The Latest: Alabama doctor expects ‘tidal wave’ of cases
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A health official says Alabama hospitals treating a record number of COVID-19 patients are bracing for a “tidal wave” of additional cases linked to holiday gatherings.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the University of Alabama at Birmingham says health care systems could be overwhelmed within two or three weeks. The Alabama Hospital Association says only 11% of the state’s intensive care beds were available Monday. The remaining spaces could be filled as more patients are admitted than leave hospitals.
A statewide order requiring face masks in public expires Dec. 11, but it could be extended by Gov. Kay Ivey for additional weeks as in the past.
Nearly 253,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and more than 3,600 have died in Alabama.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— U.S. panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots
— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for expedited approval of coronavirus vaccine
— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving
— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family
— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus
— A pop-up school has blossomed to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JOHNSTON, Iowa — Public health data in Iowa shows the coronavirus infection rate is slowing, but the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains high.
Iowa’s positivity rate declined in the past two weeks but remains third in the nation at 41%, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Some of the ease in case positivity could be from reduced testing around the Thanksgiving holiday. Hospital officials were bracing for another surge in positive tests and illness because of Thanksgiving family gatherings.
Iowa posted 24 deaths and 1,906 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. Hospitals reported 1,172 patients with COVID-19, up 10 from the previous day.
HELENA, Mont. — A new counseling hotline is available to help Montana residents struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus crisis.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced the new hotline will be available for at least the next nine months. It’s funded by a $1.6 million federal grant.
The governor’s office says the new service is meant to aid health care workers, first responders, school officials, veterans, the elderly, Native Americans, and farmers and ranchers but is available to all residents.
More than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday in Montana, bringing the confirmed total to more than 63,000.
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has returned to his office after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus in mid-November.
He announced his return on Twitter. Sisolak, a Democrat, was isolating at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.
He announced on Nov. 13 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Three days later, he said he was only experiencing mild head congestion.
NEW YORK — An influential scientific panel is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: Who should get the first vaccines when they become available?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet in an open-to-the-public, virtual meeting to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The two groups together represent around 23 million Americans out of a population of about 330 million.
About 2 million people live in nursing homes and other U.S. long-term care facilities. Those patients and the staff members who care for them have accounted for 6% of the nation’s coronavirus cases and a staggering 39% of the deaths, CDC officials say.
Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider approval of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
Experts say the vaccines will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring. There’s been more than 13.6 million confirmed cases and nearly 270,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest tallies in the world.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says France’s coronavirus vaccination program will likely start in early January on a focused population.
A French public health watchdog recommended the first vaccines go to nursing home residents. No vaccines have been approved yet.
Macron says the larger population is expected to get a potential vaccine between April and June.
France has 2.2 million cases, fifth highest in the world, and more than 52,000 deaths.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported a record 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, which included delayed reporting because of the holiday weekend.
The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 10,322 coronavirus cases and 48 deaths. Arizona’s previous single-day high was 4,878 on July 1.
Arizona’s latest seven-day rolling average of daily new cases was 3,499 on Monday.
Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continued to increase, reaching 2,594 on Monday, with 597 patients in intensive care unit beds.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t lift restrictions at the U.S.–Canada border until the coronavirus is significantly under control throughout the world.
Canada has limited border crossings to essential travel since March. Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Canada is fortunate that trade in essential goods like agriculture products and pharmaceuticals is still flowing back and forth.
Trudeau says it’s critical that people not travel. He says while President-elect Joe Biden has an “obvious” different approach on the pandemic than President Donald Trump, the situation in the U.S. remains serious. The United States leads the world with 13.6 million coronavirus cases and nearly 270,000 deaths.
About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic closed it to nonessential travel nine months ago.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister toured a new vaccination center in Duesseldorf on Tuesday, preparing for possible mass vaccinations against the coronavirus in the coming weeks.
Vaccinations in Germany will be free, voluntary and people will receive letters about when it’s their turn for the shot, Health Minister Jens Spahn says.
The first shots will be given either in vaccination centers around the country or by mobile medical teams who will go to nursing homes to vaccinate the most vulnerable people. Later next year, doctors will vaccinate people at their local practices, the health minister says.
Spahn expects Germany to receive five to eight million doses of vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as by Moderna.
There will be 53 centers opened in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with 18 million people, where Duesseldorf is based. In Berlin, home to 3.6 million people, six centers are being prepared.
In Germany, there were 13,604 confirmed cases and 388 deaths in the last 24 hours.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island has opened two field hospitals with a combined 900 beds to deal with an expected increase of COVID-19 patients.
Care New England opened a field hospital with more than 300 beds in Cranston on Monday, the same day the state sent an emergency alert saying conventional hospitals had reached their coronavirus capacity.
A facility with nearly 600 beds opened Tuesday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. It is run by Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital group.
There were 365 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals on Saturday, according to the state Department of Health. That’s down from a high of 381 on Nov. 23.
ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says Islamabad plans to procure a COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of next year.
The announcement Tuesday by Faisal Sultan came hours after Pakistan registered 67 more deaths and 2,458 new coronavirus cases.
Pakistan has allocated $150 million to acquire vaccine, which first will be administered to frontline health workers and elderly people.
The government has imposed a partial lockdown in many areas across Pakistan. Authorities have asked people to adhere to social distancing rules to avoid stricter measures.
Pakistan’s death toll stands at 8,091 and more than 400,000 confirmed cases.
MADRID — Madrid officials held a ceremony to open part of a 1,000-bed hospital for emergencies. About 200 health professionals gathered Tuesday at the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital, built in 100 days at a cost of 100 million euros ($119 million), twice the original budget.
Health workers’ unions say the investment should had instead gone to shore up an existing public health system run down by years of spending cuts.
The regional Madrid president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, says it will help alleviate pressure in other public hospitals by focusing on COVID-19 patients. Its located near Madrid’s international airport.
The conservative regional leader has been a critic of the pandemic’s handling by the leftist national government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, constantly objecting to preventative measures and advocating for restrictions to preserve economic activity. Some critics say the new hospital is no more than a vanity project for Díaz Ayuso, a building with beds not ready to receive patients.
The region’s 14-day infection rate has dropped from 500-plus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in October to 236 on Monday, below the national average of 275.
Spain has reported 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 45,000 confirmed deaths.
SAKHIR, Bahrain — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Mercedes team says Hamilton tested negative three times last week but woke feeling mild symptoms the morning after winning Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton took another test after being informed that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive. The 35-year-old British driver returned the positive test Monday and the result has been confirmed by a retest.
Hamilton is in isolation in accordance with the health protocols in Bahrain and has mild symptoms, the team says.
Hamilton has won 11 races this season and clinched the drivers’ championship last month in Turkey. He’s the third F1 driver to test positive this season.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A three-month Dutch law to rein in the spread of the coronavirus began on Tuesday.
The law requires wearing face masks in public indoor areas, including stores, museums, libraries and theaters. Masks are now mandatory in all schools except primary schools, although they can be taken off once students are in classrooms.
Before the law, masks were only required when traveling on public transport.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands has eased slightly over the past two weeks from 32 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 16 to 28 on Monday.
Also Tuesday, the Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge says the Netherlands could begin coronavirus vaccinations by Jan. 4.
The minister says if the vaccine candidate by Pfizer and BioNTech is approved later this month, he expects delivery of about 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Netherlands in December and 1.6 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Islamic militant group Hamas says its leader in the Gaza Strip has contracted the coronavirus.
Hamas says Yehiya Sinwar was tested after he showed symptoms and the infection was confirmed. It says he is “in good health and conducting his work with adherence to safety measures.”
Hamas has ruled Gaza since taking over the territory from the rival Palestinian Authority in 2007. Sinwar has led the group in Gaza, its central base, since 2017.
Previously, he spent two decades in Israeli prisons after being convicted of planning an operation in which two Israelis were killed. He was freed in a 2011 prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.
Gaza, which is under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade, reported its first case of community transmission of coronavirus in August. Since then, the outbreak has quickly spread.
Health authorities have confirmed 21,000 cases and 111 deaths, including a record nine deaths reported on Tuesday.
TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is asking senior citizens 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions not to use the government’s GoTo discount campaign to travel in and out of Tokyo.
New cases in Tokyo and other major cities have spiked in recent weeks, with serious cases rapidly filling hospitals and impacting the treatment of other patients.
Koike says she is focusing on how to stop serious cases and prevent the medical systems from collapsing.
Koike issued a request for restaurants serving alcohol, bars and karaoke chains to close early until mid-December. Aichi, Osaka and Hokkaido have taken similar steps.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has been criticized for being slow to curb social and economic activity. Suga hasn’t taken tougher steps beyond basic safety precautions and wearing masks.
Japan managed to avoid a high number of cases with stay at home and business closure requests under a non-binding state of emergency in the spring. Some experts say it’s time to scale back business activity and urged the government to act quickly to avoid another state of emergency.
The health ministry says Japan has nearly 149,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 deaths.
BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say they have submitted an application for expedited approval of their coronavirus vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.
The two companies say the submission, which occurred Monday, completes the rolling review process they initiated with the agency on Oct. 6.
The move comes a day after rival Moderna said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.
BioNTech says if the vaccine, currently named BNT162b2, is approved, its use in Europe could begin before the end of 2020.