Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: New COVID strain, vaccine fainting, pregnancy & more

McClatchy News brings you a round-up of our remarkable coronavirus coverage from across the country every week.
More than 18.4 million people in the United States tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, December 24, according to Johns Hopkins University. These include more than 326,000 people who have died across the country.
Wednesday was the highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in the US. More than 119,500 Americans received medical care, the Washington Post reported.
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There are now more than 78.4 million confirmed cases of the highly infectious virus worldwide, with more than 1.7 million reported deaths.
The following happened between December 18th and December 24th.
The new COVID strain can be more contagious
News of a contagious strain of coronavirus spread overseas has reached the US after UK officials announced new travel restrictions and lockdown measures on Sunday.
The new variant appears to be easier to spread between people and is potentially up to 70% more transmissible than other existing coronavirus strains. However, scientists say there is no evidence that the new variant is more lethal or more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines.
It is a result that is worrying but not surprising. Here you will find everything you need to know about the new coronavirus variant.
According to official information, the new strain of COVID in the UK may be more contagious. Here's what you should know:
Fainting after a COVID-19 vaccine isn't surprising
A nurse from Tennessee passed out after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, but officials say this is not unexpected with vaccinations.
In one video, Tiffany Dover, the manager of the CHI Memorial Nurse, was interviewed by media representatives after receiving her shot when she appeared to be dazed. A doctor catches her when she falls to the ground.
When she recovered, Dover said the reaction wasn't unusual for her.
Experts explain why fainting during the vaccination process is normal and to be expected for some.
The nurse passed out after receiving the COVID shot. So that's not surprising, says CDC
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Pregnant Women?
Neither the Pfizer BioNTech nor Moderna vaccine has been tested in pregnant women: in fact, all women who tested positive on a pregnancy check-up prior to a clinical trial were excluded from participation.
Both companies said their clinical studies "did not contain enough" data to conclude that the vaccines are safe in pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, studies to test the vaccines in this group are "planned".
Still, infectious diseases and vaccine experts believe that because of the way the vaccine works, they are unlikely to pose a risk to pregnant people.
Read on to find out what scientists recommend pregnant women amid the pandemic.
According to the CDC, COVID vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to pregnant women. What to know
1 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines
More than 1 million Americans have received their first doses of a COVID-19 shot across the country since federal officials approved two emergency vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
A CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Tuesday updated its preliminary recommendations for the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the second group of people, after health care and nursing home workers, who should receive a coronavirus vaccine should be people age 75 and over who are key frontline workers who are not involved in health care.
"Historic Milestone". 1 million Americans have received a COVID vaccine, according to the CDC
Can money buy a COVID-19 vaccine?
Many wealthy Americans pay for medical concierge services - a "type of high-quality primary care most Americans cannot afford," the Los Angeles Times reported. Some of these services have already procured the expensive freezers necessary to store the vaccine and put their patients on waiting lists when it becomes available for widespread distribution.
There are also concerns about black market deals, bribery, and people sneaking onto the list of high-risk individuals and key workers to receive the vaccine in the early stages of distribution.
Here experts explain whether the rich can buy the next seat in line.
Can money buy a COVID vaccine? Here's why some worrying Americans will line up
Pulse oximeters are more likely to give black people incorrect readings
A study of more than 48,000 blood oxygen readings shows that blacks are almost three times more likely to get incorrect readings from pulse oximeters than whites.
Pulse oximeters are devices that attach to your fingertips to measure how much oxygen is flowing through your blood. People can buy this device to monitor their health at home, especially if they are infected with coronavirus and have difficulty breathing
Read on to learn why and what experts suggest given the study results.
According to study results, blood oxygen meters show a distortion of the skin color. Here's why
Lyft and Uber offer millions of free trips to vaccination sites
Ride-sharing company Lyft announced Tuesday that it is committed to offering 60 million free or discounted trips to and from COVID-19 vaccination centers for low-income, uninsured or at-risk people.
Uber also announced last week that it is offering 10 million free or discounted rides for healthcare workers, seniors and other people in need "to make sure transportation doesn't get in the way of getting the vaccine."
Lyft and Uber are offering millions of free rides for “at risk” people to get a COVID vaccine
Antarctica is untouched by COVID-19 and now has cases
According to Chilean officials, the coronavirus has found its way to Antarctica, which was the last continent with no positive cases.
Thirty-six people at the Bernado O'Higgins Research Station tested positive for COVID-19. The research station is operated by the Chilean army. Of the 36 positive cases, 26 are military personnel and the other 10 are maintenance workers.
Find out what is being done in the region to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Antarctica - the last continent without COVID - suddenly has 36 cases, officials say
In other coronavirus coverage outside of McClatchy ...

The WHO chief scientist warns of Covid's complacency and says herd immunity is unlikely by the end of 2021
Pfizer is approaching the Trump administration to provide more vaccine doses
The US death toll is projected to exceed 3 million for the first time, mainly due to Covid
Vatican OKs receive COVID-19 vaccines that abortion cell lines used in research
Fauci, other senior health officials, receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on camera
U.S. Army scientists are investigating the UK's new variant of coronavirus to see if it might be vaccine resistant

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