COVID-19 activity intensifies in more US states, Europe

As illnesses rise in the third spike in US COVID-19 activity, five more states were added to the White House coronavirus task force's red zone list, and, at the global level, the pandemic picked up more steam in Europe.

Red zone states grow to 31

The latest states added to the White House task force's red-zone list are Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia, bringing the total to 31, according to a report today from the Center for Public Integrity. States make the list when they have more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents.

For the second week in a row, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wisconsin were among the top five states reporting the highest per capita levels. The White House task force shares the information only with governors, but the Center for Public Integrity continues to collect and report them.

Yesterday the United States reported 58,387 new cases and 445 more deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Other sources also point to accelerating cases. New Jersey reported more than 1,200 new cases yesterday, following about 2,200 over the weekend, up sharply from about 300 cases per day in the middle of September, Politico reported. And yesterday, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living released a report warning of the potential for a third spike in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, prompted by rises in communities.

Meanwhile, more of the country's large school districts are reopening doors to students, the Washington Post reported, noting that, of the 54 largest districts, 24 have resumed in-person classes and 11 others plan to do so in the weeks ahead.

In other US developments:

  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday issued a "strong recommendation" that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-share vehicles wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidance also urges that face coverings be worn at transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. Earlier this month, media reports said the White House coronavirus task force had blocked a CDC order that would have required mask use in those settings.

  • In a call with reporters yesterday, Maine public health officials said they are ready to act once a COVID-19 vaccine approved, but many questions remain unanswered, such as groups prioritized to receive the vaccine and requirements for storing the doses, USA Today reported.

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday that the state will independently review the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines that receive federal approval before distributing them, the Los Angeles Times New York's governor announced a similar measure in September.

  • The US COVID-19 totals have reached 8,258,568 cases, including 220,806 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Europe showing rapid case rise

At the global level, new COVID-19 cases continue to accelerate, though deaths have stayed relatively stable, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in a weekly epidemiologic update. The European region showed the most rapid rise in cases over the past week, recording a 25% increase compared with the week before, with deaths up by 29% over the same period.

More gradual increases were seen in the African, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific regions, with decreases noted in the Americas and South East Asia region. A statement from the WHO's South East Asia regional office said the region's drop reflects declines in India and Bangladesh, though it warned against complacency with the approaching winter season, along with upcoming festivals and holidays.

The countries reporting the most new cases stayed the same as the previous week and included India, the United States, France, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

In other global headlines:

  • Ireland announced a 6-week lockdown to curb its spike in cases, though schools will remain open, according to CBS News.

  • Russia and Belgium both reported new daily highs yesterday, with Russia's daily cases passing 16,000 for the first time.

  • Argentina, one of the Americas' current hot spots, recently passed 1 million cases, the fifth and smallest country to reach that level, Reuters reported.

  • The United Kingdom announced a plan to move forward with human challenge trials to speed up the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, which would begin in January and involve a partnership between Imperial College London, Royal Free Hospital, and hVIVO, a company that has pioneered human challenge models. The plan is backed by a $43.5 million government investment and must still be cleared by regulators and ethics committees.

  • Singapore's government, as part of its reopening plan, has announced plans to launch rapid antigen testing for events such as weddings, conferences, and sports competitions, according to Reuters.

  • The global total today climbed to 40,632,190 cases, and 1,121,574 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

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