People walk along Via del Corso, as Italy goes back to a complete lockdown during Christmas season as part of efforts put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy, December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Wednesday marked the second-deadliest day of the pandemic since it began, renewing warnings from health officials that the U.S. could face a post-Christmas surge in new infections. The pandemic will make for a bleak Christmas this year for millions of Americans who say they have too little money to pay for gifts and food. Almost 8 million people have fallen into poverty since June.

More than one million Americans have now been vaccinated for COVID-19 as Kroger prepares to offer the vaccine through its network of pharmacies and clinics. Facing a shortage of people who can administer the vaccines, some states are soliciting the help of nursing students and even firefighters in the hopes of relieving hospital capacity.

One study on COVID-19 immunity has shown some promise, finding that people infected with the virus early in the pandemic continue to have a strong immune response eight months later. The findings suggest a similar reaction to a coronavirus vaccine is possible.

Yet another variant of the coronavirus has been reported in Nigeria, compounding alarm stemming from the variants announced in Britain and South Africa. While the variant there so far shows no evidence of higher transmission, scientists in the U.K. said in a study that a more contagious strain will result in more hospitalizations and deaths. Britain has also reported two cases of the coronavirus strain first detected in South Africa, banning visitors from the country at the same time that Chinese officials suspend flights from Britain.

New virus mutations have also been detected in Malaysia and Singapore, but scientists say they do not yet know their clinical implications. The new strain detected in the U.K. may already be circulating in the U.S., but experts and BioNTech’s CEO have said that coronavirus vaccines are still likely to prevent its spread.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at four Amazon facilities in Ontario, Canada that resulted in 400 COVID-19 cases have renewed charges of poor workplace conditions and low safety standards for warehouse workers as well as the continued risks that frontline workers face this holiday season. The reports follow the outbreak-driven closure of an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey, calling attention to workers under pressure to fulfill a surging number of orders as shoppers opt for online solutions instead of risking infection. 

One community in Hallsley, Virginia brought a UPS worker to tears with its gesture of thanks after community members said he brightened their days as he delivered hundreds of packages to their neighborhood. More than 75 cars, plus bicycles and people, congregated at one time to cheer him on with applause, honking horns and signs to thank him for his work this holiday season.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

Remember greeting cards? They’re making a COVID-19 comeback – Fast Company – 12/24/2020
“People are not able to have in-person contact and the connections they’re used to, so they hunger for those meaningful connections,” says Lindsey Roy, CMO of Hallmark. “People are discovering or remembering cards.” The card titan has recorded triple-digit growth in online sales during the holiday period.

Coronavirus: how the pandemic could play out in 2021 – The Conversation – 12/24/2020
Vaccines for COVID-19 are now being rolled out, but in some parts of the world, this good news has been tempered by the emergence of new, potentially more infectious strains of the virus. Exactly how the pandemic will evolve has become more uncertain. Certainly, the next three or so months will be challenging, and a virus-free life is probably some way off. Some things may not return to how they were before.

Did you know any of these terms before Covid-19? – Quartz – 12/24/2020
A year ago, not only was the virus unknown to us—it didn’t even have a name—but most of the terms in the sentence above were not part of our daily vocabulary. The pandemic (and how often did you use that word before March 2020?) forced us to change the way we live, and work.

For immunologists, 2020 has been a terrifying, incredible year – The Guardian – 12/24/2020
In March we were asked to go home, shut down our labs and think of things for our students and staff to do. It was unclear whether many of them would be eligible for furlough. Research students had to teach themselves new skills, trying their hand at programming languages and science writing. Masters students switched to “dry” projects, forgoing the coveted lab experience that is often the main point of an expensive MRes degree.

State Lawmakers Targeting Mandated Workplace COVID-19 Vaccinations – Bloomberg Law – 12/24/2020
In some states, such as Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri, lawmakers are floating proposals aimed at preventing government agencies, employers, or schools from forcing people to get the Covid-19 vaccine, although none of the bills has succeeded yet. In contrast, in New York, the legislature is considering making the vaccine mandatory statewide. 

WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE SAYING

The New York Times @nytimes 24 Dec Christmas usually transforms the Palestinian town of Bethlehem into a bustling hub for pilgrims, tourists and dignitaries. But the pandemic has put a damper on this year’s festivities.

Elliott Gotkine @ElliottGotkine 24 Dec See what Bethlehem is like this Christmas ⁦@CNN⁩

Sky News @SkyNews 24 Dec “No one came to Bethlehem this year. It’s quiet,” @Stone_SkyNews sees how #COVID19 has affected Christmas in Bethlehem

AJC @ajc 24 Dec Both coronavirus and Christmas have come to the little town of Bethlehem (Georgia, that is) this year, but the north Georgia town of about 600 is still hopeful despite the pandemic.

POPSUGAR UK @POPSUGARUK 24 Dec A true Christmas miracle. ⭐️

CONTENT FACTS

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