Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic.
As the holiday season begins, you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19. We asked the experts, what's the risk of giving gifts around the holidays?
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 DeSantisremains 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 glasses. “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.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Yahoo Sports that it is unlikely NBA teams will be able to host a full crowd for the 2020-21 season. Sports stadiums will be among the last thing to be brought back to capacity. In the phone interview, Fauci said the NBA's scheduled end of July will be 'cutting it close' to allowing a full attendance. The highest priority people will be given the vaccine from this month through the early spring, according to Fauci. He said the vaccine won't get to people who will be attending basketball games, with no underlying conditions, until the summer months. "If a lot of people get vaccinated. I don't think we're going to be that normal in July. I think it probably would be by the end of the summer," said Fauci. Having full crowds in stadiums by the end of 2021 is not unrealistic, according to Fauci. "I think it's possible," he told Yahoo.
The NFL has postponed Tuesday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers after another player from the Ravens tested positive for the coronavirus. The game was originally scheduled to take place Thanksgiving night but has since been moved three times amid the Ravens' COVID-19 outbreak, according to USA Today. The game is now scheduled to kickoff Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. ET. The abnormal kickoff time is a result of NBC broadcasting the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting that night. This will be the first NFL game played on a Wednesday since 2012 and only the second ever in the Super Bowl era. In addition, the Steelers Week 13 matchup against Washington was moved to Monday at 5 p.m. ET and the Ravens Week 13 game was moved to Tuesday at 8:05 p.m ET. Snow was forecast for Heinz Field on Tuesday but with the game rescheduled to Wednesday afternoon, the snow is expected to mostly clear by kickoff with partly sunny conditions expected.
On Tuesday, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will not agree to lift a ban on non-essential travel with the U.S. until the spread of the virus is under control, Reuters reported. The announcement means that the border restrictions, which were imposed in March, could go well into 2021. “Until the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world, we’re not going to be releasing the restrictions at the border,” Trudeau said. “We are incredibly lucky that trade in essential goods, in agricultural products, in pharmaceuticals is flowing back and forth as it always has. It’s just not people traveling, which I think is the important thing,” he added. The extension of border restrictions comes as both Canada and the U.S. are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases. In Canada, a second wave of infections prompted authorities to reimpose restrictions on businesses and limit the size of social gatherings.
Andrej Plenkovic, the prime minister of Croatia, has become the latest political leader to be infected with the novel coronavirus. Plenkovic tested for the virus on Monday at the recommendation of epidemiologists, according to UPI. A statement released by the Croatian government said the prime minister is feeling well and able to perform his activities and responsibilities from home. Plenkovic was already self isolating after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus just a few days prior. More than 120,000 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Croatia, with new cases soaring since October in the country.
A woman in Singapore who contracted COVID-19 while she was pregnant gave birth to a healthy baby who developed antibodies against the virus, The Strait Times reported. “It’s very interesting. His pediatrician said my COVID-19 antibodies are gone but Aldrin has COVID-19 antibodies,” Celine Ng-Chan, 31, said. “My doctor suspects I transferred my COVID-19 antibodies to him during pregnancy,” she added. Ng-Chan contracted the virus during a family holiday to Europe in March and was diagnosed when she was 10 weeks pregnant. Her mother and her daughter also contracted the virus. Although Choy Wi Chee, Ng-Chan’s mother, came close to death due to the virus, Ng-Chan and her daughter were only mildly ill and left the hospital after 2.5 weeks. “My pregnancy and birth was smooth sailing despite being diagnosed with COVID-19 in my first trimester, which is the most unstable stage of the pregnancy. I’m very blessed to have Aldrin and he came out very healthy,” she said. “I feel relieved my COVID-19 journey is finally over now.” Watch the video below for more.
Inside Tokyo's Shinjuku district, capsule hotels were struggling operate due to the coronavirus restrictions. These hotels have now reinvented themselves to be 'capsule offices.' These spaces are individual workspaces that feature the comfort of a real office while being isolated from others, according to AFP. Guests who work at the business section can also stay a night at the hotel portion of the capsule hotel if needed. Managers hope the experiment will remain successful so they can extend the service to locations nationwide. Watch the video below for more.
Car manufacturer Daimler announced on Tuesday that it will pay German employees a “corona bonus” of 1,000 euros, Reuters reported. The company added that the bonus is meant to compensate for personal and economic burdens of its 160,000 employees in Germany who are eligible for it. “Due to Corona, 2020 was a particularly challenging year. During this extraordinary time the company could always count on the flexibility and willingness of our workforce,” Daimler’s personnel chief Wilfried Porth said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a dire warning on Twitter Monday, saying that despite the state's best efforts, the current rate of record-high cases isn't sustainable. "This is the tipping point," Newsom wrote. "Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve," he added, while urging residents to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks. More than 1.2 million cases and more than 19,000 fatalities have been confirmed in California since the pandemic began, according to the state health department.
Newsom also announced that the state would be receiving 327,000 doses of the Pfizer's new COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December. "Transparency, equity, and safety will continue to be our top priorities as we begin the distribution process for Phase 1," the governor said. Watch the video below for more.
A study published on Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found evidence of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. in December 2019, Bloomberg reported. The study identified 106 infections from 7,389 blood samples collected by the American Red Cross between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17 in nine U.S. states. “The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the study said. The virus, which first emerged in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, was thought to have reached the U.S. on Jan. 19, 2020. However, the results in the new study suggest that the virus was silently circulating the world as early as 2019.
For the 28th straight day, the United States reported over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The day’s 157,901 new infections was down from the peak of 205,557 cases recorded on Friday, although experts are saying that data may be unreliable in coming days due to lags in reporting following increased testing post-Thanksgiving. The U.S. also recorded 1,157 deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, pushing the nation’s total to 268,103 fatalities, the most in the world.
Elsewhere around the world, here are the latest cumulative global totals, according to data from Johns Hopkins University:
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many workers have the freedom to do their jobs from anywhere – even by the beach in Maui. Software engineer Raymond Berger, who works in a company in New York City, has been working from a beach house he rented in the Hawaiian city. “It’s a little hard with the time zone difference,” he said, according to CBS News. “But generally, I have a much better quality of life,” he added. In an effort to attract visitors and relaunch the economy, Hawaii is launching a campaign, “Movers & Shakas” to encourage more people to travel to Hawaii and set up remote offices in the state. All participants must agree to respect Hawaii’s culture and natural resources, as well as to volunteer at a local nonprofit several hours a week. The 50 first people to apply to the program will receive a free, round-trip ticket to Honolulu. With the start of winter, those who live in colder climates might find this a great warm-weather work destination. In December, the average temperature in Honolulu is 84 F.
Even though a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be approved for distribution, transportation plans are already underway, ABC News reported. This week, American Airlines announced that its cargo operation is running trial flights from Miami to South America, with the aim of testing the process of shipping vaccines safely. The airline will test the extreme temperature requirements, as well as a test trial of “a major pharmaceutical company’s thermal packaging,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said. In addition, the airline told ABC News that it has established a “network of team members that specialize in temperature-critical shipments,” and that it will work in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration on “regulations governing shipments transported with dry ice.” Parker said that utilizing cargo and commercial operations will be the most efficient way to transport the vaccine as it will allow it to be “distributed as quickly as possible.” Pfizer and BioNTech, the first two companies to submit a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization, said that their vaccines will be available for distribution within hours after authorization.
Plan on visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree this holiday season? If so, you’ll need to reserve tickets. In an effort to follow city guidelines surrounding what is one of the city’s biggest attractions all year long, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that anyone planning to visit the tree will need tickets to do so. In addition, the tree lighting ceremony, held on Dec. 2, will be closed to the public, according to ABC 7 News. There will be additional protocols in place surrounding the tree, including a five-minute tree viewing limit and virtual lines. Center Plaza will be closed to the public entirely, which is where the tree is located traditionally. "This is what we need to do to protect everyone," said de Blasio. "It's a different approach but it's an approach that will keep people safe."
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, tested positive for the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported. Polis, who was exposed to the virus and had been quarantining with his partner since Wednesday, added that they are both asymptomatic. His positive diagnosis comes as Colorado is currently experiencing a spike in cases, with one in 41 residents believed to be contagious. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, no one is immune from this virus,” Polis said in a statement Saturday night. “Now is the time to be more cautious than ever before. There is more of the virus circulating across the country, including Colorado, now than there even was in the spring.”
Delta Air Lines announced the launch of “quarantine-free, COVID-free” travel, which will take passengers from Atlanta, Georgia, to Rome, Italy. The new plan, which is being done in partnership with Italian officials, will allow travelers to explore Rome for 14 days without any quarantine period and begins Dec. 19, according to Fox 30 News. Travelers going to Italy for essential work, health or educational purposes are able to participate. While travelers will not have to quarantine, they will be required to pass four coronavirus tests, including one before boarding and one upon arrival in Rome. “Based on the modeling we have conducted, when testing protocols are combined with multiple layers of protection, including mask requirements, proper social distancing and environmental cleaning, we can predict that the risk of COVID-19 infection – on a flight that is 60 percent full – should be nearly one in a million,” Henry Ting, Mayo Clinic’s chief value officer, said.
The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine could arrive as an early Christmas present for some Americans, a top U.S. government official said on Monday, according to Reuters. Alex Azar, U.S. Health Secretary, said Pfizer’s vaccine could be authorized and shipped within days of Dec. 10 while the vaccine from Moderna could follow a week later. Speaking with CBS’ “This Morning” on Monday, Azar said “we could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people’s arms before Christmas.” Azar added that state governors will be the ones to decide how they are distributed within each state.
Some Americans could receive a coronavirus vaccination before Christmas, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday, according to Reuters. Azar said the Pfizer Inc. vaccine could be shipped out around Dec. 10 if approved by outside advisers meeting on the day. Moderna Inc. could ship out their vaccine just a few days later. It is up to state governors to decide how the vaccines will be distributed. “They will be determining which groups to be prioritized,” Azar said.
In the weeks following Thanksgiving, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country can expect to see a surge in coronavirus cases. In addition, Fauci does not expect any coronavirus restrictions to loosen by Christmas, The Associated Press said. “So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line ... we may see a surge upon a surge,” Fauci said about the holiday season. In addition, Fauci said school children spreading the disease amongst themselves has not been as big of an issue as people had anticipated, and encouraged bringing kids back to school while continuing to mitigate the spread in situations that are known to cause mass infections.
Schools in New York City for grades pre-kindergarten to fifth grade will return to in person classes on Dec. 7, after rising coronavirus cases in the city caused in-person instruction to halt earlier this month. The largest school district in the country will also require that 20% of its students and faculty are tested each week in an effort to increase in-person learning to five days a week, USA Today reported. Students in sixth grade and up will continue with remote learning until further notice. According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, school opening and closures will be based on test results rather than infection rates in the city. "We're on track to keep our schools safely and successfully open for the duration of the pandemic," Richard Carranza, the city schools chancellor, said.
While Black Friday may often be considered the biggest shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday is set to bring in a record total of online sales on Monday according to latest industry estimates. According to Reuters, experts are saying the day could bring in as much as $12.7 billion in online sales, with the boon largely caused by the year’s coronavirus pandemic. Estimates provided by Adobe Analytics show that the sales from Cyber Monday will likely mark the largest online sales day in history, a trend that Adobe Digital Insights director Taylor Schreiner told Reuters is a continued consumer trend from this year’s shopping behaviors. “New consoles, phones, smart devices and TVs that are traditional Black Friday purchases are sharing online shopping cart space this year with unorthodox Black Friday purchases such as groceries, clothes and alcohol, that would previously have been purchased in-store,” he said.
With coronavirus vaccine approvals seemingly right around the corner, U.S. Homeland Security is preparing to battle vaccine scams. The warnings from Homeland Security come after a slew of scams regarding the coronavirus, including fake “cures,” personal protective equipment and extortion, The Associated Press reported. “We’re all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations, said. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned Americans over the weekend that if they traveled for Thanksgiving or attended a large gathering, they should assume they were infected with COVID-19 and thus should get tested and quarantine. Birx told CBS News that people who gathered, particularly young people, should get tested about five to 10 days after they return. “But you need to assume that you're infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask,” she said.
Merriam-Webster selection for the 2020 word of the year shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In a year that will forever be remembered by the coronavirus outbreak throughout the world, the American dictionary company selected the word ‘pandemic’ as the word of the year, as fitting as it is unfortunate. Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press that the selection "probably isn’t a big shock."
“Often the big news story has a technical word that’s associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future,” Sokolowski said. In 2003, the term ‘quarantine’ was the third-ranked word of the year due to the SARS epidemic while ‘pandemic’ also finished in the top-ten in 2005 and 2009.
While Japan prepares its capital city to hopefully host this summer's rescheduled Olympic Games, the country's case total continues to spike, with numbers never prior seen in the country. On Sunday, the nation recorded its fourth consecutive day with over 2,000 new cases, one day after Japan saw its highest single-day increase with 2,679 infections on Saturday, according to statistics kept by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. In response, Tokyo's metropolitan government raised its virus alert level to the highest of four levels for the first time in nearly three months, according to Kyodo News.
Elsewhere around the world, here are the latest cumulative global totals, according to data from Johns Hopkins University:
South Korea reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections since March on Thursday, AFP reported. A total of 583 new infections were counted, a dramatically higher number than what the country has been seeing recently, which is about 100 to 300 cases a day. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency attributed most of the new cases weredue to clusters at offices, schools, gyms and small gatherings around Seoul, AFP said. "We are now in a situation where virus outbreaks can happen at any place," health minister Park Neung-hoo said, according to AFP.
Officials in Los Angeles County are considering a new stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This is the most populated county in the U.S. with around 10 million residents, according to the Census Bureau, with 14.1% of the population being at least 65 years old, an age range considered to be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. For the stay-at-home order to go into effect, the five-day case average must be 4,500 or higher, and on Tuesday, it was around 4,200, according to ABC News. The county issued the Safer At Home order in the spring to flatten the curve during the initial wave of the virus, but a new order would likely be different. "I know for sure we're not going back to all of the restrictions that were in place in the original Safer At Home order,'' LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. If a new stay-at-home order is issued, non-essential indoor businesses will still be able to operate at 20% capacity, outdoor retail stores can operate up to 50% capacity and religious services can continue as long as they are held outside, ABC News said.
With winter right around the corner, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, has asked for ski resorts across the region to close due to COVID-19. "The ski season is approaching. We will be trying to coordinate in Europe whether we could close all ski resorts," Merkel said. Some resorts across the continent have not been able to open yet due to ongoing lockdowns, such as those in Austria, while French resorts are not allowed to reopen until the start of 2021, according to NBC News.
Germany has already had a history with ski resorts leading to new cases of COVID-19. In the spring when the initial wave of the virus was sweeping across Europe, many Germans became infected when visiting the ski resort of Ischgl, located in Austria, NBC News said. If the European Union (E.U.) steps in and tells countries to keep resorts closed, it could have a major economic toll on the region, but would not affect every country in Europe. Switzerland, which is not a member of the E.U. has allowed its ski resorts to open and operate near-normal, but travel restrictions could still limit how many skiers ultimately make it to the slopes this winter.
As German company BioNTech gets closer to releasing its vaccine to the public, factories in the country are prepping for distribution,The Associated Press reported. With the first vaccines expected to become available next month, a factory in the southern town of Tuttlingen has set up a production line, with gray boxes ready to be shipped with the vaccine, along with freezers the size of an adult male that will help store the vaccines before distribution. According to BioNTech and Pfizer, the vaccine, which has been proven to be 96% effective, needs to be kept at a temperature of minus 94 F for shipping and storage. Although it is still unclear who will administer the vaccines in Berlin, authorities said they plan on setting up six vaccine hubs in the German capital, where they will hope to begin vaccinating more than 3,000 people per day at each location. The sites will be run by a medical group, with volunteers helping with the registration process. The prep comes as Germany became the latest country to hit a grim milestone, after it surpassed 1 million cases of the virus.
Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, which were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, are taking steps towards holding the event in 2021 by announcing a series of 18 tests events leading up to the rescheduled games.The test events are set to run from March through May with the Olympics set to begin on July 23, 2021. Some of test events will not involve any athletes, but will be held to test operational procedures of the events, according to The Associated Press. The Tokyo organizing committee also announced that spectators from abroad will not be allowed to attend the test events, although some fans from Japan may be permitted. According to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, much of the planning for the games hinges on the availability of vaccines and rapid testing. Officials from Tokyo say they are spending over $12 billion to host the Olympics, which they are hoping to feature the full array of 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of officials, sponsors, media members and others.
Japan is selling handmade face masks for $9,600 in an effort to cheer up people and “revitalize Japan” amid the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. The masks, which are being sold by Japanese apparel giant Cox Co. Ltd. under its Mask.com chain, are made with Swarovski crystals, Akoya pearls and 0.7 carat diamonds. “Everyone is feeling down because of the coronavirus and it would be great if they could feel better by looking at one of these glittery masks,” Azusa Kajitaka, a concierge of Mask.com from Tokyo, told Reuters. “The jewelry and fabric industries have also been in a slump because of the coronavirus and so we did this as part of a project to help revitalize Japan,” she added. Despite the steep price, these masks are far from being the world’s most expensive. Israeli jeweler, Yvel, has designed masks made with 250 grams of 18 karat gold that retail for $1.5 million.
New research has found that expiring eviction bans have led to hundreds of thousands of additional coronavirus cases. Forty-three states along with Washington, D.C., had passed a ban during the pandemic on evictions, which were once estimated to have prevented displacing as many as 40 million people, according to CNBC. However, the national eviction moratorium expires next month, and data compiled by Stout, an investment bank, estimates there will be between 5.5 million and 6.5 million pending evictions filed by Jan. 1 if the protections aren’t extended. Researchers from several universities, including John Hopkins University, found that lifting state moratoriums and allowing eviction proceedings to continue caused as many as 433,700 excess cases of COVID-19 and 10,700 additional deaths in the U.S. between March and September. “When people are evicted, they often move in with friends and family, and that increases your number of contacts,” said Kathryn Leifheit, one of the authors of the research. “If people have to enter a homeless shelter, these are indoor places that can be quite crowded.”
The requirement for COVID-free certificates resulted in the arrest of 21 Kenyans this week. The requirement, put into place by the United Arab Emirates, led to the arrests after the travelers who were flying to Dubai out of Nairobi on Thursday. The Kenyan website Nairobi News previously reported that earlier travelers were arrested for also faking negative test certificates. Kenya has seen over 80,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to statistics kept by researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
Victoria has accounted for more than 90% of Australia’s cases of COVID-19, but the state has now gone 28 days without a single infection. Australia has taken big strides in containing the spread of the virus, largely due to long lockdowns early in the pandemic and strict travel restrictions. More than 5 million people in Melbourne, Australia, the largest city in the state, were under a lockdown for over 100 days, but the strong measures have seemed to pay off in the long run. In addition to Victoria reporting no new cases in 28 days, there are no active cases and no hospitalizations, Reuters reported. As a result, social distancing guidelines are being relaxed, giving residents a feeling of normalcy. Additionally, Australia has committed to purchasing nearly 34 million doses of a vaccine when it becomes available, Reuters said.
A woman takes a walk in a park during lockdown due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus in Melbourne, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Victoria state, Australia's coronavirus hot spot, announced on Monday that businesses will be closed and scaled down in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s warnings issued against traveling over the holiday, the TSA reported a massive spike in checkpoint travel numbers on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Over 1 million people traveled Wednesday, marking the highest checkpoint travel numbers since March 2020, around when the pandemic began to heavily impact the U.S. While the number of travelers screened on Wednesday was still about half as many as the same day last year, airports first saw the spike around Friday. After March, Oct. 18 was the only other day that saw over a million travelers before Nov. 20 and Nov. 25, according to TSA data.
Los Angeles County announced a new stay-at-home order on Friday as cases surged. The county had originally set a threshold for issuing the stay-at-home order — an average of 4,500 cases a day over a five-day period, according to The Associated Press. The five-day average of new cases in the county reported on Friday was 4,751. The orders will take effect on Monday and last at least until Dec. 20. “We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge.”
Advises residents to stay at home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out.
Prohibits public and private gatherings with someone outside of your own household, though there are exceptions for church services and protests.
Allow retain businesses to remain open though with occupancy limits.
A model created by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention suggests that the actual number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. could reach 100 million soon, NPR reported. The model shows that the true number of infections is about eight times the reported number, which only includes cases that have been confirmed by a laboratory test. In addition, preliminary estimates using the model found that by the end of September, the total number of infected people in the country was 52.9 million, as opposed to the 6.9 million that were reported. “This indicates that approximately 84% of the U.S. population has not yet been infected and thus most of the country remains at risk,” the model’s authors wrote. Since late September, the tally of confirmed infections has increased to 12.5 million, which, according to the model, the estimated total would now be around 95 million cases. The authors of the model concluded that the goal in creating it was to “better quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare system and society.”
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl announced on Friday the cancelation of the 2020 game out of “an abundance of caution in conjunction” with the ACC and Big Ten,CBS Sports reported. The game, which takes place at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, was originally scheduled for Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. “The priority of the Yankees, New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Big Ten and ACC is the safety of players, coaches and staff, and this decision is consistent with that approach,” a statement released by the bowl organizers read. “We look forward to hosting the New Era Pinstripe Bowl with an enthusiastic crowd filling Yankee Stadium in 2021.” This marks the eighth bowl game that has been canceled this year due to virus concerns. Other bowls that have been canceled are the Redbox Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl, Celebration Bowl, Fenway Bowl and Bahamas Bowl.
Football fans eagerly awaiting the rivalry game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will need to wait a bit longer to watch the teams clash on the field. The game was originally scheduled to be played on Thanksgiving night but was moved to Sunday after at least 12 Ravens players tested positive for COVID-19, including MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Now, the game has been rescheduled to Tuesday evening, according to ESPN. This will be just the third time that an NFL game has been played on a Tuesday, once earlier this season due to the coronavirus and once in 2010 due to a snowstorm. “These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a statement. The Ravens were also scheduled to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 3, but that game has now been postponed to Monday, Dec. 7.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, social distancing mandates remain a top priority in many parts of the world. Airplanes should be no exception to the mandates, according to Lufthansa, who is testing a lie-flat economy seat concept to promote social distancing in planes. The new concept, which is being trialed on flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Sao Paulo, Brazil, from Nov. 18 to mid-December, offers passengers traveling in economy class the opportunity to have a row of three to four seats to themselves. Those who are interested in the plan must pay an additional fee of $260 during check-in or at the gate, CNN travel reported.
Officials in the country of Georgia are introducing new restrictions that will enhance curfew hours, close shops, restaurants and curb transportation habits for residents in an effort to slow the recent sharp spike in cases. One of the new mandates is a complete ban on sports and cultural events. While food delivery and take-away services will be allowed in the country, all restaurants, cafes, open markets, swimming pools and gyms will be closed for the two months. The new measures were announced by Giorgi Gakharia, the South Caucasus country’s prime minister, on Thursday and will be enforced through the end of January with a temporary ease from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 and from Jan. 6-7 for holidays, according to Reuters.
Even if a potential COVID-19 vaccine could soon get approved for distribution, it could take months for widespread effects of immunization to kick in. For this reason, several safety measures have to be prioritized by Americans, CNN Health reported. One of these measures is the use of masks. According to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, more than 40,000 lives could be saved over the next two months if 95% of Americans wore face masks. As the pandemic continues, local and state leaders urge the public to wear face coverings and have pushed for mask orders to stop the spread of the virus. “If you’re inconvenienced, if you don’t believe it, please wear it … what’s the downside,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice warned. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, agreed with Justice’s message. “It’s a matter of keeping your mother, your father, your brother, your sister alive between now and then,” Hotez said. “If we could just get those messages out.”
Nurse Cristina Settembrese fixes two masks to her face during her work shift in the COVID-19 ward at the San Paolo hospital in Milan, Italy, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Which countries are tackling the pandemic most effectively? A report from Bloomberg News analyzed which countries were preforming the best amid the coronavirus pandemic based on four factors: case count, fatality count, lockdown severity and access to vaccines. According to their findings, New Zealand tops the list with the most effective COVID-19 response. Following New Zealand on the list is Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Finland, in that order. According to Bloomberg, New Zealand tops their list due to the “decisive, swift action” of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that involved a heavy emphasis on testing, contract tracing and centralized quarantine process. In addition to the preventative measures, New Zealand has two different supply deals that puts them in a secure position to receive vaccines when one is approved.
Earlier this month, Denmark ordered all farmed mink to be culled due to a concern about the spread of the virus in fur farms. However, residents are still worried about the possible health risks as some of the mink that were culled rose from mass graves this week, Reuters reported. According to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, the mink were buried in trenches that were 8.2 feet deep and covered with about 2 meters of soil. Authorities added that there is no risk of virus spread, but residents still worry about other potential health risks, including water contamination.
A college football clash between USC and Colorado has been canceled due to COVID-19 protocols established by the Pac-12 conference. The conference announced on Saturday that the game was canceled because USC, the No. 18-ranked team in the nation, did not have enough scholarship players available at a position group due to positive coronavirus cases and contact tracing. Instead, Colorado will now be playing San Diego State.
"We are disappointed for our players and fans and those from Colorado that Saturday's game will not be played, but the health and safety of everyone in both programs is of the utmost priority," USC coach Clay Helton said, according to ESPN.
South Korea reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections since March on Thursday, AFP reported. A total of 583 new infections were counted, a dramatically higher number than what the country has been seeing recently, which is about 100 to 300 cases a day. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency attributed most of the new cases weredue to clusters at offices, schools, gyms and small gatherings around Seoul, AFP said. "We are now in a situation where virus outbreaks can happen at any place," health minister Park Neung-hoo said, according to AFP.
On Wednesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court barred New York from imposing coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship in a four-five split. Previously, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had ordered that only up to 10 people could gather at sites of worship in high-risk areas designated, though the state restrictions were relaxed before the ruling, meaning it will have no immediate effect. The ruling was in response to two applications, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn as well as two synagogues, claiming they had been singled out under the restrictions designed to limit the virus’ spread, according to AFP.
Only half of the English Premier League stadiums, mostly in London, will be allowed to welcome fans back into the stands when coronavirus restrictions are relaxed next week, according to new government measures announced Thursday. Other top division clubs will be remaining closed to spectators as they are in areas classified as the highest risk for COVID-19 infections, according to The Associated Press. Partially opened stadiums will only allow fans from the home team, who will be asked to keep social distancing. “While we appreciate that reduced capacity matches will be far from being ‘back to normal’, we can’t wait to welcome our fans back home for what will be a historic moment for the club,” Arsenal Football Club said in a statement.
Disney announced another round of layoffs that will affect 32,000 workers due to the impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on the company. A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was published on Wednesday, stated the jobs would be terminated in the first half of the 2021 fiscal year. In September, another 28,000 workers were laid off due to the pandemic. Most of the layoffs in the next round will be from parks, experiences and products division. According to CNBC, the pandemic cost the company about $2.4 billion in lost operating income as of November.
Sweden's health watchdog said on Tuesday that there were "serious shortcomings" related to COVID-19 care at nursing homes around the country, according to Reuters. As the virus wreaked havoc during the early days of the pandemic, it was particularly deadly among the country's elderly citizens. This caused Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to admit in May that the country didn't do a good enough job protecting the elderly. Sweden has suffered more COVID-19 deaths per capita than its Scandinavia neighbors in part because it rejected nationwide lockdowns and mask mandates, Reuters said. The country's Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO) has spent months investigating nursing home care after a wave of complaints from staff and family members. “In its investigation, IVO has identified serious short-comings at regional level when it comes to the care provided to people living in nursing homes,” IVO director general Sofia Wallstrom, said according to Reuters.
Home prices in the U.S. rose significantly in September due to strong demand and low interest rates, The Associated Press reported. On Tuesday, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed that home prices rose 6.6% in September, higher than the 5.3% reported in August. It's also the biggest increase since April 2018, according to the AP. The spring home buying season was delayed significantly due to the pandemic, causing more home sales to occur during the summer and fall, the AP reported. The biggest gain nationwide was reported in Phoenix, which saw prices increase by 11.4% compared to the year prior.
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2020, file photo, a woman wears a mask while walking past an American flag painted on a wall during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco. A deadly rise in COVID-19 infections is forcing state and local officials to adjust their blueprints for fighting a virus that is threatening to overwhelm health care systems. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Fiumicino airport in Rome will soon start a new procedure for passengers that are flying in from the U.S. or departing to a U.S. destination. Starting in December, passengers will be tested for the coronavirus 48 hours prior to boarding their flight, and then a second time when arriving at the airport, Reuters said. By following this testing procedure, passengers will not have to quarantine for 14 days, a common safety precaution following an international flight. This is the first testing procedure of its kind for an airport in Europe and will begin with those flying on Delta Air Lines and Alitalia. “Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place,” said Delta President Steve Sear. This procedure is will likely expand in the coming weeks to include international flights to and from other countries that have reported a high number of cases, such as Germany.
Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the ongoing lockdown will continue until Dec. 20, the day before the official start of winter. “The exponential growth of infection numbers has been broken, the steep curve has become a flattened curve,” Merkel said, according to Reuters. This lockdown was enacted earlier in November and was not as strict as the one imposed earlier in 2020 during the start of the pandemic with some calling it ‘lockdown light.’ The number of daily cases has been trending downward since peaking on Nov. 4, around the time when the new lockdown was imposted, but still remains higher than during the first wave back in March and April, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. Germany is also approaching 1 million total cases since the start of the pandemic, a benchmark only surpassed by 11 countries as of Wednesday.
People that need to quarantine following a high-risk contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19 may soon be able to leave isolation earlier than previously recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, the recommended quarantine period is 14 days, but that may be shortened to as few as seven days, NPR said. However, there is one stipulation to this shorter period.” A preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten that quarantine period,” said White House Coronavirus Task Force member Brett Giroir. "We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence, but we want to make absolutely sure," he added. It is unclear if or when these new guidelines would go into effect.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced that they will continue with coronavirus safety precautions through at least January, The Associated Press said. “The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the February argument session,” the court said in a statement. This includes holding a hearing over the telephone, a procedure that began in May, and a first for the country's highest court.
TV screens will be showing two NFL games instead of three this Thanksgiving, but Americans will still be able to tune in to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning. And while the parade will go on as scheduled, it may look a little different from previous years. This year, it will be staged as a TV-only event, requiring New Yorkers and any visitors to enjoy the parade from home like the rest of the country. Additionally, the 2.5-mile parade route will be shortened, and the focus on the last section of the march. Parade participants should expect mild temperatures in the upper 50s and expect rain for the majority of the time, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologists John Feerick. Winds will be out of the south at 7 to 14 mph.
Measures set in place for the safety of parade participants include:
All participants will be tested for COVID-19 and undergo wellness checks
The number of participants has been reduced by about 88%
The parade will not include participants under the age of 18
A majority of the participants will be from the New York trip-state area
All participants will be required to adhere to social distancing measures and be required to wear face coverings.
The U.K. and other countries across Europe are quickly organizing ways to distribute and deliver a coronavirus vaccine to millions of citizens. With vaccines showing high levels of protection, British officials are cautiously optimistic that life could start returning to normal as early as April, according to The Associated Press. The British government has already agreed to purchase up to 355 million doses of a vaccine while the National Health Service is making plans to administer over 88 million vaccine doses throughout the U.K. More than 55,000 deaths have been recorded from the coronavirus in the U.K., making it the deadliest outbreak in Europe, and over 750,000 people have been put out of work with many businesses forced to shut down.
The NFL announced the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens game originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night would be postponed to Sunday afternoon. “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in the consolation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a press release. The Ravens had shut down their facility since Monday and have not held practice since, and as of Sunday night, the team had received over 10 positive COVID-19 tests from a combination of players and staff members, according to Sports Illustrated. The league announced the rescheduling as more positive tests returned Wednesday morning. Heinz Field is forecast to see mostly sunny skies on Sunday and a low probability of precipitation — perfect weather for a game. This is the second game that the Steelers were involved in to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues involving the opposing team. The first game was against the Tennessee Titans.
As the death toll in the U.S. surpass numbers not reached since May, hospitals around the country are nearing capacity, threatening a surge in mortalities. On Tuesday, the death toll reached 2,157 — equating to one death every 40 seconds. Although this was the deadliest day in more than six months, Tuesday’s coronavirus deaths were slightly lower than the 2,806 record seen on April 14. Experts are fearing the number could continue to grows as millions of Americans continue to disregard holiday travel warnings, according to Reuters. Hospitalizations for the virus have reached a record high of 87,000 on Tuesday, causing health officials to issue dire warnings urging people to cancel traditional holiday plans to try and slow the spread of the virus.
The United States has reported more than one million cases of the coronavirus for each of the past two consecutive weeks for the first time since the pandemic began, according to The New York Times, and coronavirus-related deaths have reached levels not seen since the spring as the death count catches up to reported cases. Epidemiologists warn the projected number of deaths in the coming weeks could exceed the peak seen in the spring. The U.S. has added an average of 173,000 new daily cases of the coronavirus in the last week alone. If current growth continues to the end of the month, cases for the entire month could hit 4.5 million, according to The New York Times, which would be more than double the number of any previous months.
A health care employee works at a walk-up COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Miami. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The White House is considering lifting travel bans for most non-U.S. citizens who are traveling from the U.K., Ireland and 26 other European countries, Reuters reported. In addition, non-U.S. citizens coming from Brazil will also be allowed in the U.S. if the plan goes through. The bans, which were initially imposed by the Trump administration in an attempt to decrease the spread of the virus, are being re-considered as the administration argues that the restrictions no longer make sense given that most countries around the world are not included in the entry ban. The administration also hope that lifting these restrictions will help boost U.S. airlines, which have been struggling due to the pandemic, according to Reuters. However, the administration announced that it is not considering lifting separate entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been to China or Iran.
U.S. officials announced Tuesday that they plan to release 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses nationwide in an initial distribution after regulators clear the first one for emergency use. This is down from what officials’ previous anticipation of 40 million doses to be distributed by the end of the year, according to Reuters. States and U.S. territories will be in charge of how the coronavirus vaccine will be distributed across their populations with each state having developed individual plans to prioritize who will receive the first vaccine doses. Many have placed frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents to the front of the line.
Positive cases of COVID-19 cases in the football program prompted Minnesota to cancel all team-related activities, including Wisconsin’s home football game on Saturday, ESPN reported. The cancelation ends the longest uninterrupted series in FBS history, as the Badgers and the Gophers have played 113 games between 1907 and 2019. According to Big Ten policy, the game will not be rescheduled and will instead be ruled a no contest. For Wisconsin, this is the third game that has been canceled this season, following the cancellation of games against Nebraska and Purdue due to COVID-19. The Badgers are now down to five regular-season games, making them ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game, as they fall short of the six games that are required to plain in the title game this season.
With the nation about to observe Thanksgiving in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered a “final message” Wednesday to encourage Americans to stay safe during the holidays. “The final message is to do what we’ve been saying for some time, to the extent possible keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can,” Fauci told Good Morning America. “A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter.” He ended his message with a hopeful tone, adding that with a vaccine just right around the corner, “we’ll get through this” if we continue to practice the “simple mitigation things we’re talking about all the time, the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoors.” Watch a portion of the interview below.
Three weeks ago, France entered its second lockdown since the coronavirus pandemic began, but on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced that the lockdown will end in a phased approach. The first phase will begin on Saturday when nonessential businesses will be able to reopen, according to Axios. As long as the number of new cases remains low, the second stage will begin on Dec. 15 and the final stage will begin on Jan. 20. Restaurants and bars are likely to stay closed until the final phase of the lockdown, Axios said. “The logic of all these decisions is the same, to limit as much as possible all the activities that multiply gatherings, that lead people to gather in enclosed places and to gradually allow the reopening of activities where we can protect ourselves,” Macron said.
In just a little more than a year since the very first case of coronavirus was discovered last November in Wuhan, China, the world is on the cusp of reaching a total of 60 million infections. Nearly 1.5 million deaths have been blamed on the virus. At the same time, more than 38 million have recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Eleven countries in the world have recorded more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 and Germany is pacing become to the 12th nation to reach that grim milestone.
• Confirmed cases: 59,905,468
• Fatalities: 1,412,223
• Recoveries: 38,377,692
Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world throughout the pandemic. It’s nearly 1.6 million cumulative coronavirus cases place it behind only five other nations and the country has recorded more than 43,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics. And, with Christmas just a month away and the amount of daily new cases apparently beginning to level off, the government is reportedly set to announce plans for what it will bill as a “different” Christmas and New Year’s Eve as 2020 comes to a close. According to Reuters, a Spanish newspaper obtained a copy of the health ministry’s plan for holiday restrictions, which will seek to maintain the “soul and spirit” of the holiday season. Under the plan, office holiday parties would be limited to just six people and must be held in outdoor spaces. For the purposes of family holiday parties, relatives living in the same household wouldn’t be subject to the six-person limitation. The country has also had curfews in effect since October, but they would reportedly be relaxed slightly for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. When asked by reporters about the plan, Health Minister Salvador Illa dodged the questions, saying only, “Nothing is set in stone, we need to find consensus about it.”
As the holiday season approaches, people are finding new ways to continue old traditions, such as greeting Father Christmas. In Denmark, the Aalborg Zoo created a unique way for children to still meet Santa Claus while remaining safe during the coronavirus pandemic. From inside a giant snow globe, Kris Kringle waves to visitors and gives high fives through the plastic bubble.
Check out the video here:
Residents in Texas may be able to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus in as little as three weeks as the state prepares to administer one of the two vaccines awaiting emergency approval by the FDA. However, not everyone will be able to be vaccinated right away. “I didn’t expect to get vaccine so soon, frankly,” University of Texas Health Dr. Amy Young said, according to CNBC. “It’s just about agility right now, frankly, and we may not get our vaccine until later, but we’ll be ready for it whenever we get it.” Hospital employees, EMTs, home health care workers, nursing home staff and vulnerable residents will likely be given first priority for the initial vaccinations before it is rolled out to the general public, according to CNBC. One of the challenges for distribution is that the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 94 F, meaning that distribution sites need to have an ultra-cold freezers for proper storage. The Pfizer vaccine also requires a follow-up booster with effectiveness against COVID-19 not beginning until 28 days after the first dose is administered, according to Pfizer.
The clock is ticking down to the rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night, but the former will not be playing at 100%. On Tuesday, more players on the Ravens tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the weekly total up to five players and four staff members, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee joined defensive tackle Brandon Williams and running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins on the reserve/COVID-19 list, making them ineligible for the primetime matchup. It is unclear who else on the team tested positive. The Ravens still plan to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday with the game still set as scheduled on Thursday night. Additionally, these players will not be able to take part in next week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 3.
Despite reporting more COVID-19 deaths per capita than anywhere else in the country over the last week, along with the highest per capita rate of hospitalizations related to the coronavirus the U.S., South Dakota remains split on how to respond to the pandemic, according to CBS News. Sioux Falls, the state’s most populated city, issued a 60-day mask mandate on Tuesday. However, violations of the requirement, which applies to retail businesses and public buildings, won’t carry any penalty. And there’s no enforcement behind it, according to CBS News. “If you think that the enforcement piece is going to all of a sudden create this mass level of compliance that isn’t there without it, that’s not true,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken told the news station.
Officials from the government down to health care facilities have voiced conflicting ideas on the pandemic. “It’s hard for me to say we are at a crisis,” Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft told CBS News. CBS noted that while Krabbenhoft wasn't a doctor, Chief Medical Officer Allison Suttle is. Suttle said she would classify the current situation in the Dakotas as a crisis. Sanford Health is the largest hospital network in the state. Meanwhile, the city of Brookings, which reports the lowest infection rate in the state, has had a mask mandate since early September. “There are lots of folks in South Dakota, thousands of people in South Dakota, that understand the reality of what we’re facing,” one Brookings resident told CBS News.
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Local officials are now grappling with unenforceable restrictions on small indoor gatherings, which have been blamed for accelerating the spread of the coronavirus, amid the holiday season. “When this started in early March, we weren’t staring at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we didn’t have the disease reservoir that we have. And that, to me, is the biggest concern in the next few weeks,” Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The Associated Press. He added that the risk of a Thanksgiving spike was “extremely high.” The nation’s top health officials are pleading with Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel, but data shows people are traveling anyways. U.S. airports saw their highest number of passengers — more than 1 million people — since the beginning of the pandemic on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration. In addition, the AAA projects Thanksgiving travel will fall by at least 10%, and while that may be the steepest one-year plunge since the Great Recession of 2008, it still means that millions of people will still be out on the road.
With both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine requiring two doses at varying intervals, doctors at a meeting Monday with CDC advisors urged public health officials and drug makers to be transparent about the side effects people may experience after getting their first shot. Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association said she worried about her patients returning for a second dose because of potentially unpleasant side effects they might experience after the first shot. “We really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park,” Fryhofer said during a virtual meeting with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). “They are going to know they had a vaccine. They are probably not going to feel wonderful. But they’ve got to come back for that second dose.” Both of the companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects similar to symptoms associated with mild COVID-19, including muscle pain, chills and headache. “These are immune responses,” Patsy Stinchfield, a Children’s Minnesota nurse practitioner, said at the ACIP meeting. “And so if you feel something after vaccination, you should expect to feel that. When you do, it’s normal to have some arm soreness or fatigue, some body aches and maybe even a fever. It sounds like in some of these trials, maybe even having to stay home from work.”
The NFL announced in a memo on Monday that players who were not substituting or preparing to step onto the field of play and are not wearing their helmets will be required to wear a mask or a double-layered gator on the sideline, expanding its mandate for mask usage, according to The Associated Press. In addition, play-callers must now wear a mask, even if they’re wearing a face shield, and postgame interactions between players and staff will be limited. Lastly, players and team personnel must wear masks and may greet each other briefly after games. The new guidelines will go into effect starting this week. “Players who fail to wear masks on the sidelines will be subject to discipline,” the NFL said in the memo. “Clubs are required to enforce these rules. Violations by players and/or staff will result in accountability measures being imposed upon the club. It is strongly recommended that each club designate one or two individuals in the bench area to ensure compliance with these rules.”
Additional changes include:
A reduction in the maximum number of players that may travel.
All members of a team’s traveling party required to wear 95 or KN95 masks on team planes or buses, starting Week 13.
Access to a team’s training facility will be limited to essential football and support personnel while players and coaches are present, starting Nov. 30.
The number of specialists (ex. Chiropractors, message therapists, etc.) that may enter a club’s facility each week has been limited to five.
The recent frontrunner in the coronavirus vaccine, produced by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, will be available on a non-profit basis “in perpetuity” to low- and middle-income countries in the developing world. The vaccine is being praised as the first to meet the more challenging requirements needed for mass distribution, according to The Guardian. Not only does it not require ultra-cold storage, but it also has a shelf life of up to six months. “The advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine [is] it can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator, from two to eight degrees [Celsius], and is similar to the characteristics of other vaccines that we use in the developing world,” Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, the global vaccines alliance, told the BBC. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is also already a part of Covax, the global initiative hoping to distribute about 2 billion doses to 92 low- and middle-income countries at a maximum cost of $3 a dose.“A key element of Oxford’s partnership with AstraZeneca is the joint commitment to provide the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic across the world, and in perpetuity to low- and middle-income countries,” the partnership confirmed.
A new forecasting model from the Washington University in St. Louis is projecting that coronavirus cases in the U.S. could double within two months to a staggering 20 million cases. Currently, the U.S. has reported over 12 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The prediction come as vaccines race for emergency approval, experts warning that things will get worse in the coming weeks before they begin to get better, according to CNN. Currently, more than 3.1 million infections have been identified in the U.S. since the start of November, amounting to the most reported in a single month. Hospitalizations have also continued to climb across states and health officials have sounded the alarms on dwindling ICU beds and ventilators.
Six in 10 Americans have reined in this year’s Thanksgiving plans due to the pandemic, according to the latest poll from the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. The poll, which surveyed 1,002 Americans between Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, found that the most common changes were to limit spending the day with only the people in your immediate household or holding a smaller dinner than planned. In addition, for the first time in Axios’ poll, more than half of Americans said they were likely to take a first-generation COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was available. About two-thirds of respondents said seeing family or friends this holiday would pose a large or moderate threat, while three-fourths said traveling posed a large or moderate threat. In addition, about one in 10 of the respondents won’t observe Thanksgiving at all this year.
Kristi Mitchell, an Entergy volunteer, left, lifts one of the 4 frozen turkeys that were donated by Elizabeth Tillman at this north Jackson, Miss., Kroger grocery store, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, during the WAPT television station's ninth annual Turkey Drive 16. Tillman has donated four turkeys annually for over 10 years to help food drives. Volunteers staffed donation stations at the metro Jackson's Kroger stores to receive donations of turkeys, canned goods, cash and community care food boxes to benefit the Mississippi Food Network, who oversees distribution of food to local families in need. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is facing online backlash after mandating that passengers must be required to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before flying internationally with the Australian national carrier. Joyce announced that once a vaccine was distributed and made freely available, it would be non-negotiable for international passengers to receive a vaccination, according to SkyNews. He added that he would look into changing the airlines's terms and conditions to make it mandatory and also potentially establishing an electronic vaccination passport system. “What we’re looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you’re traveling to, so there’s a lot of logistics,” Joyce said on Monday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an apology on Monday for disregarding his own coronavirus guidelines. “I made a mistake being with a few extra people beyond the guidelines that I’ve been promoting, which is outside the household, so that was a mistake,” Newsom said. “And I let my guard down and I apologize for it.” Earlier this month, Newsom had dined at a restaurant in Napa Valley with members of other households. Photos of the event showed that none of the attendees were wearing masks or social distancing, according to Reuters, stirring up controversy as California has reimposed strict COVID-19 restrictions.
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Just days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic’s latest surge is showing no signs of slowing down. Another 169,190 new cases were recorded nationwide on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the cumulative cases total to nearly 12.5 million since the beginning of the outbreak. Cases are surging across parts of the Midwest, with Ohio, Michigan and Illinois tallying some of the highest totals on Monday as fears mount that Thanksgiving will turn into a national superspreader event. For a closer look at how the crisis is impacting the nation and the world, watch the video below.
South Korean officials are tightening physical distancing restrictions to help slow the spread of a third wave of COVID-19 in the country. According to UPI, more than 300 new cases were reported in the country on Tuesday and most of those came from the Seoul metropolitan area. The new restrictions call for gatherings of more than 100 people to be prohibited, while bars and nightclubs must suspend operations, UPI reported. The restrictions will last for at least the next two weeks. South Korea President Moon Jae-in said the restrictions are imperative to slow the spread before the situation worsens. "If you can't break the chain of infection right now, the damage will be even greater," he wrote, according to UPI. "The best way is to get rid of the coronavirus spread in the shortest possible time is to quickly apply distancing and quarantine measures."
On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a temporary field hospital in Staten Island will open due to the rising number of cases in the area. This 100-bed facility was originally set up in the spring during the initial wave of the coronavirus but did not need to be used, CNBC said. However, the significant uptick in cases across the region in recent weeks is forcing the emergency hospital to open its doors. “Staten Island is a problem,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “These are dangerous times that we’re in.” Over the past three weeks, hospitalizations across the state of New York due to COVID-19 have increased 122% and continue to climb ahead of the winter holidays, according to CNBC.
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