The nation’s one-day toll of coronavirus deaths surpassed 3,000 for the first time Wednesday, a number perhaps inflated by fatalities reported days late because of the Thanksgiving holiday but still reflective of a pandemic racing out of control.
The death toll of 3,157 came as hospitalizations surpassed 100,000 for the first time. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the U.S. could reach 450,000 deaths by February.
“The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times, and I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of our nation, largely because of the stress it’s going to put on our public health system,” Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event.
Things you should know Thursday:
- Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have said they are willing to take a coronavirus vaccine to prove that the treatment is safe and effective. They may even film themselves getting injected.
- The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide passed the 100,000 mark Wednesday, and experts fear weary staff will be “overrun” by patients. Many hospitals will be forced to suspend elective surgeries and other routine operations, set up temporary field hospitals and stretch staff to the limit, experts said.
- There were no cheering spectators at Wednesday’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, but it was far from a silent night. Check out our recap of all the stars who performed, including Kelly Clarkson, Dolly Parton and Jimmy Fallon.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 13.9 million cases and over 273,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 64.6 million cases and 1.49 million deaths.
📰 What we’re reading: How did a third wave of COVID-19 engulf the U.S.? Take a closer look at the dark November with these graphics and maps.
This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.
The CEO of Pfizer, maker of the first virus vaccine candidate to seek FDA approval, says he is not sure whether inoculation prevents the vaccinated person from infecting others with the COVID-19. Albert Bourla told Dateline NBC, for an episode airing Thursday at 10 p.m. EST, that “this is something that needs to be examined. We are not certain about that right now.” Pfizer could grant emergency use authorization for its vaccine as soon as Dec. 10. Bourla also said he felt an obligation to vaccinate volunteers involved in the testing phase who were given a placebo instead of the vaccine.
“It is a moral and ethical-dilemma and obligation I think that we have to these people,” he said. “I believe that in discussion with regulators, we should find a way, sooner rather than later.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday the creation of the Pandemic Response Institute, dedicated to preparing the city and other jurisdictions for future health emergencies and epidemics. This effort is part of city’s long-term recovery agenda “by building on the network of premier hospital systems, world leading medical universities and growing life sciences and tech sectors to make New York City the public health capital of the world,” de Blasio said in a statement. Building new technologies that detect, track and monitor health issues is among the institute’s goals.
“No city in the county has sacrificed more, or worked harder to keep COVID-19 at bay,” de Blasio said. “It’s time to … move forward with bold ideas to keep New Yorkers healthy and jump-start our economic recovery.”
A Virginia County that once declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary” in defense of gun rights now says it is a “First Amendment sanctuary” and won’t enforce statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the virus outbreak. The rural county’s supervisors unanimously passed a resolution banning the use of county funds to uphold Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandates, saying they violate the Constitution of Virginia.
“It’s a sad day in the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia when a governor using unlegislated mandates is harassing, fining citizens, business owners and elected officials, forcing compliance through fear and intimidation,” Supervisor Matt Cline told The News and Advance.
Northam’s executive order caps gatherings at 25 people and directs restaurants and bars to stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by midnight. The county’s 7-day average of 32.2 new daily cases reported per 100,000 people is higher than the state’s average of 27.1, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Delta Air Lines is partnering with the CDC to begin coronavirus contact tracing efforts for travelers arriving in the U.S. The airline said in a news release Thursday that the effort is aimed at keeping “international customers informed of potential COVID-19 exposure.”
Beginning Dec. 15, Delta will ask customers traveling to the U.S. from an international location to voluntarily provide information for contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts. Information includes the passenger’s full name, email address, address in the U.S., primary phone number and secondary phone. The release says the data will be “directly and securely transmitting” to the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“This will give the CDC access to the data in moments, dramatically decreasing the time it takes to notify affected customers via local health departments,” Delta says.
– Sara M. Moniuszko
In the NBA, 48 of 546 players tested positive for COVID-19 in the first batch of testing for players who returned to their home market the week of Nov. 24-30, the league and the National Basketball Players Association said Wednesday. That’s an 8.7% positivity rate, slightly less than the 10.2% seven-day average for the U.S., per John Hopkins COVID-19 data tracking web site. The season is scheduled to start Dec. 22.
“Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market is isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with CDC guidance,” the NBA and NBPA said in a news release.
– Jeff Zillgitt
Vice President Mike Pence was bound for Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday to hold a roundtable discussion on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. Though a vaccine has not yet been authorized in the U.S., officials are preparing for mass distribution of doses. Pence will be meeting with executives of FedEx, the Memphis-based shipping giant that will be among key transportation players in distributing a COVID-19 vaccine once approved. Operation Warp Speed, the White House-led initiative to develop and distribute vaccines, plans to begin the first vaccine deliveries within 24 hours of FDA authorization.
– Max Garland, Memphis Commercial Appeal
The World Health Organization’s latest update on COVID safety guidelines urges extensive use of masks, frequent handwashing and physical distancing of at least three feet. Six feet has been the standard provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WHO also warns to avoid touching your face and urges “adequate ventilation in indoor settings,” plenty of testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.
Masks should be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least three feet can’t be maintained, the guidelines say. In areas of COVID-19 spread, WHO also advised “universal” wearing of medical masks in health care facilities, including when caring for other patients.
IBM analysts have detected a global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with an overseas supply chain used for vaccine distribution. Spoofed emails impersonating a Chinese biomedical executive targeted organizations that help meet “transportation needs within the COVID-19 cold chain,” analysts wrote. Many vaccines, including those under review for COVID-19, must be kept cool and sometimes frozen during distribution, and the Chinese company whose executive was impersonated is a supplier of low-temperature equipment.
The purpose of the phishing campaign “may have been to harvest credentials, possibly to gain future unauthorized access to corporate networks and sensitive information relating to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution,” analysts Melissa Frydrych and Claire Zaboeva wrote.
– Donovan Slack
Countless American preschoolers are falling behind with social and emotional skills after months of shutdowns. Experts say the result could be devastating for the long-term success of many kids given that preschool years are arguably among the most formative of a child’s life. A student who starts kindergarten without preschool is more likely to repeat a grade, require special-education services or drop out, statistics show.
“Unfortunately, for children, the impact of this pandemic will be felt for years,” said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician who directs the Seattle Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development.
– Alia Wong
A Staten Island bar was shut down and the manager hauled away in handcuffs after skirting New York’s virus restrictions and continuing to serve alcohol indoors.
Mac’s Public House has signs in its windows claiming to be an “autonomous zone.” Owner Keith McAlarney says the pandemic shutdown was killing his business. He said he was not selling food and drink inside the bar, he was giving it away and asking for donations. Not good enough, authorities said.
“This owner is learning that actions have consequences,” Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told The New York Times. “Breaking the law and putting your neighbors’ lives at risk during a global pandemic to make a political statement is simply unacceptable.”
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are volunteering to get inoculated on camera once COVID-19 vaccines win FDA approval. The three most recent former presidents hope an awareness campaign would be a powerful message as American public health officials try to persuade the public to take the vaccine, CNN reports.
Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, said the 43rd president had reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert – and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations,” Ford told CNN. “Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide passed the 100,000 mark for the first time Wednesday, an alarming statistic fueling enormous strain on the health care system and its brave but beleaguered workers.
Some experts said the total, compiled by the COVID Tracking Project and at 100,226 Wednesday night, could soon double. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, said the country has reached a “dangerous inflection point.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we stand at 200,000 people hospitalized in the next month,” Glatter told USA TODAY. “Explosive growth of the virus has the potential to overrun our ability to provide care. Not only for patients with COVID-19 but also for basic medical conditions.”
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered public health officials in the nation’s largest county to provide evidence of high-risk COVID-19 transmission that justifies the outdoor dining ban imposed last week as cases surge statewide.
The California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit challenging the ban and requested a judge to halt the order, but Judge James Chalfant refused to without first seeing scientific evidence from Los Angeles County public health officials, the Los Angeles Times reported. County officials are expected to present evidence at a scheduled hearing on Dec. 8.
“As we’ve repeatedly said, their order was arbitrary and targeted restaurants unfairly, without supporting evidence,” CRA president Jot Condie said in a statement on Twitter.
The outdoor dining ban went into effect Nov. 25 and is expected to last three weeks, as well as a stay-at-home order that began Nov. 30. The judge’s order comes California reported a new record of more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, two days after Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of a new stay-at-home order.
A Hawaiian couple that boarded a flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Hawaii, after knowingly testing positive for COVID-19 have been arrested.
The Kaua‘i Police Department confirmed to USA TODAY that Wailua residents Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson were taken into custody Sunday after “placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death.” Moribe and Peterson were charged with reckless endangering. They both posted bail at $1,000 each.
According to a police report, Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, were ordered by the Quarantine Station at the San Francisco International Airport to isolate after testing positive for the highly contagious virus. The couple, however, defied airport orders and boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to the islands. Moribe and Peterson were accompanied by a 4-year-old child.
– Cydney Henderson
For the first time since Arizona’s summer COVID-19 surge, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday unveiled a series of new mitigation measures designed to curb spiking caseloads and hospitalizations. Saying Arizona’s numbers were “heading in the wrong direction,” he announced expanded health and safety requirements for public events approved by cities and counties. He relaxed regulations on restaurants to encourage a shift from indoor to outdoor dining. And he declared that businesses that repeatedly disregard safety guidelines would face closure.
But the strategies stopped short of what health leaders had asked for. The governor did not implement a statewide curfew or a shutdown or put a stop to athletic events – all measures recommended by public health researchers and medical providers within the past week. He also did not put in place a statewide mask mandate, which critics including Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman had called for.
– Maria Polletta and Stephanie Innes, Arizona Republic
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press