COVID-19 did not slow down for the Christmas holiday. While a slowdown in testing due to the holiday may skew the numbers, there is no doubt that the virus is surging in many areas of the country. This is evident as hospitals reach capacity in some municipalities, forcing the diversion of patients elsewhere to ease the strain. According to new data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data tracker, 1 in every 1,000 Americans have died at the hand of the virus.
Here is the latest on the COVID-19 crisis heading into the new year.
Officials point out that the number of vaccines administered likely exceeds the official number by a significant margin. This discrepancy is attributed to a lag in data reporting.
Health Experts Bracing for Christmas Surge: Health experts are warning that there will likely be a surge in confirmed cases in the week or two following the Christmas holiday. Every major holiday this year has been followed by a sharp increase in cases as people gather in large groups unmasked.
Over seven million people have passed through the nation’s airport over the past week. Almost 1.2 million people went through airport security screenings on Wednesday alone, setting a record day for air travel during the pandemic. This high number worries officials who have been warning Americans to not travel unless it was deemed to be essential. The official CDC recommendation is that Americans celebrate the holidays at home or in a virtual format. The agency recommends all gatherings outside of your immediate household to remain outside where the virus is less likely to spread.
COVID-19 Relief Bill Remains in Limbo: President Donald Trump threw a wrench in the attempts of Congress to pass through COVID-19 relief legislation when he refused to sign the stimulus package bill. The president cited the personal stimulus check amount of $600 as the reason for refusing to sign the package into legislation. Trump is asking that this amount be increased to $2,000 per eligible American.
Not only does the proposed bill provide personal checks to most Americans, but it also extends crucial unemployment benefits. The relief package would extend to two pandemic unemployment programs, including delivering an additional $300 in weekly unemployed benefits through mid-March. As a result of the president’s refusal to sign the bill into law, over 12 million Americans lost a portion of the unemployment benefits the day after Christmas.
President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement on Saturday asking the president to sign the bill into law. Biden has repeatedly gone on record stating that the bill is just the beginning of what his administration will need to enact when he takes office on January 20.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that she will bring her representatives back on Monday to vote on the higher stimulus amount if needed.
Los Angeles County Continues to Suffer at Hands of Virus: Los Angeles County continues to be ground zero in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. According to health officials, the county in Southern California is experiencing one COVID-related death every 10 minutes as hospitals continue to grapple with severe capacity issues.
According to the California Department of Health, both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are at 0% ICU capacity. As a result, both regions are currently under stay at home orders. The seven-day positivity rate in California is now at 11.3% while the 14-day positivity rate is at 12.1%. While this demonstrates a slight improvement, health officials are worried because hospitalizations and deaths lag confirmed cases by a few weeks.
Across the state, there are over 19,000 patients hospitalized with the virus. 4,000 of these patients are in the ICU. California is now the first state in the nation to exceed two million confirmed infections.
Latest on the UK COVID-19 Variant: All eyes are on the UK as an emerging COVID-19 mutation is raising concern and causing other countries to ban or limit travel to and from the region. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new mutation is believed to have come from southeastern England.
What is most concerning to medical experts is that the new mutation appears to be more contagious than the previous strains. The good news is that while it is transmitted more easily, it does not appear to be more deadly.
As a result of the emerging variant, over a dozen countries have already put travel restrictions in place on travelers from the UK. Most recently, the Japanese foreign ministry said they will not allow foreign nationals to enter the country beginning on December 28 and continuing through the end of January.
Also on Saturday, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced that they have discovered the UK variant in a suburb of Stockholm. The individual who tested positive with the newly discovered mutation had recently traveled to the UK. Since the discovery, the country extended the travel ban on passengers coming from the UK until at least January 21.
According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the global count for confirmed cases surpassed the 80 million mark on Saturday. The US carries the unwanted distinction of the most cases and deaths.