The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 climbed above 91 million on Tuesday, and the U.S. case tally headed toward 23 million, as three Democratic lawmakers who were forced to shelter in place during last week’s attack on the Capitol tested positive for the virus.
Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brad Schneider of Illinois said they believe their diagnoses are a direct result of being crowded into small rooms during the siege with colleagues who did not wear face masks, the Associated Press reported. Experts have worried that the lockdown at the Capitol would become a superspreader event.
Schneider tweeted that that he was worried he may be risking his wife’s health, and blasted the Republican lawmakers who “adamantly refused to wear a mask, even when politely asked to do so by their colleagues.”
The rioting mob are expected to have created a separate superspreader event as most of the people who were televised roaming around the corridors were not wearing face masks, as Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told McClatchy.
“I do think you have to anticipate that this is another surge event,” Redfield said in an interview with the newspaper group. “You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol.”
The U.S. added at least 222,902 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 2,048 people died. The U.S. has averaged 250,721 cases a day for the past week.
There are currently 129,748 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, just below the record of 132,464 set on Jan. 6. The U.S. continues to lead the world by cases, at 22.6 million, and deaths, at 376,695, or about a fifth of the global toll, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
On the vaccine front, the CDC’s tracker shows that as of 9.00 a.m. ET Monday, almost 9 million Americans had received a jab, and 25.5 million doses had been distributed, lagging early targets.
President Donald Trump has left it to states to administer the vaccine program, meaning that stressed state health departments, which have already had to deal with testing, contact tracing, public information campaigns and deciding when or whether schools or businesses should be open or closed, are now tasked with handling the biggest public health effort in decades.
Operation Warp Speed, the federal government program created to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, is expected later Tuesday to announce changes to the vaccine rollout, according to the Washington Post. The administration of incumbent President Donald Trump will make more doses available immediately, rather than holding some back to prepare for second doses. The news comes days after President-elect Joe Biden said he would distribute vaccines immediately.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the program published by the nonprofit health-care think tank on Monday found that while all 50 states are vaccinating health care workers and long-term care residents first, as recommended by the CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), at least 16 are allowing other groups to be vaccinated simultaneously.
States are not obliged to follow the ACIP’s recommendations, but are being encouraged to do so as it gives them a science-based framework to follow that can ultimately help end the pandemic more swiftly.
“Overall, we find states are increasingly diverging from CDC guidance and from each other, suggesting that access to COVID-19 vaccines in these first months of the U.S. vaccine campaign may depend a great deal on where one lives,” the analysis found. “In addition, timelines vary significantly across states, regardless of priority group, resulting in a vaccine rollout labyrinth across the country.”
Meanwhile, a World Health Organization official said that she doesn’t expect to see herd immunity to the coronavirus in 2021 even as mass vaccinations in some countries are already rolling out.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, also urged continued use of public-health mitigation practices, which include mask wearing and social distancing.
“We have to be a little bit patient,” she said during a media briefing. “The vaccines are going to come…[but] we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021 and even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”
In other news:
• Moderna Inc.
expects its COVID-19 vaccine to provide immunity to the virus for at least a year, according to remarks made by a company executive at an investor conference on Monday, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. Moderna developed one of the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. The company is tracking antibodies in participants in its Phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials to better understand what level of antibodies are needed to be protected against infection with the coronavirus. “Our expectation is that the vaccination should last you at least a year to the degree that you need a booster shot,” the executive said. Separately, Moderna’s vaccine was granted emergency use authorization in Switzerland, which has agreed to purchase 7.5 million doses. Ride-sharing company Uber said it will work with Moderna to find ways to support the update of COVID-19 vaccines.
• Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California will host a “super” COVID-19 vaccination site, CNN reported. The resort is expected to become one of several such massive sites where thousands of residents will be able to be dosed. The resort is expected to be up and running later this week. More “super POD sites” will be announced as agreements are finalized, officials said.
• Germany’s strict lockdown could last for another eight to 10 weeks, the Guardian reported. Health officials are worried about the spread of a new variant from the U.K. that is up to 70% more infectious than the original virus. Chancellor Angela Merkel told a working group in her party that cases could increase 10-fold by Easter if more is not done now to contain the spread. Germany has had 1.9 million confirmed cases of the virus, and at least 41,917 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins data.
• China has locked down 4.9 million people in the city of Langfang as new infections raised concerns about a second wave in the country that has mostly contained the virus, Reuters reported. The National Health Commission reported 55 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, down from 103 a day earlier. Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, accounted for 40 of the 42 locally transmitted infections, with the capital and northeastern Heilongjiang province reporting one local case each.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 91 million on Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll rose above 1.9 million. About 50 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 203,580 and is third by cases at 8.1 million. India is second worldwide in cases with 10.5 million, and third in deaths at 151,327.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 134,368 and 13th highest case tally at 1.5 million.
The U.K. has 3.1 million cases and 82,096 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 97,001 confirmed cases and 4,793 deaths, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
Small-business owners turned more pessimistic in December than they have been at any time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic after a record new stage of the viral outbreak and Democratic electoral victories that promise a potentially dramatic shift in economic policy in Washington, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
The closely followed optimism index compiled by the National Federation of Independent Business fell by 5.5 points to 95.9 last month, marking its lowest level since last May.
“This month’s drop in small-business optimism is historically very large, and most of the decline was due to the outlook of sales and business conditions in 2021,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.
Just two months ago, the index topped 104 as it returned near a pre-crisis high.