Coronavirus cases are surging across the country ahead of the holiday season. Here are some unsettling statistics from the month of November.
It took almost six weeks for the pandemic to claim the lives of 3,000 Americans. In the last week that number of COVID deaths – about the number of fatalities in the 9/11 terror attacks – has been taking place in U.S. homes, hospitals and hospices every two days.
News of impending vaccines has instilled hope the pandemic will pass into history within months. But the road to that brighter future continues to darken – in the last seven days, the nation recorded a weekly record with 1.2 million new infections. On Monday, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients surpassed 85,000 for the first time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Yahoo News the onset of colder weather and the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve could conspire to drive the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths even higher.
“Two to three thousand deaths a day times a couple of months, and you’re approaching a really stunning number of deaths,” the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projects that almost 200,000 more Americans will die by March 1.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.4 million cases and over 258,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 59.4 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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The encouraging recent news on vaccines, with three candidates showing a high level of efficacy, does not mean life will return to normal any time soon, experts warn.
The requirement to use face masks and maintain social distance will remain in place for several more months until vaccines have been distributed widely and a certain threshold of herd immunity has been reached. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the U.S. vaccine development effort known as Operation Warp Speed, told CNN about 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve that goal – a milestone he said is likely to happen by May.
Until then, medical professionals preach continuing to stick to the CDC guidelines that aim to curb spread of the coronavirus.
“If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting; you keep going until the cavalry gets here, and then you might even want to continue fighting,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.
The Swedish approach to the coronavirus pandemic, which has stood in stark contrast to its fellow Nordic nations, appears to be failing.
Sweden initially eschewed lockdowns as a measure to limit spread of the virus and instead opted for voluntary steps, which some interpreted as an attempt to achieve herd immunity, although that was never the official policy goal.
The country of 10 million certainly hasn’t managed that, as its leading epidemiologist acknowledged. “We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now,” Anders Tegnell said Tuesday in the capital city of Stockholm.
Bloomberg reported that a recent study showed Sweden ranked among the top European countries for relative COVID mortality and infection rates. With daily cases surging past the 7,000 mark, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has banned public gatherings of more than eight people and alcohol sales past 10 p.m.
The world’s largest maker of rubber gloves said Tuesday that it expects a two-to-four-week delay in deliveries after more than 2,000 workers at its factories were infected by the coronavirus. Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp. temporarily stopped production at 16 factories outside Kuala Lumpur since Nov. 17 to screen workers. Its remaining 12 facilities in the area have been operating at reduced capacity. Top Glove says it produces about 90 billion rubber gloves a year, about 25% of the world’s supply. Profits have soared amid rising demand.
“We expect delays in some deliveries by about two to four weeks, as well as a longer lead time for orders,” Top Glove said in a statement.
A Texas family overwhelmed by coronavirus infections after a family gathering has made a public service announcement warning others not to make the same mistakes they did. Twelve members of the Aragonez family gathered for a celebration Nov. 1. All 12, plus three other family members, have since tested positive, Alexa Aragonez told CNN. Her mother, Enriqueta, participated in the PSA while hospitalized. Alexa Aragonez, an employee in the City of Arlington’s communications and legislative affairs department, said she saw an opportunity to make the outbreak a teaching moment.
“We know that we messed up because we let our guard down,” she said of her family. “We’re not unlike a lot of families.”
Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner says he can’t defend his title at next year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race because he can’t figure out how to get his dogs to the start line.
“I cannot find a way to get the dogs to Alaska,” Waerner said.
Waerner wasn’t able to return to his wife and five children in Torpa, Norway, for months after winning the world’s most famous sled dog race last year because travel was restricted as the pandemic took hold. The Iditarod was one of the few professional sports that wasn’t canceled last March. For the 49th running set to begin March 7, organizers say they are developing a “multi-tier COVID-19 mitigation plan” with the goal of zero community transmission.
The Trump administration is going ahead with plans to hold holiday parties and receptions inside the White House despite a surge in coronavirus cases and warnings from public health officials to avoid large, in-person gatherings. Invitations for the events, scheduled to start next week, already have been sent out. An invitation to a Dec. 1 reception – a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY – makes no mention of mandatory face masks or social distancing requirements. Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman and chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, said that masks will be required and available and that social distancing will be recommended.
“The People’s House will celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah while providing the safest environment possible,” Grisham said in a statement.
– Michael Collins and Maria Puente
A somewhat obscure group of medical and public health professionals known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is debating the crucial question on the minds of millions of Americans: When can I get a COVID vaccine? ACIP develops recommendations on the use of vaccines. This week the committee unveiled its ethical principles for an orderly distribution of the vaccines, beginning with an estimated 21 million health care workers. Other groups at or near the front of the line include other essential workers such as first responders, teachers, farm workers and energy industry workers; people with high-risk medical conditions; and people over 65. ACIP makes recommendations, but states ultimately decide.
“I know our nation looks to you all to give your thoughtful and wise recommendation,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said at the start of the group’s meeting Monday. “I want to take a moment to underscore how important your work is.”
USA TODAY interviewed FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn about how the approval process works, how quickly it could go and how the agency will encourage Americans to take the vaccine. Drug companies Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Several others remain in development. Hahn said Pfizer’s could be approved within days of a meeting scheduled for Dec. 10. But nothing will be rushed, he said.
“I’ve been clear, I would not allow the agency to authorize or approve a vaccine that I wouldn’t want my own family to get,” Hahn said. “No one at FDA would want that to occur.” Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise
State police will launch a COVID-19 enforcement initiative with an added presence in several Maryland cities, including Salisbury, Gov. Larry Hogan announced. The increased enforcement will aim to halt large gatherings that violate the state’s health restrictions as Maryland faces its worst COVID-19 surge of the pandemic.
“In addition to our traditional statewide efforts ramping up drunk-driving patrols and enforcement ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, we are also launching a wide-scale, all-hands-on-deck compliance, education and enforcement operation,” Hogan said at a news conference in Annapolis.
Starting Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, compliance units will be detailed to popular locations across the state, including in Baltimore, Towson, Silver Spring, Bel Air and Salisbury, Hogan said. Last week, Hogan set new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including ordering restaurants and bars to close by 10 p.m. and limiting capacity at retail businesses, religious institutions and other venues to 50%.
– Madeleine O’Neill, Delmarva Now
As COVID-19 cases surge, a Tennessee mayor said he won’t require people to wear face masks until the “Holy Spirit” provides him with guidance to do so. Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman told AL.com last week that he believes masks can prevent the spread of the virus, but he doesn’t think it’s necessary to mandate them. Instead, he said he’s waiting to receive guidance from above.
“The Holy Spirit dwells within us,” Newman said. “It’s a heart thing. It’s not a mind thing. But you’re using all your God-given (talents), your physical or mental or spiritual, all those things. When I pray for guidance, I may not know the answer immediately.”
Lincoln County is about 35 miles south of Nashville, on Alabama’s northern border, with approximately 34,000 residents. The county has reported 1,463 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, according to the state’s coronavirus tracking data.
The largest county in the United States is on the brink of a stay-home order after a coronavirus surge surpassed a level set by Los Angeles County public health officials to trigger such an action. A swell of new cases Monday put the county over an average of 4,500 cases per day.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said no action would be taken until county supervisors meet Tuesday. A stay-home order would be the first such action since mid-March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom followed several counties and issued a statewide order that closed schools and most shops.
Cases and hospitalizations have been rapidly rising across California in November. The state recorded its highest day of positive test results Saturday with more than 15,000. It had more than 14,000 cases Sunday. Hospitalizations have increased 77% over the past two weeks.
In Los Angeles, the county of 10 million residents has had a disproportionately large share of the state’s cases and deaths. Although it accounts for a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, it has about a third of the cases and more than a third of the deaths.
Paper products and other household staples are in high demand in stores and online again as the virus surges and lockdowns loom, but none more so than those essential rolls of soft cotton squares.
“The toilet paper aisle is CLEARED!” one person wrote on Twitter. “March 2.0 is here folkssss.”
In another unpleasant flashback to the pandemic’s early days of panic buying and hoarding, some stores have reinstated purchase limits on hard-to-get items. Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said toilet paper and cleaning supplies are seeing “the most strain.” Target told USA TODAY that it is coordinating with stores, distribution centers and suppliers to make sure essential items such as baby products, food and over-the-counter medicine are “fast-tracked through the supply chain and prioritized for re-stocking.”
– Jessica Guynn
Contributing: The Associated Press
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