LOS ANGELES — Medical staffing is stretched increasingly thin as California hospitals scramble to find beds for patients amid an explosion of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm the state’s emergency care system.

As of Sunday, more than 16,840 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections — more than double the previous peak reached in July.

An enormous crush of cases in the last six weeks has California’s death toll spiraling ever higher. Another 161 fatalities were reported Sunday.

All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have exhausted their regular intensive care unit capacity, and some hospitals have begun using “surge” space.

A nurse in hard-hit Los Angeles County estimates she’s been averaging less than 10 minutes of care per patient every hour.

FedEx exec: Holiday shipping won’t affect coronavirus deliveries

TOPEKA, Kan. — A FedEx executive says a higher-than-normal volume of Christmas-season package deliveries won’t interfere with the company’s effort to ship coronavirus vaccine doses.

Jenny Robertson, a FedEx senior vice president, said two trucks on Sunday moved doses of a vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health from a factory in Olive Branch, Mississippi, to the company’s world hub in nearby Memphis, Tennessee, so that shipments could be loaded onto its airplanes bound for multiple states.

She said the company is keeping its networks for shipping the vaccine and handling Christmas packages separate.

“Nothing’s more important than the delivery of the vaccine to us, but we have put in place distinct networks that are keeping e-commerce moving through our ground network and vaccines moving through our express network,” she said. “We’re able to manage this volume right now.”

Robertson said the company has seen holiday-level volumes for shipping packages since March because consumers switched how they buy products during the pandemic.

Congress seals agreement on COVID relief, government funding

WASHINGTON — Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal Sunday on an almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.

The agreement, announced by Senate leaders, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefits and $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

The House was expected to vote on the legislation very late Sunday or Monday and Senate action would follow. Lawmakers are eager to leave Washington and close out a tumultuous year.

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Saudi Arabia suspends international flights

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended all international passenger flights for citizens and residents over fears about the fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus.

The kingdom’s interior ministry says the one-week flight ban may be extended “until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear.”

The country’s land and sea ports will also close for a week. The government ordered anyone who has returned from or passed through a European country over the past three months to get tested for COVID-19 immediately.

The ministry added that the travel suspension will not affect the country’s cargo flights and supply chains.

Cuomo wants ban on flights from Great Britain to New York City

NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a ban on flights from Great Britain to New York City over fears about the new strain of coronavirus.

Cuomo told reporters in a teleconference on Sunday that the six flights arriving daily at Kennedy Airport from Britain pose a health risk. He called on the federal government to either ban the flights or require testing on all passengers.

The first wave of coronavirus infections in New York “came from Europe and we did nothing,” the Democratic governor said. “Doing nothing is negligent.”

Chief science adviser says U.S. will be shipping nearly 8 million doses of vaccine

WASHINGTON — The chief science adviser for the U.S. government’s vaccine distribution effort says it will be shipping nearly 8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine Monday.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that 5.9 million doses of a vaccine made by Moderna and 2 million of a vaccine made by Pfizer will be shipped.

At least a dozen states reported last week that they would receive a smaller second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine than they had been told previously. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, in charge of the distribution effort, apologized Saturday for “miscommunication” with states over the number of doses to be delivered in the early stages of distribution.

Slaoui said the mistake was assuming vaccines that had been produced were ready for shipment when there was a two-day delay.

“And unless it’s perfectly right, we will not release vaccine doses for usage,” he said. “And, sometimes, there could be small hiccups. There have been none, actually, in manufacturing now. The hiccup was more into the planning.”

Slaoui also said the U.S. will experience “a continuing surge” in the coronavirus, with larger numbers of cases possible from gatherings for the Christmas holiday.

More than 1 million people pass through U.S. airports in past two days

SAN RAMON, Calif. — More than 1 million people have passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints in each of the past two days in a sign that public health pleas to avoid holiday travel are being ignored, despite an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

It marks the first time U.S. airports have screened more than 1 million passengers since Nov. 29. That came at the end of a Thanksgiving weekend that saw far more travel around the country than had been hoped as the weather turned colder and COVID-19 cases were already spiking again.

Now, hospitals in many parts of the country are being overwhelmed amid the largest outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. since the pandemic since March when most people in the U.S. were ordered to stay at home and avoid interactions with other households.

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Biden nominee comments on 2021 vaccine rollout

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. surgeon general says it’s more realistic to think it may be mid-summer or early fall before coronavirus vaccines are available to the general population in the United States, rather than late spring.

Speaking on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vivek Murthy said Biden’s team is working toward having coronavirus vaccines available to lower-risk individuals by late spring but doing so requires “everything to go exactly on schedule.”

“I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer or early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population,” Murthy said. “So, we want to be optimistic, but we want to be cautious as well.”

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general in the Obama administration, said Biden’s promise of 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in office is realistic and that the Biden team has seen more cooperation from Trump administration officials.

Surgeon General says Trump does not need vaccine

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s surgeon general is defending Trump’s not getting a coronavirus vaccine, saying there are medical reasons for it.

U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, noted that Trump both contracted COVID-19 in October and was treated with monoclonal antibodies.

“And that is actually one scenario where we tell people maybe you should hold off on getting the vaccine, talk to your health provider to find out the right time,” Adams said.

Asked about Trump doing a public-service announcement for the vaccine to encourage his supporters to get it, Adams noted that both he and Vice President Mike Pence got vaccinated.

Adams, who is Black, said he understands that mistrust of the medical community and the vaccine among Blacks “comes from a real place,” the mistreatment of communities of color.

Israel bans flights from several nations

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country is banning flights from Britain, Denmark or South Africa due to fears about the new strain of coronavirus.

“Those are the countries where the mutation is found,” he said.

He also said Sunday that anyone returning from those countries would have to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine in state-run hotels.

Netanyahu spoke a day after he was vaccinated against the coronavirus – the first Israeli to do so in what he said was an attempt to encourage the public to follow suit. Israel pushed ahead with its vaccination campaign on Sunday, beginning with other top officials and front-line health-care workers.

Belgium closes borders with United Kingdom

LONDON — Eurostar trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam are being canceled from Monday, after the Belgian government announced that borders with the U.K will close at midnight Sunday.

The high-speed train operator said Sunday that trains continue to operate on the London to Paris route.

The Belgian government has said it will review the position in 24 hours. Eurostar said they’re awaiting further details from relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced.

European countries including the Netherlands, Austria and Italy said Sunday they would halt flights from the U.K., hours after Britain’s government imposed tough new coronavirus restrictions on large areas of southern England to curb what officials described as a fast-moving new strain of the virus.

Outbreak at Hawaii’s largest prison keeps expanding

HONOLULU — A coronavirus outbreak at Hawaii’s largest prison continues to escalate.

The state Department of Public Safety said Saturday that an additional 55 inmates and eight employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Halawa Correctional Facility.

KITV-TV reports that the total number of active cases in the prison now encompasses 325 inmates and 43 staffers.

The Department of Public Safety had announced a lockdown and other measures to try to control the outbreak, which initially infected three inmates and 10 staffers last week.

The outbreak at Halawa is the third major correctional facility in the state to face coronavirus issues since the pandemic began.

Italy suspends flights from Britain

ROME — Italy’s foreign minister announced Sunday that Italy is suspending flights from Britain “to protect Italians” from the new coronavirus variant.

Luigi Di Maio tweeted that the government was preparing a measure that would block flights. It wasn’t immediately clear when it would it would take effect.

Italian media reports indicate about two dozen flights are scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sunday, most in the northern region of Lombardy but also in Veneto and Lazio, which include Venice and Rome, respectively.

More than 327,000 Italian citizens are registered as living in Britain, with the unofficial total reaching as many as 700,000. Sunday is the last day that Italians can travel from one region to another before the Christmas holidays, due to a new partial lockdown imposed by the government to prevent a new surge in infections.

Thailand rushes to contain outbreak

BANGKOK — Thousands of people lined up for coronavirus tests in a province near Bangkok on Sunday, as Thai authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak that has infected nearly 700 people.

Lines of mainly migrant workers stretched for around 100 meters in one location alone in Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province, as health officials in mobile units methodically took nasal swabs.

There were three locations in total in the area. Nearby, razor wire and police guards blocked access to one of Thailand’s largest seafood markets and its associated housing complex, the epicenter of the new cluster.

Thailand’s Disease Control Department said Sunday that they found 141 more cases linked to the market outbreak. On Saturday, the department reported 548 cases, Thailand’s biggest daily spike.

Czech Republic bars travel from Britain

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is imposing restrictions on travels from Britain following a discovery of a new, allegedly highly contagious strain of coronavirus in southern England.

The Czech Health Ministry says that given the risk linked to the new variant that was confirmed in Britain all people arriving in the country who spent at least 24 hours on British territory in last two weeks have to isolate.

The ministry says they have to stay isolated for 10 days unless they are tested negative by a PCR test five to seven days into their self-isolation.

It says it measure whose goal is to increase public safety becomes effective on Sunday.

Belgium and the Netherlands started banning flights from the U.K. in reaction to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Germany, The Czech Republic’s neighbor, is considering doing the same.

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