Bending the curve: On Wednesday, the United States set new records for daily Covid deaths, hospitalizations and new cases, Tim Stelloh reports for NBC News. But new records were set a day later, as 2,857 people died and more than 216,500 tested positive on Thursday, according to The New York Times. In some states, the situation is escalating rapidly: New cases in New Mexico are up 109 percent, with the rise in infections similarly high in Arizona (90 percent) and California (75 percent). Cases resulting from Thanksgiving gatherings will emerge between 7 and 10 days after the holiday and will likely continue trending upward. “Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing,” Dr. Henry Walke, the Covid-19 incident manager for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters. “We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 14.2 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, and about 277,000 have died.
- Also: As the number of Californians hospitalized with Covid soared to record highs, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that regional stay-at-home orders will go into effect once the capacity of hospital intensive care units drops below 15 percent in the region, the Los Angeles Times reports. Counties in the region will then be under new restrictions. “The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost.” The city of Los Angeles issued a new stay-at-home order that prohibits gatherings of people outside immediate households, with a few exceptions for religious services and protests. The order follows a suspension of outdoor dining in most areas of Los Angeles County.
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New wave: Europe is overwhelmed with a deadly second wave as well, fueled by summer vacation travel and a rush to reopen even faster than the European Commission recommended, The New York Times reports. For example: One particular virulent strain seems to have been spreading in Spain, first among farmworkers with few protections against the virus, but eventually to tourist spots, until those tourists took the virus back home with them, Xavier Fontdegloria and Max Colchester report for The Wall Street Journal. Tourists also carried the virus into parts of the continent that had largely escaped the first wave of contagion in the spring, like the coast of Croatia and the islands of Greece and Italy. “It should have been obvious to everyone that allowing travel allows the introduction of new cases into an otherwise unexposed area,” said Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh. Europe also still lacks the robust systems for testing, contact tracing and isolating that have helped keep the pandemic in check in East Asia, and as fatigue set in, social distancing compliance slipped.
- Also: Globally, more than 65 million people have contracted coronavirus, and more than 1.5 million have died, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. The U.K. is the first Western nation to approve use of a coronavirus vaccine, giving the green light to drug developers Pfizer and BioNTech, CNN reports. The first shots will be administered next week. “Help is on the way,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Jobless report: Only 245,000 jobs came back in November, Neil Irwin writes for The New York Times, a figure so paltry that at that rate it would take 29 more months to return to the employment rate in February. But the long-term damage of this crisis is only just beginning to show up: The number of adults who are neither working nor actively seeking work rose by 560,000, and the number of Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks increased by 385,000.
Captain indicted: Jerry Boylan, the captain of the dive boat that caught fire off the coast of Santa Barbara, California last year killing 34 passengers and crew, has been indicted for 34 counts of manslaughter, Matt Hamilton and Richard Winton report for the Los Angeles Times. At a National Transportation Safety Board hearing this fall, it was revealed that many of the people below deck were awake, and some even had their shoes on, but could not escape the fire, contradicting previous assertions that they were killed as they slept. Prosecutors have faulted Boylan for violating safety protocols, including a failure to have a roving watchperson who could have detected the fire sooner and saved lives. “As a result of the alleged failures of Captain Boylan to follow well-established safety rules, a pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunkroom with no means of escape,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.
A win for Big Tobacco: A federal court has once again postponed the date by which tobacco companies must put graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, this time to 2022, Dave Simpson reports for Law360. In March, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that cigarettes must carry new graphic warnings that include lesser-known but still serious health risks of smoking, like diabetes. The warnings include: “Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation,” “Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth” and “Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.” But as tobacco companies seek to rescind the rule, they have argued that if they prevail in court, having to implement the graphic warnings in the meantime will cause them irreparable financial harm.
- Also: The National Medical Association, which represents thousands of African American physicians, has joined a lawsuit seeking to force the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of menthol in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Other plaintiffs include the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health and the American Medical Association.
Business imperative: Dozens of U.S. companies including Amazon, General Motors and Walmart have signed a letter asking President-elect Joe Biden and lawmakers to re-enter the Paris Agreement, Catherine Thorbecke reports for ABC News, calling action on climate change a “business imperative.” Biden vowed to rejoin the Paris climate agreement before he won the White House. The letter did not include any specific pledges or concrete steps on how the companies themselves will address climate change. Stephen Harper, senior director of environment and energy policy for Intel, one of the signatories, told The Wall Street Journal that he hopes vocal support from the private sector will give congressional Republicans cover to cooperate with Democrats on climate legislation.
Wildfire season, continued: A house fire that began Wednesday evening in Orange County 50 miles from downtown Los Angeles quickly became a large wildfire covering more than 6,000 acres, NBC News reported. Powerful gusts between 55 and 80 mph helped spread the flames, and as those winds are forecast to continue, the fire is expected to burn through the weekend. As of late Thursday, it was just 10 percent contained. Some 25,000 residents were urged to evacuate the area.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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