It’s a landmark week for vaccines, with the U.K. set to launch Pfizer Inc.’s shot while the U.S. could approve the vaccine for emergency use as early as Thursday. All Americans who want an inoculation should be able to get one by the second quarter of next year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
Global coronavirus deaths surpassed 1.5 million and record cases continued to sweep across U.S. states, with infections topping 200,000 for four straight days. President Donald Trump said his attorney Rudy Giuliani has tested positive.
South Korea is imposing stricter social-distancing measures, including a ban on gatherings at high-risk venues such as karaoke bars, as the Asian nation that was lauded for its initial containment strategy faces one of its worst resurgences. Tokyo reported record cases on Saturday.
Biden Picks California Attorney General for HHS (8:06 a.m. HK)
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has chosen California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, two people familiar with the matter said Sunday, a job that will focus on two key promises of the incoming administration — tackling the coronavirus pandemic and expanding the Affordable Care Act.
Becerra would have a long list of priorities in tackling the pandemic, including expanding testing, improving access to personal protective equipment and distributing a Covid-19 vaccine.
U.S. Hospitals See Nearly 2,000 Covid Patients a Day (7:51 a.m. HK)
The U.S. is hospitalizing almost 2,000 coronavirus patients a day, data released by the Department of Health and Human Services show. There were a record 102,579 Covid-19 patients in hospitals as of Dec. 4, 5,911 more than on Dec. 1. New York, North Carolina and Tennessee recorded the biggest increase in inpatients. New Mexico exceeded its ICU capacity, with 103.3% of intensive-care beds utilized, the data show. Covid-19 cases account for at least one in five hospital patients in nine states, led by Rhode Island with 23.7%.
Indonesia Gets First Vaccine Batch From Sinovac (7:48 a.m. HK)
The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine ordered from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. arrived in Indonesia, marking a new phase in the country’s fight against Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak.
As many as 1.2 million doses of the vaccine arrived late on Sunday and the government expects to receive another shipment of 1.8 million doses in early January, according to Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Besides Sinovac, the government has orders with at least three other vaccine suppliers, including AstraZeneca Plc, whose shots are in late-stage trials.
Los Angeles County Tops 10,000 New Cases for First Time (5:36 p.m. NY)
Los Angeles County, which has the most number of cases and deaths in the U.S., added a record 10,528 new cases, hitting a high for a fourth straight day.
That brings the total number of infections to 449,851. The area of 10 million also reported 23 new deaths, with the total at 7,909. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday the number of cases could rise to half a million by the end of the year and fatalities could exceed 11,000 at the current pace.
The number of patients hospitalized also climbed to a new high of 2,855 — with an estimated one in four in intensive care, adding stress to the health-care system.
Giuliani Tests Positive, Trump Tweets (3:29 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said his attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been leading efforts to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 general election, has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.Trump wished the 76-year-old former New York mayor well in a tweet on Sunday, saying “we will carry on!!!”
Last Words of Warning from Alabama State Senator (3:24 p.m. NY)
Larry Dixon, a retired and prominent state senator in Alabama, left some last words of warning before he died last week from Covid-19 at age 78. Dixon for years headed the state board that oversaw the medical profession.
“We messed up,” Dixon, a Republican, was quoted saying as by Al.com, citing a friend who is a medical doctor. “We just let our guard down. Please tell everybody to take this thing seriously and get help as soon as you get the virus.”
California Adds Record Cases as ICU Availability Slumps (2:26 p.m. NY)
California added a record 30,075 cases for a total of 1.3 million. New infections are almost twice the 14-day average of 17,119, also a new high.
The state reported 85 deaths, bringing its fatality count to 19,876. The positive-test rate rose to 8.1%, one of the highest levels since the April peak. The new patients are starting to put a strain on its medical facilities, where its available intensive-care unit beds decreased by 61 to 1,567, its lowest since the start of the outbreak.
France’s Pace of Infections Rises for Second Day (1:24 p.m. NY)
France reported 11,022 new cases, as the seven-day average increased for a second day to 10,573. Deaths rose by 174 to 55,155, the smallest increase in six weeks, while the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care continued to decline from a mid-November peak.
U.S. Outbreak Has Not Peaked Yet, Gottlieb Says (12:29 p.m. NY)
Covid-19 numbers are expected to get worse over the next four to six weeks, Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Pfizer Inc. board member, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Infections are not likely to peak until the end of December or into January while deaths probably will peak in the middle of January, he said.
By year end, Covid-19 deaths may reach 300,000 and by the end of January may be pushing 400,000, he said. Daily deaths consistently may be around 2,000 and could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 heading into the peak in January, he said.
U.K. Cases Highest in 10 Days (12:07 p.m. NY)
U.K. infections rose by 17,272 on Sunday, the highest since Nov. 26 and 20% above the seven-day average of 14,400.
Images circulating online of busy shopping streets in the run-up to Christmas and a period of looser restrictions during the festive season have sparked concerns that infections could surge again toward the end of the year. Another 231 deaths were reported, down from 397 on Saturday.
Bavaria Tightens Lockdown (11:53 a.m. NY)
The German state of Bavaria is tightening its coronavirus lockdown regime, mostly banning people from leaving their homes starting from Dec. 9 and formally declaring a “disaster situation.”
Previous and existing measures haven’t sufficiently brought down infections in the region, the Bavarian government said in a statement on Sunday. Under the new rules, people will only be allowed to leave their homes if they have a valid reason.
New Jersey Hits Record (11:47 a.m. NY)
New Jersey reported a record 6,046 new cases as infections continue a steady acceleration. Total hospitalizations were 3,241, a slight decrease from the previous day. The latest positive-test rate posted on the state Covid-19 website was 11.65%, a decrease from several days ago. Another 16 people died, for a total of 15,485.
Italy’s Outbreak Slows (11:24 a.m. NY)
Italy’s outbreak continued to slow on Sunday as the government prepares to ramp up restrictions ahead of the Christmas holiday season. The country reported 18,887 new infections compared 20,648 a week ago, and hospital and intensive therapy occupation also declined. The positivity rate rose to 11.6% amid lower-than-usual testing at Sunday. Deaths fell to 564 compared 662 on Saturday.
HHS Chief Sees Vaccine for All in U.S. by 2nd Quarter (10:38 a.m. NY)
All Americans who want to get a Covid-19 vaccine should be able to do so by the second quarter of next year, Health and Human Services Alex Azar said.
With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to decide as early as Thursday on emergency authorization for a shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, Azar and Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government’s program to accelerate a vaccine, expressed confidence that the FDA would clear the way.
U.S. Suffers Fourth Day of 200,000-Plus Cases (8:00 a.m. NY)
The U.S. added 213,877 new cases on Saturday, the fourth consecutive day of infections above 200,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The number was below the record set the day before of 228,419 — and weekend reporting is often lower. The seven-day average of cases is now more than 191,300, a 16% increase over the previous week.
Another 2,301 people died, the fifth consecutive day above 2,000. A record of 2,867 fatalities was reached on Thursday.
U.K. Readies for Possible No-Deal Brexit (6:23 p.m. HK)
Supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine won’t be disrupted by a no-deal Brexit, U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky TV’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show. “We’ve got many contingency plans in place,” he said. “There won’t be any effect on the deployment of this vaccine from a no-deal Brexit.”
Queen Elizabeth II to Receive Vaccine (4:42 p.m. HK)
Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her husband, Prince Philip, 99, will likely receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine within weeks, the MailOnline reported Sunday. The royal couple will then make their vaccination public, a move health officials believe could help combat anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that have left some Britons skeptical about taking the jab, the paper said.
The U.K. has bought 40 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate 20 million people on the two-dose regimen. The shots will be given in order of priority, with the first going to those in care homes, including workers, and people over 80 years old.