Grim milestone: The number of people killed by the coronavirus in the U.S. surpassed a quarter million this week, and tops 253,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. That’s enough to empty out dozens of counties in the country’s heartland if all the deaths were consolidated in a central place, Lauren Tierney and Tim Meko report for The Washington Post, with accompanying graphics. Another visualization shows a month-by-month map of the counties as they hit the peak number of cases, with virtually the entire interior of the country lit up in November. Consequently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving next week, The Wall Street Journal reports, as even gathering with one extra household poses too great a risk. “The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members, from coming together in this family gathering, actually could end up being hospitalized and severely ill and die,” Henry Walke, the incident manager for the CDC Covid-19 response, told reporters. In a joint op-ed in The Washington Post, the governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky (five Democrats, two Republicans) also urged Americans to stay home for the holiday. “Think about your last Thanksgiving and the people you were surrounded by — your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, or the family you have chosen for yourself,” they write. “As hard as it will be to not see them this Thanksgiving, imagine how much harder it would be if their chairs are empty next year.”
- Also: James Barron writes in The New York Times that someone died of Covid-19 in the U.S. every 54 seconds on Tuesday, which had the highest one day death total since mid-May. Mexico has become the eleventh country to record more than a million coronavirus cases, and the fourth to report more than 100,000 deaths–behind the U.S., Brazil and India.
Emergency use: Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to authorize emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine the company developed in partnership with the German company BioNTech, and which so far appears to be 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study, Lauran Neergaard reports for the Associated Press. If the vaccine is approved, the companies could bring out the first round of shots as early as December, although the vaccine would still not be widely available to the public for months—not until after a long winter.
- Also: The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for the first Covid home test, but has made it available by prescription only. The test, expected to cost around $50, will be available to patients of Northern California’s Sutter Health and South Florida’s Cleveland Clinic in the near future, but won’t be widely available until spring 2021, Teo Armus and Meryl Kornfield report for The Washington Post.
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No relief in sight: As coronavirus cases surge and the economy weakens, there is still no sign that Senate Republicans and House Democrats are interested in compromising on a second coronavirus relief bill, Sahil Kapur reports for NBC News. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon criticized the politicians for their inaction, saying, “I know now we have this big debate. Is it $2.2 trillion, $1.5 trillion? You gotta be kidding me. I mean just split the baby and move on. This is childish behavior on the part of our politicians.”
- Also: Members of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory board say that Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his election loss is impeding their pandemic response, Alice Miranda Ollstein reports for Politico. They can’t consult with federal health officials, access real-time data on available hospital beds, or check on the supplies in the National Strategic Stockpile.
Back on track? Greenhouse gases generated by the U.S. economy will fall 9.2 percent this year because of economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, to levels not seen since the early 1980s, Steven Mufson writes for The Washington Post. Ironically, this puts the country back on track to meet the commitments the Obama administration made in the Paris climate agreement in December 2015, even though the Trump administration pulled the country out of the Paris accords. Unfortunately, the rampant forest fires that tore through the West this summer have offset part of the decrease in other carbon emissions. The BloombergNEF analysts who crunched the numbers say that emissions in 2021 are likely to still be 5 percent lower than in 2019.
Approved to fly: Boeing’s 737 Max jets have been cleared for passenger flights again by U.S. regulators, after two crashes in relatively short succession claimed 346 lives and grounded the jets for a year and a half and forced the company to make safety fixes and improve pilot education, Andrew Tangel and Andy Pasztor report for The Wall Street Journal. But the world isn’t the same as when the jets were put out of commission in March 2019, with the coronavirus pandemic seriously depressing the market for air travel and leading some airline companies to cancel orders for Boeing’s jets, with hundreds more orders in jeopardy. Overcoming the reluctance of some travelers to fly the planes could also be a challenge.
Dam down: Pending approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the states of California and Oregon, along with the Warren Buffet-owned utility PacifiCorp, have struck a deal that would remove four massive hydroelectric dams from the lower Klamath River and clear the way for “the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history,” writes Gillian Flaccus for the Associated Press. Salmon populations in the lower Klamath have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years, and the deal was celebrated by regional Native American tribes and environmentalists. “This dam removal is more than just a concrete project coming down,” Yurok Tribe chairman Joseph James said. “To me, this is who we are, to have a free-flowing river just as those who have come before us … Our way of life will thrive with these dams being out.”
Stretching the truth: Patients experiencing excruciating back pain sometimes pay thousands of dollars for treatment on spinal decompression devices, including one called the DRX9000, without any substantial scientific evidence that the device works, John Hill reports for FairWarning. After reviewing lawsuits, studies, government documents and chiropractic websites, and interviewing experts, Hill found that in spite of a number of state regulatory actions in the 2000s against Axiom Worldwide, the original manufacturer of the DRX9000, the devices and the too-good-to-be-true claims are still pervasive, and regulators don’t seem interested in sanctioning the people peddling them. The history of the device includes a dubious study by a doctor who was convicted of sending two thugs to rough up his ex-wife—the daughter of film star John Wayne—and her boyfriend, whose Achilles’ tendon was slashed in the attack.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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