LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas health officials on Friday reported a one-day record of 55 deaths due to COVID-19 and 2,770 new confirmed or probable cases.
“We have once again reached a grave milestone in this pandemic,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.
“While we may have hope ahead from promising vaccine news, we cannot grow weary over the next few weeks,” he said.
In a statewide address Thursday night, Hutchinson said the state is seeing a surge in cases after Thanksgiving and suggested Arkansans travel less for the coming Christmas holiday and take rapid tests both before and after travel.
The state Department of Health reported a total of 2,875 deaths due to the illness caused by the virus and 181,624 total cases since the pandemic began.
The health department reported 1,059 people hospitalized with the virus.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
The White House is pressuring the FDA chief Stephen Hahn to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day. The vaccine won approval Thursday from an FDA panel of outside advisers, and FDA signoff is the next step to get the shots to the public.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reinstated indoor dining restrictions indefinitely in New York City in an effort to limit the increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Starting Monday, only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed in the city.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WICHITA, Kan. — A Wichita fitness studio’s owner and his business are suing Kansas for compensation for being forced to shut down and reopen with restrictions this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit filed this week in Sedgwick County District Court by Ryan Floyd and Omega Bootcamps Inc. argues that the state used his and the business’ private property “for the benefit of the general public” when it and local officials imposed their restrictions. The lawsuit cites part of the state’s emergency management law that says people can pursue claims for compensation in court if their property is “commandeered or otherwise used” by state or local officials.
The Kansas attorney general’s office declined comment, saying it was reviewing the lawsuit. Gov. Laura Kelly’s office did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court says non-essential, in-person court proceedings will be halted starting Monday for 30 days due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said Friday the pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of court personnel and the public. Since the start of the pandemic, judicial branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases. In addition, more than half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19, and 11 of those closures occurred this week.
DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Friday released the locations of health facilities in urban and rural Colorado to receive the first shipment of 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Facilities in Denver, Aspen, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins were some of the chosen locations for the first Pfizer vaccines. Initially, 46 health care facilities will receive Pfizer vaccine doses; 151 facilities will get subsequent Moderna vaccine doses; and 40 of them will get both.
The locations were selected for their abilities to store Pfizer vaccines in -60°C to -80°C temperatures and a willingness to redistribute vaccines to other providers.
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s death count per capita from the coronavirus has risen from 12th-highest in the country to fifth in just six weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The state’s death count has gone from 75 deaths per 100,000 people to 146 deaths during that time, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
The state Department of Health on Friday reported 27 new deaths, 12 of which were from November due to a reporting lag. The statewide death toll since the pandemic began now stands at 1,130.
State Health Department officials on Friday confirmed 513 new cases of the coronavirus.
North Dakota had for many weeks led the country in the number of virus outbreaks compared to population.
The state now ranks fourth, with 1,350 new cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota over the past two weeks. One in every 136 people in North Dakota tested positive in the past week., according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
NEW YORK — Indoor dining restrictions will be reinstated in New York City on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. Only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed.
Nearly 1,700 patients are hospitalized in the city with the coronavirus, triple the number a month ago.
The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, spoke with Cuomo by livestream this week, noting he expects hospitalizations to keep increasing until mid-January.
Cuomo’s order came despite opposition from the restaurant industry, which warned of holiday season layoffs as the federal government hasn’t passed additional COVID-19 relief.
Public health experts have repeatedly warned that indoor dining — particularly in small, crowded restaurants where individuals are drinking and can take off masks when not eating — poses a risk for airborne transmission. The CDC recently described such indoor dining as “high risk.”
PHOENIX — Arizona has reported nearly 7,000 coronavirus cases, the third-highest number since the start of the pandemic.
The state reported 6,983 confirmed cases and 91 deaths on Friday.
Virus-related hospitalizations stood at 3,492. That’s just short of the hospitalization peak during the state’s COVID-19 surge last summer. Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that hospital capacity could be reached this month.
Arizona has reported 394,512 total cases and 7,245 confirmed deaths.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina reported more than 7,500 coronavirus cases, a single-day record.
More than 2,500 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which represents a two-fold increase in the last 30 days.
The positivity rate has eclipsed 10% for nearly two weeks, reaching double digits for the first time since April.
Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, attributed much of the uptick to people gathering over Thanksgiving.
“Having more than 7,500 cases is staggering and alarming,” Cohen says.
MILAN — Italy registered 761 deaths on Friday, according to the Health Ministry.
Another 18,727 people tested positive, slightly more than a day earlier when fewer tests were carried out.
While the death toll remains high, restrictions have helped ease the level of contagion and the pressure on hospitals. About 1,500 fewer people were hospitalized with the virus and 26 fewer patients were in intensive care. There were 208 new arrivals in ICU.
Two key regions, epicenter Lombardy and neighboring Piedmont, will have restrictions eased this weekend. They’ll be allowed to dine indoors until 6 p.m. for the first time in weeks.
Italy has more than 63,000 confirmed deaths, fifth highest in the world, and 1.8 million confirmed cases.
BOSTON — Doctors are reporting that a two-drug treatment is especially helpful for COVID-19 patients who need extra oxygen.
Adding the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib to the antiviral medicine remdesivir helped these patients recover eight days sooner, in 10 days on average versus 18 for those given remdesivir alone, according to a study.
The medicines have been recommended since September, when early results from this U.S. government-sponsored study suggested the combination shortened recovery time for hospitalized patients by one day.
Full results published Friday by the New England Journal of Medicine show the benefit was even greater for those needing oxygen or other respiratory support short of a breathing machine. Serious side effects and new infections also were fewer in the combo treatment group.
The study involved more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients. All were given Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, sold as Veklury, and half also received baricitinib, a drug Eli Lilly sells as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the less common form of arthritis that occurs when a mistaken or overreacting immune system attacks joints, causing inflammation. An overactive immune system also can lead to serious problems in some coronavirus patients.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma health department has added paramedics, emergency medical technicians and CVS and Walgreen staff who will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to those who will receive the vaccine first.
The state Department of Health announced the revised plan in a news release and said health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye would discuss it on Friday.
Others to receive the vaccine first are health care workers and long-term care providers and residents. Frye says the state expects 166,000 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December.
A U.S. government advisory panel on Thursday endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s vaccine, putting the country just one step away from launching a massive vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed more than 292,000 Americans.
HONOLULU — A county on a Hawaii island believed to be the last one in the U.S. without any coronavirus cases has reported its first resident testing positive.
The Hawaii Department of Health on Thursday reported the case in Kalawao County on the island of Molokai. The health department says an adult resident tested positive after returning to the island on a local flight.
The person is in self-isolation and currently doesn’t have virus symptoms. The health department says contact tracing was conducted and all other passengers on the flight are in self-quarantine.
MOSCOW — Authorities in Moscow are expanding the COVID-19 vaccination program to include those in the retail and service sector.
Last weekend, Moscow opened 70 vaccination facilities to start delivering Russian-designed Sputnik V vaccines to thousands of doctors, teachers, and municipal workers.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says a new shipment of the vaccine is due to arrive shortly, allowing the city officials to expand the immunization effort to those working in the retail and services sector starting next week.
Russia’s nearly 2.6 million confirmed cases is the fourth-largest caseload in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil. The government task force has recorded 45,893 virus-related deaths since the start of the outbreak.
BOSTON — A study published by the journal Science says as many as 300,000 COVID-19 cases around the world can be traced to a two-day biotech meeting at a hotel in downtown Boston last February.
The study published Thursday says the meeting of Biogen managers resulted in 100 people returning home with the coronavirus who spread it to 29 states and Australia, Slovakia and Sweden.
The study estimates the conference is responsible for about 1.6% of all cases in the United States. It tracked the unique genetic signatures of the virus that could be traced to the Boston event.
The lead author was Jacob Lemieux, an infectious disease doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, but more than 50 researchers were credited.
“If there is a public health message here, it is that the conditions that enable these types of massive super-spreading events to occur are still with us,” Lemieux told The Boston Globe.
Biogen says in a statement it hoped the study would “continue to drive a better understanding of the transmission of this virus and efforts to address it.”
HARTFORD, Conn. — A judge has ordered the release of 17 inmates from a federal prison in Connecticut by Saturday, saying government officials have been too slow in moving medically vulnerable prisoners to home confinement or furlough during the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Hartford issued the order Thursday night as part of a lawsuit by inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury.
A settlement of the lawsuit in July requires the federal Bureau of Prisons to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and have a greater chance of developing serious complications from the virus and release them to home confinement.
The settlement calls for prisoners to be released within 14 days of approval. But lawyers for the inmates say some have been waiting nearly three months. The inmates’ attorneys say they are representing about 450 medically vulnerable prisoners at Danbury, which houses about 1,000 male and female inmates.
The Bureau of Prisons says 30 Danbury inmates and two staff members are infected the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, one inmate has died.
WASHINGTON — The head of the Food and Drug Administration says his agency has told Pfizer that it “will rapidly work” to grant emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine following a positive recommendation by government advisers.
The FDA decision will kickstart an unprecedented vaccination campaign needed to eventually defeat the virus. The FDA’s greenlight of the vaccine, co-developed with BioNtech, was practically assured after the positive vote by agency advisers a day earlier.
The FDA’s brief statement came less than an hour after President Donald Trump tweeted directly at FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, complaining that FDA “is still a big, old, slow turtle.”
FDA staff have repeatedly said they expect to issue a decision within days of Thursday’s meeting. Many FDA observers predict action by Saturday ahead of a Sunday meeting by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The panel of CDC advisers will vote on who should get priority for the initial shots. Federal officials plan to allocate the first 6.4 million doses of the vaccine to states based on their population.
LONDON — Britain is shortening the mandatory self-isolation period for people arriving from overseas and those who come into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases.
The government says starting Monday they will have to quarantine for 10 days rather than 14. The change was agreed by the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It comes amid concerns that many people are not following instructions to self-isolate.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries says reducing the period to 10 days was a “reasonable balance between managing the risk to the public but allowing us not to intrude on their lives.”
The rule for passengers applies to arrivals from everywhere except a list of “safe” countries that have low levels of the virus.
ROME — Italy’s interior minister doesn’t have the coronavirus after all.
The interior ministry says Luciana Lamorgese received a false positive result after a molecular test Monday. That result had forced her to leave a Cabinet meeting as it was under way and raised concern about possible contagion within the government.
Subsequent tests Wednesday and Thursday were negative. The ministry says the original test, done as part of a periodic control, gave an erroneous result.
Italy has seen a strong resurgence of the coronavirus this fall that has spread throughout the country.
BERLIN — Switzerland’s government is ordering restaurants, bars, shops and leisure facilities in most regions to close early as it faces a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
President Simonetta Sommaruga says the requirement to close at 7 p.m. will take effect at midnight Friday and run though Jan. 22.
There will be exceptions for regions where the coronavirus reproduction rate is below 1 and the infection rate below the national average for seven days, where opening until 11 p.m. will be allowed.
Sommaruga says action is needed because infections are rising quickly in most Swiss regions, but “we want to prevent a lockdown.”
Lockdowns in one shape or another have been imposed in many other European countries. Health Minister Alain Berset says the Swiss restrictions are “very moderate” and residents must respect them to avoid tougher measures.
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — California health officials are urging the state’s residents to stay home as much as possible because of a coronavirus surge taxing the state’s hospitals.
But the most recent stay-at-home order allows Californians to do many more activities than the March shutdown that made the state a model on how to respond to the virus. People have been buying Christmas trees, shopping for groceries and hitting the gym since the orders took effect Monday in Southern California and much of the Bay Area and Central Valley.
On Thursday, the state set a one-day record of 220 deaths. Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer is warning of catastrophic consequences if more people don’t heed orders to stay home and within their own household members.
She says hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and may result in “severely ill patients not able to get the care they need.”
PARIS — Even for hospital staff for whom death is a constant, witnessing the loss of a fellow human being to COVID-19 is a churn of emotions.
At the Paris hospital that recorded the first virus death outside Asia, nurses and paramedics in the intensive care unit have their own coping mechanisms. Some use meditation. Others try to remain detached.
But in treating the critically sick, they also become involved emotionally. Some mourn the dead by performing the final washing of their bodies. They also have an in-house psychologist to turn to. They sometimes come to her in a rage or in tears, in need of her hot tea and understanding.
LONDON — Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi say their potential COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until late next year as they seek to improve the shot’s effectiveness in older people.
The companies say early-stage trials showed the vaccine produced an “insufficient” immune response in older adults, demonstrating the need to refine the product so it protects people of all ages.
GSK and Sanofi, based in London and Paris, respectively, say they were confident of the vaccine’s ultimate success due to positive results from other tests.
In adults 18 to 49, the vaccine produced an immune response comparable to patients who had recovered from COVID-19, the companies say.
NEW DEHLI — Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, is increasing its production capacity by the end of 2021 to over 2.5 billion doses a year to cope with future disease outbreaks.
Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla told The Associated Press in an interview that the coronavirus pandemic is a “wake up call” for governments to invest more in health care.
Poonawalla’s company has an annual capacity of 1.5 billion doses. That is more than the billion doses that China, home to the most vaccine makers in the world, says it manufactures in a year.
The Serum Institute has a vital role as the largest company licensed to manufacture the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines. Poonawalla says he anticipates more frequent outbreaks and increasing spread of animal-related diseases to humans