BATON ROUGE, La. — The White House’s coronavirus advisers are urging Louisiana to step up its restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, as the number of hospitalized virus patients in the state edged higher Thursday amid a third wave of infections.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards continued to sound the alarm about the latest spike in virus cases, worrying that people won’t take precautions and will gather as usual in packed houses for Thanksgiving.
In its weekly report to states, the White House coronavirus task force said Louisiana's efforts are currently “inadequate” and “must be increased.”
Hospitalizations reached 929 on Thursday, and have jumped by 250 over the last week and by 43 overnight, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Hospitals aren’t overwhelmed yet, but Edwards has cautioned the current trajectory raises that risk. At least 5,951 people in Louisiana have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— CDC to avoid travel at Thanksgiving
— Oxford and AstraZeneca on vaccine candidate by Christmas
— African hits 2 million confirmed
— More Americans waiting for hours in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus, as U.S. cases surge nationwide and to gather safely for the holidays.
— Lawyers for the estates of dead workers allege top official at Tyson Foods’ largest pork plant created a pool for managers in Iowa to would get infected.
— The NFL is placing all teams in starting Saturday to help lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
OMAHA, Neb. — A prominent Nebraska infectious disease expert sounded the alarm Thursday about the state’s surging coronavirus cases and called for a statewide mask mandate, a step Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has repeatedly refused to take.
Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the pandemic has reached its most dangerous point since it began and described the recent increase in virus hospitalizations as unsustainable.
Nebraska hospitals are straining to cope with the spike in coronavirus patients, and officials are urging the public to wear masks and take other precautionary steps to slow the spread of the disease. The virus has been surging in Nebraska, with more than five times as many COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Wednesday than the 185 it had two months ago.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she will provide $14 million in federal funds to Iowa’s long-term care centers to help them manage new outbreaks of the coronavirus at the facilities.
The federal virus relief money Reynolds announced Thursday will pay for additional testing and staffing at the long-term care centers, and it comes at a time when she said another 20 facilities are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. That means about a quarter of the state’s care homes now have outbreaks.
Infections at care centers can be especially devastating because older people are especially at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying of COVID-19. Reynolds noted that 74% of the people now being treated in hospitals for the virus are older than 60.
Iowa has had about 199,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including about 2,100 deaths since the pandemic started in March, officials said. In the last seven days, one of every 109 people in Iowa was diagnosed with COVID-19. Iowa has the nation’s third-highest number of new virus cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
NEW YORK — The nation’s top public health agency is urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended spending the holiday with people in the same household. The advice comes as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging across the country.
The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz cited more than 1 million new cases in the U.S. in the past week for the new guidance.
The CDC says hosting families should take added precautions if they include returning college students, military service members or others in a gathering. That means keeping 6 feet apart, wearing masks and one person serving the food. It recommends eating outdoors, if possible.
CDC scientists believe about 40% of infected people don’t have obvious symptoms but can still spread the virus.
The U.S. leads the world with 11.6 million cases and 251,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
MILAN — Italy registered 36,176 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.
The Health Ministry Statistics says more than 250,000 tests were conducted, for a positivity rate of more than 14%.
There were 653 confirmed deaths, a slight decrease from more than 700 in recent days.
Infections continued to rise two weeks into a partial lockdown on hard-hit regions and a nationwide curfew. Officials are particularly concerned about hospitals, which added 106 new patients to reach 33,610. More than half of the country’s hospital beds are dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients.
Italy has reported 1.2 million cases and the confirmed death toll stands at 47,870, second to Britain in Europe.
MADRID — Spain is making slow progress to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
Health authorities say the 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stands at 436. A week ago, it was 504.
Emergency response chief Fernando Simón says the rate “is falling, but the numbers are still very high.”
He said COVID-19 patients are taking more than 30% of ICU beds, far lower than the peak levels seen last spring.
The Spanish Health Ministry reports 1.54 million total confirmed cases and nearly 42,300 deaths.
OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska reported nearly 3,000 new coronavirus cases.
The state had its second-highest daily total at 2,812 on Wednesday, reaching a statewide total of 106,617 cases. Nebraska added 10 deaths for a total of 826.
The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus decreased slightly to 961 Wednesday from the previous day’s 978. But that total remains more than five times higher than it was two months ago when 185 people were being treated in hospitals.
The state said 21% of Nebraska’s hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients on Wednesday. Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he will impose more social distancing restrictions if that number reaches 25%.
State officials are encouraging Nebraskans to wear masks and maintain 6 feet of distance in public to help limit the spread of the virus. The Republican governor has declined to require statewide wearing of masks.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The first doses of a Russian coronavirus vaccine arrived in Budapest on Thursday, making Hungary the first country in Europe to receive samples of the drug, Hungary’s foreign minister announced in a Facebook post Thursday.
Peter Szijjarto says Hungary ordered 10 initial doses of Sputnik 5, the drug hailed in August by Russian president Vladimir Putin as the world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine.
The drug hasn’t undergone advanced clinical trials and has not yet been assessed by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s medicines regulator.
Clinical trials on the Russian samples will begin in Hungary next month, and negotiations are ongoing between a Hungarian drug manufacturer and Russian partners on possible production of the drug in Hungary, Szijjarto said last week.
WASHINGTON — U.S. doctors, nurses and hospital officials joined forces Thursday to urge scaled-back holiday gatherings to help keep Americans and overburdened hospitals safe during the coronavirus surge.
“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the U.S. public.
“We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands,” the groups said.
Their advice echoes guidance from the federal CDC, which recommends virtual gatherings with distant relatives or friends, or limited in-person celebrations with social distancing, mask wearing and other precautions.
“We will get through this pandemic,’’ the letter said, “but the only way out is to follow the science and adhere to the public health steps we know work.’’
MINNEAPOLIS — More than 900 staff members in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the Midwest have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last two weeks.
Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, says the 905 newly diagnosed employees account for 30% of all staff that have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. She says 93% of those with the coronavirus were exposed in the community, not at work.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials have been urging people to stay home as the virus soars across the state. On Wednesday, Walz announced a four-week shutdown of several businesses and activities, including indoor dining at bars and restaurants, fitness centers and organized amateur sports.
Walz says the restrictions are necessary to protect a health care system that is at a breaking point statewide.
Minnesota had a record 67 new COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, pushing the state’s toll to 3,010. There were 5,102 new confirmed cases, rising the state’s total to 242,053. State officials say they expected to top 300,000 cases next week.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 4,123 confirmed coronavirus cases, the most in a single day since July.
The Department of Health Services on Thursday reported 19 more deaths from the coronavirus.
Arizona last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot. That rise came after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-at-home restrictions.
The virus surged again in October and into November. Officials cite school and business re-openings and public weariness with anti-virus precautions.
The COVID-19-related hospitalizations were just under 1,800 on Wednesday. That is about three times the number in September and about half the summer peak.
LONDON — Researchers at Imperial College London say early results from a study suggest people critically ill with the coronavirus may benefit from an old arthritis drug.
However, they cautioned in a statement Thursday that more data is still necessary. Scientists at Imperial College analyzed results from more than 300 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Britain and the Netherlands. Patients were given either one of four immune system-boosting drugs: the arthritis drug tocilizumab, sarilumab, anakinra, interferon, or the standard drug treatment given to severely ill COVID-19 patients.
They reported patients given tocilizumab were more likely to do better than those who got the standard drugs. But the scientists couldn’t yet say how tocilizumab compared to patients given the three other immune-boosting drugs. They are expecting more data in the coming months.
The full study has not yet been released or peer reviewed. Dr. Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford and not involved in the study, called it “an encouraging result” and noted other studies examining tocilizumab have so far been mixed.
PRAGUE — The Czech Parliament has agreed to extend its state of emergency.
The measure gives the government a legal framework to keep in place measures imposed in response to coronavirus infections. It runs through at least Dec 12.
The government has only partly eased its closure of schools, allowing the youngest school children to return to elementary schools on Wednesday. More students are scheduled to return to schools on Nov 30.
The Czech Republic had 475,284 confirmed cases and 6,740 deaths. However, 3,223 deaths have been registered in November.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s president says the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church is in critical condition in a Belgrade hospital after testing positive with the coronavirus.
President Aleksandar Vucic says the 90-year-old Patriarch Irinej has been intubated and doctors are “fighting for his life.”
He was hospitalized with the virus early in November, soon after attending the funeral of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije, who died from complications caused by the COVID-19 infection.