The U.S. medical establishment on Tuesday urged President Donald Trump to share critical COVID-19 data with president-elect Joe Biden’s team to avoid needless, deadly lags in tackling the pandemic.
The extraordinary rebuke came in an open letter from three leading health-care organizations as state and local governments scrambled to fight the virus in the absence of a co-ordinated national strategy.
“Real-time data and information on the supply of therapeutics, testing supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital bed capacity and workforce availability to plan for further deployment of the nation’s assets needs to be shared to save countless lives,” said the letter, signed by heads of the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Hospitals Association.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said Tuesday he and other medical advisers had been unable to discuss the pandemic with current administration officials, an obstacle that could compromise the U.S. response to the virus.
The soaring rate of new cases this fall has stricken even rural areas that had dodged the worst of the pandemic over the summer. Government officials in at least 17 states representing both ends of the U.S. political divide have issued sweeping new public health mandates this month. These range from stricter limits on social gatherings and non-essential businesses to new requirements for wearing masks in public places.
The United States crossed 11 million total infections on Sunday, just eight days after reaching the 10 million mark. The Midwest remains the hardest-hit U.S. region during the latest wave of infections, reporting almost a half-million cases in the week ending on Monday.
The governors of Ohio and Maryland on Tuesday became the latest to place curfews on bars and restaurants to reduce the virus’s spread this winter, while the prospect of a widely available vaccine is still months away.
“We’re not shutting down, we’re slowing down,” Mike DeWine of Ohio said in unveiling the 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew in his state. “We have to flatten this curve again and get this under control.”
Meanwhile, U.S.-based Pfizer said Wednesday that its latest COVID-19 vaccine trial results suggested the shots are 95 per cent effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.
Wednesday’s announcement from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, just a week after revealing the first promising preliminary results, comes as the team is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.
They also have begun “rolling submissions” for the vaccine with regulators in Europe, the U.K. and Canada and will soon add this new data.
What’s happening across Canada
Canada’s COVID-19 case count — as of 11:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday — stood at 309,077, with 50,975 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,153.
COVID-19 case numbers in Nunavut increased again on Wednesday as health officials announced 10 new cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the territory to 70.
The territory, which reported its first case of the novel coronavirus just this month, is locking down and stepping up public health measures.
The Northwest Territories, meanwhile, imposed additional restrictions on travellers entering the territory from neighbouring Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. In Yukon, health officials reported one new COVID-19 case, bringing the number of cases reported in the territory to 25.
In Ontario, Heath Minister Christine Elliott announced 1,417 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 463 new cases in Peel Region and 410 in Toronto, both of which are currently under tight public health restrictions.
The province reported 32 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative death toll in Ontario to 3,415.
COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 535, while the number of people in intensive care beds held steady at 127.
Quebec reported 1,179 new cases on Wednesday and 35 deaths. Hospitalizations increased to 652, with 100 of those cases in intensive care.
Premier François Legault said Tuesday that discussions around holiday guidelines are ongoing, but he said guidelines on how to handle gatherings could come in the days ahead.
Health officials in Saskatchewan are expanding mask requirements to all indoor public places provincewide as it tries to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The province on Tuesday reported 240 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of active cases there to more than 2,000.
The province is also suspending all visits to long-term care homes unless there are compassionate grounds and is limiting private indoor gatherings to no more than five people.
Manitoba‘s chief public health officer is considering more public health restrictions as the province’s health system feels the strain of COVID-19 — including a possible extension of the winter break for schools. The province reported 270 new cases of COVID-19 and seven new deaths on Tuesday.
In Alberta, health officials reported 773 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and five more deaths.
WATCH | Alberta schools feel impact of rising COVID-19 cases:
British Columbia reported 11 deaths and 717 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — the highest single day figures reported by the province to date in the global pandemic.
According to the province, there were 198 people in hospital, with 63 in intensive care.
While most of the cases in the province have been concentrated in the Lower Mainland, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a statement Tuesday that there’s been an uptick in other regions.
“We have seen an increase in new cases on Vancouver Island, in the Interior and in the North, many of which are connected to travel to and from the Lower Mainland,” the statement said. “That is why it is important that we stay local and travel less right now.”
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported three new cases on Wednesday. The province’s top doctor warned of community spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying there are seven cases in the province “where we can’t identify a source that is directly related to travel.”
Dr. Robert Strang said health officials “have to conclude this may be from local transmission.”
The province, which reported five new cases on Tuesday, has now seen a total of 1,151 cases of COVID-19.
WATCH | Small businesses left in limbo as COVID-19 cases rise:
In Prince Edward Island, which has three active cases, the premier said masks will be mandatory in all public indoor spaces.
“This isn’t about the cases here; this is about the turbulence we are seeing across the country,” Dennis King said.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:50 a.m. ET
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 55.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 35.8 million of those listed as recovered by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S.-based university’s tracking tool put the global death toll at more than 1.3 million.
In Europe, German police fired water cannons Wednesday at demonstrators protesting coronavirus restrictions in Berlin’s government district, after crowds ignored calls to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with pandemic regulations.
As the cannons soaked protesters outside the landmark Brandenburg Gate, police in riot gear moved through the crowd carrying away some participants. Some demonstrators threw fireworks and flares in response as police helicopters hovered overhead.
The protests came as German lawmakers opened debate on a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for the government to issue physical distancing rules, require masks in public and close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the virus. While such measures are supported by most people in Germany, a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
Sweden registered 96 new deaths among people diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest for at least three months, Health Agency statistics showed. Sweden has recorded a total of 6,321 deaths, several times higher per capita than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries such as Spain.
Poland, meanwhile, reported a record 603 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday, but a senior official expressed optimism over a fall in new infections since restrictions were tightened.
The health ministry reported 19,883 new cases, a much lower tally than the one-day record of 27,875 registered in the country of 38 million on Nov. 7.
In the Americas, Brazil’s Sao Paulo state is set to begin importing the first of 46 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine this week, while the federal government takes a more cautious approach with a vaccine developed by Pfizer.
In Africa, Zimbabwe has closed a school after 100 students tested positive for COVID-19, state media reported, as authorities warned of the risk of a new wave of infections in a country that has so far recorded few cases.
The John Tallach Secondary School in the country’s west has been turned into a quarantine centre, the Herald newspaper quoted Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, chair of the country’s COVID-19 task force, as saying. She says 73 students are asymptomatic and 27 show mild symptoms. An undisclosed number of teachers also tested positive.
Authorities suspect that a pupil who recently travelled to neighbouring South Africa infected the others, the paper reported. South Africa, with more than 750,000 recorded infections, has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has recorded its largest daily rise in coronavirus infections in about 80 days as officials prepare to tighten physical distancing rules around Seoul. Officials on Wednesday reported 313 new daily virus cases, the first time the daily caseload exceeded 300 since late August.
South Korea is struggling to contain a spike in new cluster infections since it eased stringent physical distancing rules last month.
Under rules taking effect Thursday for two weeks, no more than 100 people can attend rallies, festivals and concerts. People will have to sit at least one seat apart at theatres, concert halls and libraries, while sporting events are limited to 30 per cent capacity.
Malaysia, meanwhile, said it has signed an agreement with China to co-operate on the development of a safe and effective vaccine.
The Australian state of South Australia will begin a six-day lockdown at midnight Wednesday, with schools, universities, bars and cafes closed.
Only one person from each household will be allowed to leave home each day, and only for specific reasons. The restrictions also require most factories to close, nursing home facilities to go into lockdown, and weddings and funerals to be put on hold. Outdoor exercise is banned, and wearing masks is mandatory.
In the Middle East, Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported 600 new coronavirus cases and four deaths over the last 24 hours, the highest daily increase of both since the pandemic reached the isolated Palestinian territory.
Gaza has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007, and its health system has been severely degraded by years of conflict and isolation. Authorities have reported more than 12,000 coronavirus cases and 54 deaths so far.
Hamas has periodically ordered the closure of schools, businesses and mosques to contain the spread. A prolonged lockdown would compound the economic woes of the territory’s two million Palestinian residents.