The deadly reality of America’s bitter battle against coronavirus was obvious to families that gathered across the country for Thanksgiving dinner: There were empty seats around the table.
In Deer Park, New York, Vivian Zayas replaced a seat from the table at her home with her late mother’s walker. She scrolled through photos of last Thanksgiving, when her mother, Ana Martinez, who died in April of COVID-19, stood at the stove making a pot of rice and beans.
For Jessica Franz, a nurse who works the graveyard shift at Olathe Medical Center in a Kansas suburb, a typical year would have her mother-in-law laying out a feast for her children. That didn’t happen this year: Elaine Franz died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, a day before her 78th birthday.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to rise, hitting a record for the 17th straight day Thursday with more than 90,400 admissions, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Tuesday and Wednesday saw record deaths of over 2,100 each day, according to John Hopkins University data.
Every minute, 114 Americans are testing positive for COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Every hour, 65 Americans are dying.
The turnaround time for test results is lagging, too. Amid a record demand ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend, Quest Diagnostics said this week that it’s taking up to three days to complete a test after receiving a sample. LabCorp, another large private lab company, reported tests now taking up to two days.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.8 million cases and over 263,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. This week week, five states set death records and 23 states had higher case counts than last week. The global totals: more than 61 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Clearing snow from roads and sidewalks is never a cakewalk in Vermont. This winter, the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered to plow crews — and the general public — a thicker slice of uncertainty.
Predictions are tough when it comes to a new disease like COVID, said Dennis Lutz, director of public works in Essex, Vermont: “We’ve never been down this road before.” He spelled out the three-tier alerts his department might issue if COVID cases rise — green, yellow and red. Red signals delays from 24 to 48 hours, with half of the town’s licensed plow-truck drivers unable to work.
Lutz’s counterparts in other communities have similar contingency plans in place. And, as usual, some plans will fall short, Lutz added: “At the end of the day, nothing’s foolproof.”
– Joel Banner Baird, Burlington Free Press
AstraZeneca said it plans to conduct a new global clinical trial to assess the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy. The news comes after the company and the university acknowledged a dosing error in trials.
AstraZeneca said an additional trial shouldn’t delay regulatory approval in Britain or the European Union – but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could take longer.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot does not need to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it potentially easier to distribute. It is also cheaper, because AstraZeneca has agreed not to profit from it during the pandemic.
Experts warn of worsening COVID surge during holidays
Thanksgiving may be the beginning of a dark holiday season as the surge in coronavirus cases is likely to persist, or even get worse, through December, January and February.
“If the surge takes a turn of continuing to go up and you have the sustained greater than 100,000 infections a day and 1,300 deaths per day and the count keeps going up and up … I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with USA TODAY last week.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said the country is in a vulnerable position heading into the holiday season because infections are too high to control likely winter surges.
Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations and chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, said “we need to be extra careful these upcoming extra couple of weeks in order to avoid pain and suffering.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Australian state reports 28 days without new cases, deaths
Australian state Victoria has recorded no new coronavirus cases or deaths for 28 consecutive days, the Department of Health and Human Services tweeted Thursday. With no active cases, Victoria joins New Zealand and China in having been largely successful in eliminating the virus.
According to Victoria’s government website, the state now can start preparing for normal: triggers for moving toward a “COVID normal” level of restrictions were 28 days without new cases and zero active cases. But because there exists active virus cases in other states, Victoria will stay in “prevention mode,” reported local news ABC.
Still, it was a welcome sign in the state, which, as of Aug. 11, had peaked at 7,880 active cases.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tests positive
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has tested positive for coronavirus.
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Jackson’s positive COVID-19 test to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
NFL Network was the first to report the positive test.
The Ravens reported additional positive tests earlier Thursday, the day their game against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers was originally scheduled to be played. The contest has been postponed to Sunday at 1:15 p.m. ET on NBC. All signs point to backup Robert Griffin III starting behind center with Jackson out.
– Chris Bumbaca
Oregon fines gym $90K for violating COVID order
Oregon officials have fined Courthouse Club Fitness $90,000 for defying Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 order and remaining open throughout the state’s two-week “freeze.”
Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency tasked with enforcing compliance to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, said the penalty is the result of citations against each of the club’s four facilities near Salem.
Last week, Gov. Kate Brown ordered a statewide two-week “freeze” that aimed to limit group activities and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, where cases have reached a record high. The freeze will last until Dec. 3, except for 21 counties in the state, which will still be under coronavirus restrictions.
– Whitney Woodworth, Salem Statesman Journal
WHO encourages exercise even in pandemic
In guidelines for people of all ages released Wednesday, the World Health Organization emphasized the need to be physically active and limit the amount of sedentary time, which for some may have increased because of restrictions imposed to limit spread of the coronavirus.
“Every type of movement counts,” even in a pandemic, the WHO said.
Adults should get 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, and that includes older adults and those with chronic conditions or disabilities, the WHO said. Children should spend an hour a day in moderate to vigorous activity. Four million to 5 million deaths a year would be averted if people were more active, the WHO said.
– Ryan Miller
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press