US braces for Covid-19 ‘surge upon surge’ after Thanksgiving
- Warning comes ahead of Christmas holidays, which is sure to bring more travel and family gatherings
- Virus cases have surged in recent weeks, reaching their highest level since the spring
America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travellers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned.
The United States is the world’s worst-affected country, with more than 266,000 Covid-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump’s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel and the danger posed by the virus.
“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.
“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”
The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays sure to bring more travel and family gatherings.
Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in Covid-19 after a holiday weekend in May.
“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s Face the Nation.
“We are deeply worried.”
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The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt.
“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told Fox News Sunday.
“It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”
Meanwhile, in a major reversal, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said the nation’s largest school system will reopen to in-person learning and increase the number of days a week many children attend class. The announcement came just 11 days after the Democratic mayor said schools would shut down because of rising Covid-19 cases.
“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” he said.
In the 24 hours to early Monday, the country added 140,651 coronavirus cases, taking its total to 13,373,673, according to Johns Hopkins University. There had been 822 additional deaths.
Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of Spain’s public health system, in one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.
Things were also returning to normal in Bolivia, where Health Minister Edgar Pozo said the country would soon allow the resumption of “cultural, sporting, religious and political activities”, with appropriate safety measures – a further easing of strict containment rules introduced in March.
US media meanwhile reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 – one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product – had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.
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Pfizer was using charter flights to preposition the vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorisation – expected as early as December 10 – The Wall Street Journal and other media reported.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and 95 per cent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.
“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.
But, like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months ahead.
“About 20 per cent of all people in the hospital have Covid, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said.
Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated – Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March – much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.
Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.
By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 per cent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunising a few per cent of the population.”
The novel coronavirus has killed almost 1.5 million worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December
Europe on Saturday crossed a grim milestone, as the death toll passed 400,000.
Additional reporting by Associated Press