BALTIMORE — The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has soared to a new daily high in the United States.

Data from Johns Hopkins University indicates the number of confirmed cases reached 184,514 on Friday, as the number of people infected continues to surge.

The Johns Hopkins data shows the seven-day rolling average for virus-related deaths reported daily in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from about 828 on Oct. 30 to 1,047 on Friday, an increase of about 26 percent.

The seven-day rolling positivity rate also rose over the past two weeks from 6.4 to 9.6, an increase of about 50 percent, even as the number of tests performed has grown.

N.D. governor orders statewide mask mandate

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.

The Republican governor’s executive order late Friday comes after months of pressure from health care professionals to require face coverings. The directive requires residents to wear face coverings in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.

The order took effect Saturday. Failure to comply with the mandate is an infraction, with a penalty of up to $1,000, though it’s not clear how it will be enforced.

State health data show North Dakota reached a grim new milestone on Friday, as its COVID-19 death toll eclipsed the 700 mark. The state has reported more than 60,000 coronavirus infections.

Oregon, New Mexico order lockdowns as other states resist

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The governors of Oregon and New Mexico ordered near-lockdowns Friday in the most aggressive response yet to the latest wave of coronavirus infections shattering records across the U.S., even as many of their counterparts in other states show little appetite for reimposing the hard-line restrictions of last spring.

“We are in a life-or-death situation, and if we don’t act right now, we cannot preserve the lives, we can’t keep saving lives, and we will absolutely crush our current health care system and infrastructure,” Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said in imposing a two-week stay-at-home order.

A couple eat indoors at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco on Thursday. With the coronavirus coming back with a vengeance across the country, governors and other elected officials are showing little appetite for reimposing the kind of lockdowns and large-scale business closings seen last spring. Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered a two-week “freeze” starting Wednesday, under which all businesses will be required to close their offices to the public and mandate work-from-home “to the greatest extent possible.”

While most Oregon stores will remain open, gyms, museums, pools, movie theaters and zoos will be forced to close, and restaurants and bars will be limited to takeout. Social gatherings will be restricted to six people.

The Democratic governor warned that violators could face fines or arrest.

“For the last eight months, I have been asking Oregonians to follow to the letter and the spirit of the law, and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement,” Brown said. “At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option.”

Read the full story here.

Vermont restricts bars, social gatherings amid case surge

After Vermont saw its highest daily number of coronavirus cases to date this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced new restrictions on social gatherings Friday, closing bars and clubs to in-person service and banning multiple-household gatherings, both inside and out.

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Nancy Wheeler Sage, lead bartender at the Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vt., pours a beer Friday. After Vermont had its highest daily number of coronavirus cases this week, Gov. Phil Scott has announced new restrictions on social gatherings and bars. He said Friday that bars and clubs will be closed to in-person service, and multiple household gatherings, both inside and out, are prohibited. Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP

He also announced a pause of recreational sports leagues, outside of the Vermont Principal’s Association sanctioned sports.

“I want to be clear: We’re in a new phase of this pandemic. The days of very low risk are over,” the Republican governor said.

Many of the state’s clusters and outbreaks are traced to private gatherings such as baby showers, tailgate parties, deer camps and barbecues “where multiple households are getting together and not wearing masks or staying physically separated for long periods of time,” he said.

The recent surge in cases has come 12 days after Halloween, when people gathered for parties. Such activities are still happening even though the state had been warning against them for weeks, Scott said.

“Since Oct. 1, 71 percent of the cases that are associated with an outbreak are associated with an outbreak from a private party or social gathering,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Read the full story here.

UConn places all its dormitories under quarantine

HARTFORD, Connecticut — The University of Connecticut placed all dormitories under quarantine at its main campus Friday because of rising coronavirus infections, as the state reported a daily record of positive test results.

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A University of Connecticut student pushes a button at a crosswalk outside one of the student dormitories, in Storrs, Conn., in 2015. On Friday, the university announced that it has placed all dormitories at its main campus under quarantine because of rising coronavirus infections. Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office reported 2,746 more people tested positive for COVID-19 compared with Thursday. It was the highest number since testing began in March and the first time that daily positive tests totaled more than 2,000 since April.

UConn officials also announced that all 5,000 residential students in Storrs will be tested before leaving for the Thanksgiving break in two weeks.

UConn placed five more dormitories under full quarantine Friday, adding to the five put under full quarantine on Wednesday, said Eleanor Daugherty, associate vice president and dean of students.

All other residence halls in Storrs are under a “modified” quarantine, meaning students are allowed to leave their dorms only for in-person classes and essential research and clinical activities.

“We don’t have the COVID spread under control,” Daugherty wrote in a notification to students. “This is about family, my friends. We all want to go home and be with our loved ones. It is essential that we return home to our families in our best health.”

New York City schools could close as early as Monday as COVID-19 cases rise

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that parents should “get ready” for schools – which have been operating for weeks on a hybrid system – to close as early as Monday and revert to all-remote learning because of rising covid-19 cases in the city.

The mayor, appearing on WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” has warned for months that schools in the country’s largest school district would close if the city’s coronavirus infection rates rose above 3% on a seven-day rolling average.

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Students at West Brooklyn Community High School listen to questions posed by their principal during a current events-trivia quiz and pizza party in the school’s cafeteria in New York in October. The school recently reopened after a three-week shutdown due to coronavirus cases in the neighborhood. Kathy Willen/Associated Press

The latest data from New York shows that the rate of positive coronavirus tests is not quite there but rising. On Thursday, he tweeted that the rate was 2.6%, and said: “We still have a chance to turn this around. Each and every one of us has a role to play. Let’s get it done.” But by Friday, he said the rate for the city had risen to 2.83% and he issued the warning about schools closing as early as Monday.

Though the infection rate for city schools is less than 1%, according to the latest data, de Blasio and officials in other cities and school districts are making decisions based on community infection rates.

The potential closure of New York City schools comes amid an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases around the country. For the seventh time in nine days, the United States on Thursday broke records in the number of coronavirus cases – 153,000 – as some states are ordering new restriction and a number of school districts are closing or planning to in states around the country.

Virtually all schools were shuttered last spring when the coronavirus pandemic began in the United States, and districts struggled to reopen this fall for the 2020-21 school year.

Most reopened with a hybrid model – some students learning at home and some at school – though many families opted to keep their children at home for all-remote classes. New York City opened its schools for the 2020-21 school year last month after several delays and a threatened teachers’ strike.

First Caribbean cruise ends with six suspected COVID cases

The first cruise to sail the Caribbean since the pandemic shuttered the industry has returned early to Barbados after passengers got preliminary positive test results for COVID-19.

In a statement Thursday, SeaDream Yacht Club didn’t say how many passengers had received positive tests. But Sue Bryant, a journalist for the U.K.’s Times and Sunday Times newspapers who was on board, wrote on Twitter that five people had tested positive and there was a possible sixth case.

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The cruise ship SeaDream 1 at the quay in Bodoe, Norway, Wednesday Aug. 5. Sondre Skjelvik/NTB Scanpix via AP

On Wednesday, a reporter for the Points Guy website who was also on the SeaDream 1 ship, Gene Sloan, wrote that an initial person had tested positive, citing an intercom announcement from Captain Torbjorn Lund.

All guests and nonessential crew are quarantining in staterooms as the ship awaits authorization to disembark in Barbados, according to the company. Crew tests all came back negative, SeaDream said.

According to the Points Guy report, there are 53 passengers and 66 crew on the vessel.

The episode comes as larger cruise companies, including Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., are seeking to prove the safety of the industry so they can sail again from the U.S. Since March, the capital-intensive industry has been essentially on hold, with companies hemorrhaging cash just to maintain vessels until they can take paying customers again.

Cruise companies’ shares were rebounding early Friday from declines on Thursday. At 7:57 a.m. in New York, Carnival was up 3%, Royal Caribbean had risen 1.2% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. had gained 2.1%.

The SeaDream Yacht Company did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails, but in a statement the company said all passengers were subjected to two Covid-19 tests before embarking, and they’re all being retested.

The SeaDream Yacht Company, with offices in Miami and Oslo, had planned at least 22 cruises from Bridgetown, Barbados in coming weeks.

More than 130 Secret Service officers infected or quarantining in wake of Trump’s campaign travel

More than 130 Secret Service officers who help protect the White House and the president when he travels have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers, according to three people familiar with agency staffing.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to a series of campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to the people, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the situation.

The outbreak comes as coronavirus cases have been rapidly rising across the nation, with more than 152,000 new cases reported Thursday.

The virus is having a dramatic impact on the Secret Service’s presidential security unit at the same time that growing numbers of prominent Trump campaign allies and White House officials have fallen ill in the wake of campaign events, where many attendees did not wear masks.

Among those who are infected are White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and outside political advisers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

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U.S. Secret Service Police stand outside the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Washington, as a news conference by President Donald Trump was paused. Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

In addition, at least eight staffers at the Republican National Committee, including Chief of Staff Richard Walters, have the virus, according to officials at the organization. Some of those infected are in field offices across the country, including Pennsylvania, where some believe they were exposed in large staff gatherings, an official said.

As Trump stews over election, he mostly ignores the public duties of the presidency

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the administration takes “every case seriously.” He referred questions about the Secret Service outbreak to agency officials. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service declined to comment.

Trump went on a travel blitz in the final stretch of the campaign, making five campaign stops on each of the last two days. On Nov. 2, Trump’s campaign schedule required five separate groups of Secret Service officers — each numbering 20 to several dozen — to travel to Fayetteville, N.C.; Scranton, Pa.; Traverse City, Mich.; and Kenosha and Grand Rapids, Wis.; to screen spectators and secure the perimeter around the president’s events. President-elect Joe Biden made two campaign stops that day that also required Secret Service protection, but in smaller numbers.

The agency is also examining whether some portion of the current infections are not travel-related, one government official said, but instead trace back to the site where many Secret Service officers report for duty each day: the White House.

Read the full story here.

California, Oregon, Washington issue virus travel advisories

SACRAMENTO, Calif.  — The governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued travel advisories Friday urging people entering their states or returning from outside the states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said.

The advisories urge people to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country and encourage residents to stay local, a statement said.

“California just surpassed a sobering threshold – one million COVID-19 cases – with no signs of the virus slowing down,” Newsom wrote. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a social media video Thursday, “If we do not act immediately we will soon reach a breaking point.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee sounded a similar warning.

“We have to rethink spending time with people from outside our households right now, including Thanksgiving and the December holidays,” he wrote on social media. “This is temporary. We will get back to normal. But right now, it is just too dangerous to gather.”

On Monday, San Francisco and 10 other health officers in the Bay Area issued a joint advisory, urging residents to self-quarantine for two weeks should they leave the region, especially if they’ve traveled on a plane or train where people did not wear masks at all times. Some counties also say the recommendation also applies to people traveling into the region from outside the area.

California becomes 2nd state to hit 1 million virus infections

LOS ANGELES — California has become the second state to record 1 million confirmed coronavirus infections. Texas reached the mark earlier this week.

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Romelia Navarro, 64, weeps while hugging her husband, Antonio, in his final moments in a COVID-19 unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. in July. This month, California is reaching an unwelcome coronavirus record: its 1 millionth positive test. Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed Thursday that California surpassed the milestone. It comes nearly 10 months after the first cases were confirmed in the most populous state.

California was the first in the nation to implement a statewide stay-at-home order on its nearly 40 million residents in March.

After spiking in the summer, the rate of confirmed cases in California declined markedly into the fall but now is surging again, like much of the nation. This week, 11 counties had rates high enough that state restrictions were re-imposed on certain businesses and activities.

Microsoft: Russian, North Korean hackers are targeting vaccine data

BOSTON  — Microsoft said it has detected attempts by state-backed Russian and North Korean hackers to steal valuable data from leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers.

It said in a blog post Friday that most of the attacks in recent months were unsuccessful, but provided no information on how many succeeded or how serious those breaches were.

Chinese state-backed hackers have also been targeting vaccine-makers, the U.S. government said in July while announcing criminal charges.

Microsoft said most of the targets — located in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States — were “directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.” It did not name the targets but said most had vaccine candidates in various stages of clinical trials.

The company identified one of the state-backed hacker groups as Fancy Bear, the Russian military agents who Britain’s National Cyber Security Center said in July were behind such intrusion attempts. Two others were North Korea’s Lazarus Group and a group Microsoft calls Cerium.

Most of the break-in efforts involved attempts to steal the login credentials of people associated with the targeted organizations. The Lazarus Group posed as job recruiters while Cerium targeted spear-phishing emails that masqueraded as missives from World Health Organization representatives, Microsoft said.

87-year-old House rep from Alaska tests positive for virus

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Don Young says he has the coronavirus, shortly after winning his 25th term in the U.S. House.

The 87-year-old Young, the longest-serving Republican in the House, made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.

“I am feeling strong, following proper protocols, working from home in Alaska and ask for privacy at this time,” Young wrote in a tweet. “May God Bless Alaska.”

The diagnosis came after Young initially downplayed the seriousness of the virus at the onset, claiming it was overblown and fueled by the media. Young’s positive test came after he was campaigning for re-election in Alaska, which is experiencing a surge of cases. Alaska has more than 20,000 cases, including 477 cases reported Thursday. There have been 96 confirmed deaths.

U.S. airport screenings caught only 9 coronavirus cases out of 766,000 travelers, CDC study finds

Screening passengers for coronavirus symptoms at U.S. airports proved woefully ineffective and identified only nine coronavirus cases among more than 766,000 travelers, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the study is the latest to demonstrate that conducting temperature checks and quizzing people about whether they’ve experienced coronavirus symptoms does little to stop the spread of infections. While instituting screening protocols at airports required “considerable resources,” only one case was detected for roughly every 85,000 travelers, the researchers found.

The CDC’s screening requirements were initially instituted in January and applied only to travelers from Wuhan, but were later expanded to cover all of mainland China as well as Iran, Brazil and most of Europe. In mid-September, the agency terminated the program in favor of other preventive measures like encouraging the use of masks and pre-departure testing.

Only one infection was detected for roughly every 85,000 travelers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found. Associated Press/David Zalubowski

Of the 766,044 passengers screened during the eight months the program was active, only 298 reported potential exposure or symptoms that required an additional assessment. Of that number, just 35 were tested for the coronavirus, with only nine of the results coming back positive.

The fact that the coronavirus has a relatively long incubation period probably contributed to the lack of success in identifying potentially infectious passengers, as did the fact that many patients never experience symptoms, the CDC report concluded. Another contributing factor may have been “travelers who might deny symptoms or take steps to avoid detection of illness.”

The findings highlight “the need for fundamental change in the U.S. border health strategy,” the researchers say. In particular, they suggest that requiring testing both before and after flights — as well as a quarantine period for people coming from known coronavirus hot spots — would be more effective than symptom-based screening.

 


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