VIRUS TODAY: Relief bill in limbo, California hits 2M cases

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

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

— House Republicans shot down a Democratic bid on Thursday to pass President Donald Trump’s longshot, end-of-session demand for $2,000 direct payments to most Americans before signing a long-overdue COVID-19 relief bill. The vote shifts attention to whether Trump will follow through on his implied threat to veto the bill, which would likely cause a partial government shutdown and delay the $600 direct payments that the bill does contain.

— California became the first state to record 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases, reaching the milestone on Christmas Eve as close to the entire state was under a strict stay-at-home order and hospitals were flooded with the largest crush of cases since the pandemic began.

— Schools nationwide have scrambled to get students outdoors during the pandemic to keep them safe and stop the spread of COVID-19. Some schools in the country’s most frigid climes plan to keep outdoor learning going all winter, with students trading desks in warm classrooms for tree stumps or buckets.

THE NUMBERS: More than 3,000 people died in the U.S. from the coronavirus on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, the third stretch of back-to-back days of 3,000-plus deaths this month. The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 2,259.9 on December 9 to 2,668.7 on December 23, according to data through from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATH TOLL: The U.S. death toll stands at 326,259 people, roughly the same as the population of Corpus Christi, Texas.

QUOTABLE: “Every day, I look into the eyes of someone who is struggling to breathe. — Jenny Carrillo, a charge nurse at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in California, which recorded a record number of coronavirus patients this week.

ICYMI: Drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech have reached a $2 billion deal to supply the U.S. government with an additional 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which they expect to deliver by July 31. Pfizer already has a contract to supply the government with 100 million doses of its vaccine, which requires two doses per patient.

ON THE HORIZON: As southwest Louisiana recovers from the back-to-back hurricanes, signs of progress compete with lingering evidence of mass destruction. Some worry that the hurricanes have not gotten the kind of attention that normally leads to an outpouring of support in a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, a deeply divisive election and a national reckoning on race,

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

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