California becomes first state to top 3 million virus cases

California becomes first state to top 3 million virus cases

California on Monday became the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections.

The grim milestone, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents but its speed stunning. The state only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24.

The first coronavirus case in California was confirmed last Jan. 25. It took 292 days to get to 1 million infections on Nov. 11 and 44 days to top 2 million.

California’s caseload is also far ahead of other large states. Texas had more than 2 million and Florida topped 1.5 million.

The state has recorded more than 33,600 deaths related to COVID-19.

A caseload surge that began last fall has strained hospitals and especially intensive care units as a percentage of the infected—typically estimated to be around 12% by public health officials—become sick enough weeks later to need medical care.

On average, California has seen about 500 deaths and 40,000 new cases daily for the past two weeks.

Officials warn that a recent slight downward trend in hospitalizations could reverse when the full impact of New Year’s Eve gathering transmissions is felt.

The state is placing its hopes on mass vaccinations to reduce the number of infections but there have been snags in the immunization drive. On Sunday, Dr. Erica S. Pan, the state epidemiologist, urged that providers stop using one lot of a Moderna vaccine because some people needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions.

More than 330,000 doses from lot 41L20A arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 and were distributed to 287 providers, she said.

In Northern California, Stanislaus County health officials responded by announcing they wouldn’t be holding vaccination clinics until further notice.

“Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory” pending completion of an investigation by state officials, Moderna, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration, Pan said in a statement.

Fewer than 10 people, who all received the vaccine at the same community site, needed medical attention over a 24-hour period, Pan said. No other similar clusters were found.

Pan did not specify the number of cases involved or where they occurred.

Six San Diego health care workers had allergic reactions to vaccines they received at a mass vaccination center on Jan. 14. The site was temporarily closed and is now using other vaccines, KTGV-TV reported.

Moderna in a statement said the company “is unaware of comparable adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot.”

The CDC has said COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects for a few days that include fever, chills, headache, swelling or tiredness, “which are normal signs that your body is building protection.”

However, severe reactions are extremely rare. Pan said in a vaccine similar to Moderna’s, the rate of anaphylaxis—in which an immune system reaction can block breathing and cause blood pressure to drop—was about 1 in 100,000.

The announcement came as California counties continue to plead for more COVID-19 vaccine as the state tries to tamp down its rate of infection, which has resulted in record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

California has shipped about about 3.2 million doses of the vaccine—which requires two doses for full immunization—to local health departments and health care systems, the state’s Department of Public Health reported Monday.

Only about 1.4 million of those doses, or around 40%, have been administered.

So far, the state has vaccinated fewer than 2,500 people per 100,000 residents, a rate that falls well below the national average, according to federal data.

Although Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that anyone age 65 and older would be eligible to start receiving the vaccine, Los Angeles County and some others have said they do not have enough doses to vaccinate that many people and are first concentrating on inoculating health care workers and the most vulnerable elderly living in care homes.

The death rate from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County—the nation’s most populous and an epicenter of the state pandemic—works out to about one person every six minutes.

On Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes.

“The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years,” the agency said.

Adding to concerns, California is experiencing new, possibly more transmissible forms of COVID-19.

The state health department announced Sunday that an L452R variant of the virus is increasingly showing up in genetic sequencing of COVID-19 test samples from several counties.

The variant was first identified last year in California and in other states and countries but has been identified more frequently since November and in several large outbreaks in Northern California’s Santa Clara County, the department said.

Overall, the variant has been found in at least a dozen counties. In some places, testing has found the variant in a quarter of the samples sequenced, said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

However, not all test samples receive genetic sequencing to identify variants so its frequency wasn’t immediately clear.

Health officials said it was linked to a Christmas-time outbreak at Kaiser Permanente San Jose that infected at least 89 staff members and patients, killing a receptionist. The outbreak has been blamed on an employee who visited the hospital emergency room wearing an air-powered inflatable Christmas tree costume.

The variant is different from another mutation, B117, that was first reported in the United Kingdom and appears to spread much more easily, although it doesn’t appear to make people sicker.

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Mexico sees record spike in coronavirus cases

Mexico

Mexico posted a record spike in coronavirus cases on Friday, with 21,366 newly confirmed infections, about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. The country also recorded 1,106 more deaths.

It was unclear if the spike was due to the presence of the U.K. virus variant, of which only one case has so far been confirmed in a visiting British citizen.

The country has now seen almost 1.61 million total infections and has seen registered over 139,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.

The country’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. So little testing is done that 8% of all those who got a test later died during recent weeks; normally, only people with severe symptoms are tested..

Teams vaccinating frontline health care workers administered about 59,000 shots on Friday, bring the total so far to over 415,000. The numbers are still inadequate for the 750,000 frontline health care workers, each of whom will require two doses.

In Mexico City, the current center of the pandemic in Mexico, 90% percent of hospital beds are full.

Mexico has pinned much of its hopes on cheaper, easier-to-handle vaccines made by China’s CanSino. But that vaccine has not yet been approved for use.

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COVID-19 was circulating silently in Wuhan even after the city reported no cases

COVID-19 may have continued to spread silently in Wuhan, China, during the spring of 2020, even after official government tallies had suggested the coronavirus had been stamped out, a new study suggests.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was first discovered in Wuhan in December 2019, and the city soon became the epicenter of what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases peaked in Wuhan in February 2020 but soon declined rapidly, with just a few cases reported in late March. By early April, the city’s lockdown had ended, and later that month, Wuhan was declared coronavirus-free.

But the new study, published Thursday (Jan. 7) in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, tells a different story. The researchers, from Wuhan University, analyzed more than 63,000 blood samples collected in China — mainly in Wuhan — between March 6 and May 3, 2020. All of these participants were healthy and were undergoing screening before returning to work, the researchers said.

The blood samples were tested for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, the researchers looked for both IgG antibodies, a type of long-lasting antibody that suggests a previous infection with SARS-CoV-2, and IgM antibodies, a relatively short-lived antibody that suggests a current or recent infection with the virus.

In Wuhan, the percentage of participants with either of these antibodies was 1.7%. That’s much higher than the percentage seen in areas outside Hubei province (which includes Wuhan), which was about 0.4%.

What’s more, the researchers found that the IgM positivity rate — indicating an active or recent infection — in Wuhan was nearly 0.5%, compared with 0.07% in other parts of China.

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Based on the level of IgM antibodies seen in Wuhan in the spring of 2020, the researchers estimated that thousands of people were infected asymptomatically during this period.

“We conclude that … a large amount of asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2 existed after elimination of clinical cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan City,” the researchers wrote.

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Based on the antibody numbers from the study, the researchers estimated that in Wuhan, a city of about 10 million people, roughly 168,000 people had been infected overall in Wuhan at that time — higher than the approximately 50,000 cases that had been reported.

The authors noted that from May 14 through June 1, officials in Wuhan conducted mass COVID-19 testing of 9.9 million people and found a rate of asymptomatic infection of just 0.3 per 10,000 people based on PCR testing for the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2. 

But the rate found in the current study, based on the IgM testing, was hundreds of times higher, the researchers said. This discrepancy could be due to several factors, including a greater sensitivity of blood antibody tests compared with PCR testing and the earlier dates of collection in the current study compared with the surveillance testing by city officials, the researchers said. 

Originally published on Live Science. 

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The strangest medical cases of 2020

From a man with green urine to a teenager with a sewing pin in his heart, a number of intriguing medical cases caught our eye this year.

These “case reports,” which describe the conditions of individual patients, don’t usually have the type of broad implications that are seen in rigorous scientific studies with thousands of participants. But they can sometimes help doctors better understand rare diseases or spot unusual signs of common conditions. Here are 10 of the strangest case reports Live Science covered in 2020.

Green urine 

Having your pee turn green can be scary. But as a man in Chicago found out, green pee can be a rare side effect of some medications.

The 62-year-old man was hospitalized after he was found to have high levels of carbon dioxide in his blood, a condition that can be life threatening. The man was placed on a ventilator and given a general anaesthetic called propofol, according to a report of the case, published Dec. 2 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Five days later, the man’s urine, which was being collected in a catheter bag, turned green.

While green urine can be due to a number of factors, in this case, the culprit was propofol. This medication is widely used for general anesthesia, but in rare cases, it can turn a person’s urine green.

Fortunately, this discoloration is benign and goes away once the medication is stopped. Indeed, the man’s urine returned to a normal color once he was taken off propofol, the report said. 

Cold allergy 

People can develop allergies to pretty much anything, including cold air. That was the case for a man in Colorado, whose allergic reaction to the cold was so severe, he almost died.

The 34-year-old old man collapsed after he stepped out of a hot shower into a cold bathroom, according to a report of the case published Oct. 27 in The Journal of Emergency Medicine. The man was struggling to breathe and his skin was covered in hives. He was experiencing a life-threatening, whole-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Doctors diagnosed him with cold urticaria, an allergic reaction of the skin after exposure to cold temperatures, including cold air or cold water. The most common symptom is a red, itchy rash (hives) after exposure to the cold; but in more serious cases, people can develop anaphylaxis, which can cause their blood pressure to plummet and airways to narrow, making breathing difficult. 

The man was treated with an antihistamine and steroids, and his condition improved. He was prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, which can treat anaphylaxis in emergency situations.

Lethal licorice

It is possible to overdose on candy, at least if you’re eating black licorice. That’s because it contains a compound known to be toxic in large doses. In an extreme case of this happening, a man in Massachusetts died after eating too much black licorice.

The 54-year-old man suddenly lost consciousness after experiencing a life-threatening heart rhythm problem, according to a report of the case, published Sept. 23 in The New England Journal of Medicine. His family said that the man had a poor diet, and in recent weeks, he had consumed one to two large packages of black licorice every day. Despite receiving multiple treatings in the intensive care unit, the man died 32 hours after arriving at the hospital, the report said.

Black licorice often contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which is derived from licorice root, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Consuming too much licorice root or candies flavored with licorice root can be dangerous because glycyrrhizin lowers the body’s potassium levels. This, in turn, can lead to high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.

The FDA says that eating just 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks can cause heart rhythm problems, particularly for people ages 40 and older.

Pierced heart 

A teen’s chest pain had a surprising cause — there was a sewing pin in his heart

The 17-year-old went to the emergency room after he experienced a sharp pain in his chest that radiated to his back, according to a report of the case, published July 29 in The Journal of Emergency Medicine. A CT scan of his chest showed there was an “linear metallic foreign” object lodged in his heart, the report said.

That object turned out to be a 1.4-inch (3.5 centimeters) sewing pin, which doctors removed through open-heart surgery.

The teen initially told the doctors he hadn’t ingested any foreign objects or experienced physical trauma to his chest. But in a later interview, he revealed that he tailors his clothes and sometimes holds sewing pins in his mouth. Still, he said he wasn’t aware of ingesting a sewing pin.

Foreign bodies in the heart are rare, especially in children and teens. Fortunately, the teen recovered after his surgery and had no complications as far as the authors are aware, they said.

Bladder brewery

A woman’s bladder turned into a brewery of sorts when it started fermenting sugar into alcohol.

The 61-year-old woman needed a liver transplant because she had cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. But her doctors were puzzled when her urine repeatedly tested positive for alcohol, even though she denied drinking, according to a report of the case, published Feb. 24 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

After some careful sleuthing, doctors discovered that microbes in the woman’s bladder were fermenting glucose (sugar) into alcohol.

The woman’s condition is similar to a rare disorder called “auto-brewery syndrome” (ABS), in which microbes in the gastrointestinal tract convert carbohydrates into alcohol. People with ABS can get drunk just from eating carbs, Live Science previously reported. But in the woman’s case, the fermentation was taking place in her bladder, which makes her condition distinct from ABS, the report said. In her case, the alcohol didn’t get from the bladder into the bloodstream, so the woman didn’t appear intoxicated.

The woman’s condition was so rare that it didn’t even have a name yet. Her doctors proposed calling it “urinary auto-brewery syndrome” or “bladder fermentation syndrome.”

Wandering spleen 

Although your mind may wander from time to time, you usually expect your physical organs to stay in the same spot inside your body. But that’s not always the case, as a woman in Michigan found when her spleen traveled a whole foot inside her body over 48 hours.

The woman had a rare condition known as “wandering spleen,” which happens when the ligaments that keep the spleen in its usual spot become weakened and allow the organ to migrate inside the body.

CT scans of the woman’s abdomen taken just two days apart showed that her spleen had traveled from the upper left quadrant of her abdomen to the lower right quadrant, according to a report of the case published Nov. 19 in The New England Journal of Medicine. That’s about a 1-foot (0.3 meters) distance, the authors said.

The woman had a liver condition that resulted in her spleen getting larger, which in turn caused the ligaments surrounding her spleen to stretch out. The typical treatment for wandering spleen is removal of the spleen. But in this case, the woman was hoping to receive a liver transplant, and undergoing a separate surgery to remove her spleen could result in complications that would prevent her from qualifying for a new liver. So doctors decided to wait, and planned to remove the spleen at the same time as her liver transplant surgery.

Persistent coronavirus 

People with COVID-19 are typically contagious for about eight days after they contract the infection. But a woman in Washington state shed infectious virus particles for a record 70 days, meaning she was contagious during that entire time. However, she never showed symptoms of the disease, according to a report of the case, published Nov. 4 in the journal Cell

The 71-year-old woman had a type of leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells, and so her immune system was weakened and less able to clear her body of the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2.

The woman was infected in late February during the country’s first reported COVID-19 outbreak, which occurred at the Life Care Center rehabilitation facility in Kirkland, Washington. Over a period of 15 weeks, the woman would be tested for COVID-19 more than a dozen times. The virus was detected in her upper respiratory tract for 105 days; and infectious virus particles — meaning they were capable of spreading the disease — were detected for at least 70 days.

Eventually, the woman was able to clear the virus, although doctors don’t know how this happened. The findings suggest that immunocompromised patients with COVID-19 may be contagious for much longer periods than typical.

Three kidneys 

A man in Brazil surprised his doctors when a scan showed he had not two, but three kidneys — a very rare condition.

The 38-year-old man initially sought medical care for severe back pain, according to a report of the case, published May 6 in The New England Journal of Medicine. A CT scan showed that his back pain was due to a herniated or “slipped” disk, a relatively common condition in which part of a cushion-like disk between the spinal vertebrae moves out of place.

But his doctors couldn’t help but notice that the man had an unusual anatomical feature. Instead of the usual two kidneys seen in a typical person, the man had three: a normal-looking kidney on his left side and two fused kidneys located near the pelvis, the report said.

Having three kidneys is rare, with fewer than 100 cases reported in the medical literature. The condition is thought to arise during embryonic development, when a structure that typically forms a single kidney splits in two. The man didn’t need any medical attention for his extra kidney, but he did receive oral painkillers for his back pain, the report said.

Hot tub lung 

So-called hot tub lung is a rare condition caused by bacteria that can thrive in warm water. But it’s not always linked to hot tubs, as a teen in Australia found when he contracted the disease from his indoor swimming pool.

The teen developed severe breathing difficulties that sent him to the emergency room, according to a report of the case, published Nov. 11 in the journal Respirology Case Reports. Prior to his hospitalization, the teen had been recovering from ankle surgery and spent most of his time in his home’s media room, which was next to their indoor swimming pool.

He was diagnosed with hot tub lung, a disease that can occur when people inhale certain aerosolized bacteria that belong to the genus Mycobacterium, including Mycobacterium avium.

An analysis of the pool water from the teen’s home found that it was contaminated with this bacteria. The family said that they had recently switched the sanitizer they used for their pool, from chlorine to a non-chlorine alternative, and this allowed the bacteria to grow.

Several other people in the teen’s family developed respiratory problems, also likely due to hot tub lung. Two years later, the family had recovered but their lungs still showed signs of mild damage from the illness.

Calcified stone  

A woman who went to the emergency room for abdominal pain and vomiting found out that her symptoms were the result of complications from a surgery she had six decades earlier.

Doctors discovered there was a 1.5-inch (4 cm) long calcified stone in her intestines, according to a report of the case, published Jan. 8 in the journal BMJ Case Reports. It turned out the stone had been developing inside the woman over the course of nearly her entire life.

When the woman was six days old, she had undergone a surgery for an intestinal blockage. But the surgical method that her doctors used left a dormant piece of intestine in her body, which accumulated substances over time, and gradually led to the formation of the stone.

Doctors were able to remove the stone via surgery, and the woman fully recovered.

Originally published on Live Science. 

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South Africa’s virus variant drives holiday surge of cases

South Africa’s normally joyful and lively Christmas celebrations have been dampened by the spike in new cases and deaths driven by the country’s variant of COVID-19.

A record number of 14,305 news cases have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, and with no sign of South Africa reaching a peak, threatening the country’s health systems, experts said.

South Africa has a cumulative total of 968,563 confirmed cases, including 25,983 deaths, by far the most cases in all of Africa. Africa’s 54 countries, representing 1.3 billion people, have together reported more than 2.59 million cases, including more than 61,000 deaths, according to figures released Friday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks from 8.65 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 10 to 18.25 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 24.

The South African variant, 501.V2, is more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus and is dominant in the country.

To combat the resurgence of the disease, South Africa has imposed measures including closing many large public beaches, requiring masks in public areas, restricting sales of alcohol to four days a week and enforcing a nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. However, the quickening pace of the spread of the disease is bringing experts to urge stricter measures.

“We do need to think of additional restrictions, so that it’s clear to people the seriousness of the current situation,” infectious diseases expert Dr. Richard Lessells told The Associated Press. “Because already many hospitals in many parts of the country are extremely stretched.”

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, in a Christmas message to the country on Friday urged all South Africans to take preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus. Mkhize also issued a message on Christmas Eve in which he rejected a suggestion by Britain’s health minister that South Africa’s variant had contributed to Britain’s variant.

Mkhize said that statements by Britain’s Secretary for Health, Matt Hancock, had created a perception that the variant in South Africa has been a major factor in the second wave in U.K.

“This is not correct. There is evidence that the U.K. variant developed earlier than the South African variant,” Mkhize said.

There is no evidence to suggest the South African variant is more transmissible, causes more severe disease or increased mortality than Britain’s variant or any other variant that has been sequenced in the world, said Mkhize.

He also said he was against travel bans.

“It is the widely shared view of the scientific community that, given the current circumstantial evidence, the risks of travel bans may outweigh the benefits, and that it is possible to contain the variants while sustaining international travel,” he said.

“Banning travel between the U.K. and South Africa is an unfortunate decision,” said Mkhize in his statement. “There is no evidence that the South African variant is more pathogenic than the U.K. variant to necessitate this step.”






Mkhize noted that South Africa is part of a group of “countries that are leading in the field of genomic surveillance: Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom.”

Leading South Africa’s genomic research is Professor Tulio de Oliveira who is leading a team of scientists studying the genomic sequencing of the new variant.

“I’ll be spending Christmas in my lab,” de Oliveira told AP. “We’ll be working throughout the whole holiday season on this research.”

Other African countries are also battling a resurgence of the disease.

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Nursing homes begin COVID-19 vaccinations as US cases, deaths soar

Walgreens VP discusses efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccine

Walgreens Vice President of Pharmacy Operations Rina Shah discusses the pharmacy chain’s cooperation with nursing homes to get the COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable seniors.

Vulnerable residents in nursing homes across some U.S. states began to receive COVID-19 vaccinations within the last two days, while the vast majority await shots from a collaboration between large pharmacy chains. 

The news coincides with additional record highs in virus cases and deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. saw a high of 247,403 daily new cases reported Dec. 17, with a record-setting daily death toll at 3,656. The nation’s positivity rate is exceeding 11%, and Southern California in particular is distinguishing itself as a hard-hit area of new case spread.

California's Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday the state distributed 5,000 body bags to San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo counties, while 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units were on standby amid the state's "most intense and urgent moment since the beginning of this pandemic," per Newsom.

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Nursing home residents in Florida began receiving shots Wednesday after nearly 2,000 such vaccinations were administered in West Virginia on Tuesday. Thousands more are scheduled there in the coming days. Other states are expected to follow soon. Officials have estimated that residents in long-term care facilities have accounted for 40% of the nation’s over 300,000 virus deaths.

In working with smaller, local pharmacies, West Virginia has outpaced many other states in administering shots to its most vulnerable elderly residents. 

On a call with reporters this week, federal officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with Walgreens, CVS and the states, created a campaign strategy for vaccine execution in long-term health care facilities. This week will involve a scaling start into distribution, and Gen. Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer, said four states were ready to go in partnership with CVS and Walgreens to start scaling vaccination.

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A spokesperson with CVS Health told Fox News in an email Thursday that the national rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination effort would start on Dec. 21 and will include skilled nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide.

CVS was not able to specify the exact timing for each state. Walgreens did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday morning, though it previously announced that it teamed up with 35,000 nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, marking a "historic milestone and important step toward ending the pandemic."

In Florida, Mark Rayner, director of health services at skilled nursing facility John Knox Village near Fort Lauderdale, told the Associated Press that 120 of 200 facility staffers are declining the shot, most of whom are African Americans with distrust in the vaccine.

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"They are frightened," he said. "There is that culture line even as much as we educate them."

Earlier this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said states are encouraged to begin vaccinations in long-term care facilities sooner if pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are ready to go faster.

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"We expect to see vaccinations in nursing homes this week, and literally then by next week these pharmacy chains will have the ability to execute vaccination programs daily in thousands of long-term care and assisted living facilities," Azar said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Virus cases continue climbing in US during holiday season

Coronavirus infections across the U.S. continue to rise as the country moves deeper into a holiday season when eagerly anticipated gatherings of family and friends could push the numbers even higher and overwhelm hospitals.

Vast swaths of southern and inland California imposed new restrictions on businesses and activities Saturday as hospitals in the nation’s most populous state face a dire shortage of beds. Restaurants must stop on-site dining and theaters, hair salons and many other businesses must close in the sprawling reaches of San Diego and Los Angeles, along with part of the Central Valley, including Fresno.

Five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area were set to impose their own lockdowns Sunday.

A new daily high of nearly 228,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases was reported nationwide Friday, eclipsing the previous high mark of 217,000 cases set the day before, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day rolling average of deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the U.S. passed 2,000 for the first time since spring, rising to 2,011. Two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 1,448. There were 2,607 deaths reported in the U.S. on Friday.

Johns Hopkins had previously reported Wednesday daily COVID-19 deaths at 3,157. That was later updated to 2,804 due to a change in numbers from Nevada, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

Much of the nation saw surging numbers in the week after Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans disregarded warnings to stay home and celebrate only with members of their household. Many in California anticipated tight restrictions on businesses and activities, sending people scrambling to shop or get haircuts while they still could.

Arizona’s top public health official took on a blunt tone as she reported the state’s latest case numbers, a near-record of nearly 6,800 new infections, telling people to wear masks around anyone outside their household, “even those you know and trust.”

“We must act as though anyone we are around may be infected,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, wrote on Twitter. Arizona’s intensive-care units are experiencing caseloads not seen since the summer, when the state had one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Just 8% of ICU beds and 10% of all inpatient beds were unoccupied Friday, according to state data.

Hospital officials issued bleak warnings about the potential for severe overcrowding, fearing that Thanksgiving gatherings seeded new outbreaks that are not yet showing in daily case counts. It takes several days after someone is exposed to develop symptoms, and several more to get test results. Eventually, more severe cases will require hospitalization.

“In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina’s health secretary. “This is very worrisome.”

In St. Louis, two children’s hospitals opened their doors to adult patients without COVID-19 as medical centers in the region fill up, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mayor Lyda Krewson said the city has reopened a temporary morgue. Area hospitals are at about 82% capacity for in-patient beds and 81% capacity for ICU beds.

In Idaho, the National Guard helped direct people and traffic at a Boise urgent care and family practice clinic converted to a facility for people with coronavirus symptoms. Health officials say Idaho’s attempt to hold the coronavirus in check is failing.

Hospitals are struggling not only with the increase in patients but with their own staff as health workers contract COVID-19 themselves or quit under the pressure of caring for so many infectious patients.

“We continue to be concerned about the potential implications of the travel we have seen in the past week with Thanksgiving, as well as social gathering related to the holidays,” said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

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South Korea virus cases hit highest level since March

South Korea reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since March on Thursday, with a surge of new infections sparking fears of a major third wave.

Officials announced 583 new cases after several weeks of fresh infections ranging between around 100 and 300.

The latest cases have mostly been clusters at offices, schools, gyms and small gatherings in the greater Seoul area, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

New infections also emerged within the military, including dozens of newly enlisted soldiers at a boot camp—prompting the defence ministry to bolster its virus measures.

“We are now in a situation where virus outbreaks can happen at any place,” health minister Park Neung-hoo said.

The government tightened social distancing rules in the capital and the surrounding regions this week as authorities scrambled to contain the spread of the virus.

The measures include closing nightclubs and bars and restricting the number of visitors at weddings and funerals to 100.

Cafes are only allowed to serve takeaways and all restaurants must close by 9pm, with only deliveries permitted afterwards.

Thursday’s figures take the total number of recorded cases in the country to more than 32,000.

South Korea endured one of the worst early COVID-19 outbreaks outside mainland China, but brought it broadly under control with its “trace, test and treat” approach. It never imposed the kind of lockdowns ordered in much of Europe and other parts of the world.

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Swiss drafts army as virus cases spike

The Swiss government said Wednesday it will deploy troops in cantons where under-pressure health services require support as coronavirus cases spike.

The Federal Council, the country’s highest executive authority, said it had “decided to support the public health sector by mobilising up to 2,500 troops as backup.”

It said authorities would consider requests from individual cantons as the virus’ second wave hits the country hard.

The army will notably assist hospitals in administering basic care and testing as Switzerland looks to ramp up capacity with some hospitals in worst-affected regions seeing intensive care facilities approaching saturation point.

The government said troops also may be deployed to assist with transport of infected people.

Authorities in the French-speaking Fribourg canton had Friday called for military assistance saying they could no longer cope with the skyrocketing number of cases.

Relative to neighbouring countries, Switzerland avoided the worst of the first wave but has seen 10,000 fresh cases and 72 deaths since Tuesday while the proportion of positive tests rose to one in four.

The country of 8.56 million has a death toll of some 2,500 to date for some 200,000 declared cases.

Virginie Masserey, head of vaccination strategies at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, warned intensive care facilities could reach saturation point as early as Sunday.

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U.S. Sees New COVID Cases Top 140,000 Per Day

THURSDAY, Nov. 12, 2020 — In an alarming sign that the coronavirus pandemic is about to hammer the United States with unprecedented force, the country reported a record-shattering 140,000 new cases on Wednesday.

Hospitalizations also reached a record high on Wednesday, with 65,368 people now hospitalized across the country, The New York Times reported.

Even more disturbing, there has been a marked climb in the number of people who have died from COVID-19: 1,408 more deaths were reported as of Wednesday evening, while Tennessee, Alabama and Minnesota all reached new highs in their daily death tolls, the Washington Post reported.

“The worst of this crisis is playing out in the next six to eight weeks,” David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Post. “The irony is, this is the time we most need our public leadership. Right now.”

Governors in many states are announcing additional measures to try to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since Election Day, more than one-third of them have issued public appeals for people to take social distancing measures seriously, the Times said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio issued a statewide mask mandate and said that stores would be closed for 24 hours if a team of inspectors found that workers or customers at any retailer ignored the mask rule two times. He also banned dancing and games at social gatherings, and said participants in banquets, weddings and funeral receptions could not congregate, the Times reported.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers made a plea to his state’s residents, advising people to change their lives to help contain the virus.

“It’s not safe to have others over — it’s just not safe,” Evers said. “So please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers and play dates at your home.”

Numerous governors warned that new mandatory measures, which many have avoided, might be coming if case counts continue to climb.

California is about to broach the 1 million case mark, a threshold reached only by Texas so far. San Francisco has banned indoor dining again, starting next Sunday, paused high school re-openings and limited gyms and movie theaters to 25 percent of capacity, the Times reported.

Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah took some of the most drastic recent measures, declaring a new state of emergency this week and issuing a statewide mask mandate.

With coronavirus cases surging in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that private indoor and outdoor gatherings statewide would be limited to 10 people and that gyms, bars and restaurants must close daily at 10 p.m., the Times reported.

The restrictions will take effect Friday, and Cuomo said that local governments will be responsible for enforcing them. The limit on gatherings will apply to private homes. The curfew will apply only to bars and restaurants licensed by the state liquor authority, and restaurants can continue to provide takeout and delivery after 10 p.m., but only for food.

Eli Lilly’s COVID antibody treatment gets emergency approval

Eli Lilly’s experimental antibody treatment for COVID-19 has been given emergency approval by the U.S. and Food Administration.

The promising news came the same day that President-elect Joseph Biden called for all Americans to wear masks and appointed a 12-member task force of experts to craft a national response to the continued spread of COVID-19.

The FDA’s approval of the antibody treatment, called bamlanivimib, is solely for people newly infected with coronavirus, and the agency warned that it should not be used in hospital patients, the Times reported.

Instead, the treatment should be given as soon as possible after a positive test, and within 10 days of developing symptoms. It is geared toward people who are at risk for developing severe COVID-19 or for being hospitalized for the condition. That includes people who are over 65 and who are obese, the FDA said. In early studies, researchers have found those groups benefit the most from the treatment.

In October, the company announced that it had reached a $375 million deal to sell 300,000 doses of the treatment to the U.S. government. Eli Lilly said Monday that it will begin shipping the treatment immediately to AmerisourceBergen, a national distributor, which will then distribute it on behalf of the federal government, the Times reported.

The treatment consists of a single powerful antibody that is believed to keep the infection in check. It is similar to the treatment that President Trump received, made by the biotech company Regeneron, which is a cocktail of two antibodies. Regeneron has also applied for emergency authorization, the Times reported.

Eli Lilly has said it expects to have enough to treat 1 million people by the end of the year, not nearly enough to curb a virus that is now infecting an average of over 111,000 people a day in the United States, the Times reported.

“It’s kind of the best times for these therapies to enter, because they can have an impact,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, who leads the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s also the worst time because we don’t have enough doses, and it’s going to add to the backlog of testing.”

COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe

By Thursday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 10.4 million while the death toll passed 241,600, according to a Times tally.

According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Thursday were: Texas with nearly 1 million; California with over 999,000; Florida with over 858,000; New York with over 545,700; and Illinois with more than 525,000.

Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.

Many European countries are tightening restrictions, the Associated Press reported. France began a nationwide lockdown last week, and Germany and Austria have started partial lockdowns as government officials across the continent scramble to slow a sharp rise in infections that threatens to overwhelm their health care systems.

England has followed suit, while Italy, Greece and Kosovo also announced new measures, the AP reported.

Things are no better in India, where the coronavirus case count is nearing 8.7 million, a Johns Hopkins tally showed.

More than 128,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India’s younger and leaner population.

Still, the country’s public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the Times said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Brazil passed 5.7 million cases and had over 163,000 deaths as of Thursday, the Hopkins tally showed.

France has surpassed Russia with a case count of over 1.9 million on Thursday, and more than 42,500 deaths. Russia’s coronavirus case count has passed 1.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 52.2 million on Thursday, with nearly 1.3 million deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.

More information:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: The New York Times; Washington Post

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