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Today’s Headlines: A historic vaccine rollout

When people talk about COVID-19 vaccines, they can sound like they’re speaking a foreign language. Don’t worry! Here’s your guide to vaccine vocabulary.

COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in the U.S., but there is a long road ahead.

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A Historic Vaccine Rollout

The first known U.S. inoculation against COVID-19 since the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of a vaccine came just as the nation’s death toll surpassed 300,000 people.

Now, the most ambitious vaccine rollout in American history promises to end a crisis that has jammed hospitals, overwhelmed funeral homes and brought much of the nation to a standstill.

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But a return to some semblance of normalcy remains many months away. Most Americans won’t be eligible for a vaccine until spring at the earliest, and even with widespread inoculations, many pandemic-era public health measures will remain in place.

About 145 sites across the country were expected to receive the vaccine Monday, and an additional 500 were set to receive shipments by midweek, according to Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing the distribution. Pfizer expects to ship no more than 6.4 million doses this week.

Among the places receiving the initial batch was Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles, where five healthcare workers were the first people in L.A. County outside a clinical trial to get the shots made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech.

Biden’s Victory Is Official

For more than a century, the constitutionally required convening of the nation’s electors in all 50 states’ capitals stood out mostly for how little attention or controversy it drew. Not so in 2020. But on Monday, the electoral college made President-elect Joe Biden’s victory official. For all of President Trump’s desperate efforts to cling to power, he had failed to hijack its convening.

In a televised speech Monday evening, after California’s 55 electoral votes had put him over the top, Biden marked the occasion as a symbolic win for democracy and a sign that the nation had rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them,” he said.

Though several Republicans finally acknowledged Biden’s victory, Trump’s attempts to subvert the election may still have a lasting effect.

As Times senior Washington correspondent David Lauter writes, Biden’s victory was oddly both robust and, because of the quirks of the electoral college, quite slim. With so much riding on so small a total, what could Trump have done to produce a different outcome? Look to March 18, when he briefly flirted with taking the pandemic seriously — despite his political instincts.

More Politics

— U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr, long one of Trump’s staunchest allies, resigned amid lingering tension with the president, in part over Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. Trump said in a tweet that Deputy Atty. Gen. Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general.

— Early in-person voting has begun in the runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. They’ve become a national referendum on which party controls Washington, as local issues are getting left behind.

— What happens to the Space Force in Biden’s administration? Trump championed its creation but has done little to ensure it has the funding, staffing and authority to succeed.

Failing Is Not an Option

Citing pandemic hardships, the Los Angeles Unified School District will defer any failing grades from this semester until at least Jan. 29, giving students additional time to avoid receiving an F in their classes.

Officials say grades have dramatically deteriorated, especially among Latino and Black students, English learners, students with disabilities, foster youth and those experiencing homelessness. A drop in grades has been mirrored across the U.S. in school systems that have closed campuses and relied on distance-only learning.

LAUSD’s move is the latest effort to avoid penalizing children who have been under increasing strain during the coronavirus surge. Among the problems faced by students are inconsistent or inadequate internet access and a poor learning environment at home. But some teachers and principals say the policy has undermined student motivation.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this day in 1966, Walt Disney died after suffering complications from lung cancer. He was 65.

Born Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago, Disney grew up on a farm in Missouri, where he developed a fondness for animals, according to The Times’ obituary. He also had a talent for art. He began experimenting with making cartoon films in the 1920s, developing his signature character, Mickey Mouse. By the 1960s, his creations were some of the most popular in the world. Disneyland was a hit and construction was underway on Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Walt Disney Productions employed more than 4,000 people in Burbank.

But Disney’s health was on the decline. A lifelong smoker, he entered St. Joseph’s Hospital — across the street from Disney Productions — on Dec. 5. He never left.

Walt Disney with his wife, Lillian, in 1935.
(Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

— California is taking Amazon to court to force the online retail giant to cooperate with a months-long investigation into whether the company is doing enough to protect its workers from the coronavirus.

— The city of Los Angeles is suing an underground nightclub, seeking millions in damages from the people it says run LA Party Society for allegedly holding crowded events amid a surging pandemic.

— A federal judge in Chicago has frozen the assets of prominent L.A. attorney Thomas Girardi, finding that he misappropriated at least $2 million in client funds that were due to the families of those killed in the crash of a Boeing jet in Indonesia.

— Meet Suely Saro. She’s the first Cambodian American elected official in Long Beach history, writes columnist Frank Shyong.

— San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is eying the next chapter as his term ends, including a possible Republican run for governor.

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NATION-WORLD

— In 2015, nearly 200 countries came together outside Paris to pledge to work against global warming. Five years and one dramatic American exit later, French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne spoke to The Times about the future of the climate accord.

— The Trump administration for the first time formally blamed Iran for the presumed death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, publicly identifying two Iranian intelligence officers believed responsible for his abduction.

— The Trump administration imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of a Russian air defense system, in a striking move against a longtime partner that sets the stage for further confrontation.

— Weakened by war, Yemen‘s government is barely functioning, but that has allowed creative local leaders to thrive — and perhaps show the way forward.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Since “Big Little Lies,” Oscar winner Nicole Kidman has brought prestige to TV — and inspired a wave of stories about affluent white women on the verge.

Mariah Carey was just as surprised as anyone else at the success of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Now she’s fully embraced the throne as Queen of Christmas. Speaking of holiday music, here’s The Times’ list of the top 50 Christmas songs of the last 50 years.

— As filmmaker Julia Hart watched and rewatched 1970s and ’80s crime genre classics, she wondered what happened to the female characters. It provided the inspiration for the new Amazon movie “I’m Your Woman.”

Megan Thee Stallion has had a traumatic, transformative year. “I want my music to feel like a conversation,” the rapper says.

BUSINESS

— The Los Angeles Times’ leadership transition has accelerated with the departure of Norman Pearlstine, who served as executive editor for 2½ years. Pearlstine announced in October that he planned to retire, but the timetable for his exit had been unclear.

— For L.A. bookstores, this holiday season is make-or-break. It’s not a question of balancing the books but mitigating the damage of a lost year.

SPORTS

— The NCAA plans to stage the entire women’s basketball tournament in one geographic area and San Antonio is the likely host site.

— $1.29 million for a hockey card? Yes, really. Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card has become hockey’s other holy grail.

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OPINION

Universal mail ballots are one pandemic measure worth keeping permanently, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Some promising pandemic relief bills are sprouting in a California Legislature devastated by COVID-19, columnist George Skelton writes.

— Wall Street Journal, you ran a sexist essay on Jill Biden. Don’t tell us to calm down, critic Mary McNamara writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do science. Some of it for the better, some less so. (The Atlantic)

— In Australia, researchers are looking to rely more on technology to find fires quickly and better predict their path. (Wall Street Journal)

ONLY IN L.A.

Jeff Hyland has handled some of Southern California’s most notable real estate deals in recent memory, including the $150-million sale of Jerry Perenchio’s famed “The Beverly Hillbillies” estate and LeBron James’ recent $36.75-million purchase in Beverly Hills. He also holds the priciest listing in the U.S. Now, he’s started a sort of Zillow for the uber-rich, even amid a pandemic.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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