Coronavirus updates: Thanksgiving travel surges; Trump adviser dismisses claim Pfizer delayed vaccine news to hurt the president – USA TODAY


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A coronavirus vaccine might not be widely available until several months into 2021. USA TODAY

The number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints has been rising in recent days despite warnings from public health experts that Thanksgiving travel could further spike already-spiraling COVID-19 numbers.

More than 2.9 million flyers passed through TSA security over the three-day period that ended Saturday, including over 1 million on Friday. That marked only the second time the number surpassed 1 million since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told USA TODAY’s Editorial Board last week that “you’ve got to decide, during this interesting period of a lot of infection going on, colder weather, indoors: Do you want to travel and go to a Thanksgiving meal where there may be 12, 15, 20 people?”

The U.S. reported its 12 millionth case of COVID-19 on Saturday, days after the nation surpassed 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Pfizer is taking its vaccine to the FDA, and a Trump adviser dismisses the president’s claim that Pfizer withheld news of its successes to harm his reelection bid. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12 million cases and more than 255,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 58 million cases and almost 1.4 million deaths. 

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

📰 What we’re reading: It’s a hard time to be in college. Now more than ever, students are facing incredible mental health stressors.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Vaccine inoculations could start as soon as Dec. 13

Less than a year after the unprecedented effort began, the first COVID-19 vaccines are expected to reach Americans within weeks. No one knows for certain, but Dec. 13 is the first possible day the vaccine could be administered — although the week after is more likely. Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech applied for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. Moderna is expected to send in its application as soon as Dec. 4. Here’s the time line to a vaccine.

Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Some students feel shortchanged when opting for online learning

Providing an equal education to kids learning in person and to those learning at home is undoubtedly difficult, if not impossible. School officials say they just don’t have the means to do both well without more funding and more teachers. Some families choosing remote learning worry their kids have been neglected as schools respond to politicians and parents clamoring for a return to normal.

Bonnie Owen, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom in Williamson County, Tennessee, has asthma and her daughter has two autoimmune conditions. The local school district welcomed students back to full-time, in-person classrooms this fall, but Owen worried the risk of exposing her family. Now she is dismayed at the online option.

“The online students are basically an after-school activity,” said Owen, who added that teachers were “overworked, overloaded and overwhelmed.” Read more here.

– Bracey Harris and Caroline Preston, The Hechinger Report

Trump adviser dismisses claims that vaccine was delayed for politics

A top COVID-19 adviser to the Trump administration on Sunday dismissed claims by President Donald Trump that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer delayed reporting the successes of its vaccine candidates to hurt his re-election chances.

“I don’t think any specific action has taken place to delay the vaccine,” Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said on ABC’s “This Week.”  

Slaoui said he believes that Pfizer asking for 60 days to follow up after completion of immunizations on thousands of volunteers “to ensure that we understand the short term and the predictable long term safety of the vaccine” was an appropriate decision that drove the Pfizer timeline. Pfizer submitted an emergency use application for its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The FDA is scheduled to discuss potential authorization Dec. 10.

Happy Thanksgiving – alone in a pandemic

The runaway pandemic has prompted people to rethink their Thanksgiving plans, with many choosing to eat a meal – known for community and family – alone.

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counsels. About one-third of Americans live in single-person households, according to Census data. Families now must negotiate over social distancing ground rules, how to share meals and whether the whole thing should be called off. 

In Chicago, Taylor Edwards is unsure whether she’ll be eating alone on Thursday. Edwards, 28, has mostly kept away from her parents because of COVID concerns.

“This time next year we could be in a much better place, and I want all my family members to be there,” Edwards said.

Alan Gomez

Georgia Sen. Loeffler quarantining after maskless appearance with Pence

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, is quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests, a day after she campaigned maskless with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. David Perdue in the state’s hotly contested Senate runoff races. Loeffler took two rapid COVID tests on Friday morning that came back negative, her campaign said in a statement Saturday night. She received another test Friday evening and the results came back positive, the statement said. Loeffler tested again Saturday morning and the results were inconclusive. Her campaign says she doesn’t have symptoms. Loeffler is following CDC guidelines and informing those with whom she was in direct contact, the statement said.

Experimental drug cocktail given to Trump gets FDA authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Regeneron Pharmaceutical an Emergency Use Authorization for a drug cocktail to treat COVID-19. President Donald Trump has touted the experimental antibody treatment and took it while he was being treated for the disease.

“In a clinical trial, the investigational therapy was shown to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or ER visits in certain patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe,” the FDA tweeted Saturday.

The drug, a pair of monoclonal antibodies, is intended to mimic the natural process of the immune system, providing it with molecules the body normally manufactures to fight off specific diseases. Trump was able to get it under a “compassionate use” exemption, which the company said at the time it has granted to fewer than 10 people, after requests from their doctors and approval by the FDA. A similar monoclonal antibody treatment was also given emergency authorization earlier this month.

– Joel Shannon, Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise 

Kansas counties that opted out of mask order saw COVID-19 cases rise

We already know that wearing face masks in public spaces slows the spread of COVID-19. And now the coronavirus situation in Kansas is providing further proof. Gov. Laura Kelly issued a face mask mandate in early July, and the counties that upheld the order saw a decline in cases, while the counties that opted out saw cases rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Countywide mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission in mandated counties,” according to the report, which analyzed county-level data one month before, and after, the governor’s mandate went into effect.

As of mid-August, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties had abided by the state mandate or adopted their own mask mandate, and 81 counties had opted out, as Kansas law allows. At that time, the number of new daily cases per capita – calculated as a seven-day rolling average – had decreased an average of 6% among counties with a mask mandate and increased by 100% in counties without a mandate. Read more.

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Relatives returning home bring higher risk for Thanksgiving gatherings

At a time when Americans are pondering how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely amid the country’s worst surge in coronavirus cases, many families will be faced with yet another complicating factor: the return of students. Colleges and universities have reported 252,000-plus cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times tracker. Returning students – whether they lived in dorms or off-campus housing in the fall term – “exponentially increase the risk (of infection),” especially if they take some form of mass transportation to get home.

That’s the assessment of Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer for the claims management firm Sedgwick, who advises companies about medical strategies and safety practices. Like other specialists in the field, Bartlett is concerned that holiday gatherings, combined with pandemic fatigue and the need to move indoors as the weather gets colder, will exacerbate what’s already a major national spike in COVID-19 cases. Read more.

Texas National Guard to provide aid to El Paso morgues 

The Texas National Guard will be providing help to El Paso morgues as the region continues to be slammed by COVID-19 deaths.

“After completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week, the state has mobilized a team of 36 Texas National Guard personnel to provide mortuary affairs support beginning at 9 o’clock tomorrow (Saturday) morning,” Seth Christensen, spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said.

After the announcement, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego requested additional aid from Gov. Greg Abbott in the form of leeway to impose some restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Samaniego said in a letter to the governor’s office that his previous order that was ended by an appellate court was done so erroneously and the order was not inconsistent with Abbott’s statewide restrictions. 

– El Paso Times

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Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time. USA TODAY

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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