Coronavirus updates: Senate adjourns without securing $2K checks; Army Corps to help LA hospitals; Navajo Nation lays off 1K casino workers
USA TODAY 2hrs ago

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a group of people in a room: Clinicians work after manually proning a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on December 14, 2020 in La Mesa, California. According to state figures Southern California, which includes San Diego County, currently has only .5 percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity remaining amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Sharp HealthCare is the largest health system in San Diego County and is currently treating approximately 400 COVID-19 patients in its four acute hospitals. © Mario Tama, Getty Images Clinicians work after manually proning a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on December 14, 2020 in La Mesa, California. According to state figures Southern California, which includes San Diego County, currently has only .5 percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity remaining amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Sharp HealthCare is the largest health system in San Diego County and is currently treating approximately 400 COVID-19 patients in its four acute hospitals.

In the headlines:

► The Senate adjourned Friday night without securing $2,000 stimulus checks, leaving hopes for another round of payments in the hands of the next Congress. Senate Democrats, some Republicans and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders unsuccessfully pushed for a Senate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks as the clock wound down.

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► Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. died Friday after contracting the coronavirus, his office announced in a statement. Chafin, 60, was treated in Richmond at the VCU Medical Center for two weeks before his death.

► As hospitals are pushed to the brink, scrambling to provide oxygen to patients, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the state will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six hospitals in Los Angeles. The news comes as California reported a record 585 coronavirus deaths in one day.

► The Navajo Nation laid off more than 1,100 casino workers Friday because of prolonged closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The tribe operates four casinos in Arizona and New Mexico. “The Nation’s vision took years to build but the Nation has been successful,” Navajo Gaming Board Chairman Quincy Natay said. “If it allows its gaming industry to fail, a permanent closure will cause a long-term setback for Navajo economic development, even if it eventually reopens.”

► U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, slammed the U.S. vaccine rollout in a statement Friday, saying the nation is "falling behind" and calling for urgent action to develop a comprehensive vaccination plan at the federal level. "I know that when something isn’t working, you need to acknowledge reality and develop a plan," he said.

► Britain is allowing people to mix and match vaccines in certain circumstances, despite no evidence supporting the interchangeability of vaccines. In an update to their vaccination guidelines, health officials said another vaccine may be substituted if the original is not available or is unknown, particularly in situations where the person is "at immediate high risk or is considered unlikely to attend again."

► India tested its COVID-19 vaccine delivery system Saturday with a nationwide trial, a day after authorizing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use.

► The World Health Organization authorized the vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech for emergency use Thursday, making it easier for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes and allowing UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine.

► Texas set a new record Friday for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. The state reported 12,481 hospitalizations on New Year's Day after setting new high records for five straight days.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 20 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 347,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 84 million cases and 1.8 million deaths. 

📰 What we're reading: Teachers should be next COVID-19 vaccine schedule, CDC says. Can a shot reopen schools?

Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. dies after contracting COVID-19.

State Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. died Friday after contracting the coronavirus, his office announced in a statement. 

"State senator Augustus Denton (Ben) Chafin Jr., a native son of Russell County located in Southwest Virginia, passed away on January 1, 2021 from COVID-19 complications," the news release from his office stated.

Chafin, 60, was treated in Richmond at the VCU Medical Center for two weeks before his death. A Republican, Chafin was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013 before being elected to the state senate the following year. 

Days before Chafin’s death, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, R-La., also died after contracting the virus. LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali said Letlow, 41, died from a heart attack following a procedure related to the infection.

– Sarah Elbeshbishi

$2,000 checks? They will have to wait for new Congress

The Senate on Friday did not take up whether to increase the $600 stimulus check payments that President Donald Trump demanded be raised to $2,000. Now, Congress will not reconvene until Sunday to end the 116th Congress.

Democrats vowed to swiftly revive the $2,000 checks after the new Congress is sworn in Sunday. 

“President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that the pandemic relief bill that Congress passed is simply a down payment on the work that needs to continue,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Democratic caucus. “We’re going to continue to fight for a $2,000 direct payment check.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was the one of the few GOP senators pushing for a standalone vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks, saying that in "the new Congress, you could get a vote."

"I'd like a standalone vote in the new Congress on the $2,000 check" he said during an interview on Fox and Friends. "We have seven Republicans who have already said they'd vote for it. We need five more. I think if we had the vote, we would get there." Read more here.

– Savannah Behrmann

Heart failure in children is another rare COVID-19 complication

Heart failure — often caused by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle — is a rare condition for teens and young adults. It's more common in older people, often the result of heart function declining over a period of years. Yet, since the beginning of the pandemic, a very small subset of young people infected with COVID-19 have developed heart failure.

This summer, doctors in New York reported a 2-month-old boy diagnosed with COVID-19 later suffered from heart failure, signaling yet another COVID-19 complication for kids. 

Twenty-six athletes from Ohio State University with confirmed COVID-19 — who were mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic — underwent heart testing. Nearly 50% showed heart abnormalities, and 15% met the criteria for myocarditis, according to a study from OSU in September.

– Elinor Aspegren

Curfew-busting New Year party-goers attack French police

Ravers at an underground, curfew-busting New Year’s Eve party that drew at least 2,500 people in western France attacked the police sent to shut them down, torching one police vehicle and injuring officers with volleys of bottles and stones, officials said Friday. Ravers started converging on a hangar in Lieuron, Brittany, on Thursday night to party into the New Year, the regional government said Friday.

Police were attacked when they tried to stop ravers from installing their party gear, the regional government said.

On Friday morning, 2,500 ravers from France and abroad were still partying, circled by a reinforced police presence, the regional government said. Prosecutors are looking at an array of possible criminal charges. The party also took place despite France’s 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. nationwide curfew aimed at dissuading public gatherings during the pandemic.

– The Associated Press

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: Senate adjourns without securing $2K checks; Army Corps to help LA hospitals; Navajo Nation lays off 1K casino workers

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