US COVID-19 surge triggers flurry of new response steps


Steven Pisano/Flickr cc

A steady increase in US coronavirus numbers, especially over the past 10 days, is prompting new restrictions and expanded measures across the country.

Overnight, the global total topped 55 million cases, and though Europe is the world's other main hot spot, the virus is making headlines again even in countries known for controlling their outbreaks, such as South Korea and Australia.

States, cities try to slow outbreaks

The United States reported 166,045 new cases yesterday, along with 995 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. Americans hospitalized reached 73,014, up from 69,987 the day before, based on updates from the COVID Tracking Project.

And for the first time yesterday, the nation's 7-day average of daily new infections passed 150,000, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The 7-day average has grown 30% for more than 10 straight days.

Philadelphia officials just announced an order prohibiting most indoor gatherings, which takes effect on Nov 20 and lasts through Jan 1, NPR reported. The "safer at home" restrictions limit indoor gatherings to one family and mean that restaurants must switch back to takeout and outdoor dining only. Bowling alleys and theaters are closed, and high schools and colleges must switch to remote learning.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine today announced a 3-week curfew that starts in 2 days and runs from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, which he hopes will reduce the spread of the virus. On Twitter today, he asked state residents to do at least one thing each day to reduce contact with others, which he said when paired with mask wearing will reduce contacts by 20% to 25% and prevent hospitals from being overrun.

In Iowa, after long resisting a statewide ask mandate, Gov. Kim Reynolds last night announced a limited mask mandate that applies to public indoor spaces, but not bars, restaurants, churches, or schools, the Des Moines Register reported.

Elsewhere, California officials yesterday announced that they were pulling an "emergency brake" on the state's reopening plan, amid a new surge in cases that saw 13,412 cases reported yesterday, the state's highest daily total since the pandemic began, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Vaccine, treatment developments

With promising vaccine efficacy news for two vaccines, groups are making plans to distribute it. Pfizer yesterday announced the launch of a pilot program to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to four states: Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and New Mexico, Reuters reported. The company said it chose the states based on size, population diversity, and immunization infrastructure.

A new Gallup Poll—conducted in the last half of October—found that 58% of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available right now, up from 50% in September.

In treatment advances, supplies of Eli Lilly's antibody drug bamlanivimab, which recently received emergency use authorization, is arriving in states, and because of limited supplies, US hospitals say they may use it only for COVID-19 patients who have multiple risk factors for severe illness or those with immune systems that haven't begun to fight the infection, Reuters reported.

In another glimmer of positive news, doctors who have been treating COVID-19 patients since the early days of the pandemic told the Wall Street Journal that they are now better equipped to handle the rise in hospitalizations, but the new spike in infections will test if the lessons learned result in shorter hospital stays and fewer deaths.

In other US developments:

  • In health agency developments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its breastfeeding recommendations to say that breastfeeding isn't likely as a transmission source, a change from its earlier message that said it's not known if mothers can transmit the virus to babies through breast milk. Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday said convalescent plasma shouldn't be collected from people who received investigational COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The Cherokee Nation curtailed its COVID-19 cases and deaths with free drive-through testing, a mask mandate, plentiful personal protective equipment, and a large public health staff, which has won them global praise for the response, Stat reported.

  • The US total climbed to 11,299,730 cases with 248,027 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

Global total tops 55 million

The global total overnight passed 55 million cases, and the world is adding about 1 million new cases every 2 days. Europe's cases continue at a very high level, with some countries that recently reinstituted tough measures reporting some early promising signs. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said today that cases have declined recently, but most of the lockdown measures must continue until the middle of December, Reuters reported.

In other global developments:

  • Russian health officials said today that mutations have been detected in SARS-CoV-2 samples from Siberia, but they didn't say if the changes have affected virus transmissibility or pathogenicity, Reuters reported.

  • Australia has confirmed five new cases in a cluster in South Australia state that has been linked to hotel workers who are thought to have contacted the virus at a quarantine facility. Officials are conducting mass testing and have quarantined 4,000 people.

  • South Korea has stepped up its distancing rules in Seoul to head off a rise in new cases and will, for example, limit public gatherings to 100 people and limit religious and sporting event attendance to 30% capacity.

  • The global total today reached 55,400,024 cases, and 1,333,479 people have died from their infections, according to Johns Hopkins tracking.

This week's top reads