Public health experts say this year everyone should get a flu shot, if possible.
As the governors of five states announced new coronavirus-related restrictions Friday, President Donald Trump addressed the public for the first time since losing the election and said a vaccine would be widely available by April.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, scientific head of Operation Warp Speed, said two vaccines and two therapeutics could “potentially” receive emergency use authorization before the end of the year, and millions of Americans could begin receiving vaccinations next month.
“We plan to have enough vaccine doses available for use in the U.S. population to immunize about 20 million individuals in the month of December, and another 25-30 million per month on an ongoing basis from there on,” Slaoui said.
The U.S. keeps smashing its own records for COVID-19 cases as the fall surge is running rampant across the country. On Thursday, a record 153,496 new COVID-19 cases were tallied in the U.S., just days after it had crossed the 100,000 daily new case threshold. Some of those new cases were among members of the Secret Service.
To slow the spread, states and cities are clamping down and enacting new restrictions. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced a two-week “freeze” for the state, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a two-week “reset“, and the governors of Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia issued additional restrictions. Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a stay-at-home advisory set to go into effect Monday morning.
Some major developments:
- Trump on Friday said the federal government won’t deliver a vaccine to New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorizes its immediate distribution. Cuomo previously said the state would require an independent review of the vaccine due to concerns the Trump administration was putting political pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- The governors of Oregon, Washington and California issued travel advisories Friday morning urging visitors entering their states or returning home from travel outside these states to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- President-elect Joe Biden will appoint a White House coronavirus response coordinator to lead the administration’s pandemic strategy, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said.
- Corey Lewandowski, a top adviser to President Donald Trump’s reelection effort, tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed Thursday. Dozens of others tied to the White House have tested positive. Here’s a list.
- More than 2,000 Pennsylvania nurses plan to go on strike next week. Professional nursing groups say nurses are being “pushed to the brink by unsafe staffing that seriously undermines patient safety.”
📰 What we’re reading: As COVID-19 infections soar, we’re tracking new restrictions across the U.S.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 10.6 million cases and 242,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 53 million cases and 1.31million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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North Dakota mandates masks, capacity limits as virus surges
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions late Friday in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.
The Republican governor’s executive order comes after increased pressure from doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to require face coverings. The directive goes into effect Saturday and will last until Dec. 13.
Burgum said in a statement that doctors and nurses “need our help, and they need it now.”
The mandate requires residents to wear face coverings in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.
The order also includes exceptions for children under age 5, individuals with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services.
Failure to comply with the mandate is an infraction, with a penalty of up to $1,000, though it’s not clear how the order will be enforced.
— The Associated Press
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tests positive
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday he has tested positive for COVID-19, saying he has no symptoms and will begin a 10-day quarantine at his home in Carson City.
“I am not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and I have returned to my residence to begin the quarantine process,” Sisolak told reporters during a call Friday afternoon. “It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint where I contracted the virus.”
Sisolak undergoes weekly coronavirus testing. His last negative test was Nov. 6. He also tested negative on Nov. 2.
Since the pandemic began, governors in Missouri, Virginia, and Oklahoma have tested positive for COVID-19. Ohio’s governor tested positive, then negative, in August. Sisolak’s positive test comes as Nevada is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. The state marked a new daily record for new cases on Friday, reporting 1,857 infections.
— Anjeanette Damon, Reno Gazette Journal
Trump took a swipe at drug maker Pfizer and the governor of New York over their previous comments on a coronavirus vaccine during his public remarks Friday. Trump said his administration would not go into a “lockdown” and said that a vaccine would be widely available by April.
Slaoui urged Americans to get vaccinated once one if approved and encouraged people to volunteer to participate in ongoing trials.
“The vaccines and the therapeutics that we have helped develop and accelerate will be judged independently and, if approved, should be used by all in the population because I believe vaccination is likely to be the cornerstone among all the other measures that we have to take to help us really control this pandemic,” Slaoui said.
– John Fritze and David Jackson
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday announced a two-week “reset” of heightened public health restrictions from late March and early April.
That means citizens are ordered to shelter in place, leaving home only for essential trips for health, safety and welfare. All non-essential businesses and nonprofits will cease in-person activities per the order. Essential businesses may operate under reduced operations and occupancy to the “greatest possible extent.”
This encompasses the Thanksgiving Day holiday, running through Nov. 30.
– Algernon D’Ammassa, Las Cruces Sun-New
More than 100 Secret Service officers are either infected with the COVID-19 virus or been told to quarantine because of close contact with someone who has, a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY Friday.
While the total was not broken down by infection and quarantine, the person who is not authorized to comment publicly said the number skewed largely to quarantine as a precaution because of the officers’ past contacts.
The number included only those who are part of the service’s 1,600-member Uniformed Division , which generally has the most contact with the public as they perform screening at events and patrol the White House grounds. The source declined to comment on the number of infections and quarantines within the corps of agents, including those in the Protective Division who maintain the closest contact with the president and other top White House officials.
The Washington Post first reported the infections and quarantines among service officers, indicating that the number was more than 130.
– Kevin Johnson and Ledyard King
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a two-week “freeze” for the state that will take effect starting Nov. 18. Restaurants and bars will have to go back to take-out service only — previously they were allowed to have limited indoor seating — and indoor recreation centers like gyms, museums and theaters will close again, as will zoos and gardens. Grocery stores will be limited to 75% capacity, and Brown is encouraging curbside pickup when possible.
“If we want to give Oregonians a fighting chance we must take further measures to flatten the curve now,” Brown said.
Multnomah County, where Portland is located, will be in the freeze for at least 4 weeks, Brown said. Additionally, the freeze will stop visits to nursing homes and business are now required to mandate that employees work from home as much as possible. Social gatherings, in or out, are not to include more than six people from two households.
Earlier Friday, Oregon Health and Sciences University, the state’s largest hospital, announced its intensive care beds were nearing capacity, with 90% of ICU beds occupied. With more than 1,000 daily cases being reported in the state, Brown warned that “our hospitals are headed for some very dark days.”
– Lindsay Schnell
President-elect Joe Biden will appoint a White House coronavirus response coordinator to lead the administration’s pandemic strategy, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Thursday night.
In his first interview since he was named chief of staff, Klain told MSNBC the coordinator would have “direct access” to Biden and brief the president daily on the coronavirus crisis. The coordinator will also have a COVID-19 response team to help determine vaccine distribution, manage supply chain logistics and work on fixing widespread access to testing.
– Courtney Subramanian
The pandemic is sparking new levels of frustration for public health officials in Iowa, who are struggling to reach residents infected with the virus, ask them who they’ve been around and request that they stay home for up to two weeks.
“It’s been hell, if you want me to be honest. It’s been hell,” said Christine Estle, a nurse who is administrator of the Jefferson County Health Department, in southeast Iowa. Estle said it can be particularly aggravating to do contact tracing in a rural area.
Iowa on Friday reported more than 5,000 new cases for the first time since the pandemic arrived in the Hawkeye State. Read more here.
– Tony Leys, Des Moines Register
The governors of Oregon, Washington and California issued travel advisories Friday morning urging visitors entering their states or returning home from travel outside these states to self-quarantine for 14 days, to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They also are urging people to avoid all non-essential out-of-state travel.
The advisories define essential travel as travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and security.
“As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release. Brown is expected to announce further restrictions at a noon press conference.
– Tracy Loew, Salem Statesman Journal
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New York City’s parents to be prepared for the nation’s largest school district to close its classrooms as soon as Monday.
De Blasio said Friday that parents “should have an alternative plan beginning as early as Monday” during “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC.
Once the epicenter of the U.S.’ COVID-19 outbreak, New York City is facing another surge in cases like many other areas around the country. More than 900 new COVID-19 cases were tallied Thursday with the 7-day average of its infection rate at 2.83%. The mayor has said that if the city’s rate rises about 3%, it would close its schools.
Bars, restaurants and gyms throughout the city must close by 10 p.m. starting Friday and gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes are banned, per a state order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Multiple neighborhoods in the city are also state-designated “hot spot” areas with increased restrictions.
However, the city’s schools have been able largely to ward off infections since they reopened classrooms at the end of September and beginning of October. Data released earlier this week from the Department of Education reported a test positivity rate among students and staff at just 0.18%.
There’s no evidence people are immune from COVID-19 after they’re first infected, but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, once again said they are and advocated against experts’ advice Thursday night when discussing people who have already had the deadly disease.
“We should tell them to celebrate,” Paul told Fox News. “We should tell them to throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again — because these people are now immune.”
In fact, as several doctors have noted and repeated after the Kentucky Republican’s remarks, there is no evidence to suggest that those once infected by COVID-19 are immune from getting reinfected.
– Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier Journal
After battling a spring surge in COVID-19 cases that devastated their health care system, Italian doctors are once again facing strains on their resources as they treat a new influx of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are very close to not keeping up. I cannot say when we will reach the limit, but that day is not far off,” Dr. Luca Cabrini, who runs the intensive care ward at Varese’s Circolo hospital, the largest in the province of 1 million people northwest of Milan, told the Associated Press.
Cabrini said that while ICU beds are filling up as they did in the spring, doctors are also facing strains in wards caring for less ill patients who may be younger but require care for longer stretches.
As of Wednesday, 52% of Italy’s hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, above the 40% warning threshold set by the Health Ministry. The Italian doctors federation called this week for a nationwide lockdown, too.
The United States on Thursday reported more than 150,000 coronavirus cases in a day for the first time, just nine days after it reported 100,000 cases for the first time, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The United States reported the record 153,496 cases on Thursday. At that rate, the United States reported about 107 cases every minute.
It’s not clear how well the case data reflects the size of the fall surge. In South Dakota and Iowa, most tests are coming back positive, data from The COVID Tracking Project suggests. That organization does not release numbers on percentages of tests that come back positive because of wildly different ways they can be calculated, and there is no one U.S. standard.
However, health officials generally have pushed for testing rates under 5%, and by some calculations, 40 states are worse than that mark.
– Mike Stucka
The holiday season is upon us and so is another surge of the coronavirus pandemic. So what’s a family to do?
While some state and city officials have advised against large family gatherings, folks may still be trying to find a way to spend time with loved ones this fall and welcoming students back into the fold.
Dr. Adam Jarrett, who serves as the chief medical officer at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey, said that the safest way to try to gather would be to get tested and then “truly self-quarantine for 10 days to two weeks.”
“That’s the only way that we can be pretty close to 100% safe,” Jarrett said.
– Katie Sobko, The Bergen Record
Counties in which Power Five schools are located have seen an even larger spike in COVID-19 cases than the nationwide average, a data analysis conducted by Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health for USA TODAY found.
Communities in the Big Ten and Big 12 are experiencing the most dramatic increases in their seven-day averages of daily new cases per 100,000 residents, the analysis found.
All told, 59 of the 64 counties that host Power Five schools saw an increase in their average number of daily cases from Nov. 3 to Tuesday. Collectively, the counties reported an increase of 45%.
The spike in cases has wrecked havoc on college football schedules throughout the country — particularly this week. In the Southeastern Conference alone, four games involving ranked teams have been canceled in recent days due to COVID-19 concerns.
– Tom Schad, and Jim Sergent
By medical standards, Nicole Worthley is considered extraordinarily rare. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 31 and again in September.
But she can’t prove she had COVID-19 twice. That requires genetic testing of both infections, which has only happened a few dozen times in the world and never in South Dakota where she lives.
Many states keep track of claims of reinfection but they are still considered extremely unusual, according to health experts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that it is investigating some possible reinfections but has not yet confirmed any. It only considers infections more than 90 days apart to be possible reinfections; otherwise, someone’s illness is likely a lingering infection.
How long the body can fight COVID-19 off has implications for the longevity and effectiveness of vaccines, the possibility of communities developing so-called herd immunity where the virus no longer spreads because so many people have already been infected, and how those infected once should feel and behave. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
A Texas appeals court in El Paso has put a temporary stop to El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s order shutting down nonessential businesses in El Paso County.
The Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso on Thursday granted requests to temporarily halt the order. The requests were made by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and a group of 10 El Paso restaurant companies, who argue that Samaniego’s order is illegal because it is counter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 7 order tied to reopening Texas businesses.
The court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled several sections of Samaniego’s order cannot be enforced, including shutting down nonessential businesses, until the court makes its final judgment, which is expected Friday.
“We exercise our discretion to preserve the status quo as it existed just prior to the issuance of the county’s later, more restrictive Stay-at-Home Order” until the court makes its final judgment, the court ruled.
– Vic Kolenc and Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
More than 2,000 nurses represented by a union plan to go on strike next week as a surge in coronavirus cases continues to overwhelm hospitals nationwide.
In Bucks County, more than 760 nurses at St. Mary Medical Center will go on strike starting Tuesday unless they reach a contract with the hospital’s owner Trinity Health. In Philadelphia, some 500 nurses at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and about 1,000 at Einstein Medical Center have also authorized to strike, the New York Times reported.
“Nurses are stretched so thin, and I know they’re not able to get where they need to be,” Maria Plano, a nurse at St. Christopher’s and the union’s vice president, told CBS Philly. “We need some kind of guidelines where nurses are in the discussion and helping to make the decisions.”
In a statement last week, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals said nurses are being “pushed to the brink by unsafe staffing that seriously undermines patient safety,” the newspaper reported.
Costco, which was one of the first retailers to mandate shoppers wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, is updating its face mask policy. Starting Monday, the wholesale club says it will require all members, guests and employees to wear a face mask or face shield with the exception of children under 2.
“Members and guests must wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose at all times,” Costco said on its COVID-19 updates page. “Individuals who are unable to wear a face mask due to a medical condition must wear a face shield. … Entry to Costco will be granted only to those wearing a face mask or face shield.”
Costco’s original policy went into effect in early May and didn’t require shoppers with medical conditions to wear masks.
– Kelly Tyko
Contributing: The Associated Press
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