As Weather Chills, COVID-19 Infections Spike
The latest wave of coronavirus infections halted reopening initiatives worldwide and sent shockwaves into rural regions that were largely unaffected by the first few months of the pandemic. The current upswing in infections is likely to be compounded by travel, indoors gatherings, and pandemic fatigue as cold weather sets in and holiday seasons commence.
While no country has been unaffected by COVID-19, here are a few of the key updates from across the world.
The United States is the current epicenter of virus infections worldwide. The overall U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has reached about 254,000, and confirmed infections have exceeded 12 million. On Thursday, 19 November, the U.S. recorded its biggest one-day gain in infections—almost 188,000—and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 hit an all-time high at more than 80,000, the Associated Press reported. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are at their highest level since May.
#COVID19 cases are rising. Average daily cases are up 43% compared to the previous 7 days, with 94% of U.S. jurisdictions seeing more cases. This Thanksgiving, help slow the spread: gather outdoors, wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart. See more: https://t.co/gp6X4zTnBT pic.twitter.com/4y0W9RqHJJ— CDC (@CDCgov) November 18, 2020
At this point, officials fear that hospitals nationwide are reaching capacity, especially in rural regions. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday or to host large gatherings outside their immediate family or “bubble,” many people are planning to move ahead with holiday plans anyway. More than 1 million people flew through U.S. airports on Friday, according to Transportation Security Administration data.
Many states and cities are imposing near-lockdowns or other restrictions, and California ordered a 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, which started this past weekend, affecting 94 percent of the state’s 40 million residents, AP reported. Unless people are responding to an emergency, shopping for groceries, picking up takeout, or walking a dog, Californians are required to stay home during curfew hours. The focus is on keeping people from gathering socially and drinking—activities that are blamed for the spike in COVID-19 cases.
The latest wave of the virus in Europe appears to have crested in the past few days, but not before setting records, The New York Times reported. From late September to early November, the rate of new cases reported across Europe quintupled to about 300,000 a day, and deaths spiked from about 700 a day to almost 5,000. Montenegro is leading the world with the highest daily average of cases per person—the country is now under a two-week curfew.
As of today, 23 November, the European CDC has recorded 12,051,640 cases of coronavirus and 293,544 deaths across Europe. France has recorded the highest number of cases, with 2,140,208, but the United Kingdom has had the highest number of deaths—54,751.
Lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom are set to expire 2 December, and will be replaced with a tiered regional system. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce details of a winter plan for COVID-19 response later today.
Europe response ‘incomplete’: WHO COVID envoy fears third wave https://t.co/eI2f5PlP9a— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) November 23, 2020
Although the rise in cases is tapering off, a special envoy from the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a third wave of the pandemic in Europe for early 2021 if governments fail to learn lessons from the previous two waves, Al Jazeera reported.
“They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control,” David Nabarro said in an interview with Swiss newspapers. “Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year.”
The number of cases in India has exceeded 9 million, and intensive care wards in New Delhi’s hospitals are nearly at capacity. While the pace of infections seems to be slowing, experts caution that the official figures may offer false hope, since many infections may be going undetected.
As fatigue from wearing masks and social distancing sets in, however, some citizens may be reaching the end of their tolerance for restrictions, AP reported. The recent Diwali holiday celebrations saw large crowds and gatherings, and health officials fear that the festivities could herald another wave of infections.
Government figures show that 90 percent of critical care beds with ventilators and 86 percent of critical care beds without ventilators were full in New Delhi as of 19 November. Private hospitals have been asked to reserve 80 percent of critical care beds and 60 percent of other beds for virus patients.
Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again in Brazil, as experts express concern and politicians play down the pandemic’s severity during an election season, AP reported. According to Johns Hopkins University data, Brazil has a seven-day rolling average of 28,600 cases a day, up from about 13,700 two weeks ago.
Officials blame Independence Day celebrations on 7 September, political party conventions, and the start of the election period, which generated large crowds and gatherings. In Sao Paulo, the state government announced last week that the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region had risen for the first time since August, but although cases are rising, greater intensive-care occupancy in hospitals have limited the number of deaths—unlike during the first wave. In preparation for a continued spike in cases, Governor João Doria issued two decrees last week prohibiting hospital beds designated for COVID-19 patients to be used for other treatments and barring all nonessential surgeries.
Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns, and shutting down schools after multiple coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities over the past week, AP reported. Widescale measures are being enacted in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Manzhouli, although the number of new cases remains low compared to the United States or other hotspots.
Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week. https://t.co/za5WKKvKdv— The Associated Press (@AP) November 23, 2020
After an airport worker was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in November, Shanghai’s Pudong International airport decided to test all of its workers on Sunday, collecting more than 17,000 samples in a chaotic rush, the BBC reported.
In total, 86,442 coronavirus cases and 4,654 deaths have been recorded in China since the virus first emerged late last year in Wuhan.
A spike in infections in Hong Kong—including 43 new cases reported on Saturday—also postponed the start of an air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, which was meant to boost tourism between the cities. The arrangement, which will be delayed by at least two weeks, would have allowed travelers to journey between the two cities without quarantining as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving, and fly on designated flights.