U.S. records 140K new COVID-19 cases as air traffic sets pandemic high

A woman wears a face mask and face shield to protect from and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Central Park in New York City on November 20. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Dec. 1 (UPI) — The United States recorded nearly 140,000 new COVID-19 infections Sunday as air travel reached its highest point since March despite urgent pleas for Americans to stay home, updated data showed.

Some 139,000 new cases were confirmed, boosting the U.S. total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 13.4 million, according to disease trackers with Johns Hopkins University. It marked the 27th consecutive day of at least 100,000 new infections.

There were 826 additional deaths, pushing the total death toll to nearly 267,000, the researchers said.

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations, meanwhile, set another record at more than 93,000, including 18,000 patients in intensive care, the COVID Tracking Project reported.

Despite the continuing surge and urgent warnings from U.S. health officials to avoid holiday travel, more Americans boarded more flights on Sunday than at any time since the start of pandemic, Transportation Security Administration statistics showed.

Some 1.17 million air passengers passed through airport checkpoints — the most since March 16, the TSA said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning against traveling for Thanksgiving earlier this month, while Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, also pleaded with Americans last week to avoid traveling for family gatherings.

“A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this,” he said, warning of “yet another surge” if behaviors don’t change.

The race for an effective vaccine gathered momentum Monday when U.S. biotech firm Moderna announced it would seek immediate emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute its vaccine candidate.

Clinical trials confirmed its “mRNA-1273” vaccine is 94% effective, the company said.

Distribution of both the Moderna vaccine and another made by Pfizer could begin within weeks of winning the Emergency Use Authorizations, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday.

“We could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people’s arms before Christmas,” Azar told CBS This Morning.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s vaccine and recommend whether it should be cleared for use in health workers and other vulnerable populations. A review of Moderna’s data is set for a week later.

Meanwhile, a student in Wisconsin’s Madison East High School died from complications related to COVID-19, the Madison Metropolitan School District said.

“We are all very heartbroken for his family and MMSD community,” a spokesperson for the district said. “Our community has lost a wonderful young person and when a school family experiences a tragedy, especially the loss of a young life, it deeply impacts all of us.”

The student was the first person younger than 20 years old known to have died of COVID-19 in the state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that the state had entered a “new phase in the war against COVID” forcing it to prioritize hospital capacity when considering restrictions.

Specifically, Cuomo said he could impose regional shutdowns in the form of a “pause” order like the one he issued in the spring.

“We are not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” he said.

Police authorities in New York City say they broke up an illegal party of nearly 400 people over the weekend despite strict prohibitions on large gatherings.

The New York City Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet they shut down the “illegal bottle club” for being in violation of COVID-19 emergency orders and cited four organizers with “offenses for penal, health, alcohol beverage control laws” as well as for an outstanding arrest warrant.

In California, Los Angeles County officially enacted stricter COVID-19 restrictions Monday after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations.

Under the new “Safer at Home” rules, all public and private gatherings with individuals from different households are prohibited, except for church services and protests, which are deemed constitutionally protected rights.

Occupancy limits at various businesses are also tightened, including 35% occupancy at essential retail and 20% occupancy for nonessential retail, which includes indoor malls.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state was considering a new stay-at-home order for counties in the state’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.

“If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action,” he said.


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