Giroir: Cases, hospitalizations, deaths up in U.S.
10:22 AM CT on 10/28/20
(AP) A member of the White House coronavirus task force says the increase in U.S. cases isn’t just because of more testing.
Admiral Brett Giroir says the proof of the increase is the uptick in hospitalizations and deaths nationwide from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump has been saying the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic. The president also contends the news media spends too much time focused on the health crisis.
Giroir, who was put in charge of coronavirus testing by Trump, says the nation is at “another critical point” in the response to the pandemic.
He is urging people to keep wearing masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing. Giroir says a safe and effective vaccine is “around the corner.”
Washington joins multi-state review pact on COVID-19 vaccine
7:52 PM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) Washington is among a handful of Western states that have joined California in a pact to independently review the safety and efficacy of any coronavirus vaccine that is ultimately approved by the FDA before any distribution occurs in those states, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.
"We would like to give Washingtonians the highest confidence that when a COVID-19 vaccine is available that it's safe and works," Inslee said at a news conference, saying the review is an added layer of assurance in order to encourage more people to get the vaccine once available.
Last week, California was the first to announce such a plan, and fellow Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said the independent review would happen regardless of who wins next week's presidential election. Oregon and Nevada are also part of the pact, according to Newsom's office. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month appointed a similar independent task force.
Inslee stressed that the public health experts in the group will concurrently be reviewing publicly released data before FDA approval of a vaccine, and that any decision by the group should come within days after federal approval. "We know how pressing this need is," he said.
He said the panel will not be reviewing whether the vaccine should be mandatory in any instances, and that no one has proposed that. But he said he was "cautiously optimistic" that most people would choose to get the vaccine.
Virus pushes twin cities El Paso and Juarez to the brink
5:55 PM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) A record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with twin disasters in the tightly knit metropolitan area of 3 million people.
Health officials are blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and younger people going out to shop or conduct business.
The crisis — part of a deadly comeback by the virus across nearly the entire U.S. — has created one of the most desperate hot spots in North America and underscored how intricately connected the two cities are economically, geographically and culturally, with lots of people routinely going back and forth across the border to shop or visit with family.
"We are like Siamese cities," said Juarez resident Roberto Melgoza Ramos, whose son recovered from a bout of COVID-19 after taking a cocktail of homemade remedies and prescription drugs. "You can't cut El Paso without cutting Juarez, and you can't cut Juarez without cutting El Paso."
In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds at a convention center.
Also, the University Medical Center of El Paso erected heated isolation tents to treat coronavirus patients. As of Tuesday, Ryan Mielke, director of public affairs, said the hospital had 195 COVID-19 patients, compared with fewer than three dozen less than a month ago, and "it continues to grow by the day, by the hour."
In Juarez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, ventilators and doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists. A hospital is being set up inside the gymnasium of the local university to help with the overflow.
Juarez has reported more than 12,000 infections and over 1,100 deaths, but the real numbers are believed to be far higher, because COVID-19 testing is extremely limited. El Paso County recorded about 1,400 new cases Tuesday, just short of the previous day's record of 1,443. The county had 853 patients hospitalized for the virus on Monday, up from 786 a day earlier.
South Dakota medical groups promote masks, countering governor
4:34 PM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) South Dakota's largest medical organizations on Tuesday launched a joint effort to promote mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the state suffers through one of the nation's worst outbreaks, a move that countered Gov. Kristi Noem's position of casting doubt on the efficacy of wearing face coverings in public.
As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have multiplied in recent weeks, the Republican governor has tried to downplay the severity of the virus, highlighting that most people don't die from COVID-19. Noem, who has staked out a reputation for keeping her state free from federal government mandates to stem the virus' spread, has repeatedly countered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations to wear face coverings in public.
Shortly after the Department of Health reported that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 broke records for the third straight day on Tuesday, people who represent doctors, nurses, hospitals, school administrators and businesses huddled to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. They warned the state's hospitals could face a tipping point in their ability to care for COVID-19 patients.
"Masking is a simple act that each one of us can participate in and it can save lives," said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. "If you mask, that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own."
Noem's spokesman Ian Fury said the governor does not oppose all mask-wearing, but is trying to promote a "nuanced" approach to masks. She has said it is appropriate to wear masks around people with symptoms of COVID-19 or in hospitals. But she has not encouraged people to wear face coverings in public, as recommended by the CDC.
October has already become the state's deadliest during the pandemic, with 152 people dying. Health officials have tallied 375 total deaths from COVID-19.
The state has reported the nation's second-highest number of new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. There were 1,226 new cases per 100,000 people, meaning that one in roughly every 82 people tested positive. The Department of Health reported 989 new cases on Tuesday.
The rise in hospitalizations has forced the state's two largest hospital systems — Sanford Health and Avera Health — to alter the logistics of some elective procedures to free up space for the influx of COVID-19 patients.
There were 395 people hospitalized by COVID-19 statewide, according to the Department of Health. About 34% of general-care hospital beds and 38% of Intensive Care Units statewide remained available on Tuesday.
Healthcare providers will hit an unmanageable load of patients if the virus continues to grow, Aaker warned, leading to a shortage of medical resources.
"There's a possibility that we meet that tipping point," he said.
Kansas City sees record virus deaths; St. Louis hospitals filling
2:09 PM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) St. Louis hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients at an alarming rate, and experts say many of those patients are coming from other areas of the state.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City area over the past week recorded its highest number of deaths over a one-week period, with more than 80 people dying from COVID-19.
Missouri is among several states across the U.S. seeing a spike in confirmed cases and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus. The state health department on Tuesday announced 1,695 additional confirmed cases and 28 more deaths. The state has reported 172,717 cases and 2,838 deaths since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations statewide remain high, with 1,407 people in Missouri hospitals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 illnesses as of Saturday, the most recent date available.
St. Louis-area hospital officials are urging people to take precautions to slow the spread of the virus, warning that the region's hospitals are at about 90% capacity.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on Monday reported a seven-day average of 360 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the worst since May. The seven-day average of new COVID-19 admissions was 52, the highest since early April.
"Think about what this means to you and your family members, if you get sick," said Dr. Alex Garza, who heads the task force. "Will there be a hospital to be able to care for you? Will they have space for your family member? Will the doctors, and the nurses, and the techs be on top of their game, or will they be exhausted and fatigued?"
In the early days of the pandemic, most people hospitalized in the St. Louis region were local. Now, "We're getting patients from everywhere," Garza said. "We have requests for transfers from hundreds of miles away."
Across the state, the region that includes Kansas City along with Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas has recorded 735 deaths since the pandemic began. But The most recent seven-day period was the most deadly, according to data compiled by the Kansas City Star.
The newspaper reported 81 deaths for the period of Oct. 20-26, and 163 deaths since the start of October.
"We are now what looks like moving into our third wave of this outbreak and that's very, very concerning," said Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City Health Department. "We're very concerned about this surge and as we move more and more indoors, this is going to become even more problematic."
The state said a data-entry problem that skewed hospitalization numbers for more than a week was fixed on Monday.
Last week, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ coronavirus dashboard had a message that said the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 had been underreported since Oct. 17 because of "challenges entering data" to the portal used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for collecting daily hospitalizations around the country.
It remains unclear how many other states had been affected by the HHS portal issue because some states do not use the federal agency's data collection.
An HHS spokeswoman did not respond to a question about other states but said the issues in Missouri were caused by a need to incorporate additional data elements on the state's dashboard.
Nevada to vaccinate frontline medical workers first
11:49 AM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) As the pandemic surges throughout the state, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday that the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines the state receives will go toward frontline medical workers and individuals at high risk of exposure.
Sisolak said he is confident in the Federal Drug Administration's approval process and the state's capacity to distribute a vaccine, despite fears about the possible politicization of the vaccine and uncertainty about when it will be made available.
"There's a lot of speculation, but there's no definitive timeline for when one may be approved," he said.
The state's plan anticipates there will initially be a limited supply of vaccines and outlines a tiered priority system. The first available dosages will go to health care workers and vulnerable populations, including residents ages 65 or older. The second tier includes retail workers, teachers and some university staff. The third tier includes the incarcerated, individuals experiencing homelessness and people with underlying health conditions.
Nevada ultimately hopes to inoculate 80% of all residents against COVID-19 once a vaccine is available. That could be difficult, though, because of routine struggles to vaccinate its population.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that during last year's flu season the state vaccinated only 44% of residents for influenza — 7% greater than the year prior — but still the lowest in the entire country. By contrast, Rhode Island vaccinated 61% of its residents for influenza during last year's season.
Compounding the difficulty, the state has only received $1.8 million in federal relief dollars — or about 60 cents per resident — as part of the $200 million the CDC has allocated toward vaccine distribution. Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency's director, estimates it will require from $5.5 to $6 billion to distribute a vaccine nationwide.
"We need to get resources to states now," Redfield told Congress on Sept. 16.
Sisolak said he hoped Congress would eventually pass another relief package, but in its absence, is still confident in the state's ability to distribute a vaccine. Before one becomes available, he urged residents to get flu shots in order to prevent Nevada's hospitals from reaching capacity as they fill with coronavirus patients. Of the state's hospital beds, 72% are currently occupied, including 77% in Clark County.
Idaho governor orders return to some COVID-19 restrictions
9:30 AM CT on 10/27/20
(AP) Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday ordered a return to some restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus as intertwined health care systems across the state showed early signs of buckling.
The Republican governor returned the state to stage 3 of his four-stage reopening plan and said indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people or fewer, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25% of capacity.
"Idaho is at a critical juncture," Little declared during the Statehouse news conference with a heavy police presence as protestors could be heard shouting in the hallway. "This is unacceptable and we must do more."
Little, who wears a mask in public and encourages others to do so also, didn't order a statewide mask mandate, something many healthcare professionals have sought. But many residents in red-state Idaho oppose such a mandate.
State officials continue reporting surging infections daily, with 650 more on Sunday for a total approaching 60,000 along with 573 deaths.
The state's positivity test rate is fourth-worst in the nation, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
The restrictions announced Monday also include a mask mandate for all long-term care facilities and physical distancing for gatherings of all types. Employers should continue allowing teleworking for at-risk workers or make special accommodations in the workplace.
St. Luke's, with hospitals in southwestern and central Idaho, is reporting that 20% of hospitalized patients are suffering from COVID-19. Its hospital in Twin Falls is postponing elective surgeries and sending children in need of medical care to Boise. On Monday, St. Luke's told people to stop coming to its emergency rooms for COVID-19 testing.
Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs for St. Luke's Magic Valley and Jerome, said the surge of patients in that area is approaching a level the hospital might not be able to handle, meaning deciding who gets treatment.
"That's not good for our staff, having to decide who lives and dies, and it's not good for the patients," he said. "The natural outcome of not controlling the virus will be unnecessary deaths."
Thieves take $1M worth of gloves meant for Florida hospitals
8:48 PM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) Thieves have stolen over 6 million gloves, worth $1 million, meant for first responders at Florida hospitals.
Medgluv, a supplier of medical gloves to the national healthcare industry, said it received the shipment at its office in Coral Springs on Friday night. On Sunday night, surveillance video shows thieves backing a truck up to the shipping container and hauling off the personal protective equipment. It took only a few minutes.
“We’ve had hospitals asking for this product on a daily basis waiting for this to arrive," said Rick Grimes, Medgluv's vice president of sales and marketing. “It's heartbreaking in so many different ways.”
He did not elaborate on whether the company thought the theft was lucky timing or an inside job.
Local police are investigating as well as federal authorities because the medical-grade exam gloves were federally registered.
Grimes said the company was "crushed." He added, “These are not just consumers. These are friends. We play an important part in the role of healthcare.”
Lakers, Dodgers fans helping drive uptick in LA virus cases
7:37 PM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) The success of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers are bringing fans together in the LA area and that may be helping drive an uptick in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County's top health official said Monday,
The Lakers won the NBA championship two weeks ago and the Dodgers are one game away from winning the World Series. Their run through the playoffs has prompted watch parties and celebrations.
Los Angeles County is the nation's largest, with 10 million residents, and positive cases there increased this month from an average of 940 per day to nearly 1,200 last week, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
She praised fans’ “incredible spirit,” but “the downside of this is that during a pandemic some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”
Health officials have warned of a second wave of virus cases and Ferrer said LA County's increase wasn't immediately apparent because of a backlog of cases due to technical issues with data collection systems.
“We’ve been seeing, first, very low case numbers a couple weeks ago and then in the last few days very high case numbers,” she said. “Now that we’ve processed the backlog of cases from the state, and analyzed the numbers by episode date, it is clear that our cases increased. This increase is not as steep as what we saw in July, but this is a cause of concern."
Health officials rely on having accurate data to forecast surges in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, intensive care needs and deaths. California overall has reported steady numbers even as there have been surges in many other states.
State officials also use the data to determine whether counties can advance to less restrictive tiers in the state’s four-stage, color-coded system. Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive tier while most San Francisco Bay Area counties have moved to fewer restrictions and San Francisco itself is in the most permissive category.
As a result of problems from the backlog, statewide reported cases jumped from 2,940 on Wednesday to 6,141 on Thursday and remained above 5,000 newly reported cases on Friday and Saturday before dipping back to 2,981 on Monday.
The state Department of Public Health, in a note on its tracking web page, said that the daily number of new cases included an estimated 2,000 backlog cases from Los Angeles County. State officials on Monday did not immediately provide more details, or explain what the county said were "processing issues in the state’s reporting system that resulted in a large volume of duplicate records being sent to LA County.”
Birx calls Bismarck's virus protocols the worst she's seen
5:43 PM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she spent a day looking around Bismarck and found its COVID-19 protocols to be the worst she’s seen anywhere in the country.
Dr. Deborah Birx, whose tour has taken her to nearly 40 states, said she found the absence of face coverings and the lack of social distancing in the North Dakota capital to be “deeply unfortunate” and a danger to public health.
“Over the last 24 hours, as we were here and we were in your grocery stores and in your restaurants and frankly even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been,” Birx told reporters after meeting with local, state and tribal leaders. “And we find that deeply unfortunate because you don’t know who’s infected and you don’t know if you’re infected yourself.”
Gov. Doug Burgum has not ordered a statewide mask mandate, instead urging people to wear masks out of personal responsibility and care for others. Burgum, a Republican, said he and Birx “have been in complete agreement since the beginning of this” and “believe that masks work,” The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Birx did not say whether she recommended that Burgum order masks to be worn in public.
North Dakota has had more new cases per capita than any other state over the past two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The Bismarck-Mandan area, in particular, has been a COVID-19 hot spot over the past few months.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by nine on Monday, to 173 statewide, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. That's the state's highest daily total.
The update showed 527 new virus cases from 6,660 tests, a daily positivity rate of 8.28%. It's the first time cases have dipped below 600 since last Wednesday, the day before a record total of 1,038 daily positives. A total of 38,241 people have become infected since the start of the pandemic.
Nebraska health providers, seniors to get vaccine first
4:15 PM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) Nebraska's healthcare providers and elderly and vulnerable residents will be first in line to get a coronavirus vaccination when it becomes available as early as this year, state officials said Monday.
Gov. Pete Ricketts and public health officials said they plan to give those groups top priority in their plans to distribute their limited share of the vaccine, once it's developed and shipped.
The announcement came as Nebraska sees a record number of people hospitalized because of the coronavirus. The number of new virus-related hospitalizations jumped to a record-high 436 on Saturday, and the number on Sunday held fairly steady at 435, according to the state's online tracking portal.
"We expect that vaccine supply will be limited early on, and initial doses will go to healthcare personnel and critical populations," said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
States were required to submit their distribution plans to the federal government earlier this month as researchers close in on a vaccine to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Nebraska plans to dispense its vaccine supply in phases, using an existing state network of health care providers, local public health departments and hospitals, Ling said.
Initial doses will go to workers at hospitals, long-term care facilities, urgent care clinics and other health providers. Residents who are at least 65 years old and those with underlying health conditions such as cancer, kidney disease and obesity will also get priority. So will workers who are considered critical, although Ling said local health officials will determine who meets that definition.
Eventually, the vaccine will become available to the broader public. State officials said they don't know how long it will take to vaccinate all residents who want the shot.
Ling said the state's plan is a "living document" that could still be changed, but it's designed to do the most good based on current scientific evidence. She said the federal government reviewed Nebraska's plan and offered feedback but didn't have to formally approve it.
HHS official says pandemic clearly can be controlled
2:36 PM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) A day after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said "we're not going to control the pandemic," a top Trump administration health official said Monday that Americans have already proven they can do that through basic safeguards shown to work.
"I think we can control the pandemic," Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said on a call with reporters.
"I want to be clear that what we have done — what the American people have done — has been able to put out very significant outbreaks ... all across the Deep South," Giroir said.
He underscored what he calls the "3 W's" — watching your distance from other people, wearing masks when you can't keep away and frequently washing your hands.
Giroir said the data are pretty clear that while such simple measures cannot completely defeat the virus, they can control it. The "nail in the coffin" for the coronavirus will come when vaccines are approved and widely distributed, he added.
Giroir's comments highlight open differences between government health officials and some in the top circle of White House advisers to President Donald Trump, who believe Americans can achieve widespread immunity by returning to normal life while protecting the elderly and others highly vulnerable. Trump himself asserts the U.S. is rounding the corner on the virus as he pursues a fast-paced schedule of public rallies in the closing days of the campaign. Most attendees appear to take no precautions.
A senior political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services, Giroir is a pediatric critical care specialist but has also held high-level management posts and conducted scientific research. He has been working to increase coronavirus testing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which account for more than 40% of deaths from COVID-19. His office Monday announced new testing support for states bearing the brunt of the latest surge in cases.
On Sunday, Meadows had told CNN that "we're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas."
Asked why the U.S. wasn't going to get control, Meadows responded, "Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious."
But scientists say public health measures have already been shown to work. After the initial outbreak in early spring led to a national shutdown, the number of new cases a day dropped from about 40,000 to around 20,000.
Then came the summer surge. As southern states embraced reopening, new cases topped 70,000 a day, driven by increases in the South and West. When some of those same states pulled back, new daily cases dropped to between 35,000-40,000. Now they're shooting back up across the northern part of the country, as cold weather returns and people spend more time indoors. Restriction-weary states elsewhere are also seeing increases as average daily cases again approach 70,000.
Giroir said basic public health measures are "smart" and "proven" policies. "We need to continue that and reach higher levels, particularly in areas of community spread," he said.
French doctor warns his country has 'lost control' of virus
11:59 AM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) A French doctor warned Monday that his country has "lost control of the epidemic," a day after health authorities reported more than 52,000 new coronavirus cases as nations across Europe enact more sweeping restrictions to try to slow surging infection rates.
Dr. Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the scientific council that advises the French government on the virus, said the country is in a "very difficult, even critical situation."
"There probably are more than 50,000 new cases every day. Our estimate at the Scientific Council is closer to 100,000 – twice as many," Delfraissy told RTL radio. "Between those who aren't tested and asymptomatic patients, we're close to that number of cases. This means the virus is spreading extremely fast."
Dr. Eric Caumes, head of infections and tropical diseases department at Paris' Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, said the country needs to lock down again.
"We lost control of the epidemic but that doesn't date from yesterday," he said on broadcaster Franceinfo. "We lost control of the epidemic several weeks ago already."
Spain — the first European country to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — declared a state of emergency Sunday that included a nationwide overnight curfew, a cap of six people on social gatherings and possible travel bans in and out of the hardest-hit regions.
In two major Italian cities, people took to the streets amid a pushback from small sections of society to new restrictions. On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protested a locally imposed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and clashed with police. On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist groups led a similar protest in Rome against a curfew. Another protest is planned for Tuesday in Milan.
Europe's confirmed death toll has surpassed 250,000 according to a count by Johns Hopkins University, which puts the global toll at more than 1.1 million.
Temporary hospital to be set up in El Paso convention center
10:12 AM CT on 10/26/20
(AP) A part of the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center will be turned into a makeshift hospital to help with the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, Texas officials announced Sunday.
Gov. Greg Abbott said 50 hospital beds will be set up in the convention center and another 50 beds could be added if needed.
Abbott ordered the alternate care site to expand hospital capacity in the El Paso area in response to the coronavirus surge, he said. The site, scheduled to open this week, will provide additional medical equipment and medical personnel.
The state has already provided over 900 medical personnel to El Paso, some of whom will be staffing the convention center site.
"The alternate care site and auxiliary medical units will reduce the strain on hospitals in El Paso as we contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region," Abbott said.
El Paso County health officials reported 772 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a day after a record 1,216 new cases were reported, making up more than 20% of the 3,793 new cases reported statewide. That brought the total cases since the pandemic first hit Texas to 862,375. An estimated 91,885 active cases were the most since Aug. 30, and the 5,206 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported Sunday was the most since Aug. 22.
Meanwhile, the true number of cases in Texas is likely higher though because many people haven't been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The 48 new COVID-19 deaths reported Sunday raised the state's death toll for the outbreak to 17,504.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Utah’s hospitals prepare to ration care
8:36 PM CT on 10/25/2020
(Salt Lake Tribune) Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, said local hospital administrators are expecting to begin rationing care in overcrowded intensive care units, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Criteria, which would require Gov. Gary Herbert’s approval, would allow hospitals to discharge patients who are getting worse despite receiving intensive care. In the event that two patients' conditions are equal, the young get priority over the old, since older patients are more likely to die.
‘We told him, ‘It looks like we’re going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,’" Bell told the newspaper, “'and we see no reason why it won’t.'"
Utah repeatedly set new records for daily coronavirus cases last week. At least two Utah hospitals have opened overflow ICUs this month.
Health experts question Pence campaigning as essential work
6:01 PM CT on 10/25/2020
Health policy specialists questioned White House officials’ claim that federal rules on essential workers allow Vice President Mike Pence to continue to campaign and not quarantine himself after being exposed to the coronavirus.
Campaigning is not an official duty that might fall under the guidelines meant to ensure that police, first responders and key transportation and food workers can still perform jobs that cannot be done remotely, the health experts said.
A Pence aide said Sunday that the vice president would continue to work and travel, including for campaigning, after his chief of staff and some other close contacts tested positive. Pence tested negative on Sunday and decided to keep traveling after consulting White House medical personnel, his aides said.
Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, was among those who tested positive. President Donald Trump, said early Sunday that Short was quarantining.
That usually means isolating oneself for 14 days after exposure in case an infection is developing, to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Pence was holding a rally Sunday in North Carolina, events in Minnesota and Pennsylvania on Monday and more events in North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday. The most recent numbers show COVID-19 cases are rising in 75% of the country.
On Sunday, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told reporters that Pence “is following all the rules” from federal health officials. He called Pence “an essential worker” and said, “essential workers going out and campaigning and voting are about as essential as things we can do as Americans.”
However, the guidelines on essential workers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are aimed at folks like police, first responders and key transportation and food workers.
The Department of Homeland Security spells out 16 categories of critical infrastructure workers, including those at military bases, nuclear power sites, courthouses and public works facilities like dams and water plants.
“I don’t see campaigning on the list,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins University and former Maryland state health department chief. “Anything that does not have to be done in person and anything not related to his job as vice president would not be considered essential.”
Dr. Thomas Tsai, a health policy specialist at Harvard University, agreed.
Helping to maintain the function of the executive branch of government could be considered critical work, but “we’ve always historically separated campaigning from official duties,” he said.
Pence also serves as president of the Senate, a largely ceremonial role outlined in the Constitution but one that stands to come into focus Monday.
The Senate was expected to vote Monday evening to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Pence’s vote is unlikely to be needed to break a tie, but his presence was expected for the vote.
If Pence’s official work as vice president was considered essential, the CDC guidelines say he should be closely monitored for COVID-19 symptoms, stay at least 6 feet from others and wear a mask “at all times while in the workplace.”
Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law, said Pence’s intention to continue campaigning flouts the spirit of the CDC guidelines.
Sharfstein said Pence “could be putting people at risk” because he’s at high risk of becoming infected.
“He should quarantine in order to protect other people,” Sharfstein said.
Trump says U.S. is 'rounding the turn' on the virus
3:55 PM CT on 10/25/2020
(AP) President Donald Trump is asserting that even without a vaccine, “we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.”
Trump made the dubious claim to voters at a packed campaign rally in New Hampshire.
Data from Johns Hopkins University shows new COVID-19 cases at a high, with 83,718 reported Saturday, just shy of the 83,757 infections on Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the United States on a single day had been 77,362, on July 16.
Trump says “you know why we have cases so much? Because that’s all we do but test.”
Trump is trying to win a state that he narrowly lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is also making a stop in Bangor, Maine. He’s trying to capture the 2nd Congressional District’s one electoral vote.
UN chief says COVID-19 is 'the greatest crisis of our age'
2:02 PM CT on 10/25/2020
The head of the United Nations said Sunday that “the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis of our age.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened an online session of the World Health Summit with a call for worldwide solidarity in the global crisis and demanded that developed countries support health systems in countries that are short of resources.
The coronavirus pandemic is the overarching theme of the summit, which originally had been scheduled for Berlin. Several of the leaders and experts who spoke at the opening stressed the need to cooperate across borders.
“No one is safe from COVID-19. No one is safe until we are all safe from it,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Even those who conquer the virus within their own borders remain prisoners within these borders until it is conquered everywhere.”
More than 42 million have been infected with the virus and over 1 million people have died of COVID-19.
Trump aide says ‘we’re not going to control the pandemic’
11:34 AM CT on 10/25/20
(AP) The coronavirus has reached into the heart of the White House once more, less than a week before Election Day, as it scorches the nation and the president’s top aide says “we’re not going to control the pandemic.” Officials on Sunday scoffed at the notion of dialing back in-person campaigning despite positive tests from several aides to Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, pressed to explain why the pandemic cannot be reined in, said, “Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.” He told CNN’s ”State of the Union” that the government was focused on getting effective therapeutics and vaccines to market.
Pence, who tested negative on Sunday, according to his office, planned an afternoon rally in North Carolina, while the president was scheduled to be in New Hampshire and Maine. Democrat Joe Biden attended church in the morning and planned to participate in a virtual get-out-the-vote concert at night. His running mate Kamala Harris spoke to a drive-in church service outside Detroit and was spending the day in Michigan. The California senator appeared to have the White House in mind when she praised first responders as “people who reject the notion that we cannot control this virus.”
Symptoms, including fever, cough and fatigue, may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some asymptomatic individuals test positive two to three days before developing symptoms.
The U.S. set a daily record Friday for new confirmed coronavirus infections and nearly matched it Saturday with 83,178, data published by Johns Hopkins University shows. Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died; both totals are the world’s highest.
“If Pence did not self-quarantine it would violate every core public health principle his own task force recommends,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law. “It’s one standard for the vice president and another for all the rest of us.”
Entering the final full week before the Nov. 3 election, it’s clear the Trump team remains committed to full-throttle campaigning. Trump himself has resumed a hectic schedule since recovering from his own recent coronavirus case. Pence has trips set to Minnesota on Monday and North Carolina again on Tuesday.
Despite the rising virus numbers, the White House says the U.S. economy needs to fully reopen and it has tried to counter Biden’s criticism that Trump is not doing enough to contain the worst U.S. public health crisis in more than a century.
“What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this,” Meadows said. “But to suggest that we’re going to actually quarantine all of America, lock down our economy. ... Joe Biden is saying that.”
Biden has said he would only shut down the country if that is what government scientists advise. He has said that if elected he would make the case for why a national mask mandate might be necessary and would go to the governors to help increase Americans’ mask-wearing.
Pence’s office says there are no plans to curtail campaigning. In addition to chief of staff Marc Short, who tested positive Saturday, a “couple” other aides also have also contracted the disease, Meadows said.
Meadows said Pence will wear a mask — “because the doctors have advised him to do that” — but take it off when he gives a speech.
Even with Pence’s latest negative test, symptoms, including fever, cough and fatigue, may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some asymptomatic individuals test positive two to three days before developing symptoms.
The White House says Pence was considered in “close contact” with Short under CDC guidelines. The guidelines require that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and wear a mask whenever around other people.
After consulting with the White House Medical Unit, Pence intended to maintain his schedule “in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” said Devin O’Malley, a Pence spokesman.
Meadows sidestepped questions about whether Pence’s campaigning fit into the spirit of the CDC’s guidelines for essential work. “He’s not just campaigning, he’s working,” Meadows said.
Trump assured supporters packed shoulder to shoulder at Saturday rallies that “we’re rounding the turn” on the coronavirus and he mocked Biden for raising alarms about the pandemic.
The candidates have demonstrated remarkably different attitudes about what they see as safe behavior in the homestretch of a campaign that, as with all aspects of American life, has been upended by the pandemic.
“We don’t want to become superspreaders,” Biden told supporters at a “drive-in” rally Saturday in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, picking up a term that has been used to describe the Rose Garden event in late September in which Trump announced his latest Supreme Court nominee. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted COVID-19 since that gathering, as have campaign aides. Trump spent more than three days hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center after becoming stricken.
Pence to keep up travel despite contact with infected aides
9:23 AM CT on 10/25/20
(AP) Vice President Mike Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule this week despite an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus among his senior aides, the White House says.
Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, and “a couple of key staff surrounding the vice president” have tested positive for the virus, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday.
The vice president, who along with his wife, Karen, tested negative on Sunday, according to his office, is considered a “close contact” of the aides under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria but will not quarantine, his spokesman said.
Devin O’Malley said Pence decided to maintain his travel schedule “in consultation with the White House Medical Unit" and "in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.” Those guidelines require that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and wear a mask whenever around other people.
O’Malley said Pence and his wife, Karen, both tested negative on Saturday “and remain in good health.”
President Donald Trump commented on Short early Sunday after his plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington. “I did hear about it just now,” he said. “And I think he’s quarantining. Yeah. I did hear about it. He’s going to be fine. But he’s quarantining.”
Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent” regardless of the stated justification that Pence is an essential worker.
“It’s just an insult to everybody who has been working in public health and public health response,” she said. “I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people going to the rally” and the people on Pence’s own staff who will accompany him.
“He needs to be staying home 14 days,” she added. “Campaign events are not essential.”
After a day of campaigning in Florida on Saturday, Pence was seen wearing a mask as he returned to Washington aboard Air Force Two shortly after the news of Short’s diagnosis was made public. He is scheduled to hold a rally on Sunday afternoon in Kinston, NC.
Pence, who has headed the White House coronavirus task force since late February, has repeatedly found himself in an uncomfortable position balancing political concerns with the administration's handling the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. The vice president has advocated mask-wearing and social distancing, but often does not wear one himself and holds large political events where many people do not wear face-coverings.
By virtue of his position as vice president, Pence is considered an essential worker. The White House did not address how Pence's political activities amounted to essential work.
Europe, U.S. watch case totals grow, debate new restrictions
8:36 PM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) Confirmed coronavirus infections continued to soar Saturday in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. In some cases, so did anger over the restrictions governments put in place to try to stem the tide.
Oklahoma, Illinois, New Mexico and Michigan were among states announcing new record highs in daily confirmed cases Saturday, a day after a nationwide daily record of more than 83,000 reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases in her state topped the old record by more than 1,300.
German authorities reported a record one-day total of new coronavirus cases this weekend while leaders in Spain and Italy debated how to control the resurgent virus amid public pushback to curfews despite a global death toll topping 1.1 million people.
In Italy, officials huddled with regional authorities on Saturday to determine what new restrictions could be imposed as confirmed cases surpassed half a million.
Premier Giuseppe Conte has said he doesn’t want to put Italy under severe lockdown again, as he did at the pandemic’s start. In past days, several governors ordered overnight curfews in their regions to stop people from congregating at night outside bars and other venues.
One such curfew fueled anger in Naples, triggering a violent clash by protesters with police. Italian media said protesters hurled rocks, pieces of broken ceramic tiles and smoke bombs at police while they battled back with tear gas. Elsewhere in Europe, police in Warsaw, Poland, used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters angry over new virus restrictions, and anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in London's Trafalgar Square.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens again to reduce their number of social contacts as the nation recorded a new daily high for infections.
The 14,714 cases reported on Saturday includes cases from both Friday and Thursday because of a three-hour data outage at the country’s disease control agency Thursday. Forty-nine more people died, bringing the overall death toll past 10,000.
The chancellor said in her weekly podcast “if we all obey (to social distancing) we will all together survive this enormous challenge posed by the virus.”
Other European countries have tightened restrictions hoping to cope with their own rising case counts.
Slovenia closed down hotels, shopping malls and other non-essential shops as authorities reported a record high of both new daily infections and deaths in the small country of 2 million people. Greece unveiled a mask requirement and a mandatory nightly curfew for Athens and other areas deemed high risk.
In South America, Colombia became the eight country to reach 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to the Colombian Ministry of Health. Two of the others are also in Latin America: Argentina, which hit that mark on Monday, and Brazil, which has more than 5 million confirmed cases.
Colombia hits 1 million confirmed virus cases
7:30 PM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) Colombia reached 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, its health ministry says, becoming the second country in Latin America to report that number in less than a week.
The nation of 50 million saw cases peak in August and has seen a decline since but still continues to register around 8,000 new infections a day.
Eight countries now have more than 1 million confirmed cases, and three are in Latin America. Argentina hit 1 million confirmed cases on Monday. Brazil ranks third worldwide in the number of virus cases, with more than 5 million, and passed 1 million infections back in June. Peru and Mexico are expected to reach 1 million cases each in the coming weeks.
Overall, Latin America continues to register some of the highest caseloads, diagnosing more than 100,000 confirmed infections each day, though the World Health Organization reports that Europe is now seeing even larger numbers as a second virus wave strikes.
Arizona, Oklahoma seeing spikes in confirmed cases
4:13 PM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) Arizona is experiencing increases in coronavirus cases and the rate of positive test results.
The 14-day rolling average of daily confirmed infections rose from 617 on Oct. 9 to 914 on Friday. Meanwhile, the average daily deaths increased from 7.6 to 8.4 and the positive test average went from 6.5% to 8.9%.
Rolling averages even out daily spikes and drops.
The state Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 890 cases and four additional deaths, increasing the Arizona totals to 236,772 confirmed infections and 5,869 deaths.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma has registered more than 1,800 newly confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health report on Saturday comes one day after Gov. Kevin Stitt extended a state of emergency another 30 days. The health department reported 1,829 new cases for a total of 115,685.
There have been 11 more deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,245.
Minnesota nears record case increase with 2,268 infections
1:46 PM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) Minnesota reported one of the largest one-day tallies of new coronavirus cases on Saturday as 2,268 people tested positive.
The number of new cases is the second-highest reported during the pandemic, just below the 2,297 cases reported on Oct. 16. The positivity rate of testing has also climbed in recent days, which is an indication that infections are increasing. The seven-day average positivity rate was 6.53%, according to date from the COVID Tracking Project.
Health officials have said the uptick in cases is due to more infections spreading among people rather than increased testing showing more cases.
The upward trend in new cases has been followed by an uptick in deaths from COVID-19, with the seven-day average number of deaths at over 14. The Minnesota Department of Health reported 14 more deaths Saturday, bringing the state's death toll to 2,328.
Nine of the deaths reported Saturday were people living in long-term care and assisted-living facilities.
N.D. National Guard tells people if positive
11:00 AM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) National Guard soldiers have helped notify 800 people who tested positive for the coronavirus but initially weren’t told because of a backlog of cases.
The backlog was due to a recent sharp increase in coronavirus cases. North Dakota leads the nation with more than 1,272 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
This week, North Dakota National Guard soldiers began telling people they tested positive for the virus. They previously were informing people who had contact with someone positive and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms of the virus.
North Dakota reported 886 new infections on Friday, down from a record 1,038 cases on Thursday. Health officials reported nine deaths Friday, increasing the statewide death toll to 440.
U.S. sets coronavirus infection record; deaths near 224,000
8:50 AM CT on 10/24/20
(AP) The U.S. coronavirus caseload has reached record heights with more than 83,000 infections reported in a single day, the latest ominous sign of the disease’s grip on the nation, as states from Connecticut to the Rocky Mountain West reel under the surge.
The U.S. death toll, meanwhile, has grown to 223,995, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard published by Johns Hopkins University. The total U.S. caseload reported on the site Friday was 83,757, topping the 77,362 cases reported on July 16.
The impact is being felt in every section of the country — a lockdown starting Friday at the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota, a plea by a Florida health official for a halt to children’s birthday parties, dire warnings from Utah’s governor, and an increasingly desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space for patients and considering airlifts to Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert proclaimed Friday to be “a record day for Utah — but not a good one” as COVID-19 cases reached an all-time high for the state.
“Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all COVID and non-COVID patients who need it,” he said. “But today we stand on the brink. If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.”
The seven-day rolling average for new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 61,140 Thursday, compared with 44,647 two weeks ago. The record was reached July 22 when the rolling average was 67,293 in the midst of a summer outbreak driven largely by surges of the virus in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
The U.S. surge mirrors a similarly widespread spike in Europe, where Rome, Paris and other major cities are reining in nightlife as part of the increasingly drastic measures undertaken to slow the spread of the pandemic. French authorities said the country had recorded over 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach that number.
The head of the World Health Organization warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday.
New York COVID-19 hospitalizations top 1,000 for first time since June
8:02 PM CT on 10/23/20
(Crain's New York Business) New York hospitalizations for COVID-19 topped 1,000 for the first time since June, as the state battles clusters of rising cases.
Nearly half of all new daily hospital admissions in the state have been from Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland and Orange counties, as well as in counties along the Pennsylvania border with New York that have hot spots.
“Everything is a consequence of all of our collective actions,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in an email when asked about the high number of hospitalizations. “This isn’t close to being over. Everyone, please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.”
Of the more than 141,500 tests conducted statewide on Thursday, 1,637 or 1.15% were positive. The rate in the hot spots was 2.31%, compared with 0.98% outside those areas, according to data from the governor’s office. The 2.31% is down from more than 3% a few weeks ago.
New York, the early center of the U.S. pandemic, had more than 18,000 hospitalized for COVID-19 at the height of its outbreak. At that time in April, the state pitched tents as makeshift hospitals, created temporary medical facilities out of convention centers, and had a U.S. Navy hospital ship docked in the Hudson River in case it needed more capacity.
By early September, hospitalizations were just above 400. In recent weeks, state officials have battled a resurgence in areas where mask-wearing and social distancing have been lax. Cuomo has stepped up enforcement and ordered schools, nonessential businesses, and places of worship closed in those so-called red zones.
“We are attacking micro-clusters where we see them, and that will be our strategy through this season as we see micro-clusters come and go,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Dutch hospital airlifts patients to Germany amid virus surge
6:33 PM CT on 10/23/20
(AP) A bright yellow helicopter rose into a blue sky Friday carrying a COVID-19 patient from the Netherlands to a German intensive care unit, the first such international airlift since the pandemic first threatened to swamp Dutch hospitals in the spring.
The clatter of the helicopter’s rotors as it lifted off from a parking lot behind a hospital 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Amsterdam was a noisy reminder of how the coronavirus is again gripping Europe and straining health care systems that struggled for equipment and staff during the pandemic’s first wave.
Elsewhere on the continent, an absence of noise will underscore the virus’ resurgence. More than two-thirds of the people living in France were to be subject to a nightly curfew starting at midnight Friday, hours after health authorities announced that the country had joined Spain in surpassing 1 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
“The epidemic is very strongly accelerating,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after visiting a hospital near Paris.
France became the second country in Western Europe and the seventh world-wide to reach that number of known infections after reporting 42,032 new daily cases. Of the 445,000 confirmed cases the World Health Organization had recorded in the past 24 hours, nearly half were in Europe, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said.
Experts say the real numbers of infections are probably much higher than the ones governments are reporting because of a lack of wide testing early on and the fact that some people don’t develop symptoms. The head of the World Health Organization warned Friday that countries in the Northern hemisphere were at a “critical juncture” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing from Geneva.
Curfews to rein in nightlife and other opportunities for the virus to spread are some of the increasingly drastic measures European nations are enforcing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew taking effect for at least six weeks in 38 regions of France come on top of the government imposing the same restrictions in Paris and other French cities last week.
The extension means that 46 million of France’s 67 million people will be under curfews that prohibit them from being out and about during those hours except for limited reasons, such as walking a dog, traveling to and from work and catching a train or flight.
AstraZeneca resuming U.S. testing of COVID-19 vaccine
4:21 PM CT on 10/23/20
(AP) AstraZeneca Inc. announced Friday that regulators are letting it resume testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S.
Testing of the vaccine was halted worldwide early last month because of a British study volunteer's illness. Studies have already resumed in other countries, and the British drugmaker said the Food and Drug Administration gave the company the go-ahead Friday to resume U.S. testing.
The AstraZenca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, is one of several coronavirus vaccine candidates in final-stage testing around the world.
The drugmaker said it was allowed to resume testing after the FDA "reviewed all safety data from trials globally and concluded it was safe to resume the trial."
The company said that testing has already resumed in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and Japan.
Such temporary halts of drug and vaccine testing are relatively common, because in research involving thousands of participants, some are likely to fall ill. Putting a study on hold allows researchers to investigate whether an illness is a side effect or a coincidence.
AstraZeneca's study in the U.S. involves 30,000 people, with some getting the vaccine and others a dummy shot.
Testing was stopped after one participant in the United Kingdom developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with a rare inflammation of the spinal cord called transverse myelitis. It was the second hold in AstraZeneca testing.
Aspirin may reduce risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients
2:18 PM CT on 10/23/20
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking low-dose aspirin to protect against heart disease had a lower risk of death or other complications, according to a study published in Anesthesia and Analgesia.
Researchers studied the medical records of 412 COVID-19 patients who were admitted to four hospitals on the East Coast. They found patients who were already taking or started using low-dose aspirin shortly after admission had a 44% reduction in risk of needing a ventilator, a 43% decrease in risk of ICU admission and a 47% decrease in risk of death.
The patients were 55 years old on average, and researchers controlled for some of the common COVID-19 risk factors, like age, race, gender and pre-existing health conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
“This is a critical finding that needs to be confirmed through a randomized clinical trial,” said study leader Dr. Jonathan Chow. “If our finding is confirmed, it would make aspirin the first widely available, over-the-counter medication to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients.”
Dutch hospital airlifts patients to Germany amid virus surge
12:01 PM CT on 10/23/20
(AP) A bright yellow helicopter rose into a blue sky Friday carrying a COVID-19 patient from the Netherlands to a German intensive care unit, the first such international airlift since the global pandemic first threatened to swamp Dutch hospitals in the spring.
The clatter of the helicopter's rotors as it lifted off from a parking lot behind the Flevohospital in Almere, 20 miles east of Amsterdam, was a noisy reminder of how the coronavirus is again gripping Europe and straining countries' healthcare systems.
The Dutch airlift to a hospital in the German city of Muenster came amid soaring rates of infection in the Netherlands, where the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 24.58 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 7 to 47.74 new cases per 100,000 on Oct. 21. As of Thursday, there were 463 COVID-19 patients in Dutch intensive care units.
Flevohospital spokesman Peter Pels said flying patients across an international border was a last resort after other hospitals in the region around Almere said their intensive care units couldn't take them. The hospital was transferring two patients to Germany on Friday.
"We actually prefer not to move patients because it is very drastic, also for family," he said. "But to keep the quality and safety of care at a good level, unfortunately it is necessary to move patients."
Numbers have been spiking in neighboring Germany as well, with the country's disease control center saying Friday that 11,242 new cases were reported over the last 24-hour period, just shy of the record 11,278 mark set the day before. The nationwide infection rate over the last seven days rose to 60.3 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 56.2 the day before.
At the same time, the country has more than 8,100 intensive care beds free at the moment, with about 21,500 occupied, according to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine. There's also a reserve of around 12,700 beds that can be activated within seven days if necessary.
During the first phase of the pandemic, in the last week of March and first two weeks of April, Germany took in a total of 232 intensive care patients from Italy, France and the Netherlands.
Germany is now also in talks to take in people from the Czech Republic.
Mich. COVID-19 hospitalizations triple in past 4 weeks
9:28 AM CT on 10/23/20
(Crain’s Detroit Business) Michigan's climbing numbers of daily positive COVID-19 cases slightly leveled off Thursday as the state reported 1,873 new cases, for a total of 152,862 since the pandemic began in Michigan on March 11.
This brought the seven-day average to 1,682, down slightly from Wednesday's high of 1,704 — the highest average so far.
Michigan recorded 12 new COVID-19 deaths Thursday and 31 deaths from previous days through a vital records review that were not part of the daily count, pushing the state's total confirmed deaths to 7,129.
This raises the rolling seven-day average number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 to 22 — the highest since June 11.
Hospitals are full but some parts of Idaho refuse mask rules
9:38 PM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state's third most populated county.
The hospital in Coeur d'Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.
“We're facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we're tired,” Lee said.
He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.
But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.
Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.
“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that's fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody's wearing the damned mask anyway. ... I'm sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I'll live through it.”
Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.
“Something's making these people sick, and I'm pretty sure that it's not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, 'What's making them sick?'” he told the medical professionals who testified.
Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.
Texas sends more medical forces to virus hot spot in El Paso
7:39 PM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) Texas is sending more medical reinforcements to the El Paso area in response to the region's surge of coronavirus cases and the illness the virus causes, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management will send more medical personnel and equipment this week to address the surge of COVID-19 cases.
The health department will send more than 460 medical personnel to the region. The agencies will also send a Texas Emergency Medical Task Force ambulance bus, medical incident support team, five ambulances and mobile medical unit to assist first responders. Additionally, the health department plans to send 48 patient monitors, 25 medical beds and 30 oxygen concentrators to support area hospitals.
The new surge is atop the previous deployment of medical personnel and personal protective equipment sent last week and will more than double the number of personnel sent to address the COVID-19 surge in El Paso, according to a statement.
“The State of Texas will continue to work with local officials to protect public health and help the El Paso community mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said.
El Paso County's 3,750 new coronavirus cases this week, including 1,161 on Thursday alone, account for 17.5% of the 21,321 reported this week by all of the state's 254 counties. Active COVID-19 cases there soared by 864 cases Thursday to 9,569. The 558 confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized in El Paso, Culberson and Hudspeth counties account for more than one-third of all of that region's hospitalized patients.
Meanwhile, Texas reported 5,917 new cases, the most since Aug. 25, and the addition of 464 unreported cases from previous days brought the Thursday increase to 6,381 cases. Of the 838,809 total cases since the outbreak began in early March, an estimated 85,618 cases are now active, the most since Aug. 31. Also on Thursday, 4,931 cases required hospitalization, the most since Aug. 24.
However, the true number of cases in Texas is likely higher though because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
More Toronto hospitals declare COVID-19 outbreaks
5:37 PM CT on 10/22/20
(Canadian Press) Two more hospitals in Toronto declared outbreaks of COVID-19 on Thursday, joining a growing number dealing with infections spreading within their walls.
The Scarborough Health Network said six patients were infected in one unit at its general hospital, and the University Health Network said it was dealing with an outbreak involving four patients at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
The latest outbreaks mean at least six hospitals are dealing with outbreaks in Toronto, which is one of the province's COVID-19 hot spots.
The Scarborough Health Network said its general hospital had closed the unit experiencing the outbreak to new admissions in order to protect patients and staff.
Enhanced infection prevention and control measures are in place in the affected unit, said spokeswoman Leigh Duncan.
Meanwhile, the University Health Network said the outbreak at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute involved patients at the musculoskeletal, multisystem and geriatric rehab in-patient unit at the hospital's University Centre site.
Spokeswoman Gillian Howard said staff and patients in the unit, as well as a neighbouring one, were all being tested and monitored.
An outbreak is declared when two or more people who could have reasonably caught COVID-19 in hospital test positive within 14 days.
St. Michael's Hospital, St. Joseph's Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health have also declared outbreaks among staff or patients.
CAMH said one additional patient had tested positive in the outbreak at its downtown Toronto site, bringing the total number of cases to five at two units.
"CAMH has implemented standard infection prevention and control procedures for respiratory outbreaks, including closing both units to admissions and transfers," it said in a statement.
Aide: Trump tests negative for virus pre-debate
4:30 PM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) The White House chief of staff says President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus ahead of Thursday night’s second and final presidential debate.
Mark Meadows says Trump was tested onboard Air Force One while en route to Nashville, Tennessee, and tested negative.
Biden’s campaign said Thursday that he, too, was tested Thursday and tested negative.
The test comes after Trump’s bout with the virus, which put him in the hospital for three nights.
Both campaigns had been required to certify that their candidates and VIP guests have tested negative ahead of the debates. But Trump and the White House have repeatedly refused to say whether Trump actually was tested before participating in the first.
Trump was diagnosed with the virus two days later.
Mich. governor OKs bills to protect businesses from virus lawsuits
2:10 PM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed into law legal protections for Michigan businesses and other employers that are sued by infected customers or workers despite having followed all coronavirus safety protocols.
She also codified rules shielding hospitals and other medical providers from pandemic-related lawsuits except in cases of gross negligence, from late March to mid-July, in the wake of the state Supreme Court invalidating her executive orders. Another new law, which largely mirrors one of those orders, prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who stay home because they have been exposed to COVID-19.
An additional law codifies and augments her administration's recently announced changes related to the care of nursing home residents recovering from the virus. A nursing home can be a designated "care and recovery" center only if it has a federal staffing rating of at least three out of five stars, a "distinct area" for infected patients and staff are solely dedicated to treating them.
Czechs enter 2nd lockdown to avoid health system collapse
11:59 AM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) Czechs had been assured it wouldn't happen again.
But amid a record surge of coronavirus infections that's threatening the entire health system with collapse, the Czech Republic is adopting on Thursday exactly the same massive restrictions it slapped on citizens in the spring. Prime Minister Andrej Babis had repeatedly said these measures would never return.
"We have no time to wait," Babis explained Wednesday. "The surge is enormous."
Babis apologized for the huge impact the restrictions will have on everyday life but said if they were not taken "our health system would collapse between Nov 7-11."
"I apologize even for the fact that I ruled out this option in the past because I was not able to imagine it might happen," he added. "Unfortunately, it has happened and now, above all, we have to protect the lives of our citizens."
The measures include limits on free movement and the closure of many stores, shopping malls and hotels. They will remain in place until at least Nov 3.
The Czech Republic had initially set an example with its effective and fast response when the pandemic first struck, but failed to learn from other countries' subsequent experiences and now faces the consequences.
As the pandemic struck slightly later than in western Europe, Czech authorities gained some breathing space. They used it to impose sweeping restrictions on daily life in March, and — unlike most other European countries — made mask-wearing obligatory in all public areas.
In April, the country was the first, with Austria, to start to ease restrictions and — again unlike most other European countries — almost completely abandoned them in the summer.
In June, thousands declared victory over the coronavirus at a big party on Prague's medieval Charles Bridge. Babis, considered a populist leader, was jubilant and told an international conference in August that his country was the "best in COVID," despite already growing numbers of infected people.
The atmosphere at Wednesday's news conference, as Babis announced the new measures, was more sober.
"What happened was somehow predicted but nobody expected its scope," Babis said.
Higher-risk locations for COVID-19 spread double in Indiana
9:37 AM CT on 10/22/20
(AP) Indiana officials are expanding efforts to address a "surge" of coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities as the state continues to record sharp increases in hospitalizations and new infections.
More than 55% of the state's recorded COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities and the case counts in such environments continue to rise, said Indiana State Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver.
To slow the spread of the virus, Weaver and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced during a news briefing Wednesday that the state will employ members of Indiana National Guard to help with infection control practices, including improved COVID-19 testing for long-term care facility residents and employees. New rounds of protective gear like masks, gowns and face shields are also being shipped out to the facilities, Holcomb said.
Additionally, the state will hire more clinical staff who have volunteered to help as part of the reserve workforce, allowing all facilities to be visited at least three times a week to ensure proper health protocols are in place.
Long-term care facilities with one or more confirmed COVID-19 cases will be prioritized, Holcomb said. The goal is to have plans in motion by Nov. 1 and for efforts to continue for the rest of the year.
"The bottom line is to provide some relief for the staff members, and to educate and improve all of those known to be working infection control procedures," Holcomb said.
The announcement comes after the Indiana Department of Health on Wednesday nearly doubled the number of counties designated as higher-risk locations for COVID-19 spread.
Forty of Indiana's 92 counties were placed in orange or red levels under the agency's color-coded weekly tracking map update, while 22 counties were at those levels last week.
Holcomb decided three weeks ago to lift nearly all of Indiana's restrictions while extending the statewide mask mandate. He announced last week another month-long renewal of the mask order until at least Nov. 14.
The 1,484 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Tuesday additionally put Indiana at its highest level since early May, the Health Department reported. Such hospitalizations have grown by more than 50% since Sept. 22 — the day before Holcomb announced the changes to state restrictions.
With twice as many Hoosiers hospitalized with COVID-19 than in July, Weaver and Holcomb said Wednesday that efforts to curb infections within nursing homes should help.
"Slowing the spread of this infection and sickness inside these facilities ... there's a direct correlation between how that also impacts our hospitalization rates," Holcomb said. "If we can prevent infections in our nursing homes, we will protect our hospital capacity, and in turn our capacity to care for others, as well."
Northern Idaho may send new virus cases to Seattle, Portland
8:27 PM CT on 10/21/20
(AP) People with COVID-19 in Northern Idaho soon may have to be sent to Seattle or Portland, Oregon, because the region’s hospitals are nearing capacity.
Kootenai Health hospital said in a statement Wednesday that their hospital is at 99% capacity for patients. The facility is also short-staffed, as demand for nurses grows with the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, the statement said.
“Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity,” the hospital said. “If there is no room available, Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited.”
As of Wednesday morning, Kootenai Health had 31 COVID-19 inpatients and 11 required critical care. Chief Physician Executive Karen Cabell told KREM the hospital nearing capacity at its current levels is “unprecedented.”
Kootenai Health will not turn anybody away, but there may be long wait times and patients might receive treatment in different locations such as the waiting room, Cabell said.
In the southern Idaho city of Twin Falls, St. Luke’s Hospital has had to cancel all elective surgery for the month to accommodate an influx of COVID-19 patients. One in every four patients there is sick with COVID-19.
Idaho is seeing its largest coronavirus spike since the pandemic began, with new cases increasing statewide by 46.5% percent over the past two weeks. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has declined to take steps such as requiring masks statewide to slow the spread of the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Pennsylvania nursing home sued over severe COVID-19 outbreak
6:18 PM CT on 10/21/20
(AP) A large, for-profit Pennsylvania nursing home where dozens of residents died of COVID-19 was sued Wednesday over allegations that it failed to take basic steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County, near the Ohio border, was among the hardest-hit nursing homes in the state, with more than 330 residents infected and 73 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. It has been under federal and state criminal investigation over its handling of the virus.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five current residents and the families of 10 residents who died, alleges that Brighton’s operators chronically understaffed the facility, which forced the nursing staff to “cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic.”
Brighton didn’t have an infection control program, allowing the virus to spread unchecked, the suit said. Citing a state inspection, it said Brighton didn’t even keep soap or paper towels at hand-washing sinks.
“What happened at Brighton was nothing short of a tragedy,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bob Daley. “Brighton as an entity systematically failed its residents.”
Among the suit's dozens of allegations: Brighton failed to separate infected residents from those who had tested negative, allowed staffers who had contracted the virus to continue to work while infected, and provided inaccurate information about the outbreak to family members and health officials.
Brighton said in a statement released by its public relations firm that it has “worked to closely follow the guidance of governmental health officials,” asserting that it has gone months without a new case of COVID-19.
“Right now, the facility’s sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff,” the statement said.
Plaintiff Jodi Gill, whose 82-year-old father, Glenn Gill, contracted COVID-19 at Brighton, said her father’s dementia has become much worse since he contracted the virus several months ago.
“My attorney said they chose profits over patients, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Gill, adding she is worried the virus will make a resurgence there.
Wednesday's suit is the second against Brighton. The family of a housekeeper who died of COVID-19 while working at Brighton sued in July.
Beaver County, which ran Brighton as the Friendship Ridge nursing home, sold it in 2014 for $38 million to Comprehensive HealthCare Management Services LLC, which is named as a defendant.
Long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and nationwide were hit especially hard by COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic. Across the state, about 25,000 residents of more than 1,000 nursing and personal care homes have contracted the virus to date, and 5,666 have died, accounting for two-thirds of the statewide toll, according to the Health Department.
Wisconsin sees highest 1-day virus death total
4:18 PM CT on 10/21/20
(AP) Wisconsin has recorded its highest one-day total of new COVID-19 deaths and the first patient was admitted to a field hospital near Milwaukee that opened last week to help hospitals coping with the influx of patients.
The surge that began in early September showed no signs of slowing with 48 new deaths reported Wednesday and a whopping 43% of those tested coming back as positive.
There have been 1,681 deaths to date from the coronavirus pandemic while nearly 183,000 people have tested positive, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported. That is up by 4,205 from the day before, although department spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said there was still some backlog in the reporting of positive cases following a data upgrade over the weekend.
The seven-day average of new confirmed cases also reached a new record high of 3,444, which is nearly double what it was a month ago and nearly five times what it was two months ago.
On Wednesday, the state reported its first patient to the field hospital on the state fairgrounds in West Allis outside of Milwaukee. The state health department declined to reveal any details about the patient, citing privacy concerns.
AstraZeneca COVID vaccine volunteer dies in Brazil
1:35 PM CT on 10/21/20
A volunteer in the clinical trial for AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine has died, but the trial will continue, according to Brazilian health authority Anvisa.
“There have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Oxford said in a statement to Reuters.
Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak is the second deadliest in the world with more than 154,000 deaths.
Connecticut's infection rate climbs to highest since June
11:31 AM CT on 10/21/20
(AP) Connecticut's coronavirus infection rate has climbed to its highest level since June, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday, urging residents to be disciplined "a little bit longer."
The Democrat said the percentage of people infected among those tested was 3%, up from 1.7% on Monday. Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 grew by 22 patients, for a total of 217.
"Connecticut is not an island unto itself," said Lamont, noting that infection rates are increasing in surrounding states and across the U.S. "That tells you it's going to take a little bit longer for us to get through this. A little bit longer (until) the therapies and vaccines are able to give us some security on the backside of COVID."
Meanwhile, Lamont backed off from comments he made Monday about a plan to change the benchmarks for when state residents and out-of-state travelers coming from states and territories with high infection rates must quarantine for 14 days.
Lamont said he and the governors of New York and New Jersey have decided there will be no advisory for travel among the three states.
"Rather than change the metrics overall, it made a lot more sense to say, 'Within our three states, let's treat it as one region. We'll be able to travel between each other,'" Lamont said during a news conference in Windsor about grants for small businesses.
Lamont said he planned to reach out to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well, noting they are also part of a region where people frequently cross state borders.
"That said, (we) urge everybody to stay close at home as best you can. No need to do nonessential travel," Lamont said. For the rest of the country, he said, the existing metric will be kept in place, which is 10 cases per 100,000 population, or 10% positivity rates.
Lamont had said Monday that the benchmark would be changed to 10 cases per 100,000 and 5% positivity rates, given the fact Connecticut had exceeded the 10 cases per 100,000 criterion.
As of Tuesday, there have been 4,559 COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut, an increase of five since Monday.
Arkansas lawmakers test positive for virus, governor exposed
9:43 AM CT on 10/21/20
(AP) Three Arkansas lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, legislative leaders said Tuesday, and the state's governor said he's scaling back his public events and meetings after being exposed to someone with the virus.
Senate President Jim Hendren said the Legislature was postponing its budget hearings after two House members and one senator tested positive. Hendren said legislative leaders will work with the Health Department to determine who must be quarantined and tested because of potential exposure.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters he was limiting his events after learning someone at a meeting he held Friday tested positive for the virus. Hutchinson said he's tested negative twice since learning of his exposure.
Hutchinson went forward with a tour of the state Monday to campaign for a highway tax measure, even after learning of his exposure. He defended the move, saying he received the negative results before the campaign events and that he followed masking and social distancing guidelines.
"As I came back after that, the Department of Health had a further discussion with the individual who tested positive and they said out of an abundance of caution let's go ahead and not quarantine but let's limit the engagements to really essential activities," Hutchinson said at his weekly coronavirus briefing, which was held virtually.
Hutchinson said he will be tested regularly over the next week.
Arkansas has seen a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks, and the number of people in the hospital increased by 24 to a new high of 637 on Tuesday. A White House task force report said the state ranked 12th in the country for new cases per capita. Nearly three-fourths of the counties in Arkansas have moderate or high community spread of the virus, the task force said.
The state's probable and confirmed virus cases rose by 844, bringing the state's total since the pandemic began to 100,441. The state's COVID-19 fatalities increased by 14 to 1,728.
Sen. Terry Rice, Rep. Michelle Gray and Rep. Stu Smith all tested positive, Hendren and a House spokeswoman said.
The Joint Budget Committee approved a rule change that will allow lawmakers to meet and vote remotely if they are quarantined or in isolation because of the virus, or if they or a household member is at high risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.
"I am confident, even with this short break, that we can still accomplish the work required in advance of the 2021 Regular Session," House Speaker Matthew Shepherd said in a statement.
Dr. Jose Romero, the state's health secretary, said the number of cases in Arkansas indicates that not enough people are following the state's requirement to wear a mask in public and other safety measures.
"We need to have at least 50% of the population use the mask and use these guidelines consistently in order to see a decrease in the number of cases that we report each day," Romero said.
Kentucky resumes COVID-19 surge preparations
8:03 PM CT on 10/20/20
(AP) Kentucky has restarted preparations to expand hospital capacity as it struggles to overcome another surge in the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
Referring to the daily numbers as "grim," the governor reported 1,312 new COVID-19 cases statewide — the fourth-highest one-day total since the pandemic began and by far the highest number on any Tuesday. The state also reported 16 more virus-related deaths.
With hospitalizations rising and more virus patients in intensive care, the Bluegrass State is again making "surge preparations," as it did during the early days of the pandemic, he said.
"We are now going back to our plans about capacity in hospitals, looking — if we have to — at hotel options and the use of state parks," the Democratic governor said during a briefing. "Ensuring that we have the operational plans to stand up the field hospital, if necessary."
Hotels or state parks could potentially be used to house people who need to quarantine or isolate.
Beshear said he was "pleading" with Kentuckians to wear masks in public and follow other health guidelines, saying "other people's lives, our economy and the education of our kids depend on it."
"If we can't get everybody's buy-in, if we can't get more people doing the right thing each and every day, my concern is that we are going to experience a real surge that we must avoid," he said. "But if we're going to face it, I want you to know that we are spending our time getting prepared."
The governor reported that 776 people are hospitalized in Kentucky because of the virus, while 202 are in intensive care and 96 are on ventilators.
The total number of reported COVID-19 cases surpassed 89,500 statewide, and Kentucky's virus-related death toll reached at least 1,342, the state said.
Beshear has promised stricter enforcement of his statewide mask mandate to try to contain the virus's spread, but he again urged people Tuesday to take the initiative themselves, saying it's a testament to "living by our values and by our faith — loving our neighbor as ourselves."
"We've shown here in Kentucky we can stop (the surge)," he said. "We've stopped at least two before. We can stop this one."
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.
Beshear continued giving his coronavirus briefings remotely while in quarantine with his family at the governor's mansion. Beshear's wife, Britainy, and their two children also are in quarantine.
They were potentially exposed earlier this month by a member of the governor's security detail who later tested positive for COVID-19. The governor's family tested negative again on Tuesday but they have at least several more days in quarantine before they are cleared by state health officials, he said.
Texas coronavirus cases, hospitalizations continue to soar
6:20 PM CT on 10/20/20
(AP) New cases of the coronavirus continued to soar in Texas, state health officials said Tuesday, as the number of people in the state hospitalized because of the virus stayed at spiked levels not seen in two months.
Tuesday saw the addition of 4,856 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than 400 more than the 4,422 reported Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The addition of 174 unreported cases from previous days pushed the increase to 5,032.
Also, 4,588 COVID-19 patients were in Texas hospitals Tuesday, the most since 4,907 cases were reported in hospitals on Aug. 26.
The new cases pushed the total of Texas cases for the pandemic in its eighth month to 833,557, 83,973 of which are now active. Those active cases are more than 1,000 more than Monday.
However, the true number of cases in Texas is likely higher though because many people haven't been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The addition of 65 fatalities Tuesday brought the Texas pandemic death toll to 17,087.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Two hospitals resolve religious discrimination complaints over clergy visits during COVID-19
4:18 PM CT on 10/20/20
HHS’ Office for Civil Rights settled two religious discrimination complaints against hospitals that denied patients access to clergy for religious purposes during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency said Tuesday.
MedStar’s Southern Maryland Hospital Center in July separated a mother from her newborn child after she tested positive for COVID-19 during admission. When she asked that a Catholic priest visit her newborn son to baptize him, the hospital denied her request because of its visitor exclusion policy. Likewise, Virginia’s Mary Washington Healthcare prevented a priest from providing Catholic religious sacraments to a COVID-positive patient in an end-of-life situation, even though the patient’s family requested it.
Both hospitals updated their policies with technical support from OCR.
“We applaud the MedStar Health System and Mary Washington Healthcare for ensuring that all of their patients can now receive religious support when they need it most,” OCR Director Roger Severino said. “Compassionate care requires treating the body without sacrificing the soul, and these resolutions show how hospitals can do that safely, even during a pandemic.”
UK to infect healthy volunteers in vaccine research trial
2:18 PM CT on 10/20/20
(AP) Danica Marcos wants to be infected with COVID-19.
While other people are wearing masks and staying home to avoid the disease, the 22-year-old Londoner has volunteered to contract the new coronavirus as part of a controversial study that hopes to speed development of a vaccine.
"So many people (are) struggling right now, and I want this pandemic to be over," Marcos told The Associated Press. "Every day that goes on, more cases are going on, more people are dying. And if this vaccine trial could mean that this period of trauma for the whole world will be over sooner, I want to help. I want to be a part of that."
Imperial College London and a group of researchers said Tuesday that they are preparing to infect 90 healthy young volunteers with the virus, becoming the first to announce plans to use the technique to study COVID-19 and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic.
This type of research, known as a human challenge study, is used infrequently because some question the ethics of infecting otherwise healthy individuals. But the British researchers say that risk is warranted because such studies have the potential to quickly identify the most effective vaccines and help control a disease that has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide.
"Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly," said Professor Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study. "However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19."
Human challenge studies have been used to develop vaccines for diseases including typhoid, cholera and malaria.
Imperial College said the study, involving volunteers aged 18 to 30, would be conducted in partnership with the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVIVO, a company that has experience conducting challenge studies. The government plans to invest 33.6 million pounds ($43.4 million) in the research.
The Imperial College partnership plans to begin work in January, with results expected by May. Before any research begins, the study must be approved by ethics committees and regulators.
While one or more vaccines are likely to be approved before then, the study is needed because the world may need multiple vaccines to protect different groups within the population, as well as treatments for those who continue to get sick, said Dr. Michael Jacobs, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust who will take part in the research.
"I don't think many people think that what we're doing as scientists is searching for a silver bullet," Jacobs said. "We're going to need a whole raft of interventions in order to control this pandemic."
Critics of challenge studies question the need to expose healthy people to the virus when the disease remains widespread and vaccine development is moving quickly. Tens of thousands of volunteers around the world have already signed up to participate in more traditional vaccine trials.
What are the treatment options for COVID-19?
12:00 PM CT on 10/20/20
(AP) There are several, and which one is best depends on how sick someone is.
For example, steroids such as dexamethasone can lower the risk of dying for severely ill patients. But they may do the opposite for those who are only mildly ill.
In the United States, no treatments are specifically approved for COVID-19, but a few have been authorized for emergency use and several more are being considered. A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health updates guidelines as new studies come out.
Here’s what’s advised for various patients:
- Not hospitalized or hospitalized but not needing extra oxygen: No specific drugs recommended, and a warning against using steroids.
- Hospitalized and needing extra oxygen but not a breathing machine: The antiviral drug remdesivir, given through an IV, and in some cases also a steroid.
- Hospitalized and on a breathing machine: Remdesivir and a steroid.
What about convalescent plasma, an infusion of blood from a COVID-19 survivor that contains antibodies that fight the virus? Not enough is known to recommend for or against it, the guidelines say.
However, enough is known to advise against hydroxychloroquine and certain drugs that affect the immune system -- multiple studies have found them ineffective against the coronavirus.
Aside from drugs, doctors have learned more about ways to treat hospitalized patients, such as putting them on their bellies and other measures that may prevent the need for breathing machines.
Chinese drugmaker setting up vaccine production lines
9:42 AM CT on 10/20/20
(AP) A state-owned Chinese drugmaker is setting up production lines to supply 1 billion doses of two possible coronavirus vaccines that are being tested on 50,000 people in 10 countries, the company chairman said Tuesday.
Testing by SinoPharm Group is "in the last kilometer of a long march," chairman Liu Jingzhen said at a news conference. He gave no indication when results are expected.
China's fledgling drug industry is part of a global race to produce a vaccine and has four candidates in final stages of testing. Health experts say, however, that even if China succeeds, stringent certification rules in the United States, Europe and Japan might mean its vaccine can be distributed only in other developing countries.
SinoPharm is testing two vaccines in countries including Egypt, Argentina, Jordan and Peru, Liu said. Both are inactivated, meaning they use a non-infectious version of the coronavirus.
According to Liu, production lines for vaccines are being set up in Beijing and Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak began in December.
"The production capacity will reach 1 billion doses next year, ensuring sufficient safety," Liu said.
Chinese-developed vaccines have been tested on 60,000 people with "only slight adverse effects," said Tian Baoguo, an official of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Thousands of people in China including healthcare workers and others deemed to be at risk have been given the experimental vaccines. Three city governments have announced plans to inoculate members of the public who need it.
Deadline looms, but COVID relief deal may be far off
8:25 PM CT on 10/19/2020
(AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported some progress in advance of a Tuesday deadline for reaching a pre-election deal with President Donald Trump on a new coronavirus relief package, but the same core problems bedeviling the effort remain in place despite optimistic talk from the president and his team.
Pelosi negotiated for nearly an hour Monday with Trump’s top emissary, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and a top aide called it productive. Pelosi hopes that further work will offer “clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.
“Finally, they have come to the table and we’re going to try to get something done,” Pelosi said on MSNBC Monday evening. “Let’s make a judgment. We may not like this, we may not like that but let’s see on balance if we can go forward.”
But with time nearly up for Congress and the White House to deliver aid to Americans before the election, the question remains: If not now, when?
It’s a key consideration for Trump, who has talked up the prospect of another package as he asks voters for a second term, and for Democrats hopeful that their nominee, Joe Biden, is on the cusp of winning the White House in November.
The dynamic has created a tricky position for Pelosi, whose tough approach to the talks amid durable GOP opposition to a potential deal of almost $2 trillion has left all sides staring at the very real potential of the negotiations failing. Pelosi is angling for the best deal she can get — maybe that’s now, maybe it’s later. It’s a risk she’s willing to take.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with votes this week on GOP measures that stand little chance of advancing.
Trump has upped his offer to $1.8 trillion or more and insisted Monday that “the Republicans will come along” if a deal is reached. But Republicans have spent months talking about a smaller aid package and the top GOP vote-counter, Sen. John Thune, said Monday that “it would be hard” to find the necessary Republican support for passage of any agreement in that range.
Without an agreement at least in principle by Tuesday, Pelosi says it’ll be too late to enact anything by Election Day. And if history is any guide, prospects for a deal in the lame-duck session after the election could be dim.
If Trump loses, Congress is likely to stagger through a nonproductive session comparable to the abbreviated session after the decisive 2008 Obama-Biden victory or the 2016 session that punted most of its leftovers to the Trump administration. That scenario would push virus aid into 2021.
“If we delay this until the Biden administration we’re talking about three, four, five months. The American people cannot wait,” Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., a freshman facing a difficult race in Trump-friendly Staten Island, said on CNN. “With each passing day without action the American people will be suffering more.”
Pelosi calls the $1.8 trillion administration offer inadequate, saying that while the overall Trump offer has gone up, the details on a virus testing plan, aid to state and local governments, and tax cuts for the working poor still aren’t to her satisfaction.
At the same time, Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate are backing a virus proposal that at $650 billion or so is only about one-third the size of the measure that Pelosi and Mnuchin are negotiating. But the Senate GOP bill has failed once before, and Trump himself says it’s too puny.
A debate slated for Wednesday on the Senate Republican plan promises to bring a hefty dose of posturing and political gamesmanship, but little more. It will follow a procedural tally Tuesday on a stand-alone renewal of bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program business subsidies that could cause Democratic fracturing but isn’t likely to succeed.
Pelosi has faced carping from some Democrats for playing hardball at the risk of going home empty-handed, but that criticism has been largely muted since McConnell keeps stiff-arming the negotiations.
“The bigger issue is McConnell,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who raised eyebrows earlier this month in publicly advising Pelosi to endorse Mnuchin’s $1.8 trillion topline. “I mean, the President has said, ‘Oh, I can get McConnell on board.’ Well, why doesn’t he call McConnell and get him on board?” he said on SiriusXM Urban View on Monday.
The last coronavirus relief package, the $1.8 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, passed in March by an overwhelming margin as the economy went into lockdown amid fear and uncertainty about the virus. Since then, Trump and many of his GOP allies have focused on loosening social and economic restrictions as the key to recovery instead of more taxpayer-funded help.
The moment is challenging for Pelosi as well. For months she has been promising a COVID relief package of more than $2 trillion stuffed with Obama-era stimulus ideas. Even though the Senate and White House are both in GOP hands — and will be at least into January — she has sharply rebuffed anyone who suggests that Democrats should take a smaller deal now rather than risk going home empty-handed until next year.
“If Congress doesn’t act the next administration is going to inherit a real mess,” said Harvard economist Jason Furman, a former top Obama adviser. “Economic problems tend to feed on themselves.” He is in the Democratic camp that prefers imperfect stimulus now rather than a larger package in four months or so.
Chicago officials, Pritzker warn of 2nd COVID-19 wave
6:18 PM CT on 10/19/2020
(AP) Chicago officials warned Monday of “worrying trends” in increased COVID-19 cases, calling it a second wave that could trigger additional restrictions to curb the spread.
Such restrictions have already returned to other areas of the state. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, speaking Monday in Murphysboro, announced an end to indoor restaurant and bar service in part of southern Illinois, along with limits on groups of more than 25 from congregating.
In Chicago, there has been a more than 50% increase of positive cases in the past two weeks to over 500 daily cases, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Commissioner Allison Arwady said it is the most cases since late May, which was the end of the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave.
There also has been a 25% increase in hospitalizations. There are spikes across all groups of Chicagoans and parts of the city. The increase coincides with an increase statewide. The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday announced 3,113 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 additional deaths.
“We have to be diligent and push aside the COVID fatigue,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference. “If we pretend that COVID is not the deadly virus that it is, the result, with certainty, is sickness and death.”
That weariness was noted by Pritzker and his state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike. After two record-setting days late last week for new coronavirus cases in Illinois, Pritzker announced that he and Ezike would resume daily public COVID-19 updates, which he ended in June at the end of the first wave of the virus.′ spread.
Lightfoot is stressing the importance of masks, even in small gatherings. She said that in a gathering of 10 people there’s a 14% chance that someone is infected with COVID-19.
Sustained positive-test rates of greater than 8% was a factor in restrictions on social interaction in parts of northwestern Illinois starting Oct. 3.
Overall, Illinois has reported 347,161 cases, including 9,236 deaths. The state’s seven-day positive test rate is 5.4%, according to state officials.
Judge puts Wisconsin capacity limit order back into effect
4:23 PM CT on 10/19/20
(AP) A Wisconsin judge on Monday reimposed an order from Gov. Tony Evers' administration limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor venues to 25% of capacity.
The capacity limits order was issued Oct. 6 by Andrea Palm, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, in the face of surging coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. A judge blocked the order on Oct. 14 after it was challenged by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which argued it amounted to a "de facto closure" order for the bars and restaurants it represents.
But Barron County Judge James Babler on Monday put the capacity limits back into effect. He declined a request from the Tavern League to keep the capacity limit order on hold while the lawsuit is pending and declined to stay his ruling while the Tavern League and others appeal his decision.
"This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings," Evers said in a statement, while encouraging people to stay at home, limit gatherings and wear a mask when in public.
Wisconsin last week set new daily records for positive coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. To date, the state has more than 173,000 positive cases and 1,600 deaths.
Trump goes after Fauci, tries to buck up his campaign team
2:07 PM CT on 10/19/20
(AP) President Donald Trump sought Monday to buck up his campaign staff two weeks from Election Day, dismissing the cautionary coronavirus advice of his scientific experts as well as polling showing him trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden across key battleground states.
Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that revived his candidacy four years ago and plunging into an aggressive travel schedule despite the pandemic. But his lack of a consistent message, the surging virus cases and his attacks on experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci could undermine final efforts to appeal to voters outside of his most loyal base.
Speaking to campaign aides on a conference call, Trump said he believes he's going to win, allowing that he didn't have that same sense of confidence two weeks ago when he was hospitalized with COVID-19. One week since returning to the campaign trail, where his handling of the pandemic is a central issue to voters, Trump blasted his government's own scientists for their criticism of his performance.
"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," Trump said of the government's top infectious disease expert. "Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb. but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci's a disaster."
The doctor is both respected and popular, and Trump's rejection of scientific advice on the pandemic has already drawn bipartisan condemnation. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Medicine awarded Fauci the first-ever Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership for his contributions to biomedical science and public health.
Fauci, in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus after he held large events with few face coverings. Fauci also objected to the president's campaign using his words in a campaign ad.
"I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," Fauci said of the president.
EU to link national COVID-19 tracing apps together
11:18 AM CT on 10/19/20
(AP) The European Commission on Monday launched an EU-wide system devised to link national COVID-19 tracing apps together in its latest effort to slow down the coronavirus pandemic.
Following testing in different EU countries earlier this autumn, the bloc's executive arm said the system got underway with three national apps — Germany's Corona-Warn-App, Ireland's COVID tracker, and Italy's immuni — now linked through the so-called interoperability gateway.
According to the European Commission, these three apps have been downloaded by around 30 million people, the equivalent of two-thirds of all tracing app downloads in the EU.
Tracing apps have been developed to break contagion chains by alerting people if they've been near someone who has been infected.
As virus cases continue to surge across the 27-nation bloc, the new system ensures that national apps can work in all the countries willing to join the scheme, as users only need to install one app also compatible in other participating nations.
In total, the commission said tracing apps from 20 member states could be linked via this system.
"Many member states have launched voluntary contact tracing and warning apps, and the commission has supported them in making these apps safely interact with each other," said Thierry Breton, the commissioner for single market. "Free movement is an integral part of the single market, the gateway is facilitating this while helping save lives."
The EU said all information generated by the apps doesn't allow the identification of users and isn't kept after infections are traced back.
World struggles as confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 40 million
9:37 AM CT on 10/19/20
(AP) The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the planet has surpassed 40 million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true impact of the pandemic that has upended life and work around the world.
The milestone was hit Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, which collates reports from around the world.
The actual worldwide tally of COVID-19 cases is likely to be far higher, as testing has been uneven or limited, many people have had no symptoms and some governments have concealed the true number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed virus deaths have been reported, although experts also believe that number is an undercount.
The U.S., India and Brazil are reporting by far the highest numbers of cases — 8.1 million, 7.5 million and 5.2 million respectively — although the global increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe, which has seen over 240,000 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic so far.
In the U.S., some states are trying more targeted measures as cases continue to rise across the country. New York's new round of virus shutdowns zeroes in on individual neighborhoods, closing schools and businesses in hot spots measuring just a couple of square miles.
As of last week, new cases per day were on the rise in 44 U.S. states, with many of the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to wearing masks and taking other precautions has been running high and the virus has often been seen as just a big-city problem. Deaths per day were climbing in 30 states.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious-disease expert, said Americans should think hard about whether to hold Thanksgiving gatherings next month.
The World Health Organization said last week that Europe had reported a record weekly high of nearly 700,000 cases and said the region was responsible for about a third of cases globally. Britain, France, Russia and Spain account for about half of all new cases in the region, and countries like Belgium and the Czech Republic are facing more intense outbreaks now than they did in the spring.
WHO said the new measures being taken across Europe are "absolutely essential" in stopping COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. Those include new requirements on mask-wearing in Italy and Switzerland, closing schools in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, closing restaurants and bars in Belgium, implementing a 9 p.m. curfew in France and having targeted limited lockdowns in parts of the U.K.
COVID-19 lives longer on skin than flu, study shows
8:40 PM CT on 10/18/20
Flu viruses tend to live on the skin for 1.8 hours. COVID-19 lives for more than four times that length.
A Japanese study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases journal found the virus is active on a person's skin for nine hours, which could increase the chance of contact transmission and also makes regular handwashing more important.
Both COVID-19 and Influenza A were inactivated within 15 seconds by using hand sanitizer.
Italy starts new restrictions to half COVID-19 spread
6:25 PM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced new measures aimed at halting the spread of coronavirus as infections continue to hit new daily highs, moving into vulnerable populations and putting fresh pressure on hospitals.
The restrictions announced Sunday stop short of a curfew like those imposed in Paris and other major French cities. But Italian mayors can close public squares and other gathering places after 9 p.m., permitting access only to reach homes or businesses. Restaurants and bars are restricted to table service only after 6 p.m., three hours earlier than the previous measures allowed, but can maintain the current midnight closing time.
Local festivals have been banned. Gyms and public swimming pools may remain open -- but Conte said they would be closed in a week if they don’t do a better job of following restrictions.
Rome clashed with regional governments over schools, refusing to budge on allowing more distance learning. But there are allowances for high schools to open later, and hold afternoon shifts, to ease pressure on local transport.
Authorities are loath to see new lockdowns, after the 10-week closure that successfully impeded the virus’ spread, but at a cost of 47 billion euros a month to the economy. New confirmed infections in Italy have doubled in a week to more than 10,000 a day amid increased testing.
Twitter blocks tweet from Trump adviser downplaying masks
5:26 PM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) Twitter blocked a post Sunday from an adviser to President Donald Trump who suggested that masks do not work to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Scott Atlas, who joined the White House in August as a science adviser, had tweeted “Masks work? NO,” and said widespread use of masks is not supported.
The tweet violated a Twitter policy that prohibits sharing false or misleading misinformation about COVID-19 that could lead to harm, a company spokesperson said. The policy bans statements that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by experts such as public health authorities.
In such cases, Twitter disables the account until its owner deletes the post in question.
Trump has downplayed the importance of masks in reducing the spread of the virus, even after he contracted the disease, which has killed more than 215,000 Americans.
“I don’t understand why the tweets were deleted,” Atlas said in an email, calling Twitter's actions censorship. He said his tweet was intended to show that "general population masks and mask mandates do not work," and he clarified that the correct policy is to use masks when one cannot socially distance. Atlas added that infections exploded even with mandates in Los Angeles County, Miami-Dade County, Hawaii, Alabama, the Philippines, Japan and other places.
Researchers have concluded that masks can control the spread of the virus, and public health experts have urged the public to wear them. But Trump and his team often go without masks while campaigning.
Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases. He has criticized the coronavirus lockdowns and campaigned for children to return to classrooms. Some scientists view Atlas as promoting dangerous theories around “herd immunity.”
Illinois gov says Trump partly to blame for COVID-19 spike
1:53 PM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday that President Donald Trump and his allies in Illinois are partly to blame for the coronavirus spike in the state.
Pritzker spoke to CNN’s “State of the Union” the same day health officials announced 4,245 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths.
“He’s modeling bad behavior. He doesn’t wear a mask in public. He has rallies where they don’t encourage people to wear masks in public," Pritzker said. “But it is the president’s allies in our state, all across the state, who are simply saying to people, ‘Don’t pay any attention to the mitigations, don’t follow the rules.' Indeed, there are bars and restaurants which are restricted from expanding their indoor service that are just ignoring the rules, and they’re just filling the place up.”
Trump appeared Saturday at a rally in Wisconsin, blasting Illinois' COVID-19 restrictions, saying schools should fully reopen.
“Illinois could use a new governor,” Trump told supporters. “That guy doesn’t know what’s happened.”
Pritzker, a Democrat elected in 2018, spoke to CNN days after Illinois reported a new record for COVID-19 cases, coinciding with spikes elsewhere nationwide. Illinois officials have said high testing rates are part of the reason behind the surge.
Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high
12:30 PM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) The number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus dipped on Sunday but still remained high as the number of reported cases increased by 796 and deaths rose by 3, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
There were a reported 715 people hospitalized, the department said, 78 fewer than the one-day record of 793 reported Friday. There are 107,299 total cases reported since the pandemic began in March and 1,171 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
The true number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The department said that there were 8,272 new coronavirus cases during the week ending Thursday, an increase of 15% from the previous week, and 58 additional deaths from the previous week due to COVID-19.
A report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force released Wednesday said Oklahoma remains in the red zone for newly reported coronavirus cases and recommended residents wear masks among the ways to slow the virus’ spread.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has repeatedly said he will not implement a statewide mask mandate.
El Paso sees largest number in hospitals due to COVID-19
10:36 AM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) The El Paso area has reported its highest number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus since the pandemic began, officials said on Sunday.
A record high 449 hospitalizations were reported for Saturday, with 129 of those patients in intensive care, according to El Paso health officials.
In the El Paso area, only seven ICU beds are available, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Hospitalizations have been steadily increasing in the El Paso area since early September.
The increase in hospitalizations and cases prompted El Paso officials last week to implement tighter restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo had announced that visitors to facilities that care for the elderly will not be allowed, and businesses not considered essential must cut back to 50% of their capacity from 75%. Restaurants are limited to takeout and drive-thru service after 9 p.m., home gatherings are temporarily banned and bars, which had not been allowed to reopen, will remain closed.
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases recorded in El Paso soared Thursday to a record-breaking 838. That number dipped to 684 on Saturday.
The increase in cases in the El Paso area has prompted Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to send doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and PPE to support hospitals there.
Abbott has also deployed medical personnel and supplies to the Texas Panhandle as the coronavirus has again surged in that part of the state. Hospitalizations are increasing in Amarillo and Lubbock, mirroring overall numbers across the state.
Since Oct. 1, the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 has risen 34% in Texas after the state relaxed restrictions in mid-September, citing a decrease in hospitalizations.
Paris streets go still as curfew goes into effect
8:55 AM CT on 10/18/20
(AP) The streets of Paris and eight other French cities were deserted on Saturday night on the first day of the government-imposed 9 p.m. curfew that is to last at least four weeks.
The measure was announced this week by French President Emmanuel Macron to curb the resurgent coronavirus as new daily infections peaked last week to over 30,000. Macron said the curfews were needed to stop hospitals from becoming overrun.
Many restaurant owners are up in arms about the move that is forcing them to close early, something that they say will devastate the industry.
In France, nearly 20 million people are covered by the curfew and eerily deserted scenes were observed in Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse as well. The curfew runs until 6 a.m. daily.
France has seen over 33,300 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe.
South Dakota cases continue surge, 8 new deaths reported
7:19 PM CT on 10/17/20
South Dakota's surge of coronavirus infections continued rising Saturday, with health officials reporting 806 new cases and eight new deaths.
The state continues see the nation's second-highest number of new infections per capita over the last two weeks, behind only North Dakota.
The COVID Tracking project reported that the state has had 939 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 54% in the lasts two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.
South Dakota's death toll increased to 315 on Saturday. The new deaths were all people over 50.
That death count is the 46th highest in the country overall and the 34th highest per capita at 34.8 deaths per 100,000 people,
The state also reported that 295 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, four fewer than Friday.
COVID-19 patients occupy 12% of the state's hospital beds, with an overall total availability rate of 34%, according to state Health Department figures.
Thirty-eight percent of ICU beds are still available in South Dakota, health official reported.
Florida reports another uptick in new coronavirus cases
4:43 PM CT on 10/17/20
(AP) Florida reported another uptick in new coronavirus infections on Saturday, surging to more than 4,000 cases — the highest number in two months.
The state also reported nearly 90 more deaths, which pushed its official death toll to nearly 16,000 Floridians since March.
Since the outbreak began, Florida has recorded more than 752,00 coronavirus cases.
The rise in Florida comes as infections are increasing alarmingly in other parts of the country, particularly in the Midwest and other areas that were relatively spared during the earlier onslaught of the COVID-19 outbreak.
There was no immediate explanation for the rising numbers. It's the third time in the past seven days that the number of new cases has well exceeded 3,000, according to state health statistical reports.
Three weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in Florida as part of his push to resuscitate the economy.
The rise comes as Florida prepares to open its polls Monday for early voting ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Saturday's new report pushed the seven-day average to more than 3,300 cases, although trying to gather statistical trends has been hampered recently because of reporting anomalies.
On two occasions in recent months, one-day totals exceeded Saturday's surge but were statistical outliers. In one case, data being reported included numbers that should have been previously reported — as was also the case in early September when a testing company dumped data that dated as far back as April.
Setting aside those recent reporting anomalies, Saturday's number was the highest since Aug. 22, when the state reported more than 4,300 new cases.
The latest numbers also show a slight uptick in the infection rate — at 5.2% — but the Florida Department of Health noted that it was the 65th consecutive day that the positivity rate remained below 10%.
In its report Saturday, the department said more than 2,000 people were in the hospital primarily because of COVID-19 infections.
Pennsylvania reports 2nd-highest COVID-19 total of pandemic
3:05 PM CT on 10/17/20
(AP) Pennsylvania is reporting 1,857 new COVID-19 cases, the second-highest daily total since the beginning of pandemic, days after officials said the commonwealth was seeing a "fall resurgence" of the coronavirus.
The numbers announced Saturday by the state health department are exceeded only by the 1,989 cases reported April 9 and bring the statewide total to almost 181,000. Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of deaths associated with the virus to 8,466.
On Wednesday, the state's health secretary pronounced Pennsylvania "at the start of the fall resurgence" of COVID-19 but said there were no plans to reimpose a stay-at-home order or shut down businesses again in response.
Dr. Rachel Levine said Pennsylvania is more prepared for such an influx than it was in the spring, citing a contact tracing program in place, more personal protective equipment supplies and enough hospital beds available.
Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older.
Eastern Tennessee nursing home reports 17 deaths
12:47 PM CT on 10/17/20
(AP) Sixteen residents and one staff member have died due to a COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home in eastern Tennessee.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that more than two-fifths of The Heritage Center's residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, a fourth of the residents who have tested positive have died.
"We mourn the loss of these residents and associates," said Executive Director Scott Hunt in a statement Friday. "They were part of our family, and their passing has left a hole in our heart."
According to information provided by the nursing home, 46 residents have recovered. One resident remains at the hospital.
Separately, 43 staff members have recovered after testing positive for the disease. Seven continue to stay at home.
The deaths at The Heritage Center marks the second deadliest outbreak in eastern Tennessee, where Signature Healthcare of Greeneville reported 20 resident deaths earlier this year.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the majority of people recover.
UK Space Agency backs medical drone delivery project
11:32 AM CT on 10/17/20
(AP) A medical drone delivery service founded by trainee doctors that aims to transport coronavirus samples, test kits and protective equipment between hospitals has won the backing of Britain's Space Agency.
The start-up project can help free up healthcare staff, avoid courier waiting times and minimize the risk of virus transmission, authorities said Saturday.
Trainee doctors Hammad Jeilani and Christopher Law are trialing "dronepad" infrastructure so the miniature aircraft can take off from and land on hospitals, laboratories and warehouses. They are planning to scale up the trials and set up a nationwide network of secure air corridors to enable the drone delivery service to work safely across National Health Service sites.
The hybrid drones — which have the rotors of a typical drone and the wings of a plane — can carry a maximum of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and fly about 60 miles (96 kilometers.)
The drone project is among others set to share 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) of funding from the U.K. Space Agency and the European Space Agency to businesses developing space-based solutions for challenges created by Covid-19.
Trump plays down virus as he steps up pitch for second term
9:26 AM CT on 10/17/20
(AP) Gone are the days when President Donald Trump held forth daily at the White House podium flanked by members of his coronavirus task force. And the days when Vice President Mike Pence and other task force officials would head to Trump's office to brief him immediately after their meetings.
The White House won't say when Trump last met with the task force.
In the week since he emerged from coronavirus isolation, Trump has demonstrated new determination to minimize the threat of the virus that has killed more than 215,000 Americans and complicated his chances of winning another four years in the White House.
"The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn," Trump told supporters Friday at an event in Fort Myers, Florida, one of many moments during a week of campaigning in which the president tried to play down the virus threat. "Don't listen to the cynics and angry partisans and pessimists."
In word and action, he is pushing an optimistic outlook at a moment when coronavirus infections are spiking in Europe and public health officials are raising alarm that the infection rate in the U.S. is climbing toward a new peak.
In the past week he has spread misinformation about the virus, undercut the nation's leading infectious disease expert and kept up his practice of shunning mask use. The effort to diminish the virus has gone into overdrive as Democrats try to frame the race for the White House as a referendum on Trump's handling of the worst U.S. public health crisis in over a century.
Kentucky hospital puts brakes on some procedures as virus cases climb
8:54 PM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) A hospital in southeast Kansas is putting the brakes on some procedures as coronavirus cases continue to climb steadily statewide and the positivity rate tops 17%.
Randy Cason, President of Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, said this week in a statement that the plan to “pause elective and non-emergent procedures" will allow leaders to reallocate staff to help care for an influx of patients.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our patients and associates,” said Cason. “We are fortunate to have close relationships with our sister hospitals in Wichita and Manhattan who may be called upon to help provide additional clinical support and resources.
Statewide, 3,370 patients are hospitalized with the coronavirus, with 35% of ICU beds still available, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Friday.
The agency also said the state had 1,700 new confirmed or probable cases since Wednesday, a 2.5% increase that brought the total for the pandemic to 70,855. Over the past week, the state has averaged 721 new cases a day. The state also said the number of deaths increased by 21 to 859.
According to data from The COVID Tracking Project, the 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 15.51% on Oct. 1 to 17.1% on Thursday. Only six states are reporting a higher percentage.
Meanwhile, business is booming for one segment of the economy in Kansas during the coronavirus pandemic: liquor stores. The Wichita Eagle reported that tax collections on liquor sales at stores are up 17.9% from July to September compared to last year, according to data from the Kansas Department of Revenue.
It's not just Kansas. The data organization Nielsen says liquor sales at stores are up 22.7% nationwide from March 1 through mid-September compared to the same time last year. The surge in alcohol sales comes as bars and restaurants have taken a severe hit due to the pandemic.
“So instead of going to the bar and buying their drink, they’re going to the liquor store and taking it home with them," said Kansas Department of Revenue Director of Taxation Steve Stotts.
Judge refuses to block New York COVID-19 restrictions
6:52 PM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) A federal judge has refused to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order limiting worship to as few as 10 congregants in communities seeing spikes in coronavirus infections.
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in an order Friday that even though the rules harm religious groups, it is not in the public interest to block them if they are helping prevent a wave of new infections.
“In fact, if the court issues an injunction and the state is correct about the acuteness of the threat currently posed by hotspot neighborhoods, the result could be avoidable death on a massive scale like New Yorkers experienced in the spring," Garaufis wrote.
The ruling doesn't end the lawsuit, but denied the church's request for a temporary injunction.
Garaufis said it was conceivable the diocese could end up ultimately winning the case, but that the worst that could happen in the meantime to the diocese's churches is that 26 of them would have to curtail in-person ceremonies for several weeks.
“That is not meant, in any way, to downplay the seriousness of that constitutional harm,” the judge said. But he said the potential to save lives outweighed the damage the church would suffer.
Cuomo on Oct. 6 announced that he was limiting attendance at houses of worship, closing schools and shuttering nonessential businesses in six parts of New York City, Binghamton and Rockland and Orange counties where COVID-19 infections have spiked.
Most of the affected areas are home to large communities of Orthodox Jews, which has prompted protests from Jewish leaders who say they are being unfairly targeted.
Garaufis wrote in his decision that it was clear the state’s restrictions had been “guided by science, not a desire to target religious practice."
The Brooklyn diocese had argued that its congregations hadn't seen a big increase coronavirus cases, and that it had implemented successful social-distancing measures for religious services, including placing communion wafers in congregants’ hands rather than on their tongues.
Despite that, the governor “continues to run roughshod over the diocese’s right to worship, without any basis—not a rational one, not a narrowly tailored one, simply none,” the church's lawyers said in court papers filed Friday.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by Jewish groups.
In their filings, state lawyers said that within the state's so-called “red zones,” just under 5% of all people who took a COVID-19 test were testing positive, down from nearly 8% in late September. They said that shows the restrictions are working, but said things had not improved enough to lift restrictions.
State lawyers also noted that the rules let houses of worship remain open, while nonessential businesses in “red zone” areas were required to close entirely.
“This response respects the rights of worshipers while curtailing the spread of the virus and protecting the public health from this deadly disease,” Assistant Attorney General Seth Farber said in a Friday filing.
The Cuomo administration hasn't said exactly when the restrictions might be lifted, but the initial plan was to have them in place for at least two weeks.
A group of priests and Orthodox congregants sued in a different federal court in June over Cuomo's previous limits on religious gatherings, and a judge ruled that New York can't have stricter limits for houses of worship than nonessential businesses.
The group is now in court arguing Cuomo's new cluster zone plan violates that court order. A federal judge Friday gave Cuomo and New York City until Oct. 20 to respond.
Kansas City-area hospitals overwhelmed, turn away ambulances
4:06 PM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) The surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations is so severe in the Kansas City area that some hospitals were forced to refuse ambulances due to a lack of space, according to officials with one of the region's largest healthcare providers.
Eight hospitals, in both Missouri and Kansas, reported such high volumes of patients Wednesday night that they temporarily stopped accepting ambulances, said Dr. Marc Larson, operations director of St. Luke's Health System's COVID Response Team. A St. Luke's spokeswoman added that two of the hospitals were part of the St. Luke's system. She did not identify the others.
"We're bursting at the seams in the metropolitan area, and really across the state and the region," Larson told the Kansas City Star in a phone interview.
Missouri has reached record hospitalization levels several times over the past few weeks, with the latest record of 1,443 being set Wednesday. Data has not yet been released for Thursday or Friday. Among the regions setting new records was the Kansas City area.
"I worry that if we don't start taking this seriously as a metropolitan area, we're going to be the next New York," Larsen said. "We're going to be the next hot spot, because though we have a lot of hospitals, we have a lot of capacity in the area, we are filling up fast."
Missouri is among several states seeing a surge in new virus cases. On Friday, the state reported 2,017 new cases and 17 additional deaths. Missouri has reported 152,571 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,459 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.
COVID outbreak at Seattle hospital killed 1, infected staff
3:05 PM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) A hospital in Seattle has confirmed a coronavirus outbreak killed one patient and sickened three others.
The Seattle Times reports that 10 staffers at Harborview Medical Center also tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating.
Dr. John Lynch, medical director of Harborview's Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs, said Friday the patient died in the intensive care unit. Lynch didn't know immediately what date the patient died.
He said the hospital is trying to determine how the outbreak occurred.
The state of Washington's Department of Public Health, as of Oct. 10, has counted 321 outbreaks in health care settings, which includes hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral health facilities, supported living facilities, home healthcare, dialysis centers, and independent senior living facilities.
An additional 659 outbreaks have been recorded among long-term care facilities during that time period, according to a statewide COVID-19 outbreak report published Thursday.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been more than 96,000 confirmed virus cases in Washington and more than 2,200 deaths.
Swiss hospital chief warns of rough ride as virus returns
2:00 PM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) As coronavirus sweeps across Europe, the head of the biggest hospital in Switzerland, a rich country with one of the world's best healthcare systems, is echoing a growing call to the public: Buckle down.
Bertrand Levrat, CEO of Geneva University Hospitals, which counts 12,000 personnel, says Europe overall faces a "turning point" at a time when Switzerland too is fighting a second wave of coronavirus cases that grew in large part out of a summertime lull in which people let down their guard about the highly infectious pandemic.
"The virus doesn't spread alone — we are the ones who spread it. It's a line that we don't repeat enough," Levrat said from his office overlooking Geneva, a surgical mask tucked into his jacket pocket. "Today, the stakes center on how much people are going to follow health measures that allow most people, and economies, and life in general, to get through this."
"If we don't get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that's harder to control," he said. "We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways. Health services need to look for ways to keep up contact tracing (and) to succeed in getting a grasp on the chains of transmission."
Swiss authorities, like their counterparts across Europe, are facing the increasingly tricky dilemma of calibrating a response that meets the urgent healthcare requirements at a time of growing public fatigue about COVID-19 restrictions and when doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are already beleaguered and dreading a new wave that would strain their work and personal lives.
The Geneva University Hospitals have hired hundreds of new staffers in recent months. On Thursday, they announced stepped-up recruitment, testing and lab services in response to the second wave.
"I think we are quite well prepared, even though it was a huge challenge to every one of us, and a huge stress on the system," Levrat said, but acknowledged that "teams that have been quite exhausted by the first wave."
During the spring, the hospital had a peak of 550 patients at the same time — all COVID patients. Other medical services were farmed out to private clinics. Today, hospitalizations are at more than 70, but that marks a four-fold increase from just a month ago, and Levrat expects it to hit 80 within the next two weeks. Beyond that, he's not making any predictions.
U.S. testing 3 drugs to tamp down coronavirus
11:18 AM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) U.S. government officials are launching a new study testing three drugs to tamp down an overactive response by the immune system that can cause severe illness or death in people with COVID-19.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the study will enroll 2,100 hospitalized adults with moderate to severe COVID-19 in the United States and Latin America. All will get the antiviral drug remdesivir plus one of the three “immune-modulating drugs” or a placebo.
The drugs are Bristol Myers Squibb’s Orencia and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade, which are sold now for rheumatoid arthritis and an experimental drug from AbbVie called cenicriviroc. The drugs work in different ways to inhibit “cytokine storm,” an overproduction of chemicals the body makes to fight infections that can damage lungs, kidneys, the heart and other organs.
“These are all different ways of slowing down an overactive immune system,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.
The new study is the fifth and final one in a series of experiments designed by a private-public partnership that includes dozens of drug companies, nonprofit groups and various U.S. government departments. Other therapies being tested include antibody drugs, anti-inflammatory medicines and plasma from COVID-19 survivors.
Virus at 'turning point' in Europe, hitting at-risk groups
9:29 AM CT on 10/16/20
(AP) Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.
With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country's north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.
"This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious on a European level,” Italy's health minister, Roberto Speranza, said Friday.
Europe is not alone in seeing a resurgence. In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 30.
"If we don't get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that's harder to control," Bertrand Levrat, the head of Switzerland's biggest hospital complex, told The Associated Press. "We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways."
But while officials are sounding the alarm on the rising cases, they are also wary of imposing the stricter nationwide lockdowns that devastated their economies this spring. Instead, they are trying more targeted restrictions.
France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce its new curfew; Saturday night will be the first time establishments will be forced to close at 9 p.m. Restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how to survive the forced early closures.
Italy, the first country outside of Asia to detect local transmission of the virus, has banned pickup sports and public gatherings after health officials said the resurgence had reached "an acute phase" following a period of relative grace following its particularly strict lockdown. Speranza, the health minister, told reporters that any new measures in Italy, including a curfew, need to be "well-considered."
Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Milan's Luigi Sacco hospital, said Italy's surge — which hit pandemic highs of new daily infections this week — is not the result of record testing, as policy makers have suggested, but a sign of a real return among the population most at risk of developing serious illness if infected.