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California Sees Hospital Surge; France Eases Rules: Virus Update

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 11/24/2020 Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is working on guidance to shorten the recommended 14-day quarantine period following exposure to Covid-19. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the state could face at a least a 20% surge in new infections, while California’s top health official said daily deaths may surpass previous highs.

People will probably have to take precautions against Covid-19 for the next year as countries need time to vaccinate their populations, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said. The airline industry’s main trade group expects record losses to balloon further in 2021 amid lackluster travel demand.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he will gradually lift a nationwide lockdown, and the U.K. will relax gathering rules for Christmas. Deutsche Bank AG may allow most employees to permanently work from home two days a week.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases pass 59.5 million; deaths 1.4 millionAstra shot that works better in smaller doses raises questionsThe best and the worst places to be in the coronavirus eraU.S. unwinds in-person education with closings in over 30 statesVaccine breakthroughs put Covid protection within reachWhy making a Covid vaccine is only the first hurdle: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

chart: The euro area is slipping into a second contraction because of virus restrictions © Bloomberg The euro area is slipping into a second contraction because of virus restrictions

California Warns of Soaring Fatalities (4:54 p.m. NY)

California’s top public health official warned that the daily number of Covid-19 deaths in the state could top previous highs by Christmas, as a third wave of infections gathers momentum.

The number of Californians hospitalized with the virus has more than doubled since the start of November, jumping from 2,537 to 5,844, said Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary. Infections have been accelerating, with a near-record 15,329 new cases reported Tuesday, and about 12% of newly infected people will likely be hospitalized in the next two to three weeks, he said. Deaths, which briefly topped 200 per day in late July, could rise to new highs, Ghaly said.

“The idea that the numbers of deaths could exceed where we’ve been before is also indeed real and true,” Ghaly said Tuesday during a press conference. But that could depend on how people respond to the surge. “The models have been proven wrong before, because Californians come together to prove them wrong,” he said.

The most-populous state has recorded more than 18,700 deaths, behind only New York and Texas.

Merkel Proposes Tougher Restrictions (4:47 p.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing a further tightening of the country’s coronavirus restrictions, setting the stage for another tense round of discussions with the country’s 16 state leaders who have called for more lenient measures.

Merkel will talk to regional premiers on Wednesday to agree on an extension of the country’s partial shutdown until at least Dec. 20. In a briefing paper from the Chancellery obtained by Bloomberg, she suggests to further restrict the number of customers allowed into shops and for additional measures in schools located in infection hotspots.

Macron Plans Gradual Easing of Lockdown (4:20 p.m. NY)

French President Emmanuel Macron said he will gradually lift a nationwide lockdown from Saturday an outbreak eases. Small stores will be permitted to open from Nov. 28 with extra rules, after weeks of shopkeepers criticizing and mocking the government’s decision to ban retail it deemed non-essential. Restaurants will remain closed, however, until at least Jan. 20, depriving the sector of the income from one of the busiest periods of the year.

“We have put the brake on the circulation of the virus,” Macron said in a televised address Tuesday. “But a few weeks are still needed to reach our targets” of 5,000 cases a day and up to 3,000 people in intensive care.

The number of French virus patients in intensive-care units fell by 165 to 4,289 on Tuesday, the biggest daily drop since May 12. Overall hospitalizations continued to decline and are now back to the level of more than two weeks ago.

Colorado Says Deaths May Double (4:15 p.m. NY)

The number of Covid-19 deaths in Colorado could more than double to 6,600 by the end of the year unless the current outbreak is contained, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said at a news conference in Denver.

An estimated 1-in-41 state residents are contagious, the most since tracking began, Governor Jared Polis said. Addressing local officials reluctant to follow stricter state health orders, Polis asked: “Are you on the side of the virus or are you on the side of Colorado?”

Separately, 551 of 993 inmates at a major Colorado prison, the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, are infected, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

Louisiana Adds Restrictions (4:10 p.m. NY)

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards cut the number of customers allowed at restaurants, gyms, salons, casinos, malls and other nonessential businesses from 75% of their occupancy rate to 50%, the Associated Press reported. Crowds at churches will be capped at 75% of their capacity, with distancing among people of different households required. The state is seeing a spike in hospitalizations.

U.S. May Shorten Quarantine Recommendation (3:36 p.m. NY)

Federal health officials are working on new guidance that would shorten the recommended 14-day quarantine period following a potential exposure to the coronavirus, the top U.S. virus-testing official said on Tuesday.

Officials are beginning to see a preponderance of evidence that people could spend less time in quarantine if they also test negative for Covid-19, said Admiral Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, on a call with reporters.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finalizing recommendations for a new quarantine period of seven and 10 days, and which would include a negative test.

Texas Opens Antibody Site in El Paso (2:20 p.m. NY)

The Texas Division Of Emergency Management has established a Covid-19 antibody-infusion site at a state-run treatment center in El Paso, Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Federal officials stocked the outpatient site with 1,000 doses of bamlanivimab, a coronavirus antibody therapy made by Eli Lilly & Co. that was approved by the U.S. for emergency use this month. Viewed as a treatment to prevent hospitalizations, the doses are being reserved for people who tested positive and have an increased risk of developing severe symptoms.

El Paso continues to struggle with one of the worst outbreaks in Texas. Infections have jumped 63% since the beginning of the month, figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services show.

The deadly disease has infected 81,511 people and claimed 980 lives in El Paso County since March, state figures show.

Ireland Has Fewest Cases in 2 Months (1:05 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the fewest new coronavirus cases in two months, ahead of a easing of current restrictions. There were 226 newly diagnosed cases on Tuesday, the health ministry said, the least since Sept. 21. The government is expected to decide on loosening the current lockdown later this week, with restrictions due to expire on Dec. 1. Ireland also formally introduced fines for breaches of coronavirus rules Tuesday, including for not wearing masks and for hosting or attending house parties.

N.Y.’s Cuomo Warns of Major Surge (11:55 a.m. NY)

New York state is headed toward a major surge in coronavirus cases, at least a 20% increase over the holiday season, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

At the low end, experts say the state could see a 20% increase in cases between now and January, with the positive test rate reaching 12.46%, Cuomo said at a virus briefing on Long Island.

If the state sees more, emergency hospital beds would be needed, he said. “That’s a problem,” Cuomo said, urging New Yorkers to “be smart” and keep guests to a maximum of 10 people this Thanksgiving. “It’s hard, but sometimes hard is smart.”

The testing positivity rate statewide was 2.93% on Monday, with 2,856 hospitalizations, Cuomo said.

N.J. Deaths Spike (11:50 a.m. NY)

New Jersey reported 48 deaths with a lab-confirmed link to the virus, the highest such figure since June 5. For much of July, August, September and October, the state had reported fewer than 10 deaths each day. The new data push the state’s known Covid-19 deaths to above 15,000, while another 1,812 fatalities had an untested but probable link.

“We are in the thick of the Covid second wave,” Governor Phil Murphy said during a bill-signing. He pleaded with New Jerseyans to limit Thursday’s Thanksgiving guests to immediate family and to exclude the most vulnerable: “This is not the year to have grandma and grandpa over.”

Italy Deaths Jump as New Cases Slow (11:45 a.m. NY)

Italy reported the highest number of coronavirus fatalities since the height of the pandemic in the spring, even as data on new contagions hinted that the outbreak is slowing down. Daily deaths climbed to 853 Tuesday, the most since March 28 and up from 630 a day earlier.

New cases fell 28% from a week earlier to 23,232, with a test positivity rate falling to 12.3%, the lowest in a month.

“There is an initial but clear decline in positivity,” said Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s public health institute, at a press conference. Deaths will only start declining later, he added. Hospitalized patients fell for the first time in two months, dropping by 114 to 38,393.

U.K. Has Fewest New Cases Since Oct. 2 (11:35 a.m. NY)

The U.K. recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly two months on Tuesday, the latest indication that infections are steadily declining.

Restrictions in England are due to be eased next week to make way for a regional approach that will allow many businesses to reopen, and some socializing.

A further 11,299 new cases were reported, the fewest since Oct. 2 and down from a peak of more than 33,000 on Nov. 12.

Some 608 new deaths from coronavirus were reported, which is about level week on week, but it is also the highest daily increase since cases spiked for the second time.

NYC Plans Travel Checkpoints (11:05 a.m. NY)

New York City will have vehicle checkpoints at key bridges and crossings, and will strictly enforce the travel quarantine, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.

The sheriff’s office will conduct spot checks when out-of-state buses drop riders off at the curb. Test and tracing teams will be on the ground to direct individuals to testing sites and provide education on quarantine, Fucito said.

The 14-day quarantine mandates that travelers quarantine or test out. Violations of self-quarantine will be enforced and may carry fines of $1,000 to $2,000, according to the mayor’s office.

The city will enforce the completion of traveler forms at airports, Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. There will be self-test site teams on the premises.

New York, the early center of the U.S. outbreak, reported a seven-day average of 1,476 new cases, and a seven-day positive test rate of 3.17%, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

South Africa Lines Up Vaccines Through Covax (10:20 a.m. NY)

South Africa has paid 500 million rand ($33 million) to the Covax program, which strives to supply low- and middle-income countries with proven Covid-19 vaccines to ensure equitable access around the world, according to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

Mboweni said he will find a further 4.5 billion rand from the budget to make sure South Africa has an adequate supply and is at “the front of the queue” when vaccines become available. There may also be scope to help some neighbors, he said.

The global Covax alliance has raised more than $2 billion and secured deals for roughly 700 million doses so far.

London Should Go Into Tier 2 Next Week, Mayor Says (9:03 a.m. NY)

London should be placed on the second tier of coronavirus restrictions when England’s national lockdown ends next week, Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a tweet. Many bars, businesses, restaurants clubs and cultural venues might not recover if they were forced to close under the highest level of measures, he said.

Deutsche Bank Considers Permanent Work-From-Home Policy (9 a.m. NY)

Deutsche Bank AG is weighing a new policy that would allow most employees to permanently work from home two days a week as the lender draws lessons from the coronavirus pandemic.

Early Mutation May Have Made Pandemic Harder to Stop: NYT (9 a.m. NY)

The coronavirus picked up random alterations to its genetic sequence as it swept across the world, the New York Times reported. One mutation early on made a difference, multiple new findings suggest, helping the virus spread more easily and making the pandemic harder to stop, the newspaper said.

The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in eastern China in January and then spread quickly throughout Europe and New York City, according to the report.

Putin Can’t Take Russia’s ‘Safe’ Vaccine, Kremlin Says (7:10 a.m. NY)

President Vladimir Putin told fellow world leaders last week that both of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccines, including one he championed as the world’s first inoculation against the disease, are safe and effective. That doesn’t mean he’s taken a jab.

“We have not yet begun widespread vaccination and the head of state can’t take part in vaccination as a volunteer. It’s impossible,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday, in response to a question on whether Putin had been inoculated. “The president can’t use an uncertified vaccine.”

EU Commission Confirms Vaccine Deal With Moderna (7:06 a.m. NY)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed an advance purchase agreement with Moderna Inc. for 160 million doses of the company’s vaccine in development. The agreement on behalf of all 27 EU countries marks the commission’s sixth such accord with drug companies. The EU’s executive arm is working on one more deal with a pharmaceutical company, the president said in a statement.

Airlines See Losses Swelling to $157 Billion (7 a.m. NY)

Record airline losses from the coronavirus outbreak will balloon further next year as anticipated vaccination programs take time to revive travel demand, according to the industry’s main trade group.

The International Air Transport Association on Tuesday predicted carriers will lose almost $39 billion in 2021, more than double the forecast in June. That’s on top of a $118.5 billion deficit in the current 12 months, up 40% from the prior outlook after a new wave of lockdowns wiped out a resurgence in flights.

(A previous version corrected a reference to the number of guests recommended in the New York item)

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