National Headlines

iStock/narvikkBY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Health care workers across the country are pleading with the public to follow COVID-19 guidelines as the nation struggles to contain another wave of the virus.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 reached 260,000 on Wednesday, and almost every state in the U.S. is experiencing an increased rate of infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At the Pablo Pinto General Hospital in Mineral Wells, Texas, about 90 miles west of Dallas, doctors and nurses are "struggling to transfer patients to higher levels of care," the hospital's CEO, Ross Korkmas, wrote on a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday.

Both the intensive care unit and COVID-19 unit at the hospital are full, and more patients are currently admitted than ever before, making it difficult for patients in need to be transferred to higher levels of care, he said.

Korkmas called on the community to help slow the spread of the virus.

"Please help protect your neighbor, help protect your coworkers, help protect OUR community from the spread of a virus. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and please limit gatherings," Korkmas wrote. "You are the front line to stop the spread and we need your help!"

Kenneth Remy, a doctor at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, posted a video to Twitter last week showing what it's like for a patient who is about to be placed on a ventilator.

"This is what it looks like when you breathe 40 times a minute," he wrote. "I hope that the last moments of your life don’t look like this."

The city has seen record numbers of deaths and hospitalizations in the past 10 days, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Remy used the video as a teaching moment.

"This is serious," he said. "I beg you, please practice the precautions to reduce transmission of COVID disease so that we can effectively prevent disease for you and your loved ones."

Health care workers have been witnessing death and suffering for nearly nine months now, leaving them burned out and with low morale, Dan Meyer, a doctor at Maine Medical Center in Portland, told ABC Portland affiliate WMTW-TV.

The difficulties are compounded as people continue to ignore public health measures, Meyer said.

"When you encounter those situations, it just makes it so much more difficult as a health care worker, and I really worry about what’s happening to health care workers in this country ... the challenge they face in burnout and wellness and gratitude goes a long way,” Meyer said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci echoed those pleas, urging Americans to keep Thanksgiving celebrations as small as possible.

"A sacrifice now could save lives ... and make the future much brighter as we get through this," Fauci said on Good Morning America Wednesday.

North Carolina Central University on Tuesday released results of a study that showed 77% of North Carolinians plan to spend Thanksgiving with people from outside their home. Hospitalizations in neighboring counties are up by 69%, ABC Durham, North Carolina, affiliate WTVD-TV reported.

"It makes me extremely sad. I just worry about my own team, because my team now has to step up and work harder," Loc Culp, an ICU nurse manager at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, told WTVD-TV.

The hospital's pulmonary and critical care division chief, Shannon Carson, warned that if health guidelines aren't followed on Thanksgiving, future holidays could be ruined as well.

"Don't make one day of warm family gathering turn into a Christmas in the intensive care unit," Carson said. "It's just not worth it."

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Samara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, IVAN PEREIRA and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 59.8 million people and killed over 1.4 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here's how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Nov 25, 1:11 pm
Ravens-Steelers game on Thanksgiving moved to Sunday


The NFL has postponed the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, which was scheduled to be played on Thursday night.

The game has been rescheduled to Sunday afternoon.

Multiple players on the Ravens were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday following positive tests, the team announced at the time.

Nov 25, 11:34 am
UPS making dry ice, supplying portable freezers for vaccines


The United Parcel Service (UPS) said it will start making dry ice in its U.S. facilities and will provide portable freezers to aid in the massive distribution efforts for COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.

The Atlanta-based global shipping and logistics company said it can now produce up to 1,200 lbs of dry ice per hour in its U.S. facilities to support the storage and transportation of cold chain products, such as frozen vaccines, in accordance with manufacturer storage requirements. The increased production also allows UPS to make dry ice available for American and Canadian hospitals, clinics and other points of care requiring dry ice to store vaccines locally.

"Enhancing our dry ice production capabilities increases our supply chain agility and reliability immensely when it comes to handling complex vaccines for our customers," Wes Wheeler, president of UPS's new healthcare logistics unit, said in a statement Tuesday. "Healthcare facilities in Louisville, Dallas and Ontario will ensure we have the capability to produce dry ice to sufficiently pack and replenish shipments as needed to keep products viable and effective."

In addition to dry ice production, UPS is teaming up with Stirling Ultracold, a division of Global Cooling, Inc., to supply portable ultra-low temperature freezers to thermally protect critical vaccines requiring temperatures ranging from -20 to -80 degrees Celsius. The portable freezers will be distributed and used in smaller facilities that need a more permanent solution for longer-term freezer storage.

"This program will help ensure vaccines remain effective next year, and for years to come, as future vaccines and biologics are developed to keep the world healthy and safe," Stirling Ultracold CEO Dusty Tenney said in a statement Tuesday.

Nov 25, 9:22 am
Weekly unemployment filings surge to 778,000 last week as virus cases rise

Some 778,000 workers lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Department of Labor said Wednesday.

This is an uptick of 30,000 compared to the previous week, and the second consecutive week that the weekly tally has risen after it was on the decline for months.

The DOL also said Wednesday that more than 20 million people were still receiving some form of unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Nov. 7. For the comparable week in 2019, that figure was 1.5 million.

The latest economic data from the DOL comes as new virus cases surge across the country, and highlight a slow economic recovery. It also comes, however, as Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new milestone of trading above 30,000 on Tuesday -- a further indication that the stock market remains divorced from the economic pain millions of Americans still face as the coronavirus crisis rages on.

ABC News’ Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.

Nov 25, 8:03 am
Fauci's 'final plea' before Thanksgiving: 'A sacrifice now could save lives'


America's top infectious disease expert is urging the nation to keep indoor gatherings as small as possible over Thanksgiving to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful, traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you're going to prevent people from getting infected," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

"A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this," he continued. "We're going to get through this. Vaccines are right on the horizon. If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation things that we're talking about all the time -- the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoor. If we do those things, we're going to get through it. So that's my final plea before the holiday."

Fauci, a leading member of the current White House coronavirus task force, warned of "yet another surge" of COVID-19 infections if people don't heed his advice over the holiday.

Although he acknowledged that the country's current surge in cases is driven by larger indoor gatherings such as bars, Fauci noted that "there still is transmission among gatherings that appear to be relatively innocent."

"Now, I don't mean two, three, four people in a room. We're talking about when people might have a modest size and let their guard down," he added. "When you stay away from the bars, when you stay away from the big, congregate settings, there still is a danger if you bring people into the home who are not part of the immediate household. There is a risk there."

Fauci also said he is "greatly" concerned by the number of people who are already showing hesitancy to taking a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. He noted that "independent bodies of people who, in fact, have no allegiance to an administration or to a company" will be charged with deciding whether the vaccine is both safe and effective for the public.

"The process by which the vaccines were made were a standard process that was rapid because of exquisite scientific advances and the investment of an extraordinary amount money. It did not compromise safety and it did not compromise scientific integrity," he said. "That's what the public needs to understand, that the process is transparent and its independent."

The solution to the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci said, will be "a combination of public health measures and a safe and effective vaccine."

"It would really be terrible if we have, which we do, three now and maybe more highly efficacious vaccines and people don't take it," he added. "We could crush this outbreak exactly the way we did years ago with smallpox, with polio and with measles. It is doable."

Nov 25, 7:29 am
Europe remains the largest contributor to new cases, deaths


The global acceleration in COVID-19 cases has slowed down over the past week, with around four million new cases and over 67,000 additional deaths from the disease reported worldwide. However, Europe remains the largest contributor to those cases and deaths, according to the latest weekly epidemiological report from the World Health Organization.

The report, released Tuesday evening, said the number of new cases in the European region declined by 6% in the last week, after a decline of 10% in the previous week, "in a sign that the reintroduction of stricter public health and social measures in a number of countries over the last few weeks is beginning to slow down transmission."

The European region still accounts for 44% of global new cases and 49% of global new deaths. While new cases have declined, new deaths in the region have continued to rise, according to the report.

Italy reported the highest number of new cases in the European region and the third-highest globally, but the country still saw a slight decline of 3% in the last week. The number of new deaths in Italy increased by 26%.

"The northern Italy provinces of Valle d’Aosta, Bolzano and Piemonte report the highest number of cases," the report said. "Media reports have highlighted concerns of the large number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, and the growing number of health worker infections, straining local healthcare capacities."

The number of new cases in the United Kingdom fell by 13% from last week, the first weekly decline since late August. But the number of new deaths in the country remained similar to the previous week.

"The United Kingdom currently has the fifth- highest number of new cases in the European Region, and the eighth highest number worldwide," the report said, "however, per capita case incidence remains lower than many other countries in the Region.

Nov 25, 5:38 am
Russia reports over 500 new deaths for first time


Russia registered a record 507 new fatalities from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the country's coronavirus response headquarters.

It's the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that Russia has reported more than 500 deaths from the disease in a single day.

Russia also confirmed 23,675 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day. The cumulative total now stands at 2,162,503 confirmed cases, including 37,538 deaths, according to the coronavirus response headquarters.

The Eastern European nation of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the growing number of infections and deaths, Russian authorities have repeatedly said they have no plans to impose another nationwide lockdown.

Nov 25, 5:10 am
Rite Aid says it will offer vaccine at no cost


American drugstore chain Rite Aid said it will offer COVID-19 vaccines at no cost.

In an email to customers on Tuesday, Rite Aid chief pharmacy officer Jocelyn Konrad said that through their partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an official COVID-19 vaccination program provider, "we are staged and ready to make this lifesaving vaccine available in all of the communities we serve when it becomes available to Rite Aid."

"This means you will be able to receive the vaccine from your neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacist, whom you know and trust," Konrad said. "Better yet, the COVID-19 vaccines will be available at no cost."

Rite Aid customers will be able to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine once one is approved and becomes available in the United States, according to Konrad.

Nov 25, 4:17 am
US reports over 172,000 new cases


There were 172,935 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the 22nd straight day that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Tuesday's count is down from a peak of 196,004 new cases on Nov. 20.

An additional 2,146 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Tuesday, the country's highest single-day death toll from the disease since May 6 but just under the all-time high of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

A total of 12,597,330 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 259,962 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country's cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

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Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsBy MICHAEL DOBUSKI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Street performers are a common sight in New York City. Passersby can regularly catch a jazz performance on a Harlem street corner, a spoken word poet in the subway, or, as was the case on a warm Saturday afternoon last month, a punk rock concert in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park.

Claudi Love is a singer, guitarist, and kalimba player, alongside Raimundo Atal on keyboard and Mark Mosterin on bass guitar. Together they're Pinc Louds: a punk rock band known for New York City themed songs "Traffic Lights," "Magical Garbage," and "Sardines In A Can."

Pinc Louds are buskers -- another word for street performers -- and can often be found playing in downtown Manhattan. Claudi says Tompkins Square Park is one of their favorite locations on account of the neighborhood's long, punk rock history.

"The community here in the East Village is very, very special. There's a there's definitely something here. And an it comes from, I think, a lot of what happened in the in the 70s and 80s... It's still very much alive."

The band got started in 2015 after Claudi and Mark got to know each other while working as music teachers at a school in Brooklyn.

"I was, like, kind of the full time music teacher," says Mosterin. "Claudi was the after-school, like, rock and roll teacher who would hang out with the kids who, like, had nowhere to go after school."

Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsAt a party, Love met Atal, who was working on his Ph.D in sustainable development at Columbia University.

That same party is also where Pinc Louds got their name, according to Love.

"Somebody gave me a very pink and very loud dress all on the same night, and it kinda like just happened like that. It was really like -- it felt like it was meant to be."

While Atal is working on his PhD and Mosterin continues to teach, for Love, busking became a full time gig.

"This is my day job. Like, this is what I do for a living. I'm lucky enough that I can be a musician for a living. And I do it mostly by playing in the subways and on the street."

Pink Louds aren't exclusively buskers. They've built up a substantial following in the five years they've been active, and have performed at some bars and festivals around the city. They were even planning to go on tour this year, until coronavirus lockdown orders came down in the city in March.

For a time the Pinc Louds relied on their fans on social media, hosting live shows over video chat while their normal venues were closed down. Love even decorated her apartment with the appropriate busking decor.

"I kind of turned my house into a TV studio. I had, like, a giant traffic light and a big subway map, because I wanted to, like, give the street feeling to the to the whole thing."

Love was able to make ends meet by collecting money through Venmo and Paypal. But money was only part of the equation, she says.

"Even though everything around me was falling down, I was able to, like, block a lot of the darkness out by doing that."

Michael Dobuski/ABC News

In June, as the weather got warmer, Pink Louds gradually began moving their performances back outside. Eventually they discovered Tompkins Square Park, which hadn't been an option pre-pandemic due to restrictions on amplifiers in public parks.

"I tried it and they didn't kick me out," says Love. "And I just fell in love with the place."

Charlie Crespo runs a blog called the Manhattan Beat, following the city's music scene. He says the Pinc Louds were pioneers in bringing music back to the streets of New York this summer.

"[Pinc Louds] pretty much saved the summer in downtown Manhattan by playing in Tompkins Square Park two or three times a week. They were probably the first," says Crespo. "Their music is energizing. It was exciting and for anybody who passed through the park, it was just the most wonderful experience to hear live music again."

Pinc Louds aren't alone. Crespo tells ABC Audio that buskers all over the city are filling a musical gap left by traditional concerts and stage performances.

"Live music, being the oldest form of entertainment -- even before theater, even before sports -- touches us in ways that none of these other activities can touch us. And right now we're very limited as to the opportunities that are open to us to hear live music."

Cloudy says their audiences can grow to over a hundred people, depending on the day, and they do their best to keep things safe.

"They keep socially distant. It's a really big space," says Love.

Pinc Louds' performances also occasionally feature dancers like Jamie Emerson: a visual artist and puppeteer who makes costumes themed around the band's music. For the song "Roaches In My Hair," Emerson, complete with a black rat mask and a hand painted cockroach cutout in each hand, weaves his way through the crowd and does jumping jacks behind the musicians. He says the performance used to go even further.

"It's a bit frustrating for us because a big part of the show - we were calling them 'immersive cabaret.' And so the idea was literally to invade the personal space of the audience, which we did and was great before the pandemic... It made the whole show, like, something that you don't see from other bands," he says. "Now it's a little bit more difficult. We kind of still do it, but do it from 5 or 6 feet away."

Michael Dobuski/ABC NewsNew York City reopened some indoor dining at the beginning of October following a summer of strict outdoor-only seating for restaurants. Charlie Crespo says the move provided a new opportunity for street musicians.

"Many sidewalk cafes that had never actually thought of having music in the past were approached by musicians who said 'Can I play here?'" says Crespo. "The sidewalk cafes opened up an area for the bands to play. And now New York has many venues for music that did not exist in just the recent past."

Though the future of indoor dining in New York City remains in doubt as coroanvirus cases rise, Crespo says the summer of street music made an impression on New Yorkers.

"We find street performers playing in parks and subway stations, and I find that we're listening more than we used to. We're listening closely, we're listening deeper, because it's touching us at a time when we really need this kind of soothing healing experience."

As for Claudi, she says playing in Tompkins Square Park reminds her of what makes busking in New York City such an attractive experience.

"You got all the weird, crazy people, and you got families," she says. "It's just like a wonderful mix of people, all kinda getting by, you know? Sometimes with a little bit of friction -- but it's, like, that friction that makes life more special right? And it makes it more New York."

Hear ABC Audio's Mike Dobuski report on how Pinc Louds are reflecting on a summer of lockdowns in New York City.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Massimo Giachetti/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Food banks have seen a spike in demand since the pandemic struck. In communities across the country, millions of Americans -- even those who are employed -- are becoming more food insecure.

A report issued last month by the nonprofit Feeding America found that 50.4 million Americans have been identified as food insecure, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life." In 2018, the organization said that 37.2 million Americans were food insecure.

Here's a look at how food insecurity is changing in some states:

Florida


With the approach of Thanksgiving, thousands of families in the Orlando area are in need of food assistance due to COVID-19-related layoffs in the tourist industry and the expiration of supplemental federal unemployment benefits.

Texas


Over 5,000 families received holiday food items during the event that took place in a parking lot outside AT&T Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Iowa


The food distribution was organized by Urban Dreams, a community empowerment NGO in central Des Moines, Iowa, and the NAACP. The Food Bank of Iowa said food insecurity in Des Moines has doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Massachusetts


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army's food pantry at Manning Field in Lynn, Massachusetts, served an average of 60 families a day. That number has increased to over 600 families daily as more residents face financial hardship and food insecurity.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesBy DEENA ZARU and TONYA SIMPSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Amid national outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, and other police-involved shootings of Black people, the movement to "defund the police" became a rallying cry at protests across the country.

Critics have blasted it as undermining support for police officers. Not only has it been blasted by critics, but they have seized on the ambiguity of the term to obscure the intent of the movement, which is to reallocate resources from punitive measures in situations that don't necessarily call for them.

Those who advocate for defunding argue reallocating funds from police departments to community policing and organizations like public health centers and schools would serve as investments in underserved communities and could address systemic racism.

Other activists have taken a step further, equating defunding with abolishing police departments.

The movement has also been castigated by powerful police unions, and even played into the 2020 election. Prior to the election, the Trump campaign falsely claimed that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris wanted to defund the police in an effort to connect with the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

"I don't want to defund police departments. I think they need more help, they need more assistance, but that, look, there are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out," Biden told ABC News' Robin Roberts in August.

Joe Biden once pushed for more police. Now, he confronts the challenge of police reform

Congress has taken on some police reform legislation and some cities' officials have introduced reform efforts into their budgets. Yet, six months after the killing of Floyd, an incoming Biden administration, a deadlocked Congress and the looming power of police unions in local and federal politics, may be among the factors that influence the defund the police movement, several experts and advocates told ABC News.

A misrepresented movement?


One of the roadblocks the movement has faced in gaining widespread support is misrepresentation, said Tom Nolan, who served as a Boston police officer for 27 years and is now a sociology professor at Emmanuel College.

The movement to defund the police has been "misrepresented" and "it's been made into a cliché" where "anybody who would render anything short of unwavering support to law enforcement" is cast as "someone who hates the police," Nolan said.

"The people who are looking to examine and reevaluate the police are ultimately police supporters, and I count myself as one of them," he added, arguing that in some cases defunding is a necessary step in police reform that would benefit both the community and law enforcement.

An unclear definition of 'defunding'


Even among those who support defunding, there are different visions and goals about what the movement should accomplish.

Some feel that defunding means abolishing the police, said Phillip Atiba Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity.

But for others, "defund is a tactic which means we need less money invested in punitive structures and surveillance, and more money invested in the resources that keep people safe from violence in the first place," he said.

Police unions push back


Police unions have been ardent in their criticism of protesters and of calls to defund their departments.

Police unions also aligned strongly with President Donald Trump who touted himself as a "law and order" candidate during the 2020 campaign, and won the support of many powerful police unions, as he blasted Black Lives Matter protesters and ended Obama-era consent decrees, which instituted federal oversight of troubled and discriminatory police departments.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the country, which represents over 355,000 members and includes lobbyists on staff, endorsed President Trump in the 2020 race. The president also received endorsements from unions, including New York's Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 24,000 rank-and-file officers, and the Minneapolis Police Union in Floyd's hometown.

"The strategy and the tactics that have been employed [by police unions], were specifically and intentionally [meant] to stall that process," Nolan said. "And here we are some six months into it, and that's exactly what has happened in many cities across the United States."

"I existed in that world, and I know that [police unions] exist to maintain the status quo and to protect their members at all costs," Nolan, who was a member of various police unions during his career and served as the vice president of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, said.

Washington deadlock on police reform


Police departments are mostly funded locally and any significant effort to defund would need to pass at the local government level. Yet, Nolan said the vast majority of police departments receive some federal funding, so Washington lawmakers do have some "considerable leverage," he said.

But lawmakers have been at odds on how to enact any sort of police reform.

A pair of bills -- one passed by the Democratic-controlled House and another introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate -- include elements that some advocates view as an indirect form of defunding.

The House passed a sweeping police reform bill on June 25 that, among other things, would bar federal funding to police departments that enter into union contracts that prevent federal oversight of discriminatory practices like racial profiling.

The bill, which was titled the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," was opposed by police unions across the country. President Trump threatened to veto the bill but it was not put on the floor for consideration in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats blocked the debate on The Justice Act -- a Republican police reform bill authored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that sought to offer federal incentives to compel departments to implement best practices, train in de-escalation and end controversial tactics, while penalizing those that do not by incrementally reducing federal funding.

Democrats argued that the bill did not go far enough as it does not implement federal mandates to curb police use of force, limit the transfer of federal military equipment to localities or create a national police misconduct database.

It has yet to be seen whether the incoming 117th Congress will move on police reform next year. Although Democrats retained control of the House in 2020, their majority is now slimmer and the balance of power in the Senate will be determined by a pair of Georgia runoffs in January.

As Congress remains deadlocked, calls to defund the police have mainly gained traction among progressive lawmakers -- both in Congress and in state offices. But the movement has been rejected by conservatives and not embraced by many powerful Democrats, including President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Biden has built a strong relationship with the law enforcement community throughout his long career in Washington and although he did not receive the union support Trump did, he received some notable endorsements from law enforcement officials in 2020.

But Biden's tone amid the social unrest this summer has been starkly different from Trump's.

The President-elect voiced strong support for the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement and vowed to tackle systemic racism in policing as president. But Biden's past support for law enforcement has come under scrutiny as he found himself in the middle of a policy battle in the Democratic Party over police reform.

Cities, defunding and the aftermath


Plans are underway to reduce police budgets in major cities. A review of proposed budgets in Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin for example, show money being moved -- some specialized units are being eliminated and other changes are being made.

While these efforts do reallocate some funding and reorganization in police departments, some experts say these examples are not the defunding the movement calls for.

Instead, it's a shuffling of municipal funding, said Stephen Danley, a public policy and administration professor at Rutgers University-Camden.

"They're moving crossing guards out of the police budget and into another budget and saying they decreased the police budget," he said.

As some push for dismantling police altogether in the cry for defunding, the closest example of that happening was in Camden, New Jersey.

Camden made headlines when the city disbanded its police force and rebuilt it as a county department in 2013. At the time, Camden was considered one of the most dangerous cities in America. Poverty and violent crime levels were at record highs and the city was facing a budget deficit of nearly $14 million.

The move didn't arise as a response to police brutality, rather, it was "really born out of our fiscal crisis and our public safety crisis," former Mayor Dana Redd told ABC News.

The creation of a new police force did not immediately lead to a reduction in crime or improved police-community relations. Excessive force complaints increased from 35 in 2013 to 65 in 2014 and summonses for issues like broken taillights and tinted windows increased exponentially.

"De-escalation training and that type of work has been really successful, but it wasn't inherent to the new force," said Danley. "It happened, in part, because of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 that started putting pressure on the force to change these regressive violent tactics that they were using."

As law enforcement agencies and communities across the country look for new ways to engage, one Camden resident, Vedra Chandler, said she hopes residents, city leaders and officers realize police defunding or reorganizing is not one-size-fits-all.

"If there's a model [from Camden] it's not that everybody should adopt community policing, it's that everybody should come up with something to do in their own community that they believe is going to make a difference in how their police force interacts with their citizens," Chandler told ABC News.

Chandler works for a nonprofit and has lived in Camden for 40 years. She said reducing police budgets is a good step, but it is important for law enforcement agencies to address other issues like officer bias and the criminalization of minorities.

"Baby steps are important. If you want to see something different you have to do something different," she said.

Defunding the police, Danley and other advocates say, is only the first step to police reform, and how the funds are reallocated and whether the community is involved in making those decisions are key to ensuring that reform efforts are successful.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A large storm system brought severe weather to parts of the southern U.S. on Tuesday.

There were at least 41 reports of severe weather from Kansas to Louisiana with wind gusts of up to 65 mph reported in Denton, Texas.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, significant damage was reported due to a tornado warned storm with golf ball-sized hail also reported in parts of Oklahoma.

The storm system also brought snow to the Rockies and parts of the upper Midwest.

Denver picked up 5 inches of snow on Tuesday and parts of Colorado picked as much as 13.2 inches of snow. Elsewhere, Rockford, Illinois received 1.7 inches of snow while Chicago O’ Hare received 0.7 inches of snow.

On Wednesday, a large storm system is clearly visible on radar in the central U.S. but the snow threat has dwindled substantially.

However, strong thunderstorms and heavy rain will continue as the storm and its associated frontal system moves east.

There is a risk for strong winds, heavy rain and isolated tornadoes Wednesday from Louisiana to southern Indiana.

Similar to Tuesday, the risk for severe weather is on the low end but all it takes is one locally intense storm to be quite impactful.

Localized flash flooding will be possible as well Wednesday across parts of the Mississippi River valley due to the heavy rain.

This storm system will arrive in the Northeast by Thanksgiving morning with a round of heavy rain expected in the major northeast cities from Washington, D.C. to New York and Boston where localized flash flooding will be possible.

By late afternoon on Thanksgiving, much of the Northeast will be drying out and joining the rest of the country which will already be seeing a relatively dry and quiet Thanksgiving.

Outside of the heavy rain in the Northeast, there is no notable weather to speak of throughout the country.

This is good news for many who are trying to safely see relatives and friends outside and socially distanced.

The next organized weather threat appears to be immediately after Thanksgiving during the extended holiday weekend where a slow moving storm system is likely to develop and move through the southern U.S.

Based on the latest forecast guidance, it appears there could be a potential rainfall and flooding threat on the way to the region that could begin this Friday and last into early next week.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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ABC News/KGO-TVBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A charity that collects toys for children in need has fallen victim to thieves who stole thousands of dollars’ worth of donated toys that would have been given to needy children over the holidays.

The incident occurred when Sally Casazza of the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, one of the largest and oldest programs of its kind that distributes about 200,000 toys to an estimated 40,000 disadvantaged children each year, arrived at the shipping container where hundreds of “trikes” -- similar to tricycles -- were being stored to find that most of them had vanished, according to ABC News’ San Francisco station KGO-TV.

According to Casazza, the thieves cut the lock on the shipping container and then proceeded to empty out much of the storage unit, taking with them an estimated 200 electric fire truck and police car trikes, along with some non-electric ones, worth an estimated $100 each.

"I can see somebody taking one item but taking the whole thing? There goes all the stuff for the younger children that we had, as far as tricycles go," Casazza told KGO.

Firefighters would have given all of those toys to children in need for Christmas.

"I think my only question would be why? I'm disappointed. Why did you do that? Why did you do that to the kids that we're trying to help?" said Casazza.

The San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program has been around since 1949, according to their website, where it began with just a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to more than 300 firefighters in 2019 collecting toys for disadvantaged children. The program is completely dependent on donations to exist.

“Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units. We also respond on a year round basis to displaced children who become victims of fires, floods and other such disasters,” the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program says on their website.

"I'm devastated by that,” Katherine Looper, who runs the Cadillac Hotel San Francisco, which permanently houses homeless individuals, told KGO in an interview. “I can't imagine that someone has that kind of cruelty in their hearts to do that."

KGO also spoke to San Francisco Police Sgt. Rich Jones who heads the nonprofit, Hunter's Chest. He said that only six months ago his storage unit that was full of toys for children was also hit by thieves.

“Really dude? It's for the kids. It's Christmas. Bring them back!" said Sgt. Jones.

A suspect was eventually caught in the Hunter’s Chest incident but none of the toys were ever recovered.

For now, the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program say they are combing through surveillance footage to try and figure out when this crime happened and who could have done it.

Casazza, however, had one last plea.

"If whoever did this is watching and if they want to return all those trikes to us, no questions will be asked," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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WLS-TVBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(CHICAGO) -- Staff working while COVID-19 positive, ineffective hand sanitizer and poor PPE practices were some of the concerns raised during the investigation of an outbreak at an Illinois veterans home that has killed 27 residents.

The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs said Tuesday it has ordered an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home at LaSalle, which has infected 105 residents and 95 employees so far.

The announcement follows two reports and a hearing Tuesday by the Illinois state Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee, during which the issues came to light.

The outbreak was initially discovered after a resident undergoing a hospital procedure on Nov. 1 was found to be COVID-19 positive, one of the reports said. By around Nov. 3, surveillance testing results identified two positive staff members and 22 residents, the report said.

On Nov. 12, officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Department of Veterans' Affairs visited the home. At the time, there were 157 confirmed cases among residents and staff, and seven residents had died, the report said.

The site visit raised several concerns, according to the report, including alcohol-free hand sanitizer -- not effective in killing the virus -- stocked throughout the facility.

"This could have significant impact on the transmission of COVID-19 within the facility," the report said.

Staff members were also observed eating within 6 feet of each other, wearing personal protective equipment in an administrative area and touching patients and surfaces without changing gloves or "performing hand hygiene," according to the report.

The report also recommended that social gatherings be avoided during times of high community transmission, after several employees who attended a Halloween party tested positive for COVID-19.

A subsequent visit on Nov. 17 found that many of the issues were resolved, according to a follow-up report.

State officials raised additional concerns following Tuesday's Senate hearing, during which Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs chief of staff Anthony Kolbeck said the department had found five cases where employees went to work after being notified that they had tested positive for COVID-19.

"They're the only person there for that position. If they went home it would create another issue. They volunteered to stay," Kolbeck said during the hearing.

"The idea that COVID positive staff was allowed to continue working in the home is alarming and unacceptable," state Sen. Sue Rezin, whose district includes the veterans home, said in a statement.

Rezin and state Sen. Paul Schimpf also questioned the timing of the site visit.

"The Governor's Department of Public Health waited 11 days to show up on-site, which caused significant delays in correcting infection control deficiencies leading to this fatal outbreak," Schimpf said in a statement.

Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia said during the hearing that the facility's staff acted "as quickly as they could." She also noted the high level of transmission in the county, saying it was "no coincidence" that cases within the home began to rise as cases rose in the community.

As of Tuesday, LaSalle County's positivity rate was 20.8%, the department said.

The independent investigation could take four to six months, officials said.

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ABC News/KABC-TVBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- A man was struck and killed by three separate hit-and-run drivers who all fled the scene after colliding with him while he was crossing a street Sunday and now police are appealing to the public for help in finding the perpetrators.

The incident occurred at approximately 7:39 p.m. in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Florence when 50-year-old Jose Fuentes was crossing a street when a motorcycle traveling northbound collided with him, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

In video released by the LAPD, Fuentes can be seen lying in the road after being struck by the motorcycle as it speeds away. Just seconds later, Fuentes is then hit by a white sedan which also fled the scene after the collision, according to ABC News’ Los Angeles station KABC-TV.

In a separate video of the same accident that was released by the Los Angeles Police South Traffic Division, the man on the motorcycle can be seen stopped somewhere down the road before getting back on his motorcycle and fleeing.

“Nobody stopped and helped out Mr. Fuentes as he lied there,” said LAPD Detective Ryan Moreno is a statement in front of the press. “The guy on the motorcycle, he kind of went out onto the street, maybe [he could have] stopped to block traffic and prevented even the second or third collision from happening. But he elected to get on his motorcycle and took off and left and fled the scene.”

Fuentes was subsequently hit a third time following the motorcycle and the white sedan but police did not release any information on that vehicle or a possible description of the suspect. Not one of the three vehicles stopped after striking Fuentes.

Authorities are now looking for all three suspects but were only able to say that they are looking for a dark colored sports bike being driven by a man as well as a white colored sedan.

Said the LAPD in a separate written statement on their website: “On April 15, 2015, the City Council amended the Los Angeles Administrative Code and created a Hit and Run Reward Program Trust Fund. A reward of up to $50,000 is available to community members who provide information leading to the offender's identification, apprehension, and conviction or resolution through a civil compromise.”

Anyone with information regarding Fuentes' death is asked to contact the LAPD's South Traffic Division.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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the_guitar_mann/iStockBy JINSOL JUNG, JOSEPH RHEE and GERRY WAGSCHAL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Despite the recent recertification of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 by the Federal Aviation Administration, some are still skeptical about the safety of the airplane.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft had been grounded since 2019 when it was implicated in two crashes that killed 346 people.

Even with the FAA’s approval, some of the family members of those who died in the crashes are not only wary of getting on the 737 MAX, but other Boeing planes as well.

Nadia Milleron and Michael Stumo lost their daughter, Samya Stumo, in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019. The 24-year-old had been on a business trip to East Africa, where she planned to help set up new offices for her employer.

Her parents say they will never get on a 737 MAX.

“We will warn every single person we know to look at the equipment that they are flying on and make sure that they don't fly on a 737 MAX. We would continue that for other problematic new planes that Boeing produces,” said Milleron.

One Russian mother, Elena Anokhina, lost her daughter and son-in-law in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. She told ABC News in Russian, “I wouldn’t recommend to anyone in my family to fly with these Boeing MAX aircraft.”

Ekaterina Polyakov and her husband Aleksandr Polyakov had been on vacation and they wanted to visit Kenya to see its national parks, according to Anokhina.

Other family members of the crash victims are concerned that the overall culture at Boeing could affect the production of its other planes, not just the 737 MAX.

“I will never enter the MAX, even when it enters service again. I would advise anybody never to enter that MAX,” said Tom Kabau.

Kabau lost his brother, George Kabau, on Ethopian Airlines flight 302. George Kabau, 29, was an electrical engineer at General Electric on his way back home from a business trip.

“The other concern is, we ask ourselves, this is what happened to the MAX, could this have happened to other planes? Could that attitude also have affected the assembling of other Boeing planes?” said Kabau.

Captain Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines 737 pilot and a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, told ABC News that he’s concerned that the same regulatory system that re-certified the MAX is the same one that let it fly in the first place.

“We have to just keep watching. The system needs to be reformed, restructured, pick your R-word. It didn't work. It failed,” said Tajer.

In a statement to ABC News' 20/20, Boeing said it had "cooperated fully with government and regulatory reviews and also have made a series of meaningful changes to strengthen our company’s safety practices and culture.”

"On November 18, 2020, the FAA lifted the order that suspended operation of 737-8s and 737-9s. The agency’s action validated that with the approved software update, additional pilot training and other defined steps, the newest member of the 737 family is safe and ready to fly," Boeing's statement continued. "We have full confidence in its safety."

American Airlines was one of the first airlines to announce an upcoming 737 MAX flight. The route is scheduled to take place on Dec. 29, 2020, from Miami to New York City.

“If a customer doesn’t want to fly on the 737 MAX, they won’t have to. Our customers will be able to easily identify whether they are traveling on one, even if schedules change. If a customer prefers to not fly on this aircraft, we’ll provide flexibility to ensure they can be easily re-accommodated,” American Airlines announced in a press release.

One former Boeing engineer, Peter Lemme, told ABC News he understands why people would be hesitant to fly on the 737 MAX.

“When an airplane crashes because it wasn't designed well, that just doesn't sit well and it makes you ask questions as to what else wasn't designed well, and that gets to confidence. And how do you ever get that back?” said Lemme.

Lemme did not work on the 737 MAX, having left Boeing in 1997, but he believes the aircraft is now safe.

“I'm happy to fly on the 737. I have no issue about that, and I think it's going to be a great airplane. I really do,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next week on a bill that aims to increase the FAA’s aircraft oversight, a measure stemming from criticism that regulators gave too much power to Boeing when the agency originally reviewed and ultimately approved the 737 MAX.

Watch the full story on 20/20 this Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Courtesy of Save the Boards to Memorialize the MovementBy DEENA ZARU and ARIELLE MITROPOULOS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As protests over the police killing of George Floyd wound down this fall after reaching a fever pitch over the summer, Black Lives Matter murals, graffiti and art that popped up on thousands of boarded-up businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic began disappearing.

But in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, a pair of activists had launched a months-long effort to save the art in hopes of preserving the historic artifacts that tell a story of pain and resistance amid the largest civil rights movement in U.S. history.

Now, six months after Floyd's death, Kenda Zellner-Smith and Leesa Kelly have collected at least 593 plywood boards from around Minneapolis and St. Paul that could otherwise have been destroyed, disposed of or defaced.

Zellner-Smith and Kelly did not know each other initially, but each had started an individual effort to save the art over the summer. But after the two women were featured on ABC News' Nightline in an August story about Minneapolis activists' efforts to save the art, they connected for the first time and ended up joining forces, according to Zellner-Smith.

What had started out as Zellner-Smith's "Save the Boards" and Kelly's "Memorialize the Movement" campaigns is now "Save the Boards to Memorialize the Movement," and local activists, artists and organizations, like the Whittier Neighborhood Alliance, have taken notice and donated their own finds to the collection and resources to transport the art.

"My partnership with Leesa is amazing. You know, I'm a biracial Black woman, Leesa's a Black woman," Zellner-Smith told ABC News. "I look up to her so much and I take a lot of inspiration from her ... and together we're just kind of a dream team. Where I have weaknesses, that's where Leesa picks up with her strengths and vice versa."

"It was just a relief to find somebody who was also doing the same thing that I was doing, to find somebody who was as passionate about preserving this art and keeping it a part of Black history," added Kelly.

Kelly said that they've worked to save both the really elaborate, detailed and beautifully colored boards created by artists and the simpler, rougher, raw boards filled with messages or images created by protesters, because they are "equally as important" in telling the story.

Some boards have messages, some have poems, some have portraits of Black men and women killed by police.

In September, they launched a GoFundMe page, which allowed them to gather enough funding to sign a one-year lease for a building in northeast Minneapolis to store the boards. For the first time, Kelly and Zellner-Smith were able to see, gathered under one roof, the extent of their tremendous collection.

"I wish you could see what it's like being in the storage space," Kelly said. "When you look around, you just get this whole message of pain, grief, solidarity, you know, anger, like a need for change, a want for a better future for us all. It's really, really powerful."

It was "super monumental and super exciting," Kelly said of finding the storage space.

There are still some boards up around the city, but most businesses have taken them down, while others have been defaced or destroyed.

"It's a hard pill to swallow when you realize there are a big majority of people that have moved on. ... They've kind of forgotten about what the environment, what that energy was, in the summer with those boards present," Zellner-Smith said.

But as they work on finding a permanent home for the boards, the activists are coming up with plans to made the boards available for public viewing soon.

They started working on a project to digitally archive the art, which includes 3D scanning, so they can be accessible widely on various platforms.

And next year, on the one-year anniversary of Floyd's killing -- May 25, 2021 -- Zellner-Smith and Kelly are planning an exhibit at Phelps Field Park in Minneapolis where all the boards will be displayed for public viewing for the first time.

Kelly and Zellner-Smith hope to find a permanent place for their collection, a venue that would be free and accessible to the public. They are reaching out to Black-owned arts organizations to discuss potential long-term plans.

Ideally, they would like a space located in a Black neighborhood in the Twin Cities "because we are the ones who are most affected by what happened," Kelly said.

"There has to be a space for Black people, by Black people, where this art can be available for healing and reflection, a reminder of what happened in a way to continue the movement," she added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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ABC NewsBy HALEY YAMADA and ERIC NOLL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The power of the internet was on full display for one family that had lost its puppy Golden Retriever.

Brian James, of Cairo, New York, came across the online flyer for year-old Meadow in November and said he was moved to join the community effort to find the white pup, which had been lost in a wooded area for over a week.

“I’m realizing that [it] might be easy to see her from the air if we find her before snow [falls],” said James, who is a licensed hiking guide and drone pilot.

James traveled a few miles away to Andes, New York, where he used the drone to canvass the trees around where Meadow was last spotted. He soon came upon a patch of white.

“I was able to get a visual on Meadow from the air,” said James.

He said he quickly rushed to the spot where he found the pup, which was uninjured. She was reunited with her family soon afterward.

The family told ABC News' World News Tonight that they are overjoyed to have her back home.

“At the last second, he saw a small white dot on the forest floor. … It was Meadow,” said owner Gary Morgan.

Morgan and his wife, Debbie Morgan, said that they are thankful for James, a stranger who answered the call for help.

“[We’re] just so grateful for Brian for showing up when he did and being able to rescue her,” said Debbie Morgan.

James told World News Tonight that anybody could do the same.

“Everybody’s got the capability to help,” he said. “You never know what will come of it.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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narvikk/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 59.2 million people and killed over 1.3 million worldwide.

Here's how the news developed Tuesday. All times Eastern:

Nov 24, 10:47 pm
COVID-19 deaths in US up 27% week-over-week: HHS memo


There were 10,784 deaths recorded from Nov. 17 to 23, marking a 26.9% increase in new deaths compared with the previous week, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News Tuesday night.

New cases increased 12.2% during that time, and the national test-positivity rate dropped to 10.3% from 10.8%, the memo said.

Across the country, 27% of hospitals have more than 80% of their intensive care unit beds filled.

Maine, Pennsylvania and Texas saw unprecedented increases in COVID-19 cases, and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania surpassed their April peak, the memo noted.

Nov 24, 8:15 pm
Hospitalizations hit record high for 15th consecutive day

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 set a new record for the 15th consecutive day on Tuesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

There were 88,080 people currently hospitalized, based on the tracker. The record-setting run began on Nov. 10 with 62,062 hospitalizations.

Hospitalizations are increasing "at an extremely fast rate" in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the tracker said.

The U.S. also saw more than 2,000 new COVID-19 deaths for the first time since early May, COVID Tracking Project data shows, with states reporting 2,028 fatalities on Tuesday.

Nov 24, 8:14 pm
Minnesota pauses football program, cancels Wisconsin game due


The University of Minnesota has paused its football program and canceled Saturday's game against Wisconsin due to a "sudden increase" in COVID-19 cases, officials said.

Nine student-athletes and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days, officials said Tuesday. The program is also awaiting confirmation of additional presumptive positive tests.

The numbers marked a "sudden increase in positive cases," Dr. Brad Nelson, the department's medical director, said in a statement. The pause "will allow the team to focus on stopping the spread of the virus," he said.

The cancellation marks the first time Minnesota and Wisconsin won't play in 113 consecutive years, ending the longest uninterrupted series in Football Bowl Subdivision history, according to ESPN.

Saturday's game at Wisconsin will not be rescheduled, per Big Ten policy, and will be ruled a no contest.

Minnesota officials said they hope to be healthy enough to play Northwestern on Dec. 5.

Nov 24, 6:36 pm
White House testing czar warns of false sense of security with negative COVID test

With holiday travel approaching, a top White House coronavirus official warned against a false sense of security that a negative COVID-19 test might provide.

"Please remember that a negative test today does not mean you will be negative tomorrow or in a few days afterwards," Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said on a call with reporters Tuesday. "We know that a single test can provide false senses of security. You still have to wear your mask and everything else."

"If you're negative today, you could be positive by Thanksgiving or Friday," he continued. "You can get it while you're traveling on vacation."

Giroir confirmed that the Trump administration is considering shortening the recommended coronavirus quarantine time from 14 days to 10 days, complemented by a negative test administered on day seven or 10 -- as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. They are "right now reviewing the evidence," he said.

Demand for testing ahead of the holiday continues to strain the diagnostics system, prompting recurrent warnings from major labs that turnaround times may be delayed. Testing could become even further strapped if a shortened quarantine would require a negative test.

When asked if the system has the ability to handle such widespread asymptomatic screening, Giroir said he was "certainly cognizant" of the turnaround times and was doing "everything possible to increase those supplies."

"Asymptomatic testing is very important, but we need to do that on targeted populations," he said. "We're not at the point that sort of every American can test themselves every day, without a reason to do that. We are trying to build that infrastructure."
 
ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report

Nov 24, 4:59 pm
California 'in the midst of a surge,' health secretary says

California is "in the midst of a surge," as the COVID-19 test positivity rate has increased 51% in two weeks, state Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

"These numbers are really going up and going up quickly," Ghaly said during a press briefing Tuesday.
 
The state reported 15,329 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The 14-day positivity rate is 5.6%.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up 81.3% over the last 14 days, and intensive care unit hospitalizations increased 57.1% during that period. There are currently 5,844 hospitalizations and 1,397 ICU hospitalizations in the state.
 
Ghaly warned that 12% of today's cases end up hospitalized about two to three weeks later, and that ICU units in parts of the state are already being pressed.

Four more counties also moved to California's most restrictive reopening tier on Tuesday, bringing the total number of "purple" counties to 45 -- nearly 95% of the state's population. No counties are left in the yellow tier, the least restrictive of the four.

ABC News' Bonnie Mclean contributed to this report

Nov 24, 4:38 pm
COVID-19 deaths rates increased worldwide in past week: WHO

COVID-19 fatality rates continue to increase globally, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported in the week ending Nov. 22, according to the World Health Organization.

That continues an upward trend since mid-October, according to the WHO's weekly global epidemiological situation report.
 
The European region is the largest global contributor of new cases and fatalities, with Italy reporting the highest number of new cases in the region and the third-highest globally. Cases have decreased 6% in Europe, "a sign that the re-introduction of stricter public health and social measures ... is beginning to slow transmission," the report said.

The U.S. reported a 14% increase in cases and a 23% increase in deaths, according to the report. Fatalities nearly doubled over previous weeks in Puerto Rico.

The African region reported the highest increase in new cases (15%) and deaths (30%) this week, according to the report.
 
ABC News' Christine Theodorou contributed to this report

Nov 24, 4:19 pm
France to lift COVID-19 restrictions in stages starting this week

France will begin lifting its COVID-19 restrictions this week, President Emmanuel Macron announced.

"The peak of the second wave of the epidemic has passed," Macron said Tuesday during an address to the nation, but warned the virus remains "very present" in France.

The president outlined three stages of opening. Starting Saturday, all businesses can reopen until 9 p.m., and at-home services, such as hairdressers, can resume. Religious services up to 30 people will be permitted, and more outdoor activity will be allowed. Residents still need permission slips to leave their homes.

The country's lockdown could end by Dec. 15 if COVID-19 cases are below 5,000 per day, Macron said. At that stage, residents will no longer need permission slips to move about, including between regions, and can celebrate family holidays. Cinemas, theaters and museums will be able to reopen, and a nightly curfew will operate from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

By Jan. 20, if cases are below 5,000 per day, restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms can reopen, and the curfew will be reduced. High schools will also fully reopen for in-person learning, followed by universities 15 days later.

Authorities are working to make testing more efficient, with the goal of having test results within 24 hours by Jan. 20, Macron said.

The president also announced financial support for those affected by lockdowns; restaurants, bars, nightclubs and sports halls can receive 20% of their turnover for the year 2019, if it is more than the 10,000 euros, from the existing "solidarity fund."

ABC News' Ibtissem Guenfoud contributed to this report

Nov 24, 3:01 pm
Pfizer vaccine could be distributed 'soon after Dec. 10,' Azar says

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate could be distributed "soon after Dec. 10," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during an Operation Warp Speed briefing Tuesday.

Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last week, and a hearing date was set for Dec. 10 to discuss the vaccine's possible authorization.

"If all goes well, we could be distributing vaccines soon after Dec. 10," possibly within 24 hours of FDA authorization, Azar said.

Elderly care facilities and health care providers will be the first to be offered the vaccine, according to U.S. officials.

Officials addressed an increase in vaccine hesitancy amidst the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health leaders are working on a campaign to educate the public on the need to be vaccinated and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, Azar said.

“I will get myself vaccinated as soon as I will be allowed to be vaccinated, to demonstrate to the American people my complete confidence in the independence and integrity of the process and the quality of any vaccine that I would make available to the American people,” Azar later added.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report

Nov 24, 12:23 pm
26 US states plus DC see average number of new cases double since Nov. 1

At least 26 U.S. states and the nation's capital have seen the seven-day average of their daily COVID-19 cases double since the beginning of the month, according to an ABC News analysis of trends across the country.

In addition to Washington D.C., those 26 states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The national monthly tally of cases also continues to increase rapidly. There have been at least 20 straight days where the country as a whole has confirmed more than 100,000 new cases in a 24-hour reporting period. Over 3.1 million cases have been confirmed so far in just the month of November, which would be roughly the equivalent to a theoretical scenario where the entire state of Utah had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the United States has doubled in the past month, with 12 states reporting a record number of hospitalizations on Monday.

The United States is now averaging more than 1,500 new COVID-19 fatalities every day, a rate of more than one death reported per minute. The national seven-day average of daily deaths is also now twice as high as it was just a month ago.

The trends were all analyzed from data collected and published by the COVID Tracking Project over the past two weeks, using the linear regression trend line of the seven-day moving average.

ABC News' Benjamin Bell, Brian Hartman, Soorin Kim and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Nov 24, 11:54 am
Russia says its vaccine is over 95% effective

Russia claims it's COVID-19 vaccine, called Sputnik V, is more than 95% effective in preventing the disease.

The Russian Ministry of Health's Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology released results Tuesday from the second interim data analysis of its ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials, which showed Sputnik V had a 91.4% efficacy rate 28 days after volunteers received the first dose and seven days after they received the second one.

Moreover, preliminary data obtained 42 days after the first dose -- 21 days after the second dose -- indicates the vaccine's efficacy rate is more than 95%, according to a press release from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is overseeing the vaccine's development.

The analysis was carried out among nearly 19,000 volunteers who received both the first and second doses of Sputnik V or placebo. The press release noted that some volunteers experienced short-term, minor adverse events such as pain at the injection point and flu-like symptoms, but that no unexpected adverse events were identified as part of the research and the safety of the vaccine is constantly being monitored.

After being developed by the state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Sputnik V was controversially registered by the health ministry in August before starting crucial Phase 3 trials, with Russia declaring itself the first in the world to register a COVID-19 vaccine. The latest results come just days after three other leading vaccine candidates from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford announced that data from their respective trials showed efficacy of up to or over 90%.

Russia has offered to share related technology from Sputnik V with U.K.-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to help boost the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with England's University of Oxford. Like the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, Sputnik V is based on a modified adenovirus, a type of virus that causes the common cold, which is adapted to produce an immune response for COVID-19. However, Russia claims its vaccine is more effective because it uses different types of modified adenovirus in the first and second doses, rather than just one. The Eastern European country has also said it will sell the drug for cheaper than the leading Western vaccines, offering it for less than $10 a dose.

Russia's vaccine effort has faced criticism for its lack of transparency and hurried approval process. International researchers raised questions about results from early trials published in peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet that contained anomalies and did not include a detailed breakdown of the data.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly praised Sputnik V and said one of his daughters has already received it. But Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskvov, told reporters Tuesday that the vaccine has not yet been administered to the head of state because it would be inappropriate for him to participate in the trials "as a volunteer."

"The president can't use an uncertified vaccine," Peskov said.

ABC News' Alina Lobzina and Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.


Nov 24, 9:56 am
US Bureau of Prisons working with Operation Warp Speed to prioritize staff, inmates for vaccine


The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is working with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine initiative, Operation Warp Speed, to prioritize prison staff and inmates once a vaccine is approved, according to a memo obtained by ABC News.

The memo said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is determining allocations but the Bureau of Prisons will be included in that initial allotment, which will first be reserved for staff. The memo noted that staff must register on the CDC's website before receiving the vaccine, which will be administered in two doses.

"The BOP Health Services Division is working with the CDC and Operation Warp Speed to ensure the BOP is prepared to receive the COVID-19 once it becomes available," the memo said.

Earlier this month, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General "identified numerous failures" in how staff at a federal prison complex in south Louisiana responded to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

The Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana, suffered the first coronavirus-related death in the federal prison system. As of Nov. 8, the facility had 256 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least eight of the prison's approximately 1,800 inmates had died from COVID-19 complications, according to the inspector general's report.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.

Nov 24, 9:03 am
Global airline body developing COVID-19 'Travel Pass'


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced it is finalizing the development of a digital health pass that will allow travelers to store all vaccination or testing information required by airlines and governments amid COVID-19 restrictions.

IATA, a Montreal-based body that represents many of the world's major airlines, plans to test the "Travel Pass" platform later this year before launching the set of mobile apps for Android and Apple iOS smartphones in the first half of 2021.

"Our main priority is to get people traveling again safely," Nick Careen, IATA's senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, said in a statement Monday. "In the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements."

The "IATA Travel Pass" incorporates four open sourced and interoperable modules: a global registry of health requirements that enables passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey; a global registry of testing and vaccination centers that allows passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination; a "Lab App" that enables authorized labs and testing centers to securely share test and vaccination certificates with passengers; and a "Contactless Travel App" that allows passengers to create a "digital passport," receive test and vaccination certificates while verifying that they are sufficient for their journey, and share those certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel.

The "Contactless Travel App" will also link to a digital copy of the user's passport and other travel documentation.

"Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures," IATA director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement Monday. "The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements."

Nov 24, 6:16 am
Daily virus deaths hit new high in Russia


Russia registered 491 more fatalities from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, marking the country's highest single-day death toll from the disease so far.

An additional 24,326 cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed nationwide, down from the previous day's peak of 25,173 newly diagnosed infections. The cumulative total now stands at 2,138,828 confirmed cases, including 37,031 deaths, according to Russia's coronavirus response headquarters.

Russia has seen a resurgence in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with multiple back-to-back days of record-high deaths and cases. The Eastern European nation of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of confirmed cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Tuesday that a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign is expected to begin next year, according to the Interfax news agency. She noted that immunization will be voluntary.

More than two million doses of Sputnik V, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Russian Ministry of Health's Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, will be produced by the end of the year, Golikova said.

Nov 24, 5:45 am
Death toll from outbreak at Illinois veterans home rises to 27


A COVID-19 outbreak at a veterans home in Illinois has left more than two dozen people dead, according to a report by Chicago ABC station WLS-TV.

At least 27 veterans who lived at the Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle, some 100 miles southwest of Chicago, have died from COVID-19, according to WLS, which cited the Illinois Department of Veterans.

"That's over 20 percent of our veterans that have passed away in the past several weeks," state Sen. Sue Rezin told WLS.

Rezin said the facility, which is in her district, continues to see an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases.

"November 4th, there were only four cases of COVID within the home," she said. "Very quickly within the past 20 days, we've had almost 200 cases."

The Illinois Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will meet virtually Tuesday to discuss the crises at the LaSalle facility.

"We need answers and we need answers today," Rezin said.

So far, a total of 96 residents and 93 employees at the Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the facility's administrator, Angela Mehlbrech. The veterans home has been conducting health screenings of its residents and staff, maintaining social distancing practices, wearing face coverings as well as intensifying cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

An infection control team has been sent to the facility, according to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

"When there is massive, widespread community spread," Pritzker told WLS, "there's no way to keep it out of every facility."

Nov 24, 4:05 am
US reports over 169,000 new cases


There were 169,190 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Monday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the 21st straight day that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Monday's count falls under the all-time high of 196,004 new cases on Nov. 20.

An additional 889 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Monday, down from a peak of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

A total of 12,420,872 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 257,701 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country's cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

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ABC NewsBy DANIEL MANZO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A large storm system is developing in the central U.S. and it is bringing some snow to parts of the Rocky Mountains and the upper Midwest.

Winter Weather Advisories have been issued for parts of both regions, including large parts of Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.

Roadways in and around Chicago, Rockford, Milwaukee and Cedar Rapids could be slippery Tuesday morning due to the snow.

Temperatures in the region are pretty close to freezing so the snow will have trouble accumulating on some surfaces, with much of the accumulation being on grassy surfaces where most spots will see 1 to 3 inches of snow.

On the southern side of this storm system we will see the chance for severe storms to develop later Tuesday in parts of the Southern Plains, especially in Oklahoma where damaging winds and brief tornadoes will be possible.

By Wednesday morning as the storm moves east, some of those strong to severe storms will move through parts of Louisiana up through parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

Once again, the main threat will be damaging winds, although isolated tornadoes will also be possible once again.

On Thanksgiving morning, the storm system will reach the East Coast and heavy rain will overspread much of the Northeast including the major I-95 cities where localized flooding will be possible.

The good news is the bulk of the rain will clear the East Coast by the evening hours on Thanksgiving.

Behind this system on Thanksgiving, much of the country will be dry and mild with no real organized weather threat. This is perfect for many who are aiming to safely see relatives outdoors or with windows open given the current health crisis.

The next organized weather threat appears to be immediately after Thanksgiving during the extended holiday weekend as a slow moving storm system is likely to develop and move through the southern U.S.

Based on the latest forecast guidance, it appears there could be a potential rainfall and flooding threat on the way for the region that could last into early next week.

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MattGush/iStockBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) -- An 11-year-old boy has been arrested after allegedly intentionally setting multiple fires at a home in his own neighborhood while people were located inside.

The incident occurred at approximately 4:10 p.m. Monday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when the Chattanooga Fire Department received a call regarding several fires outside a home with a possible vehicle and dumpster fire.

When authorities arrived they discovered a car was on fire in the rear driveway of the home, another fire located in a trash can that was up against the residence and a cooler on the porch that was also ablaze, according to the Chattanooga Fire Department.

“Several witnesses provided statements about what they saw to investigators, who arrested and charged the child with Aggravated Arson and Setting Fire to Personal Property,” the Chattanooga Fire Department said in a press release.

The child reportedly lives in the area but not at the home where all of the fires were located. It is unclear what the child’s motivations were or what relationship he may have had with the people at the residence.

Authorities, however, were able to successfully extinguish the fires on the porch and in the trash can against the home before more damage was caused to the residence. The car fire, however, did cause damage to the vehicle, the extent of which was not disclosed by the Chattanooga Fire Department.

The boy, whose name has not been released due to his age, has since been taken to a juvenile detention facility for processing.

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