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Coronavirus daily news updates, November 2: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

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Editors note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, November 2, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.

COVID-19 related deaths across the globe topped 5 million in a span of fewer than two years on Monday. The United States has the highest COVID-19 death toll of any nation. with 745,000 recorded deaths during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease and Control shared a report detailing research that both infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity lasts at least six months, but that vaccines are more consistent in their protection and offer a huge boost in antibodies for people previously infected.

Despite advice from top health officials, some individuals have opted to not comply with vaccine mandates. About 9,000 municipal workers in NYC were placed on unpaid leave for refusing to abide by the vaccine mandate, which took effect Monday.

Were updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.



8:31 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

US gives final clearance to COVID-19 shots for kids 5 to 11

This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. (Pfizer via AP)


U.S. health officials on Tuesday gave the final signoff to Pfizers kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opens a major expansion of the nations vaccination campaign to children as young as 5.

The Food and Drug Administration already authorized the shots for children ages 5 to 11 doses just a third of the amount given to teens and adults. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines.

The announcement by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky came only hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizers shots should be opened to the 28 million youngsters in that age group.

The decision marks the first opportunity for Americans under 12 to get the powerful protection of any COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the full story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press


7:27 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

This besieged Syrian province escaped the worst of COVID. Then vaccine skepticism crossed the border

A medical worker checks on a covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit at al-Ziraa Hospital in Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 12, 2021. (Photo for The Washington Post by Nicole Tung)


For weeks, Ibrahim Abboud, an administrator at a hospital in Idlib, Syria, had been surviving on little sleep, consumed by worry and guilt, he said. The coronavirus intensive care ward was running out of beds because of an alarming spike in infections.

Among its patients was his 52-year-old mother.

He watched her on a security-camera feed in his office as he sat at his desk every day. My mistake was, I didnt force her to take the vaccine, he said. He had tried pleading with her, but she was swayed by rumors about the vaccines potential to cause harm, he said.

Idlib is one of the most vulnerable places in the world for infection: an impoverished rebel-controlled province in northwestern Syria filled with people displaced by war, most of them crowded into tent camps or rickety settlements erected in olive groves or on barren hillsides.

Idlibs borders are largely sealed, and for much of the pandemic, isolation was a virtue, sparing the province from the worst ravages of the outbreak. Some dangers could not be kept out, though. As large quantities of vaccine doses started arriving in April, conspiracy theories circulated on social media, YouTube and WhatsApp groups, warning that the vaccines, from Britain and China, were either deadly or a tool in nefarious and unspecified foreign plots, residents said. Then in August, infections started to surge after Syrians living in Turkey were allowed to visit Idlib for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The visitors brought the virulent delta variant with them, doctors said.

The nightmare scenario that public health officials had long warned about began to unfold.

As of last month, Idlib and nearby areas have recorded 78,000 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, but 51,000 of them and half of the more than 1,400 COVID-related deaths have occurred since just Aug. 1.

Read the story here.

—Kareem Fahim and Hussam Ali, The Washington Post


6:24 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

Brazil weekly COVID-19 death toll at lowest since April 2020

A woman during a protest by the “Widows of COVID” group against the way the government handled the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, on the Day of the Dead in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Her shirt features a portrait next to this Portuguese message: “Homage of the Fonseca Lopes family, to Heimar Geraldo Lopes Filho. Forever the love of our lives.” (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)


Brazils seven-day total for deaths from COVID-19 has fallen to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to online research website Our World in Data.

In the seven days through Nov. 1 the nation recorded 2,188 deaths a level unseen since April 2020 amid increasingly widespread vaccination.

After a sluggish start, Latin Americas largest nation has now fully vaccinated more than half its population. That share is even higher in some large cities, such as Sao Paulo, where virtually 100% of the adult population has had at least one shot and more than 90% are fully vaccinated. And a greater percentage of Brazilians have had at least one dose than Americans, according to the data site.

That has put the nations number of virus deaths on a downward trend for the last four months. Experts widely expressed concern that Brazil could see a renewed surge from the spread of the delta variant thus far hasnt materialized.

The nations current daily toll is just one-tenth the gruesome peak witnessed in April 2021. That surge coupled with outrage over President Jair Bolsonaros handling of the pandemic triggered the formation of a Senate committee to investigate the governments actions.

After six months of hearings, the committee last week recommended Bolsonaro and dozens of others face criminal charges.

Read the story here.

—David Biller and Diane Jeantet, The Associated Press


5:30 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

Travel Troubleshooter| More than 18 months into COVID and travel companies are still processing refunds

When TAP Air Portugal cancels Sandra Einhorns flights during the pandemic, she waits a while before requesting a refund. But the money appears to be gone. Is there a way to get it back?

(FILE) TAP Air Portugal airplanes taxi at Lisbon International Airport in this 2015 file photo. In this week’s Travel Troubleshooter, a customer gets caught between the Portuguese airline and Expedia in a debacle over canceled, unrefunded international flights. (Armando Franca / The Associated Press)


Q: In the summer of 2019, I booked seven round-trip tickets from Miami to Budapest, Hungary, via TAP Air Portugal through Expedia. I planned to fly to Europe the following spring with my husband, my two daughters, my mother and my two cousins. 

In March of 2020, a week or so before our scheduled departure, TAP Air Portugal canceled our flight because of COVID-19. I waited a few months before doing anything, since I got an automated email about flight credit. And who knew when the world would open up again? 

Eventually, time passed, life circumstances changed, and I knew that the seven of us would not be able to take that trip to Budapest in the near future. So I began the process of trying to get a refund. 

Its been a year since I asked for a refund, and theres still no refund from either Expedia or TAP Air Portugal. When I try to check my refund process, it either doesnt have anything in the system or still shows a credit. 

I am exhausted from having to go back and forth between the two. Anything you can do to help me would be so much appreciated.  Sandra Einhorn, Hollywood, Florida

Read the answer here.

—Christopher Elliott, Special to The Seattle Times


4:15 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

S. Carolina governor: Pandemic cash for free 2-year degrees

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about his plan to spend $500 million from COVID-19 federal relief money to improve and build new water systems in the state during a news conference on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Great Falls, S.C. The General Assembly will get the final say on how to spend the $2.4 billion in pandemic relief money. (Tracy Kimball/The Herald via AP)


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants to spend the last $17 million of his COVID-19 education relief money to fully pay for anyone to go to a technical college for two years to train to enter high demand jobs.

McMaster wants to help up to 15,000 people by paying for the tuition, fees, textbooks and materials for associates degrees, but to continue the program, he will need the General Assembly to add $124 million, said Melanie Baron, the governors senior education advisor.

This will provide high-demand, high-skilled job training in areas like health care, manufacturing, IT and construction, South Carolina Technical College System President Tim Hardee said.

The governor is basing his new program on an initiative from right after the pandemic started in early 2020 where he spent $12 million in federal relief money to pay for 12-week programs to certify people for critical need jobs, Barton said.

About 4,000 people have taken advantage of the program to become truck drivers, forklift operators or welders. Nearly 500 of them are now working as nursing assistants, officials said.

Read the story here.

—Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press


3:15 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

Greece toughens restrictions on unvaccinated as cases spike

A woman wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, reads a book at a kiosk in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Greek Health Minister will announce new measures against pandemic after Greece reached new record of daily cases with 5,449 on Monday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)


Greece on Tuesday announced tougher restrictions on most activities for unvaccinated people, as the country registered a record high in new infections for the second day in a row.

Health Minister Thanos Pevris said the measures would take effect Saturday. Greece on Tuesday recorded 6,700 new COVID-19 infections up from 5,449 Monday and 59 deaths.

Some 61% of Greeces population has been fully inoculated. Health authorities are striving to boost vaccine uptake as well as to encourage adult Greeks to register for booster shots. Infections are currently particularly high in northern Greece, where public hospitals are running out of intensive care unit beds and are sending patients to be treated in private facilities.

The measures will affect people who choose not to be vaccinated, Plevris said, adding that the center-right government has ruled out a return to a general lockdown.

Plevris said as of Saturday all unvaccinated people will be obliged to display a recent negative test to enter all indoor public areas, including banks, most shops, government buildings and hair salons. The same will apply to outdoor restaurant areas and cafes. Exceptions will be made for supermarkets, shops selling food, pharmacies and places of worship.

All public and private sector employees will also have to display negative tests twice a week to enter their workplaces, instead of once as is now the case.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press


2:15 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

US advisers urge COVID shot for kids 5-11, final OK due soon

This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. (Pfizer via AP)


An influential advisory panel voted Tuesday that all children ages 5 to 11 should get Pfizers pediatric COVID-19 shots, putting the U.S. on the brink of a major expansion of vaccinations and a final decision is expected within hours.

The Food and Drug Administration already has OKd kid-size doses just a third of the amount given to teens and adults as safe and effective for the younger age group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines, and its advisers decided Pfizers shots should be opened to all 28 million children ages 5 to 11.

If the CDCs director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signs off, it will mark the first opportunity for Americans under 12 to get the powerful protection of any COVID-19 vaccine.

Shots into little arms could begin this week, as Pfizer already is packing and shipping the first orders, millions of doses, to states and pharmacies to be ready.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press


2:10 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

Dutch government tightens COVID-19 measures again

Faced with sharply rising coronavirus cases, the caretaker prime minister of the Netherlands said Tuesday that the Dutch government is reinstituting an order to wear face masks in public places like stores and libraries and mandating an extension for the use of COVID-19 passes.

COVID-19 cases have increased rapidly in the Netherlands for weeks. The countrys public health institute reported Tuesday that confirmed infections rose 39% compared to the week before and hospital admissions were up 31%. The upward trend began soon after the government ended most remaining lockdown restrictions in late September.

It wont surprise anybody that we again have a tough message this evening, Prime Minister Rutte said during a nationally televised press conference. Tough because we unfortunately have to ask more of people now that the infection numbers and hospital numbers are rising quickly.

Rutte also appealed for calm in the polarized debate between supporters and opponents of COVID-19 measures.

Read the story here.

—Mike Corder, The Associated Press


1:15 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

Famed Swiss eaterys closure highlights COVID rule tensions

People walk in front of the closed restaurant ‘Walliserkanne’, in the mountain resort of Zermatt, Switzerland, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. The restaurant was closed for not respecting the COVID-19 law and police arrested the three owners. The doors of the restaurant were officially sealed and concrete blocks were placed in front of the entrance. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)


A move by Swiss police in a resort town to shutter a restaurant because its owners flouted a government requirement to check patrons COVID-19 passes has again brought to the forefront tensions with some people who view such measures as infringing on civil rights.

Swiss media reported that police in Zermatt, a resort town at the foot of the famed Matterhorn peak, swept into the 19th century Walliserkanne restaurant and sealed it off after its owners had defied a closure order and kept serving.

The three owners who were taken into custody, had reportedly transformed a stack of cinder blocks that police had used to block off the front entrance into a makeshift bar and let patrons to enter from the back.

The rich Alpine country of about 8.5 million people whose ski slopes and winter sports are a key draw for tourists has reported an average of about 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 in recent days, up from around 870 in mid-October.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press


12:02 pm, Nov. 2, 2021

The Yelp of COVID: Vigilantes crowdsource pandemic safety tips for consumers

In the absence of COVID safety mandates in some states and regions, people who want to avoid the maskless for safety reasons are creating online groups designed to help people protect themselves from COVID-19 by grading local businesses on their safety measures.

Such COVID vigilantes have cropped up in multiple cities, appearing where safety guidelines are lax despite high numbers of positive cases.

The reviews on Athens, GA Mask Grades 2.0, likened to Yelp reviews, include information about a companys physical distancing provisions, the availability of outdoor services, vaccination requirements, and the percentages of masked employees and customers.

Yet in the absence of COVID safety mandates, groups like these prove useful to consumers such as Travis Henry, helping him make informed decisions.

I dont want to know about aggregate trends about every grocery store in America, Henry said. I want to know about the half-dozen that I can drive to, and which one has the largest percentage of people who are masked, or which one has put up plexiglass windows.

The lack of government action in some communities is forcing everyday people to fill the void, said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an international nonprofit organization designed to disrupt online misinformation.

You can see here that people are taking action collectively, essentially replicating what governments should be doing, but in a private fashion out of sheer desperation.”

Read the story here.

—Morgan Gonzales, Kaiser Health News


11:02 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Irans top diplomat in quarantine, tests positive for COVID

Irans foreign minister is at home in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the countrys state TV reported on Monday.

According to the official IRNA news agency, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahians general condition was described as good. IRNA did not confirm that Abdollahian has COVID-19 as the state TV later did. Many Iranian officials have had the illness caused by the coronavirus.

With nearly 6 million positive cases, Iran has been hit the worst by the pandemic in the Middle East. The country of 84 million people has reported more than 125,000 deaths.

Iranian officials have warned that with less than 45% of the nation fully vaccinated, more surges of the virus are expected.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press


10:00 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Hard-hit Russia sets another daily record for COVID deaths

Medics wearing special suits to protect against coronavirus treat a patient with coronavirus at an ICU at the Regional Clinical Hospital 1, in Krasnodar, south Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit another daily record several days after a nationwide order for many Russians to stay off work took effect. Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported record daily infections or deaths almost every day for the last month. (AP Photo/Vitali Timkiv)


Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit another daily record Tuesday, four days since a nationwide order for many Russians to stay off work took effect.

Russias state coronavirus task force reported 39,008 new confirmed cases and 1,178 COVID-19 deaths. The task force has reported record daily infections or deaths almost every day for the last month.

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a nationwide non-working period for Oct. 30-Nov. 7.

Russias weekslong surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the governments reluctance to toughen restrictions. Less than 35% of Russias nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated so far, even though Russia approved a domestically developed vaccine against the coronavirus months before most countries.

Read the story here.

—Daria Litvinova, The Associated Press


9:02 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Pfizer tops Q3 forecasts as total COVID vaccine sales soar

Pfizer beat third-quarter expectations and raised its 2021 forecast again even as sales of its top product, the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, slipped in the U.S.

Soaring international sales of the preventive shots helped pushed total Comirnaty revenue close to $13 billion in the quarter, and the drugmaker said Tuesday that it now expects to book about $36 billion in sales from the vaccine this year.

Thats up from a second-quarter forecast for $33.5 billion and more than twice what Pfizer expected at the start of the year, shortly after distribution of the shots began.

In the U.S., third-quarter sales of the vaccine fell to $1.59 billion from a little over $2 billion the previous quarter but demand appears to be picking up again and will be helped by booster shots and an expansion of the vaccine for use in children.

Read the story here.

—Tom Murphy, The Associated Press


8:30 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Romania hits pandemic death record as vaccines lag

Romania reported a record daily number of 591 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday amid a persistently low vaccination rate and a wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed the countrys ailing health care system.

Only 37% of adults in Romania, a European Union member with around 19 million people, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 75%. Within the 27-nation EU, only Bulgaria has a smaller share of its population vaccinated.

Romanian authorities said Tuesday that 541 of the 591 people who had died of COVID-19 since the day before were unvaccinated.

The unfolding disaster prompted authorities to impose tighter restrictions starting last week. Vaccination certificates are required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema or a shopping mall. For everyone, there is a 10 p.m. curfew.

Since the pandemic started, Romania has registered more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 48,664 deaths. The countrys previous daily death toll record of 574 was set Oct. 19.

—The Associated Press


8:02 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Hawaii holds on to virus restrictions even as cases plummet

Hawaii remains among the most restrictive states for COVID-19 mandates, despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

Various state and county rules have changed often, leaving some businesses, travelers and residents confused and frustrated.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said earlier this year that all restrictions would end once 70% of the population was fully vaccinated. But a surge of delta variant cases filled hospitals and extended rules to guard against COVID-19. Now, case counts have dropped and about 83% of eligible Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated. But many rules remain in place.

Germaine Malabanan plans to get married on Oahu this month after her wedding was delayed twice because of the pandemic, but security guards will be required for weddings will be there to make sure her guests are wearing masks even while outdoors.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press


7:30 am, Nov. 2, 2021

WATCH: CDC panel debates if all school kids should get COVID vaccine?

https://video.ibm.com/channel/VWBXKBR8af4

Should all school-age kids get Pfizers pediatric COVID-19 vaccine? Thats the question before an influential government advisory panel Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of kid-size doses for children ages 5 to 11. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also must sign off before widespread vaccinations begin in that age group.

CDCs advisers are weighing who will get the most benefit as they deliberate whether to recommend the shots for up to 28 million more children, or perhaps only for those most vulnerable to serious illness. Their recommendation goes to the CDC director for the final say.

FILE – This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. On Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration paved the way for children ages 5 to 11 to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. One more regulatory hurdle remains, as advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agencys director expected shortly afterward. (Pfizer via AP, File)


Shots into little arms could begin this week, as Pfizer already is packing and shipping the first orders, millions of doses, to states and pharmacies to be ready.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press


7:00 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Canadian snowbirds head south as US land borders reopen

R. Glenn Williamson, Canada’s Arizona honorary consul and founder and CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council, soaks up the morning sun at the Arizona Biltmore resort Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Phoenix. Williamson says he’s looking forward to the return of Canadian snowbirds to the state now that vaccinated people from other countries can enter the U.S. by land starting Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)


Canadians Ian and Heather Stewart are savoring the idea of leaving behind this winters subzero temperatures when the U.S. reopens its borders to nonessential land travel next week and they launch a long-delayed drive to their seasonal home in Fort Myers, Florida.

Restrictions imposed by both countries during the coronavirus pandemic and their own concerns kept the retired couple and millions of other Canadians from driving south to warmer climes like Florida, Arizona and Mexico during last years freezing winter months.

Now, the Biden administrations decision to allow vaccinated people to enter the U.S. by land for any reason starting Nov. 8 has many Canadians packing up their campers and making reservations at their favorite vacation condos and mobile home parks. Some are already in the U.S., arriving on flights that never stopped and have required just a negative COVID-19 test.

But many have waited to drive, preferring the convenience of having a vehicle to get around in with rental cars scarce and expensive.

Read the full story here.

—Terry Tang and Anita Snow, The Associated Press


6:24 am, Nov. 2, 2021

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Today is a big day for kids and parents as the CDC weighs final approval of vaccines for children ages 5 through 11.Washington state pediatricians are telling parents to get kids vaccinated as soon as possible. That comes as the state’s COVID-19 infections and hospitalizationsstart to plateau at a worrisome level.Kid-sized vaccine doses are already being shipped.

Should you mix or match your booster shot? Navigating this can feel like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book you have options but not many clues about the best path. A look at the science can help. Plus, read a booster-shot Q&A with experts and see if you qualify for one.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has racked up so many fines for refusing to wear a mask on the U.S. House floor, she could have bought a brand-new car. The House Ethics committee slapped her with four more fines yesterday.

—Kris Higginson

Coronavirus

Indiana coronavirus updates Friday November 26, 2021

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The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS Here are Friday’s latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Indiana.

Registrations for the vaccine are now open for Hoosiers 5 and older through the Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Here’s where you can get a COVID-19 booster shot

RELATED: Far from ‘back to normal’: Go inside the ICU as Indiana frontline medical workers continue the fight against COVID-19

WHO calls omicron a ‘variant of concern’

A new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is leading to a new round of travel restrictions just as many had finally begun to ease. 

The risks of the variant, called omicron, are largely unknown. But, the World Health Organization has called it a “variant of concern” and governments around the world are not waiting for scientists to better understand the variant to impose flight bans and other travel restrictions.

On Friday, European Union nations agreed to impose a ban on travel from southern Africa to counter its spread. The 27-nation bloc acted within hours upon the advice of the EU executive, which said all countries needed to be extra cautious in dealing with the variant until it was clear how serious a threat the variant posed.

The U.K. also banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and announced that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.

The moves have renewed a debate over whether flight bans and other travel restrictions work to prevent the spread of new variants. Some say at best the restrictions can buy time for new public health measures to be put in place. At worst, they do little to stop the spread and give a false sense of security. 

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it strongly discouraged imposing travel bans on people coming from countries where the variant was reported.

FDA: Merck COVID pill effective, experts will review safety

U.S. health officials say Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill is effective but they raised questions about its safety during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration posted its review Friday ahead of a public meeting next week where outside experts will debate the drug’s benefits and risks. 

If FDA authorizes the drug it would be the first pill for U.S. patients infected with the virus. All FDA-authorized drugs currently used against coronavirus require an IV or injection. 

The FDA will ask its experts whether the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks.

WHO hosts special meeting on worrying new COVID-19 variant

Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has been detected in South Africa, though its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks. 

The technical advisory group on the evolution of COVID-19 was meeting virtually to discuss the so-called B.1.1.529 variant that has caused stock markets to swoon and led the European Union to recommend a pause in flights to southern Africa. 

The group could decide if it’s a “variant of concern” the most worrying type, like the well-known delta variant or a “variant of interest,” and whether to use a Greek letter to classify it.

Stores kick off Black Friday but pandemic woes linger

Retailers are expected to usher in the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season Friday with bigger crowds than last year in a closer step toward normalcy. But the fallout from the pandemic continues to weigh on businesses and shoppers’ minds. 

Buoyed by solid hiring, healthy pay gains and substantial savings, customers are returning to stores and splurging on all types of items. But the spike has also resulted in limited selection across the board as suppliers and retailers have been caught flat-footed. 

Shortages of shipping containers and truckers have helped to delay deliveries, while inflation continues to creep. 

The combination of higher prices and lack of inventory could make for a less festive mood. 

What is this new COVID variant in South Africa?

South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the countrys most populous province. It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana. 

Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant is actually responsible. 

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 48.12 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 775,790 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 260 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 5.18 million deaths and more than 7.52 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.

Holcomb extends COVID-19 state of emergency; lawmakers pause on vaccine mandate exemptions

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency order will extend into the new year. It had been set to expire on Dec. 1. 

Last week I made clear what would be necessary to responsibly allow the state public health emergency to expire. However, following the announcement that the General Assembly will not return on Monday, Nov. 29, I plan to extend the state public health emergency and the executive order next week for another 30 days to preserve the necessary provisions. I will continue to work closely with Speaker Huston and Senator Bray as we move into next legislative session.

Holcomb had said that lawmakers would need to pass legislation to protect Hoosiers by allowing for the continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures, the continuation of the enhanced benefit for those receiving federal food assistance and extend the ability to efficiently vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds.

Lawmakers had created a draft proposal to cover those three items, but it would also force businesses to grant COVID-19 vaccination requirement exemptions without any questions and block similar immunization rules set by state universities. The issues were hotly debated during public testimony Nov. 23.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) released a statement saying the legislature would not return Monday, Nov. 29 to vote on the proposal. He said they would instead work on the issue through December and reconvene in January.

“Tuesday’s passionate public testimony reinforced the concerns I’ve heard from constituents and business leaders over the federal mandates. While most Indiana companies are acting in good faith, it’s unacceptable that some employers are blatantly disregarding well-established vaccine exemptions, and we’ll address these issues through legislation. Over the next month, we’ll continue to listen and talk with stakeholders about our policy proposals, and we’ll file legislation in the near future. Hoosiers can rest assured that we’ll hit the ground running come Jan. 4.”

MCPHD closed Black Friday, including vaccine clinics

The Marion County Public Health Department, as well as the COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites it operates, will be closed Black Friday. 

Three vaccination sites and a testing site will also have the following schedule changes: 

  • COVID-19 testing at 3838 N. Rural St. is closed through the weekend. You can make an appointment to be tested at this site by visiting MarionHealth.org/indycovid or calling 317-221-5515.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination site for children ages 5-11 that’s located at 3685 Commercial Drive will be closed until Monday, Nov. 29. 
  • The COVID-19 vaccination sites at the College Avenue Branch Library and Martindale-Brightwood Branch Library will be by appointment only. The vaccine will not be offered at these sites on Saturday, Nov. 27.

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Stocks and oil prices drop as the world reacts to new coronavirus variant omicron : NPR

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Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Black Friday. Stocks dropped after a coronavirus variant appears to be spreading across the globe.

Richard Drew/AP


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Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Black Friday. Stocks dropped after a coronavirus variant appears to be spreading across the globe.

Richard Drew/AP

Stock markets around the world tumbled on Friday after scientists in South Africa identified a new, fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average recording its biggest single-day drop of the year.

At one point, the Dow fell more than 1,000 points before recovering slightly to close down 905 points, or about 2.5%, for the session. Oil prices dropped more than 10%, their steepest one-day decline since early in the pandemic.

Virologists are rushing to learn more about the variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that was first identified in Botswana, and which is rapidly outcompeting other versions of the virus in the region of South Africa that includes Johannesburg.

The United States said it will restrict travelers from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday. It joined at least 10 other countries restricting travel from the region, including Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Singapore, The New York Times reported.

The variant, currently denominated B.1.1.529, reportedly could have far more mutations than those displayed by the delta variant, which became the dominant variant in most of the world over the summer.

It’s not clear yet whether the mutations make this variant more infectious or whether it causes more severe illness, but researchers say the high number of mutations to the “spike proteins” the focus of a body’s immune response may make it more able to get past the body’s defenses.

Despite the spread of this variant, the number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa is still well below the delta surge earlier this year. But numbers are beginning to tick up again.

The European Commission recommended its members block travel from countries where the variant has been found, as Belgium reported a case, according to the BBC. The broadcaster said in addition to Botswana and South Africa, cases have also shown up in Hong Kong and Israel.

The World Health Organization called an emergency meeting on Friday, where it named the new variant omicron, after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, and designated it a “Variant of Concern.”

“This news is putting the handbrake on markets,” Peter Rutter, the head of equities at Royal London Asset Management, told Reuters.

“There is a huge range of outcomes that can happen. We could have serious lockdowns or we get no lockdowns and a booming economy,” Rutter said. “The very fact we don’t know, is what’s concerning the market.”

The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 were also down more than 2% on Friday, as U.S. markets closed early for the holiday.

Even after the global selloff, U.S. stock markets remain in positive territory for the year. The Dow is up more than 15% since the beginning of 2021, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are both up more than 20%.

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Coronavirus data for Thursday, Nov. 25: Michigans daily deaths reach 10-month high

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Michigans seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths per day has reached 70 for the first time since the last week in January 2021.

The latest daily average has climbed almost 63% in two weeks, following trends of spiking case, hospitalization and positive test rates. The rate was in single digits throughout July and early August.

Michigan ranks third in the nation for its daily COVID deaths over the last week, behind only California and Texas. It ranks fifth in deaths per 100,000 people during that span.

In the 30 days ending Nov. 22, there were at least 1,570 reported COVID-19 deaths across the state, of which about 80% were 60 years or older. Of the remaining deaths, 165 were in their 50s, 99 were in their 40s, and 36 were in their 30s.

There was at least one death each in the 20-29 age and 0-19 age brackets, but due to a privacy policy, the state health department only provides a range of 1-5 deaths when the total is less than six.

Fully vaccinated residents make up more than 50% of the states population, but less than 13% of its 8,052 COVID-19 deaths since Jan. 15. Of the more than 5.1 million Michiganders who have been fully vaccinated, less than 1.8% have tested positive for coronavirus and 0.02% have died of COVID-19.

Below is a closer look at the latest state and county coronavirus data, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccinations: 60.7% of eligible residents have received at least one dose

Michigan has administered more than 276,000 primary-dose vaccines over the last three weeks, including about 94,383 last week. The last two weeks were the highest totals since mid-June, likely due to the expanded eligibility pool to include younger children.

More than 5.71 million Michigan residents have gotten a first dose vaccine, which accounts for 65.3% of the 12 and older population. Thats up from 64.4% a week ago.

Below is a breakdown by age group of Michigan residents who have gotten one or more shots and those who are fully immunized as of Tuesday, Nov. 23.

  • 75 and older: 84.2% initiated; 78% completed.
  • 65 to 74: 87.4% initiated; 82% completed.
  • 50 to 64: 72.8% initiated; 68.2% completed.
  • 40 to 49: 62.5% initiated; 57.6% completed.
  • 30 to 39: 59.3% initiated; 53.8% completed.
  • 20 to 29: 48.7% initiated; 43.7% completed.
  • 16 to 19: 50.1% initiated; 45.5% completed.
  • 12 to 15: 43.4% initiated; 39.3% completed.
  • 5 to 11: 12.8% initiated, 0% completed.

The interactive map below shows the number of who have people 12 and older who have received as least one dose of vaccine so far. The numbers are based on residence of the vaccine recipient vs. where the the vaccine was given.

You can hold your cursor over a county to see the underlying data, which includes a breakdown by four age groups: Those 65 and older; ages 64 to 50; ages 49 to 20, and under 20. It includes numbers on vaccines initiated and completed.

Cannot see the map? Click here.

Alger County becomes the 11th to reach the 70% vaccination threshold for individuals 12 and older. They join Leelanau, Oakland, Washtenaw, Grand Traverse, Emmet, Mackinac, Kent, Benzie, Charlevoix and Kalamazoo.

Meanwhile, Cass (43%), Hillsdale (45%), Osceola (48%) and Mecosta (48%) counties are at the bottom of the list.

Below is a chart that ranks counties from most vaccinated to least vaccinated. Cannot see it? Click here.

Children 5 to 11 years old are now eligible to get a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine, which has emergency use authorization, recommends two doses spaced three weeks apart for maximum efficacy.

Below is an online database that allows readers to see the number of children 5 to 11 years of age in each county and how many have gotten at least one dose of vaccine. Cant see the database? Click here.

More than 1.3 million people have received a booster dose of vaccine, up from 1.1 million last week.

Booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are now endorsed for everyone. Johnson & Johnson recipients are also recommended to get an additional dose, and federal regulators have said its alright to get a different vaccine than the one you initially received.

New cases: The state is averaging 7,427 new confirmed cases a day

Its a slight increase from 7,353 cases per day a week ago, but a substantial climb from two weeks ago when there were 3,613 cases being reported per day.

Michigans previous high point of the pandemic was 7,270 cases per day, which was set on Nov. 21, 2020. At the time, there were no vaccines available and the state went into a three-week mini-lockdown to reduce coronavirus transmission. Schools moved to remote learning, indoor dining at bars and restaurants was halted, and other businesses experienced restrictions.

Below is a chart that illustrates the seven-day rate of daily reported cases throughout the pandemic. Cant see the chart below? Click here.

Among Michigans 83 counties, 37 reported week-over-week increases in new cases. The largest increases were seen in Charlevoix, Kalkaska, Manistee, Ogemaw, Crawford, Grand Traverse, Luce, and Antrim counties.

The remaining 46 counties saw percentage decreases in cases compared to the week prior. The biggest decreases were seen in Montmorency, Ontonagon, Arenac and Oscoda counties.

Below is an online database that allows readers to see the number of new coronavirus cases in the past seven days compared to the previous week, as well as the per capita number that adjusts for population. The arrows indicate whether the total number of new cases reported in the last seven days has gone up or down compared to the previous seven days.

Cant see the database above? Click here.

The map below is shaded by the states six risk-assessment levels. This is based on new cases reported per day per million people for the week of Nov. 18-24.

The arrows on the map indicate whether the total number of new cases reported in the last seven days has gone up or down compared to the previous week. Readers can put their cursor over a county to see the underlying data. (Hint: You can drag the map with your cursor to see the entire Upper Peninsula.)

Cannot see the map? Click here.

Positivity rate: The seven-day average is 17.9%

Thats up from last weeks average of 16.8% of tests coming back positive each day.

The latest average indicates a substantial level of community coronavirus transmission. It is more than three-times higher than the 5% threshold set by world health leaders to indicate a moderate level of coronavirus transmission.

Michigan is around the middle of the pack nationally in terms of average daily testing for coronavirus. During the week of Nov. 17-23, there were 62 counties that had a positive rate of 18% or higher. Thats up from 55 such counties last week.

Luce led all counties with 40.35% of tests coming back positive, followed by Hillsdale (33.1%), Keweenaw (31.6%), St. Joseph (30.6%), Newaygo (30%), Oceana (29.9%), and Barry (29.2%).

The chart below allows you to look up any county by name to see the seven-day average positivity rate. The chart compares the average from the past seven days to the average for the previous week.

Cant see the database? Click here.

The interactive map below shows the seven-day average testing rate by county. You can put your cursor over a county to see the underlying data.

Cant see the map above? Click here.

Hospitalizations: 4,138 in-patients

As of Wednesday, hospitals statewide were treating 4,080 adults and 58 children with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, including 843 patients in the ICU. A week ago, hospitals were treating 3,362 adult patients and 60 children.

Hospitals are at or nearing capacity and struggling to keep up with the influx of patients, both for COVID-19 and other ailments. Health systems are having to postpone some non-emergency procedures, and turn away transfer requests due to a lack of available beds and adequate staffing.

For context, the state surpassed 3,900 hospitalizations at the peak of all three prior surges, while the low points of the pandemic have been around 300 patients at a time.

COVID patients make up 17.2% of adult in-patient hospital beds throughout the state, which is up from 13.9% last week and marks the 18th consecutive week-over-week increase. The number of pediatric hospitalizations is about the same as it was last week, but are nearing 2021 highs.

Deaths: The state is reporting 70 COVID deaths a day

Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has reported 22,595 confirmed COVID deaths, plus another 1,649 probable deaths, in which a physician and/or antigen test ruled it COVID-19 but no confirmatory PCR test was done.

Below is a chart illustrating the seven-day average for reported deaths throughout the pandemic. Cant see the chart below? Click here.

States overall risk assessment: All regions remain at highest risk level

In assigning the risk scores, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services looks at factors such as new cases and deaths, test positivity rates, and patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

There are six levels of risk, from low to levels A through E. For several weeks, all eight regions of the state have remained at risk level E.

Cant see the above map? Click here.

For more statewide data, visit MLives coronavirus data page.

To find a testing site near you, check out the states online test find send an email to COVID19@michigan.gov, or call 888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Read more on MLive:

Lax approach, uneven vaccination rates likely contributed to recent COVID surge, but what propelled Michigan to worst in country is unclear

Redefining gratitude: How COVID has changed the way we give thanks

Feds sending teams to Grand Rapids, Dearborn to support over-burdened hospital staff amid COVID surge

COVID-19 Q&A: Should breastfeeding mothers get vaccinated? Is natural immunity more effective?

Michigan reports 17,003 new coronavirus cases, 280 deaths in 2 days ending Wednesday, Nov. 24

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