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CDC Sees ‘Pivotal Moment’; Cape Cod Cases Surge: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic,” with Covid-19 cases once again climbing and beds at some hospitals filling up, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said. The recent rise in cases shows no signs of abating in the U.S. states that have fueled the uptick as the delta variant proliferates.

In response to surging caseloads and hospitalizations, Texas is dispatching people to Walmarts around the state to encourage younger people to get vaccinations inside. Cases are on the upswing around Cape Cod and the islands as swarms of visitors, discouraged from traveling abroad, bring the region’s summer tourism to historic levels.

Italy will restrict many leisure activities, including dining indoors, for citizens who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 or haven’t recently tested negative for the virus. In the U.K., vaccine certificates could be required at business conferences, music festivals and sports events in England from September.

Key Developments:

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L.A. Cases Rise 80% in Past Week (4:55 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County cases rose 80% in the past week to 2,767, health officials say, as the transmission rate climbed to a “substantial” level.

The case count is the highest since February. The positive test rate rose to 5.26%, surging from 1.2% when California reopened and eased most of its curbs.

Louisiana Hospitalizations Double (4:50 p.m. NY)

Louisiana’s Covid-19 hospitalizations have risen to more than 900, almost doubling in a week, according to state data released Thursday. With cases driven by the delta variant surging in Louisiana, the number of people hospitalized is the highest since February.

Louisiana has the third-lowest rate of vaccination in the U.S., after Mississippi and Alabama, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Just over 40% of people in the state have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with the national average of more than 56%.

Bay Area Counties Urge Vaccine Requirement (4:34 p.m. NY)

San Francisco and two other counties in the Bay Area -- Contra Costa and Santa Clara, home to many Silicon Valley tech companies -- are encouraging employers to consider requiring vaccinations for workers. Health officers for the counties said the rapid spread of the delta variant has led to significantly higher case rates and risk of transmission at jobs.

“Workers who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 pose a substantial health and financial risk to the workplace,” Chris Farnitano, health officer of Contra Costa County, said in a statement Thursday. While the health officers said they “strongly urge” employers to consider requirements, it isn’t a mandate. Last week, the counties and others in the region said they were encouraging indoor mask use among all individuals to slow the virus’s spread.

Cape Cod Cases Surge (3:30 p.m. NY)

Covid cases are on the upswing around Cape Cod and the islands in Massachusetts as swarms of visitors, discouraged from traveling abroad, bring the region’s summer tourism to historic levels. A current outbreak in Provincetown of more than 250 cases prompted health officials there to recommend masking up indoors once again, and Nantucket now advises the same.

The coronavirus is spreading on the island mainly through large groups of people who travel together, sharing their lodging – and their germs, at home and shoulder-to-shoulder in bars, island health director Roberto Santamaria told Bloomberg Baystate Business. The mood among visitors, he said, “is ‘Party like it’s 1999.’”

If the virus continues to spread, he said, Nantucket authorities may need to consider imposing limits on indoor occupancy, and some private establishments have been inquiring about whether they can require proof of vaccination for entry, though none appears to have done so yet.

Italy Requires Vaccine Pass for Leisure (2:50 p.m. NY)

Italy will restrict many leisure activities for citizens who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 or haven’t recently tested negative for the virus, amid a surge of delta variant infections.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet decided on Thursday that a so-called green pass will be required to dine indoors or to enter crowded venues such as theaters, stadiums, cinemas, gyms or museums. The passes are currently given to people who have received one shot, have recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative in the last 48 hours.

”The use of vaccine certificates is needed to keep the economy open,” Draghi said at a press conference. “An invitation not to get vaccinated is an invitation to die, or to let others die. No vaccines mean a new lockdown.”

France Cases Up 133% in Week (2:30 p.m. NY)

France reported 21,909 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths in 24 hours Thursday. On average, the number of positive cases is up by 133% in a week.

Chile Eases Travel Restrictions (2:22 p.m. NY)

Chile’s government will relax some international travel restrictions three months after a surge in cases forced authorities to close the borders.

As of July 26, fully-vaccinated residents will be able to travel from Chile by plane without special permission, health undersecretary Paula Daza said Thursday. Upon return, they will be allowed to complete a 10-day quarantine at home.

The borders will remain closed to most non-resident foreigners.

U.S. Case Uptick Not Abating (2:07 p.m. NY)

The recent rise in Covid-19 cases shows no signs of abating in the U.S. states that have fueled the uptick as the delta variant proliferates.

Nationally, cases are likely to rise to 306,909 for the week ending Aug. 14, up 39% from last week, according to an ensemble of forecasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surges are expected in some states where case rates are among the worst. Florida rates are seen climbing to 62,744 cases per week, more than half the state’s winter peak. The trend looks similar in Missouri, where the governor this week announced a new vaccine incentive program.

J&J Shot Benefits Outweigh Risk: CDC (1:30 p.m. NY)

The benefits of the J&J Covid vaccine outweigh its risks after reports of a rare immune-system disorder, according to data presented during an advisory meeting scheduled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, discussed Covid-19 vaccine safety, including the possible risks from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nerves.

As was previously reported, of the 100 reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome among people who had received the shot, 95 of the cases required hospitalization, 10 of which were incubated and/or required mechanical ventilation. One person died: A 57-year-old man with past medical history of heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. The cases were seen mostly in men over the age of 50.

Utah Hospital Delays Elective Surgeries (1:04 p.m. NY)

The University of Utah Hospital this week began postponing elective surgery to contend with a surge in Covid-19 admissions, the Deseret News reported. “We need to be able to create capacity to take care of those that are critically ill,” said Kencee Graves, associate chief medical officer for inpatient services, noting the majority of new admissions have not been vaccinated. The hospital announced the policy Wednesday.

CDC Chief Says U.S. at ‘Another Pivotal Moment’ (12:12 p.m. NY)

The U.S. is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic,” with Covid-19 cases once again climbing and beds at some hospitals filling up, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday briefing. Daily hospital admissions have risen by more than 30% over the last week, she said.

The availability of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines has made the U.S. safer, but some communities remain vulnerable due to low vaccination rates and the highly-contagious delta variant. At the Thursday briefing, Walensky and other Biden administration officials urged Americans to get vaccinated.

U.S. Case Average Highest Since May (11:49 a.m. NY)

The seven-day average of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the U.S. topped 40,000 on Wednesday for the first time since early May, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. The death toll is averaging at 250 a day.

Both figures are a fraction of the levels reported in January but cases, on average, have more than tripled since the beginning of the month, underscoring how infections are swelling as the delta variant spreads and vaccination rates drop.

“We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten the vaccination,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday night during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati. “If you’re vaccinated,” he added, “you’re not going to die.”

chart, histogram: Daily average of U.S. Covid cases has tripled this month © Bloomberg Daily average of U.S. Covid cases has tripled this month

Portugal Expands Restrictions (11:20 a.m. NY)

Portugal will apply restrictions including a nighttime curfew to more municipalities in an attempt to contain an increase in infections.

The limit to movement in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in regions including Lisbon will now be imposed in 116 municipalities, up from 90 previously, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday.

Portugal began facing a renewed surge in June around Lisbon, where the delta variant had a high incidence, and had to halt a plan to continue gradually easing confinement measures across the country. It has also accelerated its vaccination campaign.

NYC Passes Vaccine Milestone (11 a.m. NY)

Some 70% of New York City adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday, saying it marked a milestone in the city’s recovery. With the delta variant spreading, he cited one less positive indicator: The seven-day average number of cases averaged 744 and the test-positivity rate has risen to over 2%, though he said that also reflects the fact that fewer New Yorkers are getting tested because of the high rate of vaccinations.

Texas Steps Up Vaccine Campaign (10:33 a.m. NY)

In response to surging caseloads and hospitalizations, Texas is dispatching people to Walmarts around the state to encourage younger people to get vaccinations inside. It’s the state’s first proactive step to expand vaccination since they sent mobile medical units to nursing homes and slaughterhouses last year when the virus first raged.

The drive aims for pop-up vaccination “rallies” at 18 Walmart outlets.

Although three-fourths of Texans that are 65 and older have been vaccinated, just 40% of those aged 18 to 34 have gotten shots, the state health department said in a statement on Thursday. For 12- to 17-year-olds, the rate is 26%. Most new cases in the second-largest U.S. state have been traced to the delta variant, according to the health department.

“Hospitalizations for Covid-19 are now rising across all age groups,” Texas Health Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said in the statement. “While fewer young people get very sick, they can get and spread the virus, and we are still learning about the long-term effects.”

U.K. Floats Vaccine ID Plan (7:34 a.m NY)

Vaccine certificates in England could be required at business conferences, music festivals and sports events from September.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi set out a list of venues where proof of double vaccination could become mandatory, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced the move on Monday in a bid to get more young people inoculated.

Meanwhile, Johnson risks a boycott of his own Conservative Party conference by lockdown-skeptic members if he goes ahead with plans to force large venues to demand so-called vaccine passports on entry.

Merkel Warns of Surge (5:13 p.m. HK)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a news conference that Covid-19 infections are rising at a worrying rate and predicted cases would double in less than two weeks.

Germany has administered 87.1 million vaccine doses, according to data collected by Bloomberg News and Johns Hopkins University.

chart, histogram: Rising Numbers © Bloomberg Rising Numbers

(An earlier version of this story corrected the population vaccinated in New York City)

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