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Coronavirus live updates: Virus 'has entered a phase of high-level transmission' in US

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(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 65.5 million people and killed over 1.5 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

Dec 05, 5:42 pm
ICU capacity triggers new stay-at-home orders in Southern California, San Joaquin Valley

Two California regions will have to enact new stay-at-home orders because their intensive care unit capacities have dipped below 15%.

ICU capacity is at 8.6% in San Joaquin Valley and 12.5% in Southern California, the state health department reported on Saturday.

Hair salons, barbershops, museums, bars, playgrounds and more must close based on a new regional stay-at-home order introduced this week. Residents are also instructed to stay home as much as possible.

The order, which goes into effect at midnight Sunday and will last for at least three weeks, impacts 23 counties between the two regions.

The new policy comes as cases continue to surge in California. The state saw a record 25,068 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. There were 209 new deaths, which is approaching an August peak.
-ABC News’ Matt Fuhrman contributed to this report

Dec 05, 2:55 pm
New Mexico may move to rationing care depending on patients’ likelihood of survival

Hospitals in New Mexico may soon move to “crisis standards of care,” meaning doctors would ration services based on a patient’s likelihood of surviving.

The declaration was likely to come Monday, Gov. Michelle Lynn Lujan Grisham said in an interview with the Washington Post., with each hospital making its own decision about whether to move to the crisis plan.

As of Saturday, New Mexico had reported 104,935 infections and 1,706 deaths from the virus, according to the state health department.

Dec 05, 2:54 pm
US death toll passes 280K

The United States death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 280,000 Saturday afternoon.

At least 280,090 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. surpassed 270,000 deaths on Tuesday.

The seven-day average for daily deaths is 1,949, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted this week that the U.S. death toll from the virus could reach 329,000 by Dec. 26.

-ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway

Dec 05, 1:44 pm
Logistical details remain in handling of Pfizer vaccine

As states begin dry runs for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer and the federal government are still hammering out logistics around handling the company’s candidate, ABC News has learned.

HonorHealth in Phoenix ran a simulation on Friday for how it would distribute a vaccine to health care workers once the FDA approves a candidate. But it was incomplete due to the remaining logistical questions.

After each vial of Pfizer’s vaccine is removed from ultra-cold storage at minus 80 degrees Celsius, it is thawed, then diluted with saline by trained chemists who then portion it out into five separate syringes.

But some intricacies of the process are unknown, such as how many times the vaccine’s shipping container can be opened, how much time can elapse between thawing and injection, and how the dose should be transported to the injection site.

The hospital is also uncertain how many doses it will receive and when, should the FDA authorize emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Pfizer has not commented on the specific handling of the vaccine once it’s taken out of the freezers and thawed.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman

Dec 04, 10:52 pm
LA mayor: ‘This is the greatest threat to life’

An exploding number of cases in Southern California had Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pleading with residents Friday to take the pandemic seriously.

“If things don’t change by year’s end, the lives lost will surpass 11,000 deaths,” Garcetti said. “That means 3,000 additional deaths in a single month. To put things in perspective, it’s a decade of homicides.”

“This is the greatest threat to life in Los Angeles,” he added.

The county reported 8,860 cases on Friday, a number Garcetti said he “can hardly believe.” The county recorded more cases in the past week than it did in all of October, according to the mayor. It also recorded 60 new deaths on Friday.

Right now, more than 15% of intensive care unit beds remain available, a number that would trigger new closures if crossed. However, the number of beds are quickly filling up. The mayor said the county could cross 85% of ICU beds filled this weekend. A regional stay-at-home order, as has been implemented in the San Francisco Bay area, would be triggered and stay in place for at least three weeks.

Garcetti showed little doubt the percentage would be crossed — and continue to grow.

“At this rate we will be out of beds in two to four weeks,” Garcetti said.

Dec 04, 8:10 pm
Pediatricians urge children to wear masks while playing sports

The American Academy of Pediatrics is advising children playing sports to mask up while doing so as part of new COVID-19 recommendations.

“Proper and consistent use of a cloth face mask is especially important right now as so many athletes move indoors for sports during the colder months,” Dr. Susannah Briskin, author of the guidance and a pediatric sports medicine specialist, said in a statement. “While regular exercise is important for our kids’ mental and physical well-being, we must do everything we can to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.”

Many schools, still taking place remotely, have canceled or postponed sports seasons. But others have decided to go through with their regular seasons.

The AAP specifically said face coverings were “strongly encouraged” for indoor sports, such as ice hockey.

“The risks and benefits of indoor sports, as well as community prevalence of COVID-19 should be carefully considered when making decisions about continuing or resuming indoor sports,” the AAP writes in its guidelines.

The recommendations also specify sports during which masks should not be worn, such as gymnastics due to the risk of them getting caught in apparatus, and wrestling, where they could become a “choking hazard.” It also specifies swimmers and divers should not wear them and outdoor socially distanced sports, like golf, may not need them.

Dec 04, 7:54 pm
Deaths up in 48 states, District of Columbia

The number of COVID-19 deaths has gone up in 48 states and Washington, D.C., from two weeks ago, The COVID Tracking Project said Friday.

There were 2,563 deaths reported on Friday, it said.

There were 224,831 daily new cases reported and 101,276 current hospitalizations — both new highs — according to the tracker.
Hospitalizations are up in 34 states and Washington, D.C., from two weeks ago, it said.

Dec 04, 4:46 pm
New York sees highest number of daily cases since April

New York state reported 11,271 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — the highest daily figure the state has seen since mid-April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

New York’s daily positivity rate stands at 5.41%.

New York has the fourth-lowest infection rate in the country behind Maine, Vermont and Hawaii.
Over 70% of cases are coming from small gatherings, Cuomo said, and he called on local governments to enforce restrictions.

Cuomo said that the focus should be on the hospitalization rate rather than the infection rate.

New York has 4,222 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. The state has 53,000 hospital beds, of which 35,000 are occupied, he said.

Intensive care units have about 40% of their beds available, he said.

-ABC News’ Josh Hoyos and Jamie Aranoff

Dec 04, 4:34 pm
San Francisco area announces stay-at-home order

Much of the San Francisco Bay Area will soon be under a stay-at-home order.

The order ends indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, closes hair salons and other personal care services, and prohibits all private gatherings, ABC San Francisco station KGO reported.

The stay-at-home order covers Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco counties as well as the city of Berkeley, KGO said.

Most areas will start the stay-at-home order Sunday; Alameda County will start Monday while Marin County will begin Tuesday. The restrictions will last until Jan. 4.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had announced Thursday that a stay-at-home order will go into effect in any region where the ICU capacity falls below 15%. Bay Area officials said they didn’t want to wait until numbers fell to 15%, KGO reported.

Dec 04, 3:11 pm
Oregon may see double the case rates by Christmas

In Oregon, modeling shows that case rates will be twice as high by Christmas, Gov. Kate Brown warned.

A record high of 2,100 new cases were reported Friday, Brown said.

Oregon is set to receive 35,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 71,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this month, Brown said. Front-line healthcare workers and long-term care residents and employees are considered first priority; Brown said she anticipates this entire group can be vaccinated by the end of January.

-ABC News’ Matthew Fuhrman

Dec 04, 3:00 pm
Nevada to get over 164,000 vaccine doses for December

Nevada is set to receive 164,150 vaccine doses for December, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The doses will be used “for hospital staff, skilled nursing facility staff and residents, and other Tier One individuals,” the department said.

Dec 04, 1:55 pm
Pence says US is maybe ‘a week and a half away’ from vaccine approval

At a roundtable discussion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Director Robert Redfield said he’s “optimistic that the FDA will get authorized vaccines within the next several weeks and distribution work can begin.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who joined him at the meeting, added, “We are maybe, Bob, just a week and a half away from what will be the likely approval of the first coronavirus vaccine.”

Pence added, “Within 48 hours from the FDA approval, we could be vaccinating people literally in all 50 states and territories all across the country.”

Pence said that a vaccine won’t likely be available for every American until “spring or early summer.”

-ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas

Dec 04, 1:00 pm
Virus ‘has entered a phase of high-level transmission’ in US: CDC

A new CDC report is warning that the virus “has entered a phase of high-level transmission” in the U.S. and that it’s more important than ever to follow public health guidelines.

On Oct. 30, the number of new cases reported in the U.S. in a single day exceeded 100,000 for the first time, and by Dec. 2, the daily case number had nearly doubled, with over 196,000 new daily cases, the report said.

“With colder weather, more time spent indoors, the ongoing U.S. holiday season, and silent spread of disease, with approximately 50% of transmission from asymptomatic persons, the United States has entered a phase of high-level transmission where a multipronged approach to implementing all evidence-based public health strategies at both the individual and community levels is essential,” the report said.

The report summarizes these strategies to combat COVID-19: universal face mask use, physical distancing, avoiding nonessential indoor space, increasing testing, prompt quarantine of exposed persons, safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death, protecting essential workers, postponing travel, enhancing ventilation, hand hygiene and achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Dec 04, 11:16 am
COVID-19 appears to be 3rd leading cause of death in US

COVID-19 will probably be ranked at least third for leading causes of death in the U.S. this year, Bob Anderson, Chief, Mortality Statistics Branch at National Center for Health Statistics, told ABC News.

“We won’t make that determination officially until all the data are in,” Anderson added.

The No. 1 cause of death is heart disease, with 655,381 deaths, followed by cancer with 599,274 deaths, according to CDC data.

COVID-19 is in the No. 3 spot with 276,513 fatalities, followed by accidents which accounted for 167,127 deaths, according to the CDC.

Dec 04, 10:09 am
Africa aims to vaccinate 60% of population in 2-3 years

Africa aims to have 60% of its 1.2 billion-strong population vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next two to three years, according to the head of the continent’s public health agency.

“We hope that for that for this to be meaningful, our 60% must be reached in the next two to three years,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing Thursday. “We should be deliberate in this.”

More than 2.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including over 52,000 deaths, have been reported across the vast continent so far, representing a fraction of the world’s cumulative count.

Dec 04, 8:59 am
Moscow launches mass COVID-19 vaccination program

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced Friday the official start of a mass COVID-19 vaccination program in the Russian capital.

Residents are now able to sign up online to be vaccinated, and Sobyanin said some 5,000 people had registered in the first five hours since the launch.

“Teachers, doctors, social workers, those who today most of all risk their health and lives,” the mayor wrote in a brief post on his blog Friday.

The announcement comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly ordered large-scale vaccination to start next week, despite earlier statements from the government saying the country has yet to produce enough vaccine doses to do so.

The mass inoculation campaigns will use Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, called Sputnik V, which the health ministry controversially registered in August before starting crucial late-stage clinical trials. Vaccinations will be voluntary, with the drives first focusing on teachers and doctors.

Russia was still vaccinating volunteers as part of its phase 3 trial, which has so far only managed to inoculate 20,000 of a planned 40,000 people.

Putin has said that Russia will soon produce two million doses of Sputnik V, but it’s unclear how many doses have been been produced so far and how many people will be able to be vaccinated next week. The country has run into serious manufacturing hurdles and had to significantly cut its planned production from 30 million to two million by the end of the year.

Dec 04, 7:31 am
COVID-19 vaccinations will be free of charge in France

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said COVID-19 vaccinations will not be made compulsory but “will be free for all” in the country’s social security system.

“Getting a vaccine is also about protecting others. It is a choice of trust, we must be as numerous as possible to get a vaccine,” Castex said at a press conference Thursday evening, while unveiling the country’s vaccination strategy.

France will launch a COVID-19 vaccination campaign within weeks, pending regulatory approval by the European Medicines Agency. The program will run throughout 2021, staggered over three categories of people.

The first phase is slated to begin in January, with vaccines administered to nursing home residents and staff, representing one million people. A second phase starting in February will see 14 million people inoculated, based on age and medical criteria. The third and final phase, beginning in March, will target the remainder of the population who wish to be vaccinated.

Through deals clinched by the European Union, France has secured some 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from several pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms that developed them and have applied for temporary authorization. Castex said that’s enough doses to inoculate 100 million people — more than France’s entire population.

As of Friday afternoon, France’s health ministry had confirmed a total of 2,257,331 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 54,140 deaths.

Dec 04, 5:18 am
Italy reports nearly 1,000 new deaths in all-time high

An additional 993 deaths from COVID-19 were registered in Italy on Thursday, marking a new all-time high, according to data from the country’s civil protection agency.

Italy’s previous single-day record of 969 new fatalities from the disease was set in late March, when the country was the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe.

The Italian civil protection agency also reported 23,225 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 31,772 patients currently hospitalized with the disease, including 3,597 in intensive care.

Since the start of the pandemic, Italy has confirmed more than 1,664,829 million cases, including at least 58,038 deaths, according to the civil protection agency.

The country has the eighth highest case load in the world, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Dec 04, 4:17 am
US has worst day yet with record number of new cases and deaths

There were 217,664 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,879 additional deaths from the disease registered in the United States on Thursday, both numbers which shattered the country’s previous daily records, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the most new cases and deaths the U.S. has recorded in a single day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also the 31st straight day that the country has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections, and the third time since the pandemic began that the daily figure has topped 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.

COVID-19 data may be skewed in the coming days and weeks due to possible lags in reporting over Thanksgiving followed by a potentially very large backlog from the holiday.

A total of 14,143,801 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 276,366 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.

The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4 and reaching 200,000 for the first time on Nov. 27.

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