N.Y. Monthly Cases Hit High; New Strain in Germany: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- New York state’s Covid-19 cases have reached a new monthly high. New York City hospitals continue to report increasing virus caseloads, reaching their highest levels since late May. Virginia reported record new cases for the second consecutive day. Minnesota surpassed 5,000 fatalities.
Germany identified its first case of the coronavirus variant that has emerged in the U.K. A study showed that the variant is 56% more transmissible than other strains, although there’s no clear evidence it results in more or less severe disease. China said it would pause flights to and from the U.K.
Mexico administered the first Covid-19 vaccine in Latin America in a live broadcast shown at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily press briefing. Chile and Costa Rica are also expected to start their vaccination campaigns Thursday, using Pfizer Inc. shots.
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Outbreaks at Colorado In-N-Out Burger Restaurants (4:35 p.m. NY)
At least 80 employees at two newly-opened outlets of In-N-Out Burgers have tested positive, the Denver Post reported, citing state data. The two outlets opened on Nov. 20. One in Aurora had reported 20 confirmed cases on Dec. 17 and another 16 probable. Another in Colorado Springs had 60 confirmed cases on Dec. 6 with another nine suspected, the newspaper said. Cases in Colorado have been declining steadily over the last month.
Tony Robbins Accused of Forcing Ill Employee Back After Covid-19 (4:11 p.m. NY)
Lifestyle and business guru Tony Robbins has been sued in New York federal court by an employee who says Robbins’ company refused reasonable accommodations as she recovered from Covid-19 and that Robbins took advantage of her situation to promote himself.
Despina Kosta, who worked for Robbins Research International for 18 years, most recently as a personal results specialist, sued Robbins, his wife, and his corporation after she says she was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator after contracting the virus. She said the company tried to cut her recovery time short, and that Robbins caused emotional distress by inquiring about her condition in order to publicize it.
Minnesota Passes 5,000 Fatalities (3:51 p.m. NY)
Minnesota surpassed 5,000 deaths on Thursday as it reported another 79 fatalities. The state recorded almost 1,400 deaths in December, the most deadly month by far in the pandemic. Like most states across the Midwest, cases and hospitalizations soared this fall in Minnesota but have been on a general decline. Fatalities, however, come later and appear to have peaked in Minnesota only in the last few days, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
UK’s Milton Keynes Testing Lab Suffers Outbreak, Sky Reports (3:20 p.m. NY)
Covid-19 cases have been reported in workers at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory, Sky News said, citing an employee at the facility who asked to remain anonymous, and a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care.
Cases have been reported in three of four testing teams, and among administrative and warehouse staff at the site, Sky said, noting that the number of people affected is not known.
Around 20 people in one 70-person lab team are currently isolating, according to the employee, who cited concerns that rules rules put in place to keep staff safe were being broken in order to meet testing targets.
Pompeo’s Wife Tested Positive as Cases Spiked (3 p.m. NY)
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s wife tested positive for the coronavirus, according to people familiar with the matter, after the couple came under criticism for holding parties at the State Department despite a nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Susan Pompeo contracted the virus, though she tested positive just before her husband announced Dec. 16 that he was going into quarantine for exposure, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. The State Department didn’t identify who had exposed the top U.S. diplomat to the virus, though it said he had tested negative.
California Cases Surpass 2 Million (2:53 p.m. NY)
California added 39,070 cases, the first state to cross 2 million infections. It also reported 351 new deaths for a total of 23,635.
The state’s test positivity reached 12.4%, the highest since the April peak. The number of available intensive-care unit beds hovered near record low levels with more than half of the state’s supply fully taken up as hospitalizations surged to a new high.
U.S. Deaths Could Near 420,000 by Mid-January, CDC Projects (2:19 p.m. NY)
The U.S. could reach as many as 419,000 Covid-19 deaths by Jan. 16, the Centers for Disease Control said in a forecast based on projections from 36 modeling groups. The lower end of the forecast was 378,000 deaths. Total U.S. deaths since the start of the pandemic are now more than 327,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Virginia Hits Record For Second Straight Day (2:09 p.m. NY)
Virginia reported 4,782 cases, breaking its record for new infections for the second consecutive day. The state also reported 2,577 hospitalizations, also a record, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. Cases around Washington, D.C. have surged in recent weeks.
French Cases Jump; Vaccinations to Begin Sunday (1:20 p.m. NY)
New virus cases in France jumped by 21,634 in the last 24 hours, according to data by Sante Publique France. It’s the largest single day increase since Nov. 20. But the positivity rate of the tests has been steadily decreasing, and it now stands at 3.8%, down from 6.4% on Dec. 8.
The French have rushed to get tested ahead of the holiday season and family gatherings.
France’s National Authority for Health on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 for people age 16 and older. The vaccination campaign kicks off on Sunday in Sevran near Paris and Dijon.
N.Y. Cases in December Hit Record (1:14 p.m. NY)
New York state’s Covid-19 cases have reached a new monthly high.
The state has posted more than 236,000 cases in December, more than the previous high of 224,602 reported in April, data show.
New York, the early center of the U.S. outbreak, is seeing a resurgence with colder weather and holidays. It has reported more than 12,000 daily cases twice in the past week. Its hospitalizations have climbed to 6,928 on Dec. 23, from 3,924 on Dec. 1.
U.K. Vaccinated More Than 600,000 (1:07 p.m. NY)
The U.K. said it has administered the first dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine to 616,933 people between Dec. 8 and Dec. 20, with care home residents, those aged 80 and above as well as health and social workers among the recipients.
The rate of vaccination will increase in the coming weeks as more doses become available and vaccine candidates from makers like Moderna and AstraZeneca get approved, the government’s Department of Health & Social Care said in a statement.
The country has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses.
N.Y.C. Hospitalizations Highest Since May (11:28 a.m. NY)
New York City hospitals continue to report increasing Covid-19 caseloads, reaching their highest levels since late May with 2,337 patients as of Tuesday, up from 2,241 the previous day, almost triple the number reported since Nov. 22, according to state health department data.
Among the city’s population, 3.36 persons per 100,000 were hospitalized as of Tuesday, an increase from 3.19 the previous day, and new daily hospitalizations on a seven-day average totaled 201, just above the city’s 200-patient hospital capacity warning threshold, the city health department reported. The city’s seven-day rate of positive tests for the virus stood at 6.29%, exceeding the 5% public health warning threshold.
Although newly reported cases decreased to 2,890 from 3,308 on a seven-day average, this may be due to a lag in the data collection said health department spokesman Patrick Gallahue. “The numbers are potentially influenced by external factors and there is a lag for certain metrics,” he said. “We continue to urge New Yorkers to follow the precautions to stay safe.”
Germany Identifies Case of U.K. Virus Mutation (11:02 a.m. NY)
Germany has identified its first case of a variant of the coronavirus that emerged in the U.K. that may be more transmissable that other strains.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, was discovered in a woman who traveled to Baden-Wuerttemberg from London via Frankfurt on Dec. 20, according to a spokesman for the state’s health ministry. The woman has shown mild symptoms and is isolating along with three others she came into contact with, he added.
Italy Passes 2 Million Cases (10:55 a.m. NY)
Italy surpassed 2 million virus cases Thursday, with 18,040 new infections and 505 deaths reported. The positive-test rate rose slighter to 9.3% from 8.3% while the number of deaths remains in line with previous days.
Mexico Broadcasts First Latin America Coronavirus Vaccinations (9:13 a.m. NY)
Mexico administered the first Covid-19 vaccine in Latin America on Thursday morning in a live broadcast from a hospital shown at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily press briefing.
The government will vaccinate close to 3,000 people today with Pfizer Inc. shots, which is all that arrived in Mexico on Wednesday, in what authorities are calling a trial run. Pfizer is expected to ship close to 50,000 more doses to Mexico next week.
Chile and Costa Rica are also expected to start their vaccination campaigns using Pfizer shots on Thursday.
France’s Macron No Longer Showing Symptoms (5:48 p.m. HK)
French President Emmanuel Macron is no longer showing Covid-19 symptoms, his office said in a statement. Macron has continued to work throughout his illness and will remain in isolation for another seven days, the Elysee Palace said. Macron tested positive on Dec. 17.
U.K. Has Vaccinated Over Half a Million in England (5:46 p.m. HK)
The U.K. has vaccinated more than half a million patients in England in under two weeks, the National Health Service said in a press release. A total of 521,594 people has received a shot since vaccination began Dec. 8 through Dec. 20, of whom most were 80 years and older.
New Virus Strain’s Transmissibility to Cause More Deaths (5:25 p.m. HK)
The mutated coronavirus strain that’s been spreading in the U.K. appears to be more contagious and will likely lead to higher levels of hospitalizations and deaths next year, a new study showed.
The variant is 56% more transmissible than other strains, according to the study by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. There’s no clear evidence that it results in more or less severe disease.
France-U.K. Channel Border to Remain Open Through Christmas (4:42 p.m. HK)
The U.K. and France agreed to keep the key Dover-Calais trade crossing, including Eurotunnel, open over Christmas. Both ports will remain operational to allow hauliers and citizens to “return home as soon as possible,” U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter Wednesday morning. Coronavirus testing will also continue in Kent, the county where Dover is located, he said.
China Halts Flights With U.K. Amid New Strain (3:46 p.m. HK)
China said it would pause flights to and from the U.K.
“Taking into consideration of the possible impact of the new strain, in order to safeguard the health of Chinese and foreign nationals, China has decided to suspend flights between China and the U.K. after taking references from the practices of other countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
Wang said authorities would “closely follow the situation and make adjustment in due course.” He didn’t elaborate on when the suspension would begin, or give further detail.
Israel Cabinet Approves Third Lockdown to Curb Virus Spread (2:55 p.m. HK)
Israel’s cabinet approved a third national lockdown of as long as four weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Stores, malls and most schools will be closed starting Sunday evening, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in the early hours of Thursday. The restrictions will be in place for two weeks, but if the basic reproduction number doesn’t fall below 1 and the number of new cases below 1,000, the lockdown will be extended another two weeks.
U.K. Study Says Tighter Restrictions Needed to Curb New Strain (11:22 a.m. HK)
A study by British researchers said the new coronavirus variant found in the country is 56% more contagious, which may require tighter control measures, including closing schools, and an accelerated vaccine rollout to contain its spread, the New York Times reported.
The study by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found no evidence that the variant was more deadly than others. To reduce the burden on hospitals, Britain may need to increase its vaccination rate to 2 million people a week, from the current pace of 200,000, the report said.
Mexico Begins Vaccinating Health Workers (10:07 a.m. HK)
Mexico plans to vaccinate 2,975 health care workers in Covid-19 units on Dec. 24, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Wednesday night, after the nation received 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier in the day. The next shipment will be 50,000 doses, with periodic deliveries to reach 1.4 million by the end of January. Lopez-Gatell said the vaccine will be free and universal in Mexico.
Mexico’s Health Ministry reported 11,653 new Covid-19 cases, pushing its total above 1.35 million.
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