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The US recorded on Wednesday its deadliest day ever, with Covid-19 fatalities reaching more than 2,700 to surpass the previous peak in April, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The total death toll in the country is at more than 273,000, the most of any nation, as hospitals in some regions are approaching capacity.
The Rust Belt, New York and California are likely to drive up the pace of Covid-19 deaths in coming weeks as the US approaches 300,000 fatalities, based on a forecast from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Reich Lab.
The death toll is rising as hospitalizations in the US surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Hospitalizations increased by more than 1,000 a day at the end of November, data released from the Department of Health and Human Services show. California recorded a 38 percent surge from November 23 to December 1, with 8,171 coronavirus patients as of Tuesday. Arizona’s Covid-19 inpatients jumped 28 percent to 2,479.
Meanwhile, the UK became the first western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, clearing Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s shot before decisions by the US and European Union.
The UK’s quick approval of the Covid vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE means Britons will get first dibs on a shot developed in two other countries—the US and Germany.
Britain’s drug regulator on Wednesday cleared the vaccine for emergency use, ahead of the US Food and Drug Administration and its European Union counterpart. The government cited a rule allowing the UK to authorize a shot independently before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. An accelerated review process in which regulators were able to monitor Pfizer’s trial data in real time also helped.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency “has done a great job of working with the company to look at that data as it’s come through and do things in parallel, rather than one after the other as they normally would,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a radio appearance. He also credited Brexit, though the MHRA said the speedy authorization was conducted within EU guidelines.
Australia state probes 1st case in 25 days
Australia’s New South Wales state has recorded its first new case of the coronavirus in 25 days after a woman working at a quarantine hotel in Sydney tested positive.
Authorities are investigating whether she became infected in the community or through work at the facility, the state health department said in a statement Thursday. The woman’s five family members were tested overnight and all returned a negative result for the virus.
Myanmar locks down 2nd-biggest city
Myanmar has imposed a strict stay-at-home order for two weeks in Mandalay district, home to the nation’s second-largest city, to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases after the November 8 general election, according to a statement by Mandalay Region Government.
Nearly 2 million people from seven townships must stay at home December 5 to 18, except for work and health reasons, according to the order.
Eli Lilly to provide treatment
The US government paid Eli Lilly & Co. $812.5 million to secure an additional 650,000 vials of Covid-19 antibody treatment to be administered in December and January to non-hospitalized patients at the early stages of disease.
Operation Warp Speed, the multi-agency effort to accelerate access to treatments, had previously paid Lilly $375 million for an initial 300,000 doses of its monoclonal antibody, bamlanivimab. As a part of that deal, Lilly agreed to supply the US with an additional 650,000 doses with an important caveat: The country would have to demonstrate an ongoing need for the treatment, which is difficult to manufacture and limited in quantity. Now, as the US continues to see a surge in cases, that option has been exercised.
Germany extends partial lockdown
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will extend its partial lockdown by three more weeks as the country struggles to regain control of the coronavirus spread.
Bars, gyms and cinemas will remain closed until January 10 and the government will reconvene with regional leaders on January 4 to reassess the restrictions, Merkel said on Wednesday after talks with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states.
Germany’s infection rates are still far too high and need to come down faster, Merkel said in Berlin.
Merkel’s administration last week already extended a partial shutdown until December 20 while keeping schools and much of the economy open. The partial lockdown has yielded little progress in slowing the spread to levels the government has determined as manageable.
Spain limits Christmas groups to 10
Spain will allow families to meet in groups of up to 10 on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as part of its restrictions on festive season gatherings, Health Minister Salvador Illa said in a news conference on Wednesday. The government is seeking to strike a balance between permitting small-scale festive gatherings and combating the pandemic.
The government will also restrict travel between mainland Spanish regions from December 23 to January 6, unless journeys are for family gatherings, he said.
NYC surge won’t deter schools plan
New York City’s new coronavirus cases hit 1,809 on Monday, its highest daily tally since May 3 and 144 more than the previous day. Yet its school system remains on track to reopen for pre-kindergarten and elementary students Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
City public and private hospitals reported 1,203 Covid-related hospitalizations as of November 30, up 90 from the previous day and its highest level since June, according to state data. But the mayor said hospitals remain able to handle the increasing load. The city recorded a 4.80 percent seven-day average positive infection rate, edging closer to a 5 percent public-health safety threshold established months ago.
Image credits: University of Maryland Sc hool of Medicine via AP