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Dec. 4 Coronavirus updates: Pelosi offers optimism for deadlocked relief deal

Amid the latest Covid surge, California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a new stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, the first coronavirus vaccines could reach the public as early as next week.
Image: Coronavirus Greece
Pallbearers in personal protective equipment carry the coffin of a patient who died from Covid-19 in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Friday.Alexandros Avramidis / Reuters

The U.S. neared its record on Thursday for coronavirus-related deaths when more than 2,800 people were confirmed dead from Covid-19, according to an NBC News tally. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced its guidelines for the first phase of the most ambitious national vaccination campaign in modern history.

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847d ago / 3:46 PM UTC

South Korea study highlights risks of indoor dining

A study conducted by scientists in South Korea traced the origins of one local outbreak and showed how the coronavirus spread in a restaurant between the individuals without close contact and at a greater distance than the 6 feet that is recommended for social distancing.

Researchers examined the chain of transmission from a June 17 outbreak in a restaurant in the city of Jeonju, in western South Korea. Three Covid-19 infections resulted from the incident. In their study, the scientists demonstrated that the virus was likely spread through long-distance droplet transmission, which occurs when virus-filled particles are ejected from the mouth or nose as a person speaks, coughs or sneezes.

In the recent study, published online Nov. 23 in the Journal of Korean Medical Science, the scientists showed how airflow in the restaurant from “ceiling-type air conditioners” enabled droplet transmission at distances of more than 21 feet. In one case, the infected person overlapped with a diner for only five minutes who later tested positive, according to the study.

The results show the potential risk of dining inside restaurants and attending other indoor gatherings, and also demonstrate the limitations of social distancing guidelines from the CDC and WHO. “We share these investigation results as a reference to update guidelines involving prevention, tracing, and quarantine for control of this pandemic infectious disease,” the scientists wrote in the study.

847d ago / 2:52 PM UTC

Kansas Covid obituary excoriates mask deniers

A Kansas son's obituary paying tribute to his father who died of Covid-19 is going viral for excoriating mask refusers.

In the death notice, Courtney Farr, the son of the late Dr. Marvin J. Farr, who died December 1 at Park Lane Nursing Home in Scott City, Kansas, wrote that his father was "preceded in death by more than 260,000 Americans infected with Covid-19."

Describing his late father as a man born into the Great Depression and having survived World War II amidst great sacrifice, Courtney Farr said Marvin "died in a world where many of his fellow Americans refuse to wear a piece of cloth on their face to protect one another."

"He died in a room not his own, being cared for by people dressed in confusing and frightening ways. He died with Covid-19, and his final days were harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary. He was not surrounded by friends and family."

Read the full story here.

847d ago / 1:45 PM UTC

Brace for post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge in 2-3 weeks, Fauci warns

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the surge in coronavirus cases related to gatherings and travel over the Thanksgiving holiday may not be felt for weeks and could run right into the Christmas season.

"May be a little bit of blip (right now), but we don't expect to see the full brunt of it between two and three weeks following Thanksgiving, so I think we have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak," Fauci told Savannah Guthrie on "TODAY" Friday. "That's the concerning thing because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming, and then you realize that it is likely we'll see more of a surge as we get two to three weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday."

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847d ago / 1:38 PM UTC

U.S. economy gains just 245,000 jobs in final report of 2020 as recovery stalls with Covid surging

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, as the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists had predicted the economy would gain around 440,000 jobs.

Amid a fresh surge in coronavirus cases and a new round of shutdowns, Friday's figure represents the fifth straight month of slowing job gains. The sharp decline represents the lowest monthly total since the economy started its halting recovery.

BLS unemployment data is collected on or around the 12th of the month, but more recent metrics underscore how vulnerable the economy is to a “super-surge” of coronavirus infections around the holidays that could send people back into their homes and shutter businesses.

Although the promise of a vaccine has raised the hopes of investors, public health officials warn that a large-scale rollout sufficient to protect much of the population could still be months away.

“It's hard to see exactly when the recovery can really start,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at “The start of vaccination is not enough. We need people to feel totally safe gathering in large numbers."

847d ago / 1:24 PM UTC

Second day of 200,000-plus Covid cases in the U.S.

The U.S. counted more than 200,000 Covid-19 cases for the second day in a row with a record 219,394 cases Thursday. The current death count is 276,874, which includes Thursday's 2,802 deaths, the most since 2,892 were reported dead May 6, according to NBC News' tally.

The U.S. is averaging 179,171 cases and 1,826 deaths per day the past week. Four weeks ago, the U.S. averaged 133,824 cases and 1,073 deaths per day. 

These states set single-day records Thursday:

  • Alaska, 763 cases
  • Arkansas, 2,789 cases
  • Delaware, 758 cases
  • Indiana, 8,460 cases
  • Iowa, 73 dead
  • Kentucky, 71 dead
  • Massachusetts, 6,675 cases
  • Nevada, 48 dead
  • New Mexico, 44 dead
  • North Carolina, 73 dead
  • Tennessee, 93 dead
  • Wyoming, 27 dead
847d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

Fauci accepts Biden's offer to serve as chief medical adviser

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that he accepted President-elect Joe Biden's offer to serve as his chief medical adviser.

Asked in an interview on NBC's "TODAY" show whether he would do it, Fauci said, "Oh absolutely. I said yes right on the spot, yeah."

Fauci will also stay in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after Biden asked him to continue in his administration. 

847d ago / 12:40 PM UTC

Do 'self-cleaning' elevator buttons really work?

Do “self-cleaning” elevator buttons really work?

Without rigorous independent studies, experts say it’s hard to verify claims of “self-cleaning” or “antiviral" surfaces that have popped up during the pandemic.

But they also say you shouldn’t worry too much about how well such features really work.

COVID-19 is an airborne disease. Research suggests it would be difficult to catch the virus from surfaces like an elevator button.

“You get it through what you breathe, not through what you touch,” said Emanuel Goldman, who studies viruses at Rutgers University.

Studies showing the virus can survive several hours on plastic or metal surfaces do not mimic real-life conditions, said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford Health Care.

847d ago / 11:55 AM UTC

Delaware governor issues stay-at-home order

DOVER, Del. — Delaware’s governor is issuing a stay-at-home advisory and implementing a universal mask mandate requiring people to wear cloth face coverings even in their own homes if someone outside the immediate household is present.

Gov. John Carney on Thursday also recommended that schools suspend in-person instruction from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8 and resume hybrid learning on Jan. 11. Winter sports competitions will be prohibited during that period.

The mask mandate will require all Delawareans to wear cloth face coverings anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household. Delaware has had a public mask mandate since April 28 requiring use of face coverings in public settings where social distancing is not possible.

A spokesman for the governor says officials are relying on voluntary compliance with the mask mandate.

847d ago / 11:29 AM UTC
847d ago / 11:04 AM UTC

Racial disparities create obstacles for Covid-19 vaccine rollout

Despite the potential for a vaccine within weeks, distrust of the medical community by Black andLatino people, who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, remains high as elected leaders and public health professionals work to prioritize its distribution.

Fueled by a dark history of medical experimentation and unequal access to care, people in Black and Latino communities struggling with high Covid-19 rates are among those least likely to get vaccinated, health advocates say. Overcoming systemic racism and the collective trauma associated with it will be paramount as officials rush to distribute vaccines to hard-hit communities, they warn.

"The people who need it the most are the same who don't trust it," said Sernah Essien of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, an international advocacy group working to ensure equitable vaccine access. "Without considering racial equity, we deepen the cracks that systemic racism has already created in our health care system."

The message is being heard at the highest levels.

Read full article here.

847d ago / 10:32 AM UTC

After first round of vaccine distributions, bulk of planning remains unfinished

A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced its guidelines for the first phase of the most ambitious national vaccination campaign in modern history.

Yet beyond the guidelines advising states about how to deploy their vaccines — and a large Defense Department operation to deliver them — the Trump administration hasn't prepared for a major federal role, a lack of planning that is causing significant anxiety among state and local health officials.

The significant checklist of unmet federal responsibilities underscores the challenges ahead for President-elect Joe Biden, who inherits most of the burden for executing a successful nationwide campaign to vaccinate all Americans, potentially without the billions of dollars in additional funding that will be needed.

Read full article here.

847d ago / 5:23 AM UTC

More than 2,800 in U.S. reported dead Thursday

The U.S. on Thursday again surpassed its record for coronavirus-related deaths when more than 2,800 people were confirmed dead from Covid-19, according to an NBC News tally.

The previous record came just one day earlier when the county also saw the highest number of new infections and hospitalizations.  

Thursday was the third straight day the U.S. reported more than 2,000 deaths in a day. More than 276,700 people in the U.S. have died from the virus since the pandemic began. 

847d ago / 4:22 AM UTC

Navajo Nation headed for lockdown amid 'major health care crisis'

A stay-at-home lockdown was announced Thursday in the Navajo Nation as officials there say its hospitals are grappling with a "major health care crisis."

In a statement, the office of the president and vice president ordered residents in the nation, which has a population of roughly 172,000 people and is spread across 27,000 square miles in three southwestern states, to stay at home for non-essential activities beginning Monday.

Weekend curfews will begin Dec. 11 and continue through the end of the month.

“We have been in a state of emergency since the pandemic began here on the Navajo Nation, but that has now elevated to a major health care crisis,” said Dr. Loretta Christensen, Chief Medical Officer for Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

“Our health care experts are now saying that the current wave or surge is far more severe and troublesome than the wave that we saw in April and May, perhaps four or five times larger according to projections,” she said.

Christensen said there is already a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and medical personnel.

More than 17,000 Navajo have been infected, or nearly 10 percent of the population. Six hundred and sixty-three people have died.