Coronavirus updates: Third vaccine candidate up to 90% effective; November infections explode; Thanksgiving travel continues to surge – USA TODAY


A third vaccine candidate, this one from AstraZeneca, has shown the capability to be up to 90% effective as pharmaceutical companies around the world race for answers to conquering the pandemic as early as this spring.

Vaccines can’t come soon enough. Since Nov. 12, the United States has reported more coronavirus cases than it did in any full month of the pandemic, while hospitalizations set new highs every day.

The University of Oxford said Monday that it is working with AstraZeneca in submitting interim Phase III data to global regulators for emergency-use approvals. Large scale manufacturing is already underway in more than 10 countries to support “equitable global access,” the university said in a statement.

“The vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval,” said AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot.

Pfizer/BioNTech has already applied for U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization for a vaccine that could move forward early next month. Moderna says it will seek FDA authorization for its candidate soon. Both are claiming 95% efficacy rates. Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said Sunday that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated next month, and relative normalcy could return to the country as soon as May.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.2 million cases and almost 257,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 58.9 million cases and 1.39 million deaths. 

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

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AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine may be salve for developing world

The late-stage trial results of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by drugmaker AstraZeneca are at first glance encouraging but not as impressive as those already announced by two other vaccine producers.

AstraZeneca said Monday its vaccine’s efficacy was on average 70%, a figure derived from 90% protection observed in one of the dosing regimens tested and 62% in another regimen using a larger group. Those figures are considerably below the 95% efficacy announced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in their vaccine trials.

But where the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate really excels is in its low cost ($2.50 per dose) and easy transportability, possibly making it the vaccine of choice for the developing world. Unlike the others, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at very cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute.

“Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system,” Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said at a news conference. “And so our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”

All three vaccines must still be approved by regulators before they can be distributed.

England eases restrictions: ‘The scientific cavalry is now in sight’

Britons will be allowed to go shopping, go to the barber and even visit local pubs when a four-week lockdown wraps up next week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday. Johnson confirmed to lawmakers that on Dec. 2 the government will ease stay-at-home orders introduced this month to curb a surge in coronavirus cases. Shops, gyms, personal care businesses and leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen, and collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume. Fans will also be allowed back into sports stadiums for the first time since March.

“The scientific cavalry is now in sight,” Johnson said, adding that breakthroughs in mass testing and vaccines should help eliminate most restrictions by spring. “We must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains.”

$50 million advertising barrage planned to encourage vaccination

The Ad Council announced plans Monday for what it described as “one of the largest public education campaigns in history” to convince Americans to get inoculated when coronavirus vaccines become available. The non-profit council has set an initial goal of raising $50 million from the private sector, including the philanthropic community and corporations. It’s working in partnership with the COVID Collaborative, a national assembly of leading experts and institutions across health, education and the economy.

A recent Gallup survey indicated that only about 58% of U.S. adults are willing to get the vaccine. Experts say 70% are needed for “herd immunity” that could protect the nation.

“Widespread adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine is our generation’s ‘moonshot’ and will represent one of the largest public health interventions in our nation’s history,” said Lisa Sherman, Ad Council President and CEO. 

Virus disrupting college basketball; Tennessee coach Barnes among those infected

The upcoming start of the men’s college basketball season is getting rocked by the coronavirus. 

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is among multiple Volunteers who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, forcing the 14th-ranked Volunteers to pause activity Monday and putting their first four games in jeopardy. Tennessee is scheduled to open the season Wednesday against Charlotte.

Like Barnes, Baylor coach Scott Drew will be sidelined – likely for at least two weeks – after testing positive for the virus over the weekend. Drew will miss the top-ranked Bears’ season opener Wednesday against No. 17 Arizona State.

In addition, No. 8 Duke had to cancel Wednesday’s season opener because of a positive test within the program of its scheduled opponent, Gardner-Webb, and Ole Miss has had to cancel a tournament it was hosting this week, as well as a Dec. 5 game, because of several infections.

Sunday was busiest airport day of pandemic despite CDC warning

Americans are flocking to airports ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging people not to travel. Sunday was the single busiest day at U.S. airports since the pandemic began: more than 1 million air travelers. Friday’s air traffic also exceeded 1 million and was the second highest daily total since March, according to the Transportation Security Administration. The CDC has stated the concern is not just with the travel, but with the resulting large family gatherings around the holiday, which could spread the highly contagious virus.

“The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members is coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying,” said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager. “We don’t want that to happen.”

Bryan Alexander

Virus safety net could collapse without congressional intervention

The federal safety net that has propped up households financially battered by the pandemic is set to vanish unless a divided Congress can break an impasse that has lasted for months. At the end of the year, millions of unemployed Americans will lose jobless benefits. Tenants can be evicted from their apartments. People with student debt will have to resume payments. Small businesses will lose a critical financial lifeline.

President-elect Joe Biden’s administration and a new Congress are likely to reinstate most or all of the relief programs, analysts said, but their interruption could disrupt lives and cause additional financial heartache during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“The economy will be operating without a safety net in January,” Bank of America economists wrote in a research note.

– Paul Davidson

Last 12 days worse than any month in pandemic for new infections

In the last 12 days, the United States has reported more coronavirus cases than it did in any full month of the pandemic. From Nov. 12 through Sunday, the country reported 1,978,287 new infections, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows. In the previous worst month of new cases, July, the United States reported 1,922,766 cases. And while more than a week remains in November, which has had 20 consecutive days of 100,000-plus cases, this month already has more deaths reported than in February or March, when the pandemic was building, but also more than in June, September or October.

At current rates, November’s death toll will surge past July’s tonight, and then take on August’s. The number of fatalities this month alone – more than 25,600 Americans – roughly equals the death toll of the Revolutionary War.

Mike Stucka

Man charged with assault for breathing on Trump protesters

A man accused of forcefully exhaling on two women outside President Donald Trump’s Virginia golf course has been charged with assault. Raymond Deskins, 61, was charged with misdemeanor assault after a private citizen obtained a warrant through a county magistrate, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said. Deskins did not immediately return a request for comment. Video widely shared on social media shows Deskins blowing air on two unidentified women after one of them asks him to get away and points out that he’s not wearing a mask. Virginia mandates masks be worn in certain locations, but they are not required to be worn outside.

The altercation happened Saturday outside Trump National Golf Club, where the president was playing. Protesters and supporters regularly gather outside the club’s entrance when he plays.

New vaccines transforming industry

The success of two COVID-19 candidate vaccines marks a turning point in the long history of vaccines and could lead to major advances against a variety of diseases. Vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna depend on a technology never before used in a commercial vaccine that could upend the way future ones are made. This new messenger RNA technology, as well another method that depends on viruses to deliver vaccines, are transforming the field, said Brendan Wren, a professor of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“It could be quite a new era for vaccines and vaccinology,” he said. “We seemed to move ahead – in this one year – 10 years.”

Karen Weintraub

Wisconsin Rep. Bryan Steil tests positive for COVID-19

Wisconsin Rep. Bryan Steil has tested positive for COVID-19, the Republican congressman announced Sunday.

“After working in Washington, D.C., all of last week, I began experiencing mild symptoms this weekend and contacted my health care provider while at home in Janesville. I took a COVID-19 test today and the test results came back positive,” Steil said in a Twitter post. Steil said he is quarantining and will work from his home. He was first elected in 2018 and held his seat in this month’s election.

Hundreds of bodies from NYC’s spring surge still in freezer trucks

Hundreds of bodies are still stored in freezer trucks at a disaster morgue set up during New York City’s coronavirus surge in the spring, according to the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Many of the 650 bodies at the disaster morgue on the Brooklyn waterfront are of people whose families can’t be located or can’t afford a proper burial, officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Normally, the deceased would have been buried within a few weeks in a gravesite for the indigent on Hart Island in the Long Island Sound. But as COVID-19 deaths surged in New York in April – as many as 800 deaths in one day – Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged that mass burials in temporary graves wouldn’t take place.

The city is slowly reducing the number of bodies in storage, and the number has declined from 698 to 650 since mid-September, according to Dina Maniotis, the chief medical examiner’s office’s executive deputy commissioner.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announces tighter restrictions

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak strengthened Nevada’s mask mandate among other new restrictions announced Sunday. The new constraints, referred to as a “statewide pause,” go into effect at midnight Tuesday and will be in place for three weeks. 

“From the start of this pandemic, there aren’t any decisions that don’t have negative consequences. Weighing the loss of jobs and businesses versus the loss of health and lives is painful, without a perfect solution,” Sisolak said. 

Private gatherings will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households. Public gatherings limits will also be reduced from 250 people to 50, including churches. Masks are required at any time people are around someone not part of their immediate household, including during private gatherings inside and outside.

Thirty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have mask mandates. What are the rules in your state? Check our list.

– Kristin Oh and Chelcey Adami, Reno Gazette Journal

Vehicles line up at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing center on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Los Angeles County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants, bars

Dining at restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries will be restricted in Los Angeles County, beginning Wednesday at 10 p.m.

“To reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings, restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer take-out, drive thru and delivery services,” the county’s public health department said in a news release posted on its website.

The statement added that in Los Angeles County, the country’s most populous with 10 million people, there are 1,401 COVID patients currently hospitalized, and 26% of them are in intensive care. Hospitalizations rose by 35% over the last week.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press


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