The number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints has been rising in recent days despite warnings from public health experts that Thanksgiving travel could further spike already-spiraling COVID-19 numbers.
More than 2.9 flyers passed through TSA security over the three-day period that ended Saturday, including over 1 million on Friday. That marked only the second time the number surpassed 1 million since the start of the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told USA TODAY’s Editorial Board last week that “you’ve got to decide, during this interesting period of a lot of infection going on, colder weather, indoors: Do you want to travel and go to a Thanksgiving meal where there may be 12, 15, 20 people?”
The U.S reported its 12 millionth case of COVID-19 on Saturday, days after the nation surpassed 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus — by far the largest total in the world. Experts say it will get worse unless Americans take masks and social distancing more seriously.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12 million cases and more than 255,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 58 million cases and almost 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
📰 What we’re reading: It’s a hard time to be in college. Now more than ever, students are facing incredible mental health stressors.
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The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has granted Regeneron Pharmaceutical an Emergency Use Authorization for a drug cocktail to treat COVID-19. President Donald Trump has touted the experimental antibody treatment and took it while he was being treated for the disease.
“In a clinical trial, the investigational therapy was shown to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or ER visits in certain patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe,” the FDA tweeted Saturday.
The drug, a pair of monoclonal antibodies, is intended to mimic the natural process of the immune system, providing it with molecules the body normally manufactures to fight off specific diseases. Trump was able to get it under a “compassionate use” exemption, which the company said at the time it has granted to fewer than 10 people, after requests from their doctors and approval by the FDA. A similar monoclonal antibody treatment was also given emergency authorization earlier this month.
— Joel Shannon, Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise
We already know that wearing face masks in public spaces slows the spread of COVID-19. And now the coronavirus situation in Kansas is providing further proof. Gov. Laura Kelly issued a face mask mandate in early July, and the counties that upheld the order saw a decline in cases, while the counties that opted out saw cases rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Countywide mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission in mandated counties,” according to the report, which analyzed county-level data one month before, and after, the governor’s mandate went into effect.
As of mid-August, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties had abided by the state mandate or adopted their own mask mandate, and 81 counties had opted out, as Kansas law allows. At that time, the number of new daily cases per capita – calculated as a 7-day rolling average – had decreased an average of 6% among counties with a mask mandate and increased by 100% in counties without a mandate. Read more.
At a time when Americans are pondering how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely amid the country’s worst surge in coronavirus cases, many families will be faced with yet another complicating factor: the return of students. Colleges and universities have reported 252,000-plus cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times tracker. Returning students – whether they lived in dorms or off-campus housing in the fall term – “exponentially increase the risk (of infection),” especially if they take some form of mass transportation to get home.
That’s the assessment of Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer for the claims management firm Sedgwick, who advises companies about medical strategies and safety practices. Like other specialists in the field, Bartlett is concerned that holiday gatherings, combined with pandemic fatigue and the need to move indoors as the weather gets colder, will exacerbate what’s already a major national spike in COVID-19 cases. Read more.
The Texas National Guard will be providing help to El Paso morgues as the region continues to be slammed by COVID-19 deaths.
“After completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week, the state has mobilized a team of 36 Texas National Guard personnel to provide mortuary affairs support beginning at 9 o’clock tomorrow (Saturday) morning,” Seth Christensen, spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said.
After the announcement, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego requested additional aid from Gov. Greg Abbott in the form of leeway to impose some restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Samaniego said in a letter to the governor’s office that his previous order that was ended by an appellate court was done so erroneously and the order was not inconsistent with Abbott’s statewide restrictions.
– El Paso Times
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press