• U.S. added record 4.2 million COVID-19 cases in November
• Osterholm says there’s light at the end of tunnel in form of promising vaccines
• Vietnam records its first case of local transmission in almost three months
The U.S. set a record for hospitalizations with the coronavirus illness COVID-19 on Tuesday at almost 100,000 patients, and health experts worried that the situation will worsen in the coming weeks after millions of Americans traveled around and across the country for the Thanksgiving holiday.
There are currently 96,039 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, breaking the record of 93,265 set a day ago. The peak for hospitalizations during earlier case surges were 59,712 on July 23 and 59,773 on April 21.
Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory panel, told CBS the numbers could go much higher.
“What happened during Thanksgiving is a lot like a 100-mile-an-hour wind going into a forest fire,” Osterholm said. Things could get even worse over Christmas, when many more people are expected to travel, he said.
Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of promising vaccine candidates, but, said Osterholm, “we have to get to the end of the tunnel. I think what is really sobering today is the challenges we have before we’re going to see most Americans have access to a vaccine.”
Others agreed and noted the impact a vaccine will have on the economy’s recovery.
On the vaccine front, Pfizer Inc.
and partner BioNTech SE
have submitted their COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2 for conditional marketing authorization, or CMA, from the European Medicines Agency. If the agency recommends granting a CMA, that could lead to use of BNT162b2 in Europe before the end of 2020. The companies submitted BNT162b2 for emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 20. On Monday, Moderna Inc.
filed for an emergency-use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and said it would apply for CMA with the European regulator.
‘What happened during Thanksgiving is a lot like a 100-mile-an-hour wind going into a forest fire.’
The U.S. counted another 167,756 cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 1,265 people died. The U.S. has averaged 160,387 cases a day over the last week. Cases are rising in 38 states and territories, while deaths are climbing in 34 states and are headed toward their spring peaks. Deaths are climbing fastest in South Dakota, New Mexico and Illinois, the tracker shows.
Alarmingly, the U.S. added 4.2 million new cases in November alone and continues to lead the world by cases, at 13.5 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and deaths at 268,103, or about a fifth of the global totals for both.
Read:Remember, COVID-19 spread when five million people left Wuhan for Chinese New Year — yet 50 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving
Dr. Scott Atlas, the most controversial White House coronavirus adviser, resigned from his post late Monday. Atlas, a radiologist with no previous experience in infectious diseases, has had incumbent President Donald Trump’s ear in recent months. He has been an outspoken critic of lockdowns and a supporter of a “herd immunity” strategy, and earlier this month was sharply criticized after tweeting that the population of Michigan should “rise up” against coronavirus restrictions, imposed by the state’s Democratic governor, long a target of Trump barbs as well.
Leading members of the White House task force set up to manage the pandemic had criticized Atlas for spreading misinformation, including claiming that wearing face masks was ineffective. Numerous studies have debunked that, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stressed the importance of masks.
“I have real problems with that guy,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post earlier this month. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
In September, CDC director Robert Redfield was overheard by a reporter saying of Atlas: “Everything he says is false.”
Atlas, a Hoover Institution fellow at Stanford University, was also condemned by university colleagues, with one faculty member calling him “an embarrassment to the university” in a November resolution.
“Dr. Scott Atlas’ resignation today is long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation,” the same Stanford faculty said Monday in a joint statement.
In other news:
• The United Nations said Tuesday it expects COVID-19 to put about 235 million people into a humanitarian crisis that will require assistance. “The rich world can now see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock in a release unveiling the agency’s Global Humanitarian Overview for 2021. “The same is not true in the poorest countries. The COVID-19 crisis has plunged millions of people into poverty and sent humanitarian needs skyrocketing. Next year we will need $35 billion to stave off famine, fight poverty, and keep children vaccinated and in school.”
Read also:Leading epidemiologist on why the virus has spread in a ‘surprisingly enduring’ way in Italy, and how Germany managed lower deaths
• A top official of Operation Warp Speed — the U.S. government’s massive effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine — confidently predicted that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by June. Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski (Ret.), the director of supply, production and distribution for the government project, was asked during an interview on MSNBC about the likelihood of wide vaccination by June: “100% of Americans that want the vaccine will have had the vaccine by that point in time that time,” he said. “We’ll have over 300 million doses available to the American public well before then.”
• Seven-time world champion Grand Prix driver Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Sakhir Grand Prix this weekend, the AP reported. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team issued a statement Tuesday saying Hamilton was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit. “But he woke up Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact before arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive,” the team said. “Lewis, therefore, took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.” Hamilton is in isolation.
• China has provided North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his immediate family with its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the Guardian reported. The news was reported by a U.S. analyst citing two unnamed Japanese intelligence sources, the newspaper said.
• Vietnam reported its first local case of COVID-19 in almost three months, Reuters reported. The infection involved a man related to a flight attendant who had tested positive after returning from Japan two weeks ago. The country’s health minister ordered provinces and state agencies to tighten screening and controls and contact tracing efforts were launched after the 32-year-old man was confirmed as the first domestic infection in 89 days. Vietnam has been hailed for its success in limiting spread using strict quarantine and tracking measures. Vietnam has had 1,347 confirmed cases of the virus and 35 deaths, the Johns Hopkins data show.
See also: Is COVID testing free? Where can I get a rapid test? Your complete guide to coronavirus testing
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 63.3 million on Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll is 1.47 million. At least 40.6 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 173,120 and is third by cases at 6.3 million.
India is second worldwide in cases with 9.46 million, and third in deaths at 137,621.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 105,940 and 11th highest case tally at 1.11 million.
The U.K has 58,545 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 1.63 million cases, or seventh highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 92,984 confirmed cases and 4,743 deaths, according to its official numbers.
What are companies saying?
• Exxon Mobil Corp.
will focus on a few of its near-term oil-rich assets that show more promise, including developments in Texas’s Permian Basin and in South America, as it looks to prioritize between $16 billion and $19 billion in capital and exploration investments next year and between $20 billion and $25 billion annually through 2025. The company will leave behind some natural-gas plays in the U.S., Canada and Argentina that it called “less strategic.” That is going to lead to an after-tax fourth-quarter impairment between $17 billion and $20 billion, the energy giant said. Chief Executive Darren Woods sounded optimistic about the fourth quarter, saying that “the business environment” was showing “signs of improvement” despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases and economic restrictions. “Prices and margins for many of our businesses have improved from the third quarter, and, when coupled with continuing efforts to reduce spending and capture additional efficiencies, quarter-to-date cash flow has improved versus our plan assumptions,” he said.
• Starbucks Corp.
will be giving away a tall brewed coffee, hot or iced, to frontline workers through the month of December. The offer is good at U.S. company-owned and select licensed stores. Nurses, pharmacists, firefighters, police officers and dentists are among those workers who have proved essential during the pandemic and are eligible. The coffee chain also announced the return of Irish Cream Cold Brew, made with Irish Cream syrup and vanilla sweet cream cold foam.
• UnitedHealth Group Inc.
now expects full-year revenue of about $257 billion, yielding per-share earnings of about $15.90 and adjusted EPS of $16.75. The FactSet consensus is for EPS of $16.73 and revenue of $256.7 billion. The company offered the updated guidance in a statement ahead of an analyst day. It also set guidance for 2021 for revenue to range from $277 billion to $280 billion and adjusted EPS to range from $17.75 to $18.25. Those numbers include a $1.80-per-share hit from continuing COVID-19 effects, such treatment and testing costs, the impact of people deferring care into 2021 and other factors. The FactSet consensus is for EPS of $18.39 and revenue of $278.5 billion.
• Zoom Video Communications Inc.
reported another blockbuster quarter, as the company’s videoconferencing software continued to be a lifeline for users during the pandemic. Zoom said revenue jumped more than 350% for a second consecutive quarter, continuing a mind-blowing run — revenue increased 169% in the first full quarter of shelter-in-place orders in the U.S., and 355% in the next quarter. Zoom predicted that the same would happen in the fourth quarter, projecting revenue to top $800 million for the first time after recording less than $200 million in the fourth quarter least year, and increased its annual revenue goal to roughly $2.58 billion.
Additional reporting by Mike Murphy, Tomi Kilgore and Jon Swartz.