California is slamming the “emergency brake” on reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Monday, making it the latest state to ramp up restrictions again as it experiences the sharpest increase in coronavirus infections yet.
The news came as the biotechnology company Moderna said its experimental coronavirus vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective, according to initial results. Last week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, lifted the stock market and people’s hopes with the news that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.
Here are some significant developments:
President-elect Joe Biden and his team sent the clearest signal yet that he won’t put the country into another national shutdown.
“I was honored for my extraordinary efforts in the fight against coronavirus,” the man says before explaining that he was known as “lazy Toni” before the pandemic, as he stayed at home playing computer games and eating cold ravioli.
Annette Dittert, a German reporter for ARD TV based in Britain, said that the advertisement was warmly received internationally, though it drew a mixed reaction in Germany.
“The one thing Germans love, is complaining about Germany,” Dittert tweeted.
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Sweden bans public gatherings of more than eight people
Sweden on Monday announced new restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s latest move to implement harsher measures after an initially lax response that relied on the public’s decision-making to stem the spread. Like much of Europe, Sweden has seen increasing hospitalizations and deaths, pushing the government to impose new rules. On Monday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced a ban on public gatherings of more than eight people.
“It is a clear and sharp signal to every person in our country as to what applies in the future,” Lofven said during a news conference. “Don’t go to the gym, don’t go the library, don’t have dinner out, don’t have parties — cancel!”
Last week, Sweden said it would ban restaurants and bars from selling alcohol after 10 p.m., starting Nov. 20, while also imposing new restrictions on nursing homes in and around Stockholm. Residents of elder-care facilities made up almost half of the people who had died of the virus by May.
The moves are mild compared with those in other European countries that have gone into lockdown or restricted regional travel, but they mark a departure from Sweden’s initial approach to containing the virus, which was seen as laissez faire compared with the responses of its neighbors. Lofven said that while advice from the spring proved effective, people are now less inclined to follow guidelines. “Now more of a ban is needed to bring down the curve of the number infected,” he said.
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Pandemic leads tens of thousands of international students to delay plans to enter U.S. colleges, survey shows
Tens of thousands of international students have paused their plans to enroll in U.S. colleges and universities this fall amid the novel coronaviruspandemic, threatening a key source of revenue for higher education, a new survey shows.
The Institute of International Education reported Monday that international enrollment fell 16 percent this fall at more than 700 schools it surveyed. The flow of new international students into U.S. institutions plummeted 43 percent from the previous year.
Nearly 40,000 international students have deferred enrollment, the institute reported, as the pandemic continues to wreak worldwide havoc on plans for travel and education.
Nature takes a beating from a different kind of tourist in Tahoe
By Erika Mailman
Most summers, visitors to Lake Tahoe respect its beauty and its bears. This summer, however was different, resulting in an increase in trash and bear activity, and protests from some of the locals.
Many tourism officials and business owners had feared Tahoe would take a major hit because of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the poor air quality from the California wildfires. Instead, the famously blue lake that straddles the state line between California and Nevada saw a boost in visitors.
But the vacationers who arrived in droves were not Tahoe’s typical tourists, observers say. Some seemed unfamiliar with wilderness protocols, which include packing out trash, protecting pristine natural elements such as trees and boulders, and not feeding the bears.
California has to slam the “emergency brake” on reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday, making it the latest state to reestablish restrictions as it experiences its sharpest increase in coronavirus infections yet.
The state’s daily case count doubled in the past week, a rise that is “without precedent,” Newsom (D) said during a news briefing Monday, as California tallied 9,890 new cases.
To slow the surge of infections, Newsom said 41 of the state’s 58 counties — including Orange, Santa Clara and Santa Barbara counties — will be on the most restrictive “purple” level, which requires many nonessential indoor businesses to close. Purple counties are ones reporting more than seven cases per day per 100,000 people and where the positivity rate for testing is above 8 percent. Last week, 13 counties were in that category.
Restaurants, gyms and places of worship in these hot spots must be outdoors-only, and bars must close, according to state guidelines. Nonessential offices are required to work remotely.
Because outbreaks have spiraled in recent weeks, Newsom announced that the state will move counties multiple tiers as needed and reassess more often, instead of only on Tuesdays.
“The bottom line is we’re moving from a marathon to a sprint,” he said.
Newsom added that he was considering a statewide curfew but said he was still reviewing research to see how effective it would be.
The closures come as states across the country have ramped up restrictions to try to tackle mounting infections and hospitalizations ahead of the busy Thanksgiving holiday. Governors in New Mexico, Oregon and Washington announced Friday the shutdown of indoor dining and other services. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) made a similar pronouncement Sunday, saying that a second stay-home order may follow if the state is unable to curb infections.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Monday also announced additional coronavirus measures, which require tables in dining areas to be six feet apart, restaurants and bars to close by 11 p.m. and that its approximately 33,000 state employees wear masks.
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Analysis: The most important part of Biden’s economic speech is what he did not say
As President-elect Joe Biden took the stage Monday for his first big address on U.S. economy, coronavirus cases were hitting all-time highs, numerous states and cities were issuing fresh stay-at-home orders, and Americans were noticeably pulling back on spending again.
Biden made it clear his first priority is getting the virus under control. He walked out on stage wearing a mask, and proclaimed, “There’s nothing macho about not wearing a mask.” He urged unity -- and common sense, saying his own family would limit Thanksgiving celebrations to no more than 10 people.
But in this moment of rising unease, it was noticeable what Biden did not say in his speech. He did not extend any sort of olive branch to Senate Republicans to re-start bipartisan negotiations on a stimulus bill, and he danced around the question of whether the nation needs another wide-scale closure of businesses and schools.
Iowa has become the latest state to implement a mask mandate after Gov. Kim Reynolds resisted calls to order one amid a surging coronavirus outbreak.
Iowans age 2 or older must wear a mask starting Tuesday in indoor public spaces and if they are within six feet of people who are not members of their households, Reynolds (R) announced Monday night in a recorded video message. The order also limits indoor and outdoor gatherings to 15 and 30 attendees, respectively, requires restaurants and bars to close at 10 p.m. and encourages those who are high-risk to stay home.
“This isn’t about mandates, this isn’t about government,” Reynolds said. “There isn’t enough law enforcement in the country to make sure Iowans wear a mask when they should. … If Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose.”
Reynolds has previously belittled mask mandates, calling them “feel-good” actions, and argued that her approach that supported individual freedoms earned President Trump the state in the election. She later ordered a limited requirement last week for face coverings for indoor gatherings with more than 25 people and outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people.
“I think the goal is to do what we can to reduce the spread of the virus,” Reynolds said in September, according to the Associated Press. “I believe that is the end goal and that we can get there without a mask mandate. I believe that and that’s what I’m going to consistently do.”
But on Monday, she said the state’s health-care system has been “pushed to the brink.” Iowa’s total number of reported infections doubled in the past month, and on Monday, the number of patients in the state currently hospitalized with covid-19 reached a high of 1,392.
Reynolds said she was postponing her Thanksgiving celebration and not hosting her children and grandchildren because of the pandemic.
“Now is the time to come together for the greater good,” she said.
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Some hospitals are desperately searching for staffers and paying dearly for it
In Bismarck, N.D., where Leslie McKamey is a nurse in the emergency department at CHI St. Alexius Health, caregivers have been so overwhelmed by covid-19 patients in the past few weeks that ambulances are sometimes diverted to the other major hospital in town.
Until that hospital, Sanford Medical Center, fills up as well. Then, there is no choice but to treat the flood of sick people who have made the state the worst coronavirus hot spot in this unprecedented surge of the pandemic.
“Our nurses are working longer shifts, a majority are picking up extra shifts, and we’re still short-staffed,” McKamey said, attributing the crisis in part to a hospital policy of reducing personnel in recent years. “We are taking on more patients than what we can really handle and what our patients deserve.”
As the virus stampedes across the country, setting previously unimaginable infection records nearly every day of its third major surge, some hospitals are desperately searching for staffers and paying dearly for it.
More than 1 million children in the United States have fallen ill with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association announced Monday.
In total, nearly 1.04 million kids under 18 have tested positive, which likely does not account for all cases as children are less likely to show symptoms or get tested, according to the associations for pediatricians. Almost 112,000 cases among children were reported during the week of Nov. 12, the largest increase since the start of the pandemic.
While children tend to experience mild infections, few face more severe cases: Kids accounted for more than 1 to 3 percent of the total reported hospitalizations and less than one-quarter of 1 percent of deaths.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the groups said in a joint release of data. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
The organizations pointed to the known psychological effects of natural disasters on children, adding that the disruption inflicted by the pandemic is likely to continue long term, wreaking “toxic stress” on young Americans.
AAP President Sally Goza called the data “staggering and tragic” in a statement, urging elected leaders to consider a national strategy that includes “proven public health measures like mask wearing and physical distancing” to address the rampant virus threatening families and straining health-care systems.
The count comes as some of the largest public school systems, such as New York City’s, consider going online amid a rising positivity rate and outbreaks.
Winter is coming and I am determined to eat outside for as long as I can bear it, and as long as health experts are encouraging outdoor over indoor dining. I’m not counting solely on my Minnesota roots to buoy me. In anticipation of a significant drop in temperature, my significant other bought a fire pit and two tall heaters, assurance that friends in our bubble will continue to accept invitations to our backyard for my reviews of takeout fare if not home-cooked dinners.
I’m hardly alone in my desire to sip and sup outside for the foreseeable future. One of the great takeaways from Election Day, when I spent the evening with a few socially distanced pals on a terrace outfitted with a big-screen TV, was a welcome from the host that included individual electric blankets. As winter approaches, the restaurant greeting for outdoor dining enthusiasts has flipped from “Let me tell you about tonight’s specials” to “Can I adjust your heater?”
Doering said she has covid-19 patients who need 100 percent-oxygen breathing assistance who will also swear that they don’t have the illness that has ended the lives of nearly a quarter-million people in the United States since February.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who is the longest-serving member of the House and who initially downplayed the severity of covid-19, said in an interview that he is recovering from a brutal case of the disease.
“I’ve been shot, I’ve been rolled over, I’ve been hit in the head a hundred times, but I’ve never felt as bad as I did” with the virus, Young said. “This is not good.”
Young, 87, is also the oldest House member. He was hospitalized at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage for three days before being discharged Sunday night.
“I’m making progress. I can’t complain,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go in a few days, back and hit the old pavement.”
Young, who was first elected in 1973, said “many” members of his campaign staff also have been infected with the coronavirus, though he did not provide an exact number and his office would not comment, citing privacy concerns. He added that his wife has tested positive but is not symptomatic.
Young said he does not know how or when he contracted the virus. But he continued to hold in-person fundraising events during the campaign season and did not require attendees to wear masks or to socially distance.
He said that he personally supports wearing masks and following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but that he does not support mask mandates or believe in “hunkering down.”
Young had dismissed the coronavirus in March, calling it the “beer virus,” a reference to Corona beer, as he told a gathering of senior citizens in Alaska that the dangers were overhyped. He later apologized and acknowledged that he had not grasped the severity of covid-19.
Now that he has experienced the coronavirus firsthand, he has a new nickname for it. “I call it the whiskey virus,” he said. “You drink too much and it’ll kill you.”
Supreme Court won’t force Texas prison officials to comply with lower court order
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to force Texas prison officials to add safety precautions in a geriatric prison unit hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit stopped a lower-court ruling in favor of prisoners at Wallace Pack Unit, a geriatric prison in Southeast Texas. Since the coronavirus was detected in the prison in April, more than 500 inmates — more than 40 percent of the inmate population — have tested positive, and 20 have died. But Texas prison officials say they are addressing the problem, and the appeals court said they did not have to comply with the district court’s order while the case proceeded.
Inmates Laddy Valentine, 69, and Richard King, 73, brought the case to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis.
As is common in such emergency appeals, the majority did not give a reason for leaving the appeals court injunction in place. The court has been reluctant in coronavirus-related disputes to enforce court decisions in the face of opposition from local officials.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court should have adopted a different policy in this case.
“The people incarcerated in the Pack Unit are some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Sotomayor wrote. “They face severe risks of serious illness and death from COVID-19, but are unable to take even the most basic precautions against the virus on their own.”
She added that “if the prison fails to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing, perform regular testing, and take other essential steps, the inmates can do nothing but wait for the virus to take its toll. Twenty lives have been lost already. I fear the [court’s action] will lead to further, needless suffering.”
Dow soars to new heights on promising vaccine news
U.S. stocks closed at new records Monday, after promising trial news from Moderna left investors hopeful that the country may have two coronavirus vaccines available on a limited basis by the end of 2020.
After a preliminary analysis, biotechnology firm Moderna reported that its experimental coronavirus vaccine, which it is co-developing with the National Institutes of Health, was almost 95 percent effective at preventing illness, including severe cases. The news comes just days after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech reported that its experimental vaccine was 90 percent effective, spurring optimism on Wall Street that powered the S&P 500 to a record Friday.
By market close, the Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 471 points, or 1.6 percent, at 29,950, a new record close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 1.16 percent to 3,626. The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed up 0.8 percent to 11,924.