The Latest: Pennsylvania governor warns virus getting worse

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday that the coronavirus is running rampant throughout the state and could soon force overwhelmed hospitals to begin turning away patients.

Wolf calls it a “dangerous, disturbing scenario” that will become reality if people don’t take steps to slow the spread. He said additional pandemic restrictions might be on the way but did not elaborate on what his administration might be considering while also acknowledging the ones already in place have not worked.

Wolf said the unchecked spread of the virus in all regions of the state means that resource-sharing agreements among hospitals could soon begin to break down and force them to begin rationing care.

Still, the governor all but ruled out a return to the kinds of statewide restrictions he imposed in the spring, when schools were closed, thousands of businesses deemed non-essential were shut down, and all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians were under a stay-at-home order.



— Health officials warn Americans not to let their guard down

— UK gears up for coronavirus vaccination program watched around the world

— Citing low virus rates in schools, New York City reopens schools again

— Biden picks Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS, pandemic response

— Senator says Trump, McConnell likely to back COVID-19 relief

— Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in hospital after positive COVID-19 test


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ATLANTA — The number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus infections has soared more than 70% in Georgia in the week ended Monday as hospitals continue to sound alarms about their ability to absorb new COVID-19 patients and a few schools give up in-person instruction for the remaining two weeks before Christmas holidays begin, with all students learning at home until 2021.

The last week has seen a rapid takeoff in new infections, with the state averaging more than 5,000 confirmed and suspected cases each day as of Monday. Even just the confirmed cases, based off molecular PCR tests, are now above the high set on July 24.

More than 2,500 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday statewide. That’s below the summer peak of 3,200, but more than double the most recent low point in mid-October.

Despite the rapid rise, Georgia still ranks only 44th among the states for the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, because cases are spreading so rapidly everywhere else. Still, the Georgia Department of Public health rates 60% of Georgia’s counties as having high transmission.

Georgia is likely to record its 10,000th confirmed or suspected death from COVID-19 sometime this week. On Monday, the death total stood at 9.851. The state passed 500,000 confirmed or suspected infections on Sunday.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee lawmaker has been hospitalized with COVID-19 after attending a House Republican caucus meeting nearly two weeks ago.

Rep. David Byrd was flown by helicopter over the weekend to a Nashville hospital. The 63-year-old lawmaker attended the House GOP caucus meeting with nearly 70 lawmakers on Nov. 24 and also participated in a House GOP overnight retreat the weekend prior.

Byrd is at least the second lawmaker to be hospitalized after contracting the virus. Republican Rep. Mike Carter was hospitalized earlier this year for COVID-19.

Byrd had attracted scrutiny for more than a year over allegations by three women of sexual misconduct three decades ago when he was a high school teacher and their basketball coach. He was never charged.


LAS VEGAS — Officials have reported that the number of people hospitalized in Nevada with COVID-19 has more than doubled over the last month.

The Nevada Hospital Association reported Monday that hospitalized coronavirus patients increased to 1,617 statewide from Nov. 6 to Dec. 6 as the state continues experiencing a surge. That’s up from 692, a rise of more than 230%.

Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage says officials expect the number of reported cases to continue rising because of gatherings over Thanksgiving. Cage says that will likely increase the number of hospitalizations.

Nevada has reported 170,587 COVID-19 cases and 2,319 deaths during the pandemic.


JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has announced plans for a nighttime curfew during the upcoming Hanukkah holiday to contain a COVID-19 outbreak.

The curfew is set to go into effect on Wednesday, on the eve of Hanukkah. It says commercial activities will be banned and intercity travel will be limited.

An announcement Monday night said the measure, approved by the advisory coronavirus cabinet, still requires approval from the Cabinet.

Israel has already imposed two lockdowns this year and is still emerging from the latest set of restrictions imposed in September. In recent days, the number of daily confirmed cases has sharply climbed.

Also Monday, President Reuven Rivlin said the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are expected to arrive in the country in the coming days.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced plans Monday for a series of community meetings across Arkansas to address the growing surge of coronavirus cases.

Hutchinson’s office said that the governor will have meetings this week in Benton, Springdale and Jonesboro, followed by additional meetings in other cities next week. The governor also planned to give a speech Thursday night for a statewide audience.

Hutchinson said last week that he’s considering requiring state approval for smaller indoor events. Under the state’s current COVID-19 restrictions, indoor events with more than 100 people expected must have a plan approved beforehand by the state.

But overall, the Republican governor has resisted calls for widespread restrictions, such as stricter capacity requirements on indoor dining, which has been recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Arkansas’ rolling average number of daily new virus cases has increased by 21% over the past two weeks, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. One in every 205 people in Arkansas tested positive in the past week, researchers said.


BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s health department has loosened its coronavirus quarantine guidance for schools and workplaces to match the latest recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidelines suggest people who’ve come in close contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus can resume normal activity after 10 days if no symptoms have emerged, or seven days if they test negative. That’s down from 14 days.

The state Department of Education is expected to give public school systems the green light to follow the relaxed quarantine rules.

But the health department is sticking to a 14-day recommendation for prisons and nursing homes where people live together in tight quarters.


NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans may be in store for stricter coronavirus restrictions next week.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in Monday social media posts that cases are on the rise in the city. Cantrell said that if the numbers don’t look better in one week, more restrictions will be needed.

There’s been a sharp increase in the percentage of tests with positive results. The seven-day average, as reported by the city, has gone from around 1% in early November to 3.6% as of Sunday.

Cantrell didn’t provide details on what the tighter rules might entail.

Restrictions are already tight in a city famous for its hospitality industry and night life. Indoor social gatherings are limited to 75 people and outdoor gatherings to 150 people. Restaurants are limited to half their indoor capacity and bars to 25%, and alcoholic beverage sales end at 11 p.m. Indoor live entertainment remains off-limits.


COLUMBIA, S.C. — With new COVID-19 cases reaching record levels in South Carolina, a teacher group is asking districts to go back to all virtual teaching until this second spike in the virus can be flattened.

The plea was given more emotional weight over the weekend after the death of 50-year-old third grade teacher Staci Blakely from COVID-19. Her family asked the school district to announce her death publicly to remind people how serious the disease can be, District Superintendent Greg Little said in a statement.

Blakely was a 28-year teaching veteran who was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on Nov. 11. No one else in her classroom has been infected, the district said.

At least four school districts in South Carolina have returned to all virtual learning. Nearly a quarter of the state’s districts are teaching in person every day.

When averaged out over seven days, South Carolina is seeing about 2,300 new COVID-19 cases a day. That’s more than during the July peak that saw the state among the nation’s leaders in coronavirus spread.


BERLIN — A panel of medical experts in Germany is recommending that nursing home residents, people over 80 and certain medical personnel in acute and elderly care should receive coronavirus vaccines first when they become available.

A draft recommendation released Monday defines some 8.6 million people who would receive a vaccine first. That’s over 10% of the German population.

According to the 62-page document, only once those groups have been immunized and if vaccines are still limited should other high risk groups receive the shot.

The draft, which still needs to be approved, has a total of six categories grouped according to their risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and the likelihood they might expose others. Teachers belong to the fourth category, while people working in key positions of government, in critical infrastructure and in small stores are in the fifth.

All other healthy individuals under 60 — an estimated 45 million people in the country of 83 million — would be last in line for a vaccine.

The expert panel says people who have recovered from confirmed infection with COVID-19 do not need to get immunized.


DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa posted another 35 deaths from the novel coronavirus on Monday, continuing the high level of deaths related to the pandemic.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 29 deaths per day on Nov. 22 to 45 deaths per day on Sunday, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

State health officials reported on Monday 912 new cases in the previous 24 hours. State data indicates new case trends have slowed with the average number of daily new cases decreasing by nearly 37% in the past two weeks.

Although slowing, the virus spread remains high in Iowa. There were 1,083 new cases per 100,000 people in Iowa over the past two weeks, which ranks 16th in the country for new cases per capita. One in every 195 people in Iowa tested positive in the past week.

State data also show positive trends with fewer hospitalized patients at 898 on Monday and fewer people admitted in the previous 24 hours.


VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s government began advising people on Monday only to leave home for serious reasons, banned private parties of more than two families, and tightened requirements in shopping centers.

The government also directed almost all public sector employees to work from home, after initial measures failed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Shops are urged not to have short-term sales promotions and to have no more than five people stand in a line. Also, only one person per family is recommended to go shopping.

People in the southernmost Baltic country will have to celebrate Christmas under the new regulations, which will last until at least the end of the month.

A country of almost 3 million, Lithuania managed to curb the first COVID-19 wave but now faces one of the highest surges in Europe per capita with 76,036 total cases and 637 deaths, most of those registered in the last two months.


ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government says it will maintain core lockdown measures through the Christmas holidays, acknowledging that monthlong restrictions have not reduced COVID-19 infections to the extent it had hoped for.

Schools, courts, and restaurants will remain closed through Jan. 7, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced Monday, while non-essential travel between Greece’s administrative regions will also be banned.

Stay-at-home orders nationwide will remain in effect until that date, with movement outside households granted by the government by SMS.

Greece’s pandemic death toll reached 3,000 at the weekend, with most deaths occurring after Nov. 1. The number of daily infections, based on a seven-day rolling average, is currently at 1,609 compared to 2,674 in mid-November, Petsas said.

Restrictions for stores, churches, and hair salons will be announced later this week, Petsas said.

The current lockdown was launched on Nov. 7 and initially planned to last for three weeks.


HELENA, Mont. — Montana’s first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will go to health care workers in the state’s major hospitals, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Monday.

Hospitals first in line for the vaccine are in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula.

Montana could receive 9,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December.

Large hospitals were selected as the recipients in the first round because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored in cold temperatures, and doses are shipped in boxes of 975 per box. The number of doses distributed to each hospital will be based on a survey conducted by the state’s health department.

A second shipment of vaccines is expected a week after the first round, which will contain both the Pfizer vaccine and a vaccine developed by drug company Moderna. The second shipment will be distributed primarily to rural hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, according to the governor’s office.


HONOLULU — Officials gathered in Pearl Harbor to remember those killed in the 1941 Japanese attack, but public health measures adopted because of the coronavirus pandemic meant no survivors were present.

The military broadcast video of the ceremony live online for survivors and members of the public to watch from afar.

USS Utah survivor Warren Upton says it’s too bad he can’t be there in person, but that it’s for safety reasons. The 101-year-old planned to watch the ceremony from his home in California.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m. That’s the same time the attack began 79 years ago, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,400.


LISBON — Portugal has surpassed the threshold of 5,000 COVID-19 deaths and set a new record for hospital admissions.

The General Directorate for Health said Monday that 3,367 patients with the novel coronavirus are in hospital and 78 people had died over the previous 24 hours.

Authorities officially recorded fewer than 3,000 cases of COVID-19, as the pandemic has ebbed from a peak of 7,497 daily cases in early November. Hospital admissions have leveled off but remain high.

Portugal’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people is 600, according to the European Centre for Disease Control. That makes it ninth highest in the 31 European countries monitored by the EU agency.


DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ longtime partner, first gentleman Marlon Reis, has been hospitalized as a precaution after experiencing shortness of breath and a worsening cough eight days after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Polis’ office said in a statement late Sunday that the governor, who also was diagnosed with COVID-19, drove Reis to a hospital “for review and treatment.” Polis was not experiencing severe symptoms, his office said.

No additional information was immediately released. Both Polis and Reis tested positive Nov. 28, and both had been quarantining at home.

Polis, a Democrat, had described his symptoms as “very mild” Dec. 1 as he worked last week from home. He had previously said Reis was asymptomatic.


WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning that the upcoming holiday season may be even worse than Thanksgiving in terms of spreading the coronavirus.

Fauci told CNN on Monday that because the traditional Christmas season is an extended period that stretches into New Year’s, the prospects for spreading the virus as people travel “may be even more compounded than what we saw at Thanksgiving.”

Fauci said “it’s a very critical time in this country right now” with the virus surging and more important than ever for people to take precautions like avoiding indoor gatherings, wearing masks and social distancing.

Over Thanksgiving, many people traveled to gather with families, against warnings from health officials. Fauci said the U.S. is “probably just at the beginning” of seeing the resulting uptick in cases.

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