The daily U.S. coronavirus death toll rocketed past 2,000 on Wednesday as weeks of rising infection totals are beginning to translate into fatality numbers not seen since May. In other signs the pandemic is only getting worse, Chicago neared a lockdown and California surpassed 1 million infections.
A fall uptick in cases is now killing Americans almost as quickly as the worst week of the summer surge. After that, deaths will be comparable only to the spring surge, when for more than a week daily deaths averaged over 2,000.
President Donald Trump and others had brushed aside the current jump in daily infections, saying improved treatments have lessened COVID-19’s deadly impact. And for awhile the average daily death total was well below 1,000.
That was then, this is now. The sheer number of infections has driven hospitalizations to record levels. And in the last two days alone, more than 3,200 deaths have been reported.
Here is today’s latest news:
- Face mask mandates are gaining momentum among Republican governors in Iowa, Utah and Ohio.
- California will soon become the second state to surpass 1 million cases of the coronavirus, which is forcing the state to roll back reopening plans.
- New Zealand partially shuts central Auckland over mystery COVID-19 case, The Guardian reports.
- Ticketmaster is working on a plan to safely allow people to return to concerts in 2021 by verifying if they tested negative for COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, Billboard reported.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 10.45 million cases and 242,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 53 million cases and 1.28 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
California joins Texas in the 1 million club
California followed Texas by one day in becoming Thursday the second state to record at least 1 million cases of COVID-19.
The nation’s most populous state, California had largely avoided the early part of the fall coronavirus surge engulfing much of the country until infections started multiplying lately. That has forced officials to undergo a massive U-turn in the effort to fully reopen.
Eleven counties were ordered this week to drop a notch on the state’s tiered reopening schedule. San Diego and two other counties, Sacramento and Stanislaus, join Los Angeles County on the lowest rung of the four-step ladder. At the bottom, restrictions include no indoor dining at restaurants or indoor church services.
California still ranks low in the number of cases per 100,000 residents — 37th in the nation with 2,534 — but state health officials saw a danger sign in an increase in the rate of positive tests to 4.2 over a week, the highest it has been since early September. The rise has accompanied a 31% increase in COVID-related hospitalizations in the last 14 days.
“We’re seeing too many people with faces uncovered,” an exasperated Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Wearing a face covering is critical for keeping people safe and healthy, keeping businesses open and getting people back to work. Do your part. Wear your mask.”
— Chris Woodyard
Chicago inches closer to lockdown with stay-at-home advisory
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new “Protect Chicago” initiative Thursday, featuring a stay-at-home advisory set to go into effect Monday morning.
The city “strongly advised” residents to only leave home to go to work or school, to seek medical care, go to the grocery store or pharmacy, pick up take-out food or receive deliveries, according to the mayor’s office.
Residents were advised not to have gatherings at home with people outside of their households, to avoid all non-essential travel and cancel in-person Thanksgiving celebrations. The city was also imposing new restrictions to limit meetings and social events to 10 people, both indoors and outdoors, including events such as weddings, birthday parties, business dinners, social events and funerals.
The city also mandated early closure of non-essential businesses at 11 p.m.
“I am more worried about COVID right now than I have been at any point since March,” said Allison Arwady, chief medical officer at Chicago Department of Public Health. “We’re in uncharted territory … We’re not set up for this level of outbreak.”
– Grace Hauck
Bon voyage? More like breve voyage.
One of the first Caribbean cruises since the pandemic began was brief indeed as the SeaDream 1 had to cut short its trip when at least five passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. The ship had to return Wednesday to Barbados, from where it initially sailed Saturday, when the first signs of the outbreak were spotted.
The ship is carrying about 120 passengers and crew, most from the U.S., and had to dock off Barbados on Thursday while local authorities conducted testing. Parent company SeaDream Yacht Club said all crew members have tested negative and passengers are under quarantine while in the process of being tested.
Germany and France see progress, but infections soaring in Britain
There are mixed results in the efforts by some of the most powerful Europeans countries to control the latest surge of coronavirus cases.
The outbreak appears to be slowing in Germany and France, although hospitals remain crowded and are likely to face further strain in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Britain is struggling mightily, reporting its biggest one-day increase Thursday — 33,470 new infections, or 10,520 more than the previous day. More than 50,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the UK, Europe’s deadliest toll.
Countries across the continent have implemented lockdown measures of varying intensity in recent weeks as they try to tamp down a second wave of the pandemic, with numbers of confirmed cases hitting records.
German officials are expressing cautious optimism that the anti-spread steps they took last week, including closing bars, restaurants and sports facilities, are helping contain the virus. France has also implemented restrictions, among them requiring that most adults stay at home for all but one hour a day. Schools remain open.
Glen Deshields, a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine volunteer in Texas, said the side effects of the shot were more severe than he expected, but he urged Americans to get the vaccine “as soon as you can.” Deshields, appearing on “Fox & Friends,” said after the first of the two-shot treatment he had a headache, fatigue and pain on the injection site for three or four days. The second shot produced similar issues but not as severe, he said.
This week Pfizer reported that its vaccine has been found to be 90% effective against COVID-19, with more than 43,000 people being tested around the world. Deshields tweeted that his grandfather once told him “one of his first memories was of bells ringing to mark the end of WWI. If true, this is that kind of moment. I am honored to be a part of this trial.”
The nation’s preeminent infectious disease expert says the pandemic won’t be around “a lot longer” but probably won’t be eradicated either. Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking at a virtual health conference Thursday, said public health officials might need to “maintain control chronically” over COVID-19.
“It may be something that becomes endemic that we have to just be careful about,” Fauci said. “Certainly it’s not going to be a pandemic for a lot longer because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around.”
U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its collaborator BioNTech released early study results Monday indicating that their vaccine candidate prevented more than 90% of infections with the virus that causes COVID-19. If all goes well, FDA approval could come as soon as next month, but mass distribution of any vaccines remains months away.
A record 143,231 infections were reported Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data. It was the ninth straight day the count surpassed 100,000. Before that, the U.S. had never reached six figures. For days, nearly every state, or every state, has reported rising case counts. Nearly two-thirds of the states are reporting cases faster than they ever have before.
On Wednesday, seven states reported record death tolls for the latest week. The latest U.S. daily death total of 2,005 puts the seven-day total at 7,956. That’s the worst since the summer surge in August – and we’re on a path to quickly surpass it.
– Michael Stucka
Employees who choose to work remotely should pay a tax to help those workers on low incomes who cannot, according to a research report from Deutsche Bank. The report titled “What We Must Do to Rebuild” says employees who work from home receive immediate financial benefits, including reduced costs for travel, food and clothing. The report suggests the employer would pay the tax if it does not provide the worker with a permanent desk. Otherwise, the employee would pay the tax.
“Our calculations suggest the amounts raised could fund material income subsidies for low-income earners who are unable to work remotely and thus assume more ‘old economy’ and health risks,” said Jim Reid, global head of fundamental credit strategy and thematic research at Deutsche Bank.
– Brett Molina
Experts urge Americans to get flu shots now
The flu season so far appears mild, but health experts warn that if a feared “twindemic” of COVID-19 and the flu materializes, it could overwhelm hospitals and further strain health care professionals already stretched thin in their battle against COVID-19. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but activity generally peaks between December and February and can last as late as May. Melissa Nolan, an infectious disease expert and professor at the University of South Carolina, said the Southern Hemisphere flu seasons was mild but revealed that “co-infections” of COVID-19 and flu are more likely to result in severe illness than infections of one or the other.
“We are hopeful that the United States will also experience a mild influenza season,” she said. “But we still recommend everyone get their flu shot.”
New York City faces more restrictions as cases, hospitalizations surge again
New York City, the nation’s first virus “hot spot,” is facing new restrictions as infections and hospitalizations are again climbing. Bars, restaurants and gyms statewide must close at 10 p.m. daily, beginning Friday.
“This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “We can do it, but we have to act NOW.”
New York State Restaurant Association CEO Melissa Fleischut called the latest restrictions a “huge blow.” But Gov. An-drew Cuomo said the outbreak across New York state was getting worse by the day.
“The fall surge is here. We are taking action but we need New Yorkers to do their part,” Cuomo said. “Wear a mask. Get tested. Follow all health guidelines. Take this seriously.”
USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting spent five months piecing together the pivotal moments in the Triumph Foods outbreak, interviewing more than a dozen current and former workers and examining thousands of pages of government records.
The reporting found Triumph, the second-largest pork processing plant in the country, failed to respond with effective safeguards during a crucial period from mid-March to mid-April that could have contained the spread of COVID-19. And local health officials, who received complaints from employees and their family members, missed several opportunities to investigate. They instead took the company’s word that it was doing all it could to protect its workers. Read more here.
Mask mandates gain momentum among GOP governors
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, this week ordered masks for most public gatherings. Reynolds, who has long resisted calls from health professionals to issue a statewide mask mandate, cited the strain the surge in the state has placed on hospitals.
Republicans including Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio also issued mask mandates.
But in South Dakota, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken stepped in to break a 4-4 tie with the city council, rejecting a mask requirement. He cited the city of Fargo, North Dakota’s mask mandate, which he said has “made little to no impact.”
Gates Foundation spending $70M to aid vaccinations in developing nations
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced another $70 million would go to global efforts to develop and distribute vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. The funding includes $50 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, working to secure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries. Another $20 million will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to advance research and jumpstart the development of promising vaccine candidates.
Numerous vaccine candidates are already in the works, and one or more could gain FDA approval as soon as next month. The distribution of the vaccines remains a complex and not fully resolved issue.
New Jersey health officials are blaming Halloween parties for at least five COVID-19 outbreaks. Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the state Health Department, told CNN the outbreaks include 70 cases from Halloween parties and other gatherings among students. Leusner said all social gatherings outside of immediate family are a concern. Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted a warning that “we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.” Leusner preached the same message.
“If you let your guard down, you could be exposed and not even know it if someone is asymptomatic,” Leusner said.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus earlier this week. Zelenskiy and the head of the presidential office, Andriy Yermak, are being treated at Kyiv’s Feofaniya Clinical Hospital, a spokesman told the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda. An office has been set up in his hospital room and Zelenskiy continues to perform presidential duties. The virus has infected more than 500,000 Ukraines and killed over 9,000.
“There are no lucky people for whom #COVID19 does not pose a threat,” Zelenskiy tweeted. “Despite all the quarantine measures, I received a positive test. I feel good & take a lot of vitamins. Promise to isolate myself, but keep working. I will overcome COVID19 as most people do. It’s gonna be fine!”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. Grewal tested positive using a rapid test, but a follow-up PCR test came back negative, said Steven Barnes, a spokesman. PCR tests can be more reliable than other types of tests.
Barnes said Grewal, who was asymptomatic, came into contact Monday with a staff member who later tested positive.
Grewal had tweeted Tuesday that “We are in the Supreme Court to defend the Affordable Care Act.” Barnes, however, later said that Grewal had not been in the courtroom for the oral arguments.
– Scott Fallon, NorthJersey.com
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press