Coronavirus updates: US hits highest daily death toll since May; 6.4M vaccine doses likely in December; CDC may relax quarantine rules

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Federal government officials said the first 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed to U.S. communities as early as December within 24 hours of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

But the U.S. recorded its highest daily death toll since May on Tuesday, and experts warned that good vaccine news doesn’t mean Americans should let down their guard over the holidays.

Several state restrictions go into effect Wednesday just hours before the Thanksgiving holiday, including a ban on alcohol sales at restaurants and bars in Pennsylvania. State health officials ordered restaurants and bars to not sell alcohol starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. Thursday in an effort to prevent social gatherings.

“It turns out the biggest day for drinking is the day before Thanksgiving,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference this week. “When people get together in that situation, it leads to the exchange of fluids that leads to the increase in infection.”

Overseas, British authorities relaxed restrictions on social gatherings to allow people to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends and family. Officials in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland created a holiday plan to allow up to three households to create a “Christmas bubble” Dec. 23-27.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.5 million cases and over 259,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 59.9 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

📚What we’re reading: Here’s why this Harvard doctor is optimistic about US overcoming COVID-19 despite “epidemic of mistrust.”

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

LA outdoor dining ban to go into effect

A reinstated ban on outdoor dining in Los Angeles County can go into effect Wednesday, a judge ruled, after a restaurant industry group had tried to block the restriction.

The California Restaurant Association challenged the order issued Sunday that prohibited outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars and asked county health officials to provide medical or scientific evidence that it poses an unreasonable risk to public health.

The county’s Board of Supervisors also considered blocking the ban but failed to garner enough support. The Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of a resolution to urge county officials to rescind the ban but that vote was nonbinding.

The rule is now set to go into effect Wednesday and will limit restaurants in the nation’s most populous county to takeout and delivery.

US records highest daily death toll since May with more than 2,000

More than 2,100 people died in the U.S. because of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since May.

Deaths have been steadily rising since October but hadn’t surpassed 2,000 in a day since May 6, when more than 2,300 people died, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The at least 2,146 people who died Tuesday translates to roughly one death every 40 seconds in the United States.

More than 172,000 new cases were added Tuesday, too, according to Hopkins’ data.

Fauci has a final Thanksgiving message for Americans

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, issued his final Thanksgiving message for Americans as COVID-19 cases surge and dinner tables are still expected to fill up.

“The final message is to do what really we’ve been saying now for some time, is to the extent possible, keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings, as small as you possibly can,” Fauci said Wednesday on “Good Morning America.”

“By making that sacrifice, you’re going to prevent people from getting infected,” he added. “A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this.”

27 virus deaths at Illinois veterans nursing home

Illinois officials will investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at a state-run veterans nursing home after 27 veterans died and nearly 200 residents and staff members tested positive.

Illinois’ Department of Veterans’ Affairs requested an independent probe into the facility after the outbreak was first spotted in late October.

“The tragedy of what has unfolded at the veterans’ home cannot be understated,” said State Senator Sue Rezin, who represents the district where the home is located.

Ravens log more COVID cases, but Thanksgiving Steelers game still on

The Baltimore Ravens canceled Tuesday’s practice after learning in the morning that additional players had tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports.

On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed that running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins had tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was also listed as a close contact and placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that five Ravens players and four staff members had tested positive this week.

Baltimore is scheduled to face the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on the road on Thanksgiving evening. The NFL is not planning on rescheduling the game at this time. 

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Europe’s virus cases are slowing

The World Health Organization said COVID-19 cases in Europe are slowing down despite it still being the region with the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths around the world.

New cases dropped by 6% in Europe over the last week, the WHO said. And that’s after a 10% decline the previous week. However, the virus death rate continues to rise, and more than 67,000 new deaths were reported.

  • France: President Emmanuel Macron laid out new rules Tuesday to ease France’s partial shutdown, which include allowing the reopening of some shops and houses of worship next week while indoor dining and gyms remain shuttered.
  • Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected Wednesday to extend Germany’s partial shutdown into December. The restrictions have slowed a virus spike, but cases remain at high levels rather than sinking lower.

Singapore nearly virus free

Once a hotspot of cases in southeast Asia, Singapore is virtually virus free after Tuesday marked 14 days without a new local case, Reuters reported.

A few infections from abroad have been recorded, but people in those cases have been immediately isolated. Many cases in Singapore have been tied to infections at dormitories for foreign workers, the news agency reported.

Tuesday also marked the first time there were no live infection clusters across Singapore, Reuters reported. 

The country was one of the first outside of China to report a COVID-19 infection, but it has staved off the worst of the virus and has the lowest case fatality rate in the world, according to Johns Hopkins data.

CDC pondering quarantine reduction to 7-10 days, report says

In an effort to encourage compliance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may reduce the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to the coronavirus from 14 days to seven to 10, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper said agency officials are putting the final touches on the recommendation, which would require a negative COVID test for the exposed person to exit quarantine.

Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for COVID-19 response, told the Journal that studies have shown effective quarantines can be done in less time than the currently recommended two weeks. Although there’s a chance some infections could be missed, he said there’s a valuable tradeoff to be gained.

“Hopefully people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, seven to 10 days,” he said.   

New Mexico approves $330M relief bill, including stimulus checks

New Mexico lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all types of unemployed workers and up to $50,000 for certain businesses.

The bill also provides smaller stimulus checks to immigrants without legal status in the country and dependents, as well as additional funds for food banks, virus testing and contact tracing efforts.

Most of the proposed spending will be made possible by federal relief funding previously assigned to New Mexico, including around $319 million in unspent funds that were expected to expire soon. An additional $10 million in state general funds were allocated for testing and tracing efforts.

The bill allocates $100 million to support businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The New Mexico Finance Authority is tasked with distributing the grants, which can be up to $50,000, and has wide discretion about whom to choose. It’s instructed to focus on the service industry.

Texas judge implements new shelter-at-home curfew in El Paso

Judge Ricardo Samaniego implemented a new curfew to combat the surge of COVID-19 cases in El Paso, Texas. The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew goes into effect Wednesday and will last until Monday.

However, unlike his previous curfew, people would not be barred from going to businesses outside those hours, Samaniego told the El Paso Times Monday.

The curfew sends a message that “we are serious about this and have to do something” to curb the rise in cases, he said. Even if the COVID-19 numbers go down, it’s still a serious problem in El Paso County based on existing cases, he said.

“It is a shelter-at-home order. Residents are encouraged to stay at home,” Samaniego said. “We want no more than 10 people to gather together in public or at home.”

– Aaron A. Bedoya, El Paso Times

A sign at the entrance to a park on Tuesday warns pedestrians about increased risk for the coronavirus in the Ironbound section of Newark, N.J.

OAN suspended from YouTube for COVID misinformation

One America News Network, a right-wing cable network touted by President Donald Trump, has been suspended from YouTube after repeatedly posting misinformation about COVID-19.

“After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy, which prohibits content claiming there’s a guaranteed cure,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson, said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY.

Citing repeated violations of YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, Choi said OANN’s account has also been suspended from the program that allows it to monetize its channel.

The network, also known as OAN, has developed a reputation for airing baseless conspiracy theories and spreading false information, including about COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election.

– Joel Shannon

Tennessee won’t mandate COVID vaccine in K-12 schools

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines will be optional in the state’s K-12 public schools once they become available.

The Republican governor said vaccines will be very important for Tennessee to “ultimately really be able to handle” the spread of the virus. However, it is a choice he believes people should make on their own.

“Vaccines are a choice and people have the choice and will have the choice in this state as to whether or not they should take that vaccine.”

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines could be available to residents as soon as Dec. 15. Front-line health care workers and first responders will receive the first wave of vaccines.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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