participating countries to get vaccinated in the first half of next year, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The announcement came in an end-of-year update on the Covax Facility, a plan to ensure that low- and middle-income countries are not cut out of a vaccine race that has seen rich countries snap up the majority of early doses, leaving the rest of the world to wait.

At a news conference on Friday, officials from the WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, touted progress toward reversing that trend, at least a little, announcing deals with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

4:00 a.m.
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Schools, caught by pandemic and confronting systemic racism, jettison testing for admissions

New York City on Friday announced major changes to how students are assigned to hundreds of middle schools, replacing a merit-based system that critics say exacerbated segregation with a lottery that is expected to create more diversity at the most sought-after schools.

The move was driven by the coronavirus pandemic, because tests typically used for admissions were not administered last spring. Selective high schools in D.C., Boston and San Francisco have also jettisoned admissions tests for the coming academic year, citing the crisis. But though these districts could reinstitute old systems after the pandemic abates, advocates have been pressing for these changes for years, and many expect them to outlive the pandemic.

“These changes will improve justice and fairness,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, casting the announcement as a step toward equity. “This is clearly a beginning.”

3:30 a.m.
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Covid-19 is devastating communities of color. Can vaccines counter racial inequity?

Haywood County, a majority-Black community not far from Memphis, has one health department, one nursing home and no hospitals. The fatality rate from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is 50 percent higher than the state average.

But a supply of vaccines based strictly on its population would leave the county in the Tennessee Delta, site of the first known slaying of an NAACP member for civil rights activities, woefully short. There would be too few doses to make a dent in the disease’s burden on residents of color, who have been “devastated, both young and old,” said Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, who lives in Brownsville, the county seat, and serves as president of the NAACP’s state conference.

To account for the disparity, state officials are doing something unusual. They are taking a portion of their share of shots off the top and rushing it to places beset by poverty, poor housing and other factors most linked to the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on people of color.

3:15 a.m.
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A California hospital struggles to keep pace with the pandemic

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — The hospital spreads over a block along Happy Trails Highway, which splits this high-desert town in half as it runs low and wide down a gentle hill.

All around St. Mary Medical Center is a new silence.

Fat Jack’s Bar & Grill is shuttered, never to reopen. The Chamber of Commerce, featuring a rearing, life-size model of the mid-century movie-star horse Trigger, is empty.

“Intermission,” reads the marquee of the High Desert Center for the Arts, which sits at the edge of this longtime home of antique Hollywood royalty, the singing cowboy Roy Rogers and his co-star wife, Dale Evans.

The hospital, though, is alive with the dying.

3:00 a.m.
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America is finally about to get a lot more coronavirus tests. The question now: How best to use them?

After months of testing failures, shortages and long lines, the country’s coronavirus testing capacity is expected to increase rapidly in the next four months, with new technologies and efforts to expand production finally paying off.

The bad news is there still won’t be enough to make testing a routine act for most Americans, as some experts have called for. That means for America’s expanding testing to make an impact, the country needs to have a plan for how to deploy tests effectively.

Should U.S. officials, for instance, use new testing capacity to save what’s left of the school year? Or should testing be used to salvage parts of the devastated economy? Or to tamp down emerging hot spots? Should the federal government focus on producing more molecular lab tests — which are more accurate but slower — or hundreds of millions of cheaper, but less accurate, antigen tests?

2:52 a.m.
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California appeals court shoots down judge’s order allowing strip clubs and restaurants to open

A California appeals court on Friday blocked a San Diego judge’s order that allowed restaurants and strip clubs to reopen, a slight against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict stay-at-home order. The three-judge panel’s order allows for the governor’s order to be upheld, the Associated Press reported.

California had asked for emergency intervention and the surprise order came quickly after the request, the AP reported. The order follows San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil’s ruling earlier this week allowing strip clubs and restaurants to open, which gave hope to those against the health measures set in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.

Two strip clubs have until Wednesday to ask the appeals court to visit the order again, according to the AP.

California reported more than 41,000 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the state’s total number of infections since March to 1.7 million, according to Washington Post data.

Newsom (D) reminded the public on Friday that transmission rates are at a high around the country.

“Simply put — everywhere you go, you’re more likely to get COVID-19 than you were a couple months ago,” he said. “I know we’re tired, but we cannot ignore this surge. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.”

2:25 a.m.
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Nearly all of California under stay-at-home order as ICU capacity is at 2.1 percent

Nearly all of California is under regional stay-at-home orders triggered by alarmingly low capacity in intensive care units.

Ninety-eight percent of the state has been told to not mix with other households and stay home when possible after all but one region, Northern California, dropped below a limit of 15 percent availability of ICU beds.

Statewide, a sliver of those critical beds were available: 2.1 percent. Two regions, Southern California and San Joaquin Valley, had 0 percent ICU availability. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Friday those regions were now tapping into their surge capacity of another 20 percent.

“I don’t want people to be alarmed by that, except I do want to raise the alarm bell about what we all need to do individually and collectively to address this rate of growth,” Newsom said in a video message.

Three days after Newsom instituted a plan to secure refrigerated storage units and body bags, the state reported 300 deaths Friday, the second-highest daily count after Thursday’s 379. California’s record daily death toll is fourth nationally, behind those in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The state counted more than 41,000 reported infections, following two record-breaking days for coronavirus cases reported in the state.

Meanwhile, projections cast a haunting outlook on the strain of California’s health-care system this winter. State forecasts show the number of people hospitalized with the virus doubling in a month.

“One thing that’s worrisome is that for quite a while in California we’ve had exponential hospitalizations and cases,” Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California at Santa Cruz, told the Associated Press. “That’s kind of terrifying.”

2:00 a.m.
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Republican and Democratic members of Congress begin getting vaccine

After party leaders in the House and Senate received coronavirus vaccine shots on Friday, other Democrat and Republican members lined up to be vaccinated.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a doctor, volunteered to get the shot and afterward encouraged his constituents to do the same when it becomes more widely available.

“After the incredibly challenging year we’ve had, I feel very blessed to receive this vaccine,” he said. “I hope that my decision to get it gives my constituents confidence in the safety and efficacy that have been demonstrated in the extensive trials.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) released a statement that he’d be receiving it at the recommendation of the Capitol Hill attending physician. Shortly after, he posted a photo of himself on Twitter getting the shot.

“Grateful for the hard work from the medical community, gov. partners, and others who are working around the clock to deliver a safe & effective #COVID19 vaccine,” Romney wrote. “It’s time for Congress to do its job and finish what our bipartisan group started by passing emergency COVID relief.”

There was some backlash to members of Congress being first in line for the vaccine as they continue to not pass a relief package for Americans struggling economically due to the pandemic.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) blasted lawmakers for receiving the vaccine before ordinary Americans, saying in a statement that, “Congress needs to stop treating itself as a special political class, and the mere suggestion that members of Congress are in any way more important than the very people who gave us the privilege of serving in Congress is appalling."

Fellow Floridian Rep. Charlie Crist (D) got the vaccine and said he wants to do his part to slow the spread of the virus.

“This vaccine is a true medical miracle that signals the light at the end of the tunnel we have all been desperately praying for since March," Crist said in a statement.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who also got the shot on Friday, acknowledged that he had received the vaccine before most Americans, but said he hoped doing so would encourage others to do the same.

“I am mindful that millions of Americans are still waiting for shots they will get after me, many of whom are workers on the front lines of this pandemic. I do not believe that I am more important than they are, but as national leaders it is important to lead by example," Beyer said. "Anyone who is given the opportunity to receive this vaccine is given an opportunity to protect people around them, and to fight the spread of this awful virus. Everyone should take this opportunity as soon as they can.“

1:28 a.m.
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GOP congressman expresses fear of covid vaccine safety, says he won’t take it

As members of Congress begin receiving their first round of the coronavirus vaccine, one Republican lawmaker went on television and announced he would not be getting it.

Declaring it his “freedom” as an American to refuse the vaccine, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said he was more fearful of the vaccine than contracting the coronavirus, which has killed more than 310,000 Americans in less than a year.

“I’m an American and I have the freedom to decide if I’m going to take a vaccine or not, and in this case I am not going to take the vaccine,” Buck said during an interview on Fox Business with Neil Cavuto.

When Cavuto pressed him on why he would not get the vaccine, Buck advanced the unsubstantiated claim that the vaccine posed a greater risk than covid-19.

“I’m more concerned about the safety of the vaccine than I am the side effects of the disease,” Buck said. “I’m a healthy person. I think most Americans are healthy. I think what we should do is focus on the at-risk populations … but I am not going to take a vaccine.”

Public health advocates fear that if many Americans share Buck’s attitude about the vaccine it will make it more challenging to eradicate the disease. There are side effects to the vaccine, such as a sore arm, redness around the injection site or even flu-like symptoms, but those are normal reactions and not reason to not get the vaccine, experts say.

1:27 a.m.
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Europe is paying less than the U.S. for many coronavirus vaccines

The European Union is paying less money than the United States for a range of coronavirus vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation currently being rolled out across the country, according to a Washington Post comparison of the breakdowns.

The costs to the E.U. had been confidential until a Belgian official tweeted — and then deleted — a list late Thursday.

12:45 a.m.
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Remote Pacific islands escaped the coronavirus. It devastated their economies anyway.

You might expect the incoming president of one of the only countries with no recorded coronavirus cases to see cause for optimism. But Palau’s president-elect, Surangel Whipps Jr., set to take office next month, said the pandemic had, in fact, wrought havoc on his shores. “You could say our world has been turned upside down,” he told The Washington Post.

“Last year at this time, Palau was looking toward a growing economy and stability,” he said, adding that the tiny island nation had been planning to host the Our Ocean conference on international marine conservation.

That’s all changed. Palau’s economy is set to shrink by 11.4 percent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund — well beyond twice the percentage decline expected in the United States. The conference, once scheduled for this month, has been pushed back a year.

12:00 a.m.
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What’s reopened and what’s still restricted in 16 cities around the world

Vaccines are here. But so is a resurgence in coronavirus cases in many parts of the world. Washington Post correspondents and contributors across 16 cities are keeping track of the responses from public health officials and others.

11:46 p.m.
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After Denmark’s mink cull, questions over legality, science and what to do with ‘zombie minks’

JYLLINGE, Denmark — When Denmark’s prime minister announced last month that every mink in the country should be culled to prevent the spread of a mutant strain of coronavirus, Kim Christensen quickly got to work. The next morning at 6 a.m., the 53-year-old mink farmer began making his way through 44 rows of cages, dropping the animals — and thereby his father’s life’s work — into containers and gassing them with carbon monoxide.

Christensen and the farmworkers killed all of his 23,000 animals. He knew it would effectively end his business. But he also believed they were rushing to prevent a new pandemic from a potentially vaccine-resistant mink variant of the virus that had reinfected humans.

That assumption has now been called into doubt, and the government’s handling of the mink cull is haunting the country’s leadership — in more ways than one. Animals like Christensen’s that are among 15 million minks already slaughtered were hurriedly buried in huge trenches, their decomposing bodies soon resurfacing from the shallow graves as what the media dubbed “zombie minks.” Other mass graves pose a pollution risk to the drinking water supply.

11:32 p.m.
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Stanford apologizes, promises to include front-line doctors in first round of coronavirus vaccinations

Medical workers at Stanford Health Care protested at the hospital on Dec. 18 after nearly all 1,300 workers were left out of the first round of coronavirus. (Ben Solomon)

Blaming an algorithm, Stanford Health Care apologized Friday for a plan that left nearly all of its young front-line doctors out of the first round of coronavirus vaccinations. The Palo Alto, Calif., medical center promised an immediate fix that would move the physicians into the first wave of inoculations.

Stanford’s turnaround followed a raucous demonstration by some of those doctors, who demanded to know why other health-care workers — including pathologists and radiologists who do not attend to covid-19 patients — would be vaccinated before they are.

The demonstration at Stanford could foreshadow similar disputes nationwide as the federal government and states begin the arduous process of distributing limited supplies of the first vaccines.