COVID-19 tests rise as people prepare for Thanksgiving travel

The number of coronavirus tests administered each day has increased by nearly 500,000 in the past month, spurred, in part, recently, by people preparing for holiday travel, despite pleas from federal health officials to stay home.

The week-long average number of coronavirus tests performed daily jumped from just more than 1.1 million to more than 1.6 million on average in the past seven days, according to COVID Tracking Project data.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., require incoming travelers from states with especially high test positivity rates to produce proof that they have tested negative for the coronavirus. New York, for instance, requires visitors to provide their negative results from a test taken within three days before their arrival. Then, visitors have to quarantine for three days. On the fourth day, they have to test negative again before leaving quarantine.

College students are also flocking to testing centers ahead of the holiday, and schools are scrambling to get enough tests to meet the demand, the Financial Times reported. An estimated 100,000 students in the State University of New York system are expected to get a test. Thousands more at Harvard University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Michigan will undergo tests before the holiday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, is imploring people to skip travel this year and avoid gatherings with people from other households.

“What’s at stake is inadvertently someone is infected in that particular household, in that larger family, and then spreads it to others. They become infected, and then they go back to their own community, and then that infection is spread to someone else,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters Thursday.

To date, more than 11.8 million coronavirus infections and nearly 254,000 deaths due to COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.

Healthcare providers braced for further increases in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths Friday as cases across the U.S. have surged to record highs in recent weeks, Reuters reported. The week-long average number of cases confirmed daily reached 161,449 on Nov. 19, while nearly 2,000 deaths due to COVID-19 were confirmed Thursday, the highest since early May.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer, along with its partner BioNTech, submitted its vaccine candidate for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, becoming the first companies to do so since the pandemic began.

The FDA announced Friday evening that its panel of scientists evaluating the vaccine, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, will meet on Dec. 10 to begin the regulatory process.

“While we cannot predict how long the FDA’s review will take, the FDA will review the request as expeditiously as possible, while still doing so in a thorough and science-based manner, so that we can help make available a vaccine that the American people deserve as soon as possible,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided evidence that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a coronavirus superspreader event.

The new CDC paper confirmed that 86 cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota were related to the Sturgis rally. Fifty-one of the cases were among people who had attended the rally. Another 35 were secondary or tertiary cases due to contact with the primary cases in workplaces, homes, and social gatherings. Of the 86 cases, four people were hospitalized, and one died.

Sen. Rick Scott announced Friday morning that he had tested positive for COVID-19. The Florida Republican said he is experiencing mild symptoms.

“After several negative tests, I learned I was positive this morning. I am feeling good and experiencing very mild symptoms. I will be working from home in Naples until it is safe for me to return to Washington, D.C. I want to remind everyone to be careful and do the right things to protect yourself and others,” he stated.

Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to President Trump and the son of Rudy Giuliani, announced Friday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I am experiencing mild symptoms and am following all appropriate protocols, including being in quarantine and conducting contact tracing,” Giuliani said.

Trump attacked pharmaceutical companies for spending money against him as he campaigned for reelection and for announcing successful coronavirus vaccines days after Election Day. Trump also said he “forced” the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly.

“You wouldn’t have a vaccine if it wasn’t for me,” he told reporters Friday.

He charged that drug manufacturer Pfizer and others chose not to evaluate their vaccine until after the election because of his efforts to lower drug prices.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pleading with Illinois residents to just “hang in there” and be vigilant in the remaining months before a COVID-19 vaccine arrives. Illinois will enter a period of heightened coronavirus restrictions to mitigate the community spread.

“We are close, folks. We are close,” he said. “You can see the vaccines are coming. If you could just hang on. Just wear your mask, keep your distance, get a flu shot, we’re gonna get there.”

Starting Friday night through Dec. 4 at the earliest, businesses such as retail stores, salons, and gyms in Illinois are restricted to operating at 25% capacity, and operating hours of restaurants will be restricted.

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