The nation’s one-day toll of coronavirus deaths surpassed 3,000 for the first time Wednesday and on Thursday the U.S. recorded its 14 millionth COVID-19 case, milestones showing the pandemic continues to race out of control.
However, the daily death number may be inflated by fatalities reported days late because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Even so, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the U.S. could reach 450,000 deaths by February.
“The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times, and I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of our nation, largely because of the stress it’s going to put on our public health system,” Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event.
Things you should know Thursday:
- Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue.
- Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have said they are willing to take a coronavirus vaccine to prove that the treatment is safe and effective. They may even film themselves getting injected.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo displayed a box of empty vials during his COVID briefing Thursday, demonstrating how the packages will be shipped to states and ultimately administrated. “So it’s not easy, but it’s real,” he said.
- The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide passed the 100,000 mark Wednesday, and experts fear weary staff will be “overrun” by patients. Many hospitals will be forced to suspend elective surgeries and other routine operations, set up temporary field hospitals and stretch staff to the limit, experts said.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 14 million cases and over 274,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 64.9 million cases and 1.5 million deaths.
📰 What we’re reading: How did a third wave of COVID-19 engulf the U.S.? Take a closer look at the dark November with these graphics and maps.
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Moderna says vaccine candidate provides at least 3 months of protection
Participants in a trial of Moderna’s candidate vaccine appeared to be protected from the virus for at least three months, the vaccine maker announced Thursday, marking the first indication of how long a COVID-19 vaccine might last.
Some vaccines, like one for the measles, essentially provide a lifetime of protection, while others, like the annual flu shot, have to be given repeatedly. Animal studies suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection, but that has not yet been tested in people.
Both Moderna’s candidate COVID-19 vaccine and one made by Pfizer/BioNTech have been shown to be safe and more than 94% effective and are now awaiting authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
— Karen Weintraub
Joe Biden asks Anthony Fauci to become his chief medical adviser
President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the expert on the coronavirus pandemic, to become his chief medical adviser and part of his Covid-19 response team.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a top official dealing with the pandemic. But President Donald Trump sidelined him at points during the year after Fauci’s stark warnings about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and halting large-scale gatherings.
“I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team,” Biden said.
— Bart Jansen
California set for new stay-at-home order
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a regional stay-at-home order Thursday based on hospital capacity amid a staggering rise in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the state’s health care system within weeks.
“If we don’t act now, our hospital systems will be overwhelmed. If we don’t act now, death rates will climb,” Newsom said.
The new order divides the state into five regions. Newsom said none of the regions currently meet the threshold for the new rules but projects all will in coming days and weeks.
When they do, the order includes a three-week lockdown that prohibits residents from gathering. If implemented, essential businesses such as grocery stores must operate at 20% capacity; bars, wineries salons and restaurant dining have to shut down; and hotels can only be open for critical infrastructure support.
Schools can remain open if they’ve received a waiver. Restaurants can continue take-out and delivery services, Newsom said. All non-essential travel is restricted statewide, the governor added.
“This is not a permanent state,” Newsom said. “This is what we predicted. This is the final surge of the pandemic. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
— Nicole Hayden, Palm Springs Desert Sun
World War II vet beats COVID-19, marks 104th birthday
An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday on Thursday.
Major Wooten was physically drained and a little fuzzy mentally after battling the new coronavirus but appears to be on the mend, said granddaughter Holley Wooten McDonald.
“I’m just thankful that they were able to treat him so quickly and we were able to get him tested,” said McDonald, adding: “It’s amazing that a 104 year old survived COVID.”
Pfizer chief not sure if vaccinated people can still spread infection
The CEO of Pfizer, maker of the first virus vaccine candidate to seek FDA approval, says he is not sure whether inoculation prevents the vaccinated person from infecting others with COVID-19. Albert Bourla told Dateline NBC, for an episode airing Thursday at 10 p.m. EST, that “this is something that needs to be examined. We are not certain about that right now.” Pfizer could grant emergency use authorization for its vaccine as soon as Dec. 10. Bourla also said he felt an obligation to vaccinate volunteers involved in the testing phase who were given a placebo instead of the vaccine.
“It is a moral and ethical-dilemma and obligation I think that we have to these people,” he said. “I believe that in discussion with regulators, we should find a way, sooner rather than later.”
New York City creating institute to prepare for future epidemics
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday the creation of the Pandemic Response Institute, dedicated to preparing the city and other jurisdictions for future health emergencies and epidemics. This effort is part of city’s long-term recovery agenda “by building on the network of premier hospital systems, world leading medical universities and growing life sciences and tech sectors to make New York City the public health capital of the world,” de Blasio said in a statement. Building new technologies that detect, track and monitor health issues is among the institute’s goals.
“No city in the county has sacrificed more, or worked harder to keep COVID-19 at bay,” de Blasio said. “It’s time to … move forward with bold ideas to keep New Yorkers healthy and jump-start our economic recovery.”
Virginia county that balked at gun curbs digs in against virus restrictions
A Virginia County that once declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary” in defense of gun rights now says it is a “First Amendment sanctuary” and won’t enforce statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the virus outbreak. The rural county’s supervisors unanimously passed a resolution banning the use of county funds to uphold Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandates, saying they violate the Constitution of Virginia.
“It’s a sad day in the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia when a governor using unlegislated mandates is harassing, fining citizens, business owners and elected officials, forcing compliance through fear and intimidation,” Supervisor Matt Cline told The News and Advance.
Northam’s executive order caps gatherings at 25 people and directs restaurants and bars to stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by midnight. The county’s 7-day average of 32.2 new daily cases reported per 100,000 people is higher than the state’s average of 27.1, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Delta partners with CDC for international traveler contact tracing
Delta Air Lines is partnering with the CDC to begin coronavirus contact tracing efforts for travelers arriving in the U.S. The airline said in a news release Thursday that the effort is aimed at keeping “international customers informed of potential COVID-19 exposure.”
Beginning Dec. 15, Delta will ask customers traveling to the U.S. from an international location to voluntarily provide information for contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts. Information includes the passenger’s full name, email address, address in the U.S., primary phone number and secondary phone. The release says the data will be “directly and securely transmitting” to the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“This will give the CDC access to the data in moments, dramatically decreasing the time it takes to notify affected customers via local health departments,” Delta says.
– Sara M. Moniuszko
48 NBA players test positive for COVID; season to start Dec. 22
In the NBA, 48 of 546 players tested positive for COVID-19 in the first batch of testing for players who returned to their home market the week of Nov. 24-30, the league and the National Basketball Players Association said Wednesday. That’s an 8.7% positivity rate, slightly less than the 10.2% seven-day average for the U.S., per John Hopkins COVID-19 data tracking web site. The season is scheduled to start Dec. 22.
“Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market is isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with CDC guidance,” the NBA and NBPA said in a news release.
– Jeff Zillgitt
Pence visiting with FedEx officials ahead of vaccine distribution
Vice President Mike Pence was bound for Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday to hold a roundtable discussion on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. Though a vaccine has not yet been authorized in the U.S., officials are preparing for mass distribution of doses. Pence will be meeting with executives of FedEx, the Memphis-based shipping giant that will be among key transportation players in distributing a COVID-19 vaccine once approved. Operation Warp Speed, the White House-led initiative to develop and distribute vaccines, plans to begin the first vaccine deliveries within 24 hours of FDA authorization.
– Max Garland, Memphis Commercial Appeal
WHO updated social distancing guideline: Stay 3 feet away
The World Health Organization’s latest update on COVID safety guidelines urges extensive use of masks, frequent handwashing and physical distancing of at least three feet. Six feet has been the standard provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WHO also warns to avoid touching your face and urges “adequate ventilation in indoor settings,” plenty of testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.
Masks should be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least three feet can’t be maintained, the guidelines say. In areas of COVID-19 spread, WHO also advised “universal” wearing of medical masks in health care facilities, including when caring for other patients.
IBM analysts warn of phishing attack on overseas vaccine supply chain
IBM analysts have detected a global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with an overseas supply chain used for vaccine distribution. Spoofed emails impersonating a Chinese biomedical executive targeted organizations that help meet “transportation needs within the COVID-19 cold chain,” analysts wrote. Many vaccines, including those under review for COVID-19, must be kept cool and sometimes frozen during distribution, and the Chinese company whose executive was impersonated is a supplier of low-temperature equipment.
The purpose of the phishing campaign “may have been to harvest credentials, possibly to gain future unauthorized access to corporate networks and sensitive information relating to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution,” analysts Melissa Frydrych and Claire Zaboeva wrote.
– Donovan Slack
Will some preschoolers ever catch up after shutdowns?
Countless American preschoolers are falling behind with social and emotional skills after months of shutdowns. Experts say the result could be devastating for the long-term success of many kids given that preschool years are arguably among the most formative of a child’s life. A student who starts kindergarten without preschool is more likely to repeat a grade, require special-education services or drop out, statistics show.
“Unfortunately, for children, the impact of this pandemic will be felt for years,” said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician who directs the Seattle Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development.
– Alia Wong
Former presidents line up to get vaccine and build public confidence
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are volunteering to get inoculated on camera once COVID-19 vaccines win FDA approval. The three most recent former presidents hope an awareness campaign would be a powerful message as American public health officials try to persuade the public to take the vaccine, CNN reports.
Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, said the 43rd president had reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert – and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations,” Ford told CNN. “Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
Hawaiian couple arrested for boarding flight after positive test
A Hawaiian couple that boarded a flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Hawaii, after knowingly testing positive for COVID-19 have been arrested.
The Kaua‘i Police Department confirmed to USA TODAY that Wailua residents Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson were taken into custody Sunday after “placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death.” Moribe and Peterson were charged with reckless endangering. They both posted bail at $1,000 each.
According to a police report, Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, were ordered by the Quarantine Station at the San Francisco International Airport to isolate after testing positive for the highly contagious virus. The couple, however, defied airport orders and boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to the islands. Moribe and Peterson were accompanied by a 4-year-old child.
– Cydney Henderson
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: Biden wants 100 days of mask-wearing; California set for new stay-at-home order; US passes 14 million cases