Nov. 1 (UPI) — U.S. COVID-19 cases spiked in the Midwest on Sunday as current and former health officials warned that Thanksgiving gatherings could further increase the spread of the virus.
The United States reported 81,227 new cases and 862 new deaths bringing its world-leading totals to 9,189,715 infections and 230,870 fatalities, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
All 11 regions in Illinois will be placed under resurgence mitigations including prohibiting indoor dining and bar service, closing outdoor dining at 11 p.m. and limiting gatherings to 25 people or less beginning on Wednesday as Region 2 recorded an average positivity rate above 8% for three consecutive days.
“As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across our state, across the Midwest and across the nation, we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people we love,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Illinois recently reported three consecutive record-breaking case days including 7,899 new infections on Saturday.
The state broke the streak on Sunday as it reported 6,980 new cases and 35 additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 417,280 infections and a death toll of 9,792, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
A surge in hospitalizations has also been reported in the region as Ohio recorded 1,629 hospitalizations as of Friday — the state’s highest number since the pandemic began in March.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, drew heat from the White House on Sunday as he contradicted President Donald Trump’s message that the United States is “rounding the turn” on the virus, warning the country is primed to experience “a whole lot of hurt” as winter approaches.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under the Obama administration, said “things are getting worse around the country” citing 23 states that are accelerating the spread of the virus and 15 states reporting a positivity rate above 15%.
“I think Thanksgiving is really going to be an inflection point. I think December is probably going to be our toughest month,” Gottlieb told CBS News’ Face the Nation.
Gottlieb said, however, he doesn’t believe the United States will reinstate widespread lockdowns as Europe has done in recent weeks.
“I don’t think the political support is here for that even at the state level. I think you’re going to see targeted mitigation. States take local actions, but we’re going to have to start taking more aggressive actions,” he said.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Small groups of protesters gathered in Brazil’s two biggest cities Sunday to demonstrate against any mandate for the taking of a coronavirus vaccine, supporting a rejection campaign encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro.
People assembled in downtown Sao Paulo calling for the removal of Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria, who has said state residents will be required to take a vaccine, likely the one being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac and the local Butantan Institute.… Read More
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The diminutive figure of a skeleton in a face mask and medical cap has a hand on a bedridden patient. At its side is the sort of skull made of sugar common on Day of the Dead altars. And behind is the photo of a white-haired 64-year-old man in glasses smiling at the camera: the late Dr. Jose Luis Linares.
He is one of more than 1,700 Mexican health workers officially known to have died of COVID-19 who are being honored with three days of national mourning on these Days of the Dead.
Linares attended to patients at a private clinic in a poor neighborhood in the southern part of the city, usually charging about 30 pesos (roughly $1.50) a consultation. Because he didn’t work at an official COVID-19 center, his family doesn’t qualify for the assistance the government gives to medical personnel stricken by the disease, his widow said
“I told him, ‘Luis, don’t go to work.’ But he told me, ‘Then who is going to see those poor people,’” said his widow, Dr. María del Rosario Martínez. She said he had taken precautions against the disease because of lungs damaged by an earlier illness.
In addition to the usual marigolds and paper cutouts for Day of the Dead altars, hers this year includes little skeleton figures shown doing consultations or surgeries in honor of colleagues who have died.
It’s echoed in many parts of a country that as of September, according to Amnesty International, had lost more medical professionals to the coronavirus than any other nation.
They include people like nurse Jose Valencia, and Dr. Samuel Silva Montenegro of Mexico City, whose images rest atop altars in the homes of loved ones in Mexico City,
Martínez’s altar is in a living room beside a room in their apartment where she and her husband gave consultations. Martínez, who also fell ill but recovered, now sees patients only online or by phone.
Linares died May 25 after being hospitalized at a peak of infections in Mexico City. Martínez lost consciousness at the news, but when she came to, she found her only son and her sister were hugging her. “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me!” she yelled, fearing they too would be infected.
At the peak of her own illness, she trekked from saturated hospital to overflowing clinic, looking for help.
Martínez, 59, said she now feels better, and at peace, though not resigned to the loss of her husband of 36 years, who she first met as a girl selling gum outside a movie theater to help support her eight brothers and sisters.
“I feel strange,” she said. “But I owe it to the patients and they are going to help me get through this.” She said, though, that she expects to work fewer hours.
“I’m afraid because we don’t know how much immunity you’re doing to have, how long it will work,” she said. “The illness is very hard, very cruel. …
For people with disabilities, Ability360’s fitness center is not just a gym. It’s a gift, a lifeline, a privilege, a necessity.
The 45,000-square-foot fitness center, part of a 62,000-square-foot campus tucked in a business area east of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and along the light rail route, is the first of its kind in the western United States and one of only a few in the nation.
Its equipment is designed with accessibility in mind. For example, the lap pool has a lowered bench for transferring directly from a wheelchair to the water. The fitness room features strength, cardio and free weight equipment like any gym, but they’re designed to accommodate people with disabilities.
The campus is also home to a slew of nonprofits that help people with various disabilities and is typically bustling with activity. Ability360’s fitness center started the year with 2,800 members.
For those with recent injuries, the gym is a place to see and meet others who have coped with and grown stronger from their injuries, a place for encouragement.
For others, it’s the only place they ever get to use accessible equipment. It might be the only reason they leave the house.
For a select few, like those who had been training to play in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, it’s one of the best and most adaptive training facilities in the state.
“This is a place like nowhere else,” said Ability360 vice president and general manager Gus LaZear. “It’s warm, it’s welcoming, people are friendly but also keep you accountable for working out.”
Like many gyms, Ability360 shut down March 17. But when other gyms raced to reopen, Ability360 leaders were more cautious. They serve a more vulnerable population.
The Arizona Republic followed three Ability360 members over several months, documenting as they coped with the rollercoaster of closures and re-openings at the facility they described as being like a second home, a place where their disability didn’t define them.
When Ability360, a Phoenix gym for people with disabilities closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they adapted.
For a Paralympic athlete, Ability360 is essential
Joe Jackson, 30, has been paralyzed from the waist down since being injured during a Hamilton High School football game in 2005.
Breaking his C6 vertebrae in his lower neck left him without the ability to sweat, meaning he can quickly overheat — a common result of spinal cord injuries.
He didn’t used to have to think about it because of the air conditioned rooms at Ability360. He’d been going there three to five days a week for sessions spanning several hours since the gym’s opening in 2011.
Ability360’s focus on accessibility has been a “game-changer” for Jackson, he said.
Jackson in 2007 started playing quad rugby and joined Ability360’s team, which practiced three times per week for three hours at a time at the facility on top of regular games and tournaments.
In 2017, Jackson became a member of the U.S. Paralympic wheelchair rugby team,
President Trump’s illness from a coronavirus infection last month was the most significant health crisis for a sitting president in nearly 40 years. Yet little remains known about how the virus arrived at the White House and how it spread.
The administration did not take basic steps to track the outbreak, limiting contact tracing, keeping cases a secret and cutting out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The origin of the infections, a spokesman said, was “unknowable.”
But one standard public health technique may still shed some light: tracking the cluster’s genetic fingerprints.
To better understand the outbreak, The Times worked with prominent geneticists to determine the genetic sequence of viruses that infected two Times journalists believed to been exposed to the coronavirus as part of their work covering the White House.
The study reveals, for the first time, the genetic sequence of the virus that may have infected President Trump and dozens of others, researchers said. That genome is a crucial clue that may allow researchers to identify where the outbreak originated and whether it went on to infect others across the country.
The White House has not disclosed any effort to conduct similar genetic testing, but the study’s results show that it is still possible, even weeks after positive tests. Additional sequencing could help establish the path of the virus through the White House, the role of a possible super-spreading event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and the origin of an outbreak among the staff of Vice President Mike Pence in the last week or so.
The journalists, Michael D. Shear and Al Drago, both had significant, separate exposure to White House officials in late September, several days before they developed symptoms. They did not spend any time near each other in the weeks before their positive tests.
Mr. Shear traveled with Mr. Trump and other staff on Air Force One on Sept. 26, when Mr. Trump approached within five or six feet without a mask. Mr. Drago covered the Judge Barrett event that day and a news conference the next day near officials who were not wearing masks and later tested positive.
The viral genomes of the two journalists shared the same distinct pattern of mutations, the research found. Along with their exposure history, the findings suggest that they were infected as part of the broader White House outbreak, said Trevor Bedford, a geneticist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington who led the research team.
“These mutations that are possessed by these viruses are quite rare in the United States,” Dr. Bedford said. “I am highly convinced that these viruses come from the same outbreak or cluster based on their genomes.”
The study, which has been posted online but not yet peer reviewed or published in a science journal, followed academic protocols that require genetic samples to be anonymous. Mr. Shear and Mr. Drago chose to disclose their identities for this article.
Viruses constantly mutate, picking up tiny, accidental alterations
A 45-year-old woman suffering from breast cancer has fast-tracked her plans to end her life at Swiss clinic Dignitas due to “antiquated laws” and the impending second national lockdown in England.
The British woman has reportedly been granted a special waiver by the Swiss government to allow her to travel to Switzerland for a final appointment at the euthanasia clinic near Zurich without having to self-isolate for 10 days.
The woman told the Sunday Times she has brought her plans forward to avoid an “agonising, protracted death” due to the UK’s ban on assisted dying as well as the imminent second national lockdown, set to start on Thursday.
Writing in the newspaper, she said she felt she should go now, before she was “truly ready”, saying that coronavirus regulations would mean she would be “forced to die in the presence of strangers, in unfamiliar surroundings, without my husband, family or friends to comfort me”.
The woman, who previously worked as a senior mental health professional in the NHS, said the current UK laws that rule assisted suicide illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison have created a ‘cruel’ situation and said she had been met by a “wall of silence” when trying to discuss the issue with medics.
She said: “When I have attempted to speak openly about what I feel is a perfectly rational desire to avoid a traumatic death, I have been met by a wall of silence from doctors.”
Watch: Assisted dying could be legalised in the UK within four years
She told the Sunday Times that she was diagnosed with stage four secondary breast cancer last September, then learned in August that it had spread to her liver.
She said she is in considerable pain and suffers from extreme fatigue and nausea, and is likely to die from blood poisoning, suffocation or strokes due to cancerous tumours in her brain.
The woman told the newspaper she “desperately wants to live” but since she cannot she is trying to seek an option that will allow her a peaceful death – something that is currently impossible due to UK laws.
Watch: What is long COVID?
The Alabama Department of Public Health reported an increase of exactly 1,700 new coronavirus cases in Alabama on Sunday, including 944 confirmed cases and 756 probables. The state also reported six new virus deaths.
The majority of those probable cases came in just two counties in northwest Alabama, and ADPH reported many of those new cases are the result of a new backlog of cases entering the system.
“On October 31, the Alabama Department of Public Health processed a historic lab result file from an entity in Northwest Alabama,” a notice on the state’s coronavirus dashboard read. “This file will result in 846 positive lab results from June, July and August of 2020. These results primarily affect data from Limestone, Lawrence, Franklin, Colbert, and Lauderdale counties.”
Lauderdale County reported 270 new probable cases Sunday, and neighboring Colbert County reported 149 probable cases.
Similar backlogs have been frequent lately – APDH reported two very large backlogs of probable cases on Oct. 22 and 23, and the state dashboard currently shows a message about a backlog of 90 confirmed cases from Covington County, in south Alabama, that entered the system on Oct. 30.
Those data problems make tracking the state’s virus outbreak difficult. The 7-day average for total new virus cases – including both confirmed and probable cases – has moved around drastically in the last two weeks because of those backlogs. But the 7-day average for confirmed cases has been more reliable, and despite the backlog in Covington County reported on Halloween, it’s clear that number continues to trend up.
[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]
On Saturday, the 7-day average for new confirmed virus cases topped 1,000 for the first time since Sept. 1. On Sunday it ticked up again, and stood at 1,051 – the highest it’s been since Aug. 14. With probable cases included, the state’s 7-day average for new cases was 1,376 as of Sunday morning.
The state now has a total of 193,985 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 165,239 confirmed and 28,746 probable cases. It has also reported 2,973 deaths due to the virus.
Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state and home to Birmingham, saw the largest increase in new confirmed cases on Sunday at 172. Jefferson has now added at least 100 new confirmed cases in each of the last 13 days, and the county’s 7-day average for new cases has ticked up steadily over the last few weeks.
[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]
The 7-day average in Jefferson for new total cases – including probables – rose to 169 on Sunday, the highest it’s been there since Sept. 3, and an 80 percent increase since Oct. 8, when the average fell below 100 cases per day.
Only two counties reported new deaths on Sunday. Jefferson reported four deaths, bringing its total to 374 since the start of the pandemic. Two new virus deaths were reported in Mobile on Sunday, bringing the total there to 317. Those two
The federal plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine is woefully inadequate and will shortchange communities of color, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James and leaders of two prominent national civil rights organizations Sunday.
“COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society,” Cuomo said during a teleconference with reporters where he also gave an update on the state’s ongoing effort to tamp down the coronavirus.
The governor was joined by on the call by James, National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Morial and NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Derrick Johnson.
James pointed out that while the federal government has given pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars to help develop vaccines for COVID-19, very little has been set aside to help states administer the vaccine when it becomes available.
Statistics show COVID-19 infection and death rates have been higher among communities of color for a myriad reasons, including poor access to health care, according the leaders on the call.
The federal plan to distribute vaccine relies on chain pharmacies and other sites where flu shots are currently available.
“You might see big chain pharmacies … every other block in communities in Manhattan but let’s be clear,” James said, “the neighborhoods where more of our communities of color live do not have this type of access and that’s the core of the federal plan.”
Morial and Johnson both said the federal government needs to explore the use of other sites for vaccinations, such as schools and community centers.
There were 2,255 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide Saturday including 141 in Nassau and 142 in Suffolk, according to statistics released by the state.
“Despite this week being the worst on record for new COVID-19 cases nationwide, Nassau continues to hold the line below 2% positivity — 1.4% today,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement on Sunday. ” It won’t be easy to keep this position, so we need to continue using the common sense that got us here.”
Curran also encouraged residents to be aware of new guidelines announced Saturday by Cuomo requiring COVID-19 tests for out-of-state travelers.
New York’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.5%, Cuomo said. In the red zones, neighborhoods with high infection rates, the positivity rate is 3.1%.
Across the state, 17 people died from COVID-19, including one person in Nassau and another in Suffolk, Cuomo said. There are 1,125 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide including 125 in intensive care units.
Cuomo said only less-densely populated Maine and Vermont have lower COVID-19 rates than New York.
“New Yorkers should be very proud of that,” he said. “We expect an increase in the fall but it’s managing the increase which is what this is all about.”
Both Cuomo and Curran said they were concerned COVID-19 cases will spike after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“If you have family or friends coming from a high-risk state for Thanksgiving, make sure plans are in place for COVID-19 tests
(Reuters) – Stanford University economists estimate that President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies have resulted in 30,000 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely led to more than 700 deaths overall, according to a paper posted online this weekend.
The research, led by B. Douglas Bernheim, chair of economics at Stanford University, analyzed data following 18 Trump rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22, three of which were indoors. Bernheim said in an email the work relies on statistical methods to infer causation after an event has occurred.
Infectious disease experts have long suspected that the president’s rallies ahead of the Nov. 3 election might be so-called superspreader events. But so far, scientists have not been able to get a good read on their impact, in part because of a lack of robust contact tracing in many states.
WHAT IS THE CONCERN?
In recent months, Trump has held several dozen rallies in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where coronavirus infection rates were already on the rise.
At each event, several thousand people were estimated to have participated. While most of the rallies were held outdoors, video footage show that participants gathered in close proximity and many were not wearing masks, creating a risk of spreading the virus as they cheered their candidate on.
“It’s not a major stretch” to say that large unmasked gatherings are likely to spread the virus, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Adalja said the Stanford paper was “suggestive” of spread from the events, but not definitive because it was not based on an investigation of actual cases. That would help confirm whether participants were exposed to the virus at the event, rather than other places where transmission is rampant.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
Minnesota public health officials have attributed four COVID-19 outbreaks and more than 25 cases to Trump rallies held in the state in September and October.
An additional 11 state health departments contacted by Reuters said they had not been able to trace infections to the rallies, although some, including Michigan and Wisconsin, have determined that individual people who later tested positive for COVID-19 were present at Trump campaign events.
WHAT DATA ARE NEEDED?
Disease experts say that rigorous contact tracing from one such large event could help arrive at an accurate prediction of how infectious such rallies can be.
But the United States has fallen behind other developed countries in this regard, due to a lack of funding and coordination for contact tracing by the Trump administration.
“The problem is we’ve not done anything to get real numbers,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Instead, it is subject to conjecture and mathematical models.
Gottlieb pushes back on Trump’s comments of ’rounding the corner’ on virus: ‘Things are getting worse’
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is pushing back on President Trump’s repeated comments that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” on coronavirus.
Gottlieb told CBS’s “Face The Nation” o Sunday that “things are getting worse.”
“Things are getting worse around the country,” he said. “I think Thanksgiving is really going to be an inflection point. I think December is probably going to be our toughest month.”
Gottlieb said states are “seeing accelerating spread” and the U.S. is “at the beginning of what looks like exponential growth in a lot of states,” including those in the Midwest, the Great Lakes region, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Wisconsin.
“These are very worrisome trends,” he said. “There are about 23 states right now that are accelerating the spread.”
The former FDA official said 15 states have a positivity rate above 10 percent and all of the states are experiencing “an expanding epidemic right now.”
“Things are getting worse around the country,” he warns pic.twitter.com/rg3oUv5h4r
– Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 1, 2020
The New York Times documented a record high for new U.S. cases confirmed in a single-day on Friday, at nearly 100,000.
The newspaper categorizes 41 states and territories as places where new cases are “higher” and “staying high.” Eight states and territories were considered places where new cases are “lower but going up.” Almost 30 states and territories are experiencing increasing death tolls.
Overall, the U.S. ranks as the country with the most cases and deaths, with more than 9.1 million cases and 230,732 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.