Some areas in US, Europe battle dogged COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 nasal swab
COVID-19 nasal swab

Marc A. Hermann, MTA NYC Transit / Flickr cc

The White House Coronavirus Task Force warned that aggressive COVID-19 spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest, and West requires more intense measures, as European countries facing huge surges took more steps to avoid lockdowns similar to what France and Germany announced yesterday.

Intense spread in regional hot spots

Edging closer to the 9 million case mark, the United States yesterday reported 78,981 new cases, with 994 more deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. The latest report to governors from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, obtained by CNN, said 32 states are in the "red zone", defined as 100 new cases per 100,000 population. That number is up from 31 reported last week.

Intense spread in US hot spot regions will require intensified mitigation steps to control both asymptomatic and symptomatic spread, including steps such as masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and limiting gathering sizes, the committee said. And it warned that friends and family moving their gatherings indoors is significantly increasing the spread.

North Dakota has the highest number of new cases per population, and rounding out the other top 10 states are South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Iowa.

Meanwhile, in response to the nation's third surge, states including Colorado, Idaho, Texas, and Massachusetts have recently imposed new restrictions on schools, businesses, and gatherings, the Washington Post reported.

In an appearance this morning on CNBC, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said US COVID-19 activity probably won't peak until after Thanksgiving, a point when he thinks states and policymakers will step up restrictions and consumers will change their behavior.

In vaccine developments, Moderna said today that it is on track to report initial phase 3 trial results of its COVID-19 vaccine by the end of November, Reuters reported. And in big-picture analysis of the status of COVID-19 vaccines, Stat reported that pauses in some vaccine trials and slower-than-expected infection rates in others could delay the delivery of vaccines, and Americans may need to readjust their expectations about how soon doses are available.

In other US developments:

  • The US Justice Department has opened an investigation into how New Jersey veterans homes handled spring COVID-19 outbreaks, some of which reportedly waited a week before notifying families about outbreaks, with others discouraging mask use and undercounting deaths, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • American filing for unemployment last month fell to 751,000, the lowest level since March, the Associated Press The US economy grew by 33% from July to September, but only regained two-thirds of the output that it lost due to pandemic-related shutdowns.

  • The US total today rose to 8,922,632 cases with 228,370 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online tracker.

New lockdowns rattle Europe as cases spike

After France and Germany yesterday announced new partial lockdowns, the United Kingdom and Russia—both experiencing surges—said they're resisting taking the same step. The UK's housing minister today said blanket restrictions would do more harm than good and that local restrictions, such as the ones imposed in large parts of northern England, are the preferred tool, Reuters reported.

The minister, Robert Jenrick, said the government is constantly reviewing its approach. A new report today from Imperial College London said cases in the UK are doubling every 9 days.

Russia, which today reported a daily record high of 17,717 new cases, and President Vladimir Putin, speaking today at an investor's forum, said the country won't impose a national lockdown to slow its surge, Reuters reported. Putin added that the country is more likely to order targeted measures.

In the ongoing second spike in cases, several other European countries also reported daily record highs today, including Italy, where the highest number of cases have been reported from Lombardy region, the same area that was the epicenter in the country's first wave, Reuters reported. Others reporting new record highs include Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden.

In other global developments:

  • Taiwan, praised for its response to COVID-19, passed 200 days with no new local cases, the Washington Post reported.

  • Iran today reported a record daily high of 8,293 cases, far exceeding its earlier high of 6,968 cases, Agence France-Presse noted.

  • India's total today passed 8 million cases, making it the only country besides the United States to top that number. Though the country's cases are steadily falling, illness numbers in New Delhi are on the rise, CNN reported.

  • A report from UNICEF today on the impact of COVID-19 school closures found a bigger impact on children in poor and middle-income countries. One of the main findings is that children in poorer countries lost nearly 4 months of schooling since the pandemic began, compared to an average loss of 6 weeks in higher income countries.

  • The global COVID-19 total climbed to 44,845,216 cases, and 1,177,898 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

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