A version of this story appeared in the November 24 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
Daily confirmed cases have been averaging at over 100,000 for more than 20 days, but it has not stopped millions from ignoring CDC advice and traveling this weekend ahead of Thanksgiving. According to one poll, a third of parents believe the benefits of gathering the family together for Thanksgiving is worth the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19.
“I think the point is that there’s no zero-risk here right now,” Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said yesterday. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, and many countries unfortunately are in a very difficult situation with increasing case numbers, with hospitals full and with ICUs full.”
In Germany, a draft proposal would allow up to 10 people to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s together, CNN affiliate n-tv reported. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said national restrictions for England will end next week, despite relatively high numbers of cases and deaths in recent days. While there are no confirmed details on how the rules will change over the festive period in Britain, Johnson hopes to let friends and family meet over Christmas. But while it may be “the season to be jolly … it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives,” he said at a news conference.
Canada is a cautionary tale for the holiday season, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. After celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in October, the country saw an increase in transmission. Its largest city, Toronto, went into lockdown yesterday for the second time since the pandemic began.
Don’t bend the science for the holidays, Ryan warned. “If there is significant community transmission in your country and you don’t have the necessary public health architecture to track and trace and isolate and quarantine contacts, then further opening up will result in increased transmission,” he said.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Can life return to normal now that Covid-19 vaccines are going to be rolled out in the US?
A: The White House coronavirus task force warned states in a weekly report that current vaccination plans won’t reduce the spread of the disease for months.
Australia’s national carrier Qantas is moving in that direction. Its CEO Alan Joyce said in an interview with CNN affiliate Nine News that it will require future international travelers to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 before flying. He added that that the move would be a “necessity” when vaccines become readily available.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Infection numbers in Germany hit an all-time record Friday, with nearly 24,000 new daily cases recorded – and so did the number of patients in the country’s intensive care units. Europe’s largest economy has gotten through the pandemic fairly well for now compared to its neighboring countries. This is in part due to its high intensive care capacity with 33.9 beds per 100,000 people. But the government warned Friday that the system could collapse in weeks if the current trajectory continues.
Covid-19 is running unabated across almost every American community, and one forecasting model is now predicting that the US could hit 20 million coronavirus cases by January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in.
That dire prediction comes as the General Services Administration finally switched on the administrative machinery that will formally aid the transfer of power to Biden. The legally mandated transition will unblock millions of dollars in funding and allow Biden’s team to huddle with government health officials to learn how best to escalate the effort to tackle the outbreak. An official told CNN that the transition team hopes to gain access to Covid data and vaccine distribution plans as soon as today.
Experts have questions about AstraZeneca’s vaccine data
Vaccine experts – including those who serve on advisory committees for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – have questions about data released Monday by AstraZeneca about its Covid-19 vaccine, Elizabeth Cohen reports.
AstraZeneca says its vaccine is on average 70% effective, but the company did not disclose the data that led them to that conclusion. “Absent knowing this, it’s hard to know the significance of their findings,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which will review Covid-19 vaccines before they are put on the market. AstraZeneca is running the vaccine trials in collaboration with the University of Oxford in the UK. Spokespeople for the company and the university did not respond to questions from CNN on Monday.
Heat-trapping gas levels reach a new record high, despite pandemic lockdowns
No, the coronavirus lockdown did not solve climate change. Not even a little bit, Ivana Kottasová reports. In fact, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere surged to a new record high this year, even as the pandemic brought the globe to a standstill, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Monday.
While carbon emissions fell during the spring lockdown, the drop amounted to little more than “just a tiny blip on the long-term graph” and will not have any meaningful effect on the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the WMO said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
ON OUR RADAR
- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship has returned to port in Singapore after an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for Covid-19. The “cruise to nowhere” itinerary around Singapore was part of a much-vaunted program to reinvigorate domestic travel in the country amid the pandemic.
- Nine months into the pandemic, 42% of Americans say their household income is still below what it was before the coronavirus outbreak.
- A woman in Oklahoma with worsening cold-like symptoms tested negative for Covid-19 three times before receiving a positive test. She is now urging others not to rely on test results if they feel sick.
- The home of Rebekah Jones, who was fired from her job as a state data scientist after accusing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration of minimizing the pandemic and skewing state data, was raided. She worries her seized computer and phones will reveal sources who leaked her damaging information on the state’s coronavirus response.
The database, which the university says is regularly updated, has more than 3,000 active job openings across different fields and industries.
We know spending the holidays on our own will keep our loved ones healthy. That doesn’t make it any easier. But there’s joy to be found in solitude. We spoke to experts in stress and connection who told us how to navigate the complicated emotions around spending the holidays alone.
“We did not say that it’s safe to fly … what we did say is that the risks of flying are significantly reduced. And that’s an important difference.” – Leonard Marcus, member of the aviation public health initiative at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health
“Most of the experts that I’ve spoken to have suggested that 70% of the population will have to be immune. Now, it could be smaller. It could be larger. But that’s the guess right now in order to really shut down the virus and frankly, make it go away.” – FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn