US sets new record of 225,000 Covid cases in one day

By: AFP      Published: 12:38 PM, 5 Dec, 2020
US sets new record of 225,000 Covid cases in one day

For the second day in a row, the United States on Friday notched a record number of coronavirus cases in 24 hours, reaching 225,201 new infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

In that same period, the country recorded 2,506 Covid-related deaths, according to real-time data provided by the Baltimore-based university at 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Saturday).

The United States -- the country with the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world -- has seen a dramatic resurgence in its epidemic in recent weeks. It had surpassed 200,000 new daily cases three times in the past month, peaking at more than 210,000 between Wednesday and Thursday.

US health officials warned of a surge after millions of Americans travelled to celebrate last week's Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from authorities to stay home.

For two weeks, the US has regularly topped 2,000 deaths per day, as it had in the spring at the height of the first wave of the country's outbreak.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 is also steadily increasing, especially in the most populous states of California, Florida, New York and Texas, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The United States has recorded more than 14.3 million Covid cases and 278,000 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Covid vaccines

With the imminent arrival of coronavirus vaccines that will need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, US companies are gearing up for a massive logistical effort to aid their distribution.

Automaker Ford has ordered its own freezers while meat processing giant Smithfield said it is ready to put the cold room at its abattoirs at the disposal of vaccine roll-out operations.

Companies specializing in insulating containers have been on a war footing for weeks after Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine they had jointly developed needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 Celsius).

US logistics giant UPS is already producing 1100 lbs (500 kilos) of dry ice an hour in its depots and has developed portable freezers capable of storing the vaccines at temperatures of between -4 to -112 Fahrenheit.

But companies not directly linked to the manufacture, storage or transport of vaccines are also stepping up.

"We have assessed our ultra-low freezer capabilities and capacity and are ready and willing to assist health agencies if storage capacity becomes constrained," said meat giant Smithfield's chief administrative director, Keira Lombardo.

The meatpacker, which suffered a large number of cases of Covid-19 in some of its US slaughterhouses, said it now stands ready to help authorities distribute the vaccine, particularly to workers in the agricultural and food-supply sector, Lombardo said.

For its part, Ford has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers in anticipation of the arrival of vaccines, to offer them to employees who want them when they are available.

When the virus began to spread in the spring in the United States, the company had to temporarily close its factories. The group has since resumed its activities but with strict health precautions.

"The health and safety of our workforce is our top priority," a spokesman told AFP. 

General Motors has not gone as far as procuring freezers but said it was in contact with US government agencies and health officials to "coordinate as needed when the distribution plans are made available."

Meanwhile, US refrigerator manufacturer So-Low reported a "tremendous surge" in orders for its freezers that can maintain temperatures as low as -120 Fahrenheit.

The company, which supplies industry and research centers, was deluged with orders beginning in late September, sales manager Danny Hensler told AFP.

It has also seen a jump in demand for its freezers that get down to -22 Fahrenheit, suitable for storing the vaccine made by Moderna.

"We now have a backlog of orders to produce," Hensler said. "Our employees are working overtime five days a week and we added Saturday to the production schedule."

Canada surge sees 100,000 cases in two weeks

Canada's second wave of Covid-19 infections has led to 100,000 new cases reported in just the last two weeks, data compiled by public broadcaster CBC showed Friday.

There has now been a total of 400,031 cases in the country of 38 million people. The illness has been blamed for 12,470 deaths.

It took just 18 days to go from 300,000 to 400,000 cases in a second wave of Covid-19 that has prompted several regions to reintroduce measures to curb its spread.

They include Quebec province cancelling Christmas plans for many people with new rules restricting holiday gatherings and Alberta looking to set up field hospitals to help treat patients.

By comparison, Canada did not cross the threshold of 100,000 infections until June, three months after its first Covid-19 cases were reported.

In the past month, the average number of new daily cases has doubled to about 6,000.

Almost 75,000 people have been tested for the illness each day with 7.4 percent having tested positive.

An average of 2,377 Canadians with severe infections have also been hospitalised each day, 466 of whom are being treated in intensive care units.

Both community transmission and outbreaks are contributing to the spread, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said in a statement.

She noted that cases are increasing among older adults, with those aged 80 years and older currently having the highest incidence rate.

More and larger outbreaks are occurring in long-term care homes and hospitals while also spreading to indigenous communities and other remote areas.

"These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies," Tam said.

Latest global developments

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

- 'Vaccines don't equal zero Covid' -

The roll-out of vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will not by itself eliminate the coronavirus, the World Health Organization says.

"Vaccines do not equal zero Covid," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan says. "By themselves, they will not do the job...the vaccine will not be with everyone early next year".

- UK defends fast vaccine approval -

Britain insists its world-first approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine involved "robust clinical trials in line with international standards" after US and European officials queried the rapid process.

Leading US infectious disease scientist Anthony Fauci said on Thursday the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had "rushed" approval but he later apologised.

- Spanish vaccination plan -

Spain plans to vaccinate at least a third of its 47 million residents against Covid-19 by June, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says, with the immunisation campaign to start in January.

- Skiing, but no singing for Swiss -

With European nations at odds over whether to reopen ski stations, Switzerland says its winter resorts can open over Christmas with tighter protection measures -- while amateur festive sing-songs are banned.

- Pompeo parties off? -

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faces calls to cancel customary pre-Christmas parties -- one for foreign ambassadors in Washington and another for the families of US diplomats stationed overseas -- amid fears they will become "superspreader" events.

- Latin American cases rocket -

The pandemic accelerates again in Latin America and the Caribbean with an 18 percent jump in infections in a week.

- Dutch doctors threatened -

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expresses outrage after scientists advising the government on managing the Covid-19 pandemic received threats.

- Over 65 million cases -

The world death toll from Covid-19 is over 1.5 million with cases topping 65 million, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Friday.

The worst affected country is the US with 276,401 deaths, followed by Brazil with 175,270 deaths, India with 139,188, Mexico with 108,173 and the United Kingdom with 60,113.

- Disappointing US jobs figures -

US employers added a disappointing 245,000 new jobs in November, the Labor Department reports, in a sign the recovery of the US economy is stalling amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, and ramping up pressure on politicians to agree on a new relief package.

- Olympic-size bill -

Organisers say the delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost an extra $2.4 billion because of its postponement and a raft of pandemic health measures have ballooned an already controversial budget.