with Mariana Alfaro

WILMINGTON, Del. – The parking lot outside Chase Center, where President-elect Joe Biden delivered his victory speech earlier this month and watched the fireworks show after accepting the Democratic nomination in August, was full of cars again on Monday.

Local authorities repurposed the lot into a makeshift coronavirus testing site to keep up with a surge in demand ahead of Thanksgiving. I watched from my room in the Westin as a stream of hundreds of cars slowly trickled through over the course of the day, snarling several streets. 

In the afternoon, a bus of reporters – after testing negative for covid-19 – left from the hotel to watch Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris meet via videoconference with about 50 mayors at the Queen theater downtown. The municipal leaders emphasized how much their cities are struggling amid the pandemic and how desperate they are getting for federal assistance as tax revenues dry up amid the worsening recession.

On the day when President Trump finally allowed the transition to move forward, that discussion was a depressing illustration of the Herculean challenges facing the incoming administration. “All of you have been on the front lines from the very beginning, and as we head into this Thanksgiving and a very dark winter, with cases and hospitalizations and deaths spiking, I want you to know that we’re here for you and we’ll listen to you and work with you,” Biden told the mayors.

The contagion killed another 871 Americans on Monday, bringing our national death toll to at least 257,000. Another 154,656 people in the United States tested positive, bring the number of confirmed infections to 12,424,000.

With Congress on Thanksgiving recess, the odds of a major breakthrough on coronavirus relief during the lame-duck session seem low. Republicans are favored to maintain control of the Senate next year by winning at least one of the two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5. Divided government will mean more gridlock.

About 12 million people are set to lose benefits when two federal unemployment-insurance programs lapse next month. Emergency actions that froze student-loan payments, offered mortgage forbearance and halted evictions also expire at the end of the year. And a special Federal Reserve lending program for small businesses and local governments is ending, as well. The failure to address all this will almost certainly make the recession deeper and longer.

Trump will be the first president since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression to leave office with fewer Americans employed than when he started. More problematic is that, as a lame-duck, Trump is aggressively trying to box in his successor with new rules, regulations and orders that are designed to tie the hands of the incoming administration. 

The federal budget deficit was $3.1 trillion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, by far the biggest one-year gap in U.S. history. Trump promised as a candidate in 2016 to eliminate the national debt over eight years. When he took office, the debt was $14.4 trillion. It now stands at $21.1 trillion.

While Trump has lost in the court of law, he was won to some degree in the court of conservative public opinion. By baselessly sowing doubt in the integrity of the results, and with the complicit consent of Republican lawmakers who stayed silent for so long, Trump is convincing millions of gullible supporters that his successor is somehow not legitimate. This will make it harder for Biden, who strives to be a healer, to bind the national wounds into which Trump has been rubbing salt these past four years.

Meanwhile, the world has become a significantly more dangerous place since Trump took power – with the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan, Iran intensifying its nuclear program, North Korea improving its capabilities to strike the continental United States, and much more. 

Biden and Harris will return to the Queen theater this afternoon to formally unveil their national security team. Reflecting the president-elect’s recognition that the warming planet is one of the crises facing our country, Biden will name John Kerry as a special presidential envoy on climate change. The former secretary of state, senator and 2004 presidential candidate will get the rank of ambassador, report directly to Biden and get his own seat at the table in the Situation Room as a member of the National Security Council.

In the coming days, the president-elect plans to announce that he will nominate former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to be his Treasury secretary. Trump broke with longstanding precedent by refusing to reappoint Yellen as Fed chair in 2018. The president replaced her with Jerome Powell, with whom he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have often clashed.

Assuming she is confirmed, Yellen will face a far more dire economic situation than she ever did as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton or as President Barack Obama’s Fed chair. The Senate has confirmed 77 men to be Treasury secretary since President George Washington nominated Alexander Hamilton in 1789. The job has been held by giants like Albert Gallatin, Salmon Chase, John Sherman, Andrew Mellon, Henry Morgenthau and James Baker. Yellen, 74, would be the first woman to hold the job that is fifth in the line of presidential succession. 

“Yellen told The Washington Post in August that it was ‘urgent’ to enact more fiscal stimulus in response to the downturn. She said she was especially worried about cities and municipalities running out of money and low-income workers suffering permanent scars from being unemployed for a year or more,” Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel report. “In her time in the Clinton administration, Yellen was supportive of efforts to balance the federal budget, but she has become an advocate of spending more money now that interest rates are at historic lows, making it cheap for the U.S. government to borrow money.”

Just beyond the Chase Center parking lot is Interstate 95. Traffic has gotten heavier the last few days because so many people are traveling for Thanksgiving, disregarding the advice of public health experts. Late in the afternoon, as the sun began to set, there was an accident that caused a long backup. The honking cars felt like a metaphor for the mountain of messes Trump is leaving for his successor to solve.

One mess Trump created that can never be forgotten amid the cascade of other crises is the separation of thousands of children from their undocumented parents at the border. Pictures of kids in cages will forever and inextricably be linked with the Trump presidency in the history books. Biden today will formally announce that his nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security is Alejandro Mayorkas – who would be, if confirmed, the first immigrant and first Latino to head an agency that oversees border control and immigration laws. A recent court filing showed that 545 children remain in U.S. care because the Trump administration has been unable to locate their parents, who were deported to their home countries. Biden has promised to make reuniting families a top priority. 

Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, referenced the symbolic significance of his nomination. “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” he tweeted. “I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

What else you need to know about Biden's new hires

Biden continues to follow a pattern of cautiousness. The president-elect is trying to avoid tough confirmation fights in the Senate. Putting up so many moderates should also be read as an indication that, privately, Biden does not expect Democrats to win both of Georgia’s Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, which would give him a majority to confirm nominees like Susan Rice for State or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for Treasury.

Unlike Trump, who favored outsiders, or [Obama], who often turned to up-and-coming political stars, Biden’s nominations so far are heavy on technocrats known more for competence than sparkle,” Annie Linskey reports. “It’s kind of a bread-and-butter approach to governing,” said former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta. “You’re not going for the headline. You’re going for people who you know can do the job and people you can work with.”

Instead of “a team of rivals,” Politico columnist John Harris says Biden is building “a team of careerists”: “Biden will be the first president since Ronald Reagan not to possess an Ivy League degree at either the undergraduate or graduate level. People who have worked around Biden describe how he sometimes displays an acute awareness of colleagues’ academic bona-fides, and occasional sensitivity about his own. … ‘He both respects them and resents them,’ one colleague of Biden’s in the Obama White House said of his attitude toward Washington’s large class of academic elites. ‘He wants their approval,’ this person said, but is quick to injury if he perceives condescension.” 

Biden’s initial slate of nominees demonstrates that he aims to reverse much of President Trump’s agenda with figures who have promoted the policies that Trump rebuffed, denigrated and used to help fuel his rise to power,” Matt Viser, John Hudson, Karen DeYoung and Carol Morello report. “Biden’s early commitments are in many ways a symmetric reversal of Trump’s own outsider effort to undo the Obama administration’s legacy — using the same people who created those policies in the first place. … They helped negotiate the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. They advocated for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was part of a strategic pivot toward Asia. All were shredded by Trump. …

“Thomas A. Shannon, a former State Department official who spent 35 years as a diplomat, characterizes the new team as setting a different course, not a restoration. ‘If we look back, we’ll turn into a pillar of salt,’ he said, citing the biblical tale of what happened to Lot’s wife when she looked back against orders as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. Shannon said the world has changed dramatically — not just since Trump won the 2016 election but since 2008, when Obama won.”

News of Avril Haines’s selection as director of national intelligence was greeted enthusiastically by career intelligence officers. “Haines was deputy CIA director under John Brennan, who said her knowledge of the inner workings of the agencies and her strong relationships on Capitol Hill were well suited to the job,” Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima report. “Biden’s decision to reveal Haines’s nomination before an announcement on a pick for the CIA job is designed to send the signal that the DNI role will be paramount in the Biden administration … 

“Biden’s pick to lead the CIA is also likely to be someone Haines knows well. Michael Morell, a career CIA officer whom she replaced as deputy director, is said to be on the shortlist to run the agency. Another is Tom Donilon, who was Obama’s national security adviser from 2010-2013, when Haines worked in the White House Counsel’s Office.”

Biden’s choice of Mayorkas thrilled immigrant advocates and won praise from former DHS leaders who described him as a savvy department veteran who would try to stabilize the organization after years of front-office turmoil under Trump. “The son of Cuban Jews who fled Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution, Mayorkas would be the first immigrant and first Hispanic American to lead DHS if the GOP-controlled Senate confirms him,” Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti report. “Mayorkas, 60, who goes by ‘Ali,’ came to the United States as a baby and was raised mostly in Los Angeles. His mother was a Romanian Jew who escaped the Holocaust and arrived in Cuba in the 1940s, where she met his father, who was of Sephardic heritage.

“When he was DHS deputy secretary under [Obama] in 2015, Mayorkas was one of the government officials who participated in negotiations with the Cuban government after the United States normalized relations with Havana, a policy that Trump promptly reversed. … Republicans could take issue with Mayorkas’s role in the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and they are likely to bring up a 2015 DHS inspector general report that found Mayorkas inappropriately helped several companies obtain employment visas. Mayorkas disputed those findings.”

To complement Kerry’s foreign focus, Biden plans to appoint a high-level White House official to coordinate domestic action on climate change throughout the federal government. “This official would focus on how to maximize Biden’s executive authority, while looking for legislative opportunities as well,” Brady Dennis, Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin report. “Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) is under consideration but the team is also looking at current members of Congress and others for the job. … Biden has pledged to weave climate action throughout the sprawling federal government, making it a policy consideration beyond the typical environmental agencies at departments such as Treasury and Agriculture.”

Corporate America is quickly adjusting to the changing political winds. General Motors announced Monday that it will withdraw from a lawsuit backing the Trump administration’s effort to block California from imposing stricter tailpipe emissions on cars and SUVs. “In a letter penned by CEO Mary Barra, the automaker pledged to work with nearly a dozen environmental leaders and the incoming Biden administration,” Hannah Denham and Eilperin report.

To understand Biden’s views about business, study his relationship with DuPont, once Delaware’s largest employer. “At age 29, Mr. Biden staffed his first Senate bid with DuPont employees, who opened a campaign office on the highway built by and named for the chemical giant. While bashing other big companies for tax avoidance, Mr. Biden singled out DuPont as a ‘conscientious corporation’ for paying a higher rate. He celebrated his long-shot 1972 victory in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “More than four decades later Mr. Biden, by then Obama’s vice president, watched with concern as DuPont, struggling to boost profits, was targeted by an activist shareholder, sold the hotel, eased out its chief executive, merged with another company, split into three pieces and cut its Delaware workforce by one-fourth. Mr. Biden seldom publicly discusses DuPont by name, but in private, according to aides, he regularly cites its restructuring and downsizing as Exhibit A of modern capitalism gone awry.”

Michèle Flournoy, the woman who has been rumored for months to be a shoo-in for Biden’s Pentagon chief, might not have a lock on the job after all,” Politico reports. “While Flournoy is still a strong contender, six people close to the transition say Biden is not entirely sold on the woman who was widely seen as Hillary Clinton’s pick for Defense secretary if she had won the presidency in 2016. Two former Obama White House officials who remain close to Biden said he never developed the kind of strong personal relationship with Flournoy that he has sought in his Cabinet picks, and once the dust settled after the election, Biden began leaning toward exploring other options. Another top contender is Jeh Johnson, Obama’s second secretary of Homeland Security … He would be the first Black Defense secretary …

Biden is also under pressure to look elsewhere in part due to Flournoy’s ties to the defense industry — she has worked for multiple defense consulting firms and in 2017 co-founded WestExec Advisers, which helps defense companies market their products to the Pentagon — and her support for Obama’s Afghanistan surge, a move that Biden opposed. The selection on Monday of Tony Blinken as Biden’s secretary of State could further cloud her prospects. The two co-founded WestExec, a strategic consulting firm that keeps its client list a closely guarded secret. The think tank she co-founded, the Center for a New American Security, also relies heavily on funding from defense contractors.”

More liberals have been publicly pushing Biden not to go with Flournoy:

If you read one thing today, make it Jim Mattis’s essay in Foreign Affairs on “why U.S. security depends on alliances – now more than ever”: “In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone,’” writes Trump’s former secretary of defense, who has returned to Stanford’s Hoover Institution to become a fellow. Mattis co-authored the piece with the American Enterprise Institute’s Kori Schake, as well as Hoover’s Jim Ellis and Joe Felter. “That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose. … Advocates of the current administration’s approach seem to believe that other countries will have no choice but to accede to the United States’ wishes and cooperate on its terms. This is delusion.”

Mattis and his co-authors argue that “the United States today is undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to U.S. interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth. … As capable as the U.S. military is, the United States’ principal adversaries are more constrained by its network of alliances than by its military might,” they write. “But continued failure to adequately invest in relationships with allies and partners and to cooperate with them to shape the international environment risks the erosion of this network—allowing a long-tended garden to become choked with weeds.”

The transition officially begins

The General Services Administration on Nov. 23 cleared the way for President-elect Joe Biden to begin the transition process. (The Washington Post)
The president relents.

“Trump authorized the federal government to initiate the Biden transition late Monday, setting in motion a peaceful transfer of power by paving the way for the president-elect and his administration-in-waiting to tap public funds, receive security briefings and gain access to federal agencies,” Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Amy Gardner and Philip Rucker report. “Though procedural in nature, Trump's acceptance of the General Services Administration starting the transition amounted to a dramatic capitulation and capped an extraordinary 16-day standoff since Biden was declared the winner on Nov. 7. By continuing to subvert the vote and delay the transition, Trump risked becoming isolated … On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified Biden's win there. [Three out of the four board members — including one Republican — voted for certification.] … Yet the president also vowed to continue his push to overturn the results, adding, ‘Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail!’ A senior Trump campaign adviser … said Monday night: ‘He basically just conceded. That's as close to a concession as you will probably get.’ To bring closure, some of Trump's advisers said they were encouraging him to deliver a speech in which he does not concede but talks about his accomplishments in office and commits to a transfer of power. …

“Jay Sekulow, one of the president's longtime personal attorneys, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone were among those who helped persuade Trump to commit to the transition, officials and advisers said. Trump was described as angry about the situation … Trump called political advisers Monday to say he had doubts about the GSA initiating the transition, to inquire about whether he could block certification of the Michigan result, and to express reluctance to travel to Georgia to campaign for the two Republican senators facing runoff elections. … Despite Trump's resistance, officials throughout his administration were planning to coordinate directly with counterparts on the Biden team starting Tuesday … White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told other officials Monday evening it was time to begin the transition … Four more Republican senators, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, added their voices to those who have acknowledged that Biden appeared to have won …

The Trump campaign suffered yet another legal defeat on Monday as well, with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refusing to toss thousands of ballots in Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh area that had technical errors on their outer envelopes but showed no evidence of fraud. … On Monday, Trump's campaign filed an emergency motion in federal appeals court in yet another case in Pennsylvania to temporarily block certification there. … Meanwhile, in Arizona on Monday, Mohave County became the last county to canvass its vote, putting the state on an apparent glide path to certification on Nov. 30 — though Trump allies have said more challenges could be coming. … In Nevada, the state Supreme Court was scheduled to canvass the statewide vote Tuesday, with Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) expected to quickly announce the winner thereafter. The Trump campaign has filed what’s known as an election ‘contest’ asking a state judge to overturn Biden’s victory or annul the election. …

In Wisconsin, the slow-moving recount process requested by the Trump campaign in two Democratic counties was beginning to draw criticism from some Republicans in the state. … Rohn Bishop, the chairman of the Republican Party of Fond du Lac County and a Trump supporter, said in an interview Monday that he believed the campaign was going too far. … Trump trails in the state by about 20,000 votes, a margin experts agreed is highly unlikely to be closed during a recount. … The machine recount of hand-recounted presidential votes in Georgia is scheduled to begin Tuesday and conclude next week … The Trump campaign on Saturday requested the formal recount of the 5 million presidential votes in Georgia."

Emily Murphy approves the transition in an unusually personal letter to Biden. 

“Day after day, as her boss tried to subvert the election results with fraud claims and legal challenges, the embattled head of the General Services Administration held off on making what is usually a routine call after a presidential election,” Lisa Rein reports. “Trump said Monday he had recommended that Murphy start the transition, but she insisted that she acted on her own. … Murphy, 46, who was appointed by Trump in 2017, wrote that she had received threats ‘online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely.' … The GSA had to provide her with a security detail. … Her team had notified the White House Counsel’s Office on Friday that she planned to designate Biden the winner on Monday, one friend said. Murphy did not hear anything back. Murphy and her senior staff were bracing for a tweet from Trump announcing that they were fired, two people familiar with their thinking said. … Meadows called to inquire about her safety, one friend said.”

  • A One America News Network TV host, Christina Bobb, has been at Trump headquarters to assist the legal team, causing confusion among actual campaign staff. (Daily Beast)
  • Trump became concerned his legal team was comprised of “fools that are making him look bad,” someone familiar with Trump's thinking told NBC News.
  • Detroit had more vote errors in 2016 when Trump won Michigan by a narrow margin. He didn’t complain then. (Kayla Ruble) 
Secret Service agents in Trump’s detail have been asked about relocating to West Palm Beach.

“The Secret Service's Miami field office also has begun looking at physical reinforcements to Mar-a-Largo,” ABC News reports. “Renovations to living quarters expected to be occupied by Trump and first lady Melania Trump are underway, ahead of when they'll be living there full time after the Jan. 20 inauguration … Come Jan. 21, the New York Police Department is planning to work with the Secret Service to reduce the law enforcement footprint around Trump Tower in Manhattan since it will no longer be Trump’s primary residence. The result, the source said, will be a freer flow of traffic along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.” 

Quote of the day

“Unless the legal situation changes in a dramatic and frankly an unlikely manner, Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said on her show. “To say this constitutes living in reality." (Tim Elfrink)

House Democrats reckon with their diminished majority.

“House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, during his two decades as a senior Democratic vote-counter, has often preached to his fractious caucus about what he calls the ‘psychology of consensus,’” Mike DeBonis reports. “[But] come January, Hoyer and senior Democratic leaders might need a lot more than the power of positive thinking. Facing the tightest House majority in at least two decades, they are already sketching out ways to manage a legislature that will spend two years on a razor’s edge. Following unexpected Election Day setbacks, Democrats could hold as few as 222 seats when the new Congress convenes. That number, just a handful of seats over the majority threshold of 218, will drop further when Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) resigns to join the Biden administration as a senior adviser to the president. … Pushing any sort of partisan measure through the House will require near-unanimity inside their party, forcing careful negotiations with various factions of lawmakers and perhaps fewer aspirational ‘messaging’ bills meant to set out Democratic ideals but not necessarily become law. 

“Meanwhile, an emboldened Republican minority will look to wreak havoc and magnify internal disputes ahead of the 2022 midterms. … House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and other Republican leaders have already signaled they plan to use various procedural feints to frustrate Democrats and sow internal division. … Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the incoming chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said last week that he expects a ‘constant food fight’ between Democratic leaders and the hard-left ‘Squad’ that will create gridlock and help propel the GOP to the majority in 2022. … GOP leaders are also eager to keep using the ‘motion to recommit’ — a final amendment offered by the minority party just before the passage of a bill — to drive wedges in the Democratic caucus. … That success — and the steady transformation of the motion to recommit into a political cudgel — has prompted many Democrats to call for its modification or abolition. Hoyer is now among them … 

“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) … acknowledged that liberal activists tend to bristle at the suggestion that the burden should be on the left to rein in its ambitions. But, she said, ‘I think there is a little bit of a kind of a realization inside the caucus that we have to work together.’ … Multiple Democrats up and down the party ranks and across the ideological spectrum said they are counting on Biden to be a unifying force who can help hold their fractious caucus together under trying circumstances. That includes Hoyer, who said having a president who can actually sign bills into law is a ‘tremendous advantage’ over trying to whip votes for bills going nowhere. … But Hoyer said the Democrats’ thin margin itself stands to generate esprit de corps. ‘The psychology of consensus understands: They can’t lose me and three other people,’ he said. ‘I think there’s an awareness that we’re in the foxhole together, and there’s not a lot of us, and we’re being assaulted, and so you’ve got to be together.'” 

  • Despite Biden carrying Georgia, Democrats face an uphill battle to win the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs that will decide the Senate majority. (Lenny Bronner)
  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is poised to become the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 87, said she will step down from the powerful perch in the next Congress. (Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim)
  • Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) asked Capitol Police for permission to carry her Glock pistol around the Capitol. This is allowed, with some limitations. (AP)

The coronavirus

Anthony S. Fauci, the highest-ranking public health expert on viruses, discussed the risk of small gatherings indoors during an interview on Nov. 23. (The Washington Post)
China and Russia are using vaccines to expand their influence. The U.S. is on the sidelines. 

The Russians claimed today that their vaccine, Sputnik V, is 95 percent effective. “In the new frontier of vaccine diplomacy, there are two paths: stockpile or share. The first way is unfolding in the United States … The European Union and other wealthy democracies have bought up much of what’s left of the initial doses, but also will lend support to a World Health Organization-linked effort to eventually expand supplies to countries in need,” Loveday Morris, Emily Rauhala, Shibani Mahtani and Robyn Dixon report. The Trump administration “declined to join more than 170 other countries in Covax, the WHO-backed program to deliver billions of vaccine doses to less-developed nations. … But China is signing agreements for early vaccine access in regions where it has historically battled the United States for influence.” 

  • Pope Francis criticizes anti-mask protesters in his new book, saying that they have “an angry spirit of victimhood” but are “victims of their own imagination.” He also sharply criticized countries that were quick to lift lockdown restrictions due to concerns about the impact on the economy, saying that they have “mortgaged their people.” (Antonia Farzan)
  • The virus is roaring back in parts of Asia, capitalizing on pandemic fatigue. Even though numbers are a fraction of those in the West, governments in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are reimposing restrictions this week. (Simon Denyer)
  • Top Glove, the world’s largest manufacturer of medical gloves, has shut down 28 factories following an outbreak in which almost 2,500 employees tested positive. (Jennifer Hassan)
  • Evidence mounts that an early mutation made the virus harder to control. The 614G mutation was first spotted in eastern China in January and then spread quickly throughout Europe and New York City. (NYT)
More than 85,700 covid-19 patients are hospitalized nationwide.

“That tally exceeds all previous records,” Antonia Farzan reports. “In 23 states, the average number of hospitalizations has risen by 20 percent or more since one week ago. Twelve states — Maine, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Arkansas — also set single-day records for hospitalized patients on Monday. States in the Great Plains and Midwest — South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Indiana and Illinois — continue to report the highest number of hospitalizations per capita. The number of new infections being reported across the hard-hit region has slightly declined in recent days, suggesting that cases are starting to level off. But experts worry that holiday travel and gatherings could undo that fragile progress.” 

The death toll will keep growing.

“A third wave of coronavirus cases in the country took off in September, and cases have been rising faster ever since. The second wave, which peaked in July, was significantly smaller, but followed the same pattern: Cases rose first, then hospitalizations, then deaths,” Joe Fox reports. “The second wave began in mid-June, when cases began to rise a few weeks after Memorial Day. About 10 days later, hospitalization numbers started to go up, followed by a rise in deaths about two weeks after that. The data from the beginning of the third wave shows a similar trend.” 

Getting a vaccine from the loading dock into arms is harder than you think.

“Buoyed by promising results from major clinical trials of three coronavirus vaccines, public health officials are preparing for the daunting task ahead of delivering those shots to tens of millions of Americans,” Lena Sun and Frances Stead Sellers report. “The vaccines need to be distributed across 50 states, plus U.S. territories, that have different demographics and shifting needs. The leading products must be stored at different temperatures and have different minimum orders, with each requiring two shots though the three vaccines don’t all share the same schedule. Complicating matters: A final decision on who is eligible to get the early doses must wait for a federal advisory group’s recommendations. That can’t happen until regulators authorize the new vaccines. And once set in motion, the distribution — from loading dock to upper arm — has to be accomplished equitably and with as few handoffs as possible because it’s all being done amid a pandemic. The stakes are enormous. The massive undertaking to immunize most of the population requires extraordinary communication, planning and coordination.”

A new survey from the COVID Collaborative highlights a trust gap in Black and Latino communities. Only 14 percent of Black people trust that a vaccine will be safe, and 18 percent trust that it will be effective in shielding them from the coronavirus. Among Latinos, 34 percent trust its safety, and 40 percent trust its effectiveness. “Getting coronavirus vaccines to communities of color is especially important because those communities have disproportionately borne the burden of the pandemic,” William Wan reports. ”For many Black people, the lack of trust in the coronavirus vaccine is rooted in history."

  • Doctors and other health-care workers at a chain of urgent care clinics in Washington state went on strike, saying they are required to work excessively long hours without adequate protective gear. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The Australian air carrier Qantas anticipates asking all international travelers to prove they’ve been immunized against the virus once a vaccine is widely available – a requirement that its CEO says is likely to be adopted throughout the industry. (Farzan)
The CDC finds 1 in 4 young adults have thought about killing themselves in the past 30 days.

“He visits the grave every day. And every day, Ted Robbins asks himself the questions that have plagued him since the night his 16-year-old son killed himself, one month into the pandemic. What if Robbins hadn’t canceled their family vacation? What if their school hadn’t closed down? What if his son Christian could have leaned on his best friends through this rough patch like he had in the past? But one question haunts him the most: ‘What if the pandemic never happened? Would my son still be alive?’” William Wan reports. “Federal surveys show 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling. … America’s system for monitoring suicides is so broken and slow that experts won’t know until roughly two years after the pandemic whether suicides have risen nationally. But coroners and medical examiners are already seeing troubling signs.” 

More local officials impose stricter restrictions.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 10 people — including Thanksgiving dinners, since the order takes effect today — and outdoor groups of more than 25 people. The seven-day average number of cases in the region hit a record on Monday for the 20th consecutive day. (Julie Zauzmer and Erin Cox)
  • In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced new mask requirements, saying the state faces a “dire” spread. Cooper said the state has 20 “red” counties under a new alert system. (News & Observer)
  • In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) asked Trump to extend the use of the National Guard there to combat the pandemic through spring. A new executive order, including a statewide mask mandate, will go into effect tomorrow. (Kansas City Star)
  • Los Angeles County may face a shutdown as a record-high number of cases pushed the region over its self-set threshold for issuing a new stay-at-home order. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Despite warnings from experts, the Trump White House plans to host traditional Christmas parties and Hanukkah events, many of which will be indoors. (AP)
  • In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) refuses to back away from her hands-off policy, despite a positivity rate of almost 60 percent. (Guardian)
The pandemic has been great for some already-rich Trump supporters.

A company owned by major Trump donor Rod Aycox secured a $25 million low-interest loan from the Fed by using what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from getting this kind of federal help. (Todd Frankel)

One of the largest awardees in a Trump pandemic relief program redirected $3 million to its own nonprofit organization despite its lack of track record or capacity in delivering food to needy people. House Democrats are demanding answers from Yegg Inc., a California firm offering business finance solutions, which was awarded $16.6 million to supply milk and dairy boxes for the Farmers to Families Food Box program. (Laura Reilly)

Social media speed read

Melania Trump grumbled to a friend in a secretly recorded conversation that was released last month: “Who gives a f--- about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” On Monday, the first lady appeared for a photo op to welcome the White House Christmas Tree. The president, who often complains about what he calls a “war on Christmas,” did not accompany his wife:

One of Biden's electors is Stacey Abrams:

Remember all the times Trump claimed on the campaign trail that Biden would usher in socialism if he got elected? Well, the president-elect's pick for treasury secretary is winning widespread praise from Wall Street. One of the people endorsing Yellen is the former president of Goldman Sachs and the director of Trump's National Economic Council during his first two years in the White House:

Memes about Yellen’s nomination circulated fast: 

(People who know Yellen note that she never actually yells.)

Amid all the chaos, the annual turkey pardon goes on:

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers dismantled Sidney Powell's bizarre conspiracy theory that Venezuela was somehow involved in rigging the U.S. election:

Stephen Colbert said Trump is the biggest sore loser: 

And Trevor Noah explained how QAnon is taking over parts of the GOP’s base: