The Latest: NY winter virus plan will eye hospitalizations
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said officials are working on a winter plan for the coronavirus that will add metrics for how the state designates virus hot zones.
On Thursday, Cuomo said the state will continue homing in on small geographic areas where virus cases are a particular problem to avoid imposing broad statewide restrictions, considering factors such as the hospitalization rate and the availability of ICU beds.
The new plan will add factors like the hospitalization rate and the availability of ICU beds to determine the location of the hot spots.
The Democrat said the winter plan will also look at ways to keep schools open, evaluating a safe positivity rate as well as determining the levels of testing needed at schools over the winter months. The plan will also outline how vaccines will be distributed as they become available.
Cuomo spoke a day after the state recorded nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases and 67 new deaths — 15 of which occurred in Erie County, which includes Buffalo and has continued to see spiking numbers.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Americans risk traveling over Thanksgiving despite warnings
— Congress braces for Biden’s national coronavirus strategy
— Pandemic gave locals fleeting taste of a tourist-free Hawaii
— To avoid any traces of the coronavirus that might be lurking on surfaces, Americans have been wiping down groceries, wearing surgical gloves in public and leaving mail packages out for an extra day or two. But experts say the national fixation on scrubbing can sometimes be overkill.
— California has reported a record number of coronavirus cases on the eve of Thanksgiving. More than 18,000 COVID-19 infections were reported Wednesday.
— Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a bizarre scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy’s Aosta valley.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa added 41 COVID-19 deaths Thursday as three more long-term care facilities reported virus outbreaks.
KCCI reports that the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 3,331 new positive COVID-19 cases as of 10 a.m. to bring the total to 222,278. The latest deaths raised the pandemic total to 2,312.
Long-term care facilities have been particularly hard hit, with cases in them accounting for 1,038 of the state’s 2,312 deaths. The three new facilities reporting outbreaks brings the total that have been hit to 152.
Health department data also shows fewer Iowa counties are reporting a 14-day positivity rate greater than 15%. There are now 88 counties with a rate at 15% or higher, down from 91 the day before. Schools in those counties can apply for a waiver to provide 100% distance instruction.
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The number of Kansas counties that require face coverings has risen sharply as fewer opted out of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest mask mandate.
Sixty-two Kansas counties now have orders in place, with many coming as Kelly’s new statewide mask order went into effect Wednesday, according to a list compiled by the Kansas Association of Counties. The remaining 43 of the counties have opted out, but most are encouraging or recommending people wear masks, The Kansas City Star reports.
It’s a stark contrast to the response Kelly received to her first mask order in July, when the majority of counties opted out.
Meanwhile, a Lawrence hotel will serve as a shelter for individuals who need to quarantine or isolate after a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to a positive case, a press release from Douglas County and its Unified Command partners said.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is providing funding for shelter services at the Baymont Inn and Suites, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. It’s available to homeless individuals, those who cannot safely isolate or quarantine at home due to numerous people living in the same home and first responders and those who work in high-risk professions.
PIERRE, S.D. — One group of South Dakotans marked the Thanksgiving holiday by setting up a makeshift memorial near the state Capitol in Pierre for those who have died from COVID-19.
A group called Stop the Spread set up over 800 empty chairs on the Capitol grounds, representing each person who has died. The state has tallied 849 COVID-19 deaths, with 424 of those deaths coming in November.
That death count is the 41st highest in the country overall, but the 11th highest per capita, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.
While the state maintained one of the nation’s lowest death rates per capita throughout the summer and into the fall, a wave of cases has led to a skyrocketing rate of deaths in recent weeks.
MADRID — Spain’s infection and fatality figures in the resurgence of COVID-19 are continuing to edge down, with the country posting 12,289 new cases and 337 deaths.
The 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of population, a recognized measure of the pandemic’s spread, also fell Thursday, to 325.
That is far off the Nov. 9 peak during the resurgence, when it stood at 529, and comes amid nationwide measures restricting movement and social gatherings.
The government admits the trend is favorable but wants to maintain caution until its target rate of 25 cases per 100,000 of population is reached.
Spain’s total number of new confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 1.6 million, with more than 44,000 deaths.
OTTAWA, Ontario — The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate could be approved in Canada next month.
Dr. Supriya Sharma says the Health Canada review is most advanced for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. She says Canada is reviewing it alongside the United States and Europe, and expects it will be approved here at the same time it is given emergency authorization in the U.S.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is meeting Dec. 10 to consider whether to give the go-ahead to Pfizer. Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, with the first four million of those on track to arrive before the end of March.
Sharma says she expects the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine in January but it is possible Canada could begin receiving the first doses before the end of the year.
SANDPOINT, Idaho — A county commissioner in northern Idaho has proposed defunding the local health district after the district instituted a mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus as it surges in the area.
The Bonner County Dailey reports that Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw proposed the resolution this week to pull about $250,000 from the Panhandle Health District.
Commission Chairman Dan McDonald said the resolution will have to be placed on the agenda before it can be considered at next week’s meeting.
The health district ordered the mask mandate on Nov. 19.
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler says his agency won’t enforce it.
BETHEL, Alaska -- The Alaska Native Medical Center, which specializes in health care for Alaska Native and American Indian people in the state, says it is now over capacity with coronavirus patients.
The center says it had to open an alternate care site to handle overflow.
The hospital’s Acting Administrator Dr. Robert Onders said during a virtual town hall on Monday that the critical care unit is so flooded that it cannot hold all the hospital’s most seriously ill patients.
About 20% of coronavirus patients at the hospital require critical care. Onders said he expects the hospital’s situation to worsen.
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region had the highest coronavirus case rate in the state as of Tuesday with about 273 cases per 100,000 people across the region on Tuesday.
RENO, Nev. — The coroner in Reno fears the recent explosion of coronavirus cases in Nevada could soon overtake not only the ability to treat the sick, but also store the dead.
COVID-19 is now spreading so fast statewide that someone is confirmed to have contracted it every minute and someone else is dying from it about every two hours.
The Reno-Sparks area has recorded 59 COVID-19 deaths the last 30 days — half of those this past week.
If the current trend continues, Washoe County Medical Examiner Laura Knight says the death rate could potentially double over the next two to three weeks, and double again by early January.
Statewide hospitalizations set another record Wednesday with 1,414 COVID-19 patients.
PARIS — France’s health minister says his country is readying to start administering COVID-19 vaccines in late December. But Olivier Veran is warning Thursday that people will still have to wear masks and keep their distance even after vaccines are widely available.
Veran said he can’t say yet whether mass vaccination “will allow us to get rid of this virus and totally return to our past lives,” because it’s not clear exactly how long protection from the eventual vaccines will last.
Noting broad skepticism in France about vaccine safety, he promised transparency about vaccination policy and to release plans soon on who will get the vaccine first and how.
President Emmanuel Macron has said France will not make COVID vaccines mandatory.
France leads Europe in numbers of confirmed virus infections, and has reported 50,618 virus-related deaths.
ROME — Italian health officials say the number of coronavirus patients both in intensive care and regular care beds has dropped. It’s an encouraging sign for Italy’s overtaxed hospitals during the surge in cases.
According to Health Ministry figures, 34,038 people in the country of more than 60 million were hospitalized in non-ICU beds Thursday, down 275 from Wednesday.
There were 3,846 ICU patients, two fewer than on the previous day.
On Thursday, 822 deaths were registered, raising the total to 52,850.
Although some 2,700 more swab tests were performed compared to the previous 24-hour period, the number of persons testing positive jumped by more than 3,000 Thursday.
With 29,003 new confirmed cases, Italy surpassed the 1.5 million mark in the pandemic Thursday, reaching 1,509,875.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s government is closing down bars and restaurants and further limiting any gatherings in a bid to curb a surge in new coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday announced the new set of measures that will take effect this upcoming weekend and last until Dec. 21 when the authorities will review them.
Plenkovic said the government has tried to maintain normal functioning during the second wave of the pandemic but that a rise in new cases has forced stricter measures. The country of 4.2 million on Thursday reported a record 4,009 new infections, while 51 people have died in the last 24 hours.
The new rules include a ban on more than 25 people in public gatherings and ten on private occasions. Weddings are banned and funerals can have no more than 25 people and no close contact.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia is registering a major surge in new coronavirus cases as health authorities warn that hospitals are running out of beds for patients.
Authorities on Thursday confirmed 7,606 new cases in the last 24 hours, a record for the Balkan country of 7 million people. They said 51 people died.
Epidemiologists have warned that the government was late in adopting a series of restrictive measures. Politicians are blaming the unprecedented surge on people failing to comply with the restrictions.
Serbia has so far registered about 150,000 COVID-19 cases and over 1,300 deaths.
NEW DELHI — India’s capital New Delhi is considering a nighttime curfew amid the latest coronavirus surge that has battered the city’s healthcare system and overwhelmed its hospitals.
The New Delhi government on Thursday told this to a court that had questioned the administration on the measures being taken to control the spike in daily cases.
The court was hearing a plea seeking to ramp up COVID-19 testing facilities in the capital, which is recording the most number of cases from any state in India for the last three weeks and more than 100 fatalities on an average every day for two consecutive weeks.
India’s new overall infections have declined steadily after peaking in mid-September, but the situation in the capital remains worrying.
The surge in the national capital had started at the end of October and reached record highs this month. On Nov. 11, the city saw 8,593 new
India has recorded 9.26 million cases of coronavirus, second behind the U.S. More than 135,00 Indians have died because of the virus so far.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that the next three weeks are going to be key for the country to stop further escalation of the surge in coronavirus infections that experts warn are putting medical systems on the verge of collapse.
“The upcoming three weeks is a critical time,” Suga said Thursday, asking the people to thoroughly protect themselves by using masks, frequently washing hands and avoiding common risks. “Everyone, please cooperate.”
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Wednesday issued a request for early closing time for places serving alcohol from Saturday to Dec. 17 and urged residents to avoid non-essential outings. On Thursday, she said the measures are needed “before the situation becomes even more serious.”
Japan survived the first wave in the spring without hard lockdowns.
LONDON — Most people in England will continue to face tight restrictions on socializing and business after a nationwide lockdown ends next week.
The government announced details Thursday of the three-level regional measures that will take effect Dec. 2. Only three remote and island areas are in the lowest tier, where pubs and restaurants can open almost as normal and members of different households can meet up indoors.
London, with more than 8 million people, is in the middle level, where most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open with restrictions.
A huge chunk of central and northern England, including the cities of Birmingham and Manchester, will be placed in the top tier, where pubs and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, and leisure venues such as cinemas and bowling alleys must stay closed.
The government imposed a four-week lockdown in England early this month to curb an autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with travel restricted and non-essential businesses closed. The government’s statistics office says the infection rate appears to have leveled off, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we must remain vigilant.”
BERLIN — Germany has passed the grim milestone of more than 15,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center, said Thursday that another 389 deaths were recorded overnight, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 15,160.
Germany has seen 983,588 total cases of the coronavirus after adding 22,368 overnight, the agency said.
STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip, who is fifth in the line of succession, and his wife Princess Sofia have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Swedish royal household said Thursday, adding that they have “milder flu symptoms but feel well under the circumstances.
The prince, son of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, and his wife are quarantined at home with their two children, the palace said.
The monarch, Austrian-born Queen Silvia, their oldest daughter Crown Princess Victoria, and Prince Daniel will protectively be tested Thursday, it said in a statement. The royal family had been together in connection with Friday’s burial of Walther Sommerlath, Silvia’s brother in Sweden, palace spokeswoman Margareta Thorgren told the Aftonbladet daily.
The 41-year-old prince wed Sofia Hellqvist, now 35, in June 2015. The couple has two children, Prince Alexander and Prince Gabriel.
King Carl Gustaf is Sweden’s head of state, but his duties are ceremonial and he holds no political power.
MOSCOW -- Russian authorities have reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a third straight day.
The government coronavirus task force registered 524 new deaths on Thursday, the highest daily toll in the pandemic. Previous records of 507 and 491 deaths were reported on Wednesday and Tuesday. A total of 38,062 people have died of coronavirus in Russia, according to the task force.
Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths hitting new highs almost daily and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. On Thursday, officials reported 25,487 new infections, another record number.
The country’s authorities have rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown or widespread closure of businesses, leaving it to regional governments to impose their own measures. In most, those don’t go beyond mask mandates, limiting the hours of bars and restaurants, ordering the elderly to self-isolate, forbidding mass public events and requiring employers to have some staff work from home.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong on Thursday reported its third straight day of over 80 new coronavirus infections, a day after its leader declared a goal of “zero infections” in an annual policy address.
Authorities reported 81 coronavirus infections, 13 of which were not traceable. Daily cases in the past week have surged to a three-month high, resulting in the cancellation of a planned air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Many of the cases in the recent surge have been linked to outbreaks in dance studios across the city, with Hong Kong ordering those who have visited stipulated venues to undergo mandatory testing.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in her annual policy address on Wednesday that the city is aiming for “zero infections,” and said that it might implement another round of mass testing of its residents.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says vaccinations against COVID-19 on the continent might not start until the second quarter of next year. And he says it will be “extremely dangerous” if more developed parts of the world vaccinate themselves and then restrict travel to people with proof of vaccination.
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available” in the past. He warned that “it’s clear the second wave (of infections) is here on the continent” of 1.3 billion people.
Africa last week surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections. The Africa CDC has been discussing vaccine options with Russia, China and others. Nkengasong said that “the worst thing we want for the continent is for COVID to become an endemic disease” in Africa.
In one hopeful development, authorities have begun distributing 2.7 million antigen tests throughout the continent, which Nkengasong said is “perhaps a game-changer” that allows for faster and easier testing. So far, some 21 million tests have been conducted across Africa’s 54 countries.