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Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic.
A Florida health care worker who fought severe coronavirus-related complications has been released from the hospital after nine months. Now, Rosa Felipe has a message for the public.
Just one day after the United Kingdom became the first country worldwide to administer doses of Pfizer's new coronavirus vaccine, Canada's health regulator approved the vaccine on Wednesday. "Thanks to advances in science and technology, and an unprecedented level of global cooperation, today, Canada reached a critical milestone in its fight against COVID-19 with the authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine," Health Canada said in a statement Wednesday. The agency said it received Pfizer's vaccine on Oct. 8 and performed "thorough, independent review of the evidence." It then came to the conclusion the vaccine "meets the Department's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements for use in Canada." Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with German company BioNTech, said last month that the vaccine was 95% effective after it completed its latest trials.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada, said it was an exceptional day for Canada, according to The Associated Press. “This a momentous occasion. I mean the geek in me is amazed," Sharma said. "No one would have thought, even when we looked back at the first discovery of the virus, that less than a year later we would authorizing and distributing a vaccine.”
The excitement surrounding the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom is being met by some caution from British regulators, particularly for people who have a history of serious allergic reactions. On Tuesday, the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program, two individuals reported adverse reactions to the initial vaccine dose and the U.K. Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is investigating a potential link to a history of allergies, according to The Associated Press.
“As is common with new vaccines the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,” said Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England, said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”
Sacramento County residents and businesses could soon face fines for violating COVID-19 orders. County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said on CapRadio's Insight that an ordinance being voted on by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday would only affect repeat offenders who blatantly disregard orders, CapRadio reports. "It's not for us to go out and willy-nilly dish out citations to every single business," Kasirye said. "And we know that, for the most part, most businesses have been complying. So it's going to be used in very selective situations." Under the new ordinance, residents would face penalties between $25 and $500 while businesses could be fined between $250 and $10,000. Kasirye said intensive care units in the region are expected to fall below 15% capacity soon, which would start the Gov. Newsom’s latest stay-at-home order. "From what the state has told us, we anticipate that probably within this week or early next week that we will hit the threshold," Kasirye said. CapRadio explains she said she understands this isn't easy on people, especially the owners of small businesses forced to close while others stay open. "I hear those complaints and I do hear the pain also but the goal is for us to reduce the movement of people and gathering of people and that's why you're seeing the orders that we have."
A nine-month battle with COVID-19 has ended in victory for Rosa Felipe but the journey from initial infection to walking out of Jackson Memorial Hospital will be life-altering. Felipe, who spent 15 years working at that very hospital as a technician, was deeply moved and appreciative of her life-saving care. She fought tears as she spoke to reporters outside the hospital. “Corona is real! The effects are real! But what’s more is the love that I’ve received here. The dedication from my doctors and all the staff here,” she said upon release, according to NBC Miami.
Felipe’s fight against the pandemic was complicated by underlying health conditions, including asthma and diabetes. The 41-year-old was intubated and spent two months in the intensive care unit, unable to move any of the muscles in her legs and stricken with immense pain in her back. The married mother of two was released after undergoing physical and occupational therapy, where she had to relearn how to walk and perform basic daily functions.
A Florida health worker who suffered severe coronavirus-related complications is released of the hospital for the first time in nine months. "The only thing that I can tell you is that this is real. Corona is real," Rosa Felipe tells reporters outside a Miami hospital. (AFP)
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series already has its first schedule changes just under 70 days before the next season begins. Two adjustments were announced on Tuesday, citing “challenges resulting from the ongoing pandemic and the need for significant advance planning,” according to a NASCAR statement. The Cup and Xfinity Series races scheduled for Feb. 27-28 at Auto Club Speedway, as well as the Camping World Truck Series race scheduled for Feb. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all will move to the Daytona International Speedway road course on Feb. 19-21, NBC Sports reports. The rearrangement moves Homestead-Miami’s Cup and Xfinity races back by one week to Feb. 27-28; however, exact dates and times for Xfinity and Truck races at the Daytona road course and Homestead-Miami have not been announced. Homestead-Miami has confirmed that its new weekend will only allow a limited number of fans. The Daytona 500, the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series season, is on Feb. 14, 2021 and will have a limited number of fans in attendance.
The Michigan and Ohio State game has been canceled due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases within the Wolverines' program over the past week, ESPN said the school reported. "The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days," Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said. "We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals." Medical experts, health department officials and the university administration made the decision to call off the game that was originally scheduled for this weekend. "This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches, but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making,” Manuel said. The Wolverines had canceled a game against Maryland on Dec. 5 and paused all team activities. On Monday, the program was cleared for limited workouts and participated in those workouts, but the administration decided to cancel the upcoming game due to the increase in cases and the number of student-athletes in quarantine over the past week. Michigan says it will continue daily testing with hopes of getting back on the practice field when cleared by medical officials. According to ESPN, the cancellation of this game puts Ohio State at five total games played this season, which is under the threshold put forth by the Big Ten conference to compete in the conference championship game against Northwestern.
Recipients of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine should refrain from drinking alcohol for two months, Russia’s consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor head Anna Popova said Tuesday. The instructions align with Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova’s recommendations to avoid alcohol and immunosuppressants for 42 days since the two-shot vaccine is administered with a 21-day gap between doses.“The intake of alcohol needs to stop at least two weeks prior to immunization,” Popova said in an interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, according to The Moscow Times. She added that the recipients should then abstain from alcohol for 42 days after the first injection. “Immunity is being formed and one needs to take care,” Popova said. “It’s a strain on the body. If we want to stay healthy and have a strong immune response, don’t drink alcohol.” She also advised against smoking before and after vaccination as tobacco smoke can irritate the lungs and skew immune responses.
Due to the record amount of hospitalizations being seen in Wyoming, Governor Mark Gordon has ordered all indoor public places must require face coverings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, group sizes will be lowered and hours of operation will be shortened. Counties will have the choice to opt-out if their conditions are at safe levels. The order will go into effect from Dec. 9 until Jan. 8 of next year. The state reported 128 new COVID-19 deaths in November which was the highest since the pandemic began, according to The Wyoming Department of Health.
German leaders showed their support for stricter measures to be placed on the country to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, just days after Germany saw its highest one-day death toll. Existing lockdown measures are too little to control the virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel told party colleagues. Merkel said the situation is getting very serious and the current measures will not be enough for the winter, according to Reuters. While the daily infections are not rising as sharply as they once were in Germany, the high stagnated level has caused a lot of concern. Premier Markus Soeder of the southern state of Bavaria is hopeful that tighter lockdowns for the region and country will be agreed on before Christmas. In Bavaria, people are only allowed to leave their home for essential reasons and evening curfews are planned for hotspots.
After the interim data on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine had been released showing its efficacy, the Trump administration declined to secure more than the previously agreed upon 1 million doses, a Pfizer board member said. The company and it’s German partner, BioNTech,initially made a deal with the U.S. government in July, securing the nation 100 million doses with the option to acquire up to 500 million additional doses. However, Pfizer officials repeatedly warned that demand could vastly outstrip supply, according to The New York Times. Since the vaccine requires two doses, this means the 100 million doses secured is only enough to vaccinate 50 million Americans.
“Pfizer did offer up an additional allotment coming out of that plant, basically the second-quarter allotment, to the United States government multiple times and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective,” Gottlieb, who previously led the FDA in the Trump Administration from 2017 to 2019, told CNBC. Gottlieb added he believes the U.S. government likely turned down the offer because it wanted to diversify the number of companies it agreed to purchase option agreements with.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf warned on Monday that the state’s healthcare system will become overwhelmed if Pennsylvania residents don’t take the necessary safety precautions. “Pennsylvania, we have a problem. And we have to work together to address this pandemic,” Wolf said, according to Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. As of Monday, Pennsylvania has confirmed 426,444 cases of the virus, 6,330 new cases were reported on Monday. State health officials have also reported a total of 11,373 deaths, with 69 deaths reported on Sunday and 42 on Monday. In addition, 5,300 patients were hospitalized as of Monday and out of those, 1,107 were in intensive care units.
On Tuesday, American Airlines expanded preflight COVID-19 testing, Reuters reported. A $129 at-home COVID-19 test kit will be available to those traveling with the airlines to help passengers avoid quarantines at their destination. Starting on Saturday, the airline will partner with LetsGetChecked to test passengers who request it, according to CNBC. It is recommended to order a test at least five days in advanced from flying. The test is conducted from a nasal swab and then once the test is received back, results will be received within 48 hours. Airlines around the country have been following this model to try and increase passenger confidence in buying flight tickets and traveling. United Airlines offers preflight tests to select Hawaii passengers to avoid the two-week quarantine in October. United still offers free tests for flights from Newark to London.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday paved the way for emergency-use approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine after releasing the results of an initial review of the data the drug company provided the regulator on its new vaccine, Reuters reported. The FDA is holding a meeting on Thursday with outside experts to determine if Pfizer’s vaccine should be given emergency-use approval. On Tuesday, health officials in the U.K. began giving people the first installment of the two-shot vaccinations. According to Reuters, FDA scientists said the two-dose vaccination was shown to be highly effective at preventing healthy people from contracting COVID-19. However, the FDA scientists cautioned, the data was inconclusive in showing efficacy for people under the age of 16, those with pre-existing health conditions and pregnant women, according to Reuters. A decision on approval is expected in the coming days.
Hand hygiene, mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing protocols can help schools and daycare facilities control the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday. Under the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, education and childcare facilities have implemented initiatives with the goal of slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus, based on CDC guidelines. In addition to reducing class sizes and mandating social distancing, the facilities purchased masks and provided daily health checks for students and staff. “Head Start programs successfully implemented CDC-recommended mitigation strategies and supported other practices that helped prevent [COVID-19] transmission among children and staff members,” CDC researchers wrote, according to UPI. “Implementing and monitoring adherence to CDC recommended mitigation strategies could play a crucial role in reducing COVID-19 transmission in childcare setting.”
The World Economic Forum is an annual meeting of some of the world’s most influential political and business leaders. However, like everything else, the coronavirus pandemic takes no consideration of prestige. The meeting is nearly always held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos but will be forced to relocate to Singapore in 2021 in order to safeguard the health and safety of participants, according to BBC. The 6,000-mile move was largely decided by the success Singapore has had as a nation in handling the pandemic. According to the nation’s health ministry, there are currently 28 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals in the country, with no other reported cases. The country’s death toll stands at 29 and Singapore Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing said the forums’s relocation decision was “an affirmation of Singapore’s ability to provide a safe, neutral and conducive venue for global leaders to meet.”
France may have to delay the lift of its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions as the number of new cases hits a plateau, Reuters reported. The lockdown, which was scheduled to be lifted next week, might be extended as the reopening of shops late last month prompted the downward trend in new cases to flatten out, two government sources said. The country is also far from reaching its target of 5,000 new daily infections, which could lead to a rebound if restrictions were to be lifted next week, according to Jerome Salomon, the health ministry’s top official. The 5,000 threshold was set as an early condition of President Emmanuel Macron for replacing the lockdown with a nightly curfew. However, since the start of the country’s second national lockdown, the number daily new cases has plateaued at between 10,000 and 12,000. “That the numbers have leveled off is not good news,” said one government source.
The first vaccine shot in the United Kingdom was delivered on Tuesday morning to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, a retired shop clerk wearing a Christmas t-shirt adorned with a cartoon penguin in a Santa hat. Keenan, who turns 91 next week, called the vaccine the best early birthday gift she should have wished for. The second vaccine injection went to an 81-year-old British man named William Shakespeare, who happens to come from the same county, Warwickshire, as the famous writer with whom he shares a name.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” Keenan said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”
On the same day that United Kingdom residents are receiving the first round of COVID-19 vaccines outside of clinical trials, the United States is likely the surpass the 15 million case mark on Tuesday. With over 192,000 new infections recorded on Monday, the nation now stands at 14,955,947 total cases, more than double every other country in the world except India. Every day in December has featured at least 175,000 new cases recorded in the U.S. as nearly every state in the country is dealing with a severe case resurgence. Even Maine, which has seen the second-fewest total cases of all states, saw its worst day yet on Monday, recording 427 new cases in the state.
Total cases: 67,719,710
Total fatalities: 1,547,487
Total recoveries: 43,639,453
After taking a hard hit from the coronavirus pandemic, airlines are preparing for their roles in the rollout of vaccines as they hope it will have a promising effect on the recovery for the industry. Airline carriers involved in the airlift of the vaccine, drugmakers, logistics firms, governments and international agencies are banding together to work on the rollout of the vaccines, The Associated Press reported. The involvement should allow airlines to recover in some ways from the huge financial hit the pandemic had on them, some experts told the AP. Cathay commercial chief Ronald Lam said the airlines will see a financial gain from their involvement, either from vaccine transportation directly or the overall spoke in cargo demand as a whole. “The delivery of these vaccines, the confidence in communities, the acceptance of vaccines and ensuring that people are in fact immunized with the right number of doses - (this) is what it’s going to take to scale the peak,” World Health Organization vaccines director Kate O’Brien said.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci said coronavirus surges in the country could be “more compounded” from Christmas celebrations than Thanksgiving this year. He told CNN his concerns surrounding Christmas are the same as the concerns he expressed for Thanksgiving, but Christmas being a longer holiday for many people in terms of time off from work will escalate the situation even more. “We’re at a very critical time in this country right now. We’ve got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us,” Fauci said.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that indoor dining in New York City could be shut down again as soon as next week. Cuomo said the final decision has not been made and could be allayed if hospitalization rates stop rising, the New York Post reports. "Do I believe between now and five days we'll see a stabilization rate in New York City? I would be pleasantly surprised. I don't think it is probable, but it is possible," Cuomo said. The governor did not think that stabilization would be possible until mid-January at the earliest. According to the state's data, 20% of hospital beds and 27% of ICU beds in NYC are currently available, based on a seven-day rolling average, the Gothamist reported. State officials just recently started allowing New York City bars and eateries to resume indoor service at 25% of normal capacity in September to try to boost the industry, which has been hard hit by the restrictions and lockdown orders. “Gyms and salons … we have so many protocols on the gyms and salons, they’re not major spreaders on the numbers,” Cuomo said. “It is about indoor dining.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state is releasing a smartphone tool on Thursday that will alert people if they spent time near someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Officials said the tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but it uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, according to ABC News. “The process is private, anonymous and secure, and is one of the many tools in the state’s data-driven approach to help reduce the spread,” Newsom said in a statement. Ten months into the pandemic, most of the state is now back to where it started with the stay-at-home rules that will remain through the Christmas holiday amid a rise in cases. Sixteen other states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., have released the software system co-created by Apple and Google, though most residents of those places aren’t using it, ABC News reports.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Nobel laureates will receive their prizes at home this week, AFP reported. The ceremony, which traditionally takes place in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 10, was canceled for the first time since World War II due to virus concerns. Instead of the traditional ceremony, which is usually followed by a royal banquet, the organization will broadcast a live ceremony from Stockholm’s city hall on Thursday. The virtual ceremony, which will be held without an audience, will include a concert and videos of all laureates receiving their awards from their homes.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced his pick for health secretary, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a new role for Anthony Fauci. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was selected by Biden as health secretary, and if approved by the Senate, will be the first Latino in the role, The Associated Press reported. “As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond,” Becerra tweeted on Monday. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an infectious disease expert from Harvard University, was also selected by Biden to head the CDC. “I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC,” she tweeted. “We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.” In addition, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was selected by Biden as the chief medical adviser to the president.
A World War II veteran from Alabama recovered from his battle with COVID-19 just in time for his 104th birthday. Major Wooten repaired trains damaged by bombs in France during World War II, The Associated Press reported. He left the Huntsville, Alabama, hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 1, just before his 104th birthday on only two days later. Healthcare workers and hospital staff members sang happy birthday to Wooten as he was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair on the day of his discharge. “He just brings so much happiness to everybody and just seeing everybody and their reaction to him, it just makes you very proud to call him your grandfather,” Holley Wooten McDonald, Wooten’s granddaughter, said.
Less than a week after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the United Kingdom will administer its first round of vaccines on Tuesday, according to CNN. The vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and German company BioNTech, reportedly was 95% effective during its latest phase of clinical trials. The vaccinations will take place in England, Wales and Scotland, while Northern Ireland did not specify which day it would begin administering the vaccines, only saying it would be this week, according to CNN.
Nurses at the Royal Free Hospital, London, simulate the administration of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout, in London, Friday Dec. 4, 2020. (Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP)
Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS providers, told Sky News that health officers in the UK expect to have 4 million doses of the vaccine available by the end of the month, according to CNN. Cordery also addressed concerns about the vaccine's quick approval process. "Yes, it has been shorter than other vaccine approval processes, but that's because everything all has been thrown at this all in one go," she said, according to CNN. Watch the video below for more.
President Donald Trump announced Sunday that Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, tested positive for the coronavirus. Giuliani, 76, was reportedly hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical Center, The New York Times reported. Giuliani's age puts him in the high-risk category for the virus. Giuliani's son Andrew announced he had tested positive on Nov. 20, and had appeared at a news conference with his father the day before, the Times reported. Giuliani has been in close contact with a number of individuals in the president's inner circle who have tested positive previously and has traveled to a number of different states in recent weeks following the election.
The former New York City mayor posted a message to Twitter Sunday evening to give an update on his health. "Thank you to all my friends and followers for all the prayers and kind wishes, Giuliani said. "I’m getting great care and feeling good. Recovering quickly and keeping up with everything."
Local governments in multiple Chinese provinces are ordering experimental coronavirus vaccines made in the country, despite the effectiveness being unclear. The final testing of the vaccines are being sped up, and over one million healthcare workers and other high-risk individuals in the country already received the vaccine through emergency use permission from the government, Politico reported. Possible side effects have not been made clear just yet. “We must be prepared for large-scale production,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said.
After knowingly testing positive for COVID-19, a Hawaiian couple boarded a flight from San francisco to Lihue, Hawaii. Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson were taken into custody by police after landing in Hawaii on Sunday. Police said they were "placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death," due to COVID-19, according to USA Today. The couple was ordered to isolate by the Quarantine Station at the San Francisco International Airport after testing positive for the coronavirus. Despite the order, the couple boarded at United Airlines flight to Hawaii. Upon arriving at the Lihue Airport, the couple were identified by officers and escorted to an isolation room for processing and investigation. Moribe and Peterson were charged and posted a bail of $1,000 each.
The vast region of Southern California, much of the San Francisco Bay area and a large swath of the Central Valley will be placed under lockdown orders again starting Sunday evening and remain in place for at least three weeks, meaning the lockdown will cover the Christmas holiday. The new measures include strict closures for businesses and a ban on gathering with anyone outside of your own household. According to The Associated Press, much of the state is on the brink of the same restrictions, while some counties have opted to impose them even before the mandate kicks in. With another lockdown, many rushed out to supermarkets Saturday and lined up outside salons to squeeze in a haircut before the orders kicked in. The California Department of Public Health said the intensive care unit capacity in Southern California and Central Valley hospitals had fallen below a 15% threshold, which triggered the lockdown orders. Demonstrators called for a recall on Gov. Gavin Newsom during a protest against a stay-at-home order in Huntington Beach, California on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.
Demonstrators shout slogans while carrying a sign calling for a recall on Gov. Gavin Newsom Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 during a protest against a stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The coronavirus is preventing Pearl Harbor survivors from attending an annual ceremony to remember those killed in the attack. Navy sailor Mickey Gantich was among those at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese military on Dec. 7, 1941. Gantich, 101, has attended the annual ceremony most years since the mid-2000s, according to The Associated Press. But this year, Gantich and other survivors will have to observe from home due to increased health risks with the coronavirus pandemic. The health risks of the aging attack survivors will result in none of them able to gather at Pearl Harbor this year. The annual moment of silence, flyover in missing man formation and a speech by commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet will be live-streamed as an alternative to the ceremony
With the holidays approaching, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to stay home or get tested twice, The Associated Press reported. “Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” the CDC’s Dr. Henry Walke said. As the virus continues to spread, “the safest thing to is to postpone holiday travel and stay home,” said CDC official Dr. Cindy Friedman. “Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread virus during the journey and also into communities that travelers visit or live,” she added. For those who decide to travel, the CDC advises them to take a COVID-19 test one to three days prior to the trip, as well as three to five days afterward.
After months of lockdown in confined spaces, architects say demand for homes with more space, better air quality and higher security has increased, Reuters reported. “Space usage is a new theme: dividing what comes from outside and could be contaminated,” Madrid-based architect Jaime Pablo told Reuters. People crave “bigger, brighter, more multi-purpose spaces,” Pablo added. Another important aspect that homebuyers in Spain are looking for when house hunting is a good ventilation system. “About 90% of client requests since spring included queries about ventilation systems,” Ander Echevarria, funder of a company that specializes in all-wood, low-emission homes, said. “What’s more useful is extracting the indoor air and ejecting it so that when people gather at home suspended air droplets are quickly ejected.” Detached homes have also gained popularity during the pandemic, as people want to protect themselves from virus infection. “Demand for fully-detached, single-family properties located outside of big cities surged since confinement,” David Martinez, CEO of real estate developer Aedas Homes, told Reuters.
Spain will ban movement between its regions starting Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, the country’s Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Wednesday evening. The country has reported a decrease in the number of cases in the last couple of weeks, but Illa said it is too early for celebrations, according to CNN. “This data doesn’t give us space for optimism, it gives us space for caution” the Health Minister added. After a meeting between the central government and the leaders of Spain’s 17 regions, the health minister also announced family gatherings will not be allowed to have more than 10 people for Dec. 24 and 25 as well as Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, as well as a national curfew and limited events and activities. Religious ceremonies indoors are allowed following capacity limits, while singing is not recommended. “There is too much at stake during the month of December,” Illa said.
The World Health Organization is looking into ways to deploy an e-vaccination certificate that travelers can use, such as the ones being developed in Estonia. A pilot program was started in October to create a digital vaccine certificate for use in interoperable healthcare data tracking and to boost vaccinations in developing countries, according to Reuters. Siddhartha Datta, Europe’s WHO programme manager for vaccine-preventable diseases, told reporters, “We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this COVID-19 response, one of them how we can work with member states toward an e-vaccination certificate." Any technology used is being carefully developed to not overwhelm countries and must also conform to the different laws around the world. Catherine Smallwood, WHO's Senior Emergency Officer for Europe, said the WHO continues to not recommend immunity passports and testing as a means to prevent transmission across borders.
Russia is beginning its COVID-19 vaccination program in the capital Moscow, starting with inoculating those most at risk from the virus. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said it was being offered to people who work in schools and the health service, and social workers, but he said the list would grow as more of the vaccine became available. The country’s own vaccine called Sputnik V, which was registered in August, is being used, BBC News reports. The vaccination effort comes three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of a “large-scale” immunization campaign, even though the Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols. Developers say it is 95% effective and causes no major side effects, but it is still undergoing mass testing. Thousands of people have already registered to get the first of two jabs over the weekend, but producers are only expected to make two million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year.
Russian medical worker, right, administers a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations in Moscow starting Saturday, a precursor to a sweeping Russia-wide immunization effort. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
A couple married for 50 years died of coronavirus just hours apart on Thanksgiving day in Atlanta. Willard and Wilma Gail Bowen were allowed to be side-by-side in the ICU in their final moments, WSBTV reports. The couple had only been in the hospital for a week. Their daughter, Karen Kirby, said she rushed to the hospital just in time to say goodbye. “They called and said, ‘I think it’s time to come see your parents.’” Kirby said. “That’s something I can never be more thankful for.” Kirby was allowed in the room wearing PPE while following strict protocols. “I just told her I loved her. Told him l loved him,” Kirby said. “And I think they knew it.” Willard, who died first, was known as a local antique dealer. Wilma, a school nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died a few hours later, according to WSBTV.
A Hungarian confectioner is seeing a boost in sales this holiday season thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laszlo Rimoczi, who works in the small town of Lajosmizse, located in central Hungary, recently decided to put masks on his chocolate Santas as a light-hearted way to raise people's spirits, according to Reuters. As it turned out, customers loved the addition to the candies and Rimoczi has been dealing with a surge of orders ever since. “I think by the time Santa comes he will have to wear a mask because Santa has to show a good example to people,” Rimoczi said, according to Reuters. Watch the video below to hear more from Rimoczi.
Hotel Avenir Montmartre in Paris, usually a tourist hotspot due to its views of Paris’ landmarks, now serves a different purpose amid the pandemic, Reuters reported. The hotel decided to hand over its rooms to homeless charity Emmaus Solidarite, which is using the rooms to house people who would otherwise sleep on the cold streets of Paris.“When I had just arrived (in Paris), I didn’t know anyone. I was moving around temporary housing, sometimes I slept in the kitchen, or beside the garbage ban,” Ibrahim, an asylum seeker from Mali who now has a room at the hotel, told Reuters. The cost for his room is covered by the charity, so he doesn’t have to worry about finding a place to spend the night. In addition, all residents receive three meals a day in the hotel’s breakfast room. “The day I arrived, I said, Great!” Ibrahim said. “I see the future. They day will come when my life will change.”
The World Health Organization warned on Friday that reinfection of the coronavirus is possible, albeit rare. “We have seen the number of people infected continue to grow, but we’re also seeing data emerge that protection may not be lifelong, and therefore we may see reinfections begin to occur,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said. “So the question is: What are the levels of protection in society?” Reinfection occurs when a person who contracted the virus and has since recovered contracts it again, and researchers are now looking to uncover just how frequent COVID-19 reinfections are. Some research suggests that people who contract the virus may have an immune response that prevents them for reinfection that lasts for up to six months, CNBC reported. A study from Oxford University reported that it is “highly unlikely” for a reinfection within six months. “In some people, it may wane after a few months, but we do get a good indication that natural infection immune response is lasting for some months,” epidemiologist Van Kerkhove said. “We’re about a year into this pandemic, and so we still have a lot to learn.”
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, residents in Mexico are being advised by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to cancel their travel plans, avoid movement and opt out of gift exchanges this Christmas. In the announcement from the president, which came on Friday, he also announced an increasing capacity for hospital beds and an increased amount of medical equipment and staff members, according to Reuters. “If we don’t have anything truly important to do, let’s not go out on the street,” he said, as cases continue to rise across the country. “This pandemic, this nightmare will pass.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its quarantine polices. Since the start of the pandemic, the recommended time for quarantine for those who were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more was 14 days. However, the CDC reduced the length of quarantine time to 10 days. For those who were exposed to the virus, but tested negative for it, the quarantine time has been reduced to 7 days. The CDC also added that those who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. In addition, after stopping quarantine, the CDC recommends people to watch for symptoms until 14 days exposure and if they have symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and contact their healthcare providers.
Despite CDC warnings, Americans still traveled nearly as much as they normally would for Thanksgiving, The Associated Press reported. Vehicle travel surged around Thanksgiving as it was only 5% less than around Thanksgiving 2019, according to Streetlight Data, which supplied the figures to the AP. Earlier in November, vehicle traffic was down about 20% compared to 2019, but that clearly changed around the holiday. “People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,” Laura Schewel, the founder of StreetLight Data told the AP. Air travel also saw a noticeable increase. The Transportation Security Administration said more than 1 million people were screened on four separate days around the Thanksgiving holiday, the AP said.
A 102-year-old woman who survived the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago has now survived COVID-19 not once, but twice. Angelina Friedman, who resides at the North Westchester Restorative Therapy and Nursing Center in Mohegan Lake, New York, first tested positive for the coronavirus in March after being taken to a hospital for a medical procedure, according to NBC News. After testing negative in April, Friedman would contract the virus again shortly before her birthday in October. Friedman's daughter, Joanne Merola, said the second bout with the virus was worse than the first. "She had a cough, she was lethargic, she had a fever again," Merola said. "The first time you wouldn't know she was sick," Merola told NBC News.
After being put into isolation and receiving treatment, Friedman was able to return to her room last month, NBC News said. Friedman, who has also survived cancer, was born on a ship coming from Italy to America during the height of the Spanish flu in 1918, according to Pix 11 in New York City. “She is not human,” Merola told Pix 11 back in the spring. “She has super human DNA.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom added to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions being implemented at the local level by announcing a regional statewide stay-at-home order on Thursday. The governor's order divides the state into five regions and says that when one of the regions has an ICU capacity below 15% the new restrictions will go into effect. When a region is placed into one of the new stay-at-home orders, sectors that will remain open include:
Schools that were already open
Retails stores (but only at 20% capacity)
Restaurants (but only for take-out and delivery)
“The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said, according to The Associated Press. “This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic.” The new order is said to go into effect Saturday, and the regions will reportedly have 24 hours to implement the new rules, the AP said.
Within 24 hours of accusing British health officials of hastily approving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci walked back his tough comments on Friday. “They’re good scientists,” Fauci said during a podcast appearance on Thursday. “But they just took the data from the Pfizer company. And instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said, ‘OK, let’s approve it. That’s it.’ And they went with it.” During an interview on NBC’s Today show, Fauci said he issued a public apology to the British government while appearing on the BBC. Concerning his critical remarks, Fauci said, “It was just one of those things where I sat down in front of the TV with a British TV station and the first thing they said was, ‘Ah, we beat you guys. We beat the Americans to the punch’. And I kind of reacted back at him when I think I probably should not have done.” Fauci added, “The Brits are good. They know what they’re doing.” Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden called on Fauci to be his administration’s chief medical adviser when Biden takes over the presidency next month. Fauci told Savannah Guthrie that he accepted the offer. “Absolutely, I said yes right on the spot.” Below, watch Fauci’s remarks on the U.K. approval process and why the U.S. has yet to approve the Pfizer vaccine.
The delay of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to this coming summer is said to reportedly cost about $2.8 billion, according to The Associated Press. The Tokyo organizing committee released figures on Friday which revealed the greater financial impact of the delayed Summer Games. Prior to the postponement due to the pandemic, the Olympics were set to cost $12.6 billion, the AP reported. However, a government audit at the time indicated that the cost could be nearly double that figure. The added costs from the delay are being picked up by government entities as well as the privately funded organizing committee, the AP said. “I think our biggest challenge is the additional costs,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said. “This is a crucial issue in order for us to prepare for the Olympics. We need to gain the understanding and sympathy of the people of Tokyo and the people of Japan.” The 2021 summer games are scheduled to start on July 23.
According to statistics kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers, the U.S. reported another 217,664 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday – the highest single-day increase since the first official case was reported on Jan. 21. There have now been more than 14 million cumulative cases recorded in the U.S. over the last 11 months. And for the second day in a row, the nation saw another single-day record for fatalities with 2,879 reported on Thursday.
This graphic from Johns Hopkins University shows the daily number of coronavirus cases recorded from the beginning of the pandemic to the present. (Johns Hopkins University)
The head of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday that the next three months will be “the most difficult” in public health history, MarketWatch reported. With 90% of U.S. hospitals in “hot zones and red zones,” Dr. Robert Redfield estimated that the health crisis has cost the country at least $8 trillion. “I do think unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans [that] have died from this virus,” he said, as he spoke about the increase in deaths over the past month. “So, we are at a very critical time right now about being able to maintain the resilience of our health-care system,” Redfield added, emphasizing all of the CDC recommended measures, including the use of masks, as well as maintaining social distancing. “These are critical mitigation steps which to many people seem simple and they don’t really think it can have much of an impact, but the reality is they are very, very powerful tools. They have an enormous impact. And right now it is so important that we recommit ourselves to this mitigation as we now begin to turn the corner with the vaccine.”
Confirmed cases: 65,132,317
As vaccine approvals in the United States appear to be right around the corner, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is optimistic things in the U.S. will begin to return to normalcy as early as spring 2021. During an NBC TODAY interview on Thursday, Gates said he expects the next four to five months to be “pretty grim,” and that it is important for people to do everything they can to reduce the spread of the virus, through social distancing and mask-wearing. However, Gates said the advancement in coronavirus treatments as well as the rollout of vaccines in the near future will turn things around for the U.S. “By the spring, those numbers will be big enough that, certainly in the United States, it’ll start to change for us dramatically, and we’ll be headed back to normal,” Gates said.
During an appearance on The Takeout podcast on Thursday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci criticized the U.K. government for its quick approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Fauci likened the vaccine approval process to a marathon and said the British government “kind of ran around the corner” and “joined it in the last mile.” The U.K. on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use. Speaking with CBS News correspondent Major Garrett, Fauci continued, “You know, I love the Brits. They’re great. They’re good scientists. But they just took the data from the Pfizer company. And instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said, ‘OK, let’s approve it. That’s it.’ And they went with it.” He praised the U.S. FDA approval process as “the gold standard of regulation.” Watch a clip from the podcast below.
Fauci also discussed his confidence in the vaccine and said that like former presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, that he would allow himself to be shown on camera receiving the shot to bolster public confidence in the vaccine. Watch below for more.
As the pandemic continues across the globe, Warner Bros. announced that for the entire year of 2021 it will release all new movies to HBO Max as well as theaters. Some of the films included in the 2021 line up are “The Matrix 4,” In the Heights,” “Sopranos,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” “The Suicide Squad,” and a remake of “Dune.” The release to HBO Max will be simultaneous with the release to theaters, Variety reported. The movies will be available on HBO Max for just 31 days, and then they will play only in theaters. “We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” WarnerMedia chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff said in a statement. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”
The U.K. hit a grim milestone on Thursday after 441 fatalities were reported, pushing the country's total death toll past 60,000, the BBC reported. Although the U.S., Brazil, India and Mexico have all reported more deaths, the U.K. has more deaths per 100,000 people, with 90 deaths per 100,000 infections. The total, however, could be higher as the government’s death figures only include people who died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. Additional ways of measuring, including the mention of the coronavirus on people's death certificates, suggest that more than 69,000 people in the U.K. have lost their lives to the virus.
Italians will not be allowed to attend midnight mass or move between regions during the Christmas holiday, a top health ministry official said on Wednesday. While the increase in new cases and hospital admissions is slowing, the government is worried about gatherings during Christmas, Reuters reported. Junior Health Minister Sandra Zampa said Christmas Eve mass must end by around 8:30 p.m. so that worshippers can return home before a 10 p.m. curfew, and people should not invite non-family members home for Christmas lunch or other celebrations. “From Dec. 20, people will only be able to travel outside their own region for emergencies such as to care for a single parent,” Zampa said in an interview with private television channel La7. On Thursday, Italy reported a record 993 fatalities from COVID-19 to go along with more than 23,000 new cases. According to Reuters, Italy's previous deadliest day came on March 27 when 919 deaths were reported.
The number of tests conducted in Utah that came back positive for COVID-19 reached a staggering level on Wednesday. Of the 9,434 tests, 4,004 came back positive for the virus, a positivity rate of 42%, according to KUTV. “Most of Utah is in a high level of transmission. This means that gatherings should be limited to 10 people, masks should be worn in all public areas (including outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not feasible), maintain good hygiene practices, and stay home if you're sick,” Utah officials said. With these new positives, Utah has now surpassed 200,000 cumulative cases.
The amount of Americans that applied for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the slowing downward trend is an indication that the economy remains under stress as the coronavirus continues to surge across the country. The amount of claims dropped from 787,000 to 712,000 last week, which is still well above the 225,000 seen before the pandemic shocked the economy in March, according to The Associated Press. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research note that jobless claims last week likely lowered due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Those that are seeing continued state unemployment benefits declined from 6.1 million to 5.5 million, continuing a sharp downward trend. This indicates many are no longer receiving aid, but also that many unemployed Americans have used up all their benefits.
Facebook announced on Thursday that it will soon begin to remove any false claims about the new coronavirus vaccines. "This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm," the social media giant said in a blog post. False claims could include questions about the vaccines' efficacy, safety, side effects or ingredients. Facebook said it would begin removing false or misleading claims in the coming weeks as developments about the COVID-19 vaccines continue to evolve. "We will also remove conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines that we know today are false: like specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety," the company said. In addition to its website, Facebook will also remove misleading posts from Instagram, which it owns.
On Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles issued new stay-at-home orders that will go into effect on Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported. The order, which mirrors L.A. County rules, prohibits gatherings of people who live in different households. “Don’t meet up with others outside your households. Don’t host a gathering, don’t attend a gathering and follow our targeted safer-at-home order, if you’re able to stay home, stay home. Just be smart and stay apart,” said Alex Comisar, spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti. Exclusions to the order include religious services and protests. Although the order also urges people to stay home, it allows retail businesses to remain open “after implementing the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health Protocols for Retail Establishments Opening for In-person Shopping.” In addition, parks and trails will also remain open, as well as golf courses, tennis courts and beaches. Hear from Garcetti in the video below.
The Polar Star, a Seattle-based Coast Guard icebreaker, is preparing to head north for a three-month journey this winter rather than south. According to King 5 News in Seattle, the icebreaker typically travels to Antarctica, but due to COVID-19, the U.S. Antarctic program scaled back operations, Coast Guard Captain Bill Woityra told King 5. "They postponed or delayed most of the science that was going on, and they strictly limited the number of people that were traveling to the continent,” Woityra said. Instead, the Polar Star is heading to the Arctic Ocean, where it will test communications equipment and conduct training exercises, Woityra told King 5. The crew on the Polar Star will need to follow strict COVID-19 protocols. This includes not welcoming any visitors onto the ship until its scheduled return to Seattle in February.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people in Miami woke up early and waited in line for hours, hoping to be one of the 500 people to get a $250 Publix gift card, CBS Miami reported. “My coworker picked me up about 3:15 a.m. and we got there around 3:50 a.m.,” said Mabel Miller. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for them to purchase basic needs. “It’s sad to see how much need there is. How the need is so much more than our ability to give,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. People waiting in line also braved unseasonably cool weather -- the temperatures bottomed out in the mid-50s, about 10 degrees below normal for this time of year for Miami, making for some chilly weather for those waiting for a chance at a gift card. Watch the video below for more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to stay home for Christmas and to avoid any gatherings during the holiday season to prevent further COVID-19 spread. The new guidance issued Wednesday recommends that if people must travel for the holidays, to get tested one to three days before traveling and three to five days after returning home, according to The Hill. If you do not get tested, the CDC recommends no nonessential activities for 10 days after travel. These new guidelines are similar to the ones ordered on Thanksgiving; however, many Americans ignored the guidance and brought travel rates to the highest levels since March. Cindy Friedman, chief of the Travelers' Health Branch at the CDC urged that even if a small fraction of travelers had asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of people could still be infected. A surge in coronavirus cases is expected seven to 10 days after Thanksgiving, according to Walke.
Brendan Hurley, a junior in high school, is tested for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site in a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Some 2,804 Americans died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to figures kept by Johns Hopkins University, breaking the record for most fatalities in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. The U.S. hasn’t seen such a high daily death toll since the spring, when more than 2,600 fatalities were recorded on April 15. The U.S. also added more than 200,000 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the nation’s cumulative case total to nearly 14 million since the first cases was recorded in the U.S. back on Jan. 21. For a closer look at how the virus has been spreading in the U.S. and beyond, watch the video below.
A trio of former U.S. presidents say they plan to take the new coronavirus vaccine in an effort to prove it's safe to the general public. Freddy Ford, the chief of staff for former president George W. Bush, told CNN the Bush had reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, two members of the White House coronavirus task force, to see how he could help promote the vaccine. "First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera," Ford told CNN. Bill Clinton, the 43rd president of the United States, also is willing to publicly take the vaccine, his press secretary told CNN. "President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same," Angel Urena said.
Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama said in an interview with SiriusXM's "The Joe Madison Show" that if Fauci says the vaccine is safe, he believes him, according to CNBC. "People like Anthony Fauci, who I know, and I've worked with, I trust completely," Obama said in an interview scheduled to be released Thursday. "So, if Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting Covid, absolutely, I'm going to take it."
Millions of people around the world have transitioned to a virtual work environment, often from the comfort of their own home, to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and a new study has found that a majority of remote workers cannot wait to return to the office. A survey conducted by the real estate firm JLL asked over 2,000 people from around the globe that are working remotely how they would like to work once the pandemic is over, and around 75% of participants said that they hope to return to the office in the future. The other participants said that they would like to work from home on a more permanent basis after the pandemic is over. “It’s becoming clear socializing is important to people’s productivity, as well as career outlook and development opportunities,” Cynthia Kantor told CNBC Make It. Kantor is the chief product officer at JLL. However, of those that want to return to the office, some still want the option to work remotely on occasion. “There’s an interest in returning to an office with a desire to work from home one to two days per week,” Kantor said. The lessons learned by companies during the pandemic could end up being beneficial for both employers and employees in the long run once the pandemic has ended. “Corporations that focus on a people-centric workplace that’s centered around flexibility of health, wellbeing and experience, they’re the ones that are going to thrive,” Kantor says.
Daytona International Speedway announced that the Daytona 500 will only host a limited number of fans on Sunday, February 14. Fans who have already bought tickets to the event will still be able to attend, but there's a chance that their seating will be rearranged in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. "The Daytona 500 is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports, and fans from all over the world converge in Daytona Beach to be a part of motorsport's biggest day," Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said in a statement. All guests will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit.
On Wednesday, the Michigan Wolverines W announced the cancelation of its game against the Maryland Terrapins due to a rise in COVID-19 cases within the program, ESPN reported. The decision to cancel the game, which was scheduled for this weekend, comes as medical professionals advised the program to halt all activities until Monday. “The decision by our medical professionals to stop practices and cancel this Saturday’s game against Maryland was made with the health, safety and welfare of the student-athletes, coaches and staff as our utmost priority,” Warde Manuel, Michigan athletic director, said in a press release. “We have seen an increase in the number of student-athletes unavailable to compete due to positive tests and associated contact tracing due to our most recent antigen and PCR testing results.” With the cancellation of the game and losses in all other home games played this season, it is the first time in the program’s history that the Wolverines have no had at least one home win. Next weekend, the Wolverines are scheduled to play their last game of the season against Ohio State.
Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus are increasing in 36 states across the U.S., including Rhode Island where a field hospital has been opened as hospitals near capacity. Nearly 600 beds were set up at a field hospital at the Rhode Island Convention Center, which is now taking patients who are not critically ill, according to CNBC. “We have plenty of ICU capacity. We have plenty of ventilator capacity. However, our regular med surge beds are full” with COVID-19 patients, Lifespan CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau told CNBC on Wednesday. “As of yesterday, we’re already transporting patients from the main campuses to the field hospital.” On Monday, the “Rhode Island on Pause” initiative went into effect across the state, a two-week period with new restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high in the state, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health, with 408 people hospitalized as of Wednesday afternoon.
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., some hospitals have been forced to suspend all elective surgeries, ABC News reported. “Hospital capacity is now the state’s top concern,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday when he announced the suspension of elective surgeries in Erie County. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice announced a similar measure, as he said that elective surgeries will be reduced across the state to ensure there is enough hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients. “Our state health experts are genuinely concerned about the possibility of our hospitals becoming overrun if things get worse,” Justice said.
However, according to Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and public health researcher at Brown University, the measure, although “essential for many reasons,” is not the best solution. “Someone that needs to have gallbladder surgery may end up in the ER if their surgery is canceled or postponed,” Ranney told ABC News. “These things can happen. There are some very real potential negative consequences of delaying these elective surgeries.” Dr. Jason Kemp, OR medical director at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, added that the delay of elective surgeries could result in a decrease in quality of life for some patients. “The most common surgeries that are being delayed right now are knee or hip replacements,” Kemp said. “These are patients that are in a lot of pain and they’ve been waiting months for their surgery.”
Three women in Nashville, Tennessee, have been charged for hosting a football watch party with more than 100 people on Halloween in defiance of local coronavirus orders, according to The Hill. Police told the newspaper all three women were issued misdemeanor citations and were served with court summonses. Police responded to noise complaints about loud music and several people in the yard, an affidavit in the case stated. When police arrived on scene, the women told officers they were hosting a football watch party, The Hill reported. At the time, coronavirus restrictions stipulated no more than 25 people were allowed to gather in one place unless a special permit was granted by the local government. Last week, local health officials tightened lockdown orders in Nashville. Now the number of people allowed to gather has decreased from 25 to eight.
A high-risk exposure by someone with COVID-19 has forced Maine Gov. Janet Mills into quarantine through Dec. 12. The exposure occurred on Monday when Mills was in a vehicle with a person for 10 minutes, who later developed symptoms, WMTW 8 said. “I am feeling fine and not experiencing any symptoms whatsoever; but as we have said all along, no one is immune from exposure to this virus,” Mills said in a statement. “I know people are tired, and I know it can be difficult to take the necessary precautions, but with the number of new cases and the number of people hospitalized, it is more important than ever before that we protect each other’s health and safety." The governor is following all of the guidelines established by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and will be tested later this week while in quarantine.
In an effort to limit travel and further spread of the novel coronavirus, France said it will impose border checks to keep citizens from heading abroad to ski. Ski slopes in France remain closed, but resorts are open in neighboring Switzerland, the BBC reported. Officials in the French town of Châtel, located along the border with Switzerland, are reportedly not happy with the country's decision to shutter ski lifts through the Christmas holiday, a crucial time for the ski industry in Europe. "We've got a problem with the French government which shuts the slopes a month before Christmas while our Swiss neighbors keep theirs open," the town's mayor, Nicolas Rubin, told French radio, according to the BBC.
Elsewhere, Austria is taking a different approach than France. The country's ski lifts will open on Christmas Eve, but hotels, bars and restaurants will remain closed through the holiday season, AFP reported. The country is currently reporting about 5,000 new cases a day despite new lockdown measures instituted several weeks ago. Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz said bars, restaurants and hotels won't be able to reopen until Jan. 7, according to AFP. Kurtz said the government decided to allow skiing and other winter sports, "so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays" and cited the fact that skiing is an outdoor sport while many infections are currently being traced to indoor locations.
A coronavirus vaccine developed by Russia will start to be administered on a large scale starting next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. The vaccine is named Sputnik V and has an effectiveness of 92%, according to Reuters, which is on par with coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. It is unclear when exactly the vaccine will become available, but around 2 million doses will be ready for distribution in the coming days, Putin said. Doctors, teachers and those at high risk of serious illness will be among those that will be eligible to receive Sputnik V before the general public is able to get vaccinated. Russia is also in talks with other countries for vaccine distribution, but health officials in Russia are focused on making the vaccine available to its residents first. “The absolute priority is Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.”
Whenever the first COVID-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use in the U.S., health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get the shots, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said, according to the Associated Press. The government panel consists of outside scientific experts, including vaccination researchers and infectious disease experts. The group makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which then typically approves them. That process has been in place since 1967, the AP reported. The decision to recommend that health care workers and nursing home residents receive the vaccine came after a 13-1 vote. The group is expected to meet again soon to decide which groups should be next in line for the vaccination process. Teachers, police, and firefighters are just a few of the possibilities, the AP said.
New coronavirus cases continue to rise across the United States in the wake of the long Thanksgiving weekend, prompting health officials to mull over what steps to take next to slow the spread. In New York City alone, more than 1,100 people area hospitalized due to COVID-19, twice as many as there were three weeks ago, according to ABC News. The city has not implemented a stay-at-home order, but health officials are urging elderly people and those at higher risk of serious complications due to the virus to remain home if possible. "If we are not successful in driving down these numbers soon, of course, there's the real possibility of much greater restrictions,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “So we have to do this work individually if we want to avoid those restrictions.” The mayor is also asking healthy individuals to donate blood if possible as the stockpile is running dangerously low, ABC News said. "We're going to keep giving you updates to remind you how we're doing and how much we need. But everyone, you're going to feel so good after you give blood," de Blasio said.
Three states in the U.S. have now totaled more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, with Florida becoming the most recent to hit the unwanted milestone on Tuesday. California and Texas are the other two states with case counts above 1 million. The death toll from the disease in the Sunshine State is also creeping closer to 20,000. As cases continue to mount, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis remains opposed to a statewide mask mandate, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “Yes, we are seeing increases, but other states are seeing even more,” he said during a Monday press conference, according to the Democrat. “They don’t work,” DeSantis said about the mandates. “People wear them when they go out, but they don’t have to be strung up on a bayonet.”
The United Kingdom became the first country to approve Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. The U.K.'s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommended the vaccine for use and said it was effective enough to use after it reviewed the results of the most recent clinical trials completed by Pfizer. Those trials showed that the vaccine was 95% effective, the AP said. The vaccine is being developed alongside German biotech company BioNTech. The office of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a detailed plan for what the first phase of the country's vaccination program would look like, and who would be first in line to get the first shots.
(Image/U.K. Prime Minister's Office)
"Help is on its way," U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Twitter, adding that the vaccination process would begin early next week. "Every aspect has been thoroughly checked according to international standards," added Dr. June Raine, the CEO of the MHRA said on Wednesday. Watch the video below for more on the latest developments.
Another 2,597 fatalities were reported across the nation on Tuesday bringing the national death toll above 270,000. Cases in the U.S. continue to climb as well, with more than 180,000 recorded on Tuesday. The last time the U.S. saw a day with fewer than 100,000 new cases was on Nov. 2, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. More than 13.7 million cumulative cases have been reported throughout the pandemic nationwide. Here’s a look at where global numbers stand and the video below takes a closer look at how the virus is spreading in the U.S. and beyond.
Moderna submitted its coronavirus vaccine for approval this week to the Food and Drug Administration. The company is looking to get emergency use authorization for its vaccine after completing a Phase 3 trial and finding the vaccine to be 94.1 percent effective on COVID-19, according to NBC News. For treating severe cases of the virus, Moderna reported a 100 percent effectiveness. All ages, race, and gender reported the same results and no serious safety concerns were found. The most common side effect from the vaccine included fatigue, headache, muscle pain and joint pain. The FDA will discuss the submission on Dec. 17 which is a week later than originally planned.
As schools across the U.S. transition to remote learning during the worst wave of the coronavirus pandemic to date, a new study has found that students are falling behind in one important subject. An assessment by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) found that overall, students between grades 3 and 8 have fallen behind the most in math, averaging 5 to 10 percentile points lower than previous years, The Associated Press said. Meanwhile, students seem to be progressing well with reading. The NWEA also noted that there has been an uptick in students missing classes. “Given we’ve also seen school district reports of higher levels of absenteeism in many different school districts, this is something to really be concerned about,” researcher Megan Kuhfeld said. There were also some differences by racial and ethnic groups, but the NWEA said that it was too early to draw any conclusions on that data.
The coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by Pfizer and German biotech company, BinNTech, could be approved within the next four weeks, The Associated Press reports. The European Medicines Agency is reportedly planning to hold a meeting by Dec. 29 to determine if the vaccine is safe enough to start being deployed. A vaccine being manufactured by Moderna could be approved by Jan. 12, the AP said. Even if the vaccines are approved, officials caution that it will take months to give billions of people worldwide the shot, or more than one shot if needed, the AP said. “We have known since the beginning of this journey that patients are waiting, and we stand ready to ship COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as potential authorizations will allow us,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement, according to the AP.