Coronavirus live updates: US sets daily death record as Pfizer vaccine reaches FDA review; experts say 70% need shot to slow spread

Elinor Aspegren

John Bacon
 
| USA TODAY

play
Show Caption

The U.S. reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths for the first time Wednesday, a single-day toll worse than 9/11.

The Johns Hopkins University data dashboard reported 3,124 deaths, breaking a record of 2,885 set just last week. New infections are also booming, and across the nation hospitals are running out of beds, prompting stay-at-home orders in some places and mask mandates in 38 states.

The data comes as Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidate stood poised to become the first to earn U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization. That could come as soon as today.

The 17-member independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet Thursday to review and discuss data from Pfizer and German startup BioNTech on their vaccine, then vote on whether the FDA should authorize it. 

The companies are requesting an “emergency use authorization,” shy of a full approval. While they have compiled as much short-term safety and effectiveness data as is typical with any vaccine, the process has been compressed. But corners, FDA says, have not been cut.

Other news you need to know today:

  • Canada approved Pfizer’s vaccine “after a thorough, independent review.
  • The vaccine is already being rolled out across Britain, where it encountered its first rough spot – health officials there have decreed that people with a “significant history” of allergic reactions shouldn’t get the vaccine pending further investigation. 
  • Researchers warned that this is just the beginning of viral hoaxes on social media that will feed off the unknowns of the virus.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 15.3 million cases and 289,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 68.8 million cases and 1.56 million deaths.

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

States are prioritizing frontline health workers and other vulnerable populations as the first to be immunized, but remaining unclear is the place in line for college students. The overwhelming majority of young adults are not among the nation’s most vulnerable. But students fueled some of the nation’s top outbreaks this fall, and they’re expected to return to campuses early in 2021. Will they — can they — be required to get the vaccine once it’s readily available? And why are college students different than schoolchildren? It’s complicated, education experts across the country say — and we’re a long way from answers. Read more here.

Lindsay Schnell

Millions of health care workers are slated to receive the first batch of potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this month. But not all of them want to be first in line. Only one-third of a panel of 13,000 nurses said they would voluntarily take a vaccine, another third said they wouldn’t and the rest said they were unsure, according to a late October survey by the American Nurses Association.

“I actually even hate getting a flu shot, but I’ve had to get one every year since I became a nurse,” said Nina Siegrist, a registered nurse with Hospice of the Piedmont in Charlottesville, Virginia. “If my medical director says, ‘Listen, all hospice clinicians are going to get vaccinated,’ then I’ll get vaccinated. But I definitely want to read the details on the clinical trials first.”

Christine Vestal, Stateline

The U.S. reported a record 3,124 deaths Wednesday, meaning about 130 people died of the virus every hour or one died every 28 seconds. That’s far worse than any day of the spring or summer surges. And another dark record was broken – most deaths over a seven-day period. The 15,927 deaths equals 95 per hour, or one death every 38 seconds, breaking a record set in April.

At the current pace, the U.S. death toll from the entire pandemic could reach 300,000 in just a few days.

The U.S. also reported 227,828 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, the second-worst day on record. And the number of infections in a week set a record of almost 1.5 million, 145 new cases per minute.

Wednesday also saw a record in current hospitalizations, with 106,688. Hospitalizations never reached 60,000 at the peak of the spring or summer virus surges.

Mike Stucka

A new poll finds only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes. The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to watch how the initial rollout fares. And roughly another quarter of Americans say they won’t get it. Experts estimate at least 70% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.

“Trepidation is a good word,” said Kevin Buck, a 53-year-old former Marine from Eureka, California. “I have a little bit of trepidation towards it.”

The greater Sacramento region will be placed under California’s most restrictive coronavirus rules this week because capacity in hospital intensive care units has fallen below 15%. The 13-county region encompassing the state capital has an ICU capacity of 14.3% and will face a regional stay-at-home order at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, according to the state Department of Public Health website.

Under the restrictions, restaurants must stop outdoor dining, personal care businesses such as barbers must close and the number of people allowed inside stores is reduced. Residents are asked to stay home except for essential activities.

The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions are already in the strictest category, and several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area chose to implement their own voluntary orders independent of the state.

A Texas state official who has been critical of measures ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott in efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic said he has tested positive for the virus. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was among an estimated 200 people who rallied outside Abbott’s home in October to protest his pandemic orders, including a continued statewide mask mandate and lockdowns. In a statement Wednesday, the 65-year-old Miller said he has been quarantining at his ranch.

In his words: “Not feeling my best, but I’ve survived rodeo injuries, broken bones, hip, double knee and shoulder surgery, west nile virus and cancer, and I’m going to beat this too.”

A Wyoming Department of Health doctor who told audiences at an event last month that COVID-19 was created by Russia and China to spread communism has resigned from the state agency.

Dr. Igor Shepherd, who shared a debunked conspiracy theory about the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine at a Nov. 10 event in Loveland, Colorado, has since resigned, a department spokesperson confirmed via email to the Casper Star-Tribune on Wednesday

Two British people with severe allergies apparently had allergic reactions to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, raising questions about whether it is safe for people with preexisting allergies. In response, British regulators advised those with severe allergies to avoid the vaccine.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the allergic reactions. Allergic reactions were not a significant problem in the U.S. trial in which more than 20,000 people have received both two doses of the vaccine, but the U.S. trials kept out subjects who have had severe allergic reactions, said Moncef Slaoui, co-head of Operation Warp Speed – the government program tasked with developing, manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

Slaoui said he assumes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration committee meeting Thursday will discuss this issue and will suggest that people with severe allergies “should not take the vaccine until we know exactly what happened.”Read more here.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY 

Contributing: The Associated Press