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Live updates: El Paso imposes curfew after ICU beds reach capacity

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/26/2020 Antonia Farzan
a busy street filled with traffic next to a car in a parking lot: Cars line up for coronavirus tests at the University of Texas El Paso on October 23, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. © Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images Cars line up for coronavirus tests at the University of Texas El Paso on October 23, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.

The dreaded cold-weather surge of coronavirus infections is beginning to overwhelm health-care providers in some areas of the country, prompting a return to stay-at-home restrictions and the construction of makeshift field hospitals. El Paso imposed a new curfew on residents Sunday after intensive care units reached full capacity, while Utah’s hospital association warned that it would soon have to begin rationing care if current trends do not improve.

Here are some significant developments:

  • At least five staffers in Vice President Pence’s office have tested positive for the coronavirus. Nonetheless, Pence traveled to campaign events this weekend and is expected to visit the Capitol on Monday to preside over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation vote.
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted Sunday that the Trump administration has effectively given up on trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  • The rolling seven-day average for new coronavirus infections in the United States surpassed 69,000 on Sunday, an all-time high. At least 8,605,000 infections and 224,000 fatalities have been reported since the start of the pandemic, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
  • Meanwhile, as a record-setting second wave of coronavirus infections sweeps Europe, Italy is imposing its harshest lockdown restrictions since the spring.
  • Family members of covid-19 patients may develop symptoms of their own — a condition known as post-intensive care syndrome.

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2:12 AM: Home tests could help in the fight against the coronavirus. So where are they?

Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, the promise of a rapid and inexpensive at-home test for the virus remains unfulfilled as companies struggle to overcome final regulatory hurdles.

The technology for such tests exists, and early versions are being used in nursing homes and schools. But companies racing to bring the tests to the wider U.S. market must make them more accurate and easier to use before they can meet federal guidelines that would allow sales directly to consumers.

Although no single test will end the pandemic in the United States, experts say the ability for people to take a test at home and know within minutes whether they’re infected could be an important component in stanching the spread of the virus.

Read the full story

By: William Wan

1:42 AM: Trump administration wanted to prioritize inoculating Santa Claus performers so they could promote the vaccine

a group of stuffed animals: Santa Claus greets Jaythan Corbacho with an elbow bump during the Selfridges 2020 Christmas Shop “Once upon a Christmas” in London earlier this month. © Eamonn M. Mccormack/Getty Images Santa Claus greets Jaythan Corbacho with an elbow bump during the Selfridges 2020 Christmas Shop “Once upon a Christmas” in London earlier this month.

The Trump administration attempted to strike an unprecedented deal that would have given Santa Claus performers early access to a coronavirus vaccine in exchange for promoting its benefits, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The unusual scheme was reportedly hatched by Michael Caputo, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services who went on medical leave after accusing government scientists of “sedition” last month. Anticipating that a vaccine would receive emergency authorization in time for Christmas, Caputo suggested in August that actors who play Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the elves could be among the first to be immunized if they agreed to take part in public service announcements.

“If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” he reportedly said.

The suggestion was enthusiastically received by Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas. “Since you would be doing Santa a serious favor, Santa would definitely reciprocate,” he said in a call that he recorded and later shared with the Journal.

The taxpayer-funded ad blitz was expected to cost $250 million and feature television and radio spots as well as live events in up to 35 cities. But several Democratic members of Congress raised concerns that it was a “political propaganda campaign” masquerading as a public health crusade. HHS told the Journal on Friday that it had scrapped all plans for the promotion, and that Secretary Alex Azar had not been aware of his agency’s outreach to Santa Claus.

“This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen,” Erwin told the paper, adding that nearly 100 Santas had volunteered for the gig.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

1:13 AM: A D.C. charter school had a plan to reopen. Then it all fell apart.

The school’s director delivered the news to families on Sept. 23. The charter school in Northwest Washington, Latin American Montessori Bilingual (LAMB), still planned to switch to in-person learning in late October.

It was a big deal for a public school in the nation’s capital. The novel coronavirus infection rate in the city was relatively low. So LAMB, a diverse school of more than 500 students and 120 staff members, was one of the first to inform parents that all students would probably have the option of returning to physical classrooms in October for a few days a week.

Then two weeks later, another message went out to families. The school no longer expected to return to in-person learning later that month and instead hoped to bring students into classrooms in January.

One of the main issues: Teachers did not want to return to classrooms.

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By: Perry Stein

12:42 AM: White House signals defeat in pandemic as coronavirus outbreak roils Pence’s office


The presidential campaign was roiled this weekend by a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the White House that infected at least five aides or advisers to Vice President Pence, a spread that President Trump’s top staffer acknowledged Sunday he had tried to avoid disclosing to the public.

With the election a little over a week away, the new White House outbreak spotlighted the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic as hospitalizations surge across much of the United States and daily new cases hit all-time highs.

The outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.

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By: Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Amy B Wang

12:12 AM: Full hospitals, talk of rationing care: New wave of coronavirus cases strains resources

With coronavirus hospitalizations surging in much of the United States and daily cases hitting all-time highs, the pandemic is putting new strain on local health systems, prompting plans for makeshift medical centers and new talk of rationing care.

In Texas, authorities are scrambling to shore up resources in El Paso, where intensive care units hit full capacity on Saturday and where covid-19 hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled to almost 800 in less than three weeks. In Utah, the state hospital association warned that if current trends hold, it will soon have to ask the governor to invoke “crisis standards of care” — a triage system that, for example, favors younger patients.

“It’s an extreme situation, because this means that all your contingency planning has been exhausted,” said Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association.

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By: Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree

12:11 AM: Italy imposes harshest coronavirus restrictions since spring lockdown as second wave sweeps Europe

A waiter wears a mask while working Sunday at a bar in Rome. © Yara Nardi/Reuters A waiter wears a mask while working Sunday at a bar in Rome.

Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.

France on Sunday announced more than 50,000 new infections, a new record for the fourth day running. Germany, widely lauded for its initial handling of the virus, reported a surge of its own. The number of coronavirus cases in Poland has doubled in less than three weeks. And Spain has also imposed new restrictions.

The World Health Organization reported daily case records worldwide three days in a row last week, with new infections reaching more than 465,000 on Saturday. Almost half of those cases were in the organization’s Europe region. The United States set a new record Friday with more than 82,000 confirmed new infections.

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By: Ruby Mellen

12:10 AM: As holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary about celebrations and travel

a man holding a bicycle: Barbara Alexander cares for her mother, Marble Dudley, 96, at her home in Durham, N.C. They won’t be traveling this year to celebrate Christmas. © D.L. Anderson/For The Washington Post Barbara Alexander cares for her mother, Marble Dudley, 96, at her home in Durham, N.C. They won’t be traveling this year to celebrate Christmas.

Barbara Alexander’s Christmas tradition is to drive 2½ hours to the 40-acre farm her parents bought seven decades ago in southeastern North Carolina. It’s a big affair: 35 family members arrive by Christmas Eve.

This year, she is thinking: wait till next year. She’ll stay home in Durham, N.C., with her husband, teenage son and 96-year-old mother, Marble Dudley. As a physician and the president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Alexander is fully aware of the risks of holiday gatherings in the middle of a pandemic and the vulnerability of her nonagenarian mother.

The coronavirus pandemic numbers have been going the wrong direction for more than a month, topping 80,000 newly confirmed infections daily across the country, with hospitalizations rising in more than three dozen states and deaths creeping upward. Now, the United States is barreling toward another inflection point: a holiday season dictated by the calendar and demanded by tradition.

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By: Joel Achenbach


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