CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 18,035,209 and the nation’s death toll stands at 319,364, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. yesterday recorded a second straight day of fewer than 200,000 cases and a fourth straight day of declining deaths. The decline in cases followed a record high of 249,700 on Friday. Figures show that hospitalizations in the United States are leveling off.
CONGRESS APPROVES CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILLS… Congress has approved more than $900 billion for coronavirus assistance following an agreement reached Sunday night. The House voted to approve the two long-awaited bills and the Senate followed. The legislation will now go to President Trump, who has said he will sign it. The package contains direct stimulus payments for individuals of $600 to $700. It also includes enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, $330 billion for small business loans, more than $80 billion for schools and several billion dollars to cover the costs of distributing COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
ROBERT E. LEE STATUE REMOVED FROM CAPITOL… A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Lee’s statue will be replaced by one of Barbara Johns, a Black woman who as a 16-year-old led classmates on a walkout of her segregated school. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam requested the removal of Lee’s statue over the summer.
WILLIAM BARR SEES NO NEED FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR… Attorney General William Barr said yesterday that he does not see a need for a special prosecutor in the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden or the November election. The announcement defied President Trump, who had been pushing for a special counsel to investigate the son of President-elect Joe Biden. Barr, who is stepping down effective tomorrow, will be replaced by Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen.
HOUSE DEMS WANT ANSWERS ABOUT COVID RESPONSE… House Democrats have subpoenaed two top White House health officials. The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis wants to ask Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield about Trump Administration interference in scientific reports related to the coronavirus. Democrat Majority Whip James Clyburn said former HHS Assistant Secretary Michael Caputo, senior adviser Paul Alexander and other officials engaged in a “far-reaching campaign to influence CDC’s scientific reports, despite pushback from career staff.”
JOHN MULANEY IN REHAB… Comedian John Mulaney, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer who won an Emmy Award in 2018 for his stand-up special “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City,” has reportedly checked himself into a Pennsylvania rehab facility to receive treatment for cocaine and alcohol abuse. The 38-year-old Mulaney hosted “SNL” for the fourth time just days before the 2020 election and has been writing for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in recent weeks. He has previously discussed his struggles with drugs and alcohol and first got sober at age 23.
K.T. OSLIN DIES… K.T. Oslin, the first female songwriter to win the CMA Award for Song of the Year for her 1987 hit “80’s Ladies,” died yesterday after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and Covid-19. She was 78. Oslin’s chart-topping 1987 debut country album “80’s Ladies,” featured the Top 10 title track and a pair of No. 1 country hits in “Do Ya” and “I’ll Always Come Back.” Oslin was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL…
CINCINNATI 27 – Pittsburgh 17… The Bengals (3-10-1) built a 17-0 halftime lead on the way to handing the Steelers (11-3) their third straight loss. Giovanni Bernard ran 4 yards for one second-quarter touchdown and caught a 14-yard pass for another. Quarterback Ryan Finley ran yards for fourth-quarter score. The victory was Cincinnati’s first over Pittsburgh in 12 tries.
NFL NEWS… Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene died yesterday of undisclosed causes, his family confirmed. He was 58. Greene was a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection. His 160 career sacks rank third in league history behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). Greene, who played for the L.A. Rams, Pittsburgh, Carolina and San Francisco during his 15-year career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES…
No. 1 GONZAGA 95, Northwestern State 57…
No. 2 BAYLOR 99, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42…
No. 6 TENNESSEE 102, Saint Joseph’s 66…
No. 21 FLORIDA STATE 72, Gardner-Webb 59….
No. 24 VIRGINIA TECH 84, Longwood 58
NHL NEWS… The NHL is preparing a 56-game season that will begin on January 13 with a temporary realignment of teams. Restrictions on crossing the U.S.-Canada border due to coronavirus concerns, the NHL is setting up an all-Canada division and realigning the other divisions. The top four in each division will make the playoffs. All regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs will be played within the division.