mediatvnews24 is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed more than 343,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates on vaccine distribution, including who is getting the shots and where, as well as other COVID-19 news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

► Republican Sen. David Perdue announced Thursday that he was quarantining after coming into contact with someone on his campaign who tested positive for COVID-19, a striking development just five days before voters decide his political fate in a runoff race in Georgia. Perdue’s campaign said the Georgia Republican and his wife both tested negative for the virus Thursday but were going to quarantine.

► California on Thursday surpassed 25,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, the third state to do so after New York and Texas, health officials said. New York has nearly 38,000 deaths and Texas has more than 27,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

► Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday blocked quick passage of increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 for the third time, calling the proposal – a key demand of President Donald Trump – “socialism for rich people.”

► Public health restrictions at restaurants and gyms will be eased across much of Colorado starting next week despite the state confirming the first known U.S. case of a more contagious COVID variant first uncovered in Britain. Gov. Jared Polis cited sustained improvement, including intensive care units operating below capacity.

►The West Virginia National Guard says it accidentally injected 42 people with Regeneron Antibody instead of a Moderna coronavirus vaccine. Medical experts with the Joint Interagency Task Force said they don’t believer there is a “risk of harm.” The antibody is used in treating some cases of the virus. Major General James Hoyer said the guard “immediately reviewed and strengthened our protocols.”

 

► German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to keep up their discipline in fighting the coronavirus pandemic well into 2021, even as vaccinations fuel new hope. In a televised New Year’s message, Merkel said facing the pandemic “was and is a political, social and economic task of the century.” Merkel’s get-tough policies to curb the outbreak have drawn positive polling numbers.

► Chinese health regulators said Thursday that they have given conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned Sinopharm. The two-dose vaccine is the first approved for general use in China. The go-ahead comes as the country has begun to vaccinate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

►A Wisconsin health care provider says an individual intentionally removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a refrigerator, causing them to be discarded. “We are more than disappointed that this individual’s action will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” Advocate Aurora Health said in a statement. Local police announced the arrest of the male suspect Thursday night, but did not identify him. He is charged with recklessly endangering safety.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 19.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 343,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 82.8 million cases and 1.8 million deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order that allowed people 65 and older to jump ahead of essential workers while many health care workers wait for their shot and hospitals scramble to meet demand. Could the state’s vaccine rollout be a lesson?