Experts warn of coronavirus surge after widespread Thanksgiving travel | Coronavirus

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The US continued to report more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the holiday weekend, as experts warned that widespread Thanksgiving travel could fuel a surge in coming weeks.

The number of new cases reported in the US topped 200,000 for the first time on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Since January, when the first US infections were reported, more than 13m cases have been recorded. More than 265,000 people have died.

There was some good news on Monday, as Moderna said it would apply for US authorisation to use its coronavirus vaccine. The company announced final results from its trial, which it said confirmed 94% efficacy.

Moderna’s data will be weighed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 17 December. The company said it expected to have doses for 10 million people ready for the US by the end of December. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application for emergency use on 20 November.

The news came as the number of hospitalisations in the US reached a record high. According to the Covid Tracking Project, 93,238 patients were in hospital on Sunday, a steady climb from 47,531 at the start of November, putting more strain on workers and resources as winter approaches.

In Rhode Island, hospitals reached their Covid-19 capacity on Monday, the same day a two-week pause meant to control the rise in new cases took effect. A state emergency alert to residents’ phones read: “Hospitals at capacity due to Covid. Help the front line by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks.”

Under the restrictions announced earlier in November by the Democratic governor, Gina Raimondo, some businesses will be required to shut down for two weeks, while others are restricted.

Recreational businesses including bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos, as well as indoor sporting facilities and gyms must close. Bars and bar areas in restaurants are also required to close, while restaurants are limited to 33% of indoor capacity. Residents are also asked to close their social circles to only people in their own household.

“This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously,” Raimondo said in a statement. “Choosing to gather with those outside your household will have ripple effects that will increase the strain on our hospitals and put lives at risk.”

Raimondo did not rule out another economic shutdown if the pandemic gets worse.

In South Dakota, a Republican-run state which has seen surging case numbers, the Rapid City council was set to consider a mask mandate at a special session on Monday.

One ordinance would require face coverings in certain situations, but would have no penalties for violators. It also includes exemptions, including young children, law enforcement and those attending religious services.

The Republican governor, Kristi Noem, opposes mask mandates or other government interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infections. Cities across the state have moved to pass their own mask requirements.

State health officials on Sunday reported 700 new confirmed cases with 544 people hospitalised.

Counties across California have enacted stricter restrictions after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 hospitalisations. Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases over the next two or three weeks.

Los Angeles county, the most populous in the US, has asked its 10 million residents to stay home as much as possible. San Francisco and San Mateo counties moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint, forcing most indoor activities to close and putting residents under curfew from Monday night.

Despite dire warnings from federal authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of Americans traveled over the weekend, as Thanksgiving drew to a close.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that could cause a spike in cases and warned that the level of infection in the US would not “all of a sudden turn around”.

“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Fauci told NBC on Sunday.

Fauci said it was “not too late” for people traveling home after Thanksgiving to help curb the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups.

Between 800,000 and more than a million travelers made their way through US airport checkpoints each day in the past week, according to Transportation Security Administration statistics, as airports recorded their highest travel numbers since the pandemic began.

Wednesday was the busiest air travel day since mid-March, with 1,070,967 passengers clearing airport security, the Washington Post reported. In the early days of the pandemic, daily totals fell below 100,000 on some days.

The impact of mass travel and Thanksgiving gatherings could mean a flood of new cases just before Christmas.

“When you look at people who are hospitalised today, they were infected two weeks ago, maybe more,” Dr Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN. “And then it takes usually another week for folks to succumb to the illness.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Experts warn of coronavirus surge after widespread Thanksgiving travel | Coronavirus

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