Jorge L. Ortiz
| USA TODAY
COVID-19: Major task force reset with President-elect Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden’s first major transition announcement is the formation of a COVID-19 advisory board that includes a Trump administration whistleblower.
It took the U.S. only 10 days to reach 1 million new COVID-19 cases in November, an ominous sign for the coming weeks as the pandemic rages across the nation.
All 50 states had more new COVID-19 cases in the latest week than in the week before, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showed Tuesday. And 45 states had a higher rate of people testing positive than the week before, an analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows.
Even more concerning is the warning from public health experts that, with the increasingly cold weather, upcoming holiday gatherings and pandemic fatigue, December and January will be the nation’s worst months in the protracted COVID ordeal.
At this point, the Midwest may be leading the gloomy charge.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz imposed new COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday amid a surge in statewide infections, reducing the allowed capacity at bars and restaurants and setting limits on social gatherings. In Illinois, stricter coronavirus restrictions will go into effect Wednesday for some suburban counties. And in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a mask mandate for many public gatherings.
In North Dakota, where hospitals are at full capacity, health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms are being allowed to continue to work. Gov. Doug Burgum announced the move Monday, saying hospital administrators had requested it to alleviate a staffing crunch.
Some major developments:
- The Department of Health and Human services said it’s ready to distribute 80,000 doses of an Eli Lilly drug that appears to protect infected people at high risk from getting very sick from COVID-19. The Federal Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the drug, bamlanivimab, on Monday.
- Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Utah governor’s mansion Monday as Gov. Gary Herbert’s statewide mask mandate went into effect. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced he has extended the state’s mask mandate for another 30 days.
- Markets were mixed Tuesday, a day after surging near all-time highs on hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 10.2 million cases and more than 239,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 51 million cases and 1.26 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
📰What we’re reading: A COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be authorized before the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to throw away your mask anytime soon.
This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.
More than 100,000 daily new cases of COVID-19 have become the norm as the U.S. reached the 1 million mark for November in just 10 days. It’s a remarkable figure considering the U.S. leads the world by plenty with more than 10.2 million infections, and at this rate would tally 3 million-plus this month alone.
The 1 million milestone arrived as medical facilities are getting strained and governors across the nation are making increasingly desperate pleas with the public to take the fight against the virus more seriously.
The alarming wave of cases across the U.S. looks bigger and is more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring, mainly in the Northeast, and then in the summer, primarily in the Sun Belt.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed distribution plans Tuesday for Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab after the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use Monday.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said 80,000 doses are ready for distribution this week and will be allocated to states based on COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates. State health departments will decide which hospitals, out-patient clinics and other healthcare settings will receive the drug, similar to the one administered to President Trump when he was hospitalized with COVID-19.
Bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody that mimics the immune system’s response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, is approved for mild to moderate COVID-19 patients who are 12 years and older and are at risk of progressing to severe illness. It’s given to patients through an IV infusion over the course of an hour, with another hour for observation.
The federal government has already agreed to spend $375 million to provide 300,000 doses for high-risk patients, with an option to purchase an additional 650,000 doses for next year.
— Adrianna Rodriguez
Officials in San Francisco, one of the country’s most successful cities at limiting spread of the coronavirus, said Tuesday they’ll roll back reopening efforts amid a 250% increase in COVID-19 cases since Oct. 2.
Mayor London Breed said that, starting at the end of Friday, indoor dining at restaurants — which two weeks ago was scheduled to get expanded to 50% of capacity — would not be permitted at all. In addition, opening of high schools for in-person learning will be paused, though not for elementary and middle schools. And allowed capacity at gyms and movie theaters will be further reduced.
San Francisco’s case rate has climbed in the last two weeks from 3.7 per 100,000 residents to 9. By comparison, the U.S. has recorded 33 cases per 100,000 residents in the last week. In New York, the country’s densest and most populous city, the figure over the last week is 13 per 100,000.
“The fact is the virus is spreading and we have to make the hard decisions,” Breed said.
Keep those face masks handy. You’ll need them for several more months.
News of progress toward finding a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus was greeted with optimism about a return to normal life, but experts say that’s not going to happen any time soon, even if the vaccine gets authorized before the end of the year.
“People shouldn’t think of vaccines as the savior,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Vaccines are, along with hygienic measures, a way to get in control of this virus, but we need both. Vaccines are not going to be magical. … You can’t abandon one in favor of the other.”
Distribution challenges, the vaccine’s effectiveness and the public’s acceptance will help determine its impact.
“If you have a very, very highly effective vaccine and we convince most of the people in the country to take the vaccine, we could get back to a degree of normality maybe by the end of 2021,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, regarded as the nation’s top infectious- disease expert.
— Karen Weintraub
If the coronavirus forces the cancellation of meaningful games in the final stretch of the NFL regular season, leaving some potential playoff teams with uneven records and the league with no time to make up those contests, the postseason field could expand to 16 teams.
The NFL’s owners on Tuesday met virtually and voted to approve the contingency plan, which was proposed by the competition committee.
League officials remain hopeful the regular season can continue with little interruption and remain in accordance with the 17-week schedule that would conclude Jan. 3.
— Mike Jones
Saturday’s schedule of SEC football games keeps shrinking.
The conference said Tuesday the matchup between top-ranked Alabama and defending national champion LSU has been postponed because of coronavirus infections, plus the need for contact tracing and quarantines. In addition, the Texas A&M-Tennessee matchup was postponed because of an outbreak among the Aggies.
On Monday, the SEC said coronavirus-induced disruptions would force postponement of Auburn’s game at Mississippi State.
“While it is unfortunate to have multiple postponements in the same week, we began the season with the understanding interruptions to the schedule were possible,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.
The brings to 15 the total number of games among Football Bowl Subdivision schools canceled or postponed just in November.
Coronavirus death rates are significantly higher in Tennessee counties that do not require residents to wear masks, according to new Vanderbilt University research that highlights concerns about the state’s county-by-county approach to masks and will likely increase pressure on the governor to enact a statewide mandate.
The new research found counties that never adopted a mask mandate have recorded about four deaths per 100,000 residents as of the first week in October. Counties with mandates have recorded about one or two deaths per 100,000 residents, depending on how early they enacted the mandate.
However, not all of this difference can be attributed exclusively to masks. In counties with mask mandates, residents may be taking more care to protect themselves with hand washing and social distancing, which would contribute to a lower death rate independent of the mask mandate.
– Brett Kelman, Nashville Tennessean
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Monday shows 32 states set records for new cases in a seven-day period while four states had a record number of deaths in a week. Stunningly, all 50 states saw a rise in new infections. Over the last month, from Oct. 9 to Nov. 9, the number of cases at least tripled in 16 states.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have credited improved treatment for tamping down death totals – although the rolling seven-day average for daily deaths continues to hover at close to 1,000. That is down from almost 1,500 per day in May. But almost 60,000 new hospitalizations were reported Monday, continuing a steady climb that has seen them more than double since Sept. 20.
Illinois surpassed half a million confirmed cases Tuesday and reported more than 12,000 new daily cases, continuing its trend of record numbers in recent days.
“We all want this to be over, but we need to gird ourselves for winter. It’s not over yet … we have potentially months of the fight ahead of us,” Gov. JB Pritzker said, imploring residents to wear masks and to stop holding gatherings inside their homes. “Nine months is a long time, but we cannot let our guard down. Look at these numbers.”
– Mike Stucka and Grace Hauck
Now is the time to start telling America straight-up what to expect from the COVID-19 vaccine, more than a dozen public health and medical experts told USA TODAY. That includes warning that a COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be 100% effective, getting it will make a substantial number of people “feel like crud” for a day or two, and two shots will be required, not just one.
The Department of Health and Human Services says multiple government agencies are working with Operation Warp Speed and other groups on a robust public health information campaign that focuses on vaccine safety and efficacy.
“This needed to happen yesterday. It’s like watching a train wreck happen,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
– Elizabeth Weise
Texas has had more COVID-19 infections and deaths among incarcerated people and staff than any other state in the country, according to a new report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
At least 231 people have died from COVID-19 in Texas prisons and jails, including both incarcerated people and staff, according to the report. People in Texas prisons are testing positive for the coronavirus at a rate 490% higher than for the state as a whole.
“The data in this report … shows the urgency of taking steps to reduce the risks of additional COVID deaths in Texas prisons and jails,” Michele Deitch, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
About 80% of people who died from COVID-19 in county jails in Texas were pretrial and not convicted of a crime, the report found. About 58% of the people who died from COVID-19 in Texas prisons were eligible for parole at the time of their death, and nine of those who died in prison were approved for parole but not yet released.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Utah governor’s mansion on Monday as Gov. Gary Herbert’s statewide mask mandate went into effect, an effort to help combat the state’s boom in new coronavirus cases.
The crowd waved signs with slogans such as “stop the tyranny” and describing Herbert as a “dictator.” Protester Ken Whetstone told The Deseret News that more people would have protested, but they were intimidated by “big government.” Herbert also banned extracurricular activities and casual social gatherings among those of different households, citing the severe strain the increasing coronavirus caseload has put on hospitals.
“If everybody who’s not happy with the mask mandate and the limit of 10 people gathering, if everyone that was unhappy with that came out to protest, this street would be full,” Whetstone said.
Spain plans to inoculate at least 10 million of the country’s 47 million people by May using the vaccine being developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. Health Minister Salvador Illa told public broadcaster TVE he expects the country will receive the first doses from Pfizer in early 2021, adding that the vaccination would be free.
Illa said he would counter with scientific arguments people who are against vaccinating. The country’s polling institute, CIS, says 43% of Spaniards are wary of receiving the vaccine. “We are going to be very clear and convincing against people who tell lies and who play with anti-science,” Illa said.
Pfizer said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless fueled widespread optimism.
One in every 17 COVID-19 patients could be diagnosed with a mental health issue for the first time, a study of U.S. health records suggests. The appearance of anxiety, depression or insomnia is about double the risk from most other illnesses, the University of Oxford researchers say.
“Survivors of COVID-19 appear to be at increased risk of psychiatric sequelae (complications of a disease), and a psychiatric diagnosis might be an independent risk factor for COVID-19,” the study’s authors say in The Lancet Psychiatry. “Although preliminary, our findings have implications for clinical services, and prospective cohort studies are warranted.”
The study also found that psychiatric patients were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 – possibly a function of their physical health or drugs prescribed to treat disorders, the researchers said.
To help flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced he has extended the state’s mask mandate for another 30 days. He urged Coloradans to buckle down in the coming few weeks by avoiding social interactions outside of their households, washing their hands and wearing a mask.
“Let’s stop this bloodshed,” Polis added. “All that’s being asked of you is cancelling your social plans outside of your home for the next few weeks.”
– Erin Udell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press