U.S. tops 10 million COVID vaccinations as California expands eligibility for shots

By Peter Szekely and Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – More than 10 million Americans had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the year-old pandemic roared on unchecked.

The United States reached 10.2 million inoculations one day after the CDC and Trump administration gave new guidance to U.S. states on who should receive the shots first. Strict rules putting healthcare workers first in line had slowed the rollout. Now states are urged to vaccinate anyone over 65 as well.

California moved on Wednesday to do just that, designating all individuals 65 and older eligible to begin receiving vaccines, adding 6.6 million people to the rolls of those qualified to be immunized, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

The move bumps senior citizens, regardless of whether they have underlying medical conditions, to the top of the priority list for vaccine recipients, just behind front-line healthcare workers and residents and staff of nursing homes.

California, like many states, has struggled to use up as much vaccine as it received in initial allotments from the federal government, administering only about a third of the nearly 2.5 million doses shipped to the state as of Monday.

Newsom has set a goal of inoculating 1 million more Californians by the end of this week with the first shot of the two-dose vaccine.

He also said the state would launch a new system next week for notifying people when they become eligible for the vaccine, and to register for notification by email or text.

The latest push to spur the most ambitious mass immunization campaign in U.S. history came as the nation set a new record for coronavirus deaths in one day, with 4,336 fatalities on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday said the administration was releasing its full stockpile of two vaccines approved for emergency use, including some that had been held in reserve to make sure that second doses could be given on schedule.

Nearly 30 million doses of the vaccines, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech, have been released to U.S. states, which have used only about one-third of them.

Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday that the pharmaceutical company was on track to roll out its single-shot vaccine in March.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Dr. Paul Stoffels also said J&J expected to meet its stated target of delivering 1 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of this year as the company ramps up production.

Political leaders and health officials nationwide have scrambled in recent days to push out more vaccines to their residents, many lowering the age requirement to 65. California and New York have both pledged to inoculate one million residents this month.

NEW YORK SEEKS MORE VACCINE

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said on Wednesday that short supplies of the vaccine could hamper efforts to reach the city’s inoculation goals.

“We need the federal government, the state government and the manufacturers to step up and get us more supply immediately,” de Blasio told a news conference.

The nation’s most populous city is adding vaccination sites across its five boroughs, including its two Major League Baseball stadiums.

“I confirmed with our healthcare team yesterday that even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine at some point next week, unless we get a major new resupply,” de Blasio said.

Public health officials say so far no U.S. state has used up its supply of the vaccines.

At the Javits Center in Manhattan, which was pressed into service as a temporary hospital in April, health officials said they were prepared to vaccinate 10,000 people in 12 hours, with the ability to ramp up to 25,000 in a 24-hour period.

New York has recorded nearly 40,000 coronavirus fatalities since the pandemic broke out there in March, more than any other U.S. state.

Nationwide more than 380,000 people have died of COVID-19. A total of 22.7 million have been infected during that time.

The number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization may have leveled off at least temporarily, according to a Reuters tally, although public health officials warned that further spread may still be seen from holiday gatherings.

California, the nation’s most populous state, has seen new hospitalizations drop this week, according to health officials. More than 30,000 Californians have so far died of COVID-19 related illness.

The recent emergence of a more infectious variant of the virus first seen in the United Kingdom has made efforts to accelerate vaccinations all the more important. The so-called UK variant has so far been confirmed in at least 10 U.S. states.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Andrew Hofstetter in New York, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Alistair Bell and Catherine Evans)

U.S. sets COVID-19 death record for second week, cases surge

(Reuters) – The United States lost more than 22,000 lives to COVID-19 last week, setting a record for the second week in a row, as new cases also hit a weekly high.

California was the state with the most deaths at 3,315 in the week ended Jan. 10, or about eight out of every 100,000 people, up 44% from the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

Arizona had the highest death rate per capita at 15 per 100,000 residents, followed by Rhode Island at 13 and West Virginia at 12 deaths per 100,000 people.

On average, COVID-19 killed 3,239 people per day in the United States last week, more than the number killed by the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Cumulatively, nearly 375,000 people in the country have died from the novel coronavirus, or one in every 873 residents. The total could rise to more than 567,000 by April 1, according to a forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The United States reported more than 1.7 million new cases of COVID-19 last week, up 17% from the prior seven days. Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottleib said new cases could start declining in February.

“By the end of this month, we’ll have infected probably about 30% of the American public and maybe vaccinated another 10%, notwithstanding the very difficult rollout of the vaccine,” Gottleib told CNBC on Friday. “You’re starting to get to levels of prior exposure in the population where the virus isn’t going to spread as readily.”

Across the United States, 13.4% of tests came back positive for the virus, down from 13.6% the prior week, according to data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project. The highest rates were in Iowa at 59%, Idaho at 54% and Alabama at 45%.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)

‘My second life’: California nurse walks out of hospital after 8-month COVID-19 ordeal

By Steve Gorman

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Reuters) – As a veteran ICU nurse whose job is to care for the most critically ill patients at her hospital in Long Beach, California, Merlin Pambuan was well aware of the deadly ravages COVID-19 can inflict on the human body.

Last spring in a tragic role reversal, Pambuan became one of those patients – admitted to the intensive care unit of St. Mary Medical Center, her workplace for the past 40 years, where she was rendered unconscious by paralysis-inducing sedation and placed on a ventilator to breathe. A feeding tube was later added.

She came close to death on several occasions, her doctors later revealed. So dire was her condition at one point that end-of-life options were discussed with her family.

By the time she awoke and could breathe on her own again, she was too weak to stand. But she fought back and struggled through weeks of painful therapy to regain her strength and mobility, celebrating her 66th birthday in St. Mary’s acute rehabilitation ward in late October.

On Monday Pambuan beat the odds of her eight-month ordeal by walking out the front door of the hospital, drawing cheers, applause and exhilaration from colleagues lining the lobby to rejoice in her discharge.

“This is my second life,” Pambuan said moments earlier, as she prepared to leave her hospital room, accompanied by her husband, Daniel, 63, and their daughter, Shantell, 33, an aspiring social worker who spent months at her mother’s bedside as her patient advocate and personal cheerleader.

The spectacle of Pambuan striding slowly but confidently through the hospital lobby – she had insisted on making her exit without assistance of a wheelchair or walker, although was still connected to supplementary oxygen – marked a transformative victory for the diminutive but tough ICU nurse.

‘WHAT WE LIVE FOR’

The outpouring of affection she received from colleagues – including many of the physicians, fellow nurses and therapists who took part in her care – also reflected a rare moment of communal triumph for the pandemic-weary hospital staff.

“This is what we live for … seeing our patients going home alive and in good condition,” said Dr. Maged Tanios, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at St. Mary. He said Pambuan’s recovery was especially rewarding since she is part of the hospital’s extended “family.”

Tanios said he was not aware of other St. Mary medical staff being admitted to the ICU for COVID. However, studies show frontline healthcare workers’ frequent, close contact with coronavirus patients puts them at higher risk of contracting the disease, hence the decision to give them top priority in getting immunized.

Pambuan’s discharge, ironically, coincided with the recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to medical workers, as well as a crushing surge in coronavirus infections that have overwhelmed hospitals, and ICUs in particular, across California.

Pambuan said she has no recollection of the four months she spent hooked to a breathing machine – from early May to early September – but recalls first waking up from deep sedation unable to move her extremities.

With encouragement from nursing staff and her daughter Pambuan said she grew determined to regain her mobility and her life.

“I said, ‘No, I’m going to fight this COVID,'” she recounted. “I start moving my hand (and) a physical therapist come and say, ‘Oh, you’re moving your hands,’ and I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to fight, I’m going to fight. I’m trying to wiggle my toes. I’m going to fight it.'”

Pambuan spent the last few months of her hospital stay undergoing physical and respiratory rehabilitation and will continue recuperation from home, while making peace, she said, with a change in pace.

“It’s going to be very difficult for me,” she said. “But I have to accept it, that I’m going to be on oxygen for a while and slow down a little bit.”

When or if she will return to work in the ICU remains an open question, she said.

In the meantime, Pambuan said she feels indebted to her co-workers for their “really professional” care, grateful for the support of loved ones and newly convinced of the power of optimism.

Her message to others in her shoes – “Don’t lose hope. Just fight. Fight, because look at me, you know. I’m going home and I’m walking.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Long Beach, California; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

No intensive care beds for most Californians as COVID-19 surges

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) -There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated Southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

The pandemic is crushing hospitals in the most-populous U.S. state, even as the U.S. government and two of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains began a nationwide campaign on Monday to vaccinate nursing home residents against the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The U.S. death toll from the virus has accelerated in recent weeks to 2,627 per day on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has said U.S. COVID-19 deaths will peak in January, when its widely cited model projects that more than 100,000 people will die as the toll marches to nearly 562,000 by April 1.

Nationwide, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday stood at nearly 113,400, near a record high of over 114,200 set on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

In California, Newsom told a remote news conference he had requested help from nurses, doctors and medical technicians in the U.S. military, and is hoping that 200 people can be deployed. The state has also sent nearly 700 additional medical staff to beleaguered hospitals, and opened up clinics in unused state buildings, a closed sports arena and other locations.

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said many hospitals in the state may also soon run out of room for patients who need to be admitted but do not require intensive care.

Ghaly told the news conference the current surge was related to gatherings that took place over the Thanksgiving holiday and that a similar surge is expected after Christmas and New Year’s, he said.

Newsom pleaded with Californians to comply with stay-at-home orders that restrict activity in most but not all of the state. “We are not victims of fate,” he said.

The governor added that the strain of the virus ravaging California was not the new, highly contagious version emerging in the UK, Newsom said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney)

California bans private gatherings, New York expands hospitals to battle coronavirus surge

By Dan Whitcomb and Maria Caspani

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) -California compelled much of the state to close shop and stay home on Monday and New York ordered hospitals to increase bed capacity by 25 percent, as the United States braced for yet another coronavirus surge during the upcoming holidays.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order came into effect one day after the state set a record with more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases, triggered in areas of Southern California where fewer than 15% of intensive care hospital beds remain available.

In addition, five counties in Northern California surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area have voluntarily imposed the restrictions even before reaching the intensive care unit threshold. Combined, the areas cover about three-quarters of the state’s nearly 40 million people.

Dr. Celine Gounder said California had little choice. “Given how out of control the virus is at this point, we are having to dial up some of those restrictions again,” Gounder told CBS News. “Ideally, we should be more proactive than this.”

In reporting more than 30,000 new cases on Sunday, the state exceeded its previous high of 21,986 set on Dec. 4, and notched a record high for hospitalized COVID-19 patients as well.

Nationwide, COVID-19 infections in United States are at their peak with an average of 193,863 new cases reported each day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

There have been 14.7 million confirmed infections and 282,253 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began, the most in the world.

California has been under a stay-at-home order for all but essential services since March. The new order, which will last at least three weeks, bans private gatherings of any size, shuts all but critical infrastructure and retail operations, and requires everyone to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing.

But the sheriffs of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties have said they will refuse to enforce the order.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a videotaped message that his office “will not be blackmailed” into enforcing the governor’s orders, and Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement his deputies would not respond to calls to enforce violations of the mask mandate, stay-at-home orders or the ban on social gatherings.

FAUCI SEES ‘BAD TIME’ AHEAD

To avoid a critical shortage of hospital beds, New York state health officials will order hospitals to increase their capacity by 25% and ask retired doctors and nurses to come back to work, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

If the hospitalization rate fails to stabilize over the next five days, indoor dining in New York City will be halted, Cuomo said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the nationwide surge could get worse after the year-end holiday season.

After millions ignored expert advice and traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday in November, Fauci anticipated Americans would once again behave recklessly during Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities.

Spikes in the death toll typically appear about three weeks after surges in infections and hospitalizations.

“Mid-January is probably going to be a bad time,” said Fauci, appearing with Cuomo in his video news conference.

Anticipating U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization of the first vaccine within the coming days, the White House will host a vaccine distribution summit on Tuesday with governors, retail pharmacy chains and shipping companies, Health Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News.

The aim of the meeting was “to be very transparent and show the world how comprehensively we have planned out every aspect of this distribution,” Azar said.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, Maria Caspani, Doina Chiacu, Lisa Lambert, Peter Szekely and Daniel Trotta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

Fire sweeps through Southern California canyon, residents flee

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A blaze that ignited overnight in a single-family home injured two firefighters and forced residents of a rustic Southern California canyon to flee their homes on Thursday, as flames tore across some 4,000 acres of dry brush and wooded hillsides.

The Bond Fire, which broke out at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, was driven through Silverado Canyon in Orange County by gusty Santa Ana winds. Authorities issued evacuation warnings to thousands of people.

“There were two firefighters that were injured while battling the Bond Fire this afternoon,” the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter. “They were treated by firefighter paramedics and transported to a hospital for further care.”

The woodsy canyon, miles from Southern California’s suburban sprawl and reached by a single winding road, is home to an eclectic mix of residents including artists, horse owners and ranchers.

Some 500 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft battled the flames, which sent smoke drifting across Orange and Los Angels counties, but had not achieved any containment as of mid-afternoon on Thursday.

Fire managers said they believed homes and other structures had been damaged by the blaze but could not yet provide details. Power was knocked out to some 50,000 homes across the region.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation point at a community college near the mouth of the canyon.

Since the start of the year, wildfires have scorched more than 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) of California land according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The state has grappled with fires of record-breaking intensity and size in recent years and 2020 has been particularly difficult.

“We’re in December and we now have active wildfires still in our state,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said at a press briefing. “These Santa Ana winds have been quite intense.”

The yearly land area burned by severe wildfires in the western United States has grown eight times larger in less than four decades, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station said in research published last month.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Diane Craft and Tom Brown)

New California stay-home order weighed as COVID hospitalizations surge

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday he may impose tougher coronavirus restrictions over the next two days, including a possible stay-at-home order, to counter surging COVID-19 hospitalizations that threaten to overwhelm intensive care units.

Newsom said projections show ICU admissions are on track to exceed statewide capacity by mid-December unless public health policies and social behavior patterns are altered to further curb the spread of the virus.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)

California regulator flags concerns over PG&E’s wildfire safety measures

(Reuters) – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has raised concerns over certain deficiencies that it says could affect PG&E Corp’s ability to provide safe and reliable service, the power provider disclosed in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

The regulator, in a letter to PG&E dated Tuesday, said it will require remediation on specific issues identified in the San Francisco-based utility’s wildfire mitigation plan progress reports.

PG&E emerged from bankruptcy in July, marking an end to a long-drawn restructuring process which began after its equipment sparked some of the deadliest wildfires in California.

CPUC said its concerns arose from what appeared to be a pattern of vegetation and asset management deficiencies.

The regulator said its staff had “identified a volume and rate of defects in PG&E’s vegetation management that is notably higher than those observed for the other utilities.”

CPUC said a fact-finding initiative is underway to determine if the regulator needed to place PG&E into the “enhanced oversight and enforcement process.”

(Reporting by Shradha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

GM hits reverse on Trump effort to bar California emissions rules

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors said on Monday it was reversing course and will no longer back the Trump administration’s effort to bar California from setting its own emissions rules in an ongoing court fight.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in a letter to environmental groups it was “immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”

The dramatic rejection of Trump came as GM sought to work with President-elect Joe Biden, who has made boosting electric vehicles (EVs) a top priority. The Detroit automaker has laid out an ambitious strategy to boost EV sales and last week said it will increase spending on EVs and autonomous vehicles by 35% from previous disclosed plans.

The announcement reflects corporate America’s move to engage quickly with the incoming Democratic administration.

Barra said she believes “the ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions.”

The White House did not immediately comment.

In October 2019, GM joined Toyota Motor Corp, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and other automakers in backing the Trump administration in its bid to bar California from setting its own fuel efficiency rules or zero-emission requirements for vehicles.

California and 22 other states and environmental groups challenged the Trump administration’s determination that federal law bars California from setting stiff tailpipe emission standards and zero-emission vehicle mandates.

Barra was among corporate and labor leaders that met virtually last week with Biden.

Speaking on Monday, Barra said she was “confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future.”

The Trump administration in March finalized a rollback of fuel efficiency standards to require 1.5% annual increases in efficiency through 2026, well below the 5% yearly boosts in Obama administration rules it discarded.

Other automakers, such as Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co and Volkswagen AG, which announced a deal with California in 2019 on emissions requirements that was finalized in August, did not intervene on the administration’s side in the California fight.

Toyota said Monday that “given the changing circumstances, we are assessing the situation, but remain committed to our goal of a consistent, unitary set of fuel economy standards applicable in all 50 states.”

Other automakers backing the Trump administration include Hyundai Motor Co , Mazda, Nissan Motor Co, Kia Motors Corp and Subaru Co.

GM had drawn the ire of many California officials and environmental groups.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said “GM tried to prevent California from protecting its people from tailpipe pollution. They were wrong. Now the other automakers must follow GM and withdraw support for (President Donald) Trump’s attack on clean cars.”

In September, California Governor Newsom said the state planned to ban the sale of new gasoline powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035 in a bold move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California is the largest U.S. auto market, accounting for about 11% of all U.S. vehicle sales, and many states choose to adopt its green vehicle mandates.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)

‘Dial back’ or ’emergency brake?’ New lockdowns and the U.S. economy

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The surge in new COVID-19 infections is driving a fresh wave of restrictions in cities and counties across the United States.

California’s “emergency brake,” Oregon’s “freeze,” Philadelphia’s “safer at home” and Minnesota’s “dial back” are among a new patchwork of rules adopted by states, cities and counties that are much less strict and far more narrow than measures imposed to stop the spread of the virus in the spring.

The overall economic bite will be smaller, too, compared to the downdraft that started earlier this year and which led to roughly 22 million people losing their jobs, a collapse in retail spending and a recession.

“I don’t see where you get a 30% hit to GDP,” said Tim Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “There’s not as much to take off the table … I’m having a hard time seeing where you are going to derail the recovery.”

Businesses that were fully shut in March, like medical offices, shops, factories, and even hair salons, will remain open in many areas this time around.

That’s in part because many Americans have changed their behavior, businesses from manufacturers to retail stores have added routine temperature checks, and face masks are more common and in many states mandated. Meanwhile, consumers have embraced online shopping and curbside delivery to keep spending.

High-frequency data backs that up: even after the latest explosion in case numbers, economic activity has not collapsed.

SURGICAL STRIKE

Many of the latest restrictions target activities where science shows the spread of the virus is the most pernicious – indoor pursuits, in close quarters, for extended periods of time, or with heavy or unmasked breathing.

That means they will hurt some already hard-hit sectors of the economy, including hospitality and entertainment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued a strong recommendation against travel over the Thanksgiving holiday this month, though it did not ban it outright.

Many of the more than two dozen states that have issued new restrictions this week have closed or restricted indoor dining and gyms. California, the biggest state by economic output, is among that group.

At the same time, businesses shut during California’s lockdowns in the spring, including shopping malls, body waxing venues, and barber shops, can continue to operate, albeit with some limits to contain the spread of the virus.

Philadelphia’s ban on indoor dining goes into effect on Friday.

Stock Fishtown and Stock Rittenhouse, which are owned by Philadelphia-based restaurateur Tyler Akin, will shift to carry-out and delivery mode. On Monday new rules in Delaware will force him to reduce capacity at his Le Cavalier restaurant in Wilmington to 30%, down from the current 50%. Though better than being entirely closed down, as was the case in March, Akin may need to adjust staffing to fit revenue.

“We have some really hard conversations ahead of us,” he said.

Efforts to adapt business to the realities of the pandemic may allow some restaurants and bars to weather the worst effects of the restrictions. In Oakland, California, as in many cities around the country, restaurants and bars have built platforms decked out with tables, chairs and propane heaters to make customers more comfortable outside in chillier weather.

It’s “a way to keep our businesses afloat,” said Ari Takata-Vasquez, who leads a small-business alliance in Oakland that has raised money to build the outdoor dining areas for cash-strapped eateries.

She’s working on, or completed, five of them – and has 30 eateries and gyms on the waiting list.

In Minnesota, movie theaters and yoga studios will shut at midnight on Friday, along with indoor and outdoor service at eateries, pubs and gyms. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, like many of his counterparts across the country, is also telling families not to have household gatherings, and he acknowledged the new rules will be felt especially hard by small businesses.

“By closing your doors and putting your financial well-being at risk, you are protecting the lives of your neighbors,” he said this week.

LIGHTER LOCKDOWNS, LESS RELIEF

Many of the newly implemented restrictions are expected, at least for now, to last two to four weeks. But even though lockdowns will be more moderate – and in many places are simply sector-specific curfews rather than sweeping closures – business owners and employees, especially in the restaurant industry, are worried their own financial pain will be sharper.

That’s because Congress has shown little sign of delivering another round of fiscal relief, let alone the massive pandemic packages totaling some $3 trillion passed earlier this year.

The last of the extra government aid for the unemployed is due to run out at the end of this year. A bill with bipartisan support to rescue the restaurant industry is caught in limbo in Congress, as the outgoing Trump administration focuses on challenging the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

While households overall still have excess savings, built in part from prior government aid, for many families that money is likely to run out before a vaccine comes into widespread use.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Jonnelle Marte and Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao)