(Bloomberg) — Infection rates are accelerating in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain West after sweeping through states in the Midwest. A growing number of hospitals canceled or delayed some planned medical procedures to preserve staff and beds. The death toll in U.S. nursing homes and long-term care facilities topped 100,000.
U.S. airline traffic rose as some Americans traveled for Thanksgiving despite warnings from health officials. A top European Union official said relaxing restrictions too swiftly could unleash a fresh virus wave onto already-strained hospitals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed tighter restrictions to regional leaders in a meeting Wednesday. In a briefing paper, the federal government suggested a further reduction in the number of customers allowed in shops and tighter measures in schools located in infection hotspots.
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N.Y. Sees Most New Cases Since April (11:45 a.m. NY)
New York state said there were 6,265 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest since April 24, when there were 10,553 new infections. Governor Andrew Cuomo reported the numbers at a briefing in Rochester. The overall positive testing rate was 3.62%.
There were 2,982 hospitalizations and 41 deaths on Tuesday, according to state data.
NYC Hospital Use Rising, Mayor Says (11:05 a.m. NY)
New York City’s hospitalizations are on the upswing. Daily admissions for Covid-like symptoms totaled 141 on Nov. 23, the highest in weeks. Of those, 45% tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The seven-day average of total hospitalizations is 647, up 38% from a weekly average of 469 over the last four weeks.
Covid-19 “is bearing down on us, more every day,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday at a virus press briefing.
State data show total hospitalizations for New York City at 931 on Nov. 22, more than double the number on Nov. 1. At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 12,000 were hospitalized for Covid.
The city’s daily positive test rate as of Nov. 23 was 3.05%, little changed from the day before. The city has performed more than 1 million tests since March, which is “making a huge difference” in fighting back the second wave, de Blasio said.
New York City schools were closed Nov. 19 when the citywide average positive test rate reached a 3% trigger. De Blasio said he will present a plan next week for bringing students back to school. The plan will include phases of return and more frequent testing, he said.
Geneva Restaurants to Reopen (11 a.m. NY)
Geneva, Lausanne and other areas in francophone Switzerland will reopen restaurants on Dec. 10, according to a joint statement. The region suffered some of Europe’s highest Covid-19 infection rates, and municipalities took various steps to stem the spread of the disease. In Geneva, stores deemed non-essential will reopen already on Nov. 28.
Italy PM Doesn’t Want Cross-Border Ski Curbs (10:35 a.m. NY)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he doesn’t want to impose curbs on cross-border travel during the Christmas skiing season, as he pushes for coordinated European action to prevent an upturn in coronavirus contagion.
Conte told reporters in Palma de Mallorca after talks with his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sanchez, that he wants “some restrictive measures,” especially for ski resorts.
“We don’t want to limit cross-border transfers; this is not the issue,” Conte said. He added that he is seeking to avert the prospect of mass cross-border travel without provisions for controls such as virus tests for returning travelers.
U.S. Surpasses 100,000 Nursing Home Deaths (10 a.m. NY)
Covid-19 has killed more than 100,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the U.S., according to a report Wednesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The U.S. passed the grim milestone on Tuesday, based on reports from across the country, the foundation said. Deaths in long-term care facilities have accounted for 40% of all Covid-19 deaths nationwide, according to the report.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit that focuses health issues.
U.S. Airline Traffic Rises 16% (9:20 a.m. NY)
Airline passenger numbers in the U.S. totaled 912,090 on Nov. 24, compared with 2.44 million the same weekday a year earlier, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Average daily passenger numbers rose 16% from the previous week.
Austrian Nationalists Encourage Skipping Tests (8 a.m. NY)
Austria’s nationalist Freedom Party, seizing on discontent over restrictive virus measures, attempted to undermine a mass-testing campaign before the holidays.
“If you want to celebrate Christmas in peace and visit family, don’t test,” the party said Wednesday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who governed with the group until last year, said the call was “deeply irresponsible.” The tests planned by the Austrian government will take place on the weekends before Christmas. The goal is to test as many people as possible, although they won’t be mandatory.
Iran Cases Break Record for Second Day (6:24 a.m. NY)
Iran reported a new record for daily infections for a second day in a row, pushing the number of total known cases to 894,385. The death toll reached 46,207 with 469 more deaths in the last 24 hours, down from a day earlier.
Hospitals Cancel Surgeries to Preserve Staff (6 a.m. NY)
A growing number of hospitals around the U.S. canceled or delayed some planned medical procedures to preserve staff and beds for a surging number of Americans sick with Covid-19.
Conditions remain especially acute in the Midwest and West. From Illinois to Idaho, health systems are limiting non-emergency surgeries as the pandemic’sstrain on personnel grows. Putting off planned procedures that patients can defer safely is one of the few levers hospitals have to adjust their capacity as the virus spreads unchecked.
Philippines Caps Prices of Covid Tests (5:04 p.m. HK)
The Philippines set a price cap for swab tests amid complaints of price disparity, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
The price for real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test is capped at 5,000 pesos ($104) in private hospitals and 3,800 pesos in government laboratories, Duque said in a briefing. Some testing centers have charged as much as 13,000 pesos for the tests.
Hong Kong Reports 84 New Virus Cases, Most Since August (4:44 p.m. HK)
As many as 16 of the new local cases are of unknown origin, according to an official from the department of health. Most others are linked to an existing dance studio and club cluster, the offical said.
EU’s Von Der Leyen Warns of Third Wave Risk (4:19 p.m. HK)
The European Commission’s von der Leyen warned against relaxing virus restrictions too much and too soon as the risk of a third pandemic wave looms.
Speaking to lawmakers in Brussels, the head of the EU’s executive arm said that many healthcare systems are still overwhelmed. She said the first inoculations with a vaccine will be carried out before the end of the year.
Russia Deaths Hit New Record (3:40 p.m. HK)
The daily death toll in Russia exceeded 500 for the first time as surging infections across the country put increasing strain on hospitals and medical staff complained about a lack of medicines and protective gear.
Federal authorities have refrained from a lockdown, instead introducing limited restrictions in hard-hit regions. President Vladimir Putin told officials last week that the situation wasn’t easy and described the rising mortality rate as the “most alarming” trend.
Czech Health Minister Sees More Easing of Curbs: MF (3:08 p.m. HK)
The Czech Republic will “very probably” ease more restrictions from Monday, Health Minister Jan Blatny said in an interview with the Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper. The cabinet will meet Sunday to decide on relaxing the curbs. If approved, the move will allow reopening of shops, restaurants and services, with some restrictions such as limits on the number of customers.
Tokyo Sets Some of Strictest Measures Since Emergency (2:24 p.m. HK)
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged residents to avoid non-essential outings and asked bars and restaurants to close early as the city combats a virus surge, according to local media reports.
The measures represent some of the strictest steps the city has taken to combat the pandemic since it was placed under a state of emergency last spring. They come as the city was reported to have 401 new coronavirus infections in a single day.
Thailand to Sign Vaccine Pact With AstraZeneca (1:10 p.m. HK)
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will sign an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc on Friday to procure its vaccine, according to a government statement. Thailand may receive the doses by mid-2021.
Local drugmaker Siam Bioscience will produce the vaccines at its facilities, and Thailand will receive technology transfer — an economic opportunity for the country, government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul said in the statement.
Chinese Firm Submits Application for Vaccine Use: Xinhua (11:53 a.m. HK)
A leading Chinese vaccine developer has applied for general use of its Covid-19 vaccine, seeking to get a jump on Western rivals as the race for a working shot against the pandemic enters the final stretch.
China National Biotec Group Co. has submitted an application to Chinese regulators, reported state media Xinhua Finance, citing its parent company Sinopharm. Unlike western frontrunners, CNBG has yet to release any public data on the efficacy of its shot in advanced clinical trials, making it difficult to compare its vaccines with others.
Australian State Overhauls Hotel Quarantine (11 a.m. HK)
South Australia is overhauling its system of hotel quarantine after discovering that two returned overseas travelers and a security guard mysteriously contracted Covid-19 at an isolation facility. Authorities have scoured CCTV images and have so far failed to identify how the couple who’d returned from Nepal and the guard became infected at the so-called medi-hotel in Adelaide. A hotel cleaner also caught the virus and the state is now trying to contain a cluster of 29 cases in the state capital.
Alberta Imposes Restrictions as Cases Surge (10:28 a.m. HK)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency as case rates surged to the second highest in Canada. Alberta will ban indoor social gatherings and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people. Students in grades 7-12 will stop in-person learning on Nov. 30 and return to school in January.
U.K. Government ‘Too Slow’ on Ventilators: Report (8:13 a.m. HK)
The U.K. government lost a “crucial month” in its fight against coronavirus because it was slow to respond to a shortage of ventilators, the House of Commons spending watchdog found. Ministers only started efforts to buy more ventilators on March 3, just over a month after the WHO declared the pandemic a public health emergency, the Public Accounts Committee said.
A separate report by the National Audit Office, the body that scrutinizes public spending, found that the U.K. was too slow to source personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.
Japan, China Agree to Restart Two-Way Travel (7:43 a.m. HK)
The foreign ministers of China and Japan agreed at a meeting in Tokyo to lift some virus-related travel restrictions by the end of the month.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi is the first senior Chinese official to visit Japan since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September. At the meeting, Wang and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, agreed to restart some travel for businesspeople and residents before the end of November.
Biden Transition Cooperating With Trump on Covid (7:19 a.m. HK)
President-elect Joe Biden said his transition team will not be “so far behind the curve” now that the Trump administration has begun cooperating on the fight against the coronavirus.
“We’re already working out meeting with the Covid team in the White House,” Biden said in an interview on NBC Nightly News to air Tuesday. “And how to not only distribute, but get from a vaccine being distributed, to a person being able to get vaccinated,” he said. “So I think we’re going to not be so far behind the curve, as we thought we might be in the past.”
California’s top public health official warned that the daily number of deaths in the state could top previous highs by Christmas as a third wave of infections gathers momentum.
(A previous version corrected the date of New York City school closing)
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