Latest: Contract health workers arrive in Montana to help
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana governor’s office says more than 100 contracted medical staff have arrived in the state to assist hospitals in responding to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
The 110 health care workers are part of an anticipated total of 200 to be deployed in the state before Thanksgiving and who will remain until the end of the year.
The workers, including registered nurses and respiratory therapists, will aid hospitals that are at or near capacity as part of a contract between the state and NuWest, which provides traveling health care workers.
State health officials reported 677 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing total confirmed cases to more than 56,000.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— AstraZeneca says late-stage trials show it s vaccine with Oxford University is “highly effective,” does not need the deep cold storage that rival vaccines do
— Cut off: School closings leave rural students isolated
— Jury duty? No thanks, say many, forcing trials to be delayed
— Inequality ‘baked into’ virus testing access as cases surge
— New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern offers virus know-how to Joe Biden
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear warned Monday that the state’s health care system could be at risk — and lives at stake — from rising pressures of new coronavirus hospitalizations if conditions do not improve.
He made the remarks while defending the new mandates he issued last week to fight the pandemic.
The Democratic governor’s new restrictions on in-person gatherings at restaurants, schools and event venues have drawn criticism from GOP lawmakers, local business owners and private schools throughout the state. Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, joined a Christian school on Nov. 20 in filing a federal lawsuit that seeks a statewide temporary restraining order against a new rule that suspends in-person classes in private and public schools.
Under the new restrictions, middle and high schools are required to continue with remote instruction until January. Elementary schools may reopen on Dec. 7 if the county they are located in is not in the “red zone,” the highest category for COVID-19 incidence rates.
Kentucky continued setting records with 2,135 new confirmed coronavirus cases reported, the state’s highest daily number on a Monday since the pandemic again. The state also reported five virus-related deaths, raising the death toll to 1,792.
The state’s test positivity rate is 8.97%, down slightly from last Friday.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland will expand its pandemic-related compliance efforts ahead of Thanksgiving by sending additional state troopers to every county and Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday.
Hogan said state troopers will work with liquor boards, local law enforcement agencies and others starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to ensure that businesses and residents follow directives meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including the mask-wearing mandate.
He said the Maryland State Police is also ramping up the hotline that the public can dial to report violations and is now operating a new phone line to assist local compliance officers.
SAN DIEGO — A California judge on Monday denied a request to temporarily restore indoor service at restaurants and gyms in San Diego County that were forced to move operations outside earlier this month to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel said in his ruling that there is scientific evidence to support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sweeping public health orders to restrict business activity during the pandemic. Business owners in California’s second most populous county sought to restore indoor operations at 25% capacity for restaurants and 10% for gyms, which were the rules before a surge in infections earlier this month.
Two San Diego restaurants and two gyms sued on behalf of their industries, asking that California’s four-tier system of pandemic restrictions be declared illegal. San Diego, like nearly all of the state’s counties, was moved into the most restrictive tier and forced to move many business operations and religious services outside.
The judge scheduled another hearing next month.
SALT LAKE CITY_— Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday relaxed restrictions on social gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving weekend as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge.
State data shows there were 545 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Utah on Monday, and referral center ICU beds reached 91.9% occupancy statewide. The increased number of hospitalizations has prompted doctors and public health officials to advise against attending large Thanksgiving gatherings.
Herbert, a Republican, said he will not extend his previous two-week order that required people to limit social gatherings to people in their immediate household but urged caution. He recommended masks, social distancing and smaller gatherings for the holiday.
Rich Saunders, the interim director of the state health department, recommended that people in high transmission areas, which include 26 of the state’s 29 counties, limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer.
The state’s mask mandate will remain in place.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Surging pandemic numbers are straining hospitals across Kansas just days before Thanksgiving gatherings that public health officials fear could worsen the outbreak.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Monday 95 new hospitalizations, bringing the total of hospitalizations to 4,777 since the start of the pandemic. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 240 coronavirus patients were in ICU units, with 36% of ICU capacity remaining in Kansas.
State health officials added 7,526 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday, bringing the total to 142,059. The data showed that Kansas averaged 2,760 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. That is just slightly below the record average of 2,766 cases.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 46 to 1,456.
DENVER — As Colorado experiences its highest hospitalization rate of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order authorizing the state health department to order hospitals and emergency departments to transfer and cease admitting new patients in order to deal with the influx of coronavirus cases.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as of Sunday the state had over 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations. On Friday, Polis said full hospital capacity was reached in Mesa County on the state’s western slope and nearing the same fate in Weld County in northeast Colorado with only three intensive care beds available.
The order allows for those hospitals which have reached capacity to transfer patients to another facility without obtaining their consent. It also states that health care providers who comply with the order and transfer patients are “immune from civil or criminal liability for any action taken.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other officials urged residents Monday to download a free app for their smartphones that will notify them if someone who’s been near them later tests positive for the coronavirus and will allow them to warn others anonymously if they test positive themselves.
Tarek Tomes, the state’s information technology commissioner, stressed that using the COVIDaware MN app is voluntary, and that the system contains ample privacy safeguards for those who opt in.
It uses exposure notification technology developed by Google and Apple that is already being used under different names in around 20 other states and 35 countries around the world to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Tuesday will start distributing 30,000 doses of an experimental antibody drug to fight COVID-19, the one President Donald Trump received last month.
Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow emergency use of the drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., for people with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high risk of developing serious illness because of their age or other medical conditions. It’s not authorized for use in sicker, hospitalized patients or those who need extra oxygen.
The emergency authorization allows limited use of a drug while studies continue to test its safety and effectiveness. Early results suggest it may reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits.
The drugs are given as a one-time treatment through an IV. Under federal contracts, the drugs for now will be supplied for free, although patients may have to pay part of the cost of the IV treatment.
MESA, Ariz. — An Arizona woman who drew widespread attention after opening her Thanksgiving table to a stranger she accidentally texted has kept the tradition going, despite losing her husband Lonnie to COVID-19.
Wanda Dench and 21-year-old Jamal Hinton met in 2016 after the grandmother from the Phoenix suburb of Mesa mistakenly texted her grandson about coming for Thanksgiving to Hinton’s number. Hinton jokingly replied he would like to come as well. Dench told him he was welcome.
Last week, they celebrated a mini Thanksgiving dinner with a photo of Lonnie Dench and an empty chair for him. The couple was infected in March and Lonnie Dench died the next month.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church announced the cancellation Monday of what’s considered the world’s largest Catholic pilgrimage, for the Virgin of Guadalupe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mexico’s Episcopal Conference said in a statement that the basilica will be closed from December 10-13. The Virgin is celebrated on Dec. 12 and for weeks in advance, pilgrims travel from across Mexico to gather by the millions in Mexico City.
The church recommended that “the Guadalupe celebrations be held in churches or at home, avoiding gatherings and with the appropriate health measures.”
Bishop Salvador Martínez, rector at the basilica, said recently in a video circulated on social media that as many as 15 million pilgrims visit during the first two weeks of December.
The church recognized that 2020 has been a trying year and that many of the faithful want to seek consolation at basilica, but said that conditions don’t permit a pilgrimage that brings so many into close contact.
MADRID — Spanish King Felipe VI is self-isolating after being with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The royal household said Monday the 52-year-old monarch was “in close contact” the previous day with someone infected by the new coronavirus.
Felipe will self-isolate for the mandatory 10 days and has canceled his official duties for that period.
The royal household gave no information about the state of his health.
Also on Monday, Spain’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population — a key metric in measuring the pandemic’s spread — has continued to fall.
The Health Ministry said that number has fallen to 374 cases per 100,000. That’s down from 470 cases a week earlier and from the Nov. 9 peak of 529.
GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says it’s “extremely important” for its international team to visit China to look into the origins of the coronavirus, saying the U.N. health agency has been reassured such a trip will happen “as soon as possible.”
Dr. Michael Ryan said such a visit is needed so that “the international community can be reassured of the quality of the science” that he lamented has been increasingly questioned for political ends — including pressure and threatening e-mails against scientists.
“We all need to understand where it has come from, not least to understand where it may re-emerge in the future,” Ryan told a news conference from Geneva. “I believe our Chinese colleagues are just as anxious to find those answers as we are.”
GENEVA — The chief scientist of the World Health Organization is hailing the “huge logistical advantages” offered by a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Swedish-British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan noted the vaccine — for which AstraZeneca released initial results on Monday — can be stored in an “ordinary refrigerator” and can remain stable at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
That would enhance the possibility of getting coronavirus vaccines to many countries where so-called cold chains — which are required of other vaccine candidates from drug makers Moderna and Pfizer — are harder to ensure.
Simao said WHO expects to have finalized an assessment of its vaccine “in the beginning of next year” which could lead to deployment of the vaccine.
CHICAGO — Nearly 700 nursing home workers walked off the job Monday at 11 mostly Chicago-area Infinity Healthcare Management facilities, saying they won’t return until the company offers them higher wages and safer working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s hit nursing homes hard.
Striking workers and representatives of their union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, stood outside nursing homes in Cicero, Maywood and Chicago’s Brainerd neighborhood, while recounting a list of grievances against Infinity. The workers are demanding at least a $15 an hour wage, hazard pay for all employees and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.
Messages emailed to the company seeking comment Monday were returned as undeliverable, while telephone calls to the company’s offices in Hillside, Illinois, failed to reach any company representative.
BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company CureVac says it has signed a contract to produce major quantities of a COVID-19 vaccine under development in the Netherlands.
The Tuebingen company said Monday it had agreed with Munich’s Wacker Chemie AG on a contract for the production of its COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology at Wacker’s site in Amsterdam in the first half of 2021.
It plans to produce 100 million doses of the CureVac vaccine per year at the facility, and said there is potential for expansion.
CureVac says the vaccine it is developing can be stored at regular refrigerator temperatures for up to three months, and even unrefrigerated at regular room temperatures for a period of 24 hours.
CureVac isn’t as far along in its trials, however, and says it plans to initiate a phase 2b/3 clinical study before year’s end.
The European Commission last week said it has sealed an agreement to buy up to 405 million doses of CureVac’s product as part of its procurement of the vaccine from various sources.