A powerful tool to control the coronavirus pandemic could be available in weeks, as Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech plan to file Friday for emergency authorization of their vaccine. But officials are still preparing for grim months as the virus spreads rapidly — the United States neared 200,000 new infections in a day on Thursday, as hospitalizations broke records and the pandemic claimed its highest daily death toll since May 7.
These 3 tools can help you navigate quarantine and testing policies by state
By Shannon McMahon
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, many states have implemented rolling travel restrictions that change often. The coronavirus case rates in both a traveler’s origin and destination can determine if a trip across state lines — even a short one — could result in necessary tests or quarantine.
Now with a surge of U.S. infections, even more states are updating their policies and tightening their restrictions ahead of the holiday travel season.
If you’re planning to drive or fly out of state soon, leave tracking the dizzying restrictions to the professionals. Several months into the pandemic, there are user-friendly resources that track the most up-to-date quarantine and testing rules in the United States so you don’t have to. Here are a few options to bookmark.
U.S. officials expect 20 million people to be vaccinated by the end of December
By Anne Gearan and Seung Min Kim
In a private telephone briefing with both Republican and Democratic senators earlier Thursday, the leaders of Operation Warp Speed — the Trump administration’s primary vaccine apparatus — said they had not been asked to brief Biden officials on their efforts, according to multiple officials directly familiar with the call.
The officials — Gustave Perna and Moncef Slaoui — indicated they would communicate with the Biden team if asked, noting they would indeed want the new administration to be prepared, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private call.
After a Democratic senator asked vaccine officials about attempts to brief Biden’s team, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked whether Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, a sitting senator, was on the line and invited her to ask a question, according to another person with knowledge of the conference call.
After the operator noted that Harris (D-Calif.) was not on the call, Barrasso — a member of Republican leadership who helped moderate the call — moved on to the next question.
On the call, Perna and Slaoui also relayed to senators an optimistic update on a coronavirus vaccine, saying that the administration expects 20 million people to be vaccinated by the end of December, and that there are enough doses in production for 25 million more people to be inoculated in both January and February, the officials said. The federal government would allocate the vaccines to individual states, which would then carry out their own distribution plans.
Mexico records grim milestone: 100,000 deaths from covid-19
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Mexico City — Mexico announced on Thursday that it had surpassed 100,000 deaths from covid-19, as the country grappled with a new wave of infections.
Hugo López-Gatell, a senior Health Ministry official who leads Mexico’s response, said there was “no precedent in Mexican society” for a virus causing so many deaths so quickly.
Mexico has the 10th-largest number of deaths per 100,000 people in the world, according to the latest statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
By Thursday, the official death count was 100,104. The real toll is believed to be significantly higher. Through late September, authorities reported 193,170 more deaths in 2020 than expected. They include not only people who had been infected with coronavirus, but those suffering other ailments who were unable to receive timely care because hospitals were overwhelmed.
Mexico has been hit hard by the pandemic for various reasons. Around half of workers labor in the informal economy — taxi drivers, street vendors, plumbers — and couldn’t stay home for long. There are high levels of diabetes, obesity and hypertension, which increase the risk of serious cases of covid-19 . Many people who become ill have been reluctant to go to Mexico’s public hospitals, which have been underfunded for decades.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been widely criticized for initially playing down the danger of the pandemic. He rarely wears a face mask. Mexico has one of the lowest rate of coronavirus testing in Latin America, but has been ramping up community-health programs to provide information and care as cases and deaths have begun climbing after weeks of decline.
U.S. reports record with nearly 200,000 new cases, daily death toll not seen since May
By Darren Sands
The United States neared 200,000 new coronavirus infections in a day on Thursday, as the pandemic claimed its highest daily death toll since May 7.
The 185,424 new cases reported Thursday represent an all-time high. More than 166,000 new cases were reported Wednesday.
A high in current covid-19 hospitalizations (about 81,000) threatened again to push the health-care system to the brink in several states, as state public health officials worried about reaching ICU bed capacity.
From coast to coast, stricter measures have been put in place in an effort to control the rate of infection. Officials in New York City announced that schools would close temporarily to in-person instruction beginning Thursday; in California, a curfew will require most residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The new restriction goes into effect on Saturday, and lasts through Dec. 21.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued one of its sternest warnings to date, urging Americans not to travel unnecessarily for the Thanksgiving holiday. For those who do gather, families are encouraged to gather outdoors, wear masks and keep a distance of at least six feet from others.
Virginia day care provider refuses to wear mask around kids, tells parents covid-19 is ‘hoax’
By Meagan Flynn, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein
The complaints started to mount after a teacher who tested positive for the coronavirus had been at work maskless — working with toddlers and infants. In fact, no one was wearing masks at Little Lambs Christian Dayschool, the day care at Fairlawn Christian Academy in Radford, Va., according to Virginia Department of Health records.
Parents got nervous. So Pastor Stephen Phillips sent a memo to them on Monday, telling them there was nothing to be worried about. “Don’t allow yourself to be controlled and manipulated by media hype and government propaganda,” the pastor wrote, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post and which is also referenced in state records. “Please do your own research!”
Now, after parents and even one employee’s boyfriend complained to the state health department, Phillips’s apparent refusal to comply with virus restrictions has led to swift consequences.
Tyson Foods president and CEO Dean Banks said in a statement that those allegedly involved — who held leadership roles at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa — have been suspended without pay. Former U.S. attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. will lead an independent investigation into the matter, Banks said.
He said the company is “extremely upset” at the behavior described in the lawsuit.
“We expect every team member at Tyson Foods to operate with the utmost integrity and care in everything we do,” Banks said. “If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company.”
The lawsuit was filed by the son of Isidro Fernandez, an Iowan, family man and Waterloo plant worker who — according to the suit — died on April 20 of complications of covid-19. The filing alleges that even though supervisors knew there was uncontrolled spread at the plant, vulnerable people like Fernandez were made to work long hours in close quarters without protective equipment.
According to the Des Moines Register, the Black Hawk County Health Department reported that over one-third of the site’s employees — about 1,000 workers — were infected with the virus.
Tyson said Thursday that its staff’s health and safety is a “top priority” and that precautions such as testing, social distancing monitors and temperature scanners help protect staff at the Waterloo plant.
The pandemic’s death toll in the United States cracked a quarter-million on Thursday, as daily cases and current hospitalizations spike to all-time highs. Meat plants emerged early on as hot spots for infection.
Most Californians will be under month-long overnight curfew; four other states impose new rules
By Hannah Knowles
Five more states on Thursday announced broad new restrictions aimed at curbing the fall wave of the coronavirus that has broken daily case records and strained hospitals. The changes will affect the lives of millions of people around the country as leaders urge continued caution while Americans await a vaccine.
In California: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. halt to nonessential work and gatherings — a “limited stay-at-home order,” as officials put it — for most counties in the nation’s most populous state. The new restrictions cover “purple-tier” counties with “widespread” coronavirus risk, and will apply to almost all of the state’s residents. The rules take effect this Saturday night and continue until Dec. 21.
In Maine: Gov. Janet Mills (D) said that many businesses — restaurants and other businesses with seated food and drink service, movie theaters, performing arts venues and more — must close each night by 9 p.m., in an effort to limit gatherings that could spread the virus. The restrictions start Friday and last through Dec. 6.
In Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) declared a statewide two-week “pause” starting Monday. In-person instruction at colleges and universities will be halted; offices must close whenever possible; bar areas, recreational venues and indoor sports facilities will all have to shut down, she said. And starting Thursday, Raimondo said, social gatherings must be kept to one household. “This means you should not be spending time socially with anyone you don’t live with — this includes on Thanksgiving,” the governor tweeted.
In New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu became the latest Republican governor to embrace a statewide mask mandate, following leaders in states such as Utah and North Dakota. New Hampshire’s rules, which require people to wear face coverings in public spaces and when they cannot stay socially distant from non-household-members, will take effect Friday and will last through mid-January.
In Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said all businesses that sell alcohol for on-premises consumption must close each night by 11 p.m., starting Friday. The move is meant to limit coronavirus spread during “prolonged social interaction in group settings,” the governor said.
Treasury Secretary cuts off several Federal Reserve emergency aid programs, sparking unusual rebuke
By Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said he would not extend most of the emergency lending programs run in tandem with the Federal Reserve, a move the central bank immediately criticized, citing the fragile recovery.
The Fed’s exceedingly rare public response reflected a government divided on how to respond, as the pandemic surges across the nation, threatening a new wave of shutdowns and marking an inflection point of the recession.
In a letter to Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, Mnuchin requested not only that several of the programs wind down at the end of the year, but also that unspent money allocated to the Fed under the first stimulus effort, the Cares Act, be reallocated by Congress. The move would end most of the Fed’s emergency lending facilities, including the Main Street lending program and the municipal liquidity facility, which issue loans to struggling businesses and local governments. Mnuchin also requested a 90-day extension of a few of the programs that operate through the markets.
Pfizer to seek emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine Friday
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will file for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine Friday, a landmark moment that signals that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available within weeks.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a briefing Thursday afternoon. “Ten months into this novel pathogen hitting our shores … Now, Pfizer’s partner BioNTech has announced that tomorrow, they intend to file for emergency use authorization at the FDA.”
Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that the companies could file for emergency authorization for their vaccine within days. The vaccine candidate has been shown to be 95 percent effective in a large clinical trial, and the companies have gathered sufficient safety data to support an application, with no major safety problems.
The next step is an exhaustive regulatory review of the vaccine candidate by career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration. An independent advisory committee will hold a public meeting to review the evidence, probably in the second week of December.
Pfizer is working to manufacture 50 million doses of vaccine this year — enough for 25 million people to take the two-dose regimen. Half of those doses have been committed to the United States.
Moderna, a biotechnology firm working on another vaccine candidate, is about a week behind Pfizer and is expected to file for emergency authorization soon.
Pence implores schools to reopen and stay open amid rising infections
By Moriah Balingit
Vice President Pence implored schools to keep their doors open amid rising coronavirus infection rates, as many large school districts close their doors or postpone plans to reopen.
“President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our president does not support another national lockdown, and we do not support closing schools,” Pence said.
The Trump administration pushed hard to reopen schools, at times threatening to pull funding from districts that closed or using dubious science to back its recommendations. Trump claimed that officials were closing schools to hurt him at the polls, and he openly pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to loosen their regulation.
There is growing evidence that schools can be safely reopened with proper measures, even in communities with rising infection rates. New York City conducted random testing among the staff and schoolchildren who returned to classes this fall, and found that less than a quarter of 1 percent of tests came back positive.
“There is extensive data we’ve gathered … to confirm that K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning, and they can do it safely,” said Robert Redfield, director of the CDC.
Elinore McCance-Katz, who heads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, underscored the risks the school closures posed to children. Teachers are often the ones who report child abuse and neglect, and schools are where many children access mental health services.
“Structure and safety of schools are integral to our children’s whole health,” McCance-Katz said. “The role of the school cannot be overstated.”
Virginia gun show canceled after judge orders organizers to adhere to state coronavirus crowd limits
By Antonio Olivo
A gun show expected to draw thousands of attendees to an expo center in Fairfax County this weekend was canceled Thursday after a judge ruled the organizers had to adhere to the state’s newly tightened coronavirus restrictions.
The three-day “Nation’s Gun Show” was scheduled to begin Friday at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, but would have had to operate under new capacity restrictions — limiting the crowd to 250 people at a time — that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) implemented in response to a surge in infections.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, the show’s organizer, Showmasters Inc., said the tighter rules, which went into effect Monday, violate gun owners’ rights and would lead to financial hardships for vendors arriving from as far away as Texas after several months of planning for the event.
‘No national shutdown,’ Biden says when pressed on pandemic response plans
By Felicia Sonmez
At a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, Biden said he would not push for a nationwide economic shutdown as president to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
During an interview with ABC News in August, Biden was asked whether he would shut down the nation’s economy if scientists called for it to combat the pandemic. “I would shut it down,” Biden replied at the time.
But on Thursday, in remarks after he and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris held a teleconference with the executive board of the National Governors Association, Biden said it was wrong to interpret his response as an endorsement of a national shutdown.
“It was a hypothetical question,” Biden said. “The answer was, I would follow the science. I am not going to shut down the country, period. I’m going to shut down the virus. That’s what I’m going to shut down.”
He added: “I’ll say it again: No national shutdown. No national shutdown, because every region, every community, every area can be different. And so, there’s no circumstance which I can see that would require a total national shutdown. I think that would be counterproductive.”
Biden also told reporters Thursday that he had discussed with governors his idea for a national mask mandate, arguing that wearing a face covering is “not a political statement; it’s a patriotic duty.”
He also noted that the United States on Wednesday recorded its 250,000th death from covid-19.
“The country is still in a crisis, and there’s a dark winter still ahead,” he said.
Biden again urged the Trump administration to provide his transition team with access to information and officials to coordinate on pandemic response planning. He pointed to the scale of the challenge of eventually vaccinating all Americans, a topic he said came up during his meeting with the governors.
“It took eight months to provide 100 million covid tests. … Just imagine how much more difficult it will be, they pointed out, if we don’t find a more efficient and effective way to provide 330 million vaccinations,” he said.
Smithsonian museums, zoo to close as coronavirus caseload in D.C. region hits record for 16th day
By Dana Hedgpeth, Ovetta Wiggins and Peter Hermann
The greater Washington region reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday — a record for a single day — with weeks of sustained increases prompting the Smithsonian Institution to close facilities that had reopened to the public.
Maryland, Virginia and D.C. reported 5,077 new cases Thursday amid a national surge that has seen several states set records in recent days. It lifted the Washington region’s seven-day average number of cases to 4,109 — about twice the number being reported at the end of October.
It’s the 16th straight day that the region’s average daily number of cases has hit a record.
A server filmed a viral video of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts maskless. Then she was fired.
By Timothy Bella
If she hadn’t picked up the dinner shift for a co-worker who had contracted the coronavirus, Karina Montanez would not have seen Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) posing maskless for photos and cradling a baby at a sports bar on election night.
When the 25-year-old server spotted the governor remove his mask in the back of DJ’s Dugout, an Omaha-area restaurant, to talk and take photos with other maskless people, she pulled out her phone and started filming.
The video went viral this week, leaving critics slamming Ricketts for refusing to issue a mask mandate in the state as coronavirus cases surge. But Montanez faced her own blowback: She was fired on Tuesday from the bar, for violating the company’s social media and cellphone policy, according to the owner.