CORONAVIRUS CASES IN NORTH CAROLINA APPROACH 300,000: At least 293,339 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 4,607 have died, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 2,094 new COVID-19 cases, down from 2,676 reported the day before. The state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has remained above 2,000 cases for the past 22 days. About 6.9% of tests were reported positive as of Wednesday, the latest day for which data are available. At least 1,147 people in North Carolina were reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday, down from 1,196 reported the day before.
TRUMP'S RURAL COUNTIES ARE STAGGERING UNDER CORONA OUTBREAKS: U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support. An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas. Most were rural counties in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin — the kinds of areas that often have lower rates of adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other public health measures, and have been a focal point for much of the latest surge in cases. “Public health officials need to step back, listen to and understand the people who aren’t taking the same stance” on mask-wearing and other control measures, said Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
PFIZER CLAIMS 90% EFFECTIVE RATE WITH CORONAVIRUS VACCINE: Pfizer says an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track later this month to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators. Monday's announcement doesn't mean a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries. Pfizer Inc. did not provide any more details about those cases, and cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual. If Pfizer's vaccine ultimately pans out, "it’s going to be a while before this has a major impact at the population level,” said Goodman, a former chief of Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine division. Global markets, already buoyed by the victory of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, exploded on the news from Pfizer. All major markets in Europe, where infections have soared, are up 5%. In the U.S., Dow futures also rose 5% and were up about 1,400 points just over two hours before the opening bell.
TRUMP'S GSA ADMINISTRATOR IS REFUSING TO FUND BIDEN'S TRANSITION TEAM: A Trump administration appointee is refusing to sign a letter allowing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week, in another sign the incumbent president has not acknowledged Biden’s victory and could disrupt the transfer of power. The administrator of the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner. But by Sunday evening, almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one. “No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team. Transition officials get government email addresses. They get office space at every federal agency. They can begin to work with the Office of Government Ethics to process financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms for their nominees. And they get access to senior officials, both political appointees of the outgoing administration and career civil servants, who relay an agency’s ongoing priorities and projects, upcoming deadlines, problem areas and risks.
TRUMP VOWS LEGAL BATTLES WILL BEGIN TODAY CHALLENGING BIDEN'S (LANDSLIDE) VICTORY: The aides said Mr. Trump had no plans to immediately deliver the kind of concession speech that has become traditional in past presidential elections, and his campaign vowed to continue waging the legal battle across the country. In a statement issued while he was still on the golf course, Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden was trying to “falsely pose” as the winner. “The simple fact is this election is far from over,” the president said, “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.” Some aides were candid with Mr. Trump that there was not much of a path forward, even though they said they would continue on. Only a few had doubted that Mr. Biden was likely to win, among them the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, people who spoke with Mr. Trump said. As he played golf on Saturday, aides said, Mr. Trump was surprisingly calm, given the news he had received when he arrived at the club. But that was before he watched television coverage of Mr. Biden’s victory. Nearly two hours after an uneventful return to the White House, Mr. Trump again began posting angry, and false, tweets insisting that he had won the election and complaining that “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM!” Mr. Trump, for his part, showed no sign of ending his hunt for allegations of fraud that could lend credence to lawsuits he wants filed in a number of states. A campaign official said that Mr. Stepien and Mr. Kushner had David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United and a longtime Trump ally, to lead efforts to contest vote counts in several states.