OVER 516,000 NC CITIZENS HAVE TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: At least 516,828 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 6,549 have died, according to state health officials. On Saturday, the department reported 19,419 new COVID-19 cases over a three-day period. The department did not provide coronavirus data Thursday or Friday because of the Christmas holiday. About 11.9% of tests were reported positive as of Friday, the latest day for which data are available. On Sunday, 3,123 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. That’s 25 patients higher than the previous hospitalizations record of 3,098, which was reported three days earlier.
FAUCI WARNS OF HOLIDAY SURGE AFTER 10 MILLION TRAVELED OVER CHRISTMAS: Nearly 10 million Americans traveled in the past 10 days, despite pleas from public health officials to stay home. Travel hit record-highs during the pandemic, even though cases are surging more now than ever before. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said that America has reached a very "critical" point in the pandemic. "As we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse," Fauci said. More than 616,000 people were screened at TSA checkpoints across the country on Christmas Day alone, and hundreds of thousands more traveled in the days leading up to the holiday. Numbers are expected to climb again this weekend. The busiest travel days at RDU are expected to be the two Sundays after Christmas -- Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 -- with more than 18,400 travelers expected each day.
ATRIUM HEALTH IN HOT WATER OVER VACCINE PRIORITIZATION: Atrium Health said up to 97 vaccination appointments slated for January have been canceled, The Charlotte Observer reported. The action followed a report by several Charlotte television stations which cited a tweet by Atrium social media manager Katie McKiever saying she had scheduled her first vaccine appointment for early January. According to guidance published in October, healthcare workers and medical first responders should get the vaccine first. "The key is to get those most at risk and those who are on the frontlines risking their lives for the community. We get the vaccine to them so they can care for those who need it as others are waiting," said Dr. Scott Rissmiller, Atrium's executive vice president and chief physician executive. More than 4,000 Atrium employees have received their first dose as of Thursday afternoon, said Atrium spokesman Chris Berger. More than 10,500 scheduled their first appointment, though that volume could change again, Berger said.
NASHVILLE (SUICIDE) BOMBER WAS PARANOID RECLUSE: Investigators matched human remains found at the scene with Warner’s DNA, confirming suspicions that he blew himself up in a recreational vehicle, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch told reporters. Law enforcement said they were still investigating a motive behind the incident. Authorities had assembled Saturday at Warner’s home in Antioch, Tenn., located about 10 miles southeast of the explosion site. Several neighbors described seeing an RV similar to the one that blew up on Friday morning in the backyard of the Antioch home. Warner, 63, was unmarried and rarely ventured from his home, according to neighbors, living for years with his parents and then by himself. He once owned an alarm company, and he protected his home with an array of security cameras, rarely returning a neighborly wave and not responding to an offer of Christmas dinner, neighbors said in interviews. “To describe him as a recluse would be an excellent word,” said Rick Laude, who has lived near Warner since 2010. “You could wave at him and he was like, what are you waving at me for?” Warner lived for years with his parents, and for some time after his father died in 2011, he remained with his mother, Betty Christine Lane, before moving into a nearby house, neighbors said. Lane could not be reached for comment. In November, Warner transferred his property at 115 Bakertown Rd. to a Los Angeles woman for “$0,” according to property records of a quitclaim deed. The woman said in a brief telephone interview that the FBI told her not to discuss the matter and declined to comment.
TRUMP SIGNS PANDEMIC RELIEF BILL AFTER HARSHLY CRITICIZING IT: President Trump on Sunday abruptly signed a measure providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil he himself had created over legislation that will offer an economic lifeline to millions of Americans and avert a government shutdown. The legislative package will provide billions of dollars for the distribution of vaccines, funds for schools, small businesses, hospitals and American families, and money needed to keep the government open for the remainder of the fiscal year. The enactment came less than 48 hours before the government would have shut down and just days before an eviction moratorium and other critical pandemic relief provisions were set to expire. But it also came after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans. The crisis was one of Mr. Trump’s own making, after he blindsided lawmakers and White House officials with a videotaped implicit threat on Tuesday to veto the package, which his top deputies had helped negotiate and which had cleared both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support nearly a week ago. The 5,593-page legislation was flown to Florida, where the president is spending the winter holidays, on Thursday and had been waiting for Mr. Trump’s signature since. House Democrats plan on Monday to vote on legislation that would provide for $2,000 direct payments, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying Mr. Trump should “immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction” and support the measure. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said he would move to pass the bill in the Senate, but such a maneuver would require Republican support.