VIRUS TODAY: Vaccinations expand; 2nd vaccine nears approval

Here’s what’s happening Tuesday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

— Hundreds more hospitals around the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots to their workers in a rapid expansion of the U.S. vaccination drive Tuesday, while a second vaccine moved to the cusp of government authorization.

— Across the U.S., state and local public health officials have found themselves at the center of a political storm. Some have become the target of far-right activists, conservative groups and anti-vaccination extremists, who have coalesced around common goals — fighting mask orders, quarantines and contact tracing with protests, threats and personal attacks.

— The chances that coronavirus shots will be shared fairly between rich nations and the rest are fading fast, some experts say.

THE NUMBERS: The seven-day rolling positivity rate for testing in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 9.7 on Nov. 30 to 11.4 on Monday.

DEATH TOLL: The U.S. death toll climbed to 300,886, approaching the population of Cincinnati.

QUOTABLE: “I’m happy that in another month and a half I won’t have to be afraid to go into a room anymore. I won’t have to be afraid to perform chest compressions or be present when they’re intubating a patient.” — Maritza Beniquez, a nurse at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, and the first person to receive the vaccine in the state.

ICYMI: This year’s edition of Operation Santa Claus did not have the pomp and grandeur of previous incarnations, but the mission of delivering gifts in Alaska and two other largely Alaska Native villages was completed with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

ON THE HORIZON: A panel of outside experts is expected to vote to recommend Moderna’s vaccine formula Thursday, with the Food and Drug Administration’s green light coming soon thereafter.

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Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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