U.S. Poised for Vaccine, Outbreak Set to Worsen: Virus Update
All Americans who want a Covid-19 vaccination should be able to get one by the second quarter of next year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. Rudy Giuliani has tested positive, President Donald Trump tweeted. Records broke Sunday in California, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Even as vaccines roll out -- with the first shots possible Friday -- the U.S. outbreak is expected to worsen, potentially reaching 400,000 fatalities by the end of January, said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Pfizer Inc. board member.
In the U.K., shots will begin on Tuesday. Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip will both reportedly get shots within weeks, partly to encourage others to have the injections. The government also said that a no-deal Brexit won’t affect supplies.
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West Virginia Hits Record for Second Day (4:12 p.m. NY)
West Virginia reported 1,425 new cases, the second consecutive day of record infections. As cases have surged, the number of people in the hospital and in intensive-care wards has roughly doubled in the last month. Nine more people died, amid a surge in fatalities.
New York State Cases Slow (3:47 p.m. NY)
New York state reported 9,702 cases, the second consecutive day the number of infections has fallen. The statewide positive-test rate has also fallen for a second straight day, to 4.7%, though in two areas of Westchester county, just north of the city, positivity rounds off to 11%.
Hospitalizations rose to 4,442, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. Another 56 people died.
Giuliani Tests Positive, Trump Tweets (3:29 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said his attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been leading efforts to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 general election, has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
Trump wished the 76-year-old former New York mayor well in a tweet on Sunday, saying “we will carry on!!!”
Last Words of Warning from Alabama State Senator (3:24 p.m. NY)
Larry Dixon, a retired and prominent state senator in Alabama, left some last words of warning before he died last week from Covid-19 at age 78. Dixon for years headed the state board that oversaw the medical profession.
“We messed up,” Dixon, a Republican, was quoted saying as by Al.com, citing a friend who is a medical doctor. “We just let our guard down. Please tell everybody to take this thing seriously and get help as soon as you get the virus.”
Alabama last week hit a record number of almost 4,000 daily cases.
California Adds Record Cases as ICU Availability Slumps (2:26 p.m. NY)
California added a record 30,075 cases for a total of 1.3 million. New infections are almost twice the 14-day average of 17,119, also a new high.
The state reported 85 deaths, bringing its fatality count to 19,876. The positive-test rate rose to 8.1%, one of the highest levels since the April peak. The new patients are starting to put a strain on its medical facilities, where its available intensive-care unit beds decreased by 61 to 1,567, its lowest since the start of the outbreak.
France’s Pace of Infections Rises for Second Day (1:24 p.m. NY)
France reported 11,022 new cases, as the seven-day average increased for a second day to 10,573. Deaths rose by 174 to 55,155, the smallest increase in six weeks, while the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care continued to decline from a mid-November peak.
North Carolina Breaks Record Again (1:18 p.m. NY)
North Carolina reported 6,438 new cases, breaking a record for the third time in the last four days, state data show. The number of people in the hospital rose to new highs for the fourth straight day, to a total of 2,191.
Governor Roy Cooper tweeted after the record set Saturday that “we’re examining what action may be needed to protect North Carolinians but we need everyone to wear masks and follow safety measures. Our actions right now are life and death.”
Virginia Hits Record for Second Straight Day (12:56 p.m. NY)
Virginia reported 3,880 new cases, breaking a record for the second consecutive day. The state’s seven-day average of new cases is running at double the level of a month ago amid spikes in neighboring Maryland and Washington, D.C. Hospitalizations have also surged, to about 1,800. Governor Ralph Northam said on Twitter Friday that “our hospitals currently have capacity — but let’s not test that.”
U.S. Outbreak Has Not Peaked Yet, Gottlieb Says (12:29 p.m. NY)
Covid-19 numbers are expected to get worse over the next four to six weeks, Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Pfizer Inc. board member, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Infections are not likely to peak until the end of December or into January while deaths probably will peak in the middle of January, he said.
By year end, Covid-19 deaths may reach 300,000 and by the end of January may be pushing 400,000, he said. Daily deaths consistently may be around 2,000 and could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 heading into the peak in January, he said.
Chicago Mayor Cites Gains in Curbing Outbreak With Worries Ahead (12:13 p.m. NY)
Chicago’s stay-at-home advisory is helping bring down the numbers but the city is “still nervously watching” in case a post-Thanksgiving surge shows up, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Daily cases, which have declined to around 1,300 from over 2,000, are not the level the city wants but are a “significant improvement,” she said.
Chicago’s 30-day stay-at-home advisory went into effect Nov. 16. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker a few days later followed up with statewide restrictions that banned activities including indoor dining and has not set an end date.
The number of cases in Black and Latino communities is still a concern given health disparities, and the city plans to work with local leaders to educate residents whose confidence in vaccinations may be low, she said.
U.K. Cases Highest in 10 Days (12:07 p.m. NY)
U.K. infections rose by 17,272 on Sunday, the highest since Nov. 26 and 20% above the seven-day average of 14,400.
Images circulating online of busy shopping streets in the run-up to Christmas and a period of looser restrictions during the festive season have sparked concerns that infections could surge again toward the end of the year. Another 231 deaths were reported, down from 397 on Saturday.
Bavaria Tightens Lockdown (11:53 a.m. NY)
The German state of Bavaria is tightening its coronavirus lockdown regime, mostly banning people from leaving their homes starting from Dec. 9 and formally declaring a “disaster situation.”
Previous and existing measures haven’t sufficiently brought down infections in the region, the Bavarian government said in a statement on Sunday. Under the new rules, people will only be allowed to leave their homes if they have a valid reason.
New Jersey Hits Record (11:47 a.m. NY)
New Jersey reported a record 6,046 new cases as infections continue a steady acceleration. Total hospitalizations were 3,241, a slight decrease from the previous day. The latest positive-test rate posted on the state Covid-19 website was 11.65%, a decrease from several days ago. Another 16 people died, for a total of 15,485.
Italy’s Outbreak Slows (11:24 a.m. NY)
Italy’s outbreak continued to slow on Sunday as the government prepares to ramp up restrictions ahead of the Christmas holiday season. The country reported 18,887 new infections compared 20,648 a week ago, and hospital and intensive therapy occupation also declined. The positivity rate rose to 11.6% amid lower-than-usual testing at Sunday. Deaths fell to 564 compared 662 on Saturday.
NYC Reports Increase in New Cases, Hospitalizations (10:59 a.m. NY)
New York City’s outbreak continues to spread: Mayor Bill de Blasio reported 2,264 new infections and 165 new hospitalizations, both increases over the previous day. The city’s positive-test rate ticked up slightly to 5.1%.
HHS Chief Sees Vaccine for All Americans by Second Quarter (10:38 a.m. NY)
All Americans who want to get a Covid-19 vaccine should be able to do so by the second quarter of next year, Health and Human Services Alex Azar said.
With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to decide as early as Thursday on emergency authorization for a shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, Azar and Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government’s program to accelerate a vaccine, expressed confidence that the FDA would clear the way.
“I’ve not heard of any red flags,but I’ll have to leave that to the career scientists at the FDA who were digging through all the data,” Azar said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Most Californians to Enter Lockdowns (9:11 a.m. NY)
Stay-at-home orders will come into effect in Southern California and San Joaquin Valley at 11:59 p.m., local time, after intensive-care capacity fell below a 15% threshold in both regions.
The orders affect about 33 million people, or 84% of the state’s population, according to the Los Angeles Times. The restrictions, lasting at least three weeks, will mean shutdowns of bars, hair salons, live-audience sport and other activities. Los Angeles and San Diego are both in Southern California.
Five San Francisco Bay Area counties will also soon begin restrictions. Their intensive-care capacity is still above the state-set 15% trigger level.
U.S. Suffers Fourth Day of 200,000-Plus Cases (8:00 a.m. NY)
The U.S. added 213,877 new cases on Saturday, the fourth consecutive day of infections above 200,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The number was below the record set the day before of 228,419 -- and weekend reporting is often lower. The seven-day average of cases is now more than 191,300, a 16% increase over the previous week.
Another 2,301 people died, the fifth consecutive day above 2,000. A record of 2,867 fatalities was recorded on Thursday.
Iran Deaths Fall Below 300 (6:49 p.m. HK)
Iran’s daily death toll dipped below 300 for the first time in six weeks, with 294 fatalities overnight. The number of new infections fell for a third straight day to 11,561. The country now has 50,310 deaths and 1,040,547 known cases, the Health Ministry reported.
U.K. Readies for Possible No-Deal Brexit (6:23 p.m. HK)
Supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine won’t be disrupted by a no-deal Brexit, U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky TV’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show.
“We’ve got many contingency plans in place,” he said. “There won’t be any effect on the deployment of this vaccine from a no-deal Brexit.”
A government-procured ferry is on standby and the option of air freight is also available, Eustice said. Military aircraft could be used to transport vaccines made in Belgium if seaports are clogged up, the Guardian said.
The U.K.’s medicine regulator is also prepared for any Brexit outcome, Chief Executive June Raine said on BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr Show.”
People should have “no doubt whatever that this is a very safe and highly effective vaccine,” Raine said. She runs the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
Danish PM Flags Potential New Curbs (6:04 p.m HK)
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a Facebook post that the government may impose tougher restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The nation registered 2,115 new cases on Saturday.
Poland Cases Cool Amid School Shutdowns (5:44 p.m. HK)
Polish Covid-19 deaths dipped to 228 in the last 24 hours from 502 on Saturday, potentially indicating the virus is loosening its grip on central and eastern Europe’s largest economy. New infections fell to a daily average of 11,196 this week from 17,677 last week. The country’s schools remain closed. Shopping centers reopened on Nov. 28.
Queen Elizabeth II to Receive Vaccine (4:42 p.m. HK)
Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her husband, Prince Philip, 99, will likely receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine within weeks, the MailOnline reported Sunday. The royal couple will then make their vaccination public, a move health officials believe could help combat anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that have left some Britons skeptical about taking the jab, the paper said. In 1957, the Queen let it be known that Prince Charles and Princess Anne had received polio vaccines, helping build public support, the paper said.
Celebrities such as Monty Python founder Michael Palin, Bob Geldof and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood have all signaled they will get the vaccine, the Mirror reported.
The U.K. has bought 40 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate 20 million people on the two-dose regimen. The shots will be given in order of priority, with the first going to those in care homes, including workers, and people over 80 years old.
More than 1,000 centers across the country will provide shots over the coming weeks, under the government plan. The first jab is due to be given on Tuesday.
Switzerland Readies Vaccination Plans (4:30 p.m. HK)
Covid-19 vaccinations will begin in Switzerland next month and should be completed by the summer, Virginie Masserey, the head of infection control at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, told Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The nation’s 26 cantons will oversee distribution, and up to 70,000 vaccinations per day are planned.
Russia Sets New Record for Cases (4:21 p.m. HK)
Russia reported a record 29,039 new Covid-19 cases in the past day, according to data from the government’s virus-response center. That exceeded the previous high of 28,782 set a day earlier and brings the total infected to 2,460,770, the fourth-most worldwide.
Widespread vaccination of front-line workers and other high-risk people started on Saturday in Moscow.
U.K. May Loosen Covid Curbs Before March-End (4:02 p.m. HK)
The U.K. may be able to ease coronavirus restrictions by the end of March following the approval of a vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Telegraph.
Having a vaccine “will bring forward the moment when we can get rid of these blasted restrictions,” he said. “But until then we have got to follow them.”
The government will also start a large-scale advertising campaign, fronted by celebrities and other trusted voices, before Christmas to support vaccination efforts, Hancock said.
South Korea Tightens Curbs as Cases Hit Nine-Month High (2:53 p.m. HK)
The social-distancing alert for the greater Seoul area was raised to 2.5 from 2, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Sunday. All gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned, and restaurants will continue to be prohibited from serving customers after 9 p.m. and can do only takeouts and deliveries. No spectators will be allowed into sporting events.
South Korea confirmed 631 cases on Sunday, the highest in nine months, while total deaths rose by five to 545, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The greater Seoul area — which covers the capital, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province — is home to almost half of South Korea’s population, and Chung acknowledged the disruption that the latest move would cause.
“The situation in the greater Seoul area is serious,” Chung said at a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures meeting in Seoul City Hall. “The 2.5 level will be maintained for the next three weeks until the end of the year.”
Pfizer Seeking Emergency-Use Approval for Vaccine in India (1:09 p.m. HK)
Pfizer India has applied to India’s drug regulator for emergency-use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine, after the company’s parent received clearance for the treatment from Britain and Bahrain, Press Trust of India reported.
The company is seeking to import the vaccine for sale and distribution in India without the requirement for clinical trials on local people, in accordance with the special provisions under the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019, the news agency said, citing an unidentified official. Pfizer is the first drugmaker to seek the approval in India and submitted the application on Dec. 4, the report said
Australian Police Blamed for Two Quarantine Dodgers (12:14 p.m. HK)
Australian state police were to blame for two German nationals avoiding mandatory hotel quarantine upon arrival in Sydney before they took a flight to Melbourne.
New South Wales Police reviewed the circumstances of the incident and identified they “had incorrectly allowed the two travelers to proceed to Melbourne,” the force said in a statement Sunday. “Police practices and systems at the airport have also been reviewed and strengthened as a result of this incident.”
The pair -- a 53-year-old woman and 15-year-old boy -- arrived at Sydney International Airport at 9:45 a.m. Saturday from Tokyo and were screened, police said. After being cleared, all travelers were directed toward a bus to hotel quarantine but the duo advised police they were booked on a flight to Melbourne, according to the statement.
U.S. Covid Shots Could Begin Friday, Doctor Says (2:21 p.m. NY)
The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine could be in use in the U.S. by Friday if the Food and Drug Administration approves an emergency use authorization, James Hildreth, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told NBC News.
The panel is scheduled to vote on the matter after reviewing the vaccine’s data at a meeting on Thursday.
“If the FDA Commissioner decides to issue approval, the EUA, on that day when the vote is taken, as early as Friday of next week we could see vaccinations happening across the country,” Hildreth said on NBC’s “Weekend Today.
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