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What’s fueling the record surge of gun sales in America

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The 2020 election. Unrest in the streets. A crippling pandemic. This trifecta of events made people worry about the future of America. And when people are worried in America, they buy guns.

Gun sales in 2020 have surged, and the market for gun parts and ammunition has gone up with it. Federal background checks have passed an all-time high of 32 million for the year in October, with more than a month and a half to go in 2020.

“You always have sort of your usual suspects — your middle-age, what people consider like the stereotypical gun owner,” said Amy Swearer, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “But you’re also seeing very large increases in percentages that are either minorities or women.”

In early November, President-elect Joe Biden tweeted support for a new assault weapons ban.

Biden helped pass the original assault weapons ban, which lasted from 1994 to 2004.

“We’ve never, ever had a president of the United States and a vice president of the United States who embrace gun violence prevention and public health solutions to gun violence in the manner that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris do,” said Kris Brown, the president of Brady, a gun reform group. 

Watch the video above to see what’s been driving gun sales and what more guns in America means amid a tense political climate and global pandemic. Will the surge in gun sales begin to slow down as a Biden administration takes over in 2021 or will the specter of new gun regulation cause it to continue?


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New York implements emergency hospital measures as Covid cases surge, Gov. Cuomo says

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A patient is transported outside of Tisch Hospital in New York on November 13, 2020.

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

The New York State Department of Health is implementing emergency hospital measures to help hospitals cope with the surge in Covid cases and hospitalizations as the outbreak grows more severe across the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Cuomo said if some parts of the state hit a “real hospitalization crisis,” the state could implement a regional New York Pause, which “is basically a stop.” He added that the number one priority is ensuring the state has enough hospital capacity to treat all patients.

“We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system,” Cuomo said at a news briefing. “If those numbers continue to increase, which we expect they will, you will see serious stress on the hospital system.”

Implementing emergency measures means a few things. First, hospitals need to identify retired nurses and doctors, Cuomo said, adding that “we’re already experiencing staff shortages.”

The state is also forgoing elective surgeries in Erie County, which Cuomo said has been hit particularly hard. He added, however, that elective procedures could be halted in other parts of the state, too, if hospitals begin to become overwhelmed.

Cuomo also said the state is mandating “load balancing” of patients within hospital systems so that one hospital in a certain area doesn’t become overwhelmed while others have more capacity. Cuomo said failing to do so will be considered malpractice by the hospital systems.

Cuomo said the failure to implement load balancing in the spring is what caused Elmhurst hospital to become overwhelmed early in the pandemic. The conditions at the Queens hospital, where 13 Covid-19 patients died in a single day, were equated to a war movie. He added that the state is preparing to implement “statewide surge and flex” in which hospital systems must coordinate with one another to load balance across systems if need be.

“It’s in the patient’s best interest to distribute the patient load over the system. We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” Cuomo said. “If a hospital gets overwhelmed, there will be a state investigation.”

The state is also preparing plans for emergency field hospitals, which will add 50% bed capacity to hospitals, he said. Cuomo also urged hospitals to prepare to staff those field hospitals and confirm their stockpiles of personal protective equipment like masks and gowns that keep health workers from getting infected. Cuomo said hospitals are supposed to have a “90-day stockpile of PPE.”

Cuomo said the state will launch a dashboard that tracks these emergency hospital metrics.

Ken Raske, president of Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents more than 250 hospitals, said that hospitals’ abilities to respond to the current outbreak will be “a total team effort.”

“The spring was brutal,” he said at the news briefing. “We were all worried about replicating the situation we saw so vividly in Italy with people lined up in the hallways. That never came to pass, thank God. We learned a lot.”


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First ‘mass air shipment’ of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine arrives as airlines prepare for more

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The Federal Aviation Administration said it supported the “first mass air shipment” of Covid-19 vaccines on Friday, as pharmaceutical companies and airlines prepare networks for broad distribution.

United Airlines carried Pfizer‘s Covid-19 vaccine from Brussels to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ahead of the approvals, pharmaceutical companies, airlines and other parts of the supply chain are preparing for distribution once regulators give a green light, a vast network that will include cold storage to preserve the vaccines.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet approved a Covid-19 vaccine. Pfizer, which developed its vaccine with BioNTech, and Moderna both said recent trials show their vaccines are both more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection.

Pfizer didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Spokeswoman Kim Bencker has previously said the company won’t ship the vaccine until it wins approval from the FDA for emergency use. Pfizer submitted its application for emergency clearance on Nov. 20, and the FDA is expected to publicly discuss it when the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee next meets on Dec. 10Moderna said it plans to submit its application on Monday.

Some Americans could get their first dose of the vaccine in a few weeks if regulators sign off on either vaccine without delay.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Moderna has said its vaccine remains stable at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator, for up to 30 days. It can be stored for up to six months at negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The United flight, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, required special approval from federal regulators to carry more dry ice than is normally allowed, the people said. Vaccines are stored at below-freezing temperatures.

The FAA last month created a special team to address “safe, expeditious, and efficient transportation of vaccines.”

“Several vaccines need continued cold temperatures during transport, which, in some circumstances, require dry ice, a hazardous material,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA is working with manufacturers, air carriers, and airport authorities to provide guidance on implementing current regulatory requirements for safely transporting large quantities of dry ice in air cargo.”

Pfizer’s vaccine will initially be very limited. It’s previously said it can make 50 million doses of its two-dose regimen by the end of the year — enough to immunize 25 million of the nation’s roughly 331 million people. The company plans to ship frozen vials of the vaccine to vaccination points from its sites in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Puurs, Belgium.

Other airlines are also preparing for vaccine shipments.

American Airlines‘ cargo department last week started trial flights with its pharmaceutical partners from Miami to South America “to stress test the thermal packaging and operational handling process we have created for shipping vaccines,” said spokeswoman Stacy Day in a statement. 

One challenge ahead is that air cargo capacity has been limited because of the pandemic. Since airlines have canceled so many flights, there is less aircraft belly space available to transport goods. United and other airlines, however, have begun operating cargo-only flights to help make up for lost passenger revenue.

Airlines have used their critical role transporting potentially life-saving vaccine as leverage in seeking additional federal aid while passenger traffic remains a fraction of last year’s levels.

“As the nation looks forward and takes on the logistical challenges of distributing a vaccine, it will be important to ensure there are sufficient certified employees and planes in service necessary for adequate capacity to complete the task,” Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the largest U.S. airlines, said in a Nov. 18 letter to congressional leaders.

Some federal agencies have already started sending vaccination plans around to staff. Five agencies have started telling employees they could receive Pfizer’s or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in as little as eight weeks, a person with knowledge of those plans told CNBC on Nov. 20.


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Goldman predicts how quickly Covid-19 vaccines will be rolled out

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