New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said the state is at a “breaking point” and reinstated the country’s most restrictive statewide measures since the fall surge began, while Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced a two-week statewide “freeze” on Friday, which included curbing gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving.
Other states are trying to avoid full-blown shutdowns by enacting almost every other kind of restriction, as the United States reported more than 177,000 new coronavirus cases, a record high for the third straight day.
Here are some significant developments:
A coronavirus vaccine could be available to the general population as early as April, Trump said Friday.
YouTube knows how much all of us want to forget the pandemic-riddled, wildfire-strewn, election-battled wreckage of 2020. It does too.
And to help that along, the video streaming company said this week it would not make its annual “Rewind” video, a decade-long tradition that has celebrated the many viral videos and beloved creators that call YouTube home.
“But 2020 has been different,” the company said in a statement posted on its Twitter page. “And it doesn’t feel right to carry on as if it weren’t. So, we’re taking a break from Rewind this year.”
For many Americans these days, the mere idea of leaving the house prompts a question: “What’s the risk?” And often, they find that even after scrutinizing data on novel coronavirus cases and poring over public health recommendations, there still isn’t a clear answer.
Researchers are trying to fill that information gap. In recent months, free virtual resources, including real-time case trackers and interactive tools, have become available that are intended to help policymakers, community groups and individuals better understand what is happening with the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and how that relates to risk.
“The majority of us are going to underestimate the risk if we just leave it to our covid-fatigued brains to do the math,” said Emily Landon, chief infectious-disease epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine. Tools and dashboards may be able to help give people “a much better idea about how much risk is associated with the things that they’re going to do.”
With many classrooms and dormitories lightly used or even empty during this strange, pandemic-shadowed fall term, pressure is mounting for colleges and universities to bring more students to campus in the next semester despite the recent surge of the coronavirus.
Students are tiring of remote instruction, and parents are tired of paying for it. Many also point to schools that have managed to house and teach large numbers in person this fall and wonder why, with adequate safeguards, that can’t happen everywhere.
“The quality of education, it’s just not the same,” said Eric Lipka, a sophomore majoring in government at Georgetown University. The 19-year-old from Connecticut is taking remote classes from an apartment in Jacksonville, Fla., as the Jesuit university in the nation’s capital is teaching mainly online. Lipka who said the forced regimen of education at a distance is taking a toll in terms of academics and mental health, might take the next semester off.
The proportion of U.S. children’s emergency room visits related to mental health concerns rose significantly during the pandemic, underscoring the strain of the crisis on the nation’s young people, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From March through October, the proportion of emergency department visits for mental health reasons rose 31 percent among children ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period last year, according to the CDC report. For children 5 to 11 years old, the proportion of visits increased 24 percent.
To study changes in children’s mental health-related emergency room visits, researchers analyzed data from the CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program, which include a subset of hospitals in 47 states representing nearly three-quarters of all emergency department visits in the country. While the overall number of children’s mental health-related visits to emergency rooms decreased, the proportion of all emergency department visits rose, suggesting “that children’s mental health warranted sufficient concern to visit EDs during a time when nonemergent ED visits were discouraged,” the report’s authors wrote.
The highest weekly proportions of emergency department visits related to mental health took place in October for children ages 5 to 11 and in April for teenagers 12 to 17 years old. Researchers cautioned that the increase in the share of mental health visits should be “interpreted carefully” because it might also reflect a decline in other types of emergency department visits.
Still, the findings shed light on the need to expand mental health services for children, including through telehealth, the authors wrote. “The majority of EDs lack adequate capacity to treat pediatric mental health concerns,” the authors wrote, “potentially increasing demand on systems already stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted the CDC report Friday, saying, “Please be safe, so we can end this pandemic.”
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After threat, New York AG says she’s prepared to sue if Trump administration attempts to withhold vaccine
NEW YORK — State Attorney General Letitia James said Friday she was prepared to sue the Trump administration should there be an attempt to withhold the coronavirus vaccine supply from her state — a threat the outgoing president hurled Friday.
President Trump issued the threat during a news briefing in the White House Rose Garden — his first public comments since Joe Biden was projected the winner of the presidential election. A short time later, James blasted Trump’s comments as a political ploy. The president has been feuding with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who recently signaled distrust in Trump’s promise to quickly deliver an effective immunization drug.
“This is nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to extract vengeance on those who oppose his politics,” James (D) said in a statement, adding that the Biden administration “will provide New York with the proper number of doses so that our state’s residents can achieve immunity.”
Should the vaccine be distributed “in the twilight” of Trump’s term, with Trump opting to “play games with people’s lives, we will sue and we will win,” she said,
Trump’s announcement that he would withhold a vaccine from New York came days after news that Pfizer had developed what has so far been shown to be a very effective product. Cuomo said months ago that he would have a panel of experts conduct its own review of a vaccine, fearing Trump would try to rush one to the market.
Trump said Friday that Cuomo “will have to let us know when he’s ready for it” and that “we can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately.”
Cuomo said on CNN that there “will be no delay” in the distribution of the vaccine and that the state’s review “will be simultaneous with their delivery.” He said it is a necessary step to ease the minds of people who will doubt the approval process.
“We’re not going to redo the tests that the FDA did, but we will have a scientific panel that will review the protocol that the FDA went through so that they can say to me it was the proper protocol, it was not politicized,” Cuomo said.
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Oregon, New Mexico enact new virus restrictions as cases skyrocket
Chicago was the first major city to announce, on Thursday, a reinstatement of stay-at-home orders. On Friday, New Mexico followed suit with the country’s most restrictive statewide measures since the fall surge began. Oregon also announced a partial shutdown Friday, closing gyms and dine-in restaurants and mandating a six-person limit on all social gatherings.
With the coronavirus raging out of control and hospitals nearing capacity, state and local leaders are facing once more the gut-wrenching decision of whether to order shutdowns.
Other states are trying to avoid full-blown lockdowns by enacting almost every other kind of restriction: nighttime curfews, bar closures, stricter mask mandates, 10-person gathering limits. California, Oregon and Washington urged residents this week to cancel nonessential travel. Vermont restricted nonessential travel into the state. New York City said its public schools could close as soon as Monday.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said the state is at a “breaking point” and reinstated the most heightened public health restrictions, including prohibiting onsite dining and requiring nonessential businesses to close their physical locations. The state recorded 1,742 coronavirus cases Thursday, a record.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced a two-week statewide “freeze” Friday, which included curbing gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving. The state just reported record hospitalizations and more than 1,000 daily cases for the first time, though its per capita infections in recent weeks are among the lowest in the country.
“Whether we like it nor not, we are about to face what might be the roughest days of the pandemic,” Brown said.
Officials say they are making such decisions under considerable pressure. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said she called for lockdowns only after experts showed her projections that at least 1,000 people could die by year’s end unless the city took immediate action.
“If the possibility of 1,000 more people dying doesn’t grab you by the throat as it did me when I started to see that model, there’s very little we can do to move you,” she said. “People are dying. We’re seeing a daily uptick. This is literally a matter of life and death.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus as the state reported a new high in daily cases.
The 66-year-old Democrat is the fifth governor, and the third person in his office, to report testing positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
He is isolating and waiting for results from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which are processed in a laboratory and considered more reliable than a rapid test, which indicated Sisolak had the virus.
He last tested negative on Nov. 2 and Nov. 6, according to the statement, and was in his office on Thursday.
Sisolak “proactively reached out to those who may have been close contacts,” and his wife, Kathy Sisolak, tested negative on Friday, the AP reported.
Pointing to his own case, he stressed “the importance of Nevadans to stay at home as much as they possibly can at this time.”
The state on Friday reported 1,857 new cases, with a total this year of 116,737 infections and 1,893 deaths from covid-19, according to a Washington Post database.
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Democrats abandon indoor Capitol meal for new House members after photo raises eyebrows
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that lawmakers would continue to vote long-distance, citing concerns about the coronavirus — but newly elected members were still set to eat together indoors.
Democrats’ plans for a meal at a stately hall in the Capitol building raised eyebrows Friday after a journalist’s tweet, though Pelosi insisted the arrangement would be safe and “very spaced.” Earlier in the day — with infections and hospitalizations surging nationwide — Pelosi had emphasized that a vaccine breakthrough should give people “hope” but urged people to “listen to science” and heed guidance including “isolation” and “separation.”
By evening, the new members event was changed to grab-and-go. The House’s newest legislators were already in the capital for an orientation like no other, filled with face masks and new precautions.
Biden on Friday said he met with the leaders of his coronavirus task force, who presented him with “alarming” facts about the coronavirus outbreak.
“Our country is experiencing surges in reported infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities all over the country, with virtually nowhere getting spared,” he said in a statement, adding that widespread vaccination is months away.
He called for “urgent action” by the Trump administration, “starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is.”
“I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year,” he said. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now.”
Trump acknowledged in a news conference that “case levels are high” but continued to insist that the U.S. numbers stem from high levels of testing — which cannot account for the viral surge sweeping the country.
With more than 177,000 new daily cases, U.S. notches third straight day of record high infections
The United States recorded more than 177,000 new coronavirus patients on Friday, a record high for the third straight day as the number of confirmed cases continues a steady climb.
At least 25 states and D.C. on Friday reported that their seven-day average of new cases was up 30 percent from the previous day.
Every state reported an increase in new cases, with at least 10 states tallying all-time highs, including Midwestern states like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Ohio, where the surging numbers have pushed hospital capacity to dangerous levels.
The climbing infection rate in the United States has triggered a new round of restrictions, including West Virginia for the first time implementing a statewide mask mandate, New York City warning of school closures to in-person learning and widespread limits on indoor gatherings and operation hours for bars and restaurants.
For a split second in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, it appeared that President Trump was ready to admit defeat.
“Ideally we won’t go to a lockdown,” he said, referring to more severe efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus by limiting person-to-person interactions.
“I will not go. This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he continued. “Hopefully the-” he caught himself. “Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be. I guess time will tell.”
The next administration will be that of President-elect Joe Biden, as Trump and everyone else residing in the realm of reality understands. All week, Trump’s been energizing his base and soliciting contributions by pretending the question isn’t settled. It is.
But this wasn’t the most significant effort to deny the reality of a significant loss which Trump undertook during the event. Instead, he continued to try to assure the public that all was well with the fight against the coronavirus itself, rejecting the idea that the country faced any sort of significant problem at the moment, which it very much does.
A coronavirus vaccine could be available to the general population as early as April, President Trump said Friday, as officials with the administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine effort said they expect to see millions of people immunized by the end of the year.
The optimism after a scientific breakthrough — a vaccine developed by the drug giant Pfizer and a German biotechnology company that is said to be more than 90 percent effective — came as the United States battles soaring infections and hospitalizations. Trump acknowledged Friday in a news conference that “case levels are high” but continued to insist that the United States’ numbers stem from high levels of testing — something that cannot account for the viral surge sweeping the country.
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — who has called the results of the Pfizer vaccine tests “extraordinary” — has said that everyone in the United States could have access to a coronavirus vaccine by the spring.
The Pfizer data was self-reported and is not yet peer-reviewed.
Moncef Slaoui, the scientific lead for Operation Warp Speed, the government initiative to provide upfront funding to companies and help coordinate the trials, said Friday that he hopes there will be enough vaccine doses to immunize roughly 20 million people in December and 25 million to 30 million per month after that. Monthly immunizations may grow early next year if more vaccines are approved, he said.
Officials were optimistic Friday about other vaccine candidates as well. Slaoui said he expects to potentially hear “more good information” soon on a candidate from Moderna that uses technology similar to Pfizer’s.
During the news conference, Trump, who did not take questions, attempted to take credit for the development of the vaccine, saying, “Pfizer said it wasn’t part of Warp Speed, but that turned out to be an unfortunate misrepresentation.” Unlike its competitors, Pfizer did not join the initiative, instead spending $2 billion of its own money on the project then signing a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses.
Carolyn Y. Johnson contributed to this report.
Death row inmate’s lawyers suffering from coronavirus, seek delay in execution
A lawsuit filed against the U.S. government asks a federal judge to intervene and give the woman’s legal team — now bedridden with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus — more time to prepare a clemency request while the attorneys recover.
Lisa Montgomery is the only woman on federal death row and is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Indiana on Dec. 8. She was convicted in 2007 of strangling a pregnant woman and kidnapping her unborn child. Montgomery’s legal team blames Attorney General William P. Barr for scheduling the execution in the middle of a pandemic.
Stocks rose Friday, notching a positive week, with the S&P 500 setting an all-time high, and the final calls of the presidential race giving President-elect Joe Biden a victory in the electoral college of a projected 306 votes to President Trump’s 232.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 400 points, or 1.37 percent, at the closing bell, flirting with its record highest level of 29,661, set in February. The S&P 500 rose by 48 points, or 1.4 percent, setting a new high of 3,585, while the tech heavy-Nasdaq increased 120 points or 1 percent.
Investors this week cheered on promising data from Pfizer, which showed progress in the development of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. But the optimism was also scaled back by rising infections across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported a record-breaking 153,280 new daily cases. Hospitalizations have increased almost 25 percent over the past week.
The positive week began with massive gains. Many of the stocks that had been beaten down since the pandemic took hold, such as airlines and hotel chains, surged with double digit percentage gains. Meanwhile, stocks whose fortunes were lifted by the stay-at-home environment have been in retreat, signaling that investors are looking for profits elsewhere.
Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, said during a virtual discussion Thursday that it’s still too early to know how progress on a vaccine will affect the nation’s economy, especially in the near term. Adding to the uncertainty, negotiations between the White House and Congress on a coronavirus aid package have failed to advance. But investors received additional certainty on the results of the presidential election with the final two states called. Trump is projected to win North Carolina, while Biden is projected to win Georgia.