U.S. Passes 20 Million Cases as New Year Begins: Virus Update

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The U.S. surpassed 20 million Covid-19 cases, a year after a mysterious pathogen first revealed itself in Wuhan, China. That number is almost twice as many as in India, the second-worst-hit country. New York state’s infections remained high, just below the record set Wednesday, as the rate of positive tests in New York City rose toward 10%. California fatalities reached a record.

The pandemic entered 2021 with no signs of slowing down. Turkey, China and Brazil became the latest nations to report infections of thenew, highly transmissible virus strain.

Vaccines remained the best hope for 2021. But Senator Mitt Romneycriticized the slow roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S., blaming the federal government for failing to help states get the shot into more people’s arms.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 83.8 million; deaths exceed 1.8 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 10.8 million shots given worldwide
  • Video: How Covid-19rocked the globe
  • Covid joins war, cancer ashistoric blight on Americans’ lives
  • Why the U.K.’s mutated coronavirus is fanning worries:QuickTake
  • China’s Xi lauds Covid-19 recovery inNew Year’s Eve speech
  • Faster-spreading strain affects young the most,study says

Subscribe to adaily update on the virus fromBloomberg’s Prognosis teamhere. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

California Deaths, L.A. Infections Rise to Records (7:56 a.m. HK)

California added a record 585 new deaths for a total of 25,971, as Los Angeles County’s daily cases rose to a new high of 20,414. The county’s total infections are now 790,582.

The Golden State has emerged as the epicenter for the nation’s latest Covid-19 surge as hospitals, particularly in Southern California, have run out of intensive-care unit beds. The 12.2% test positivity rate is at one of the highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

In Los Angeles County, deaths eased to 207 from a daily record on Thursday, bringing the fatality count to 10,552. The rate of positive tests is 21.5%.

In Southern California, the governor’s office is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade oxygen delivery systems at six hospitals starting Saturday as older facilities are “overtaxed” to treat Covid-19 patients.

Australia’s Victoria Records 10 New Locally Acquired Virus Cases (7:14 a.m. HK)

Victoria state hasdetected 10 new virus cases acquired through local transmission, as Australian health authorities work to bring new clusters in Sydney and Melbourne under control. In the past 24 hours to midnight, authorities also detected 2 cases acquired from overseas travelers, bringing Victoria’s total active cases to 29.

Romney Assails U.S. Failure to Plan for Covid Vaccine Roll-Out (5:15 p.m. NY)

Senator Mitt Romneycriticized the slow roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S., blaming the federal government for failing to help states get the shot into more people’s arms.

“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” the Utah Republican said in a statement Friday.

The U.S. vaccination program — Operation Warp Speed — has distributed millions of doses to states but is failing to meet projections for how quickly people will be inoculated. About 3.2 million doses have been given, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker, far short of the Trump administration’s goal of administering 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020.

U.S. Covid Hospitalizations at High (4:55 p.m. NY)

U.S. hospitalizations climbed to a new high, with 125,379 people admitted, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. That compares with the two previous waves of the virus — in April and in July — that peaked at about 60,000.

The data show the Midwest as the only region where hospitalizations are declining, with the most in the South, at just under 50,000. The Northeast, hit hardest by the pandemic’s first wave, has recorded the fewest hospitalizations in the recent surge.

Oxford-AstraZeneca Expects More Vaccine Production, Times Reports (4:47 p.m. NY)

A member of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine team expects 2 million doses will be ready each week from about the middle of January, the Times of London reported.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week that only 530,000 doses of the vaccine would be ready on Monday. The Oxford team is frustrated that the poor state of the country’s manufacturing capacity has affected the pace of production, the newspaper said.

Virginia, Maryland Outbreaks Near Highs (3:31 p.m. NY)

Virginia reported its second consecutive day of cases over 5,000, a day after infections rose to a new high. Total hospitalizations, which have almost tripled since the start of November, rose to a record 2,744, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.

Neighboring Maryland reported 3,557 cases, the second highest on record, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Hospitalizations are also near a record high, at 1,773.

Ireland Sees Post-Christmas Surge (2:24 p.m. NY)

Ireland expects to record over 9,000 cases in coming days, as a Christmas lag in reporting and testing tapers off. Over 1,700 cases were reported Friday, close to a record high. Medical authorities warned of a surge in hospitalizations, with as many as 70 patients a day being admitted, adding to the 500-plus already being treated in the hospital.

Ireland has entered a third national lockdown as it awaits widespread vaccination.

All Primary Schools in London to Remain Closed, Guardian Reports (2:15 p.m. NY)

All primary schools in London will close for the start of the new term after pressure from local authorities, the Guardian reported.

The U.K. government had previously omitted several London areas from a list of primary schools that would be closed. An emergency Cabinet Office meeting on New Year’s Day resulted in the addition of the remaining London education authorities to the government’s contingency areas.

Turkey Finds 15 Cases of New Variant Among Visitors from U.K. (1:03 p.m. NY)

Turkey suspended all arrivals from the U.K. after it detected the new variant of the Covid-19 virus among 15 people who traveled from the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

All 15 patients had been in quarantine since they were screened and no other cases of the more-infectious mutant virus have so far been detected in the country, Koca said in a statement online.

Turkey announced 12,203 new infections on Friday, the lowest level since at least Nov. 25, when the ministry of health started announcing the number of everyone who tests positive for the virus, abandoning a controversial policy of excluding asymptomatic cases.

N.Y. Cases Remain Near Record High (12:54 p.m. NY)

New York state reported 16,497 new cases, just below the record set on Wednesday for the entire pandemic. Total hospitalizations dropped slightly, to 7,886, as did the overall rate for positive tests, at 7.52%, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in statement. Another 166 people died, the most in two weeks of fatalities above 100.

Danish Prime Minister Sets April as Turning Point in Virus Fight (12:13 p.m. NY)

Denmark will probably reach a turning point in the fight against the pandemic inearly April, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

“I think the worst year is behind us but we must expect that the most difficult months are still ahead of us,” the Social Democrat premier said in her New Year speech broadcast on Friday. She said Easter Sunday, on April 4, will “not be the end but a turning point,” helped by vaccinations and better weather conditions.

NYC Rate of Positive Tests Rises Toward 10% (11:54 a.m. NY)

New York City’s rate of positive tests continues to rise rapidly, hitting 9.41% based on a seven-day average, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet on Friday. That number was below 2% in November. Hospitalizations also continued to rise, with another 219 admissions, he said.

“2021 is here and it will be a better year for our city — but we have to keep up the fight against#COVID19,” he said.

Italy Cases Slow (11:17 a.m. NY)

Italy registered 22,211 virus cases on Friday, from 23,477 the day before. Daily deaths declined too, with 462 fatalities reported, compared with 555 on Thursday.
The Italian government has imposed a “stop-and-go” lockdown all over the country from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6, with strict restrictions on and around Christmas, New Year’s and the Epiphany holiday on Jan. 6.

U.K. New Cases Remain High (11:09 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported 53,285 new cases and 613 deaths on Friday. The latest R number was estimated at 1.1 to 1.3., which means the virus continues to spread exponentially.

Portugal Reports Fewer Daily Cases (11:06 a.m. NY)

Portugal reported 6,951 new confirmed cases, below the record of 7,627 announced the previous day, taking the total to 420,629. The number of hospitalized cases fell by 34 to 2,806.

Portugal started its Covid-19 vaccination program on Dec. 27.

Philippines to Ban Foreigners Traveling From U.S. (10:57 a.m. NY)

The Philippines will ban foreign travelers from the U.S. through the middle of January after a third state, Florida, reported a strain of the coronavirus believed to be more infectious, Reuters reported.

The ban, which begins on Sunday, doesn’t apply to Filipinos traveling from the U.S., though they will have to quarantine for 14 days in a government facility, the news agency reported.

Norway Will Lift U.K. Flight Ban (6:33 a.m. NY)

Norway will remove a halt on flights from the U.K. from 5 p.m. CET on Jan. 2, according to the country’s Health and Care Services Ministry. Special rules on quarantine and testing for people coming from the U.K. will continue.

Germany’s Merz Calls for Schools to Reopen (4:42 p.m. HK)

Friedrich Merz, one of the contenders to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor, said schools in the country should reopen as soon as possible. “What I find most troubling isn’t the economic damage of the lockdown, but rather the massive damage to the education of our children,” Funke Mediengruppe cited him as saying in an interview. Merz said he wants the heads of Germany’s state governments take a uniform approach when they meet in coming days to discuss extending the country’s lockdown, according to Funke.

BioNTech Boosts Vaccine Capacity (4:29 p.m. HK)

BioNTech will increase production capacity of the vaccine it developed with Pfizer, CEO Ugur Sahin tells Der Spiegel. Germany has a gap in supply because some other shots haven’t been approved yet, he said. BioNTech’s plant in Marburg, Germany may be operational in February and produce as many as 250 million doses in the first half, the magazine cited Sahin as saying.

South Africa Breaks Record for Daily Cases (3:40 p.m. HK)

South Africa reported a record 18,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 1.06 million. “Previously we warned that this second wave will dwarf the first wave and indeed this is the case,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Thursday.

“Despite performing of 55,000 tests in the past 24 hours, the positivity rate is 32.5% — we keep highlighting this point because this indicates that the virus is spreading so fast that it is outpacing our ability to detect it — even with good turnaround times.”

The number of people who’ve died after being diagnosed with the disease rose by 436 to 28,469, the health ministry said.

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Linus Chua, Dara Doyle, Joao Lima, James Amott, Flavia Rotondi, Morten Buttler, Onur Ant, David McLaughlin, and Jason Scott

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