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The country’s two largest states broke the nationwide record for most new coronavirus infections reported in a single day on Wednesday, with California tallying 18,350 and Texas nearly 16,100 — around 3,000 and 1,000 cases more than the previous high, respectively.

The new records come amid a trio of surging metrics: infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise across the country. Wednesday was the 33rd consecutive day that the United States set a new record in its seven-day average of reported cases, according to data compiled and analyzed by The Washington Post. Nearly 90,000 people are currently in hospitals with covid-19, another record.

The United States logged nearly 2,300 coronavirus-related fatalities on Wednesday. It was the pandemic’s deadliest day in the country since early May.

Here are some significant developments:
2:52 a.m.
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Driven by the coronavirus, Gov. Hogan succeeds in an old fight: Losing weight

By Ovetta Wiggins

“Fat Larry.”

For a long time that’s the nickname Gov. Larry Hogan (R) envisioned President Trump would hurl at him on Twitter.

But it never came — not from Trump anyway, though critics have occasionally taunted the governor about his portliness on social media.

Hogan is trying to make the moniker not fit. A few months ago, he launched himself on a weight-loss journey, eliminating sugar and carbs from his diet and eventually replacing them with nutritional shakes, bars and one sensible meal a day. He exercises on an elliptical machine.

Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman, said the governor shed about 20 pounds before he began the Medifast program this summer. Since then, he has lost 30 more pounds, she said. And while the governor won’t reveal his current weight, he says it’s nearly the same as when he was sworn in to his first term as governor in 2015.

2:32 a.m.
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Hundreds without masks packed a Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn. The organizers face a $15,000 fine.

By Andrea Salcedo

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews crammed shoulder-to-shoulder inside a Brooklyn synagogue earlier this month, jumping up and down in unison and singing in Yiddish to celebrate a wedding. There was not a mask in sight in a video of the Nov. 8 event published by the New York Post.

Authorities say they only learned about the huge gathering at the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg after the videos began circulating on social media and a local Hasidic newspaper published a detailed account of how the synagogue’s leaders had plotted to keep it a secret.

Now, city leaders say they’re taking action. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said the event’s organizers will be fined $15,000 for violating pandemic restrictions, adding that more penalties could come.

2:10 a.m.
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After effort to disinfect cold food shipments, senior Chinese official says infection risk is ‘very low’

By Rick Noack

A senior Chinese official Wednesday acknowledged that there is only a “very low” risk that coronavirus traces on cold-chain food imports can infect people handling those products.

“The risk of consumers catching coronavirus through general contact of cold-chain food products and their outer packaging is very low,” said Li Ning, an official with China’s National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, according to Reuters.

This month, China puzzled international trading partners when it announced that it would disinfect refrigerated or frozen food shipments to the country after officials linked recent infections to products that had arrived from foreign virus hot spots, Bloomberg News reported.

The move came after a port worker in the Chinese city of Tianjin tested positive for the coronavirus after potentially being exposed while processing frozen pork knuckles from Germany, according to German news agency DPA. Officials reportedly found traces of the virus on the imported food.

In a separate incident, Chinese officials said that coronavirus traces on food imported from Brazil may have exposed workers in Shandong, a province to the south of Beijing.

1:51 a.m.
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Head of USAID tests positive for coronavirus

By John Hudson and Yeganeh Torbati

The top official in charge of the U.S. Agency for International Development, John Barsa, has tested positive for the coronavirus, U.S. officials said.

Barsa, who leads one of the world’s largest aid organizations, has been isolating since he began exhibiting symptoms late Monday, USAID spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said in a statement.

“While I do feel tired, I continue to monitor work virtually,” Barsa said in a memo to staff obtained by The Washington Post. “The Agency’s COVID-19 Readiness Unit is notifying any individuals with whom I have met over the past 2 days.”

He noted that his offices would be “deep-cleaned” and closed until next Monday.

1:43 a.m.
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California inmates carry out massive pandemic benefits fraud, officials say

By Hamza Shaban

More than 100 California inmates on death row were part of a scheme to draw unemployment benefits intended for Americans put out of work because of the coronavirus, prosecutors said, describing what was possibly the largest alleged fraud in the state’s history.

All told, tens of thousands of incarcerated people spanning every prison in California took part in the alleged theft, filing a total of 35,000 pandemic unemployment claims between March and August, garnering $140 million in government benefits.

“The fraud is honestly staggering,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said Tuesday.

After the inmates filed the fraudulent claims, the government sent the money either directly to them inside of prisons and jails or to their relatives and contacts with home addresses, Schubert said. The 133 death row inmates accused of taking part in the scheme drew $420,000.

Schubert said California does not check whether people who file unemployment claims are imprisoned, explaining how the fraud went on for so long. Thirty-five other states have a cross-matching system to prevent such schemes from being carried out.

In some cases, the inmates used their real names, while in others, they used aliases and fake social security numbers. Schubert said that in one example, an inmate used the name “poopy britches.”

Prosecutors said they found out about the scheme after a rush of money orders arrived for inmates and as recorded prison calls showed inmates talking about the unemployment claims and how easy it was to secure them.

Earlier this year, lawmakers warned that states’ unemployment systems were vulnerable to attack, as the economic shock of the coronavirus dislodged millions of people from their jobs, flooding benefits offices with new claims.

1:14 a.m.
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Study: Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities surpass 100,000

By Christopher Rowland

The number of covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has surpassed 100,000 since the start of the pandemic, representing about 40 percent of all U.S. deaths, a new study said Wednesday.

“This is an ominous and tragic milestone,” said Tricia Neuman, one of the study’s authors and senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on health-care issues, which produced the report.

“We have reached this milestone weeks before the surge in new cases that are expected from Thanksgiving gatherings,” she said.

The count of deaths of residents and facility staffers was based on data reported by states and aggregated by KFF.

Elderly people are at a much greater risk of suffering severe or fatal covid-19 symptoms after being infected by the coronavirus. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country have been vulnerable to severe outbreaks, often exacerbated by a lack of personal protective equipment for staffers and poor enforcement of social distancing and other measures.

A Washington Post investigation published in October found that the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had issued only a small number of citations and penalties for things such as staffers not wearing masks and lapses in social distancing, even as death tolls have skyrocketed.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a news release this week, it cautioned against holiday travel, because of the community spread of the coronavirus across the country.

“The number of COVID cases across the country is rising at an alarming rate, resulting in a correlating spike in cases in long term care settings,” the trade association said. It cited especially high nursing home caseloads in the Midwest, which it said “has seen a staggering 275% increase since September.”

12:28 a.m.
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California, Texas set nationwide records for new infections in a single day

By Reis Thebault and Jacqueline Dupree

The country’s two largest states broke the nationwide record for most new coronavirus infections reported in a single day on Wednesday, with California tallying 18,350 and Texas nearly 16,100 — around 3,000 and 1,000 cases more than their previous highs, respectively.

The new records come amid a trio of surging metrics: Infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise across the country. Wednesday was the 33rd consecutive day that the United States set a new record in its seven-day average of reported cases, according to data compiled and analyzed by The Washington Post. Nearly 90,000 people are in hospitals with covid-19, another record.

In California, as elsewhere, officials have already implemented new restrictions to slow virus spread, and they’re contemplating still more measures. In Los Angeles County, the most populous in the country, the health department warned last week of a new stay-at-home order that would allow only for essential travel and work. Officials have since backed off, the Los Angeles Times reported, and while new measures look increasingly likely, they won’t be as strict.

They include bans on gatherings of people who don’t live in the same household, except for outdoor church services and protests. Reductions are also planned in the occupancy levels of retail stores, grocery stores and libraries.

The county has also continued warning against holiday travel and large gatherings. On Wednesday, its Twitter page shared a video of intensive care units crowded with covid-19 patients and advised, “Don’t make this your home for the holidays.”

In Texas, the head of a Houston hospital also issued a dire warning.

“If we don’t do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” Joseph Varon, chief of staff of United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, told CNN.

Varon said his hospital is already full and he’s worked more than 250 days in a row.

California and Texas have recorded more infections than anywhere, partially because they are the country’s most populous states. Adjusted for population, California ranks among the 12 lowest states and territories in cases per capita. Texas is 27th, with about 300 more cases per capita than the countrywide average.

States in the Midwest and the Plains — places where fewer people live, but fierce outbreaks have fueled recent virus spikes — lead the country in cases per 100,000 residents.

12:02 a.m.
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Denver mayor travels for Thanksgiving, despite his own recommendations not to

By Paulina Villegas

State and local leaders have ramped up efforts in recent weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Yet as the holiday weekend nears, several elected officials seem to be breaking the very same rules they have urged citizens to abide.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) traveled to Houston ahead of Thanksgiving on Wednesday to join his daughter and wife, contradicting his own continuous instructions that people should stay home, spend the holiday with their household and hold virtual gatherings, KUSA reported.

Only 30 minutes before boarding his flight, KUSA reports, Hancock’s official Twitter account published a series of recommendations for the weekend, including “to avoid travel, if you can.”

Steve Chirico, the mayor of Naperville, Ill., found himself in a similar controversy this week when his niece called him out on Twitter for traveling to Naples, Fla., to attend a wedding, NBC Chicago reported. Just a week earlier, Chirico (R) had warned a mask mandate was likely to be issued in the suburban city to deal with a surge of cases.

And a few weeks ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was also under heavy scrutiny after local media outlets reported he attended an indoor dinner party with other families at a Napa Valley restaurant, while covid-19 cases soared across the state, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Newsom apologized in a statement, saying he and his wife “should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.”

11:12 p.m.
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Head of Houston hospital warns of ‘darkest days’ in modern medical history

By Paulina Villegas

As the country experiences a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Joseph Varon, chief of staff of United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, launched a dire warning Wednesday, saying the worst is yet to come in the weeks ahead if the public does not take necessary actions to stem the spread.

“If we don’t do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” Varon told CNN on Wednesday.

Varon said his hospital is already full, as his staff has also been attending to patients flown in from El Paso, where the National Guard has been called in to help morgues deal with the large number of bodies.

On what he said was his 251st straight day of working because of the pandemic, Varon told the news outlet that he has opened two more wings to accommodate an influx of new patients expected after Thanksgiving.

“For the last few days we have seen a steady increase in the number of cases. There is no question that patients into the hospital are coming — they are coming in sicker because they are waiting longer to go to the hospital, they are tired of corona,” Varon said in the interview.

“They have what I call corona fatigue syndrome,” he added.

With at least 88,000 Americans currently hospitalized for covid-19, and many states reporting record-high caseloads and hospitalizations, particularly in the Midwest, medical centers are running at maximum capacity, leaving staff and medical workers exhausted.

Varon’s remarks came as the United States reached yet another grim milestone: More than 2,100 covid-19 deaths were reported Wednesday, marking the pandemic’s deadliest day in more than six months.

10:04 p.m.
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Swedish life expectancy likely to fall this year due to pandemic, government says

By Adam Taylor

Life expectancy in Sweden this year is expected to fall because of the pandemic, the country’s statistics agency announced on Wednesday.

Statistics Sweden said that preliminary data from the first half of the year suggested that life expectancy had already declined from 84.7 to 84.4 years for women and 81.3 to 80.8 years for men.

It was unlikely that the final months of the year would reverse this trend, the agency said.

The report noted that there were significant regional differences, with Stockholm County among the worst hit.

“Life expectancy has increased steadily in Sweden during the period of 1900–2019,” Statistics Sweden said. “That it sinks stands out.”

Deaths from covid-19 in 2020 were one big factor in the new calculation, the agency said.

During the first six months of the year “almost 6,500” more deaths had occurred than during the same period in 2019. The agency said that the continued spread of the coronavirus may mean the calculations will have to be changed again.

The current spread of the virus “may well lead to more surplus deaths during the last two months of the year, which may result in even lower life expectancy in 2020,” said Örjan Hemström, a demographer at Statistics Sweden.

Sweden has recently ranked near the top among developed nations for life expectancy, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

9:49 p.m.
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Stocks pause after a remarkable rise amid an intensifying pandemic

By Hamza Shaban

Stocks dipped Wednesday after consecutive winning days and a rally that has propelled devastated markets from the depths of March to record highs, even as coronavirus infections are surging with fierce intensity as Thanksgiving arrives.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 174 points, or 0.58 percent, at the closing bell. The S&P 500 slipped 6 points, or 0.16 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 57 points, or 0.47 percent, to finish the last full trading day of the week.

In a remarkable reversal from earlier this year — when the initial outbreak of covid-19 and the first wave of public health restrictions triggered staggering losses on Wall Street — the major indexes have staged a robust comeback.

Compared with their March 23 lows, when markets plummeted, the S&P and the Dow have roared back, climbing about 60 percent. The Nasdaq, buoyed by technology companies whose products and services have thrived in the stay-at-home environment, has leaped 75 percent since its March bottom.

But as with upward swings this summer, the market optimism is accompanied by profound economic suffering and the deadly toll of the virus. Images of hundreds and even thousands of cars lining up at food banks across the country underscore that the celebrated recovery has not reached many Americans.

Tuesday, when the Dow surpassed 30,000 for the first time, also marked the country’s deadliest day of the pandemic: About 2,100 people lost their lives to covid-19.

Markets will close on Thanksgiving Day. Trading will resume for a shortened session on Friday.

9:45 p.m.
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German daily virus deaths set record high as country debates Christmas restrictions

By Adam Taylor

Germany has recorded a record number of deaths from covid-19 over 24 hours, according to the country’s national disease and control center.

The record-breaking toll — over 400 for the first time — comes as German leaders debated whether to extend virus restrictions over the Christmas holiday season.

The death toll from the virus stood at 410 on Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute announced, marking the highest daily toll since the outbreak began.

The number is a significant increase from Nov. 2, when Germany introduced a month-long partial shutdown because of rising cases. The number of deaths on that day was 49.

Chancellor Angela Merkel met with leaders of the country’s 16 federal states Wednesday to determine whether to extend the restrictions. Leaders in France and Britain announced Wednesday that they would ease their nations’ restrictions over the Christmas period.

Merkel pushed for more-strenuous restrictions last week but found herself rebuffed by federal leaders.

The Robert Koch Institute recorded 18,633 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, taking Germany’s total to 961,320. The total number of deaths in Germany is 14,771.

9:40 p.m.
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Hundreds of youth soccer teams will gather in Arizona over Thanksgiving weekend

By Roman Stubbs

As restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic continue to limit their opportunities to play in California, several teams from the Oceanside Breakers youth soccer organization have found a new solution in recent weeks. Families have traveled several hours from their homes in San Diego County to tournaments in Arizona, where less strict guidelines have mostly allowed youth teams to play on.

“We’re doing it because other clubs in our area have been doing it for a while, and if we don’t do it, our players will leave for other clubs,” said Anthony Benvenuto, president of the Oceanside Breakers. “That’s the last thing we want. But we also don’t want to put any kid in harm’s way.”

Those teams will continue to push the boundaries this weekend at the Desert Super Cup tournament in the Phoenix area, which is expected to draw more than 500 teams — including hundreds from out of state — even as Arizona and most of the country face a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

1:57 p.m.
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The pandemic is generating tons of discarded PPE. This entrepreneur is turning them into bricks.

By Taniya Dutta

NEW DELHI — As coronavirus cases spread around the world earlier this year, Binish Desai found himself increasingly nervous. It wasn't only the pandemic that worried him, but the waste it was generating.

Masks and protective gear were being used a single time and then discarded by the tons, eventually destined for landfills or bodies of water.

“I have eco-anxiety,” said Desai, a 27-year-old environmental activist and innovator in western India. When he sees waste, he said, he automatically begins thinking about ways to use it.

By September, he had come up with a solution: Take the used protective gear and mold it into bricks for buildings. He already has made more than 40,000 such bricks for projects including homes and factories, and is gearing up to produce 15,000 a day.