WebMD Health News

Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

photo of coronavirus

This article was last updated Nov. 29 at 12:25 p.m. ET.

The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.    

What is the latest news?

Millions Traveled for Thanksgiving Holiday

Nov. 29, 2020, 12:25 p.m. ET.

Millions of Americans traveled through airports for Thanksgiving weekend, logging the highest numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared mid-March, according to checkpoint numbers reported by the Transportation Security Administration.

More than 1.07 million people traveled on the day before Thanksgiving, which marked the highest day since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began. The second-highest day was Nov. 22, with almost 1.04 million travelers on the weekend before the holiday.

Numbers dropped to half a million on Thanksgiving and jumped up again after that, hitting nearly 1 million on Saturday as travelers returned home. Numbers are expected to be high again on Sunday.

Also, AAA had estimated that despite CDC warnings to stay home, 50 million Americans would hit the roads over the holidays, a decrease of just 10% from previous years.

At a time when 44 states are reporting record cases, public health officials are concerned about the travel and a potential surge in coronavirus cases as well as hospitalizations. Those who traveled for Thanksgiving should get tested, Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, the White House testing chief and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Sunday.

“Just remember you’ve had an increased risk of being exposed, so you should decrease unnecessary activities for about a week, and if you can get tested in 3 or 5 days, that’s also a very good idea,” he said during CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Giroir added that he’s concerned that travelers may have let their guard down in their desire to share the holidays.

“There certainly can be a surge because of the travel and the mixing of people who have not been in their own little pods,” he said. “We are at a risky time because of the travel, and again, it’s not just the travel, but it’s exposing people who have not been sort of in their own pods.”

COVID-19 numbers will likely rise in the coming weeks as cases and hospitalizations are reported, which could look like a “surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.

The U.S. reported more than 100,000 coronavirus cases for 25 days in a row through Friday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations reached an all-time high on Saturday with more than 91,600 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country.

“I don’t want to frighten people, except to say it’s not too late at all for us to do something about this,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He urged Americans to be careful while traveling home and when they arrive. Although the initial doses of vaccines may be available for health care workers and long-term care facilities by the end of December, he said, people need to be more careful throughout the end of the year to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city, and family that we are in a very difficult time,” Fauci said. “We’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation.”

CDC Group Meets Tuesday on COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

Nov. 28, 12:10 p.m. 

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group that advises the CDC on when and who to vaccinate for various illnesses, meets Tuesday to vote on how the first COVID-19 vaccine doses should be distributed once approved, according to The Associated Press.

Several groups of vaccine experts have recommended that coronavirus vaccines be given to health care workers, vulnerable groups, and essential workers first. In an agenda released Friday, the committee will consider how to distribute the first COVID-19 vaccine supplies, the groups that should be included in “phase 1a” of the rollout, and safety monitoring after vaccines are approved.

“We are meeting because the FDA and Operation Warp Speed have asked states and other jurisdictions to please submit their plans on Friday of this coming week,” Jose Romero, MD, the committee chair and secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, told CNN.

“We foresee imminent authorization if this vaccine is shown to be effective and safe in the near future, and we want to be at the point where we are providing appropriate guidance to the states and jurisdictions for the use of these vaccines,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA, and Moderna is expected to seek emergency use approval soon. An FDA advisory committee is slated to meet on Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s application and send a recommendation to the FDA, the AP reported.

Once a vaccine receives emergency approval, manufacturers can begin distributing doses of the limited supply that has already been created, the AP reported. The first doses will go to the groups that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends, and manufacturers will begin scaling up production so tens of millions of people can receive vaccines each month in 2021.

The committee met on Monday to discuss the priority groups that should receive a vaccine under emergency use, CNN reported, and the CDC has already recommended that “phase 1a” should include health care workers and nursing home residents.

“We are simply going over the data once again and having a vote primarily on the first-tier group 1a -- health care providers and the people in the long-term, congregate facilities,” Romero said.

Tuesday’s meeting is public and will be livestreamed, and the committee will take a public vote. The group typically only meets three times a year to consider vaccine schedules but has scheduled additional meetings to consider COVID-19 vaccines, CNN reported.

On Friday, United Airlines began operating charter flights to get doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine into position and ready for distribution once the FDA issues an emergency use authorization, according to The Wall Street Journal.

United is flying the doses between Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport for the “first mass air shipment of a vaccine,” the newspaper reported. The airline is allowed to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight, which is five times the amount usually permitted.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70 C and below, which has raised questions about COVID-19 vaccine storage and distribution. Pfizer can store the vaccines at distribution sites in Wisconsin and Germany, where the company will ship them in “suitcase-sized” frozen storage in cargo planes and trucks.

Other cargo flights and passenger airlines are preparing for future vaccine shipments as well, the newspaper reported.

AstraZeneca Will Do More Testing of COVID-19 Vaccine, CEO Says

Nov. 27, 12:10 p.m.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will conduct more clinical trials to clear up questions about how well its coronavirus vaccine works, the company CEO told Bloomberg News.

“Now that we’ve found what looks like a better efficacy, we have to validate this, so we need to do an additional study,” CEO Pascal Soriot said.

He said the company probably would do another “international study, but this one could be faster because we know the efficacy is high, so we need a smaller number of patients.”

AstraZeneca announced Monday morning that its two-shot coronavirus is on average 70% effective in preventing COVID-19, a figure reached from two different dosing plans.

One group of participants unintentionally received half a dose followed by a full dose for 90% effectiveness. The second group got two full doses for 62% effectiveness.

Bloomberg said AstraZeneca and its partner, Oxford University, didn’t initially reveal the differences in dosing, raising questions about transparency in the clinical trials.

More clinical trials should be done, a Johns Hopkins University professor said.

“At the end of the day it’s probably going to mean they need to restart a good bit of their phase III clinical trial to make sure they get the right data for that highly effective dosing schedule they found by chance,” Andrew Pekosz, PhD, a virologist and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor, told Bloomberg News in an interview aired Saturday.

Because COVID-19 vaccines are under great scrutiny by scientists and the public, AstraZeneca must address the question of how the dosing difference occurred, even if it’s just a communications problem.

“Every small mistake that’s being made is amplified,” he said. “A lack of communication about what’s going on just doesn’t serve the public interest because it fosters some doubts about a vaccine that may in fact be quite good.”

Soriot said he did not think extra testing would delay regulatory approvals in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The U.K. government has been hoping to make the AstraZeneca vaccine publicly available before the end of the year.

U.K. officials have voiced support for the vaccine this week.

“The headline result is the vaccine works and that’s very exciting,” Patrick Vallance, the United Kingdom’s top scientific adviser, said during a news conference on Thursday, according to CNBC.

“The key thing from our point of view is to leave this in the hands of the regulator,” the government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, said at the news conference. “They will make an assessment with lots of data that is not currently in the public domain on efficacy and on safety.”

Much of the criticism of AstraZeneca is coming from the United States, and it’s unclear what effect the testing glitch will have on the company’s efforts to have the vaccine distributed in the United States.

Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the leader of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s program to rapidly develop a vaccine, said he was concerned because the 90% effectiveness came for only a small number of participants in the lowest-risk group: people below age 55, CNBC said.

Two other vaccine makers, Pfizer and Moderna, said this month their vaccines were about 95% effective. Both companies hope to receive U.S. government approval in December. 

Glove Maker Shuts Down After More Than 2,400 Workers Test Positive

Nov. 25, 12:05 p.m.

Top Glove, the world's largest maker of rubber gloves, is shutting down production at factories in Malaysia after more than 2,400 workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

CBS News reported that Top Glove expects the factory shutdowns to cause a 2- to 4-week delay in deliveries of the gloves, an important part of personal protection equipment needed by frontline health care workers. 

A news release from Top Glove said the company is cooperating with the government and has stopped production at the 16 factories in Meru, Klang, since Nov. 17. It is operating 12 factories at reduced capability.

CBS News said the Malaysian government ordered 28 company plants in Klang to shut down in stages so workers can be screened and put it quarantine. The company has about 13,000 workers at its 28 factories in Klang.

Top Glove says it has 26% of the world's market share for rubber gloves and ships to 195 countries. The company has 21,000 workers, mostly in Malaysia. The company also has plants in Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

Top Glove also makes condoms, dental dams, exercise bands, and household products.

CDC May Shorten Self-Quarantine Time to 7-10 Days, WSJ Reports

Nov. 24, 5:50 p.m. 

The CDC may soon recommend that people exposed to the coronavirus self-quarantine for 7 to 10 days instead of 14 days, a CDC official has told theWall Street Journal.

The CDC hopes a shorter self-quarantine period would increase public compliance with COVID-19 safety measures, said Henry Walke, director of the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

“Hopefully, people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, 7 to 10 days,” he said.

The CDC would also urge people to take a test for COVID-19 to make sure they're not infected, Walke said. With a negative test result, “then their probability of going on and developing an infection after that is pretty low,” he said.

The type of test and length of self-quarantine haven't been determined.

The 14-day self-quarantine period was chosen because that's about the longest time it can take somebody to show symptoms once they're infected with the virus.

Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the newspaper that about half of infected people show symptoms 5 to 10 days after exposure. A very small percentage show symptoms at 14 days, he said.

“If we could get people to quarantine -- and really quarantine, like you can't go to the grocery store when you quarantine -- then I think there's an argument for shorter times,” he said.

Health experts say the United States is moving into a dangerous period, with record numbers of people getting sick and pandemic fatigue gripping the country. On Tuesday, 169,190 new cases were recorded, the Covid Tracking Project reported. More than 12.4 million people have been infected since the pandemic began.

Currently, the CDC recommends that people should stay home for 14 days after their last “close contact” with a person who has COVID-19.

The agency defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more, providing care for an infected person, having direct physical contact with an infected person, sharing eating or drinking utensils, or having an infected person cough or sneeze on you.

The CDC has moved away from a blanket 14-days self-quarantine period.

Last August, the CDC dropped a requirement that travelers self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from countries or areas with a high concentration of coronavirus cases. 

France, Germany, and Belgium already have reduced their self-quarantine recommendations to gain more voluntary compliance from the public, despite rising numbers of cases in those countries, the newspaper reported.

Kentucky Teen Who Survived Cancer Dies of COVID-19

Nov. 24, 4:15 p.m.

A 15-year-old “social butterfly” who had already overcome a major health challenge became infected with COVID-19 and died this month.

Alexa Rose Veit was the first school-aged child in the state to die of the coronavirus, Travis Holder, director Ballard County, KY, Emergency Management, said in a Facebook post.

Gov. Andy Beshear mourned Alexa in his own Facebook post.

“Alexa was and is a beautiful child of God. This is such a heartbreaking loss, and we are so sorry it happened to her and her family,” wrote Beshear. “Our commitment is to do better. So today and every day, I wear my mask for Alexa and I hope you will, too. #MaskUpky.”

Alexa, who was born with special needs, was a freshman at Ballard Memorial High School and sang in her church choir, Holder said. 

“Alexa was described to be a 'Social Butterfly' with zero filter and an infectious smile that could brighten any day,” he said.

In July 2019, Alexa was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent arduous and draining treatments, he said. After less than a month, she was considered to be in remission.

On Oct. 26, Alexa complained she was not feeling well and took a COVID-19 test. The next day, her mother didn't feel well and took a test, Holder said. After both tests came back positive,  Alexa's mother was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator, Holder wrote. During this time, Alexa's grandparents became infected and hospitalized.

“Alexa was showing mild symptoms but was doing fairly well dealing with the diagnosis of COVID-19,” Holder wrote. “As the days went on Alexa began to feel a little worse each day and was eventually hospitalized due to COVID-19 and the development of pneumonia. Alexa was immediately flown to Nashville to be in the care of her regular Doctors.”

Alexa's sister, who had just recovered from COVID, stayed with Alexa in the Nashville hospital because her mother was hospitalized herself. Alexa's condition got worse and she was placed on a ventilator.

Alexa's mother was released from the hospital in Paducah on Nov. 14 and rushed to Nashville, Holder wrote. Alexa died the next day.

Holder ended his post urging Kentuckians to wear facial coverings.

"I am telling you this because we have got to come to the realization that this is real. This isn't political, it's not something that 'has always been here'; it is real. We must start taking the precautions seriously,” he said.

"There is not anything that we can do to get rid of COVID-19, but it is our duty as citizens to do everything that we can to reduce the spread to our fellow man."

Texas Family Makes PSA After 15 People Catch COVID-19

Nov. 23, 6:15 p.m.

A Texas family is using firsthand experience to talk about how easily COVID-19 spreads. Twelve of them tested positive after attending a birthday celebration this month, and three people who didn't attend the party also got sick.

“Everyone who went to my cousin's house that day has tested positive for coronavirus,” Alexa Aragonez says in a video public service announcement, which the City of Arlington posted on Twitter. “Please don't be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines.”

Aragonez didn't attend the party and didn't test positive. She said the family thought the celebration would be safe because nobody appeared to be sick and they followed social distancing guidelines.

Days later, family members started feeling sick, including Aragonez's 57-year-old mother, Enriqueta.

She had to spend a week and a day in the hospital, TV station KXAN reported. The other family members experienced mild symptoms. Some of the children had strong coughs.

“I went to my nephew's house and loved seeing my family, but now, I'm fighting against COVID-19,” Enriqueta Aragonez said in the video. “Now I'm in the hospital and can't see my family.”

“All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to feel healthy, could have been prevented,” Alexa Aragonez said.

Alexa Aragonez said the family decided to help make the PSA to let people know how easy it is to spread the virus, even if you don't feel sick.

“It's scary to think what if my entire family would have had the severe case and every single one of those 15 folks had to go to the hospital,” Aragonez, a City of Arlington employee, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “One, I would feel guilty for taking resources from people that really do need it, and two, I would be at risk of losing my entire family.”

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University , there are more than 61.87 million cases and more than 1.44 million deaths worldwide. More than 39.62 million people have recovered.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 13.11 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 264,970 deaths. Nearly 4.94 million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University .  

WebMD Health News

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Transcript of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response Telebriefing.”

CDC: “2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

CDC: “Transcript of Update on 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States.”

Johns Hopkins University, ESRI: “Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-knockoff) Global Cases.”

World Health Organization: “Novel Coronavirus (2019-knockoff): Situation Report -- 2 (22 January 2020).”

Journal of Medical Virology: “Homologous recombination within the spike goalkeeping of the newly identified coronavirus may boost cross-species transmission from snake to human.”

Bloom berg Law: “Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Eyed for Human Trials by April (1).”

News conference, World Health Organization, Jan. 22, 2020.

Heath Montgomery, spokesperson, Los Angles International Airport.

Los Angles County Department of Health.

Arizona Department of Heath Services.

New York Times: "Coronavirus Live Updates."

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

News release, Texas A&M University, Jan. 23, 2020.

Orange County Health Care Agency.

Chicago Department of Public Health.

Bloomberg: "Airlines Cancel More Mainland China Flights to Counter Virus."

Riverside County Public Health Department.

BBC News.

Patch.com.

San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency.

Santa Clara County Public Health. 

MyNorthwest.com: "Snohomish County coronavirus patient discharged from hospital."

CNN: "Deadliest day for coronavirus as mainland China records 86 fatalities, while US announces first American death."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.