Covid-19: San Francisco Bay Area Issues Strict Stay-at-Home Order

Covid-19: San Francisco Bay Area Issues Strict Stay-at-Home Order

82
0
SHARE


San Francisco and several Bay Area counties are putting new coronavirus restrictions into effect, not waiting on hospitalizations to reach levels that would have triggered the restrictions.
Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

A group of counties in the Bay Area announced Friday that they would proceed with tough new restrictions to try to contain the coronavirus as it surges again in California and would not wait for the state to order them to close.

Health officials for the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley made the joint announcement that they would implement the state’s stay-at-home order this weekend, and would not wait until their intensive care units neared capacity, as the state had laid out in its directive on Thursday.

“The virus is spreading rapidly throughout the city like never before,” Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health, said at a news briefing Friday afternoon. “We need to move fast, keeping ahead of this virus as much as possible.”

At the current rate of hospitalizations, San Francisco will run out of hospital beds the day after Christmas, Dr. Colfax said.

The order, which takes effect Sunday night, will close all hair and nail salons, barber shops, outdoor playgrounds and sports facilities such as skate parks, batting cages and miniature golf. Youth sports will be allowed to continue with restrictions.

More than 229,000 coronavirus cases were reported across the United States on Friday, another record. More than 101,000 Americans are in hospitals now, double the number from just a month ago. Hospitalizations are a critical indicator of where the virus is headed, as a rise in deaths usually follows.

On Friday, the seven-day average for new deaths rose to more than 2,000 for the first time since April. Sixteen states have reported more Covid-19 deaths in the past week than in any previous one.

California, where daily case reports have tripled in the last month, is just one of several states that had apparently gained control of the virus, only to see it spread rapidly throughout the fall. On Sunday, it became the first state to record over 100,000 cases in just a week, according to a New York Times database, and more than 24,000 new cases were reported by Friday night, the third consecutive single-day record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced strict new measures on Thursday to try to contain the spread, including limits on outdoor dining and playgrounds, as well as potential closures of hair salons and other businesses. Officials divided the state into five regions, each made up of many counties, as a way to organize the closures.

Hospitals in Northern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are closest to that point, according to state data published on Friday. Dr. Christopher Farnitano, health officer of Contra Costa County, said the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the county had doubled in just the past couple of weeks.

Sandra Beltran, an emergency room nurse at Olive View-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, one of the major public hospitals in Los Angeles County, said she had noticed a substantial increase in patients this week. She said the nurses had told administrators that they needed more medical workers.

“The numbers are going up pretty fast,” Ms. Beltran said. “It’s almost like a wildfire, you light up a match and it’s going up.”

She said that earlier this week, the nursing staff was told that the number of Covid-19 patients had reached spring peak levels.

“It’s been an overwhelming week,” she said. “The patients that are coming in are sick, and some don’t even think they are that sick. Their oxygen levels are very low.”

Marvin O’Quinn, president and chief operating officer of CommonSpirit Health, which runs hospitals throughout the state, said they were scrambling to ramp up staffing as a surge of new patients threatens to overwhelm medical staff that is already stretched thin.

“There’s a staffing crunch everywhere,” he said.

In order to free up every available staff member who has clinical responsibilities, hospitals have begun asking administrative staff to handle some duties that do not require clinical skills, he said.

Mr. O’Quinn said that the number of patients in hospitals in Southern California had not declined very much since the initial spring surge, but that those in hospitals in Central California, in particular Stockton, had gone up. There are now 169 patients across four hospitals in Central California, up from 68 a month ago.

He said the hospitals were still hanging on and giving excellent care, but “at some point, we won’t be able to keep up with the volumes if the numbers keep exploding as they are.”

Moses Zapien, president of Community Foundation of San Joaquin, a nonprofit that focuses on humanitarian needs like those related to Covid-19 in San Joaquin County, said a state program for workers in the agricultural and food processing industries had seen a significant uptick in calls this week. There were about 1,500 calls, up from just 700 the week before Thanksgiving.

“Now that the harvest has come to a close for the year, folks are really feeling the impact of Covid-19 and Covid-19 restrictions,” he said.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in phone calls. They are calling for economic assistance related to helping pay for rent and basic needs.”

In the Bay Area, most of the counties will implement the restrictions on Sunday. In Alameda County, they will take effect on Monday and in Marin County, on Tuesday. They will remain in place until Jan. 4.

Hundreds of cars in line for coronavirus testing in New Bedford, Mass., this week.
Credit…Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times, via Associated Press

A virus outbreak that has killed 21 residents at a veterans’ home in New Hampshire is putting the spotlight on a growing surge of new cases in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States that in many places exceeds peaks seen in the spring.

The New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton had no cases for the first eight and a half months of the pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu said at a news conference Thursday. But now, an outbreak has torn through that the home says infected 51 residents and 67 staff members — and killed 21 residents.

New Hampshire is now averaging almost 600 cases a day, roughly six times its highest previous average, reached in May, and hospitalizations are also at record levels.

Cases are escalating across the region. Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey all set single-day case records on Thursday, and Pennsylvania and New Jersey did so on Friday as well. More than 50,000 cases have been identified in Pennsylvania in the past seven days, the most in any week of the pandemic. The Cumberland, Md., area has the third-highest rate of new cases among all American metropolitan areas.

At the New Hampshire Veterans Home, the assumption is that an asymptomatic staff member unknowingly brought the virus in, said Margaret LaBrecque, who leads the home’s administration. High temperatures were first detected among a group of residents on the morning of Nov. 10, she said. From there, the virus spread quickly, as it has continued to do in long-term care facilities around the country.

Ms. LaBrecque said that residents were “very resilient but are worried for their comrades,” and that staff members were tired from working overtime, but “hopeful that we can get through this difficult time.”

But the broader surge has more complicated roots.

“I think we got here because of deficient national leadership, pandemic fatigue and cold weather,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-disease expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, adding that the virus has much more potential to spread since only about 15 percent of the country’s population is known to have been infected.

He said that new lockdowns could still keep the surge from worsening.

“We’re currently already seeing severely strained health systems across the East Coast,” Dr. Chang said, noting that Covid admissions had quadrupled at the Johns Hopkins Hospital compared to those in the summer.

“One of the big questions is, how big of a surge we’re going to see, on top of the surge we’re currently experiencing, from Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” Dr. Chang said. “Will that lead to broadly overwhelmed hospitals and many more needless deaths?”

An employee sorts vials of vaccine at the Pfizer manufacturing facility in Michigan.
Credit…Pfizer/via Reuters

Bahrain became the second country to give emergency authorization to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday, the government-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

The tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, an oil-dependent country with large numbers of low-wage migrant workers, has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus cases per capita, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

On Wednesday, Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine, the product of a collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech. Until then, no country had authorized a fully tested coronavirus vaccine.

Britain and Bahrain beating the United States to emergency authorization — on a vaccine codeveloped by an American company, no less — could intensify pressure on regulators in the United States, who have been under fire for not moving faster to get doses to people. (On Friday morning, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said he was “hopeful” that the agency would approve a vaccine after an advisory committee meeting set for Dec. 10.)

Russia and China have approved other coronavirus vaccines without waiting for large-scale efficacy tests, and last month Bahrain approved the use of a vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese company, for frontline workers.

The two-dose Pfizer vaccine must be stored at extremely cold temperatures, which complicates the logistics of transporting it around the world. Pfizer expects to ship up to 50 million doses of the vaccine before the end of the year.

The approval in Bahrain “will add a further important layer to the Kingdom’s national Covid-19 response, which has strongly prioritized protecting the health of all citizens and residents during the pandemic,” said Dr. Mariam Al Jalahma, the chief executive of the country’s National Health Regulatory Authority.

Lindsey Dietschi, an executive in charge of Pfizer’s work in the Persian Gulf, called the approval a “historic moment” in the fight against Covid-19. “This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win,” she said.

A woman wearing a mask while working inside a shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., this week.
Credit…Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

As coronavirus infections soar nationwide, federal health officials on Friday urged state and local governments to implement 10 essential public health measures, including universal use of face masks outside the home.

The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also calls for those who have been exposed to or infected by the virus to be secluded from others; an increase in coronavirus testing, especially for workers whose jobs bring them into contact with the public or with vulnerable individuals; the prioritization of contact tracing and case investigations; the protection of high-risk people and essential workers; and postponement of travel.

The agency also urged communities to plan for the distribution and administration of vaccines once they become available.

Though the agency has issued all of the recommendations piecemeal in earlier guidance documents, the new summary issued Friday represented the first time the C.D.C. had published a comprehensive list of strategies.

“No single strategy can control the epidemic,” according to the new guidance, written by the agency’s Covid-19 response team. “Full implementation of and adherence to these strategies will save lives.”

The document places a high priority on keeping schools open, from kindergarten through grade 12. Schools should be both “the last settings to close” and “the first to reopen” because of the critical role they play in providing meals and support services to children, and because school closures exact a disproportionate toll on low-income families.

Restaurant dining, on the other hand, was identified as one of the “particularly high-risk scenarios” for spreading infection because consistent use of face masks is impossible.

The report notes that outdoor settings that draw crowds have also been linked to spread of the virus and suggests switching to takeout food service. Exercise should be done in outdoor settings, with a mask and social distancing, the agency said. Work should be done remotely whenever possible, and social gatherings should be limited, the agency said.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that he would implore Americans to wear masks for a little more than three months toward the beginning of his term.

“Just 100 days to mask,” Mr. Biden told CNN. “I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”

Health officials in Washington State said the recent deaths of seven residents at nursing homes in the eastern part of the state might be linked to a wedding last month that was held in defiance of coronavirus safety guidelines.

The Grant County Health District said in a news release that the estimated 300 people who attended the Nov. 7 wedding near Ritzville, Wash., appear to have included several staff members at long-term care facilities in the area that have recently reported Covid-19 deaths.

District officials said four local facilities began experiencing outbreaks of the coronavirus around Nov. 20, about two weeks after the wedding. Two of those outbreaks appear to be connected directly to the wedding, and a third is still being investigated, said Theresa Adkinson, administrator of the Grant County Health District. An outbreak at the fourth facility appears to have no direct connection to the wedding.

The wedding, which was in neighboring Adams County, has now been linked through contact tracing to at least 50 infections in Grant County and a smaller number of cases in nearby counties, Ms. Adkinson said.

Under Covid-19 restrictions in place in Washington, weddings are limited to 30 people. It is unclear if any wedding guests had direct contact with the nursing home residents who died.

Many of the guests are quarantining or getting tested, but “we have had people not return our calls that we believe attended the wedding,” Ms. Adkinson said. “That’s just part of disease investigations,” she said. “This got national attention, and I don’t think they anticipated that.”

Grant County saw a significant spike in deaths in November, bringing the county total to 54.

Other weddings around the country have also been notorious superspreader events.

An August wedding reception in rural Maine with 55 guests led to at least 177 coronavirus cases, including at least seven deaths, and caused outbreaks in a long-term care home 100 miles away and a prison some 200 miles away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday evening, the New York Young Republican Club held its 108th annual gala, in person.

It did not feature Sarah Palin, who had been booked for the event but canceled because of concerns about flying from Alaska during a pandemic, according to someone familiar with her thinking. It was not held at the Caldwell Factory in Manhattan, the site listed on the club’s Facebook page. A spokesman for the venue said that no events had been booked there for months.

And in the end, the event was not even held in New York State.

Images posted on Twitter on Thursday night showed dozens of attendees gathered on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, inside Maritime Parc, a restaurant in Liberty State Park, seated and standing close together and wearing no masks. Some of those who posted about the event tagged and taunted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.

The president of the club, Gavin M. Wax, 26, quickly found a replacement for Ms. Palin: Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, a close ally of President Trump. The event’s other headline speaker was James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who runs the New York-based Project Veritas. He declined to confirm his attendance, but later offered a New York Times reporter the opportunity to use a hidden camera to spy on The Times on behalf of his group. (The reporter declined.)

Mr. Wax declined to be interviewed by phone. But in a series of text messages, Twitter direct messages, tweets and emails, he insisted that the club was following virus protocols and that Democrats were hypocritically trying to shut down the party, even as they themselves took part in seemingly ill-advised indoor events.

New Jersey limits indoor gatherings during the pandemic to 10 people. An exception for “religious and political activities protected under the First Amendment” allows for indoor gatherings to 25 percent of a room’s capacity or 150 people, whichever is lower. Indoor, maskless gatherings of more than 10 people without social distancing are forbidden.

On Friday, the restaurant was ordered shut by the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services, which directed Maritime Parc’s management to submit a plan describing how it will comply with the state’s orders “regarding capacity mandates and mask wearing.”

A handful of restaurants in Washington State are defying health orders to shut down indoor dining as coronavirus cases have surged there, and in at least one case, a restaurant’s owner said, business is booming. Customers, the owner said, are coming in to eat for political reasons, as much as or more than for the food.

“The vast majority are making a protest against the governor,” said Rod Samuelson, the owner of Spiffy’s Restaurant, which reopened for dining on Monday, in Chehalis, about 100 miles south of Seattle. Mr. Samuelson, who has owned the restaurant for almost 50 years, said one woman drove two hours with her 6-month-old baby just to have a meal.

The place has been busy enough that employees closed the doors one night this week at 8 p.m. with 20 people waiting. Protesters, concerned that the authorities would attempt to cite or close down the restaurant, gathered in support outside on Thursday, waving American flags.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Mr. Samuelson, who is 80. “I would never have imagined it — we’re hitting days we would have normally hit at summertime.”

A spokesman for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Tim Church, said he was aware of at least four restaurants that either reopened or stayed open after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the shutdown last month, though there could be more because his agency pursues cases primarily based on complaints received.

The state went to court earlier this week and was granted a temporary restraining order from a county judge against a restaurant north of Seattle that had refused to close — the first time that has happened since the pandemic began, Mr. Church said.

Brian Robbins, who runs a restaurant south of Olympia, the state capital, said he visited Spiffy’s earlier this week and was inspired to reopen his own place, the Farm Boy Drive-In, on Wednesday. Mr. Robbins stressed in an interview that he was not defying Mr. Inslee’s order, but rather making a place inside his restaurant for “indoor social gatherings,” which are allowed, albeit with sharp restrictions, under health orders.

Mr. Robbins said a written notice on Farm Boy’s front door advises that diners must follow the governor’s order last month on indoor social gatherings, which calls for people from separate households to be symptom-free and to have taken a recent coronavirus test or quarantined for 14 days before gathering.

Employees are not asking for medical records or other proof, however, Mr. Robbins said, because that would violate health privacy laws.

“We’re following his laws,” Mr. Robbins said, referring to the governor. “His unlawful laws.”

U.S. Roundup

Shoppers at Lincoln Road Mall in Miami last month adhered to a local mask mandate. 
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Coronavirus infections have been growing at an alarming rate in Miami-Dade County, Fla., leading government and hospital officials to plead with the public on Friday to stay home over the holidays and adhere to guidance on mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.

Over the past two months, Covid-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in the county to 850, and the positive test rate has nearly doubled to 9.77 percent.

“We’re gravely concerned about overwhelming our health care system capacity,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a virtual news conference that she led from home. She has been isolating with her husband, a doctor, since Monday, when both tested positive for the coronavirus.

Hospital administrators there and in neighboring Broward County, like many across the country, are warning that the virus is so widespread that medical reinforcements aren’t available. For instance, the traveling nurses Miami-Dade and Broward were able to bring in for July’s spike were already deployed elsewhere.

“The surge that took place then cannot take place again,” said Aurelio M. Fernandez III, chief executive of the Memorial Healthcare System, which serves South Florida. “There aren’t enough resources. We can convert rooms overnight, but there’s not enough nurses. There’s not enough clinicians. There’s not enough respiratory therapists.”

In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed an executive order banning the enforcement of mask ordinances, curfews and other measures, so local officials are unable to do much more than ask people for compliance. His order also prohibited local governments from shutting down businesses and limited the ability to reduce businesses’ indoor capacity. Mr. DeSantis reiterated this week that there would be “no fines, no lockdowns, no school closures” in the state, which — along with only Texas and California — has had more than one million infections.

Still, Miami-Dade has a mask mandate and a curfew, and the police issue citations for violations that they hope to enforce at some point. Ms. Levine Cava, a new mayor who took office last month and tested positive for the virus, said her office was planning a public service campaign asking for cooperation on obeying the rules and getting tested.

She also said that the Miami-Dade County League of Cities planned to send a letter urging Mr. DeSantis to give power back to local governments when cases rise in their areas.Regarding her own condition, Ms. Levine Cava, sounding congested, said her symptoms were mild but called the virus a “beast.”

In Key West, Mayor Teri Johnston enacted an emergency directive providing for a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in order to avoid a public health emergency during the upcoming holiday. The curfew will run from Dec. 31 until Jan. 3. That means a New Year’s event known as the “Drag Queen Drop,” in its 23rd year, will now take place in a private event at 9 p.m. The drop normally attracts thousands of people who flock to the Key West main strip to watch a drag queen named Sushi drop from a giant shoe.

And in Orlando, Mayor Jerry L. Demings of Orange County said he would issue an executive order to fine businesses up to $15,000 in code enforcement penalties for failing to enforce social distancing and mask wearing. The order is aimed at “bad actors” ignoring public health guidance, Mr. Demings said in a news conference on Friday. He did not communicate with the governor’s office about the order, he added.

In other developments from across the U.S.:

  • A couple that had tested positive for the coronavirus and then boarded a United Airlines flight were banned on Friday by the airline while it investigates the matter, a spokeswoman said. Wesley Moribe, 41, and Courtney Peterson, 46, of Wailua, Hawaii, were arrested last Sunday and charged with reckless endangerment because they had placed “the passengers of the flight in danger of death,” the Kauai police said. The two posted bail and are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 6, according to Justin Kollar, the Kauai County prosecuting attorney. If convicted, they could face up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

  • The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut newspaper that has been in print since 1764, when it chronicled the locals’ dissatisfaction with British rule, is the latest daily to have closed its newsroom and asked its staff to work remotely, due in part to financial distress brought on by the pandemic. In August, Tribune Publishing, which is part-owned by the hedge firm Alden Global Capital, shuttered the Lower Manhattan offices of The New York Daily News, which was once the largest circulation newspaper in the country. It also shut down the newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. A Chicago Tribune office for suburban publications in Aurora, Ill., was also closed.

Global Roundup

Christmas lights in Milan. Italy will limit movements between regions over the holidays.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

Movement between Italian regions will be all but barred between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6, with people allowed to travel only for work, health reasons or emergencies, the Italian government announced on Thursday.

And the restrictions will be even tighter on Christmas, Dec. 26 and New Year’s Day, when Italians won’t be allowed to leave their towns.

“The Christmas festivities are coming,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a news conference on Thursday. “We have to ward off the risk of a third wave.”

New cases in Italy have dropped in recent weeks, with 23,219 reported on Thursday according to a New York Times database, but the numbers remain well above the previous peak in March. And the country recorded 993 deaths, a new daily high, on Thursday, surpassing the deadliest day in March.

The government said it needed to prevent a rebound of the contagion during extended family gatherings and large parties. Mr. Conte pleaded with Italians to avoid organizing dinners or lunches with anyone they do not live with, especially during the holidays when, he said, “the celebrations become more intense.”

Other measures announced Thursday include a ban on New Year’s Eve dinners in hotels, allowing room service only that night. Ski slopes will be closed from the Alps to the Apennines, a coordinated decision by Italy, France and Germany.

The new decree also imposed quarantines on travelers from abroad during the holidays.

“It’s going to be a Christmas different from all the others,” Mr. Conte said.

In other developments around the world:

  • China plans to approve 600 million coronavirus vaccines for sale by the end of the year, Wang Junzhi, a biological products quality control expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said on Friday. The government has already made unproven candidates widely available in an effort to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. But it has not announced any efficacy data yet, and a spate of quality scandals in recent years has made the Chinese public skeptical of vaccines.

  • Most establishments in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, will be required to close by 9 p.m. starting on Saturday, the city’s mayor said. The country reported more than 600 new cases on Friday, its highest tally in nearly nine months.

  • Japan is facing a new coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a Friday news conference, noting a rise in the number of severely ill patients had begun to put a strain on hospitals. Japan is experiencing a third outbreak, which has brought some of the country’s highest single-day tallies of new infections and deaths since the pandemic began, driven largely by clusters in the Tokyo metropolitan area. While the prime minister fell short of declaring a state of emergency, he urged the public to take precautions.

Video

transcript

transcript

A ‘Season of Hope,’ Says Pence of Possible Vaccine Approval

Vice President Mike Pence visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, offering an upbeat assessment of the coronavirus pandemic with the likely approval of the first coronavirus vaccine coming as soon as next week.

First and foremost, on behalf of President Donald Trump and all the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, just to say thank you. Thank you to the men and women of C.D.C., who have literally poured their lives over the last 10 months into saving lives across America. We’re in a challenging time in the course of this pandemic. And all of us have a role to play — wash our hands, social distance, wear a mask when it’s indicated. But we’re also in a season of hope. To be as we are maybe, Bob, just a week and a half away from what will be the likely approval of the first coronavirus vaccine for the American people. It is inspiring the people of this country. We’re going to put a priority on our seniors and staff in our long-term health care facilities. And we’re also going to be a priority on health care workers so that we continue — not only to put their health first — but also make sure that we have the staff in our hospitals, in our clinics to render care to Americans that are continuing to be impacted by this pandemic.

Video player loading
Vice President Mike Pence visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, offering an upbeat assessment of the coronavirus pandemic with the likely approval of the first coronavirus vaccine coming as soon as next week.CreditCredit…Lynsey Weatherspoon/Reuters

Career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Vice President Mike Pence on Friday that, while a coronavirus vaccine is on the way, the pandemic remains a devastating threat — particularly to health care workers and hospital systems that are cracking under the strain of an explosion of cases.

“Hospitalizations are still rising and it’s a real problem,” said Dr. Henry Walke, who directs the C.D.C.’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections. “Health care providers are overstressed, beds are full.”

Mr. Pence, seeking to put a more upbeat spin on the situation, declared that America is in a “challenging time,” but also in a “season of hope.”

The visit to the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta, live streamed on the White House website, was notable not so much for what was said, but for who said it. The C.D.C.’s career scientists have been largely kept out of public view since late February, when Dr. Nancy Messonier, who directs the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, briefed reporters on the coming pandemic and warned that “the disruption to everyday life might be severe,” including school and business closures.

President Trump, who declared the pandemic a national emergency a few weeks later, was furious and, according to some reports, threatened to fire her.

But on Friday, Dr. Messonier was seated at a table along with Dr. Walke and Dr. Jay Butler, the C.D.C.’s deputy director for infectious diseases, who took Mr. Pence through a slide presentation showing how the vaccine would be distributed. When Dr. Butler praised “the foresight of Dr. Messonnier and her staff,” Mr. Pence acknowledged her.

“Dr. Messonnier, it’s great to see you again,” he said. “It’s been a while.”

Boarded-up businesses in Portland, Ore. last month. The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on the state’s unemployment system. 
Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Oregon has paid out more than $6 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic struck, and as in many other states, the rush of applications forced the Oregon Employment Department to go into overdrive, calling in the National Guard to help expedite the jobless applications.

Now a processing center that was opened to meet the surge in demand is itself suffering a coronavirus outbreak, in what might be described as an encapsulation of the intertwined crises brought on by the virus.

David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, said at a news briefing this week that the outbreak at the Wilsonville center, south of Portland, would accelerate plans to have unemployment processors work from home.

“Needless to say this is incredibly distressing for us to see so many of our colleagues contracting Covid-19,” he said. “We have been adding more and more protective measures over time. And despite doing that, seeing this relentless spread of the virus is very sobering.”

As of Thursday, 12 people who worked at the center had contracted the virus, putting it on an increasingly long list of workplaces in Oregon that have seen outbreaks. The list includes prisons, Amazon and Walmart distribution centers, food processing plants, a Home Depot, a Thai restaurant and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

The state largely escaped the spring surge of the virus, but infections have been rising sharply for more than a month, escalating by 33 percent in the last two weeks alone to reach a seven-day average of more than 1,300 — more than three and a half times its average in its summer surge.

The outbreak at the unemployment processing center comes as an estimated 70,000 Oregonians brace for the loss of unemployment benefits before the end of the year as federal pandemic assistance expires.

“The loss of the safety net is going to be incredibly difficult,” Mr. Gerstenfeld said. “We know that too many Oregonians are facing desperate times.”

Republican-led states that largely depend on energy-related taxes, like Wyoming, have been walloped by the sharp decline in oil prices.
Credit…Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted an economic battering on state and local governments, shrinking tax receipts by hundreds of billions of dollars. Now devastating budget cuts loom, threatening to cripple public services and pare work forces far beyond the 1.3 million jobs lost in eight months.

Governors, mayors and county executives have pleaded for federal aid before the end of the year. Congressional Republicans have scorned such assistance, with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, calling it a “blue-state bailout.”

But it turns out this budget crisis is colorblind. Six of the seven states that are expected to suffer the biggest revenue declines over the next two years are red — states led by Republican governors and won by President Trump this year, according to a report from Moody’s Analytics.

Those on the front lines agree. “I don’t think it’s a red-state, blue-state issue,” said Brian Sigritz, director of state fiscal studies at the National Association of State Budget Officers. The National Governors Association’s top officials — Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican — issued a statement this fall saying, “This is a national problem, and it demands a bipartisan and national solution.”

Chimére Smith, a teacher from Baltimore, has struggled with the aftereffects of contracting Covid-19 in March.
Credit…Schaun Champion for The New York Times

There is an urgent need to address long-term symptoms of the coronavirus, leading public health officials said this week, warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide might experience lingering problems that could impede their ability to work and function normally.

In a two-day meeting on Thursday and Friday, the federal government’s first workshop focused on long-term Covid-19, public health officials, medical researchers and patients said the condition needed to be recognized as a syndrome.

“This is a phenomenon that is really quite real and quite extensive,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said at the conference on Thursday.

While the number of people affected is still unknown, he said, if long-term symptoms afflict even a small proportion of the millions of people infected with the coronavirus, it is “going to represent a significant public health issue.”

Such symptoms — ranging from breathing trouble to heart issues to cognitive and psychological problems — are plaguing an untold number of people worldwide. Even for people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, the aftermath can be long and grueling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently posted a list of long-term symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, chest pain, brain fog and depression, but doctors and researchers said they still know little about their extent or causes, which patients will develop them or how to address them.

Some call patients with lingering health issues “Covid long-haulers,” but some survivors and experts feel that name trivializes the experience, lessening its importance as a medical syndrome that doctors and insurers should recognize. Patients and experts are now weighing what term should be adopted officially.

In an inadvertent but stark illustration of the difficulty of the recovery process, two of the four patients scheduled to speak at the meeting were unable to because they had recently been hospitalized.

The American economic recovery continues to slow, stranding millions who have yet to find a new job after being thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest evidence came Friday when the Labor Department reported that employers added 245,000 jobs in November, the fifth month in a row that the pace of hiring has tapered off. The figure for October was revised downward to 610,000, from the initially stated 638,000.

The unemployment rate in November was 6.7 percent, down from the previous month’s rate of 6.9 percent. But that figure does not fully capture the extent of the joblessness because it doesn’t include people who have dropped out of the labor force and are not actively searching for work.


Unemployment rate

By Ella Koeze·Unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

November’s job totals were dragged down in part by the loss of 93,000 temporary census workers who are no longer needed now that the official counting has wound down.

More than half those knocked out of a job early in the pandemic have been rehired, but there are still roughly 10 million fewer jobs than there were in February. Many people in that group are weeks away from losing their unemployment benefits, as the emergency assistance approved by Congress last spring is set to expire at the end of the year.

“We’re in an unusual position right now in the economy,” said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at the accounting firm Evercore ISI. “Far off in the distance there is sunlight” because of progress on a vaccine, he said, but until then, “we’re going to have a few of the toughest months of this pandemic, and there will be a lot of scars left to heal.”


The number of people who have been unemployed long-term is still rising

Share of unemployed who have been out of work 27 weeks or longer

By Ella Koeze·Data is seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Covid-19 caseloads have doubled in the past month, leading to new restrictions and tamping down shopping and other commerce. In much of the country, colder weather is likely to discourage outdoor dining, which many restaurants have depended on. And Congress has been unable to agree on a new spending package to help struggling businesses and households.

The Hackensack River as seen from the PJP Landfill site. 
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Of all the toxic dumps in New Jersey, perhaps none was more infamous than PJP Landfill.

It was here, at the edges of the Hackensack River in Jersey City, that underground fires erupted spontaneously for more than a decade, belching acrid smoke so thick it could snarl traffic on an adjacent bridge, the Pulaski Skyway, a key link for commuters to New York City.

Firefighters tried dousing the smoldering land in the mid-1980s with 300,000 gallons of water a day, but residents complained that the spraying did not help.

Now, 30 years after the dump was held up as the poster child for toxic nightmares by the New Jersey congressman who wrote the Superfund law, plans for a phoenixlike rebirth await: It is being converted into a public park with one of the nation’s first memorials to victims of Covid-19.

Credit…Skyway Park Conservancy

As part of a $10 million makeover, more than 500 trees will be planted in a grove of the newly named Skyway Park — one for every Jersey City resident who has died of the coronavirus, the mayor, Steven M. Fulop, announced on Thursday.

Each person’s name will also be included on a memorial wall, giving relatives of the dead a place to mourn. Many families were unable to observe traditional funeral rituals as the pandemic ravaged the Northeast.

“We wanted to do something significant for those families that didn’t get to grieve properly, and we’re taking a step forward in that direction,” Mr. Fulop said. “It has been a tough year for the city.”

Once the park is complete — likely next summer or fall — walkways will wend along the river, through a pollinator garden and beside green spaces lined with flowers and reedy grasses native to the low-lying wetland area. A pedestrian bridge designed in the image of the Pulaski will connect two sides of the 32-acre site, which is bisected by a stream known as the Sip Avenue Ditch.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain during a news conference on the coronavirus pandemic, in London, on Wednesday.
Credit…Pool photo by John Sibley

Britain’s approval of a coronavirus vaccine this week, leaping ahead of every other Western country, would be a political gift for any leader. But perhaps no one needs it as much as Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A successful vaccine rollout could be the last chance for Mr. Johnson’s government to show competence, after botching virtually every other step of its response to the pandemic, from tardy lockdowns to a costly, ineffective test-and-trace program — all of which contributed to the country having the highest death toll in Europe.

It also comes just as Britain has reached a climactic stage in its long negotiations with the European Union for a post-Brexit trading relationship. Allies of Mr. Johnson were quick to claim that the swift approval of the vaccine vindicated the Brexit project.

That claim was quickly debunked. Nevertheless, the mass vaccination program will be an early test of how well Britain works once it is fully untethered from Europe.

“The British government is looking for ways to claim a victory because they’ve made such a bloody mess of the epidemic,” said David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government who has become a vocal critic of its performance. “The nationalistic response is brutish and rather distasteful.”

Still, it is difficult to separate politics from public health. As the first vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rolled into Britain in refrigerated trucks from Belgium this week, negotiators in London were in the last stages of trying to stitch together a long-term, E.U.-British trade agreement. European officials expressed hope they could come to terms as soon as Sunday, though stumbling blocks remained.

The pandemic has raised the pressure on Mr. Johnson to strike a deal, since a failure could deepen the economic damage caused by multiple lockdowns. Yet the convergence of events could also be fortuitous, allowing the beleaguered prime minister to resolve an issue that has divided Britain for more than four years at the very moment that relief finally begins to arrive for a country ravaged by the virus.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. participated in a virtual roundtable with workers and small business owners affected by the economic fallout from the pandemic on Friday.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been thinking about the presidency on and off for more than 50 years, childhood friends say.

But when he is sworn in next month, he is planning to forgo many of the traditional trappings of a presidential inauguration, as he takes the oath of office amid a devastating pandemic that is expected to worsen this winter.

“My guess is, there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he told reporters on Friday. “My guess is, you’ll see a lot of virtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before.”

“It is highly unlikely,” he added at another point, that “there will be a million people on the Mall.”

In a briefing not far from his home in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden said that his team was looking to the Democratic National Convention that was held almost entirely virtually as something of a guide for his inauguration. At the convention, Mr. Biden gave a speech that was open to a small group of reporters, and then he greeted, from a distance, supporters at a drive-in car rally. But much of the week featured virtual appearances from Democrats in various locales around the country.

“The convention we put on really opened up avenues that we never thought existed,” Mr. Biden said, noting that his team was working in consultation with organizers of that convention and with Congress, and that planning was fluid.

And not every tradition will be slashed.

Mr. Biden’s team announced the formation of an inaugural committee this week, and organizers intend for Mr. Biden to take the oath of office and to speak to the nation outside the West Front of the Capitol.

“It will be available either virtually or in-person for many, and my guess is, there will still be a platform ceremony,” Mr. Biden said of the festivities. “The key is keeping people safe.”

“People want to celebrate,” he said. “People want to be able to say, we’ve passed the baton, we’re moving on. Democracy has functioned.”

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has issued repeated calls for lawmakers to find agreement on a compromise coronavirus stimulus proposal.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. renewed his calls on Friday for Congress and President Trump “to act and act now” to boost the sagging economic recovery, while expressing confidence that further economic pain will bring lawmakers back to the negotiating table for an additional round of aid after he takes office in January.

Speaking in Delaware, Mr. Biden thanked the Republican and Democratic senators who are attempting to negotiate a $908 billion compromise package for the lame-duck session, saying: “This situation is urgent. If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak.”

The stimulus proposal under discussion would send nearly $300 billion in new aid to small businesses, $180 billion to unemployed workers and $160 billion to state, local and tribal governments suffering revenue shortfalls in the pandemic.

He went on to urge lawmakers to come back for another wave of assistance after Inauguration Day, in part to help hasten the deployment of a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Biden also said it will be important for lawmakers to pass more sweeping legislation to address longstanding needs in the economy, like rebuilding infrastructure.

“To truly end this crisis, Congress is going to need to fund more testing as well as a more equitable and free distribution of the vaccine,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to need more economic relief to bridge through 2021 until this pandemic and economic crisis are over.”

The Labor Department released a jobs report on Friday showing that the economy added fewer jobs in November than at any point since it began to rebound from recession in the spring. The figures disappointed forecasters and added new urgency to calls to buoy struggling workers and companies while the nation awaits a vaccine that could help reinvigorate the economy next year.

Pointing to the lower-than-expected job gains as an added accelerant, Speaker Nancy Pelosi flashed hope about a stimulus plan at a news conference in the Capitol on Friday morning, a day after she and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, agreed to try to find an agreement that could be merged with an enormous year-end spending package.

“That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” said Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, while insisting that there would be “sufficient time” to close a deal before the Dec. 11 government funding deadline.

Officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the conservative business lobbying group, said on Friday that the jobs report was a warning to lawmakers that they must compromise quickly. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement that the report was a “blaring warning that a double-dip recession is looming.”

Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Mr. Biden avoided answering whether he had spoken with Mr. McConnell about negotiations over an aid package. But he said he believed that Republicans would see a need to work with his administration to pass another package this winter, because, he said, “The country’s going to be in dire, dire, dire straits if they don’t.”

Republicans, he said, are “going to find that there’s an overwhelming need as these numbers skyrocket.”

The Rose Bowl stadium on Jan. 1 during a game between the Oregon Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers.
Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Rose Bowl, the most famous postseason game in college football, will be played without spectators on Jan. 1.

Organizers said Thursday that the game, which will host one of the College Football Playoff’s national semifinal matchups for this season, would proceed but without fans in the stadium near Los Angeles.

“We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants,” David Eads, the executive director and chief executive of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, said in a statement on Thursday.

Rose Bowl officials said they had asked the authorities in California to permit limited attendance — last season’s game drew more than 90,000 people — but that “the request was denied based on state and county guidelines.”

Thursday’s announcement came as little surprise to college football officials and fans, particularly as virus cases have been swelling in recent weeks in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a new round of regional stay-at-home orders on Thursday, limiting store capacity and allowing restaurants to serve only delivery or takeout.

The Tournament of Roses announced in July that the Rose Parade, a New Year’s Day ritual ahead of the game, would be canceled.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will stay in the same role, and will also be a chief medical adviser for President-elect Joseph Biden Jr.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Call it the Return of Fauci.

It’s not that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, ever actually went anywhere. It just often seemed that way as he fell out of favor with his boss, President Trump, and was sidelined even as the country grappled with a pandemic.

Now it is Mr. Trump who is leaving, and on Thursday, his successor had a message for Americans: Dr. Fauci will soon be back in the mix.

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said, “and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team.”

On Friday morning, Dr. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show he had accepted the offer “right on the spot.”

Mr. Trump had at times been openly scornful of Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and appeared put off by his popularity. The president, who often dismissed the threat of the coronavirus, was also frustrated by Dr. Fauci’s endorsements of masks and restrictions on movement, preferring the counsel of advisers who backed his call to reopen the economy as soon as possible.

The announcement about Dr. Fauci’s role in the Biden administration came on a day when officials across the United States reported 216,422 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day record since the start of the pandemic. Experts cautioned that the number may have been impacted by anomalies in states’ reporting, but it has been part of an overall rise in new infections. At least 2,857 deaths were reported, bringing the U.S. total to over 276,000.

More than 100,000 Covid-19 patients were filling hospital beds — when they could find them. In Lubbock, Texas, on Thursday, they could not. The West Texas city of 250,000 has had a daily average of 382 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, according to a New York Times database.

In California, officials announced their most aggressive steps since March to head off the virus, saying they will impose regional stay-at-home orders when hospitals become overburdened. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state needed to get through a difficult winter before vaccines arrive.

“This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic,” Mr. Newsom said at a news conference.

Even before Mr. Biden’s announcement Thursday, Dr. Fauci found himself in the news as American and British health officials skirmished over the U.K.’s announcement that it had beaten the U.S. in the race to approve a vaccine.

Gavin Williamson, Britain’s education secretary, appeared to be crowing.

“We’ve obviously got the best medical regulators,” he said. “Much better than the French have. Much better than the Belgians have. Much better than the Americans have.”

Dr. Fauci seemed more than a little skeptical.

The British authorities, he said, moved more quickly only because they had not scrutinized the vaccine test data as carefully as their American counterparts. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach,” he said.

Later, a chagrined-looking Dr. Fauci, who is ordinarily averse to public conflict, appeared on British television saying that he wanted to apologize.

“We do things a bit more differently, that’s all — not better, not worse, just differently,” he told the BBC.

On Friday morning, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, said he was “hopeful” that the agency would approve a vaccine this month.

“We will move very quickly because we certainly realize the urgency of the situation,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

Video

transcript

transcript

Manitoba Premier Slams Virus Skeptics, Urges Safety for Holidays

Brian Pallister, the premier of the Canadian province of Manitoba, pleaded with residents not to ignore science and avoid gathering over the holidays as coronavirus cases rise.

If you don’t think that Covid is real, right now, you’re an idiot — you need to understand that we’re all in this together. You cannot fail to understand this. Stay apart. So I’m the guy who has to tell you to stay apart at Christmas and in the holiday season you celebrate with your faith or without your faith, that you celebrate with — normally with friends and with family — that where you share memories and build memories. I’m that guy. And I’ll say that … … because it will keep you safe. I’m the guy who’s stealing Christmas to keep you safe because you need to do this now, you need to do the right thing because next year we’ll have lots to celebrate, and we’ll celebrate this year if we do the right thing this year. You don’t need like me. I hope in years to come you might respect me for having the guts to tell you the right thing, and here’s the right thing. Stay safe, protect each other, love each other, care for each other, you got so many ways to show that, but don’t get together this Christmas.

Video player loading
Brian Pallister, the premier of the Canadian province of Manitoba, pleaded with residents not to ignore science and avoid gathering over the holidays as coronavirus cases rise.CreditCredit…Shannon Vanraes/Reuters

If you’re looking for the Grinch, look no farther than to our neighbors in the North.

“I’m the guy who’s stealing Christmas to keep you safe — because you need to do this now,” Brian Pallister, the premier of the Canadian province of Manitoba, said at a news conference Thursday at which he implored Manitobans not to gather this holiday season.

He also offered some choice words for any coronavirus skeptics out there: “If you don’t think that Covid is real right now, you’re an idiot.”

Manitoba, population 1.38 million, has averaged 354 daily new cases in the last week, according to a New York Times database. The provincial government reported a 13.1 percent positivity rate as of Thursday.

Mr. Pallister’s comments mirrored remarks two weeks ago by Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who told his countrymen that “a normal Christmas is quite frankly out of the question.”

In the weeks following Canada’s Thanksgiving, held in October, outbreaks began to grow. Since then, new restrictions have been imposed in parts of the country, including Manitoba. But Thanksgiving is nowhere near as big for Canadians as Christmas, and they generally wait until then to travel for family get-togethers.

Mr. Pallister had one main piece of advice for citizens: Wait. If Manitobans get it right now, he said, there will be “lots to celebrate” next year.

The premier choked up as he urged people to forgo their usual family gatherings.

“You don’t need to like me,” he said. “I hope in years to come you might respect me for having the guts to tell you the right thing. And here’s the right thing: stay safe, protect each other, love each other, care for each other, you’ve got so many ways to show that, but don’t get together this Christmas.”





Source link

LEAVE A REPLY