This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, November 23rd, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms, as well as 25% indoor dining. Certain parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island under a zoned shutdown. Get answers to questions youmay have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
- Upper Manhattan, Staten Island Are Now COVID Yellow & Orange Zones
- Here's What You Should Know Before Getting Tested For Coronavirus Right Now
- De Blasio Lays Out Phased Strategy To Reopen Schools, Prioritizing Students With Disabilities
- In Reversal, Teachers Union President Says Not All NYC Public Schools Have To Close
- Days Before Thanksgiving, New Yorkers Once Again Face Long Lines For COVID-19 Tests
4:30 p.m. As more states consider restrictions and lockdowns to combat record levels of virus infections, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday repeated his opposition to imposing another lockdown in his state.
Speaking on CNBC's Squawk Box, the Republican governor said emphatically, "No more lockdowns in Texas," when asked about possible business closures.
Earlier this month, Texas became the first state in the country to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases. A Brown University analysis shows that more than 130 counties in the state are considered to be at the highest risk level and in need of stay-at-home orders. Researchers based their assessment on the seven-day moving average of the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people.
The Texas Tribune reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled since the beginning of October.
Abbott said earlier this month that he would not be issuing any further lockdowns. “Our focal point is gonna be working to heal those who have COVID, get them out of hospitals quickly, make sure they get back to their normal lives," he told a Dallas radio host, according to the Texas Tribune.
Texas was among the states criticized for reopening its economy too quickly after a series of initial business shutdowns. Abbott, who is an ally of President Trump, has tried to walk a delicate line between heeding public health guidance to staunch the virus and not offending conservatives in his party who are staunchly opposed to government intervention.
Still, the urgent public health crisis has forced him to take some actions. After cases spiked this summer, he ordered bars closed. He also reversed his position on a mask mandate and required masks for most Texans in early July.
Abbott is currently relying on a two-month-old plan that scales back reopenings should the number of COVID-19 patients in a region exceed 15% of its hospital capacity for seven consecutive days. But some have criticized this threshold as too low.
Dining and drinking establishment face light restrictions. Currently, state law permits restaurants and bars to be open at 75% capacity.
Abbott has yet to warn Texans about avoiding large indoor Thanksgiving gatherings as other local leaders and health officials have.
In addition to CNBC, Abbott also appeared on Fox News on Monday, during which he ridiculed the push by states to enforce coronavirus restrictions. He went on to mischaracterize Oregon's recent law that no longer makes small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs punishable by jail time.
"So it’s OK to have heroin and cocaine but not turkey for Thanksgiving. That is un-American. It just does not make sense," he said.
Third Major Vaccine Developer Announces High Efficacy Rate
The British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca announced Monday that its coronavirus vaccine was on average 70% effective, but 90% effective when administered under a precise dosing regimen.
In a study involving 131 individuals infected with coronavirus, researchers found that two full doses given at least one month apart produced an efficacy of 62%, while a half-dose followed by a full dose one month later resulted in a 90% effective rate. The company has been conducting late stage trials in Britain and Brazil.
AstraZeneca, which is working with the University of Oxford, is now the third major vaccine developer to report promising results on its experimental vaccine. Last week, Pfizer and Moderna both said that their vaccines were 95% effective in late-stage studies. Pfizer on Friday submitted a request to the Federal Drug Administration for emergency authorization, a process that is expected to take several weeks.
But in an important distinction, the vaccine from AstraZeneca is expected to be less expensive than either that of Pfizer or Moderna. In its press release, the company said it would seek emergency use listing from the World Health Organization to enable faster distribution in poorer countries.
"This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency," said Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZenaca. "Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”
The company said the manufacturing of its vaccine is already underway, with a total capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.
Meanwhile, the United States is about to enter a critical phase of the virus, as Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Despite recommendations from public health officials not to travel, the Transportation Security Administration counted more than 2 million people passing through its checkpoints on Friday and Saturday, representing the busiest two-day period since March, according to the Washington Post.
The U.S. has now recorded a total of more than 12 million coronavirus cases and roughly 250,000 deaths.
In an alarming sign, the COVID Tracking project has been reporting daily record levels of total hospitalizations across the country as well as a rise in deaths.
Speaking on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, urged Americans to carefully consider the risk of holiday gatherings. He also said that people should not give up on trying to stem the virus, but instead keep up the practice of wearing masks and social distancing.
“We should not accept that we can't do anything about that,” he said. “Putting vaccines aside for a moment, which will be extraordinarily helpful, if we implement the simple public health measures that I was mentioning to you, we can blunt that inflection. It doesn't have to be as high up.”