What you need to know about coronavirus on Wednesday, November 25

What you need to know about coronavirus on Wednesday, November 25

Thanksgiving is “potentially the mother of all super spreader events.” That’s the verdict from CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, as millions of Americans travel to be with loved ones this week, risking an explosion of Covid-19 infections in the coming days.

The US has been here before. Reiner pointed to the fallout from the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota this summer, which sparked a spike in cases in the Midwest. “Now imagine that on a massive scale — people leaving from every airport in the United States, and carrying [the] virus with them,” he added.

And a negative test result should not give Americans the confidence to travel for the holidays. Tests can return either false positive or negative results, Department of Health and Human Services official Brett Giroir said Tuesday. “If you do get a negative test, it doesn’t give you a free pass,” he said, explaining that tests aren’t always an indication of whether someone is infected at that current moment.

With small gatherings already helping to drive the surge in many places, leading public health officials have warned against traditional celebrations this week, Christina Maxouris writes. Most people have heeded the warnings, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll, which found 61% of Americans have changed their Thanksgiving plans due to the recent spikes in cases. Opinion is divided down partisan lines, however — Democrats (75%) were more likely to report changing their plans than Republicans (49%).

The safest way to do Thanksgiving is with your immediate household, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told Fox and Friends. “You should also tell people who are at higher risk — older people with chronic medical conditions — ‘Look, let’s do it next year. Keep it small this year. Let’s keep Grandma safe,'” he said.

The advice comes as more than 2,100 Covid-19 deaths were reported in the US on Tuesday — making it the highest single day death toll the country has seen since early May.

Note: The newsletter team is taking a much-needed break this Thanksgiving. We will be back again on Monday.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Can I use an expired face mask?

A: Some face masks can be used even if they’ve passed their manufacturer’s expiry date, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

“Face masks and surgical masks are designed to serve as protective barriers and may still offer some protection even if they are used beyond the manufacturer’s designated shelf life or expiration date,” the agency advised.

But the CDC does not recommend reusing disposable surgical masks, which are only intended to be used once. Respirators, such as N-95 masks, are to be used once and should not be washed — although some can be decontaminated and reused.

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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

U.S. officials plan to release 6.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in first distribution

Officials from Operation Warp Speed said they plan to release 6.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses nationwide in the first distribution once the FDA clears them for emergency use authorization (EUA), Reuters reports. But while the efficacy results reported by coronavirus vaccine makers are impressive so far, “the FDA doesn’t authorize vaccines or approve any medical product, just on the basis of a press release,” the agency’s commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Tuesday. So far, Pfizer, which filed for a EUA last week, released data only in a news release, but says the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing infection.

This comes as officials deliberate on who should get the vaccine first. A draft plan from the CDC recommends prioritizing healthcare workers and frontline personnel, as well as the elderly and people with medical problems. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said vaccine makers will soon start testing their jabs on pregnant women and children. “Obviously, it’s pretty normal that when we bring new products into humans, we really do spare pregnant women initially, but I can tell you that they’re going to be targeted to show safety and efficacy in that group very rapidly,” Redfield told Fox News.

Europe remains the largest contributor to new cases and deaths

As France and the UK prepare to ease restrictions for the Christmas period, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday in its Covid-19 weekly report that Europe “remains the largest contributor to new cases and new deaths in the past 7 days.”

Stricter public health and social measures in the last few weeks have helped to slow transmissions, WHO said, with the number of new cases declining by 6% to 1.77 million, after a decline of 10% in the previous week. Despite this reduction, Europe still accounts for 44% of global new cases and nearly half of global new deaths. In the past week, 32,684 new deaths were reported.

Cases are rising in Asia, but compared to the West it’s a drop in the ocean

Winter has come to Asia, where a number of countries and cities in the region are seeing a resurgence in infections, Nectar Gan reports. Last week, Japan’s daily caseload surged to its highest level since the pandemic began. Daily infections in South Korea are the highest since late August. Hong Kong recently declared its “fourth wave” of infections as daily cases reached 80 on Tuesday. And in mainland China, sporadic cases have sprung up in multiple cities including Shanghai.

While dispiriting, the new rise in cases is a ripple compared with surges in the US and Europe. To put things into perspective, with a population of around 10 million, the South Korean capital of Seoul reported 382 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, while Los Angeles County reported 3,692 cases — nearly 10 times the daily surge in Seoul.

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