Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

In an effort to reassure the country about the coronavirus vaccine’s safety, President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose at a hospital in Newark, Del.

Biden received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during an event that was carried on live television. His wife, Jill Biden, also received the vaccine, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and top federal infectious-disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci will publicly receive it on Tuesday.

Here are some significant developments:

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | Vaccine tracker | Has someone close to you died of covid-19? Share your story with The Washington Post.

2:54 a.m.
Link copied

Stimulus bill will help restaurants, but critics say it won’t save them from the pandemic’s effects

By Tim Carman

Late Sunday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a joint statement highlighting key provisions of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package, including important modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program that, they said, would “better assist independent restaurants.”

To members of the battered restaurant industry, which has seen its revenues plummet $130 billion compared to last year’s numbers, the statement provided some hope that Congress had not abandoned the mom-and-pops of the hospitality sector, even if lawmakers opted not to include the Restaurants Act in the relief deal. The act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would have earmarked $120 billion specifically to help restaurants and bars with fewer than 20 locations, with priority given to minority- and women-owned establishments.

1:48 a.m.
Link copied

Washington governor announces travel restriction for travelers from Britain, South Africa

By Lateshia Beachum

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will join the list of leaders blocking travel from Britain and South Africa as the countries face a variant of the novel coronavirus that’s suspected of fueling a surge.

“We have found that when we have put legally binding requirements in the state, we have had incredible levels of compliance,” Inslee said, according to the Associated Press.

Inslee’s proclamation will require travelers from the two countries to quarantine for 14 days, including those who have arrived in recent days, and it will push testing for the virus, the news outlet reported.

“Today’s action is a commonsense public health measure and … is another attempt to keep Washingtonians safe,” he said.

Washington had the first major outbreak in the country after the virus claimed the lives of multiple residents at a long-term-care facility.

The state has reported 222,600 infections and more than 3,000 deaths since early March, according to Washington Post data.

Inslee joins more than 40 countries who have enacted restrictions on travelers from Britain, including Belgium, France and Germany. Canada, Russia and Jordan have also tightened entry restrictions on travelers from the country.

1:07 a.m.
Link copied

An investment firm snapped up nursing homes during the pandemic. Chaos followed.

By Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason

An investment firm has bought more than 20 nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to disruptions at multiple facilities that weakened care for vulnerable residents amid the worst health crisis in generations, interviews and documents show.

From April through July, the New Jersey-based Portopiccolo Group — which buys troubled nursing homes and tries to make them profitable — paid hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire facilities in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere.

The purchases drew scant scrutiny from regulators despite poor safety records at dozens of the company’s other nursing homes, including hefty fines for infection-control lapses and shortages of staff.

12:18 a.m.
Link copied

NIH launching study on rare allergic reactions to coronavirus vaccine

By Joel Achenbach

Officials at the National Institutes of Health are rushing to devise a study to find out why, in a few rare cases, people have had severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The goal is to identify the component of the vaccine most likely to be responsible for these potentially life-threatening incidents, known as anaphylaxis. No cases have yet been associated with the other newly authorized vaccine, made by Moderna, but it is being administered to the general public for the first time this week and has similar components to the one developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

This is a challenging task for researchers, who hope to get an answer within a matter of weeks. The study will recruit volunteers who have had a history of severe allergic reactions and who will receive the vaccine under close clinical supervision, according to Daniel Rotrosen, director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

11:29 p.m.
Link copied

Stimulus deal delivers billions in pandemic aid to colleges, but much more is needed, advocates say

By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

Congress is throwing a lifeline to colleges and universities in the $900 billion stimulus package, but higher education experts say the relief aid is not enough to stave off a fiscal crisis in the sector.

With many students either fully remote or sparsely populating campuses, schools are forgoing money from room and board, parking, bookstores and events. Enrollment is down across the country, sinking tuition revenue, and the ongoing public health and economic crises raise fears of continued declines.

At the same time, colleges are spending more money than anticipated on coronavirus testing, mental health support and financial aid for students rocked by the economic fallout of the pandemic. The need is unrelenting. The resources are finite.

The stimulus package released in full Monday earmarks $22.7 billion for colleges and universities, alongside $54.3 billion for elementary and secondary education. While higher education advocates welcome the long-awaited second round of funding, they had hoped for much more.

10:45 p.m.
Link copied

Young conservatives mingled maskless at Mar-a-Lago with GOP notables

By Paulina Villegas and David A. Fahrenthold

Conservative student group Turning Point USA held two large events in Florida over the weekend, including one at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club, violating local coronavirus restrictions and disregarding authorities’ pleas to avoid such gatherings.

Turning Point on Friday night held its annual winter gala at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. The party was attended by hundreds of students, organizers, and GOP notables such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Mike Lindell, otherwise known as the “MyPillow Guy.”

Then on Saturday, thousands of students gathered indoors at the organization’s “Student Action Summit,” where they heard from conservative GOP speakers including Donald Trump Jr. and cheered loudly as women shot money into the crowd with a cannon.

10:40 p.m.
Link copied

Despite health warnings, holiday travel has already set a record for busiest weekend of the pandemic

By Shannon McMahon

Pre-Christmas air travel surpassed 1 million daily passengers nationwide for three consecutive days this weekend — breaking the record for the most weekend travelers during the pandemic and outpacing Thanksgiving numbers that previously had that title and worried health experts last month.

The 3.2 million passengers screened Friday, Saturday and Sunday mark the only time during the pandemic that more than 1 million air travelers were seen three days in a row.

The influx in air travel undercuts health officials’ guidance for Americans to stay home this holiday season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance earlier this month that discouraged travel and urged those who need to travel to acquire coronavirus tests before and after their journey.

10:01 p.m.
Link copied

U.S. stocks sink as Britain’s coronavirus mutation sparks alarm

By Taylor Telford

Global markets swooned Monday as a new coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom sparked renewed travel restrictions in Europe and uncertainty among investors.

Recent days had offered a parade of good news for traders, with the rapid-fire approval and rollout of Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines and the long-awaited deal on Congress’ $900 billion economic relief package. But a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus in England has thrown another wrench into hopes that normalcy is just around the corner.

Fears of the mutation prompted travel bans to the region by European countries and Canada over the weekend, as well as severe lockdown restrictions on millions in London and across southern England.

European markets plummeted on the news. The benchmark Stoxx 600 index declined 2.7 percent in midday trading, while France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX both slumped nearly 3 percent. The UK’s FTSE 100 index declined 2.5 percent.

Major U.S. indices declined 1 percent or more at the opening bell Monday before recovering some losses. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day barely positive at 30,215. The S&P 500 index had declined 0.4 percent to 3,694, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq ticked 0.1 percent lower to 12,742.

"The precautions required to assess the potential harm of the new covid-19 strain will undoubtedly introduce additional risk to markets, which expected a smooth return to normal life following the vaccine’s rollout,” James McDonald, chief executive and chief investment officer of Hercules Investments, said Monday in comments emailed to The Post.

UK health officials have said the variant first identified there was spreading 70 percent faster than other strains. The variant has now been found in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and South Africa. But U.S. public health experts and federal officials say that while this strain is fast-spreading, it might not be any more dangerous than others already detected.

9:19 p.m.
Link copied

Biden receives coronavirus vaccine on live television

By Felicia Sonmez

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in an effort to reassure the country about its safety.

The president-elect received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at ChristianaCare Hospital in Newark, Del., in an event that was carried on live television. Tabe Masa, a nurse practitioner and head of the hospital’s employee health services, administered the vaccine.

Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, received her first dose of the vaccine earlier Monday, according to the transition team.

Biden, who at 78 will be the oldest president ever inaugurated, is in a high-risk category because of his age. Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will start their course of vaccinations after Christmas.

Vice President Pence and the top leaders in Congress received their first doses of the vaccine last week.

The White House has not given any indication as to whether President Trump, who contracted covid-19 in October, will receive the vaccine. The president has touted the vaccine’s development but has been notably absent from events aiming to reassure the public of its safety.

9:17 p.m.
Link copied

Azar and Fauci will be vaccinated publicly on Tuesday

By Lateshia Beachum

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will publicly receive a coronavirus vaccine alongside top federal infectious-disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci on Tuesday.

“We believe it’s important to publicly receive the vaccine as part of our efforts to demonstrate that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Azar said Monday.

National Institutes of Health Clinical Center front-line workers and NIH director Francis S. Collins will also receive vaccinations with Azar and Fauci.

A growing list of politicians and health-care leaders is being publicly inoculated to increase confidence in the vaccine’s safety, as skepticism continues among some over the federal government’s rollout of shots against the virus.

“I am a health-care provider, but one of the real reasons for this is symbolically to show the world that it’s important for as many people to get vaccinated as possible,” Fauci told The Washington Post.

“We’re all striving to get a very high proportion of the population in the United States vaccinated so that we can achieve a degree of herd immunity,” he said.

8:40 p.m.
Link copied

WHO says new coronavirus variant is ‘normal part of virus evolution’

By Siobhán O'Grady

World Health Organization officials said Monday that there is no evidence at this point to suggest that a new coronavirus variant "is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality.”

As scientists learned more about the new variant in recent days, several dozen countries issued travel bans or new restrictions on people traveling from the United Kingdom and South Africa, where a similar variant is also spreading rapidly. Experts have said they expect existing vaccines to be effective in preventing the spread of this variant.

Speaking at a briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, acknowledged that “the U.K. has reported that this new variant transmits more easily” but said that such mutations are to be expected.

The key, he said, is slowing the spread of all coronavirus cases, noting that “the more we allow it to spread, the more opportunity it has to change.”

Other officials at the briefing echoed Tedros’s remarks. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said that travel restrictions were “prudent” as officials gather more information. But he urged observers not to overreact to what he described as a standard development.

“It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” Ryan said. “Being able to track a virus this closely, this carefully, this scientifically in real time is a real positive development for global public health, and the countries doing this type of surveillance should be commended.”

8:10 p.m.
Link copied

Ontario announces province-wide shutdown

By Amanda Coletta

TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown after several months of implementing more targeted restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in hard-hit areas failed to stem a surge of coronavirus infections.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that the restrictions will go into effect on Dec. 26 and remain in place for 14 days. In the southern part of the province and the Canadian capital of Ottawa, they will remain in place until Jan. 23.

The province previously adopted a targeted approach to restrictions, imposing them in areas that it considered to be hard-hit, such as Toronto and some of the surrounding suburbs. But those measures have done little to stem rising case counts and intensive care occupancy.

The number of people hospitalized with covid-19 has increased by nearly 75 percent in the last month, according to data from the provincial government. The number of people in the ICU has more than doubled during that time.

The restrictions prohibit indoor gatherings with anyone outside one’s household and demand the closure of most retail shops. Discount stores and essential retailers, such as grocery stores, will have reduced capacity limits. Restaurants will be limited to offering takeout. Schools will close for in-person classes for the duration of the shutdown.

Ford called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tighten the country’s borders and to implement a testing program at airports.

Critics of the Ontario government’s handling of the pandemic have warned that advice to stay at home is not helpful for essential workers who are getting sick at a growing number of workplace outbreaks across the province, and some have called for paid sick leave among other measures.

7:37 p.m.
Link copied

South Carolina first lady tests positive following White House Christmas party

By Lateshia Beachum

South Carolina first lady Peggy McMaster is isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus following a White House Christmas event, the governor’s office said.

Her husband, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, has tested negative for the virus and will quarantine for seven days.

The pair tested negative for the virus before the White House party, according to the governor’s office.

The Palmetto State’s first lady reportedly has no symptoms but she, like her husband, will undergo more testing and monitoring for symptoms.

Gov. McMaster said in a statement that his wife is in “good spirits” as she isolates for 10 days following her test results.

“This shows us, once again, how contagious this virus truly is and how important it is that we follow the advice and recommendations of our public health officials,” he said. “We are working closely with [the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control] to ensure that we follow all of the recommended guidelines and that Peggy’s close contacts are notified.”

Governor’s Office spokesman Brian Symmes told the State that the two had worn masks when needed and when social distancing wasn’t possible at the White House event.

The first lady was criticized earlier this month when she was photographed maskless at the Greenville County Republican Christmas party only days before Gov. McMaster and health officials would warn of case surges, the State reported.

South Carolina has reported 275,733 infections and 4,962 deaths since early March, according to Washington Post data.

6:43 p.m.
Link copied

Amazon closes northern New Jersey warehouse after workers test positive

By Kim Bellware and Rachel Lerman

Amazon has closed a distribution warehouse in northern New Jersey until after Christmas because of a rise in positive coronavirus cases among workers, the company confirmed Monday.

“Through our in-house coronavirus testing program, we detected an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive cases at our PNE5 facility in northern New Jersey and have proactively closed the site until December 26 out of an abundance of caution,” Amazon spokeswoman Leah Seay told The Post in a statement.

All employees affected by the closure will be paid for the canceled shifts, Seay said.

The company would not disclose how many employees at the Robbinsville, N.J., facility had tested positive for the coronavirus. The warehouse has at least 3,000 full-time employees, with more part-time and seasonal workers.

The closure comes at the busiest time of the year for the e-commerce giant, which announced in November that it had recorded the biggest sales in its 26-year-long history. Seay said Amazon does not anticipate shipping delays despite the warehouse closure.

The company has previously shuttered warehouses during the pandemic on a temporary basis, including at least 10 warehouses that were hit by the virus in March.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos also owns The Post.