Second vaccine authorized in US shipped

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool)

Initial shipments of the second COVID-19 vaccine authorized in the U.S. left a Memphis-area distribution center Sunday. The desperately needed shots are expected to be given starting Monday, just three days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized their emergency rollout. Nearly all of the shots will go to health care workers and residents in long-term care homes.

— The Associated Press reports that Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, traveled to one of her vacation properties on a Delaware island the day after Thanksgiving, accompanied by three generations of her family from two households. Birx herself had urged Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household” shortly before the holiday weekend.

— State and local health departments are asking people to take a do-it-yourself approach to contact tracing as a skyrocketing number of infections have overwhelmed the agencies. Having people conduct their own contact tracing is not ideal, but it is likely the most effective way to reach people who may be at risk, health experts say.

THE NUMBERS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 2,150 on Dec. 5 to 2,608 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATH TOLL: The U.S. death toll climbed to more than 316,000, rising above the population of Cincinnati.

QUOTABLE: “Ron’s death might seem to outsiders like such a small matter,” said JoAnn Yukimura, former mayor of Kauai, Hawaii, about the island’s only COVID-19 fatality so far, a former tour driver named Ron Clark. But Clark’s death “hit us hard because we on Kauai haven’t become inured to death and sickness — and we don’t ever want to get that way.”

ICYMI: Small businesses are worried that COVID-19-related lawsuits could put them under as more than 6,000 coronavirus-related complaints have been filed across the country.

ON THE HORIZON: A federal pandemic relief package totaling nearly $1 trillion is finally close to passage as lawmakers hammer out final details. The House is expected to vote Monday on the bill, which lawmakers and aides say would include $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans.