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Nov. 22 Covid updates: G-20 leaders discuss post-coronavirus world as U.S. cases top 12 million

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies are holding a two-day virtual meeting via video-conference due to the pandemic.
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A medical staff member takes nasal swabs at a school set up as a COvid-19 testing facility in Bolzano, northern Italy on Nov. 20, 2020.Antonio Calanni / AP

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies continued to discuss how to distribute vaccines, drugs and tests around the world on Sunday, so that poorer countries are not left out as nations look for ways to manage a post-coronavirus recovery.

The two-day virtual meeting via video-conference due to the pandemic began Saturday under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which holds the rotating presidency of the G-20 until the end of November.

The United States topped 12 million Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to NBC News' tally. The total number of deaths is 255,567.

The latest Covid-19 data and coverage:

AstraZeneca says its Covid-19 vaccine is 'highly effective' in late-stage trials

The results of the AstraZeneca's vaccine trials are the third promising breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people and roiled the global economy. Dado Ruvic / Reuters file

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday late-stage trials of its Covid-19 vaccine have shown it to be “highly effective” in preventing disease.

The vaccine, developed in conjunction with U.K.'s University of Oxford, prevented 70 percent of people from developing the disease, the company said. Researchers have also found that if people were given a half dose followed by a full dose, rather than two full doses, protection rose to about 90 percent.

The results of the AstraZeneca's vaccine trials are the third promising breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people and roiled the global economy.

Earlier this month, Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results from late-stage trials, showing that their vaccine candidates were almost 95 percent effective.

Read the full story here.

Nevada tightens limits on casinos, restaurants; broadens mask mandate

Nevada's governor, diagnosed with Covid-19  earlier this month, said on Sunday he was tightening coronavirus restrictions on casinos, restaurants and bars, while imposing a broader statewide mandate for face-coverings over the next three weeks.

The new measures, effective on Tuesday, come as state and local government leaders around the country  have moved to reinstate a wide range of limits to tame an alarming surge of infections following a summertime lull in the pandemic.

"Whether you believe in the science of Covid or not, the reality is this — Covid is filling up our hospital beds, and that threatens all Nevadans," Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said in announcing what he called a new "statewide pause."

The latest restrictions are likely to prove especially tough for a state whose economy, and the livelihood of its biggest city, Las Vegas, are largely dependent on tourism, gaming and the hospitality industry.

Restaurants and bars must reduce operations from 50 percent to 25 percent capacity, and casinos will likewise be capped at 25 percent capacity.

South Korea reports 255 new cases as tighter curbs to take effect

SEOUL — South Korea reported another daily rise of over 200 new coronavirus cases on Monday, a day before tighter social distancing rules aimed at blunting a third wave of infections take effect.

The daily tally of 255 new cases fell from 330 reported on Sunday after hovering above 300 for five straight days, a level not seen since August, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Officials have said the numbers tend to drop during the weekends due to less testing.

The government further strengthened distancing rules for Seoul and nearby regions on Sunday, three days after reimposing curbs before an annual national college entrance exam scheduled for Dec. 3.

The latest measure will close bars and nightclubs, limit religious gatherings and restrict on-site dining at restaurants and cafes from Tuesday.

Two GOP House members test positive for COVID-19

WASHINGTON — Two Republican House members announced Sunday that they tested positive for Covid-19, raising the number of Congressional representatives who have contracted the virus over the last 10 days to nine.

Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin said their positive results were returned Sunday.

Courtney said he’d been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus last week. After an initial test produced negative results, he began experiencing mild symptoms and took a second test that was positive.

Steil said he started feeling sick last week after working in Washington D.C.

“This experience reinforces my strong belief that right now, we need to be doing our part to help our communities by listening to the experts at the CDC — we’ve got to remain vigilant about wearing masks, social distancing, and the basic essentials like washing our hands frequently,” Courtney said.

Julie Tsirkin reported from Washington and Tim Stelloh from California.

Germany may start vaccine program in December

FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany could start administering shots of Covid-19 vaccines as soon as next month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

"There is reason to be optimistic that there will be approval for a vaccine in Europe this year," Spahn said in an interview with publishing group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. "And then we can start right away."

Spahn said he had asked Germany's federal states to have their vaccination centers ready by mid-December and that this was going well. "I would rather have a vaccination center ready a few days early than an approved vaccine that isn't being used immediately," he said.

Germany has secured more than 300 million vaccine doses via the European Commission, bilateral contracts and options, Spahn said, adding that this was more than enough and even left room to share with other countries.

Baylor basketball head coach Scott Drew tests positive

Los Angeles County halts indoor dining at bars, restaurants, breweries

Los Angeles County is halting indoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across Southern California, officials said Sunday.

The restrictions, which go into effect Wednesday, will last for at least three weeks, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. The department reported nine deaths and more than 2,700 new cases Sunday.

The closures came after the county recorded a five-day average caseload of 4,097, the department said.

Just over 1,400 people are hospitalized with coronavirus in the county, a number that rose by 35 percent over the last week, the department said. Roughly one-quarter of those patients are in intensive care.

Family birthday party in Texas leads to 15 virus cases

Fifteen members of a Texas family tested positive for Covid-19 after gathering for a birthday party earlier this month.

Alexa Aragonez, 26, of Arlington, Texas, who did not attend the Nov. 1 party, said she wasn't concerned when she dropped off her 57-year-old mother, Enriqueta Aragonez, at her cousin’s house.

“We thought that we were not necessarily immune but taking greater precautions than the average person," Alexa Aragonez said. "Unfortunately, the one precaution that we didn’t take was attending a gathering in a closed area.” 

Three days later, all 12 family members who attended and three other attendees tested positive for Covid-19. Aragonez said she believes they contracted the virus from a cousin who felt unwell but attributed the symptoms to allergies. 

Aragonez's mother spent multiple days in two different hospitals after contracting pneumonia and struggling to breathe. Since her release, she continues to have lingering symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and fatigue, Aragonez said. 

“When my mother went to the hospital, our world was collapsing," she said. "She is the matriarch of our family, and seeing someone as strong as her succumb to the virus was quite, quite awful.”  

Her mother was the only one hospitalized, but it rattled family members who felt guilty about exposing her to the virus.

“My family was a family that thought we were doing everything right. We thought masks were enough. Washing your hands, disinfecting our homes, only going to the grocery store,” Aragonez said. “Please, if you can, stay apart during Thanksgiving and during the holiday season.”