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Nov. 24 Covid news: Vaccines seek approval; States extend restrictions and mask mandates

Nov. 24 Covid updates about vaccines, travel restrictions and mask mandates. States restrictions for safety and travel extend as U.S. coronavirus cases rise.
Health workers and relatives carry the body of a Covid-19 victim for cremation in New Delhi on Nov. 19, 2020.Manish Swarup / AP

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735d ago / 4:47 PM UTC

As cases surge, Covid-19 test results are taking longer to come back

With a higher demand nationwide for Covid-19 tests, Quest Diagnostics, one of the biggest commercial laboratories in the United States, says its turnaround time for results has increased. 

The average turnaround time is now approximately two to three days for all patients and approximately two days for priority patients, Quest Diagnostics said in a press release Tuesday.

Last week, the company had said it was experiencing a "modest" increase, with the average test turnaround time at slightly more than two days. It warned that as the number of cases nationwide continued to grow, so would the demand for tests, and testing capacity would be further stretched.

The delays come as many people are seeking Covid-19 tests ahead of Thanksgiving. 

735d ago / 4:43 PM UTC
735d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

TikToker goes viral for sharing AstraZeneca vaccine trial experience

Last week, Ashley Locke, a Tennessee-based TikTok user, posted a video of herself participating in the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial

Since then, the video has racked up more than 2.6 million views. 

“The attention that it’s got ended up just being completely mind blowing to me," Locke told NBC News affiliate News 4 Nashville.

In the clip, Locke shows herself arriving at the facility, meeting with a doctor and, toward the end of the clip, herself receiving an injection of what she explains is either the vaccine or a placebo.

"Now I have check-ins and get blood drawn for the next two years to see how everything is going," Locke writes in the video.  

In subsequent videos posted to her account, Locke answers viewers' questions about the vaccine trial and describes her check-ins with the trial's doctors. 

The videos have not only given people a window into what it's like to be a part of a Covid-19 vaccine trial — they've also encouraged others to join. 

Clinical Research Associates, the Nashville office where Locke is participating in the trial, told News 4 Nashville that they've had an influx of sign ups since Locke's video. They said those signing up say they heard about the trial through social media, with some specifically citing TikTok. 

"To think that I had a hand in sharing that information and getting more people involved in the trial, that just feels really cool. I mean I definitely didn’t expect that so that’s awesome,” Locke told News 4 Nashville. 

735d ago / 3:40 PM UTC

6 dead, more than 70 infected in Massachusetts nursing home

Six residents at an assisted living facility in Massachusetts died after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials told NBC Boston on Monday.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 70 residents and employees at Atria Marland Place in Andover, Massachusetts, said Kymberly Codair, regional vice president of Atria Senior Living.

"Our thoughts are with their families during this difficult time," Codair said in a statement to NBC Boston.

Codair added that all residents who tested positive are under quarantine and receiving medical care, and the facility is operating with "escalated safety protocols," including restricted access to visitors, regular temperature checks, symptom screenings, and proper PPE for employees.

735d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

New York City emergency room doctor warns of potentially deadly consequences of Thanksgiving travel

A New York City emergency room doctor is warning Twitter users of the possible deadly consequences of travel and family gatherings during the holiday season. 

“There’s just no foolproof way to make holiday family meetups zero-risk,” tweeted Craig Spencer, 39, a doctor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Hospital. 

“In a couple of weeks, we're going to hear a lot of stories of people who got together from all over the country, interacted with their family members, and those family members are sick or maybe even died,” Spencer told NBC News over the phone. 

While doctors rely on personal protective equipment and will know which of their patients are Covid-19 positive, people attending meet-ups won’t have those same precautions, meaning the risk is going to be very high for many across the country, he added. 

Spencer hopes he and his fellow emergency room staff will have time to gather for some food on Thanksgiving, but isn’t holding his breath. “2020 is different than every year before,” he said. 

735d ago / 2:20 PM UTC
735d ago / 2:00 PM UTC

E.U. secures 160 million Moderna shots

BRUSSELS — The European Union's executive said Tuesday it will sign a contract for up to 160 million doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the E.U. Commission, said the deal will be approved on Wednesday as the E.U. tries to build “one of the most comprehensive Covid-19 vaccine portfolio in the world."

The deal with Moderna is the sixth secured by the E.U. Commission with pharmaceutical companies, allowing its 27 member countries to buy more than 1 billion doses once the shots are ready.

735d ago / 1:35 PM UTC

Ohio shatters its single-day case record, U.S. counts its 20th day of 100,000-plus cases

Ohio broke its single-day Covid-19 case record of 8,808 set Friday, reporting 11,885 cases Monday.

This comes amid a continuing surge in the state and the country, which has tallied more than 100,000 cases a day since Nov. 4, according to NBC News figures.

Monday the U.S. counted 178,757 cases and 1,164 reported deaths.

The country's daily case average for the last week has been 171,820 cases per day, more than double the  84,718 per-day average four weeks ago.

Other states setting single-day records Monday:

  • Connecticut with a record 5,271 coronavirus cases*
  • Kansas with 7,526 cases*
  • Rhode Island with 2,572 cases*
  • Virginia with 3,242 cases
  • Wyoming with 1,262 cases and 26 dead

* These states didn't record cases over the weekend.

735d ago / 1:19 PM UTC
735d ago / 12:18 PM UTC

South Korea toughens Covid-19 restrictions as cases continue to surge


Image: Diners sit in a restaurant in the Yeonnam district of Seoul
Diners sit in a restaurant in the Yeonnam district of Seoul on Sunday. Ed Jones / AFP - Getty Images

The South Korean government moved to implement tougher social distancing measures amid a burgeoning third wave of coronavirus infections on Tuesday. 

The country’s head of the Disease Control and Prevention Agency, Jeong Eun Kyeong, warned that if the spread of the virus is not curbed, infections could grow exponentially from the 349 new cases recorded on Tuesday. 

South Korea has been praised for its early tracing, testing and quarantine efforts to keep the virus in check, but health officials have been sounding the alarm about clusters of infections in the densely-populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to around half of the country’s 52 million residents. 

As of Tuesday, major coffee shops in Seoul will be required to only offer takeaway and delivery service, while restaurants must close to in-person dining after 9 p.m. Other restrictions will be placed on facilities like gyms, with attendance caps on religious gatherings and sporting events.

The country has reported 31,353 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 510 deaths — far fewer than in the U.S. or Europe.  

735d ago / 11:32 AM UTC

Japan pauses domestic travel push in two cities as Covid spreads

TOKYO - Japan paused its domestic "Go To Travel" promotion campaign in two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 infections, a government minister said on Tuesday, a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's plan to help prop up regional economies.

Critics of the program had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside.

"We have agreed to temporarily exclude trips destined for the cities of Sapporo and Hokkaido from the travel campaign," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Tuesday.

735d ago / 11:28 AM UTC
735d ago / 11:20 AM UTC

Creating a Covid-19 vaccine is only the first step. Reaching the world is the next.

LONDON — If any coronavirus vaccine wins regulatory approval and becomes available to people in the coming months, its speedy deployment will have smashed what was previously thought possible.

And yet that might be the easy part.

Rolling out Covid-19 shots to even a fraction of the world's 7.8 billion people will require conquering an epic supply-chain challenge at a scale that dwarfs any other in history.

"It's going to be an extraordinary logistic challenge," David Salisbury, the British government's former director of immunization, told NBC News. "I just hope it works."

Click here to read the full story.

735d ago / 11:18 AM UTC

England to cut travel quarantines to 5 days with tests

LONDON — Just in time for holiday travelers, England is cutting the two-week quarantine facing people arriving from regions not on Britain's coronavirus safe list, reducing it to as little as five days if they test negative for Covid-19.

The change to the quarantine rules, which was announced Tuesday and takes effect on Dec. 15, has been long-awaited by the travel industry, one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic. The change will bring the rules governing quarantines in England more in line with other European countries, including Germany.

Under the new rules, passengers can reduce the 14-day quarantine period by paying for a test from a private firm on or after Day 5 of their arrival at a potential cost of around 100 pounds ($133). Results normally take up to 48 hours but sometimes can come the same day.

735d ago / 11:17 AM UTC

Swedish watchdog finds serious failures in Covid care at nursing homes

STOCKHOLM — Sweden's health watchdog said on Tuesday it had uncovered "serious shortcomings" in Covid-19 care for residents of nursing homes where thousands have died, increasing pressure on the country's unorthodox pandemic strategy.

Nursing homes were ravaged by the initial wave of the coronavirus, prompting Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's somber admission in May that the country had failed to protect its elderly.

Known for its rejection of lockdowns and masks, Sweden has suffered many times more Covid-19 deaths per capita than its neighbors — though fewer than countries such as Spain — a failure authorities have in part blamed on inadequate controls and care at nursing homes.

735d ago / 11:13 AM UTC
735d ago / 11:00 AM UTC

Malaysia to shut some factories of world's biggest latex glove maker

Image: Medical workers at a Top Glove hostel under enhanced lockdown in Klang, Malaysia
Medical workers at a Top Glove hostel under enhanced lockdown in Klang, Malaysia on Nov. 18. Lim Huey Teng / Reuters

Malaysia will close some factories of the world’s largest maker of latex gloves in stages as it moves to screen employees for Covid-19 after more than 2,000 workers tested positive, authorities said.

Top Glove has racked up record profits this year on sky-rocketing demand for its products and protective gear, thanks to the pandemic.

But 28 factory buildings will be shut in phases after 2,453 workers tested positive for the virus, from 5,767 screened, the country's director-general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Monday. The cases are the country’s largest active cluster and its second largest since the start of the pandemic.

The government put up barbed wire fences in front of the workers’ hostels on Tuesday, with checkpoints that were guarded by police and army personnel. 

Top Glove has around 16,000 employees and runs 47 factories across Malaysia, Thailand, China and Vietnam, with 36 of them producing gloves. Europe and North America are its biggest markets.

735d ago / 10:56 AM UTC

Spain's King Felipe in quarantine after close contact with Covid-19 case

Image: Spain's King Felipe delivers a speech at the Reconquista hotel in Oviedo, Spain
Spain's King Felipe delivers a speech at the Reconquista hotel in Oviedo, Spain on Oct. 16. Andres Ballesteros / Reuters file

Spain’s King Felipe VI started 10 days of quarantine on Monday after coming into close contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid-19, a Royal House source said.

The king, 52, has cancelled his public appearances during the quarantine period after the person tested positive on Monday, one day after they were in close contact, the source added.

Queen Letizia and their two daughters will continue their royal activities, the source said.

Spain, one of the epicenters of the early outbreak in Europe, has registered more than 1.58 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, western Europe’s second highest tally after France, and 43,131 deaths.

735d ago / 9:26 AM UTC

Australian airline boss wants 'vaccine passport' for travelers

Image: The Qantas check in area is seen empty at Sydney International Airport on March 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
The Qantas check in area is seen empty at Sydney International Airport in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic on March 19. Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

The boss of Australia’s largest airline said Monday that once a coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available, it may require passengers to use it before they can travel abroad.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said he’s been talking to his counterparts at other airlines around the world about the possibility of a “vaccination passport” for overseas travelers.

“We are looking at changing the terms and conditions to say for international travelers that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft,” Joyce told Australia’s Network Nine television.

Australia has imposed some of the most severe border restrictions in the world since the pandemic began, closing its borders to most international visitors. The country has weathered the pandemic, with nearly 28,000 cases and just over 900 deaths since pandemic began, fewer than many other nations of its size.