Millions of people in the San Francisco Bay Area will be subject to new stay-at-home orders, local officials announced Friday, a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said most of the nation’s most populous state was on track to hit critically low hospital capacity levels, triggering new restrictions.
The Bay Area has not reached those triggers yet but became the first region to implement the stay-at-home plans Newsom outlined. Health officials for the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara said Friday that they want to act before hospitals grow too strained. California on Friday reported 22,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest ever single-day total for any state.
The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November — the slowest month of growth since the recovery began.
Covid-19-related deaths are likely to reach 539,000 by April, according to a new estimate Friday.
The United States has set new highs for daily infections three days in a row, climbed past 2,500 deaths a day for four straight days, and hit new highs for hospitalizations for the eighth consecutive day.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser escalated efforts Thursday to obtain more coronavirus vaccine doses for city health-care workers, arguing that the Trump administration’s planned rollout of doses for a first cohort of high-priority recipients is unfairly based on where people live instead of where they work.
With case numbers rising in the nation’s capital, Bowser (D) sent a letter Thursday to officials overseeing the federal Operation Warp Speed vaccination plan, saying the city would be able to inoculate less than a tenth of its 85,000 health-care workers with the 6,800 doses it expects to receive under the current distribution formula.
By comparison, Maryland expects 300,000 vaccine doses by January, enough to cover about half of its population of health-care workers, officials there said Thursday. Virginia expects about 140,000 doses for its first cohort of recipients, a group that comprises about 500,000 health-care workers and residents of long-term-care facilities.
Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangue takes us into the inner workings of Madrid’s Teatro Real during the coronavirus pandemic. His photos show us how the opera house has changed some of its operations, including masked performers in backstage rehearsals, and new cleaning and testing protocols.
Philippine police and soldiers will wield meter-long sticks on their “social distancing patrols” in the capital of Manila, both to measure distance between individuals and potentially cane those found to be violating public health rules, police general Cesar Binang told reporters on Friday.
The new enforcement measures come ahead of Christmas celebrations in the predominantly Catholic country, where more people are gathering in large numbers for the festive season. Current restrictions include bans on holiday parties and caroling.
President Rodrigo Duterte has faced widespread criticism over his years in office for harsh policing tactics. The United Nations human rights office has reported that security forces killed more than 8,000 people since 2016, when Duterte launched a “war on drugs” across the country. Other groups have recorded significantly higher numbers of fatalities.
Police have also strictly enforced coronavirus protocols, with more than 700,000 people arrested for violating public health rules since March, Reuters reported.
Updates continue below advertisement
U.S. beats its infection record for the third day in a row
As the week draws to a close, the United States has maintained alarming, record-breaking streaks for every indicator of the coronavirus pandemic: It has topped its own count for daily infections three days in a row, climbed past 2,500 deaths a day for four straight days, and hit new highs for hospitalizations for the eighth consecutive day.
New coronavirus cases nationwide nearly topped 230,000 Friday, as California reported 22,000 new cases, the highest one-day case total for any state. The state was among 11 that saw records for daily case counts and 15 with new highs for seven-day average daily cases. But transmission of the virus is rampant across the country: Nearly 35 states saw increased case counts in the past week.
Despite California’s spike, the state remains toward the lower end of the nation’s per capita count for infections, ranking No. 41. Topping that grim list are Midwestern states — the Dakotas, followed by Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Also Friday, the nation counted 2,600 covid-19 deaths, adding to the deadliest four-day streak yet. The country’s seven-day average for deaths, 1,966, has steadily crept upward this week, approaching the record of 2,250 set April 17. Forty-one states have experienced an increase in deaths greater than 10 percent in the past week. Among those, Oregon, Iowa, Washington and Tennessee reported highs for daily death counts.
As officials worry about growing strain on the health-care system in many states, current hospitalization counts throughout the country have also broken records for this week. On Friday, just over 101,000 people are in hospitals for covid-19.
Updates continue below advertisement
Bribery cloud hangs over Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac
Chinese coronavirus-vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech is good at getting its products to market. It was first to begin clinical trials of a SARS vaccine in 2003 and first to bring a swine flu vaccine to consumers in 2009.
Its CEO was also bribing China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals during that time, court records show.
Sinovac is now seeking to supply its coronavirus vaccine to developing nations, from Brazil to Turkey to Indonesia. While graft and weak transparency have long plagued China’s pharmaceutical industry, seldom has the reliability of a single drug vendor from the country mattered this much to the rest of the world.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday extended the suspension of federal student loan payments through the end of January, giving Congress and the incoming Biden administration time to impose a longer moratorium.
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges for many students and borrowers, and this temporary pause in payments will help those who have been impacted,” DeVos said in a statement Friday. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate. The Congress, not the executive branch, is in charge of student loan policy.”
The payment freeze, which was first introduced in March and later extended, had been set to expire Dec. 31.
Until now, the Trump administration had declined to say whether the president or DeVos would take action to stop millions of Americans from being thrown back into repayment as the economy continues to struggle.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said on Friday that her role in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden is unclear.
“I don’t know what my role will be come January 20th,” she told Rhode-Island-based new station WPRI.
Biden has already said he asked Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert — and a familiar face of the United States’ coronavirus response along with Birx — to be a chief medical adviser. Biden has also tapped close adviser Vivek H. Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, to resume an expanded version of his old role, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Birx told WPRI that she briefed Biden’s team on Monday for about an hour and a half on the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was privileged to look at this data every day for the last, I think, 280 or 290 days,” she told the news station. “And its really, you know, data — it’s important that you really understand it, and they asked really great questions about the information presented and so I look forward to having additional discussions.”
Birx lost favor in much of the scientific community this year as some accused her of enabling President Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic. Eventually, she drew the ire of Trump as well — “Pathetic!” the president tweeted after Birx sounded alarms on CNN and called the coronavirus “extraordinarily widespread.”
Birx has continued to contradict Trump’s messaging on the virus. Last month, for example, she called for “much more aggressive action” to fight the pandemic as Trump insisted the country was “rounding the turn.”
Updates continue below advertisement
N.J. governor blasts Rep. Matt Gaetz as ‘Matt Putz’ for attending maskless indoor fundraiser
Following pictures and videos of a secret, maskless gala held by the New York Young Republican Club, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) proclaimed that one of the attendees, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), should not return to the Garden State.
The New York Young Republican Club hosted the party at an undisclosed location in Jersey City after New York prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. Gatherings of less than 150 people are allowed in New Jersey if they fall under First Amendment protections, such as political or religious events, but Murphy said social media posts of the event show people openly violating the statewide mask mandate. He said an investigation by law enforcement is underway. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop later tweeted that the location of the gala, Maritime Parc, had been found out by officials and shut down.
“He and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Murphy said during Friday’s coronavirus briefing about Gaetz and the Republican organization. “He is not welcome — I hope you are watching this, Matt — you are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly, I don’t ever want you back in this state.”
Murphy had a few other choice names for Gaetz, who was invited as a special guest after former Alaska governor Sarah Palin backed out of attending the controversial gathering.
“That guy in the middle, the tall, handsome fella in the grey suit, that is Rep. Matt Putz — I’m sorry, Matt Gaetz,” Murphy said, pointing at a photo of at least 20 maskless people tightly huddled for the camera. As of Friday evening, “Matt Putz” was a top trending topic on Twitter.
“Based on his past performances, it’s obvious being a knucklehead is not beyond the pale for him,” Murphy continued, citing the time Gaetz wore a gas mask to a House floor vote on coronavirus relief, a performance Democrats said inappropriately poked fun at a pandemic that has killed his own constituents.
When asked for comment, the congressman’s office referred The Post to Gaetz’s tweets.
“Thank you for calling me handsome, Governor! I’m only considered handsome in New Jersey, though,” he tweeted. “In Florida I’m barely a roundup 6.”
He also retorted that Murphy would one day “move to Florida like the rest of New Jersey.”
Updates continue below advertisement
‘My mother left her guard down for one moment — and my entire family was affected’
As Sofia Burke leaned back in her hospital bed this week, she clutched an oxygen mask to her face while explaining how her mother’s kindness toward others resulted in the New Jersey nurse contracting coronavirus.
Despite following all health and safety guidelines for months, Burke did not know that her mother, Dora Matias, gave a ride last month to an elderly friend who said she had a cold. By Thanksgiving, the “selfless” car ride with the coughing companion set off what Burke called a “superspreader” event in her large household.
“My mother left her guard down for one moment — one moment,” Burke, 43, said to CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday, pausing to catch her breath. "And in that swift moment, my entire family was affected.”
As officials prepare for the massive undertaking of vaccinating millions of Americans against the coronavirus, President-elect Joe Biden said Friday that his team has seen no detailed plan from the Trump administration “as to how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody’s arm.”
Biden said the administration has “clued us in on their planning” for distributing the vaccine to states. But “there’s a lot more that has to be done,” he said, speaking after the release of a November jobs report showing the slowest jobs growth in the U.S. economy since spring.
White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern noted in an email to The Washington Post that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a vaccine distribution “playbook” made publicly available and that states have also shared their plans.
Top government officials “have confirmed preparedness to ship vaccine doses to every zip code in America within 24 hours of the issuance of an [emergency use authorization],” Morgenstern wrote, adding that manufacturing “is well underway.” Officials say they expect 20 million Americans to be vaccinated this month.
Biden said his team agrees with the administration’s “priorities … laid out so far” when it comes to vaccine distribution, pointing to the fast-tracking of inoculations for first responders and people in nursing homes.
He emphasized the need for equitable access, noting that Black and Latino Americans are more likely to die of the coronavirus.
“And so we’ve got to figure out how we make sure we get the vaccine to those communities,” Biden said. “Delivering large amounts of the vaccine to the Walmarts and other major drug chains is — does not get you into a lot of these neighborhoods.”
Biden said he does not think a vaccine should be mandatory but vowed that he would do “everything in my power as president to encourage people to do the right thing.”
8 facts about the coronavirus to combat common misinformation
Living through a pandemic in the Internet age means misinformation can sometimes spread more rapidly than facts.
Faced with a deluge of claims about the coronavirus and the illness it causes, covid-19, you may be wondering whether gargling with saltwater is a cure or if the pathogen was man-made in a Chinese laboratory. (Spoiler: Saltwater doesn’t work, and scientists believe the virus occurs in nature.)
To help you out, we rounded up eight facts about the coronavirus to keep in mind if you see claims to the contrary.
The fast-tracked coronavirus vaccines will come too late to spare the United States an unprecedented surge in deaths this winter, with covid-19-related deaths likely to reach 539,000 by April, according to a new estimate Friday by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model.
Despite efforts to scale up vaccine production and distribution, probably only 9,000 lives will be spared by immunizations, according to IHME.
“The vaccine has not come in time to do much about the winter wave,” institute Director Christopher Murray told The Washington Post.
As the daily death toll is expected to peak at nearly 3,000 in mid- to late January, the model forecasts that more lives would probably be saved with universal masking or states’ governors ramping up other mandates — suggestions that are not new to the public health realm.
For instance, the simulation suggests that if mask use increased to 95 percent nationally, 66,000 lives would be saved by April. Even though the estimate accounts for 43 states reimposing mandates before April, if state leaders decide to take the opposite approach and ease restrictions, the projection assumes deaths would rise to 770,000 by April.
A quicker rollout of an effective vaccine could still save lives, but it wouldn’t put as much of a dent in the nation’s death toll: 11,000 lives will be spared by a rapid release of the vaccine, or 14,000 if the launch targeted high-risk individuals.
The commonly cited model last month projected nearly 439,000 deaths by March.
SAN FRANCISCO — A record-setting surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in California has pushed the state to the edge of another mandatory shutdown, with officials in San Francisco and several counties in the Bay Area on Friday announcing preemptive stay-at-home orders to take effect Sunday night, affecting millions of people.
“We need to do everything we can to prevent our hospital system from becoming overwhelmed and to save lives. We know that the faster we flatten the curve, the less time it takes us to move out of the danger zone,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
The situation in California, the country’s most populous state with nearly 40 million residents, reflects a punishing upswing in cases nationwide that has strained hospitals and medical staff. But it also highlights the difficulty of controlling the course of the pandemic even in a place where there has been significant political will to enact public health measures that include mask mandates and lengthy stay-at-home recommendations.
Like every major event since the pandemic began, Biden’s January inauguration will be a reimagined affair, replacing the pomp and circumstance with a celebration that will largely be virtual.
The president-elect told reporters that his priority is keeping people safe, which means forgoing the events and parties that usually draw big crowds.
“It is highly unlikely there’ll be a million people on the mall going all the way down to the memorial,” Biden said. “My guess is there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Instead, he said, his inauguration will look more like the Democratic convention, with “a lot of virtual activity in states across America engaging even more people than before.”
“People want to celebrate. People want to be able to say, we pass the baton, we’re moving on. Democracy has functioned,” he said.
His remarks, pegged to a jobs report that he called “grim,” focused heavily on the need for Congress to act on a relief package for Americans struggling during the pandemic. He dismissed criticism that the bill being negotiated in Congress is too little, too late, calling it a first step.
“If you insist on everything, we’re likely to get nothing on both sides. And so I think they’re on their way to being able to come up with a package that meets the basic immediate needs that we have,” Biden said. “But I’ve made it real clear it’s just a down payment.”