Many colleges will bring students back to campus for the spring semester, with or without widespread vaccination.
Why it matters: Several colleges that reopened campuses in the fall were tied to big outbreaks. But schools say they've learned from that experience and improved their safety protocols, and are now confident that they can manage fuller campuses.
Mike Bloomberg is staging a global competition that asks mayors to describe nimble responses to the pandemic in their cities, with 15 winners receiving $1 million grants.
Why it matters: Urban areas around the world have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, and by pinpointing approaches that have worked particularly well — or that have the potential to do so — Bloomberg Philanthropies hopes to foster long-lasting societal improvement.
President-elect Joe Biden plans to release nearly all available coronavirus vaccine doses when he takes office, CNN reports.
Why it matters: Releasing nearly all doses would allow more people to get vaccinated with at least one dose. At the moment, the Trump administration is withholding half of U.S. vaccine production to ensure recipients receive their second dose, which is required by both the Moderna and Pfizer shots to ensure 95% efficacy.
The U.K. reported 1,325 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, marking its highest daily death toll yet.
Why it matters: The massive spike in deaths is in part fueled by a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that's spreading rapidly throughout the United Kingdom and threatening to overwhelm hospital systems.
U.K. health regulators on Friday approved Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, making it the third vaccine to gain approval in the country.
Why it matters: The U.K. is the first country to have three approved vaccines — from Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and now Moderna — a milestone that comes as a new and highly infectious variant of the coronavirus continues to spread like wildfire.
The U.S. reported more than 4,000 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Why it matters: It is the first time the U.S. topped 4,000 new deaths in a single day, a record that comes as hospitals nationwide continue to be overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Some political leaders and public health experts are rethinking strict prioritization for coronavirus vaccines, suggesting that it might make more sense to simply try to administer as many doses as possible as quickly as possible.
Why it matters: Especially while supplies are still limited, there's an inherent tension between trying to focus first on the people most at risk from the virus — including those most likely to spread it — and getting shots into arms at maximum speed.
Serbia joined Argentina, Belarus and Russia this week to be among the first countries to approve and administer Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
The big picture: Russia has blazed its own course in the vaccine race, relying entirely on a single, state-funded vaccine that was given emergency authorization before much data was available about its effectiveness.
The COVID-19 variants first detected in the U.K. and South Africa and now circulating globally aren't a current threat to the effectiveness of the first vaccines, but mutations will be closely monitored because "they could be an issue," NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.
The big picture: Vaccinations are underway, albeit with a slow start. The get-back-to-normal-goal depends on reaching 70%–85% herd immunity in the population, Fauci says. While there are some concerns the mutations might circumvent the vaccines, he says they pose more of a problem for certain treatments than for vaccines.
A coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac is 78% effective, Brazil officials announced Thursday.
Why it matters: Regulators in other countries are closely following the Phase 3 trials in Brazil. If the vaccine is approved for use, it could help fill a gap in access to coronavirus vaccines for many low- and middle-income countries.