US surpasses record 200K daily cases; virus numbers could be erratic after Thanksgiving, experts warn

Laveta Brigham

More than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. on Friday, an all-time high reached about three weeks after the nation first reported 100,000 daily cases on Nov. 4. That rapid doubling, as reported by Johns Hopkins University, is reminiscent of the virus’ growth this spring, when exponential spread […]

More than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. on Friday, an all-time high reached about three weeks after the nation first reported 100,000 daily cases on Nov. 4.

That rapid doubling, as reported by Johns Hopkins University, is reminiscent of the virus’ growth this spring, when exponential spread prompted widespread restrictions across the country in an effort to control the virus.

But experts warn that coronavirus testing numbers are likely to be erratic over the next week or so as fewer people get tested during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and testing sites observe shorter hours.

The result could be potential dips in reported infections that offer the illusion that the spread of the virus is easing when, in fact, the numbers say little about where the nation stands in fighting COVID-19. The number of Americans who have tested positive passed 13 million Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s what to know Saturday:

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. recorded more than 13.1 million cases and over 265,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, there have been over 61.9 million cases and 1.4 deaths.

?️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

? What we’re reading: A dangerous fiction has made its way through social media and American politics – the idea that COVID-19 is really only a danger to the elderly or those with a severe, chronic illness.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Panel of advisers to vote next week on how vaccine will be distributed

A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.

Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.

Tuesday’s meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the CDC. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when – advice the government almost always follows.

– The Associated Press

NFL orders shutdown of team facilities Monday and Tuesday

The NFL has ordered team facilities to be closed to in-person activities early next week in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 among players and staffers.

A memo from commissioner Roger Goodell, tweeted Friday night by the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, says in-person meetings are prohibited on Monday and Tuesday and must be held virtually.

The NFL said it was taking the step because of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country and because it came to the league’s attention that a “number of players and staffers celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with out-of-town guests.”

– Mike Brehm

European countries prepare to relax coronavirus restrictions

Several European countries were expected to relax coronavirus-related restrictions in the coming days.

  • In France, nonessential shops were opening their doors Saturday as part of a staggered relaxing of lockdown restrictions. The plans that come after a drop in nationwide virus infection rates were laid out by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week.

  • In England, a four-week national lockdown was due to end Wednesday and was expected to be replaced by three-tier regional measures that restrict business activity, travel and socializing. The vast majority of the country is being put into the upper two tiers.

  • In Belgium, the government said Friday that nonessential shops could open under restricted conditions next week. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that beyond containing the virus, everyone had to make sure that loneliness did not strike.

However in Germany, restrictions are heading in the opposite direction. Federal and state leaders this week decided to extend a partial shutdown until at least Dec. 20 and tighten some restrictions. The measures so far have succeeded in halting a rise in new cases but haven’t pushed them down significantly.

– The Associated Press

US reports 200,000 COVID-19 cases in a single day

The U.S. on Friday reported 200,000 COVID-19 cases in a single day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. reached 100,000 daily infections on Nov. 4.

When a virus’ spread becomes exponential, the human brain struggles to comprehend how quickly the growth is occurring, Columbia University’s Hod Lipson told USA TODAY in the spring. Because few things in our daily experience grow so fast, the concept is “fundamentally difficult … for the human mind to understand.”

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects estimated infections will reach about 450,000 daily cases by mid-December, more than double the number of current confirmed cases. Estimated cases, however, are often higher than confirmed ones.

That forecast also assumes social distancing mandates will be reimposed in most U.S. states at various times. If that doesn’t occur, case and death counts could be far higher.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that total COVID-19 deaths have been steadily increasing for months, but in recent weeks confirmed cases have been spiking rapidly.

Because deaths lag behind confirmed cases, sometimes for weeks, public health experts are warning the nation to brace for deaths to soon sharply increase as well amid a long-predicted seasonal uptick in COVID-19 spread.

“Given the experience in Europe, we expect that the increase in deaths will soon begin to match the increase in cases,” wrote the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in a Nov. 12 briefing.

Experts: Virus numbers could be erratic after Thanksgiving

The coronavirus testing numbers that have guided much of the nation’s response to the pandemic are likely to be erratic over the next week or so, experts said Friday, as fewer people get tested during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and testing sites observe shorter hours.

“I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University and an emergency physician.

A similar pattern unfolds on many weekends. Because some testing centers, labs and state offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, COVID case numbers often drop each Sunday and Monday, only to peak on Tuesday.

Dr. Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, said the effect of Thanksgiving is likely to be a magnified version of the weekend figures. The Thursday holiday will exacerbate the record-keeping discrepancies over the long weekend, artificially depressing the reported numbers for four or five days before spiking as test results catch up.

Johns Hopkins University reported a high of more than 2 million tests a few days before Thanksgiving as people prepared to travel, but that number had dropped to less than 1.2 million tests on Thanksgiving Day. The latter number, as well as positive case numbers, which had dropped by about a third Friday, could be adjusted as more results are returned.

– Associated Press

Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order as virus surges

Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surge out of control in the nation’s most populous county.

The three-week order takes effect Monday, and comes as the county confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new cases of COVID-19. The five-day average of new cases was 4,751.

The order advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out.

It also bans people from gathering with people who aren’t in their households, whether publicly or privately. Exceptions are made for church services and protests, “which are constitutionally protected rights,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement. Businesses and outdoor trails are also allowed to remain open.

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new requirement that non-essential work, movement and gatherings stop between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for counties in the “red tier,” which most in the state are currently under.

– Associated Press

Ohio State cancels Illinois game after coach Ryan Day, others test positive

Ohio State University football coach Ryan Day has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Friday afternoon. The university also canceled its Saturday game against Illinois after more positive tests came back.

The positive test also puts him in jeopardy of missing the Buckeyes’ next game at Michigan State on Dec. 5. Big Ten coaches who test positive for COVID-19 are required to be out for 10 days, according to the conference’s protocols.

In a statement, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said the 41-year-old Day is “doing well physically,” but he did not say if he has experienced any symptoms since contracting the virus. Day is currently in isolation.

– Joey Kaufman, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

Colorado governor condemns ‘turkey funeral’ to skirt virus restrictions

Republican Congresswomen-elect Lauren Boebert has drawn criticism from Colorado’s Democratic governor for saying she rebranded her Thanksgiving gathering as an animal funeral to skirt the state’s social distancing regulations.

“Congresswomen-elect Boebert is calling her Thanksgiving a ‘turkey funeral’ and hosting over 30 people. My hope and prayer is that it doesn’t turn into a real funeral for any of the attendees,” Gov. Jared Polis said on Facebook.

In most areas of the state, personal gatherings are restricted to 10 people, but funerals have less stringent rules.

On Wednesday, Boebert tweeted that she could host about 90 people if she hosted funerals for a turkey, pig and duck. Previously she suggested calling her Thanksgiving gathering a “peaceful protest in honor of my deceased turkey.”

After error, AstraZeneca will conduct additional trial

AstraZeneca said it plans to conduct a new global clinical trial to assess the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy. The news comes after the company and the university acknowledged a dosing error in trials.

It’s not clear what effect, if any, these results will have on a separate, 30,000-person trial underway of the candidate vaccine in the United States.

All 11,000 people who have participated in the U.S. trial so far have received two equal doses of the vaccine, said Moncef Slaoui, co-director of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration program to develop, manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

AstraZeneca said an additional trial shouldn’t delay regulatory approval in Britain or the European Union – but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could take longer.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot does not need to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it easier to distribute. AstraZeneca has agreed not to profit from its vaccine during the pandemic.

Don’t hug your elderly relatives during the holidays, warns UK medical chief

The United Kingdom’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, cautioned families over the holidays not to hug their elderly relatives “if you want them to survive to be hugged again” beyond the holidays.

The nation has granted its residents permission to congregate among themselves in a “Christmas bubble” of up to three households and eight people from Dec. 23 to 27. The lax holiday restrictions, however, will likely lead to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

– Joshua Bote

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press, Karen Weintraub

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID update and news: Los Angeles County stay-at-home order; US cases

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