A surge in new coronavirus cases has led California’s Los Angeles County to issue a new three-week, stay-at-home order which will go into effect Monday.
The county had said previously that it would issue the restrictive order when new COVID-19 cases reached an average of 4,500 per day over a five-day period.
On Friday, the five-day average was 4,751.
The order prohibits gatherings, publicly or privately, of people who do not live in the same household.
Stores deemed essential will be allowed to remain open, operating at 50% capacity. Other retail stores will remain open but will only be able to operate at 20% capacity during the holiday shopping season.
U.S. health officials say the numbers of new COVID-19 cases may appear erratic in the coming days, a result of fewer tests being administered during the Thanksgiving holiday and the reduced schedules of tests sites.
Reports of new cases may seem lower than usual because of the holiday, but the numbers, experts say, would not give an accurate account of where the U.S. is in fighting the virus. On Friday, the U.S. surpassed the 13 million mark in number of coronavirus cases, more than anyplace else in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a George Washington University professor, told the Associated Press, “I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans.”
The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the United States reached 90,000 Friday after nearly doubling in the last month, according to the Reuters news agency. The hospitalizations follow weeks of rising infection rates in the United States and have increased worries that the recent Thanksgiving gatherings would lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.
The British newspaper The Guardian said its partner, Kaiser Health News, has conducted a review of hundreds of U.S. health care workers’ deaths that went unreported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, even though reports of such deaths are required. The deaths that could have been workplace COVID-related were not reported to authorities in the early days of the pandemic, the report said.
“Work-safety advocates say OSHA investigations into staff deaths can help officials pinpoint problems before they endanger other employees as well as patients or residents,” the newspaper said.
The World Health Organization’s top vaccine expert said the agency needs to evaluate coronavirus vaccines and their immune responses based on more than just a press release.
Kate O'Brien, WHO's director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals said at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday that it is still not clear if vaccines against COVID-19 are able to reduce people’s ability to spread the virus.
"It's really important that we actually start to get more information about what the vaccines do, not just for preventing disease, but for actually preventing the acquisition of the virus," O'Brien said.
British drugmaker AstraZeneca said Thursday it is cooperating with government regulators in investigating a manufacturing error of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
The pharmaceutical company and Oxford University have admitted that a lower dosage of the vaccine performed better than a full dosage, according to a spokesman who spoke after AstraZeneca’s CEO said a further global trial was likely.
The statement comes as the company prepared to provide a temporary supply of the drug ahead of its plans to distribute 4 million doses of the vaccine by the year’s end.
The England-based pharmaceutical company said earlier this week its vaccine was 70% effective overall, but there were differences between two dosing regimens. One was 90% effective. The other was 62%.
Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have also announced initial results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were nearly 95% effective.
WHO has also announced that it is sending a team of 10 scientists to Wuhan, China, to investigate how COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans.
“We need to start where we found the first cases -- and that is in Wuhan in China -- and then we need to follow the evidence after that wherever that leads,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program.
The team includes renowned virus hunters, public health specialists and experts in animal health from Britain, the United States, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam and Russia.
Denmark said Friday that hundreds of dead mink are reemerging from the trenches where millions of the animals were buried after being culled to stop the spread of a mutated form of the coronavirus that passed from humans to the animals and back to humans.
The order to cull the 17 million mink was determined to be illegal and resulted in the resignation last week of Food and Agriculture Minister Morgens Jensen.
“Zombie mink” is what the Danish media have dubbed the animals coming out of the trenches at a military area in western Denmark.
Reuters reports that the animals are being “pushed out of the ground by what authorities say is gas from their decomposition.”
In Ireland, the government said it would allow shops, restaurants and gyms to reopen next week after the latest round of shutdowns. Prime Minister Micheal Martin said travel would be permitted between counties in the week preceding Christmas.
"We now have the opportunity to enjoy a different, but special Christmas,” he said in a televised address.
Officials in France said the rate of new coronavirus infections slowed again Friday, as the country prepares to allow for the reopening Saturday of stores selling nonessential goods.
Italy is also seeing a gradual decline in hospitalizations from coronavirus, leading the government to announce that it would ease restrictions in five regions from Sunday, including the populous Lombardy region.
The number of coronavirus infections in Germany topped 1 million on Friday. The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 22,806 cases overnight, bringing the country’s total since the start of the outbreak to more than 1 million.
Iran on Friday announced that its government offices would operate only with essential staff because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Officials reported a record number of new cases on Friday — 14,051 — bringing the country’s total to more than 922,000.
In other developments, Australia's second-largest state, Victoria, has recorded no new coronavirus infections or deaths in the past 28 days, health officials said Friday.
The state did not have any active cases after the last COVID-19 patient was discharged from the hospital Monday.
While Victoria has achieved the 28-day benchmark, widely accepted by health experts as eliminating the virus from the community, cases of the coronavirus infections have been detected in other parts of the country.