Coronavirus updates: Hospitalizations reach all-time high; Texas first to reach 1 million infections; WHO facing independent review – USA TODAY

U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations surpassed 60,000 for the first time Tuesday, continuing a steady rise that has seen hospitalizations more than double in less than two months, the COVID Tracking Project reported Wednesday. 

The number of Americans hospitalized due to COVID-19 has risen almost 50% in the last two weeks. On Wednesday, the U.S. surpassed 240,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus, by far the largest number in the world. The U.S. has 4.3% of the global population but 18.8% of the reported coronavirus deaths.

Almost 62,000 Americans were hospitalized because of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The previous record for hospitalizations was 59,780 on April 12, after which the number began a gradual decline that reached 28,608 on Sept. 20. Since then, however, the number has been rising steadily.

“Hospitals are facing severe constraints in the weeks ahead,” said North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, whose state is among the hardest hit. “We need everyone to help slow the spread.”

Today’s latest updates:

  • Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, is the first to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on face masks: They not only protect others, but they protected the wearer, too.
  • The World Health Organization is allowing an independent panel to review its management of the pandemic response. 
  • In ICE detention centers, the coronavirus case rate is more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. population and more than double the rate in prisons, according to the report published in JAMA Open Network. 
  • Philadelphia’s public school system reversed its plan to resume some in-person instruction this month. In Maryland, indoor dining at restaurants and bars will be limited to 50% capacity starting Wednesday.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 10.25 million cases and more than 240,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 51.7 million cases and 1.27 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

📰What we’re reading: The leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost his way during COVID-19. Now his agency must rebuild its credibility.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Major college football conference cancels 4 games

A fourth college football game scheduled for Saturday involving Southeastern Conference schools was postponed Wednesday due to COVID-19 concerns. The University of Georgia will not play at the University of Missouri, the conference announced. It was not immediately clear if the game would be played at a later date.

Earlier this week, Auburn at Mississippi State, Alabama at LSU and Texas A&M at Tennessee were all forced to reschedule. At least two other Saturday games involving schools from other conferences – Memphis at Navy and Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State – also have been postponed. Overall, more than 50 games have been canceled thus far this season.

Texas sets new daily record, nears 1M cases of coronavirus

The nation’s second-most populous state is the first to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has now reported 1.01 million coronavirus cases and 19,337 deaths. 

There were 6,170 people hospitalized Tuesday with the coronavirus and 94 new deaths were reported that day, according to the state Department of State Health Services. 

Texas has about 28 million people, 12 million less than California, which will soon surpass 1 million infections as well. The true number of infections for all states is likely much higher because many infected don’t feel sick and have not been tested.

“Swift distribution of vaccines and medical treatments will begin to heal those suffering from COVID-19, slow the spread of the virus, and aid in reducing hospitalizations of Texans,” Gov. Gregg Abbott said in a statement. 

Bachelorette suitor tests positive

Peter Giannikopoulos, one of the suitors vying for Tayshia Adams’s attentions on the current season of “The Bachelorette,” says he has tested positive for COVID-19 and then suffered minor injuries in a car accident upon hearing the news. 

The real estate adviser from Everett, Massachusetts, was one of four suitors who entered the Palm Springs “Bachelorette” bubble on this week’s episode.

Giannikopoulos, 32, wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday that he had begun a two-week quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus Monday. Filming for the series wrapped in September.

“The past 24 hours have truly been some of the hardest in my life. Yesterday I tested positive for Covid,” he wrote alongside a shirtless selfie photo taken from his bed. “Although my symptoms are evident, I am going to fight this and win.”

Bryan Alexander

Biden on masks: No national mandate, but lots of persuasion

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team website outlines a plan to “implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.” The website says Biden will call for Americans to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household, for governors to make that mandatory in their state and for local authorities to also make it mandatory “to buttress their state orders.” On the campaign trail, Biden said he couldn’t issue a national mandate.

“A national mandate is not possible because public health powers belong to the states, not the federal government,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The federal government couldn’t implement its own mask mandates, nor could it force the states to do it.”

Grace Hauck

ICE detainees rate of infection 13 times that of US population

Researchers analyzing coronavirus data from 92 of the nation’s 135 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers found the case rate was on average more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. population and more than double the rate in prisons, according to a report published in JAMA Open Network. 

Lack of data transparency, minimal testing and anecdotal reports of inconsistent compliance with health guidelines suggest ICE case numbers could be much higher, experts say. 

“Unless we’re wanting to give people who are detained by ICE death sentences … we should absolutely be doing everything we can to protect them,” said Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “Not providing means to stop the spread in those locations is a national travesty. It’s a stain on our country.”

Adrianna Rodriguez

CDC: Face masks also protect the wearer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance regarding face masks: They not only protect others, but they protected the wearer too.

“Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread” of the virus, the CDC says. “Individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.” 

The CDC had previously encouraged mask use as a way to help prevent infected people from spreading the coronavirus to others.

WHO agrees to independent review of pandemic response

The World Health Organization has agreed to allow an independent panel to review its management of the pandemic response. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency welcomed any effort to improve its productivity “for the sake of the people we serve.”

As COVID-19 spread, WHO often shied away from calling out countries, as big donors such as Japan, France and Britain made repeated mistakes, according to dozens of leaked recordings of internal WHO meetings and documents from January to April obtained by The Associated Press.

One of the central problems facing the WHO is that it has no enforcement powers or authority to independently investigate within countries. Instead, the health agency relies on behind-the-scenes talks and the cooperation of member states.

‘More Marylanders are dying’:  State reimposes tough restrictions

Maryland Gov. Harry Logan reimposed restrictions to combat a “public health catastrophe” due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Staring Wednesday evening, indoor dining at restaurants and bars must return to 50% capacity. State health officials are “strongly advising against” indoor gatherings of more than 25 people and nonessential travel to states with a positivity rate above 10%. Those who leave the state must get tested and self-quarantine. 

“More people are getting infected with the virus, more people are being hospitalized, more people are going into intensive care, and more Marylanders are dying,” Hogan said. “The actions we are taking today are absolutely necessary to help us withstand this surge, to save lives.” 

Maryland has a total of 156,709 confirmed cases and 4,084 deaths, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

Report: Disney plans more furloughs

Disneyland in California is reportedly furloughing more workers as its closure enters its ninth month. On Monday evening, the Orange County Register and Variety both published excerpts of a staff memo from Disneyland President Ken Potrock announcing more temporary job cuts.

“Since Disneyland resort closed its gates in March, nothing has been more important than fully reopening and getting our cast members back to work,” Potrock wrote. “That’s why it is with heavy hearts we find ourselves in the untenable situation of having to institute additional furloughs for our executive, salaried and hourly cast.”

While Potrock’s memo did not appear to specify an exact number, the Register and the Long Beach Press-Telegram both put the estimate at around 10,000 jobs. In an email to USA TODAY, Disney declined to provide an estimate of how many workers will be impacted.

– Jayme Deerwester

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers urges but does not order people to stay home

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday issued an executive order urging, but not requiring, limits on public interaction on a day of record infections and deaths, and as hospitals in the state are running out of intensive care beds. 

Evers used for the first time a prime-time platform to ask the public to take the pandemic seriously nine months into the outbreak.

“Wisconsin, this is serious. This crisis is urgent,” Evers said in a speech from the Wisconsin State Capitol. “It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over — it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet.”

Evers’ advisory comes as Wisconsin hit new records: 7,073 new cases of COVID-19, 66 new deaths and 2,070 people in hospitals sick with the virus. As of Tuesday, there are just 128 intensive care beds available in the state — a supply that could disappear within seven days if current trends continue.

– Molly Beck and Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gov. Steve Sisolak warns Nevadans to ‘immediately’ change their behaviors

Gov. Steve Sisolak has issued Nevadans a clear ultimatum: Shape up in two weeks or expect steps toward another shutdown meant to halt a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

Speaking during a Tuesday press conference at the state Capitol, Sisolak told reporters the state “must see a significant reversal of the current trends” to keep its economy up and running. He also asked local governments to step up enforcement of the state’s existing COVID-containment measures and urged employers to allow telework whenever possible — all to reflect much stricter shelter-in-place orders issued at the start of the pandemic.

The first-term Democrat has practically begged residents to follow Nevada’s mask-wearing and social distancing orders during recent virus-related press events. Now, he says he’s longer asking.

“Nevadans need to change behaviors immediately,” the governor said. “Again, if we don’t make progress over the next 14 days, I will be forced to take stronger action.”

– James DeHaven and Anjeanette Damon, Reno Gazette Journal

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press