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Here's the latest:
12:10 p.m.: New York City is seeing a "slow and steady rise" of COVID-19 cases through various parts of the city as the virus sweeps across the U.S. and causes nationwide shutdowns in Germany and France..
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an uptick in the positivity rate over the seven-day rolling average to 1.92%—a notable rise after the coronavirus indicator hovered around 1.5% to 1.75% from the end of September to mid-October.
"That alone is not a number that would overwhelm us, but the growth is what worries me and we cannot allow that number to keep growing. We're really going to have to double down," the mayor said. "We must be really strong at this moment, where we're telling people to play it safe, it's not just an idle message. It's a deeply felt message."
Other indicators raise "real concern," he said.
The daily positivity rate rose to 2.7%, which the mayor called a "very worrisome number." Hospital admissions were at 81 patients out of a 200-person threshold, with about 26.6% of those hospital admissions confirmed as coronavirus patients. The most recent seven-day average for new cases dropped to 532, dipping below a 550-case threshold NYC had surpassed this week.
Much of the rise is from hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, but the city has been unable to pinpoint where the broader spread of cases is coming from.
State-determined yellow, orange, and red zones have had additional coronavirus restrictions set since early October in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Interventions in those zones helped "blunt" the rise, de Blasio's public health advisor Dr. Jay Varma said on Thursday.
"At the same time, we do see a slow and steady rise throughout many many parts of the city," Varma said.
Travel represents about 10% of cases in the past few weeks, Varma said. About 7% is domestic travel and 3% is international travel.
Other cases arise from indoor gatherings or from people going to work—not necessarily due to a specific industry or setting the city could target, Varma says.
De Blasio has called on the Trump administration to implement a federal mandate that anyone boarding an airplane must show a negative test result. He's also urging New Yorkers not to travel for the holidays.
Meanwhile, president Donald Trump's chief of staff has said the virus can't be controlled and the focus should be on vaccines and treatments.
"We're just playing with fire here as a country," de Blasio said.
Pushing Back Vaccine Timeline, Fauci Says U.S. Won't Return To Normal Until 2022
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, said Wednesday that a coronavirus vaccine might not be ready until January 2021, a revised projection that sows more doubt about when Americans can expect the pandemic nightmare to end.
"Could be January, could be later. We don't know," he said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Fauci had previously suggested an earlier timeline for a vaccine, saying vaccinations might start before the end of the year. Just last month, he told JAMA, "I think by the time we get to November, December, we'll be able to start vaccinating people."
And as recently as Tuesday, during in a virtual panel discussion hosted by the University of Melbourne, Fauci expressed confidence that there would be a vaccine "in the next few months."
But he also cautioned the public about when they could expect restrictions and precautions to be lifted.
"I think it will be easily by the end of 2021, and perhaps even into the next year, before we start having some semblances of normality," he said at the panel.
In September, he had been slightly more optimistic, saying that the disruption could last “well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021" in an interview on MSNBC.
There are now five vaccine candidates undergoing phase 3 trials. On Wednesday, Fauci said that companies may not have sufficient safety and efficacy data from those trials until December, meaning that they would likely apply for emergency federal approval early next year.
Virus cases are surging around the world. With hospital beds filling up, Europe has announced a series of new shutdowns and restrictions. The United States reported more than 80,000 cases on Wednesday. Total infections have now surpassed 8.8 million, and there have been at least 227,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Absent an effective vaccine, some scientists have argued that policy makers should be prepared for the prospect that COVID-19 may never go away.
Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, back in February raised the specter of coronavirus becoming endemic.
Last week, he told Gothamist that he was more convinced of that now.
"The likelihood is even more so," he said. "We’ve seen how efficiently this spreads, how many cases there are."
"This is a disease that by definition is not going to become containable," he added.