♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, an icu nurse now a covid-19 patient. in the same ward where she worked. her best friend keeping a devoted bedside vigil. >> ellen? you've got to stay strong, i need you. there's so much more to do. >> holding on to hope. >> you're going to do great. >> as "operation vaccine" prepares to roll out its national effort. >> within 24 hours of that approval, we will begin moving the vaccine. plus holiday movies. an antidote to a tough year. "the christmas chronicles" continue. >> welcome to the north pole, jack! >> drawing from the classics. and breaking new ground. >> two men in love, married, trying to start their own
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launch. ten long months since the first american died from covid-19. nearly 300,000 lives lost. inside one hospital in montana, dangerously overflowing with covid patients, it can't come soon enough. abc's matt gutman has the story. >> reporter: it's been a long month for kelly duffy, a nurse at the billings clinic in montana. >> i just can't even -- i just want to hug her so bad, you know? >> reporter: the hospital hallway has separated her from her best friend, and one of their own, ellen edlund, who's now on life support. 55-year-old ellen is a covid patient in the icu ward where she works. >> 100% caregiver to the core, that's just who she is. >> reporter: just before she was put on a ventilator and was no longer able to talk, ellen texted kelly. >> just pray for me, that's all you can do for me, please.
she was so scared. >> reporter: kelly has been decorating ellen's house, caring for her dog jack, paying her bills. in the icu, ellen is almost unrecognizable. >> she's very healthy, yeah. doesn't look like herself. >> reporter: with the family's consent, we were granted access to the room. after putting on ppe, for the first time in three weeks, kelly is able to say hello to her friend. >> hey, buddy. ellen? kelly. hey, ellen. they're taking such good care of you. you got to stay strong. i need you. there's so much more to do. >> reporter: dr. erin raines spoke to ellen just before putting her on these machines. >> ellen asked, am i going to
die? you couldn't tell her categorically, no. >> no. a lot of what we see is when people get on the ventilator, they do die. >> reporter: the billings clinic is one of more than a dozen hot spots i've traveled to covering the pandemic. like hundreds of hospitals across the country, billings, the largest hospital in montana, is overflowing with patients. >> we're running between 150% to 200% of our icu capacity. >> reporter: for the past toward days the united states surpassed 3,000 deaths each day, more than 290,000 americans have died from covid-19. the cdc predicts there could be as many as 362,000 deaths by the beginning of the new year. >> we are in the darkest days of the pandemic right now. unfortunately, the pandemic will continue at this pace or even get worse the next four or six weeks. >> reporter: yesterday for the first time, a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel. >> it is simply immoral and unethical to deny the vaccines to health care workers or first responders who want it. an eua must be granted and it
must be granted tonight. >> reporter: after more than eight hours of testimony, an independent advisory panel recommending the fda authorize a pfizer vaccine for emergency use. >> we do have a vote and that concludes this portion of the meeting. >> reporter: if the fda approves, it will set in motion the largest vaccine mobilization in u.s. history, beginning with 2.9 million doses getting shipped to 636 sites across the country. >> we've got to get these vaccines from the plants, across the country, we've got to do it while keeping the vaccines at minus 96 degrees fahrenheit. >> reporter: the distribution a logistical nightmare. shipping giants u.p.s. and fed ex dividing the country. u.p.s. the east, fed ex the west, poised to deliver millions of doses in ultra-cold storage during a crush of holiday shipping. >> obviously within 24 hours of that approval, we will begin moving the vaccine. from pfizer, kalamazoo, the trucks will roll out of there to the nearest airports. we'll begin distributing the
vaccines across the entire country. >> reporter: states like colorado already preparing, staging practice exercises with fill-ins for the real vaccine. from the airport to the highways, arriving still frozen on dry ice at area hospitals. >> that's the whole reason we're doing this exercise today, really to find out if we have any friction points, any areas we need to improve on. >> reporter: in new york city, at mt. sinai hospital, ultra-cold freezers at the ready as pharmacists practice mixing a mock vaccine. >> not a lot of people have vaccinated for a large pandemic like this. the last time we've done anything like this was during h1n1. so we want to make certain that we get it right. >> can i have you please roll up your sleeve? it's going to have to go pretty far up. >> reporter: in phoenix, these long lines of cars look like a covid testing site. but it's a dry run for the drive-thru vaccines. >> how did that feel? you just administered a mock pfizer vaccine.
>> it felt great. honestly. i think that the vaccine is really going to help stop the spread. >> reporter: what no one wants, a glitch that could have enormous repercussions. >> we're going to be very tight control of these vaccines, taking all the necessary security precautions in order to ensure we have these vaccines get to the administration sites, well protected as they roll down the roads or through the air. >> it won't be perfect, we'll hit road bumps, but i'm pretty confident most of the vaccines will end up where they need to and into people's arms in the days and weeks ahead. >> reporter: united states on the heels of the uk where the first vaccines in the world have been delivered and administered. >> i feel very privileged to be one of the first ones to get it. hopefully this means that we can all get back together to sort of a normality. >> reporter: inside this vaccination center, they're up against a tight deadline. they have just a few hours to inject the vaccine once it's in a syringe. >> i'm just going to expose the
arm. >> reporter: the vaccine can't come soon enough for the besieged health care workers across this country. >> personally, i cannot roll up my sleeve fast enough to get this vaccination. >> we have to hold on now and do what we can to fight these surges that we're seeing. but i really think that there's light at the end of the tunnel. >> reporter: here in california, new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to break records almost daily. this hospital's parking garage now a m.a.s.h. unit of surge tents. >> for how many continuous days have you been pulling 20-hour days? how long has this been going on? >> i can't think. probably 12 to 14 days. >> reporter: even when he catches a desperately needed nap, a swirl of death and disease stays with icu dr. tom yadagar. >> she heard me screaming, flailing my leg, my arms. i was disoriented. i was clearly having a
nightmare. >> reporter: back in montana in ellen edlund's room, a much more peaceful awakening. >> you're going to do great. isn't that sweet? i love to see those eyes. >> reporter: late monday, ellen was eased out of sedation for the first time. tuesday she was taken off ecmo. wednesday, upright in bed, watching the story we'd shot. tonight, she's lucid. >> can you tell the world hello? you ready? take a breath in. there you go. >> hello. >> you want to say something else? >> love my family. and my friends. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm matt gutman in los angeles. >> our thanks to matt. we all need friends like that. up next, why there's an abundance of holiday cheer at the end of a dreadful year, including a groundbreaking hallmark couple. experience clean in a whole new way. now roomba vacuums exactly where you need it.
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♪ if it seems like christmas movies have been on for months, well, this year they have. escapist holiday tales are in high demand. perhaps now more than ever. here's abc's marci gonzalez on the special allure of holiday pics. >> reporter: 'tis the season for those oh so addicting holiday movies. >> we're going to have a christmas museum! >> reporter: where fall he's gather -- >> christmas cookies! >> reporter: hometown hunks wear no masks, and the six feet apart
rules don't exist under the mistletoe. >> true love is worth waiting for. >> how do you know when it shows up? >> time will tell. >> reporter: what's been a yearly tradition, this season a pandemic miracle. >> joy, peace, hope. >> it's very much background noise that's comfort food. it's just about christmas and everybody, you know, living happily ever after. >> reporter: this year the options are endless, from netflix -- >> off with their heads. >> reporter: to lifetime -- and the gift that keeps on giving, hallmark channel. this year's countdown to christmas lineup celebrating an all-black leading cast in the channel's favorite franchise. >> at 18 and 19 there was a few christmas movies with people of color as the leads. in 2020 it feels like there's a ways to go, but a giant step forward in making to it where people can see themselves on screen. >> i mean, their tagline is "the
heart of the holidays." you have to represent a full spectrum of humanity for their holidays and their story. >> reporter: and then this, the very first same-sex kiss for the channel. >> i knew immediately that the -- the gravity of how many lives we were going to change. it hit me like a john of bricks. >> reporter: jonathan bennett is one of the lease akders in hallmark's "the christmas house," the first holiday movie with a storyline centered around an openly gay couple. his character, brandon, returning home for the holidays, bringing his husband and a bundle of emotions as they await the adoption of their first child. >> we're having a baby. >> our adoption finalized today. we've been close before, but our little boy's coming home. >> that's the biggest part of "the christmas house" for me was the representation of two men in love, married, in a happy, healthy relationship, trying to start their own family. that's never been seen on hallmark before. >> what an honor it must be to
get to be the one to bring that story to life. >> i didn't have representation like this growing up. we didn't see people that looked like us in movies. to feel that representation for the young jonathans sitting out there in tiny town, ohio, in the middle of nowhere, who is gay and maybe has never told anyone because he's afraid, maybe his parents aren't supportive, or maybe he doesn't know who to tell or how to do it. he's watching a movie with his family, and you see someone that looks like you. it gives you hope that you're going to be okay. >> reporter: if bennett looks familiar, here's a throwback for you. >> well, cool. >> reporter: but the "mean girls" heartthrob says this latest role is even more fetch. >> that is so fetch. >> gretchen, stop trying to maybe fetch happen. >> do you feel maybe now this is the role you'll be known for? >> i'm never going to be mad at being aaron samuels. "mean girls" is a movie that brought so many people joy. at the same time, "the christmas house" and playing brandon is my
favorite role i've ever done. because to me, this was the role that mattered to people. >> reporter: after more than 500,000 tweets like these started popping up as far back as this summer, the hallmark channel cashing in, premiering its countdown to christmas in october. since then the cable network says more than 38 million people have tuned in to watch. >> to be able to turn on hallmark channel and know, i'm going to see families around christmas time, like i'm going to miss my family but it's going to give me that feeling that i'm looking for around the holiday season. there's something beautiful knowing that hallmark is providing something, some sort of escape in 2020. i think we're all wanting to escape 2020 at this point. >> reporter: when it comes to letting viewers lose themselves in a holiday storyline, chris columbus is a master. he wrote "gremlins and directed one of the highest-grossing christmas films of all time.
30 years after its release, "home alone" is still making us laugh and find a new appreciation for family. >> kevin! >> i didn't realize it would have the longevity it has. when we were making the movie, the mantra to the crew was, "let's make it look and feel timeless." and i said at the time, "so 20 years from now when people are watching it at 2:00 in the morning it will feel fresh, as if it were shot yesterday." the funny thing is it's 30 years down the road, and i think it's on television every day. >> reporter: and columbus is once again in the director's sleigh for netflix's biggest holiday hit this year, "the christmas chronicles 2." >> welcome to the north pole! >> reporter: featuring kurt russell as santa claus and his real-life partner, goldie hawn, as mrs. claus. >> that is the christmas star. >> created by the forest elves in 312 a.d. >> the star protects us and
keeps us hidden. >> they've been together almost 40 years. they can finish each other's sentences. as a result of that, they bring to the set a tremendous amount of chemistry between the two of them. >> reporter: with columbus' new movie, nods to some of his greatest hits. from harry potter -- >> i wanted to open santa's village in the same way i dealt with hol warts in harry potter. if we walk onto the set for the first time, it was the biggest set i've ever been on, including the potter sets. this was bigger than the great hall. >> reporter: to "home alone." >> i am trying to get home to my 8-year-old son. >> you see all of these little "home alone" tributes whe tribu intentional? >> i swear to you i wasn't aware of any of that until the day i got to the set. it's because it's subconsciously somewhere in my brain. it wasn't intentional. >> reporter: what is intentional is the thread that runs through all of columbus' holiday films. the inspiration he pulls from other classics.
>> i think the most classic and wonderful scene in any holiday film is the end of "it's a wonderful life." >> merry christmas! >> it's the most moving scene almost in any film, for me. and that is a movie that just fills you with hope. i really feel that's my mantra, for me making movies. i feel like i, like most of my films, to give the audience a sense of hope and a sense that it's going to get better, life is really always going to get better. >> reporter: a message that is desperately needed right now. >> how important do you think it is for people to have a new christmas movie like "christmas chronicles 2" to turn to during these difficult times? >> i would never be presumptuous enough to say, this movie is -- you know, this is really going to help you throughout this pandemic. what it will do is help you forget for two hours, and that's what movies have always done.
>> our thanks to marci. up next, gunshots tearing her family apart. now turning her pain to healing others. shall i put her in snow mode? nope! what about off-road mode? nah. sport mode it is. let's see what this baby can do. or... we could check out that farmers market? no! you know what? i'll be in chill mode... (button click) if anyone needs me. propilot assist with navi-link. available on the all-new nissan rogue. when why are we alwaysiful hair, shown the same thing? where's my bounce? my glamour? my fire? all hair is beautiful. these dove shampoo and conditioners are custom formulated for different hair types. find the right dove care for your hair. each febreze car vent clip gives you up to 30 days of fresh air. so, you can have open window freshness...
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when she was just 7 years old, aaliyah stewart of maryville, indiana, lost two pros in separate fatal shootings. >> in total, i've lost six relatives due to gun violence. what has been the most challenging for me is the reality of the epidemic of gun violence that's happening in underprivileged communities and the world that we're living in today. so in december of 2014, i was sitting at home. a freshman in high school. and i came up with the idea of asw foundation. my brother anthony samuel white. i wanted to give scholarships to students graduating from maryville high school. i went from two scholarships to six scholarships to 1,500 plus toys and helping over 10,000 children. our mission is to build a horizon in the community where
young people can see a better light, a better vision. >> and tonight robin roberts' "thrivership" fund announcing a donation of $10,000 to aaliyah's foundation to help provide more scholarships. that's "nightline." see you back here same time tomorrow. thanks for staying up with us. good night, america.