New Strain Enters California; NYC Positive Rate Up: Virus Update
Pedestrian wear protective masks while walking past stores in the Manly suburb of Sydney, Australia. (Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg)

New Strain Enters California; NYC Positive Rate Up: Virus Update

The new strain of Covid-19 first identified in the U.K. has been found in California, Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. A second possible case of the highly transmissible variant is being investigated in Colorado, a day after the state reported the first-known victim in the U.S.

Covid cases in New York City are approaching a seven-day average positivity rate of 8%, the highest in more than seven months, and city hospitals are admitting more than 200 people a day for Covid-like illness. Meanwhile, California reported 432 deaths from the virus on Tuesday, marking a daily record, and a temperature snag delayed shipments of the Moderna Inc. vaccine to Texas.

Overall, the U.S. vaccination effort is falling short of its goals in its first few weeks. The country is immunizing an average of only 200,000 people a day, and many states have used just a small percentage of the shipments sent them this month.

The AstraZeneca Plc-University of Oxford vaccine was cleared for use in the U.K., adding a homegrown weapon to help slow the pandemic. Argentina then became the second country to approve the vaccine, and the first in Latin America.

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New Strain Enters California; NYC Positive Rate Up: Virus Update

California Finds a Case of the New Strain (4:45 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that the new highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 has been detected in a patient in Southern California.

Newsom made the announcement on a virtual conversation with Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Health officials in Colorado are investigating a second possible case of the new strain in that state.

“I’m not surprised that you have a case,” Fauci told Newsom. “We likely will be seeing reports from other states too.”

New York’s Cuomo Sees Need to Reopen (4:30 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported a new daily high of 13,422 cases of Covid-19 as he stressed the need to reopen the economy long before the majority of the population is vaccinated.

Of the nearly 155,000 tests conducted statewide on Tuesday, 8.66% were positive, including hot-spot areas. The state conducted fewer tests than it has in recent weeks, Cuomo said Wednesday.

About 203,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose of the vaccine. It may take a year to reach critical mass, and the state can’t keep the economy closed for that long, the governor said. The state is testing a program that would allow businesses to stay open with rapid testing.

South Africa Infections Hit Record (4:15 p.m. NY)

South Africa reported a record 17,710 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative total to 1.04 million.

The number of people who’ve died after being diagnosed with the disease rose by 465 to 28,033, the health ministry said. The test positivity stood at 33%, which was a “major concern,” it said.

California Reports Record Deaths (2:55 pm. NY)

California reported 432 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said, marking a daily record for the most-populous state as it struggles with its worst-ever outbreak.

Hospitalizations are at a record high and intensive-care capacity in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remain at surge levels, Newsom said at a briefing Wednesday. He also announced steps toward reopening schools in coming months.

There are signs infections may be plateauing, with the state reporting 30,921 new daily cases, less than the 14-day average of about 39,000. Still, Newsom said he is concerned about a “surge on top of a surge” from holiday gatherings.

Ohio No Longer Quarantining Covid-Exposed Students (2:49 p.m. NY)

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says a study done in the state’s schools in November and December showed no discernible difference in transmission between students who sat near a Covid-exposed peer and those who sat further away.

The rate was about 3% in either case, suggesting little linkage and that most exposure was likely happening outside the schools. The state is also extending its 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on many retail/dining activities three more weeks, to Jan. 23.

Argentina Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine (1:53 p.m. NY)

Argentina became the second country in the world and the first in Latin America to approve the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.

The vaccine was given approval for emergency use over the course of the next year, according to a statement by Argentina’s health regulator ANMAT. The shot presents an adequate “risk-benefit” balance and will be available only with a medical prescription, it added.

Argentina, alongside Mexico, reached an agreement in August to produce the vaccine for Latin America. The countries will make 150 million to 250 million initial doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. The U.K. approved the vaccine earlier.

Spain Records Highest Number of Cases (1:32 p.m. NY)

Spain on Wednesday said 9,860 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed over the previous day, the highest number reported since the start of the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Spain became the fourth European country to record more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths. Spaniards started getting the vaccine on Sunday, and officials said the country will track people who refuse to take it.

Ireland Set for Third Lockdown (1:30 p.m. NY)

Ireland will enter lockdown for a third time, as the Covid-19 spread threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

The government will close non-essential stores, further limit travel and delay school reopening, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in an televised national address. Gyms, golf courses and tennis clubs will also close. The measures will last for at least one month.

Second U.S. Case of Variant Covid Strain Suspected (1 p.m. NY)

Colorado public health authorities have identified a second possible case of the highly transmissible U.K. variant of Covid-19, one day after reporting the first known victim in the U.S.

The initial case, found in a man in his 20s, was confirmed Tuesday. The second potential case is still under evaluation and not yet confirmed, according to state science director Emily Travanty.

Both patients are members of the Colorado National Guard who were deployed to a care facility in Simla, where 100% of residents had tested positive for Covid-19, state officials said in a briefing. Public health officials are working to determine whether the mutated form of the virus, known as B.1.1.7, is circulating within the facility, said Rachel Herlihy, state chief epidemiologist.

Neither of the National Guard members traveled internationally, and both are isolating.

New York City Hospitals Admitting 200 People a Day (12:30 p.m. NY)

New York City’s percentage of positive Covid-19 tests is approaching a seven-day average of 8%, the highest in more than seven months. The average was less than 3% as recently as Nov. 10.

City hospitals are admitting more than 200 people a day for Covid-like illness, based on a seven-day average, and about 60% are testing positive. The number of people typically admitted to city hospitals during this time of year with such symptoms is about 100.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that the city’s recovery is dependent on the vaccination program. As of today, 78,530 people in the city have received the first dose of the vaccine. That’s about 20% of the total delivered.

Temperature Snag Delays Texas Vaccine Shipments (11:29 a.m. NY)

At least three shipments of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Texas last week with signs the shots had strayed from their required temperature range, prompting a delay in other deliveries, according to the state hospital association. It was unclear how many doses were affected.

Some Moderna vaccine shipments that were set for delivery last week were held back over the temperature issue, said Carrie Kroll, vice president of advocacy, quality and public health at the Texas Hospital Association. The U.S. replaced the shipments and held back other deliveries because of a potential problem with the temperature sensors, Kroll said.

A Moderna spokesman referred questions to the federal government and McKesson Corp., which is distributing Moderna’s shots. Spokespersons for the CDC and McKesson said they were looking into the matter.

First African Nation Distributes Russian Vaccine (11:09 a.m. NY)

Guinea began administering Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine this week, making it the first African nation to begin dispensing shots.

The first phase of the vaccination campaign will see 55 people receiving two doses each within a three-week interval, Health Minister Remy Lamah said by telephone. Government officials, including ministers and presidential staff, and senior army officers, will be among the first inoculated, he said.

Guinea intends undertaking a large-scale vaccination program next year.

Scotland Hits Highest Daily Case Count (10:21 a.m. NY)

Scotland recorded the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic began, 2,045 in the past 24 hours.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to stay at home for the traditional Hogmanay year-end celebrations. The country entered a new lockdown on Dec. 26, with non-essential stores and hospitality closing and the school vacation extended.

Sweden Says U.K. Travelers Need Negative Test (9:41 a.m. NY)

Sweden is toughening the entry requirements for certain travelers from the U.K. after the emergence of a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.

From Jan. 1, any persons with an exemption from a U.K. entry ban will have to show a negative test result before they are allowed to travel to Sweden, according to Interior Minister Mikael Damberg. The new measure does not apply to Swedish citizens or those transporting goods.

“Today’s decision is an important tool for reducing the risk of infection and is also in line with the European Commission’s new recommendation,” Damberg said at a news conference.

EU Will Shut Door to U.K. Travelers at End of Brexit Transition (8:23 a.m. NY)

The U.K. is set to join the U.S., Canada and most other countries whose residents are unwelcome visitors to the European Union because they haven’t sufficiently contained the coronavirus outbreak.

While EU states set their own entry requirements, the 27-member group has sought a coordinated approach to limit external access while keeping internal borders open. The U.K., which left the EU on Jan. 31, has effectively been treated as a member during the Brexit transition period.

Italy Deaths Surged in November (7:57 a.m. NY)

Italy in November saw the sharpest increase in total deaths since the country was first hit by the pandemic in February.

Deaths from all causes last month were 48% higher than the average for the previous five years, national statistics bureau Istat said in a report. Since the end of February, Covid-19 related deaths were about 9.5% of the total, it said.

New Strain Puts Pressure on U.K. Hospitals (6:44 a.m. NY)

A surge in the number of Covid-19 patients in the U.K. risks overwhelming the country’s hospitals as a new and more transmissible strain infects the population at a record pace.

There were 20,426 coronavirus patients being treated in England’s hospitals as of early Monday, already exceeding the peak recorded in April during the first wave of the pandemic, according to the most recent figures from the National Health Service.

Iran Deaths Surpass 55,000 (5:37 a.m. NY)

Iran’s deaths since the start of the pandemic surpassed 55,000, with 149 more fatalities over the last 24 hours. The number of new cases rose by 6,272 overnight, up from 6,108 a day ago, bringing the total known infections to 1.2 million, the Health Ministry reported.

England Faces Wider Lockdown to Curb New Strain (4:40 a.m. NY)

More areas of England are set to be placed under lockdown as the new virus strain puts growing pressure on hospitals. People living in London, Essex and Kent should behave as if they have Covid-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an interview with LBC radio on Wednesday.

Taiwan Tightens Controls (3:20 a.m. NY)

Taiwan says it will tighten its border control after confirming the first imported case with a virus variant found in the U.K. The government will ban foreigners without residence permits from entering starting Jan. 1, and no airline passenger transit is allowed. It will also tighten quarantine requirements starting from Jan. 15, with only one person allowed to isolate per household. Others should go to centralized locations or hotels.

Astra-Oxford Covid Vaccine Gains First Clearance (2 a.m. NY)

The U.K. approval of AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford’s vaccine marked the first regulatory endorsement of a shot that’s faced questions but will be key to mass immunizations.

The vaccine will be prioritized for the country’s most vulnerable groups early in the new year, according to statements from the drugmaker and the government. It’s the second coronavirus injection to be cleared for emergency use in U.K. after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s in early December.

New Strain Enters California; NYC Positive Rate Up: Virus Update

Germany’s New Virus Deaths Surpass 1,000 for First Time (1:05 a.m. NY)

Germany’s new coronavirus deaths surpassed 1,000 for the first time since the pandemic started, with 1,122 new fatalities in the 24 hours through Wednesday morning. The previous high was 986 recorded on Dec. 23.

Sinopharm Says Its Shot Is 79% Effective (12:00 a.m. NY)

Chinese state-backed vaccine developer China National Biotec Group Co. said one of its shots is effective in preventing Covid-19 in 79.3% of people, allowing it to apply for authorization to market the product for use in the general population.

The vaccine is already authorized for emergency use in China. Clinical tests also show the shot is safe, according to a statement from another unit of CNBG’s parent Sinopharm.

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