CDC quarantine time; Pfizer; US deaths; Michael Hancock
Federal government officials said the first 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed to U.S. communities as early as December within 24 hours of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
But the U.S. recorded its highest daily death toll since May on Tuesday, and experts warned that good vaccine news doesn’t mean Americans should let down their guard down over the holidays.
Several state restrictions go into effect Wednesday just hours before the Thanksgiving holiday, including a ban on alcohol sales at restaurants and bars in Pennsylvania. State health officials ordered restaurants and bars to not sell alcohol starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. Thursday in an effort to prevent social gatherings.
“It turns out the biggest day for drinking is the day before Thanksgiving,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference this week. “When people get together in that situation, it leads to the exchange of fluids that leads to the increase in infection.”
Overseas, British authorities relaxed restrictions on social gatherings to allow people to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends and family. Officials in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland came up with a holiday plan to allow up to three households to create a “Christmas bubble” Dec. 23-27.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.7 million cases and over 260,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 60 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
📚What we’re reading: Here’s why this Harvard doctor is optimistic about US overcoming COVID-19 despite “epidemic of mistrust.”
This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has tested positive for COVID-19, but has only minor symptoms and plans to continue working remotely, he said Wednesday.
The governor’s office at the Wyoming State Capitol was closed on Tuesday for a deep cleaning after another office employee tested positive for the respiratory virus.
Less than two weeks ago, Gordon said Wyoming residents needed to be more responsible about preventing the spread of COVID-19, complaining at the time about some people who were being “knuckleheads.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has apologized for flying to visit family members in Mississippi even as he tweeted out advice to the city’s residents asking them to avoid traveling.
Hancock said his family canceled plans for a large gathering and instead he boarded the plane to visit his wife and daughter who have been staying in Mississippi. Hancock said he believed him traveling alone was lower risk than having both of them return home for the holiday.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” Hancock tweeted on Wednesday.
“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
The contradiction between Hancock’s recommendation and his actions was reminiscent of another elected leader, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had to apologize after reports surfaced of his attendance at a friend’s birthday party in a restaurant, violating the public health guidelines he has been constantly promoting.
The encouraging recent news about coronavirus vaccines, with three companies reporting high effectiveness in their candidates, has obscured one large obstacle that lies ahead in getting people inoculated: garnering the required resources.
“The states are broke,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Wednesday. “Washington never approved the state and local funding. They estimate that the cost to the states to distribute a vaccine … $8 billion. So far, the government provided $200 million.”
States are facing budgetary pressures created by the unexpected need to allocate money to combat the coronavirus pandemic combined with diminished revenue from the closure of businesses aimed at curbing spread of the virus.
A federal stimulus package that might help shore up state and local budgets has stalled in Congress, although the Department of Health and Human Services told CNBC that the agency is trying to secure funds to help cover the cost of vaccination programs.
President-elect Joe Biden has a plan that calls for $25 billion for that purpose, but he might take office in January with a divided Congress.
Cuomo, who earlier this week said he intended to spend Thanksgiving with his mother and two adult daughters, later backtracked upon receving criticism that pointed out none of the women are regular members of his household. The CDC has advised against separate households mingling because of the pandemic.
The NFL has moved Thursday’s featured game between the Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers to Sunday because of a coronavirus outbreak among the Ravens. The night matchup in Pittsburgh was one of three NFL games on Thanksgiving, but the only one pitting teams with winning records.
The Ravens canceled Tuesday’s practice after learning in the morning that additional players had tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports. On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed that running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins had tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was also listed as a close contact and placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that five Ravens players and four staff members had tested positive this week.
This is the first time since Week 5 that the league has postponed a game because of COVID-19 concerns.
– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
The March closure of schools prompted by the pandemic is likely to cost some of today’s students future years of their lives, according to a study conducted by researchers from UCLA and the University of Washington.
The researchers said more than 24 million students ages 5-11 in public elementary schools missed approximately 54 days of instruction in the spring, resulting in an average loss of educational attainment of four months for boys and nearly three months for girls.
The study, published in the November edition of JAMA Network Open, estimates the potential years of life lost for all those students at 5.53 million. That’s based on previous analysis of the relationship between educational attainment and life expectancy and the impact of the coronavirus’ spread.
“If the choice is just between keeping schools open or closing them in the face of this unprecedented upsurge in COVID-19 cases, I would favor closing them. But that isn’t the only choice,” said study co-author Frederick Zimmerman, a UCLA health policy professor who mentioned increased spending in protective equipment at schools as an option.
A reinstated ban on outdoor dining in Los Angeles County can go into effect Wednesday night, a judge ruled, after a restaurant industry group had tried to block the restriction.
The California Restaurant Association challenged the order issued Sunday that prohibited outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars, and asked county health officials to provide medical or scientific evidence that it poses an unreasonable risk to public health. The ban is supposed to last at least three weeks.
The county’s Board of Supervisors also considered blocking the ban but failed to garner enough support. The Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of a resolution to urge county officials to rescind the ban but that vote was nonbinding.
The rule is now set to go into effect Wednesday at 10 p.m. and will limit restaurants in the nation’s most populous county to takeout and delivery. The county averaged more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases over a five-day period, triggering the restriction.
More than 2,100 people died in the U.S. because of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since May.
Deaths have been steadily rising since October but hadn’t surpassed 2,000 in a day since May 6, when more than 2,300 people died, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The at least 2,146 people who died Tuesday translates to roughly one death every 40 seconds in the United States. More than 172,000 new cases were added Tuesday, too, according to Hopkins data.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, issued his final Thanksgiving message for Americans as COVID-19 cases surge and dinner tables are still expected to fill up.
“The final message is to do what really we’ve been saying now for some time, is to the extent possible, keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings, as small as you possibly can,” Fauci said Wednesday on “Good Morning America.”
“By making that sacrifice, you’re going to prevent people from getting infected,” he added. “A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this.”
Illinois officials will investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at a state-run veterans nursing home after 27 veterans died and nearly 200 residents and staff members tested positive.
Illinois’ Department of Veterans’ Affairs requested an independent probe into the facility after the outbreak was first spotted in late October.
“The tragedy of what has unfolded at the veterans’ home cannot be understated,” said State Senator Sue Rezin, who represents the district where the home is located.
The World Health Organization said COVID-19 cases in Europe are slowing down despite it still being the region with the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths around the world.
New cases dropped by 6% in Europe over the last week, the WHO said. And that’s after a 10% decline the previous week. However, the virus death rate continues to rise, and more than 67,000 new deaths were reported.
- France: President Emmanuel Macron laid out new rules Tuesday to ease France’s partial shutdown. They include allowing the reopening of some shops and houses of worship next week while indoor dining and gyms remain shuttered.
- Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to extend Germany’s partial shutdown into December. The restrictions have slowed a virus spike, but cases remain at high levels rather than sinking lower.
Once a hot spot of cases in southeast Asia, Singapore is virtually virus free after Tuesday marked 14 days without a new local case, Reuters reported.
A few infections from abroad have been recorded, but people in those cases have been immediately isolated. Many cases in Singapore have been tied to infections at dormitories for foreign workers, the news agency reported.
Tuesday also marked the first time there were no live infection clusters across Singapore, Reuters reported.
The country was one of the first outside of China to report a COVID-19 infection, but it has staved off the worst of the virus and has the lowest case fatality rate in the world, according to Johns Hopkins data.
CDC pondering quarantine reduction to 7-10 days, report says
In an effort to encourage compliance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may reduce the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to the coronavirus from 14 days to seven to 10, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The newspaper said agency officials are putting the final touches on the recommendation, which would require a negative COVID test for the exposed person to exit quarantine.
Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for COVID-19 response, told the Journal that studies have shown effective quarantines can be done in less time than the currently recommended two weeks. Although there’s a chance some infections could be missed, he said there’s a valuable tradeoff to be gained.
“Hopefully people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, seven to 10 days,” he said.
New Mexico approves $330M relief bill, including stimulus checks
New Mexico lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all types of unemployed workers and up to $50,000 for certain businesses.
The bill also provides smaller stimulus checks to immigrants without legal status in the country and dependents, as well as additional funds for food banks, virus testing and contact tracing efforts.
Most of the proposed spending will be made possible by federal relief funding previously assigned to New Mexico, including around $319 million in unspent funds that were expected to expire soon. An additional $10 million in state general funds were allocated for testing and tracing efforts.
The bill allocates $100 million to support businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The New Mexico Finance Authority is tasked with distributing the grants, which can be up to $50,000, and has wide discretion about whom to choose. It’s instructed to focus on the service industry.
Texas judge implements new shelter-at-home curfew in El Paso
Judge Ricardo Samaniego implemented a new curfew to combat the surge of COVID-19 cases in El Paso, Texas. The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew goes into effect Wednesday and will last until Monday.
However, unlike his previous curfew, people would not be barred from going to businesses outside those hours, Samaniego told the El Paso Times on Monday.
The curfew sends a message that “we are serious about this and have to do something” to curb the rise in cases, he said. Even if the COVID-19 numbers go down, it’s still a serious problem in El Paso County based on existing cases, he said.
“It is a shelter-at-home order. Residents are encouraged to stay at home,” Samaniego said. “We want no more than 10 people to gather together in public or at home.”
– Aaron A. Bedoya, El Paso Times
Tennessee won’t mandate COVID vaccine in K-12 schools
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines will be optional in the state’s K-12 public schools once they become available.
The Republican governor said vaccines will be very important for Tennessee to “ultimately really be able to handle” the spread of the virus. However, it is a choice he believes people should make on their own.
“Vaccines are a choice and people have the choice and will have the choice in this state as to whether or not they should take that vaccine,” he said.
Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines could be available to residents as soon as Dec. 15. Front-line health care workers and first responders will receive the first wave of vaccines.
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press