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 US homes, hospitals and hospices every two days.
News of impending vaccines have instilled hope that 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 have to drive the number of infections, hospitalizations and death 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.
4 Today’s numbers: The US has reported more than 12.4 million cases and over 257,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 59.3 million cases and 1.3 million deaths.
4 Mapping coronavirus: Track the US outbreak in your state.
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Iditarod champ won’t defend title
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 was not 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 was not 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.
White House to host holiday parties indoors despite CDC warnings
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
These experts have a lot to say about when you will get vaccinated
A somewhat obscure group of medical and public health professionals known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is debating the critical 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 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.”
FDA commish lays it all out in chat with USA TODAY
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 wouldn’t 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
Maryland State Police will ramp up COVID-19 enforcement
State police will launch a COVID-19 implementing 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 implementing 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 pm and limiting capacity at retail businesses, religious institutions and other venues to 50%.
– Madeleine O’Neill, Delmarva Now
Tennessee mayor is waiting for guidance from the ‘Holy Spirit’
As COVID-19 cases surge, a Tennessee mayor said he wouldn’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 “the Holy Spirit.”
“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.
Los Angeles County on brink of another stay-at-home order
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.
COVID-19 panic buying is on a roll again
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 US CEO John Furner says 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 that 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
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press