A long-predicted surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths has begun in the United States, but Americans aren’t changing their behaviors to slow the virus’ spread, according to an influential virus model.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released their latest model updates this week and they paint a bleak picture of the coming months: A surge in cases will create “enormous pressure on hospital capacity” and deaths will reach nearly 2,200 per day sometime in January.
But even as cases and deaths are currently rising, mask use remains consistent and Americans aren’t staying at home more. If mask use became nearly universal, 63,000 lives can still be saved, the model found.
Meanwhile on Friday, the U.S. surpassed its record for most daily infections when more than 83,700 new COVID-19 cases were recorded. The previous high was set in July when the U.S. saw more than 77,300 new cases.
Here’s what to know today:
- As COVID-19 cases continue to surge worldwide, more elected officials are testing positive for the coronavirus, and some nations are implementing new restrictions.
- President Donald Trump is expected to hold a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Saturday night. A USA TODAY investigation found that Trump’s rallies during the past two months didn’t just defy state orders and federal health guidelines – they left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in their wake.
- The Navajo Nation has a higher per capita COVID-19 death rate than any U.S. state, with 11,101 infections and 574 confirmed deaths as of Thursday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported nearly 8.6 million cases and more than 224,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 42.5 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
What will holiday travel look like this year? Expect more traffic on the road and in the sky, despite COVID-19. More on that forecast here.
When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine? Our panel of experts expects at least one COVID-19 vaccine will be approved in the coming months. Then things could really get complicated.
This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday, Pence’s spokesman said in a statement Saturday night after reports that another senior adviser had also tested positive.
Short began isolating Saturday and assisting in the contact tracing process, according to Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley.
Both Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative Saturday and Pence is not curtailing his movements despite having been in close contact with Short.
“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley said in the statement.
— Maureen Groppe
President Donald Trump appeared to again downplay a new nationwide wave of COVID-19 infections and railed against media coverage of the pandemic at an event in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Saturday.
“We’re rounding the turn,” Trump said even as 12 states set new case records over the last week. “We’re doing great, our numbers are incredible.”
Trump also leveled attacks against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, whom he mocked for holding a drive-in rally earlier Saturday in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
During his rally, Biden mentioned that he misses up-close campaigning but doesn’t want to have “superspreader” events, which seems to be a reference to Trump’s campaign events. “I don’t like the idea of all this distance, but it’s necessary,” Biden said. “We don’t want to become superspreaders.”
– Courtney Subramanian, Nicholas Wu and Sarah Elbeshbishi
A Maine city is installing mailboxes loaded with free face masks throughout the community.
The city of Lewiston says workers are installing 12 mailbox mask dispensers across the city. Six of them will be downtown. The mailboxes will have individually wrapped masks inside.
The city says the masks are expected to be in the mailboxes starting Monday. Lewiston, the second-largest city in the state with a population of about 36,000, is using Keep Maine Healthy grant money for the effort.
– The Associated Press
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge worldwide, more elected officials are testing positive for the coronavirus, and some nations are implementing new restrictions.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Anze Logar, and the mayor of Istanbul have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to their spokespeople. And Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is in self-isolation for five days as a precautionary measure.
Police in England say they will try to stop people from leaving Wales, which has started a 17-day lockdown to slow a surging rate of infections. Slovakia is adopting new strict limits on movement, Greece officials introduced mandatory wearing of masks everywhere Saturday, and Slovenia shut down non-essential shops, kindergartens and hotels.
In Mexico, the northern border state of Chihuahua has returned to the highest level of alert and lockdown.
– The Associated Press
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., was tested for COVID-19 Friday after two of her D.C. Senate staff members tested positive, and her test came back negative, Loeffler’s office said Saturday.
“Senator Loeffler is more energized than ever to vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court Justice on Monday before returning home and traveling the state to meet with hardworking Georgians,” her office said.
The office did not say if Loeffler had been in contact with the staffers or if there would be subsequent tests.
The top health official in one of Florida’s most populous counties is discouraging parents from hosting birthday parties for their children, no matter the size, after half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area came down with the virus.
Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in Orange County, said a high school closed for two weeks last month after students who had attended the birthday party tested positive.
“Those parties will not only affect those people participating in that activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” said Pino. “We will continue to see consequences if we don’t act super-responsibly.”
– The Associated Press
Stretching 27,000 square miles across the Southwest, the Navajo Nation unfolds into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Geographically, it’s the largest reservation in the United States — and for over 156,000 Diné (as the Navajo people call themselves), it’s home.
It’s also a region that’s been among the most devastated by COVID-19. With 11,101 infections and 574 confirmed deaths as of Thursday, the Navajo Nation has a higher per capita COVID-19 death rate than any U.S. state.
Over the summer, COVID-19 cases declined — amid strict public health orders and grassroots community relief efforts. But, in recent weeks, the reservation and surrounding areas have reported an uptick in new numbers. Here’s how you can support community relief.
– Wyatte Grantham-Philips
Researchers say a test developed by a Nobel Prize winner using cutting-edge CRISPR technology has the potential to be rapid, accurate and inexpensive.
CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is a gene-editing technology studied for a wide range of uses from cancer and sickle cell disease treatments to improved food production. The test recognizes a sequence of RNA in SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Although these gene-editing technology tests are still being developed and won’t be ready in the United States this year as the weather cools and demand surges, research groups recently published scientific papers describing them as an appealing alternative as testing shortages persist in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a ways to go before CRISPR-based diagnostics reach widespread use, but I believe we’ll see an impact during the current pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a University of California, Berkeley researcher whose pioneering work in CRISPR earned a share of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry. The test can be done quickly and doesn’t require a lab, she said. Read more here.
– Ken Alltucker
The U.S. topped the one-day record for new coronavirus cases with 83,757 new infections recorded Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. This record surpasses the previous summer high, which was set July 16 with 77,362 cases.
The new cases record may be a product of virus seasonality, pandemic fatigue and the return of schools and universities, said Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.
“It’s really a number of factors coming together,” he said. “And what I worry is that they’re starting to come together in a perfect storm.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Friday that President Donald Trump has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in “several months” and the meetings themselves have greatly “diminished.”
Led by Vice President Mike Pence, the coronavirus task force used to meet daily during the first months of the pandemic, but that has now been scaled back to meeting once a week, Fauci said, due to the White House focusing on an “economic reopening.”
“We certainly interact with the vice president at the task force meetings, and the vice president makes our feelings and what we talk about there known to the president,” Fauci said when pressed about the last time the president attended. “But direct involvement with the president and discussions, I have not done that in awhile.”
— Savannah Behrmann
As President Trump jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn’t just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.
The president has participated in nearly three dozen rallies since mid-August, all but two at airport hangars. A USA TODAY analysis shows COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five of those rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota.
Together, those counties saw 1,500 more new cases in the two weeks following Trump’s rallies than the two weeks before – 9,647 cases, up from 8,069.
Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.
Coronavirus resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press