By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
• Grim milestones in U.S.: record one-day deaths, cases and hospitalizations
• President-elect Biden will ask Americans to wear face masks for 100 days after inauguration
• Fauci to become chief medical adviser in Biden administration
• California issues regional stay-at-home orders as cases spike
The U.S. set yet another record for new cases and fatalities in a single day from the coronavirus illness COVID-19, and the nation’s leading public health agency said there could be up to 19,500 deaths in the week ended Dec. 26.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said forecasts for deaths over the next four weeks that it received from 37 modeling groups created a so-called national ensemble forecast that predicts 303,000 to 329,000 COVID-19 deaths in the four-week period. An ensemble forecast combines each of the independently developed forecasts into one aggregate forecast to improve prediction over the next four weeks.
“The state- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that over the next 4 weeks, the number of newly reported deaths per week will likely increase in 23 jurisdictions,” the CDC said.
President-elect Joe Biden said he plans to urge Americans to wear a face mask in public for 100 days after his inauguration in January. “On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction” in the virus, Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview.
The president-elect also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration, “in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said he’s asked Fauci, viewed as the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, to be a “chief medical adviser” as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team.
The moves mark a stark contrast to the pandemic approach of presidential lincumbent Donald Trump, who has played down the gravity of the crisis throughout, pooh-poohed the wearing of face masks to the point that many of his supporters continue to refuse to do so, said the virus would just disappear, and belittled Fauci. Trump has made no comment in recent days as cases and deaths have set fresh records. Experts fear those records will be shattered in the next week or so, as infections caused by Thanksgiving travel start to emerge.
The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers at airports on at least four days during the Thanksgiving period, the Associated Press reported. Vehicle travel was 20% lower than a year ago but peaked on Thanksgiving Day at just 5% less than in 2019, according to an analysis conducted by StreetLightData for the Associated Press.
“People were less willing to change their behavior than any other day during the pandemic,” Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data, told the AP.
If only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, it could mean hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another, Dr. Cindy Friedman, a CDC official, said this week in a press briefing.
The U.S. recorded another 217,664 new cases on Thursday and at least 2,879 deaths, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has counted more than 100,000 new cases every day since the Nov. 3 election.
There were a record of 100,667 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, breaking the high-water mark set a day earlier. The U.S. continues to lead the world by cases at 14.2 million, and deaths at 277,412. With 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for about 20% of global cases and deaths.
Things are so dire in California that the government has issued regional stay-at-home orders for those areas with overloaded intensive-care units. Gov. Gavin Newsom said four of the state’s five regions — Northern California, Greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California (excluding only the Bay Area) — could meet that threshold “within a day or two.” A litany of changes would take effect, including closing hair salons, barber shops and movie theaters. Restaurants would only serve takeout and delivery, and playgrounds would be off-limits.
In medical news, Moderna Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.09% said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate has potential to confer longer-term immunity, and it expects to have 20 million doses of the trial vaccine at hand in the U.S. this year.
Moderna said that, according to a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases study, participants in an earlier trial stage of the vaccine candidate retained “high levels of neutralizing antibodies” for three months following their first vaccination (two months following their second vaccination).
The study said that the vaccine has the potential to provide durable immunity, with no serious adverse effects after two months.
In other news:
• The World Health Organization is considering introducing electronic vaccination certificates for individuals to show they have received one, WHO Europe expert Siddartha Datta said in on online news briefing. It would not be an immunity passport, which is supposed to assure that its carrier is protected against the disease because they have been infected and recovered. “We do not recommend immunity passports, said Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer for the organization’s Europe region.
• Teachers, doctors and social workers in Moscow are signing up at a rate of 1,000 an hour for the coronavirus vaccination drive that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this week, the Moscow Times reported. Neighboring Ukraine’s health minister, Maskym Stepanov, told Ukraine 24 TV that Ukraine will not be deploying the Russian vaccine because of its questionable efficacy. “As for the Russian vaccine, I have said multiple times that it does not exist,” he said. “There is no point in discussing it because they already registered a vaccine that is yet to go through the [most important] Phase 3 trials.”
• Chinese drug company Clover Biopharmaceuticals said two vaccine candidates it is developing achieved strong immune responses in an early-stage clinical trial, Reuters reported. The vaccine candidates, one containing an adjuvant from GlaxoSmithKline /zigman2/quotes/209463850/composite GSK +0.93% /zigman2/quotes/200381158/delayed UK:GSK +1.13% and the other from Dynavax /zigman2/quotes/203017054/composite DVAX -1.13% , induced strong immune responses including neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity in a Phase 1 clinical trial, Clover said. Adjuvants are ingredients that can boost immune responses.