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Overnight Health Care: US sets new record for daily COVID deaths with over 4,300 | Johnson & Johnson vaccine has promising immune response in early trial | In-person learning doesn't appear to drive COVID cases

Overnight Health Care: US sets new record for daily COVID deaths with over 4,300 | Johnson & Johnson vaccine has promising immune response in early trial | In-person learning doesn't appear to drive COVID cases
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE was impeached for the second time, and while politics have largely dominated the news coverage, more than 4,000 Americans died from COVID-19, a new daily record. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine shows promise, and new data show school-age children have not been fueling coronavirus outbreaks. 

We'll start with a sobering number:

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Another day, another record: US sets new record for daily COVID deaths with over 4,300 

Coronavirus deaths climbed to another record high on Tuesday in the United States, with a stunning 4,327 people dying in a single day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Deaths from COVID-19 are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. The seven-day average for daily deaths rose from about 2,600 per day to about 3,300 in the past week, a New York Times tracker shows.

Hospitalizations are also at a record high, with more than 131,000 people in hospitals with the coronavirus, though there are signs of the increases slowing to some extent.

The situation could get worse, however, as a more contagious variant of the virus from the United Kingdom, which has already been detected in several states in the U.S., is expected to grow more prominent.

“This strain's destiny is to become dominant here in the weeks ahead,” tweeted Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. That will mean the graph of new cases will be “going vertical,” he wrote, as has already happened in Ireland, which has been hit hard by the new variant.

Read more here

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Another vaccine soon? Johnson & Johnson's has promising immune response in early trial

A coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was found to be safe and to generate an immune response in early trials, promising signs as research continues.

The results published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine are from early-stage trials. 

Watch for news later this month: The more conclusive results on the effectiveness of the vaccine are still to come in a phase three trial, which the company said Wednesday could be available soon, in "late January."

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be a crucial addition to the two vaccines already authorized, in that it would allow for more doses to be available and it only requires one shot, rather than the two needed for Pfizer and Moderna's products. 

The results from the early trials released Wednesday found that all trial participants developed neutralizing antibodies against the virus by Day 57, and 90 percent had them by Day 29. 

The vaccine was also found to be safe, with some common side effects like fatigue and headache. 

Read more here

California expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older

California is expanding eligibility for coronavirus vaccines to anyone age 65 and older, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomHarris receives standing ovation in first Senate appearance as VP Feehery: To move past Trump, Republicans have to think local The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other MORE (D) said Wednesday.

The move is an effort to speed up the rollout of shots, after the Trump administration criticized states for being too rigid with vaccination priority groups.

COVID-19 cases are surging across California, and Newsom said the move will allow nearly 6.6 million people to be vaccinated. Yet overall, the state is struggling to administer the doses on hand. In the short term, the change could help alleviate some of the bottleneck, but there's concern that there soon won't be nearly enough, and demand will far outpace supply.

Last week, Newsom expanded access to all health workers and relaxed guidelines for unused doses, to make sure they were not going to waste. The state said demand has subsided among health workers, making it easier to open access to people age 65 and up.  

Newsom has set a goal of 1 million additional vaccines administered by the end of this week.

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Read more here.

In-person learning doesn’t appear to drive COVID cases: CDC 

In-person learning at K-12 schools did not appear to lead to increases in COVID-19 cases in counties when compared to areas with online-only learning, according to a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

As of Dec. 7, about 62 percent of K-12 school districts offered either full or partial in person-learning, but reports of outbreaks at schools have been limited, according to the CDC. 

As of the week beginning, Dec. 6 COVID-19 cases among the general population in counties where K-12 schools opened for in-person learning was similar to that in the counties where classes were online only. 

“CDC recommends that K-12 schools be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely,” the authors of the report wrote. 

Between March 1 and Dec. 12, nearly 3 million cases of COVID-19 among children, adolescents and young adults were reported in the U.S., according to the report.

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Study identifies first potential treatment for meth addiction

Researchers think they may have found the first medication treatment for meth addiction, a significant step toward stemming the increase in overdose deaths seen in recent years.

A study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of two medications may be a safe and effective treatment for adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder.

The phase three clinical trial studied the effects of the combination of Naltrexone, which is approved to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, on adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder. It compared the effects to a control group of patients receiving placebos.

“We’re very excited about the results because until now, despite a lot of research that has gone into the field, there has not been any successful trials for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction that involve medications,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which conducted the trial.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

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Hospitals’ rocky rollout of Covid vaccine sparks questions of fairness (Kaiser Health News)

Biden aides retool pandemic plans in light of new coronavirus variants (STAT)

U.K. variant could drive a new surge in the U.S., experts warn (NPR)

State by state

NJ to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to everyone 65 and older (NBC 10)

Local leaders say state leaving them in the dark about vaccination clinics and more (Boston Globe)

Hospitals relying on travel nurses amid coronavirus surge (WAFB

Are you old enough to get vaccinated? In Tennessee, they’re using the honor system (Kaiser Health News)