Americans head to polls as global pandemic total tops 47 million

NY library mask on statue vote signs
NY library mask on statue vote signs

Brecht Bug / Flickr cc

The global COVID-19 total topped 47 million today, as Americans—amid surging infections—voted in a national election that was marked by changes that included distancing rules and election officials equipping polling sites with personal protective equipment.

US cases continue to accelerate

The final day of voting today took place on the heels of a warning from White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, to Trump administration officials in an internal memo that the country is entering its most dangerous period and that more aggressive actions are urgently needed, the Washington Post reported. She called for more testing, consistent messaging about physical distancing, and limits on indoor gatherings.

The United States yesterday reported 84,089 new cases, along with 557 more deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. The country's number of weekly cases has risen for 4 weeks in a row, with the biggest increases occurring over the past 2 weeks, according to a Reuters analysis, which also noted a 3% rise in deaths over the past week.

Turnout at the polls today is expected to be heavy, despite record-breaking early and absentee voting, the Associated Press reported. Two days ago the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) posted guidance that said voters who were sick or in quarantine can still vote, but should wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wash their hands, and let poll workers know they are sick.

In other US developments:

  • Last week saw the highest number of COVID-19 infections diagnosed in children, with 61,000 cases reported, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association. So far, 853,635 cases have been detected in children.

  • The cruise industry has suspended cruises until 2021, after the CDC announced a conditional sailing order, which spells out a phased plan for resuming passenger service, USA Today reported. The conditional sailing order replaced the no-sail order, which expired on Oct 31.

  • The US COVID total has climbed to 9,323,852 cases, with 231,968 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online tracker.

European cases lead latest weekly global rise

In its latest epidemiological update today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said 3.3 million new cases were reported over the past week, with the biggest increase reported from the European region, which accounted for roughly half of the cases. It also said deaths—which lag increases in cases—increased substantially last week, both globally and in Europe.

The Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean regions also saw rises last week, though not as steep, the WHO said.

Countries reporting the highest numbers of cases have remained stable for the last 4 weeks. They include the United States, India, and France.

In Europe, France and Spain yesterday reported record single-day highs, though Spain's total partly reflects a backlog from a 3-day weekend. In Belgium, intensive care units reached maximum capacity in Brussels, and patients are being taken to hospitals in other parts of the country. And the United Kingdom is piloting a mass testing program in Liverpool as a new way to use tests to curb virus spread.

In other global developments:

  • Iran reported another daily record high, with nearly 9,000 more cases, CNN reported.
  • More rounds of mass testing have been underway in China's Xinjiang province, following an outbreak there that resulted in the testing of the entire population. Tests have yielded a handful of new cases, all apparently asymptomatic, according to Reuters.

  • The global total today rose to 47,219,858 cases, and 1,210,108 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

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