Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and California closed in on that mark as a surge of coronavirus infections engulfs the country from coast to coast.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.

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A medical worker stands at a COVID-19 state drive-through testing site at UTEP, in El Paso, Texas, late last month. Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via Associated Press

Texas, the second-most populous state, has recorded 1.01 million coronavirus cases and over 19,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California, the most populous state, has logged more than 991,000 cases.

The U.S. has recorded over 240,000 deaths and about 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.

Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average; that has now surpassed 970.

Among the many health officials sounding the alarm was Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma.

Read the full story here.

Gov. Cuomo orders end to late-night service at New York bars, restaurants

NEW YORK — After months of loosening coronavirus restrictions, New York state took a step backward Wednesday, limiting the maximum size of private gatherings to 10 people and ordering restaurants, bars and gyms to close no later than 10 p.m.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the new restrictions, which go into effect Friday, are a painful but necessary step to curb what has been an accelerating resurgence of the coronavirus.

“It’s tough on bars and restaurants. It’s tough on gyms. It’s tough on everyone,” the Democrat said. “I would say we are within sight of the finish line. The vaccine has been discovered. It has to be perfected, it had to be operationalized, but we see the finish line.”

The limitation on gatherings in private homes comes two weeks before families traditionally get together for Thanksgiving.

The announcement was met with dismay from hard-hit restaurant owners and their advocates. Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, called it “a huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat.”

Cuomo spoke as rates of coronavirus infection continued to take off in New York and elsewhere.

Over the past seven days, New York has seen an average of 3,600 new infections and nearly 22 deaths per day due to COVID-19. That average number of new cases has doubled in the past 14 days.

As recently as late August, the state was averaging around 600 new cases per day. Tuesday, it recorded 4,820, a new high since April. More than 1,600 people were in the hospital with the virus across the state Tuesday.

Cuomo shut down all nonessential businesses in the spring when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States and started allowing restaurants and other businesses to open at limited capacity when infection rates appeared under control.

Even without the early closing time, restaurateurs have complained that the restrictions make it difficult to stay in business.

UK becomes 5th country to hit 50,000 coronavirus cases

LONDON — The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the fifth country in the world to record more than 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths, a level that one of the nation’s leading doctors says “should never have been reached.”

Figures from the British government showed that 595 more people in the country died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, the highest daily number since May. The figure took the U.K.’s total death toll from the pandemic to 50,365.

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Shoppers pass a branch of Marks and Spencer in London in August. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

The U.K, which has the highest virus-related death toll in Europe, joins the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico in reporting more than 50,000, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.K.’s overall death toll is widely considered to be far higher than that as the total reported only includes those who have tested positive for the virus and doesn’t include those who died of COVID-related symptoms after 28 days.

Like other nations in Europe, the U.K. is experiencing a resurgence of the virus and has imposed new restrictions to curb infections over the past few weeks. England is currently in the midst of its second lockdown, which is due to expire on Dec. 2.

Following the news about the death toll exceeding 50,000, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. is better equipped to handle outbreaks than it was during the first wave in the spring, when the country reported more than 40,000 deaths.

In addition to the prospect of a vaccine or vaccines against the coronavirus coming through in the next few months, Johnson cited far more widespread testing. Last week, the government started its first city-wide testing program in the northwest England city of Liverpool. It is planning more widespread testing around the country over the coming weeks, including of university students in early December ahead of their return home for Christmas.

“It is a global pandemic whose effects, whose treatments, whose implications for the economy — all those have been becoming clearer and clearer as the months have gone on,” said Johnson, who was hospitalized in April after contracting the virus.

In Wednesday’s daily update, the British government also said that another 22,950 people tested positive for the virus. While the number of new cases is much higher than 24-hour statistics recorded in the summer, daily confirmed cases appear to be stabilizing, or at least, growing far more slowly.

Because of time lags, most scientists expect the number of people being hospitalized and dying to continue rising for weeks, even after the number of confirmed infections do start going down.

Sioux Falls mayor votes down mask mandate as South Dakota’s COVID-19 numbers rise

By 10 p.m. on Tuesday, the city council in Sioux Falls, S.D., had heard from more than a dozen residents passionately arguing over a mask mandate in the largest city of a state where novel coronavirus infections have been rising at a devastating rate.

As the eight commissioners cast their votes, though, it ended in a deadlock. That left the city’s Republican mayor, who had previously told people to “wear a dang mask,” to break the tie.

But he voted against it.

“I believe the small uptick we’ll see in compliance is not worth the community division that this will create,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken told the audience.

The mask mandate’s failure comes as the state sees a steep rise in virus-related hospitalizations, new reported cases and deaths. Last week, South Dakota’s new daily reported cases rose by roughly 9 percent; the state also saw an 18.2 percent increase in daily reported deaths and a 26.5 percent uptick in hospitalizations, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker.

But state leaders, including Republican Gov. Kristi L. Noem — who has tried to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic — have refused to issue mask mandates even as doctors have urged the public to cover their faces and avoid large gatherings.

“It pains me that we’re becoming famous now for our statistics,” Tom Dean, a South Dakotan doctor, told The Washington Post on Monday. “One in every 20 people has gotten sick in about the last month. Our death rate is the highest in the country, but it’s more than that. These aren’t anonymous cases. These are my patients, my friends, my family.”

In late October, when hospitals continued receiving a surge of new COVID-19 patients, TenHaken implored Sioux Falls residents — and the region — to wear a mask. Schools, hospitals and vulnerable populations, “they need you to do more,” he said in a news conference, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

“If you wanna live in a state that gives you freedoms,” TenHaken said, “that comes with an expectation of responsibility, and I need this region to do more.”

Bolsonaro says everyone will die one day; Brazilians must stop being ‘sissies’

Brazil should stop being “a country of sissies,” President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday as the national death toll topped 162,000.

“All of us are going to die one day,” the right-wing leader said at a news conference, according to Reuters. “Everyone is going to die. There is no point in escaping from that, in escaping from reality. We have to stop being a country of sissies.”

The Portuguese word that Bolsonaro used, “maricas,” can be used as an offensive slang term referring to gay people. Some news outlets, including Agence France-Presse, published a different English translation of Bolsonaro’s remarks using a term more insulting to the gay community.

Brazil is in the throes of one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks and has reported more fatalities per capita than nearly any country in the world, including the United States. Nearly 5.7 million cases have been reported to date, the third-highest total worldwide. Outside experts generally agree that the tally of both infections and deaths in Brazil is an undercount.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the virus, even after he got sick himself in July. He previously claimed that Brazilians could jump in raw sewage and “never catch anything.”

Fauci predicts that average American will have access to vaccine by April

The nation’s top infectious-disease expert predicted Tuesday that the average American could have access to a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

“We’re talking probably by April, end of April, I would think,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN, adding that “these are just guesstimates.”

Fauci had previously told Congress that he believes the United States could have enough doses of a vaccine to distribute to every American by April, but his comments this week came on the heels of the news that Pfizer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine is more than 90 percent effective and could receive emergency authorization by December.

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Fauci urged Americans to “hang in there a bit longer” and not get complacent about social distancing and mask-wearing during the winter months. When a vaccine is rolled out, health-care workers will probably be first in line, with elderly people and those with underlying health conditions next to follow, he said. Other front-line workers, like teachers and nursing home employees, may also be prioritized.

Though people who don’t meet any of those categories could have the option to walk into a pharmacy and get the vaccine as soon as April, Fauci also noted that “we have a lot of people in this country who may not want to get vaccinated right away.” Overcoming that skepticism and achieving widespread immunity could take months.

“It may take well into the second or third quarters to finally get people to be convinced to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

As states implement new restrictions, some local officials vow not to enforce them

While several governors respond to dangerous surges of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations with new restrictions, some local officials are promising to render those rules toothless.

The Republican mayor of Naperville, Ill., Steve Chirico, told ABC 7 that he plans to ignore Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mandate that no more than six people can dine outdoors at a restaurant together. Local contact tracing data does not show restaurants are a major source of transmission, Chirico said.

“We’re not going to force restaurants out of business because this is what they think might be the source,” he told the TV station. “It’s not my intention to start arresting our business owners.”

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Pedestrians wear face masks as they pass a restaurant in downtown Evanston, Ill., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Elsewhere in Illinois, East Peoria Mayor John Kahl expressed opposition earlier this month to Pritzker’s ban on indoor dining. In a Facebook post, Kahl wrote that he would not enforce the rule and would instead “continue to support the rights of all members of the business community to remain open.”

Illinois set a record for infections Wednesday with 12,657 cases and has reported more than 10,000 cases for six straight days. Its 5,042 current coronavirus-related hospitalizations are the most since April 29, and the daily death toll of 152 is the highest since May 27.

In Utah, Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter told the Salt Lake Tribune that it’s “their choice” if store owners and citizens want to obey Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert’s new statewide mask mandate and other rules.

And in California, Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler said county officials “are not enforcing any of the governor’s mandates. Pure and simple.”

“Do what you need to do to stay in business,” Uhler said to CBS Sacramento. “Run your businesses. If your customers want to come in, accommodate them.”

 Minnesota governor criticizes South Dakota counterpart over lack of mask mandate

MINNEAPOLIS  — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he wishes the neighboring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, singling out South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for criticism.

Walz made the comments Tuesday during a news conference in St. Paul where he announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants in Minnesota. He lamented that Minnesota is catching up with the Dakotas, which lead the country in new cases per capita.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaking in July about the upcoming school year. Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Associated Press

The Democratic governor said he’s not blaming neighboring states for that, but he said this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary,” and that data shows it helped spread the virus beyond that state. Singling out Noem, who is a Republican, he said he wishes the state would have canceled the rally and imposed a statewide mask mandate, as Minnesota has.

“And this one’s a little bit personal because the governor of South Dakota has taken to traveling to other states and criticizing others — now at a time when that state’s hospital capacity is overwhelmed,” Walz said. Noem visited Maine in October just before the general election and in her remarks at a Trump rally in Bangor said “I made very different decisions than the governor here in Maine. I would remind (Gov. Mills) that she overstepped her authority. Governors do not have the authority to put in the mandates that she did.”

Noem has repeatedly said she won’t issue a statewide mask requirement and has voiced doubts about health experts who say face coverings prevent infections from spreading. She has used her refusal to issue mandates to become a rising star among conservatives, and her travels to presidential proving grounds like New Hampshire and Iowa are fueling speculation that she is eyeing a 2024 run for president.

Rate of infections slowing in hard-hit Belgium

BRUSSELS — Decreasing hospitalizations, fewer confirmed cases and other major public health indicators show that the resurgence of the coronavirus in Belgium is abating.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano government health group said Wednesday: “The decrease of infections and hospital admissions is continuing. And for the first time, the number of patients in intensive care units is no longer increasing,” said

The daily number of deaths caused by COVID-19 “continues to rise, but here, too, the pace seems to slow down,” he said.

It was welcome news for Belgium, which proportionally is among the worst-hit nations in Europe when it comes to confirmed coronavirus cases. Officials had feared that the nation’s maximum intensive care unit occupancy of 2,000 beds would be reached last Friday. ICU bed use is now plateauing and slightly tapering off at 1,470.

“Possibly, we have reached a peak and the number of ICU patients will no longer rise,” Van Gucht said.

Over the past month Belgium has taken increasingly stringent measures to contain the virus, with bar and restaurant closures capped by a partial lockdown, which started last week and put further restrictions on gatherings and forced non-essential shops to shut.

Belgium still had 7,834 new confirmed cases a day over the past week, but it amounted to a 46% decline from the previous 7-day period. The daily death toll for the past week stood at 190 people, a 35% increase.

Fauci says working with Trump was ‘very stressful’

As the Trump presidency nears an end, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert acknowledged Wednesday that working with this administration has been “very stressful.”

“When you have public figures like [former chief strategist Stephen K.] Bannon calling for your beheading, that’s really kind of unusual,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Australian television program “The 7.30 Report.”

Bannon suggested on his podcast last week that the heads of Fauci and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray should be put on pikes, prompting Twitter to permanently ban his account after he posted the clip.

“That’s not the kind of thing you think about when you’re going through medical school to become a physician,” Fauci told the interviewer.

As the coronavirus ravaged the country in the spring, Fauci’s blunt remarks about masks, experimental treatments and the pandemic’s severity at times drew ire from Trump and some of his closest advisers. The White House eventually sidelined Fauci, keeping him out of the Oval Office for long stretches of time and limiting his direct contact with the president.

Fauci said in the interview that he has gotten through the challenges by focusing “like a laser beam” on his goal as a scientist, which he said is to help develop vaccines. The next challenges, he said, are developing therapeutics and public health measures “to be listened to by the American public.”

“If you focus on that and don’t get distracted by all the other noise, then it’s not as bad as you might think it is,” he said.

Texas 1st state to surpass 1 million virus cases

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has become the first U.S. state with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

The nation’s second-most populous state has recorded 1.01 million coronavirus cases and 19,337 deaths since the pandemic began in early March, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Texas registered 10,865 confirmed cases on Tuesday, setting a new daily record in a state led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. There are 6,170 people hospitalized with the coronavirus and 94 new deaths on Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas had recently surpassed California, the most populous state, with the most cases. The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Coronavirus cases are surging in the Laredo and El Paso areas. Another 1,292 cases and nine deaths were reported in El Paso County on Tuesday, bringing the death total to 682.

Nationwide, there were 1 million coronavirus cases in the first 10 days of November.

University students in Britain to return home for Christmas in staggered departures

LONDON — Britain is planning a strategy to get hundreds of thousands of university students home for Christmas without sparking a new upsurge in coronavirus cases.

Scientists say students traveling from their hometowns to colleges in September was one of the drivers of the current wave of COVID-19 in the U.K. There have been multiple campus outbreaks, with students confined to residences and group activities canceled.

The British government said Wednesday that it plans to stagger students’ departures at the end of term to avoid a mass exodus. They want universities in England to send students home over a nine-day period after the current four-week lockdown in England ends on Dec. 2.

As many students as possible will get rapid-results COVID-19 tests before they travel, the government said — though it was unclear exactly how many would be tested.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said “the mass movement of students across the country at the end of term presents a really significant challenge within the COVID-19 response,” but that the measures would reduce the risk.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to bring in similar measures.

Chinese official confident that country will avoid 2nd virus wave

BEIJING — A leading Chinese health official has expressed confidence the country may avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections this winter if it maintains current precautions.

Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told leading financial magazine Caixin that China “will very likely prevent” a new round of infections given present trends.

China has largely eliminated new local outbreaks by requiring masks indoors and on public transport, requiring two-week quarantines for those entering the country and banning some foreign travelers entirely.

Authorities have quickly moved to address local outbreaks by tracing potential contacts, carrying out widespread testing and sometimes locking down entire communities.

While China was accused of suppressing information initially, its recent data have not been seriously challenged and local officials have moved swiftly to disclose new cases. That has allowed the world’s second-largest economy to largely recover.

Vanuatu records first case of coronavirus

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Pacific nation of Vanuatu has recorded its first case of the coronavirus after a citizen who had been repatriated from the United States tested positive while in quarantine.

Vanuatu had been among the last handful of countries to have avoided the virus.

Health authorities say the 23-year-old man was asymptomatic when he returned home Nov. 4. His infection was confirmed Tuesday after routine testing.

Officials say they plan to keep everyone from the same flight in quarantine and to trace the man’s close contacts, but they don’t plan to impose any broader measures in the nation of 300,000 people.


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