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Sunday May 9th, 2021 1:40PM

The Latest: CDC urges Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK — The nation’s top public health agency is urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended spending the holiday with people in the same household. The advice comes as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging across the country.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz cited more than 1 million new cases in the U.S. in the past week for the new guidance.

The CDC says hosting families should take added precautions if they include returning college students, military service members or others in a gathering. That means keeping 6 feet apart, wearing masks and one person serving the food. It recommends eating outdoors, if possible.

CDC scientists believe about 40% of infected people don’t have obvious symptoms but can still spread the virus.

The U.S. leads the world with 11.6 million cases and 251,000 deaths from the coronavirus. ___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— CDC urges Americans to avoid travel at Thanksgiving

— Oxford and AstraZeneca expect results on vaccine candidate by Christmas

— African hits 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases

— More Americans waiting for hours in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus, as U.S. cases surge nationwide and families hope to gather safely for the holidays.

— Lawyers for the estates of dead workers allege top official at Tyson Foods’ largest pork plant created a pool for managers in Iowa to bet on how many workers would get infected.

— The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol starting Saturday to help lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MILAN — Italy registered 36,176 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

The Health Ministry Statistics says more than 250,000 tests were conducted, for a positivity rate of more than 14%.

There were 653 confirmed deaths, a slight decrease from more than 700 in recent days.

Infections continued to rise two weeks into a partial lockdown on hard-hit regions and a nationwide curfew. Officials are particularly concerned about hospitals, which added 106 new patients to reach 33,610. More than half of the country’s hospital beds are dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients.

Italy has reported 1.2 million cases and the confirmed death toll stands at 47,870, second to Britain in Europe.

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MADRID — Spain is making slow progress to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health authorities say the 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stands at 436. A week ago, it was 504.

Emergency response chief Fernando Simón says the rate “is falling, but the numbers are still very high.”

He said COVID-19 patients are taking more than 30% of ICU beds, far lower than the peak levels seen last spring.

The Spanish Health Ministry reports 1.54 million total confirmed cases and nearly 42,300 deaths.

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OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska reported nearly 3,000 new coronavirus cases.

The state had its second-highest daily total at 2,812 on Wednesday, reaching a statewide total of 106,617 cases. Nebraska added 10 deaths for a total of 826.

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus decreased slightly to 961 Wednesday from the previous day’s 978. But that total remains more than five times higher than it was two months ago when 185 people were being treated in hospitals.

The state said 21% of Nebraska’s hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients on Wednesday. Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he will impose more social distancing restrictions if that number reaches 25%.

State officials are encouraging Nebraskans to wear masks and maintain 6 feet of distance in public to help limit the spread of the virus. The Republican governor has declined to require statewide wearing of masks.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The first doses of a Russian coronavirus vaccine arrived in Budapest on Thursday, making Hungary the first country in Europe to receive samples of the drug, Hungary’s foreign minister announced in a Facebook post Thursday.

Peter Szijjarto says Hungary ordered 10 initial doses of Sputnik 5, the drug hailed in August by Russian president Vladimir Putin as the world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine.

The drug hasn’t undergone advanced clinical trials and has not yet been assessed by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s medicines regulator.

Clinical trials on the Russian samples will begin in Hungary next month, and negotiations are ongoing between a Hungarian drug manufacturer and Russian partners on possible production of the drug in Hungary, Szijjarto said last week.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. doctors, nurses and hospital officials joined forces Thursday to urge scaled-back holiday gatherings to help keep Americans and overburdened hospitals safe during the coronavirus surge.

“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the U.S. public.

“We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands,” the groups said.

Their advice echoes guidance from the federal CDC, which recommends virtual gatherings with distant relatives or friends, or limited in-person celebrations with social distancing, mask wearing and other precautions.

“We will get through this pandemic,’’ the letter said, “but the only way out is to follow the science and adhere to the public health steps we know work.’’

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MINNEAPOLIS — More than 900 staff members in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the Midwest have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last two weeks.

Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, says the 905 newly diagnosed employees account for 30% of all staff that have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. She says 93% of those with the coronavirus were exposed in the community, not at work.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials have been urging people to stay home as the virus soars across the state. On Wednesday, Walz announced a four-week shutdown of several businesses and activities, including indoor dining at bars and restaurants, fitness centers and organized amateur sports.

Walz says the restrictions are necessary to protect a health care system that is at a breaking point statewide.

Minnesota had a record 67 new COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, pushing the state’s toll to 3,010. There were 5,102 new confirmed cases, rising the state’s total to 242,053. State officials say they expected to top 300,000 cases next week.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported 4,123 confirmed coronavirus cases, the most in a single day since July.

The Department of Health Services on Thursday reported 19 more deaths from the coronavirus.

Arizona last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot. That rise came after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-at-home restrictions.

The virus surged again in October and into November. Officials cite school and business re-openings and public weariness with anti-virus precautions.

The COVID-19-related hospitalizations were just under 1,800 on Wednesday. That is about three times the number in September and about half the summer peak.

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LONDON — Researchers at Imperial College London say early results from a study suggest people critically ill with the coronavirus may benefit from an old arthritis drug.

However, they cautioned in a statement Thursday that more data is still necessary. Scientists at Imperial College analyzed results from more than 300 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Britain and the Netherlands. Patients were given either one of four immune system-boosting drugs: the arthritis drug tocilizumab, sarilumab, anakinra, interferon, or the standard drug treatment given to severely ill COVID-19 patients.

They reported patients given tocilizumab were more likely to do better than those who got the standard drugs. But the scientists couldn’t yet say how tocilizumab compared to patients given the three other immune-boosting drugs. They are expecting more data in the coming months.

The full study has not yet been released or peer reviewed. Dr. Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford and not involved in the study, called it “an encouraging result” and noted other studies examining tocilizumab have so far been mixed.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Parliament has agreed to extend its state of emergency.

The measure gives the government a legal framework to keep in place measures imposed in response to coronavirus infections. It runs through at least Dec 12.

The government has only partly eased its closure of schools, allowing the youngest school children to return to elementary schools on Wednesday. More students are scheduled to return to schools on Nov 30.

The Czech Republic had 475,284 confirmed cases and 6,740 deaths. However, 3,223 deaths have been registered in November.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s president says the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church is in critical condition in a Belgrade hospital after testing positive with the coronavirus.

President Aleksandar Vucic says the 90-year-old Patriarch Irinej has been intubated and doctors are “fighting for his life.”

He was hospitalized with the virus early in November, soon after attending the funeral of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije, who died from complications caused by the COVID-19 infection.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa has surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases as the continent’s top public health official warns that “we are inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the 54-nation continent with 1.3 billion people has more than 48,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths The infections and deaths make up less than 4% of the global total.

The Africa CDC director John Nkengasong recommends vigilance for prevention measures as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease economic hardship and more people travel.

WHO says nearly 20 countries in Africa have more than a 20% increase in cases in the past month. This time, the surge is driven not by South Africa, but by North African nations as temperatures fall there.

South Africa leads with more than 750,000 cases, followed by Morocco (300,000), Egypt (110,000) and Ethiopia (100,000).

While there’s early hope for promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, African health officials are concerned about cold storage of the vaccine and richer countries buying up supplies.

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WAUSAU, Wis. — One of central Wisconsin’s largest health systems plans to send some coronavirus patients home to provide hospital beds for the “sickest of the sick.”

Aspirus CEO Matt Heywood says facilities at its Wausau hospital are nearly full and staff resources are strained. He says the hospital will move some patients who would otherwise be hospitalized into home care.

Heywood say they’ll rely on nursing calls and telecommunication and will ask patients’ family members to help provide care, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Wisconsin Hospital Association data showed 2,277 coronavirus patients were hospitalized across the state on Wednesday, the highest recorded during the pandemic.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Europe director says there is a “small signal” the latest resurgence of coronavirus cases in the region is slowing.

There were 1.8 million coronavirus cases last week, a slight dip from more than 2 million cases the previous week.

Dr. Hans Kluge says, “we should all see light at the end of the tunnel, but it will be six tough months.”

Kluge says people could avoid stricter outbreak control measures if they were more willing to adhere to recommended measures.

“If mask wearing reached 95%, lockdowns would not be needed,” he said. “But with the current 60% or lower mask use, it is hard to avoid lockdowns.”

Kluge warned countries that release lockdowns too quickly without other measures in place could lead the coronavirus to rebound. He called for a tiered system that would spell out clear measures depending on transmission in the community.

___

LONDON — A key researcher at the University of Oxford says scientists expect to report results from Phase III trials of their COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas.

Dr. Andrew Pollard, an expert in pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, told the BBC Thursday that research was slowed by low infection rates over the summer but the Phase III trials are now accumulating the data needed to report results.

In findings based on Phase II trial of 560 people, including 240 over age 70, early results suggest a strong immune response in people over 70. The results of the peer-reviewed study were published Thursday in the Lancet, an international medical journal.

Phase II vaccine trials provide important preliminary data but don’t prove whether they ultimately prevent people from getting sick. Oxford, which is developing its vaccine with AstraZeneca, awaits results of Phase III trials on thousands of people around the world to suggest whether their vaccine is safe and effective.

This week, drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines candidates were almost 95% effective.

Pollard say it's still the early stages of an effort to protect people against COVID-19. If vaccines are approved by regulators, drugmakers and public health officials still face the daunting task of producing billions of doses and administering them to people around the world.

___

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