California Tightens Curbs; Cases Rise in 50 States: Virus Update

Moderna Inc. said a preliminary analysis of its Covid-19 vaccine suggested it’s almost 95% effective. It was another sign that a fast-paced hunt by scientists and pharmaceutical companies is paying off with potent new tools that could help control the pandemic.

The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is climbing in every state, with worsening infection counts forcing leaders to reverse course on reopening. California will put more than 94% of its population in its most restrictive tier for curbs, and New Jersey will further limit indoor and outdoor gatherings. Michigan imposed a three-week partial lockdown starting Wednesday.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel fell short in a push for tougher restrictions. Sweden is introducing its tightest curbs yet as cases spike, and France’s health minister said the country is regaining control of the epidemic thanks to the latest national lockdown.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 54.6 million; deaths 1.3 million
  • Moderna, Pfizer shots look strong; here’s how they stack up
  • Testing bottlenecks are again gripping the U.S. as virus surges
  • Tracking the virus’s spread, real economy and financial markets
  • Bloomberg is mapping coronavirus cases across the U.S.
  • Vaccine Tracker: Encouraging breakthroughs offer hope

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California Tightens Curbs; Cases Rise in 50 States: Virus Update

Biden Says Containing Virus Is Vital to Economy (4:40 p.m. NY)

President-elect Joe Biden said containing the coronavirus pandemic is key to the U.S. economic recovery, calling for cooperation between business and government in his first remarks on the economy since being elected.

Biden met with the chief executives of General Motors Co. and Microsoft Corp., as well as key labor leaders, as he begins to outline how to contain the virus and revive the economy during his administration. He lamented the lack of coordination with the outgoing administration as President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election has blocked an official transition.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said. He noted that recent positive news about vaccine effectiveness needs to be paired with the “huge undertaking” of getting a vaccine distributed. “If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind,” he said.

Texas Hospital Strain Intensifies (4 p.m. NY)

Texas’s virus hospitalizations climbed for an eighth straight day, reaching 7,274, the highest since Aug. 10, according to state health department figures. More than 6,300 new cases were logged.

In the state’s second-worst hot spot of Amarillo, 36% of hospital capacity is occupied by Covid-19 patients and there are just eight intensive-care beds available to serve a population of almost half a million. El Paso, which has been ravaged by the latest viral wave more than any other part of Texas, detected 1,550 new cases in the past 24-hour period and has 300 patients in ICU wards.

California Tightens Rules Across Most of State (3:30 p.m. NY)

California will put more than 94% of its population in its most restrictive tier for coronavirus limits after a surge in cases that is “simply without precedent,” Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Effective Tuesday, the state is moving 28 counties into the purple category in its four-tier system, indicating widespread transmission and requiring many indoor businesses to close. The regions affected include most of the San Francisco Bay area, San Diego and more rural counties. Los Angeles, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, has always been in the tightest category.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet.”

New infections soared 51% in just the first week of November alone, Newsom said. The state’s average test positivity rate has climbed to 4.6% from about 3% at the beginning of the month.

Philadelphia Shuts High Schools, Indoor Dining (2:53 p.m. NY)

Philadelphia is setting some of the nation’s tightest restrictions to stop the winter surge of the pandemic, closing high schools, colleges and museums, and ending indoor restaurant dining.

“We may be tired of Covid, but Covid’s not tired of us,” city Health Commissioner Tom Farley said in a statement.

Elementary and middle schools can remain open, and restaurants are allowed to offer takeout and delivered meals. But performance spaces, gyms, libraries, casinos and senior day service facilities must close down. The city is also proscribing recreational activities and sports for youth. It is setting tighter capacity limits on a wide variety of commerce and group activities that it is allowing to continue.

Philadelphia, with about 1.6 million residents, is following New Jersey, Michigan and Washington state in cracking down as cases soar across the U.S. The seven-day average of new cases climbed in every state in the U.S. on Sunday, as the count edges ever closer to 200,000 each day.

France ‘Gradually Regaining Control’ (2:20 p.m. NY)

France reported new confirmed Covid cases rose by 9,406 to 1.99 million, the smallest increase since Oct. 12. The seven-day average of infections fell for a ninth consecutive day to 26,251, reaching the lowest level in more than three weeks. Positive tests fell to 16.4%, declining more than 3 points in a week.

“We’re seeing this decline in France, we’re also seeing it in a number of neighboring countries that took lockdown measures,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said during a visit to Lyon-Bron airport to discuss transfers of Covid patients. “We are gradually regaining control over this epidemic.”

The country reported deaths linked to the virus increased by 506, to 45,054.

“If there are signs of improvement in terms of the epidemic, we haven’t beaten this virus yet,” the minister said. “There are severely ill patients in our hospitals every day.”

WHO Concerned About Europe, Americas (12:30 p.m. NY)

While there is encouraging news about Covid-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization remains cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools to start to arriving in the coming months.

The agency is “extremely concerned” by the surge in cases seen Europe and the Americas, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing Monday.

WHO officials reiterated the importance of vaccinating front-line workers around the world.

“Getting to vaccine efficacy is like building base camp at Everest,” said Kate O’Brien, who heads the WHO’s vaccination department. “But the climb to the peak is really about delivering the vaccines. The people who need to receive these vaccines are the focus now.”

NYC Schools to Stay Open Tuesday (11:06 a.m. NY)

New York City schools will be open Tuesday as the positive-test rate for Covid-19 remains below 3%, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The seven-day average positivity rate was 2.74% on Nov. 11, prompting de Blasio to warn parents that schools may be closed today. The rate dipped over the weekend, allowing schools to stay open for the time being. The latest average is 2.77%, de Blasio said Monday at a press briefing.

“We’ve got a fight ahead to keep them open,” the mayor said.

New York City has performed more than 300,000 Covid-19 tests in the past week. The seven-day average of new cases has jumped to more than 1,000, which is “very worrisome,” de Blasio said.

Sweden Introduces New Curbs (10:20 a.m. NY)

Sweden is introducing its toughest restrictions yet to fight the coronavirus pandemic, after a spike in new cases led to an influx of infected people filling intensive-care beds. From Nov. 24, public gatherings of more than eight people will be banned, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.

Sweden was one of the few countries to avoid a lockdown earlier this year, relying instead on voluntary measures. Lofven said the “unprecedented” response was needed if Sweden is to “curb transmission.”

Ireland Mulls Takeout Booze Ban (10 a.m. NY)

Ireland’s government is considering banning bars, which have been forced to close their doors, from selling takeout alcohol, broadcaster RTE reported. The move is being considered after social media footage showed groups gathering in Dublin city center streets drinking over the weekend.

New Jersey to Toughen Gathering Limits (8:50 a.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will further restrict indoor and outdoor gatherings after daily cases reached a record over the weekend. A maximum of 10 people can gather indoors, down from an earlier restriction of 25. The outdoor gatherings limit will drop to 150 from 500.

The state on Sunday counted a record 4,540 positive results, breaking its single-day record from April, when only symptomatic people were being screened. The state had about 9,000 new cases over the weekend and “it’s going to get worse,” Murphy said.

BioNTech Sees Pandemic Under Control by Mid-2022 (8:15 a.m. NY)

The world may be able to vaccinate enough people to get the coronavirus pandemic under control by mid-2022, said Ugur Sahin, chief executive officer of BioNTech, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine partner.

Countries will need to focus on immunizing as broadly as possible in the first six to eight months of 2021, Sahin said in an online forum hosted by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Moderna Says Vaccine May be ‘Game Changer’ (7 a.m. NY)

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective in a preliminary analysis of a large late-stage clinical trial. Analysis from more than 30,000 volunteers showed the vaccine prevented virtually all symptomatic cases of Covid-19.

Only five participants who received two doses of the vaccine became sick, compared with 90 coronavirus cases in participants who received a placebo. The vaccine also appeared to be effective in preventing the most serious infections.

“That for me is a game-changer,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said.

Moderna said its vaccine is stable at refrigerator temperatures for 30 days, much longer than a previously estimated seven days. For longer-term storage, it can be kept in freezers, though it doesn’t need the special facilities required for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

Iran Hits Record New Cases, Deaths (6:40 a.m. NY)

Iran reported record numbers of new daily coronavirus cases and deaths as it prepares to reinstate tight restrictions to combat a surge that’s overwhelmed hospitals and cemeteries. Some 13,053 new infections and 486 deaths were reported on Monday, the Health Ministry said.

On Sunday President Hassan Rouhani said “severe restrictions” will be imposed from Nov. 21 for two weeks.

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