Coronavirus Update: U.S. reaches daily high of nearly 228,000 COVID-19 cases with California in focus; Russia starts vaccinations

A Russian medical worker administers a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow on Saturday. Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations in Moscow, a precursor to a sweeping Russia-wide immunization effort.


AP

Coronavirus infections continue to spread at record levels in the United States, reaching a new daily high of nearly 228,000 cases on Friday.

 

The 227,885 cases eclipses the previous high of more than 217,000 on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 attributable deaths in the U.S. has passed 2,000 for the first time since the spring. It reached 2,011 on Friday. Two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 1,448. There were 2,607 deaths reported in the U.S. on Friday.

Read: CDC forecasts up to 19,500 deaths from COVID-19 in week ending Dec. 26

Globally, Johns Hopkins reports more than 1.5 million people have died from the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 279,000 in the United States.

Read: Biden wants Americans to wear masks for 100 days — do they protect against COVID-19 or merely promote healthy behavior?

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

A coronavirus surge hitting much of the U.S. is threatening to overwhelm hospitals in California. Five San Francisco Bay Area counties have imposed a new stay-at-home order for their residents that will take effect Sunday. Much of the rest of the state could join this weekend. In Washington, optimism is finally building for a COVID-19 aid bill that would offer relief for businesses, the unemployed, schools and health care providers. In Moscow, thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of a Russia-wide immunization effort, though the Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

Read: California on the brink: Virus rages and closures imminent

Don’t miss: Bank workers could get COVID vaccines before most Americans

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MOSCOW — Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up Saturday for a coronavirus vaccination in Moscow.

The vaccination effort comes three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of a “large-scale” immunization campaign even though a Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols.

The Russian leader said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V shot will be available in the next few days, allowing authorities to offer shots to medical workers and teachers across the country starting late next week.

On Saturday, Russia reported a record 28,782 daily cases, including 7,993 in Moscow. Russia’s 2.4 million confirmed cases is the fourth-largest caseload in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil.

There’s been 42,684 total confirmed deaths in Russia.

Read: What we still don’t know about COVID vaccines after the U.K.’s emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate

NEW DELHI — India has registered 36,652 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

India’s health ministry on Saturday also recorded 512 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total deaths to nearly 140,000. The pace of new cases has seen a downward trend, with single-day cases remaining below the 50,000 mark for a month.

India has 9.6 million total cases, second behind the U.S. with 14.3 million. But globally it has one of the lowest deaths per million population, according to the Health Ministry.

India’s home ministry has allowed states to impose local restrictions, such as night curfews. It has asked state officials to consult before imposing lockdowns at state, district or city levels.

CASPER, Wyo. — An official in Wyoming’s Department of Health involved in the state’s response to the coronavirus is questioning the legitimacy of the pandemic and describes a forthcoming vaccine as a biological weapon.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Igor Shepherd called COVID-19 a “so-called pandemic” at a Nov. 10 event in Loveland, Colorado. It says Shepherd described efforts to develop a vaccine as a plot by Russia and China to spread communism worldwide.

Shepherd was introduced as a Wyoming Department of Health employee before his presentation.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and other top state officials have declined to comment.

VENTNOR, N.J. — The FBI is telling anyone who underwent a coronavirus test at a New Jersey laboratory to get retested and to contact the agency.

In a statement Friday on Twitter, the FBI’s Newark office urges people who were recently tested for the virus at Infinity Diagnostic Laboratory in Ventnor “to be retested as soon as possible.” It also asks that anyone who was administered a finger-prick blood test at the laboratory to contact a victim assistance unit at the FBI.

The announcement gave no further details, and a message left with the FBI seeking further information was not immediately returned.

Voicemail for the company’s operations director Friday evening said it was closed and didn’t offer the opportunity to leave a message.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has authorized medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for hospitals that are overstretched on staffing while they care for a climbing number of coronavirus patients.

The order Friday allows the adjutant general to send hospitals reinforcements from the Tennessee National Guard. The state is focusing on troops who are actively assigned, including those serving in coronavirus testing roles statewide, but not those currently serving in civilian jobs in health care.

State health officials decline to identify which hospitals have expressed interest, but say there is need statewide.

The state reports 2,485 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with only 14% of floor beds and 8% of ICU beds available.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge agreed to name a third-party expert to scrutinize the COVID-19 response within North Carolina’s prison system, which like the rest of the state is experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Ruling again in ongoing litigation about health and safety within prisons, Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier said he’s worried about the pressure the coronavirus is now placing upon correctional institutions.

The prison system closed temporarily three units over the last two weeks to handle staffing challenges, brought on in part by the upward swing in positive cases and the medical care prisoners need.

The Department of Public Safety says 370 correctional staff testing positive for coronavirus were out of work Friday, up 50 workers from last week. There were 667 active cases among the roughly 30,000 prisoners statewide. Twenty-five prisoners have died from COVID-19-related illnesses since the pandemic.

ATLANTA — Georgia’s coronavirus infections are soaring above their worst peaks of the summer, resulting in more hospitalizations and more deaths.

Hitting a new single-day record of more than 6,000 suspected and confirmed infections on Friday pushed Georgia’s rolling seven-day average of infections to nearly 4,300. That average was above its previous July record for the second day in a row.

Hospitalizations have not reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday.

Georgia has now recorded 9,725 confirmed and suspected deaths.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — States faced a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month.

New daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care unit beds fell below 10% statewide. Pennsylvania’s top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.

SALEM, Ore. — As Oregon reached a new record number for reported daily coronavirus cases and deaths, lawmakers, advocates and others continue to call on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to declare a special legislative session.

The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported 2,100 new cases and 30 deaths. The previous daily records have been 1,699 cases and 24 deaths. Oregon also surpassed 80,000 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.

Housing advocates in the state are asking the Legislature to act on a proposal to extend a statewide eviction moratorium until July 1. The current eviction moratorium, which was ordered at the beginning of the pandemic, is scheduled to lapse on Dec. 31.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them in the second phase for possible vaccinations.

Kelly says the Kansas vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure.

She says the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.

The Democratic governor says members of the Legislature will get vaccinated at different times, based on their risk of being exposed or developing serious complications.

Next week, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to grant emergency authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Kansas has reported 168,295 confirmed cases, an increase of 6,234 since Wednesday, and 1,786 total confirmed deaths.

ATLANTA — Vice President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.

At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.

Pence said “the confidence piece is so important” so that enough Americans will take the vaccine and ensure its maximum effectiveness. Pence called on “all of us in public life” to vouch for the process that got vaccines to the cusp of mass distribution.

“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”

Pence’s comments come the day after former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to take a vaccine on television to boost confidence.

Read: When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine? Will the shots be free? Your vaccine questions, answered

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. health chief says positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials are encouraging but warns against poorer nations being left behind in “the stampede for vaccines.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He says vaccines must be shared “as global public goods.”

Referring to the upsurge in cases and deaths: “Where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”

Tedros urged all nations to unite and build the post-pandemic world by investing in vaccines, preparedness against the next pandemic and basic public health.

Tedros says Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, faces a $4.3 billion gap and needs $23.9 billion for 2021.

He says the total is less than one-half of one percent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries.

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