NYC Sees Post-Holiday Closing; Colorado Toll Rises: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Moderna Inc.’s vaccine was deemed safe by U.S. regulators, clearing the way for a second shot to quickly gain emergency authorization. In Europe, regulators will review Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine earlier than planned amid growing pressure to approve it quickly.
British authorities will hold talks on Christmas coronavirus rules after a surge in infections fueled demands from medical experts to stop households socializing over the holiday. Denmark is extending local lockdowns to the entire country, while Italy’s prime minister is mulling further curbs to slow cases during the festive season.
New Jersey administered its first Covid-19 vaccine to an emergency-department nurse at the state’s only public hospital. New York’s mayor told residents to prepare for a shutdown of all but essential businesses soon after Christmas.
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Vaccine Delayed in Florida, Governor Says (5 p.m. NY)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a “production issue” at Pfizer Inc. has delayed delivery of the latest shipments of vaccines headed to the state.
Florida received 179,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. Two additional shipments totaling more than 450,000 doses are on hold, DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday. He said Florida expects to receive 370,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week, then 162,000 more by the end of the month.
The governor railed against a mask mandate and virus-related business shutdowns during his appearance at a West Palm Beach restaurant. He said businesses can operate safely and keep people working, and that only a small percentage of Covid-19 infections can be traced to restaurants.
“The vast, vast majority of infections are occurring in people’s homes,” DeSantis said. “Let individuals make decisions about what they’re comfortable doing.”
U.S. Hospitalizations Keep Rising (4:55 p.m. NY)
U.S. hospitalizations for the coronavirus increased by more than 1,200 patients a day in the six days through Tuesday, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.
There were 112,483 Covid-19 patients in U.S. hospitals as of Dec. 15, a 7.1% increase since Dec. 9. California and New York accounted for almost three-quarters of the increase.
New Mexico recorded 102% occupancy in its intensive-care units, while Covid-19 cases accounted for more than a quarter of hospital in-patients in Arizona, Nevada and Rhode Island. The number of cases in California hospitals increased 70% to 13,920 from Dec. 1-15.
California Looks for Help Amid Surge (4:40 p.m. NY)
As cases surge in California, Governor Gavin Newsom is looking overseas to hire temporarily medical personnel. He said the state may ask the U.S. Navy to send back the hospital ship Mercy and has sent 5,000 more body bags to hard-hit counties.
Newsom warned in a press conference on Tuesday, a day after vaccinations arrived in the state, that the current wave of infections is still rising, and California could run out of intensive-care beds within weeks. Infections have soared since Thanksgiving, with an average of 163 Californians now dying of Covid-19 per day.
The state asked the U.S. Department of Defense to send 200 temporary medical personnel and may request another visit from the USNS Mercy, which docked off Los Angeles during the first wave of infections last spring. The ship’s highly trained personnel, Newsom said, were more important than its beds. He said the state has also stationed 60 refrigerated storage units at hospitals and morgues.
N.Y. Sees Most Deaths Since May (4 p.m. NY)
New York recorded 128 deaths from Covid-19, the most since mid-May, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The state also had 5,982 patients hospitalized with the virus, approaching the 6,000 mark it last hit on May 15.
U.S. Clears Home Over-the-Counter Test (3:55 p.m. NY)
The first Covid-19 test that can be performed entirely from home was cleared by U.S. regulators on Tuesday, and it can be acquired without a prescription.
While availability initially will be limited, the new test and others in development could make virus screenings as accessible as over-the-counter pregnancy tests in the U.S. for the first time. The advance follows months of criticism that the Food and Drug Administration has been too slow to give its approval to this type of virus screening.
Manufactured by East Brisbane, Australia-based Ellume, the self-administered, single-use nasal-swab test is small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand. The test detects proteins on the virus’s surface in 15 minutes and delivers results to a smartphone app.
Airlines in Line for $17 Billion in Relief (3:05 p.m. NY)
Airlines would get $17 billion in U.S. government aid to recall furloughed workers and help cover payrolls through March under a bipartisan pandemic relief package unveiled in Congress on Monday that won immediate backing from an industry group.
Airlines “enthusiastically support” the proposal, the trade group Airlines for America said in a press release. Carriers will attempt to bring back workers who have been laid off if it passes, “but that becomes increasingly challenging with each passing day,” the group said.
Colorado Death Toll Worsens (1:55 p.m. NY)
The death toll is accelerating in Colorado, with a quarter of the state’s 3,969 coronavirus and virus-related deaths occurring over the past four weeks, based on data from the state health department and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Colorado health officials have estimated the state could suffer 1,000 or more for all of December with modeling earlier in the month suggesting 4,400 deaths in a worst case scenario.
France’s Cases Slow After Week of Growth (1:50 p.m. NY)
France’s rolling seven-day average of new cases fell below 12,000 on Tuesday, marking a second day of pause after rising for most of last week. Hospitalizations fell for the first time in four days, health authorities reported. The seven-day average of deaths linked to the virus fell to the lowest since early November.
Canada Secures Moderna Vaccine (12:30 p.m. NY)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government has reached an agreement with Moderna to receive up to 168,000 early doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccine.
Moderna is prepared to ship the vaccines within 48 hours of the shot’s approval by public health authorities, Trudeau said Tuesday in Ottawa.
NYC Shutdown Likely After Christmas (12:02 p.m. NY)
New Yorkers can expect a shutdown of all but essential businesses soon after Christmas, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
If the city’s businesses close “right after Christmas, with good luck and hard work we could be out of that in a matter of weeks,” the mayor said.
Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will make the final decisions, closures will be similar to what the city experienced last spring, with the exception that schools will remain open, de Blasio said.
It will take weeks to reduce the number of people hospitalized -- at 2.89 per 100,000 in the population as of Dec. 13 -- to the city’s established safety level of 2 per 100,000. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus stood at 5.51%, also above the city’s threshold, which is 5%. People admitted to hospitals on Dec. 13 for Covid-19 symptoms stood at 160 -- below the threshold of 200.
Airlines Secure EU Relief on Slots (11:50 a.m. NY)
European airlines were guaranteed longer regulatory relief from the impact of the coronavirus, after the European Commission won the final go-ahead to suspend airport slot-use obligations until late March.
European Union governments and the bloc’s Parliament cleared the commission’s decision to waive until March 27, 2021, a requirement that carriers use at least 80% of their takeoff and landing positions or risk losing them the following year. The EU earlier this year suspended the obligation for eight months until Oct. 24.
Fauci: Trump, Biden Should Get Vaccine (10:05 a.m. NY)
Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden should get Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which has been approved for emergency use.
“You still want to protect people who are, you know, very important to our country right now,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Even though the president himself was infected and he has likely antibodies that likely would be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts.”
Fauci also said Vice President Mike Pence and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris should get the vaccine.
U.K. Officials Look Again at Christmas Plan (9:37 a.m. NY)
British authorities are to hold talks on Christmas coronavirus rules after a surge in infections fueled demands from medical experts to stop households mixing over the holiday. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will discuss the issue with his counterparts from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland later on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter said.
The talks suggest officials could revise their decision to allow as many as three households to gather together for five days over Christmas. In a rare joint editorial Tuesday, the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal said the government’s relaxation of social distancing rules over the holiday period will increase coronavirus infections and risk putting further strain on hospitals.
Millions of Londoners will be ordered to comply with England’s toughest rules from Wednesday. The switch to tier 3 rules from tier 2 in London and parts of southeast England will see pubs, bars and restaurants closed, except for serving takeaway meals. Theaters and museums will also shut.
N.J. Administers First Covid Vaccine (9:13 a.m. NY)
New Jersey administered its first Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday to an emergency-department nurse at the state’s only public hospital. Maritza Beniquez, 56, recalled a devastating series of months treating people of color at University Hospital in Newark, and how as a Latina she stood in solidarity with them.
“When Covid came, it was the worst of our days, our worst nightmare,” Beniquez said at a press conference outside the hospital.
Hospitalizations statewide for Covid-19 have more than tripled since the beginning of November, to 3,660 as of Dec. 14. Of 727 patients in intensive-care units, 63% are on ventilators.
Dutch Cases Climb for Second Straight Week (9:08 a.m. NY)
The number of confirmed cases in the Netherlands rose for a second straight week, according to health agency RIVM. In the past seven days, 58,412 new patients were confirmed, up from 43,103. The numbers of people hospitalized with Covid-19 and admitted to intensive care units also climbed. A five-week lockdown came into effect on Tuesday.
J&J Seeks South Africa Vaccine Registration (8:56 a.m. NY)
Johnson & Johnson has become the first company to apply for registration of a Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, the head of the country’s health products regulator said.
The company is in the midst of stage three trials, including one in South Africa. The application was made late last week and is being assessed, said Boitumelo Semete-Makokotela, the chief executive officer of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. The regulator will use a so-called rolling review, which allows it to assess vaccine data as it becomes available during the trials.
Pfizer-BioNTech Shot to Get Europe Review (8:51 a.m. NY)
European regulators will review Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine next week, earlier than initially planned, amid growing pressure across the continent to approve the shot quickly. A European Medicines Agency committee will meet Dec. 21 to consider the vaccine after receiving additional data from the developers, according to a statement Tuesday from the drugs watchdog.
Leaders in Germany, Italy and Poland, among other countries, have been pushing the European regulator to speed up its review as vaccination campaigns begin for high-risk people in the U.K. and U.S.
Moderna Shot Effective: FDA Staff Report (8:01 a.m. NY)
Moderna Inc.’s vaccine is safe and effective for people ages 18 and older, U.S. regulators said, clearing the way for a second shot to quickly gain emergency authorization and add to the country’s sprawling immunization effort.
Food and Drug Administration’s staff said in a report on Tuesday that the experimental vaccine is 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, confirming earlier results released by the company. The report was posted online ahead of a meeting Thursday of agency advisers who will vote whether to recommend authorization before a final FDA decision.
Stockholm May Halt All Non-Essential Care (7:38 a.m. NY)
Sweden’s capital is considering postponing all non-essential health-care services to free up resources needed to tackle a relentless rise in cases. The proposal, which would be effective until the end of January, is due to be discussed later on Tuesday, Bjorn Eriksson, director of health and medical services for the Stockholm region, told reporters.
Almost all of Sweden’s regional hospitals are now struggling with a shortage of health-care staff, Swedish Radio reported.
A government-appointed commission has criticized Sweden’s response to the pandemic for failing to protect the elderly in nursing homes, Dagens Nyheter reported Tuesday.
Denmark May Expand Partial Lockdowns (7:23 a.m. NY)
Denmark may expand local lockdowns to the entire country to counter a rise in cases, local media including TV2 reported. The restrictions currently cover two-thirds of Denmark. The government is expected to present the new measures at a press conference later on Tuesday, according to the broadcaster.
South Africa Needs Psychiatric Drugs (7:23 a.m. NY)
South Africa has been hit by a shortage of mental health medication and contraceptives after the coronavirus outbreak disrupted manufacturing and imports. The number of so-called stock-outs, when a medicine is unavailable, has doubled this year to over 1,400 reports, according to Ruth Dube, project coordinator at the Stop Stockouts Project, a non-profit that campaigns to end medicine scarcity.
Europe May Approve Shot by Christmas (7:05 a.m. NY)
Pressure is building in Europe for quick approval of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine. Germany is “optimistic” that the European Medicines Agency will be able to make a decision by Dec. 23, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in Berlin on Tuesday. The EMA had previously said an advisory board would convene by Dec. 29 to make a recommendation on the application; approval would come within days after that.
“We’re doing all we can to get this vaccine approved as soon as possible,” Spahn said. “The goal is to get approval before Christmas,” he said, adding that Germany hopes to start its rollout before the end of the year.
Financing Key to Ending Pandemic, WHO Says (6 a.m. NY)
The ACT Accelerator program that aims to deliver vaccines, tests and treatments to low-income countries has a $28 billion funding gap, said Bruce Aylward, who heads the project. Of that, $5 billion alone is needed to reach the Covax goal of supplying 2 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries.
“Right now financing is what stands between us and getting out of this pandemic,” he said during a United Nations video press conference.
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