New Virus Strain Could Be in U.S.; Fauci Gets Shot: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) - The new strain of Covid-19 that has emerged in the UK may already be in the US, Germany, France and Switzerland. Ireland imposed new restrictions to curb "exceptional growth" in certain instances and said the nation should act on the assumption that the new variant has arrived.
Pfizer Inc.'s partner BioNTech SE is currently evaluating ways to increase vaccine production. The chief executive officer said the shot would likely work against the new strain of the virus. Taiwan reported the first locally transmitted infection since April, ending the longest stretch in the world with no domestic incident.
New Jersey and Arizona reported the highest number of Covid-19 deaths since June and July, respectively. There are also deaths in New York City. Meanwhile, the U.S. government's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, received the vaccine from Moderna Inc., part of an effort by health officials to build confidence in the shots.
Key developments:
Global Tracker: Cases Pass 77.7 Million; Deaths exceed US 1.7 million. Hot Spots: Hospitals Months Away From Vaccines First-in-line admissions are going viral online for widespread support. The leading Indian Covid vaccine manufacturer is preparing to launch upgrades to have been vaccinated
Subscribe to a daily virus update from the Bloomberg forecast team here. Click CVID on the terminal to view global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.
UK Johnson watches closer suspension (4:45 p.m. New York)
Boris Johnson's government is currently considering whether to lock down more areas of England to counter a faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus.
According to someone familiar with the matter, ministers are considering applying the highest Tier 4 restrictions to shut down non-essential shops and recreational facilities near more regions.
Ministers and scientific experts met late Tuesday after cases of the new strain of Covid-19 were identified outside London and south-east England, which were classified as Tier 4 last weekend.
France reopens transport links to Great Britain (3:35 p.m. NY)
France announced it would resume critical trade and transport links with the UK at midnight on Tuesday, two days after a temporary suspension wreaked havoc in Britain's busiest port.
According to a statement by Prime Minister Jean Castex, travel from the UK will resume for citizens and residents of the European Union who can demonstrate negative Covid-19 tests. Other nationals are allowed to resume important trips.
France halted freight services from Dover on Sunday over concerns that the faster-spreading variant of Covid-19 could trigger spikes in some cases, just like in London and the surrounding area, where the UK government has imposed a strict lockdown.
Meatpacking Counties Hardest Hit, Says USDA (2:00 p.m. New York)
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the infection rate of Covid-19 in U.S. states that depend on meat packing jobs was ten times the average for rural counties last spring. The report examined the spread of Covid in the 57 mostly rural US counties, where meat packaging accounts for at least 20% of employment. As of mid-April, confirmed Covid cases in these counties exceeded the rest of the country and remained "much higher" than other US counties through mid-July. This is what the USDA's economic research service found. Meat processing plants quickly became epicentres of the virus in the U.S. in the spring as most immigrant workers continued to work, sometimes shoulder to shoulder, in cramped, cold, and damp facilities, often without protective equipment. Rural areas recently outperformed urban and suburban parts of the country in cumulative deaths from Covid part of the population. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 109 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population in North Dakota, South Dakota last week in "non-core" counties, the least populated classification, and Iowa reported some of the highest death rates as measured by the population. New cases were worst in Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma.
South Carolina Governor Tests Positive (1:25 p.m. New York)
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster was informed late Monday that he had tested positive for the virus, his office said. McMaster, who has mild symptoms of cough and mild fatigue, was at a Christmas party at the White House on December 14th.
The office said the governor had undergone routine testing for coming into close contact with the Covid-19 virus. He will isolate for the next 10 days and monitor for additional symptoms according to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a statement, McMaster “urged everyone to be extra careful during the Christmas break. This virus spreads very easily. "
New Jersey Covid Deaths Spike (12:51 p.m. New York)
New Jersey's daily number of reported Covid-19 deaths surpassed 100 for the first time since June, according to the state's website.
The 104 new deaths brought New Jersey's total confirmed deaths from the pandemic to 16,418. The 3,735 hospital stays were the most since May.
The new Covid-19 strain may already be in the United States (12:40 p.m., NY).
The new variant of Covid-19 found in the UK may already be undiscovered in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
No cases have been identified yet, the CDC reported, but viruses have only been sequenced from about 51,000 of the 17 million US cases. Travel between the two countries and the spread of the new strain in the UK increases the likelihood that it already exists in the US, the CDC reported.
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, said Monday it would take weeks to scientifically determine whether the strain is more transmissible but that it doesn't appear to be more dangerous. He also said he expected the vaccines in place will likely still offer protection from this.
Arizona has the highest number of deaths since July (11:50 a.m. in New York)
Arizona reported 153 new Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, the most since late July, as its medical centers struggle to keep up with growing numbers of patients. The most recent deaths have raised the state's death toll to 8,125 since the pandemic began.
Along with Nevada, Arizona reported the highest hospital stay rates in the country on Monday, based on population.
Fauci Inoculated With Moderna's Shot (10:55 PM NY)
Anthony Fauci was among the first staff members at the National Institutes of Health to receive a Covid-19 vaccine given in the same auditorium where he first arrived at the NIH as a fellow 52 years ago.
Fauci, the U.S. government's chief infectious disease physician, received the vaccine from Moderna Inc. along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins and six frontline health workers at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The foundations for Moderna's messenger RNA vaccine began with a collaboration between NIH and the company before the pandemic began, Collins said. "What we are seeing now is the culmination of years of research," said Fauci.
The public ritual of vaccinating senior health workers is part of an effort to build trust in vaccines, which were developed in record time and amid political disputes over when to approve vaccines.
Fauci, who will turn 80 on Thursday, noted he was receiving the vaccine, partly because he still sees patients as attending physicians at the NIH Clinical Center, but also to send a message "to the rest of the country, that I have extreme confidence in the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine. "
He flashed a thumbs up sign after getting the shot in his left arm.
NYC Deaths Up 31% (10:35 a.m. NY)
New York City lost 188 residents to Covid-19 for the week ending December 21, up 31% over the four-week average.
While cases fell over the past week, hospital stays and deaths increased. The 7-day average of confirmed and probable deaths that month more than doubled to 34 on December 18. Mayor Bill de Blasio has urged residents to stay home for the holidays.
The deaths are a far cry from the more than 700 daily deaths in New York City in April. The most populous city in the United States has reported 387,361 confirmed and probable cases and 24,735 deaths since the outbreak began.
Denmark Says Another Variant Was Discovered (9:20 a.m., NY)
The Danish health authorities said about 10% of the country's positive test results are now due to the N439K mutation in the virus and called the rate "worrying". The mutation, which was first discovered in Romania in May, differs from the one widespread in the UK and also from the one that infected Danish mink farms earlier this year, authorities said.
Danes, Netherlands postpone virus handling (9:14 a.m. in New York)
Intensive care units in the Danish capital region are now almost at full capacity and are urging health authorities to postpone planned operations and get support from hospitals outside the Copenhagen area. The trend is due to an increase in Covid-19 cases, although the daily numbers have recently been below a December 18 increase of more than 4,500.
According to the national press agency ANP, hospitals in the Netherlands have also put all non-urgent health care on hold in order to be able to treat a large influx of Covid patients. More and more patients are being brought to neighboring Germany.
Switzerland receives the first 107,000 doses of vaccine (9:02 a.m. in New York)
Switzerland has received the first 107,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and will begin single admissions this month ahead of an official national rollout on January 4th. The country will prioritize those aged 75 and over, as well as adults with chronic illnesses at the highest risk.
The country analyzes only 1% of the roughly 30,000 cases per week and had not found the mutated virus strain as of December 10th. However, it is likely that the variant has already been brought to Switzerland by several people on flights from the UK, according to the Swiss Science Group Covid-19.
EU urges member states to reopen transport links with the UK (9:00 a.m. in New York)
The European Commission has urged member states to reopen key commercial and passenger routes to the UK while cutting off non-essential travel to end the chaos in Britain's busiest port.
The British government is desperate to reopen trade routes to France after a day of cross-channel political bartering did not end the impasse. France suspended freight traffic from Dover, in south-east England, at midnight on Sunday because it feared the mutated strain of Covid-19, which was forcing the British government to close down London and the surrounding areas.
More than 40 countries restrict flights and effectively isolate the UK.
New Irish Curbs To Curb "Extraordinary" Virus Growth (8:24 AM New York)
Ireland will introduce a number of new restrictions to fight the coronavirus, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address, referring to the "exceptional growth" of the virus there.
Pubs and restaurants close from December 24th through January 12th, while travel between counties is effectively prohibited. Non-essential stores can stay open, but the government has asked to postpone sales in January. While there is no “solid evidence” that the new strain of the virus is in Ireland, “it is most responsible to assume that it is already there,” Martin said.
"We are now seeing possibly a daily growth rate of around 10%," said Martin. It's just not sustainable.
IMF warns euro area recovery may slow, stimulus needed (8 a.m. in New York)
The euro area threatens a slower economic recovery than previously expected in 2021 and may need more stimulus if a resurgent coronavirus pervades the continent, the International Monetary Fund said.
Sweden wants new laws to come into effect by January (7:57 a.m. in New York)
Sweden plans to enact new pandemic laws on Jan. 15 that will allow it to shut down businesses and public transportation to tackle spikes in some cases. Despite a recurrence of infections, Sweden has not yet fully banned, partly because it did not have the legal framework to do more.
Romanians who don't want a vaccine (7:12 a.m. in New York)
Romanians are still reluctant to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Only 30% said they would be ready to get the shot, while 29% of people said they definitely wouldn't, according to a survey by the avant-garde polling firm cited by G4Media. The rest of the population was still undecided, the survey found.
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