CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 19,107,675 and the nation’s death toll stands at 333,055, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned yesterday of a “post-seasonal surge” of COVID-19 cases following holiday gatherings. During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci also said that “somewhere between 70 and 85 percent” of the population would need to be vaccinated against the virus in order to achieve herd immunity.
TRUMP SIGNS BILLS… President Trump last night signed a $2.3 trillion omnibus funding bill and an associated coronavirus relief bill following Saturday’s expiration of unemployment benefits expired and a government shutdown that was to begin tomorrow. The two bills are tied together and Trump did not sign them as expected on last Thursday. Instead, he called the relief bill a “disgrace” and demanded amendments that included $2,000 in direct payments to Americans. The legislation he signed includes direct payments of $600 per adult and per child. The amount per adult is half the $1,200 payments that were provided under the CARES Act enacted in March, but the amount per child is slightly larger than the $500 allowed under that law.
AUTHORITIES ID NASHVILLE BOMBING SUSPECT… Authorities in Nashville said yesterday that the man believed to be responsible for Friday’s downtown bombing in Nashville died in the explosion. The suspected bomber was identified as 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner. Investigators said they matched his DNA with human remains at the scene and matched a vehicle identification number to a registration associated with him. Warner reportedly acted alone in carrying out the bombing, which injured three people and damaged dozens of buildings.
SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIER CHARGED IN SHOOTINGS… Authorities yesterday announced the arrest of an active-duty Special Forces soldier who has been charged with murder after three people were killed and three wounded in a shooting Saturday at a bowling alley in Rockford, Illinois. 37-year-old Duke Webb, an assistant operations and intelligence sergeant assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Webb was reportedly on leave at the time of the shootings.
HOLIDAY RETAIL SALES UP… Retail sales jumped 3 percent during this year’s expanded holiday shopping season, according to figures released yesterday by Mastercard SpendingPulse. The jump was attributed to more people buying decorations and furniture for their homes during the pandemic. The report noted online shopping sales also grew a whopping 49 percent between October 11 and December 24, accounting for 19.7 percent of total retail sales. Unsurprisingly, Black Friday was the top spending day of the season.
TONY RICE, BLUEGRASS LEGEND, DIES… Bluegrass performer Tony Rice died Friday at his Reidsville, North Carolina, home of undisclosed causes, the International Bluegrass Association confirmed yesterday. He was 69. Rice, a 2013 Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee, rose to fame in the 1970s as a guitarist and vocalist in the band New South and later performed with the David Grisman Quintet.
TAYLOR SWIFT REMAINS ATOP BOX OFFICE… Taylor Swift’s “Evermore” sold 169,000 copies to top the Billboard 200 chart for a second straight week. Paul McCartney’s newest release, “McCartney III,” debuted in second place with 105,000 with units sold. Eminem’s “Music to Be Murdered By” jumped to No. 3 after selling 94,000 copies. Michael Bublé’s “Christmas” finished fourth on sales of 77,000 units. Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” capped the top five with 60,000 copies sold.
KANSAS CITY 17 – Atlanta 14… The Chiefs (14-1) fought off the Falcons (4-11) to clinch the AFC’s top seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes threw a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 remaining. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce became the first tight end to have two 100-catch seasons and set the single-season yardage record for a tight end with 1,467.
N.Y. JETS 23 – Cleveland 16… Kareem Hunt recovered a Baker Mayfield fumble with 1:16 remaining to seal the win as the Jets (2-13) stunned the Browns (10-5) and put a dent in their playoff chances. Sam Darnold threw a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes. Jamison Crowder put New York on the scoreboard in the first quarter when he took a pitch and threw 43 yards to fellow wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
PITTSBURGH 28 – Indianapolis 24… The Steelers (12-3) closed with 21 straight points to upend the Colts (10-5) and clinch the NFC North title. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 342 yards and hit three different receivers with touchdown passes.
Chicago 41 – JACKSONVILLE 17… The Bears (8-7) pulled away in the second half to hand the Jaguars (1-14) their 14th straight loss. Mitchell Trubisky found Jimmy Graham with a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a score. Allen Robinson had 10 catches for 103 yards.
BALTIMORE 27 – N.Y. Giants 13… The Ravens (10-5) scored the game’s first 17 points and cruised past the Giants (5-10). Lamar Jackson threw touchdown passes to Marquise Brown and Dez Bryant.
Cincinnati 37 – HOUSTON 31… Samaje Perine ran 3 yards for his second touchdown of the day with 1:57 left to give the Bengals (4-10-1) the lead for good in their win over the Texans (4-11). Brandon Allen threw for 371 yards and two touchdowns.
L.A. CHARGERS 19 – Denver 16… The Chargers (6-9) held off the Broncos (5-10) to win their third in a row. Michael Badgley’s fourth field goal of the game broke a tie with 41 seconds remaining. Justin Herbert’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler in the second quarter was his 28th scoring toss of the season, breaking the NFL rookie record set by Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield in 2018.
Carolina 20 – WASHINGTON 3… The Panthers (5-10) took advantage of four Washington (6-9) turnovers to build a 20-3 halftime lead and held on for the victory. Their final score came on a 14 yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Robby Anderson.
DALLAS 37 – Philadelphia 17… Andy Dalton passed for 377 yards and found Michael Gallup with two of his three touchdown passes as the Cowboys (6-9) handled the Eagles (4-10-1) to remain in the playoff hunt. Gallup had six catches for 121 yards. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 105 yards.
SEATTLE 20 – L.A. Rams 9… The Seahawks (11-4) downed the Rams (9-6) to claim the NFC West title. Russell Wilson ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the second half.
GREEN BAY 40 – Tennessee 14… Aaron Rodgers hit Davante Adams with three of his four touchdown passes and the Packers (12-3) crushed the Titans (10-5). Rodgers completed 21 of 25 passes for 231 yards in the snow at Lambeau. Adams finished with 11 catches for 142 yards. AJ Dillon carried 21 times for 124 yards and two scores.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL..
Buffalo (11-3) is at New England (6-8)
Dallas 124 – L.A. CLIPPERS 73… The Mavericks built an NBA-record 50-point halftime lead in their dismantling of the Clippers. Luka Doncic scored a game-high 24 points despite playing only 26 minutes. Josh Richardson added 21 points.
CHARLOTTE 106 – Brooklyn 104… Gordon Hayward scored 28 points to lead six players in double figures and the Hornets held off the Knicks. P.J. Washington had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Orlando 120 – WASHINGTON 113… The Magic bombed the Wizards 43-19 in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind win. Markelle Fultz and Terrence Ross scored 26 points apiece.
NEW ORLEANS 98 – San Antonio 95… Brandon Ingram scored 28 points and grabbed 11 boards in leading the Pelicans past the Spurs. Zion Williamson finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
CLEVELAND 118 – Philadelphia 94… Andre Drummond powered his way to 24 points and 14 boards as the Cavaliers rolled past the 76ers. Collin Sexton dropped in 22 points.
NEW YORK 130 – Milwaukee 110… The Knicks took control with a big second quarter and cruised past the Bucks. Julius Randle had game-highs with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Elfrid Payton tossed in 27 points.
INDIANA 108 – Boston 107… Domantas Sabonis was fouled while making a game-tying with 8.4 seconds left and converted the ensuing free throw to send the Pacers past the Celtics. Sabonis finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Bogdon led Indiana with 25 points.
Golden State 129 – CHICAGO 128… Damion Lee knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining to lift the Warriors over the Bulls. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 36 points.
Phoenix 116 – SACRAMENTO 100… The Suns shook off a slow start to put away the Kings. They got 22 points from Mikal Bridges and 20 from Devin Booker. Deandre Ayton pulled down 15 boards to go with his 11 points.
L.A. LAKERS 127 – Minnesota 91… The Lakers jumped out to a 40-23 lead after the first quarter and never looked back in their romp over the Timberwolves. Kyle Kuzma pumped in 20 points before sitting out most of the second half.
TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE…
Detroit is at Atlanta…
Brooklyn hosts Memphis…
Utah is at Oklahoma City…
Denver hosts Houston…
Portland is at the L.A. Lakers