‘Race for a Vaccine,’ coronavirus pandemic, Big Cat Public Safety Act: 5 things to know Thursday

Execs from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson to give update on coronavirus vaccine

NBC News anchor Lester Holt will sit down with top executives from U.S. pharmaceutical firms Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson in a program airing Thursday night.  The special edition of Dateline NBC, “Race for a Vaccine,” comes after the British government said Wednesday that it approved widespread use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech, and the first shots will be given next week. The move makes the U.K. one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak. Other countries aren’t far behind: The United States and the European Union are vetting the Pfizer/BioNTech shot along with a similar vaccine made by Moderna. “Race for a Vaccine,” airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT and will examine the latest plans for a vaccine to reach Americans, NBC said in a news release.

U.N. special session to address the response to COVID-19

Close to 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are scheduled to speak at the U.N. General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives. “The world is looking to the U.N. for leadership,” Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said Wednesday. “This is a test for multilateralism.”  In the U.S., the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide passed the 100,000 mark Wednesday, an alarming statistic fueling enormous strain on the health care system. Some experts said the total, compiled by the COVID Tracking Project and at 100,226 Wednesday night, could soon double. Many hospitals will be forced to suspend elective surgeries and other routine operations and set up temporary field hospitals, experts said.

Accused Kenosha shooter to appear in court for preliminary hearing

A lawyer is expected to ask a judge Thursday to dismiss two of the six charges pending against the teen accused of killing two protesters and injuring a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing after being free on $2 million bail since Nov. 20. The charges relate to a night of unrest on Aug. 25 that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a local Black man. Rittenhouse’s attorney Mark Richards filed a motion that says the complaint does not support two of the charges: recklessly endangering public safety, and possessing a dangerous weapon while under age 18, a misdemeanor. The other charges are first-degree intentional homicide of Joseph Rosenbaum, first-degree reckless homicide of Anthony Huber, attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Gaige Grosskreutz and another count of reckless endangerment for shots fired at another protester. 

House to vote on big cat bill backed by ‘Tiger King’ star

The House of Representatives is set to pass legislation Thursday banning the private ownership of big cats like lions and tigers. The Big Cat Public Safety Act, a measure “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin and her husband Howard’s organization Big Cat Rescue had spent years lobbying for, would allow existing facilities to keep their big cats but would prohibit most contact between the public and the animals. Carole Baskin told USA TODAY she was “thrilled” the legislation was finally coming up for a vote. The Netflix documentary “Tiger King” examined the life of private zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic,” and his hatred for Baskin, whom he deemed a threat to his livelihood. 

Atlanta schools to hold virtual town hall on reopening plans

Atlanta public school officials will host a virtual town hall Thursday to discuss the plan to resume in-person learning in January after eight months of being closed. The public school system delayed the plan to reopen school buildings in late October due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. School officials canceled Wednesday online classes for the rest of December to allow teachers to prepare to reopen classrooms. In November, New York City schools temporarily halted in-person learning to stem the continued spread of COVID-19. It will start offering in-person classes again on Dec. 7. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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