just stay home
January 4, 2021

The last thing the COVID-19 pandemic needed was a way for the virus to spread more easily.

But that's just what's emerging in the U.K. and South Africa, where a new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus has emerged. And when The New York Times compared those countries to others where the strain has only spread more recently, it's clear there's reason for concern.

(The New York Times)

The strain, which has only been recorded a few times in the U.S. but could be spreading far more rampantly, is seemingly 10 to 60 percent more transmissible than the original strain, the Times reports. And as the U.S. already struggles to contain a less contagious virus, The Atlantic's Zeynep Tufekci deemed the new strain a "potential catastrophe in and of itself." While it so far doesn't seem that the variant is more deadly than the already-widespread coronavirus swirling in America, its "transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth," Tufekci writes.

"Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections — a plausible scenario for many European cities," Tufekci relays from a study from Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. With those numbers, "we'd expect 129 deaths in a month," Tufecki writes. But while a 50 percent fatality rate increase would lead to 193 deaths in one month, a 50 percent transmissibility rate increase would amount to 973 deaths. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 1, 2021

Rod Phillips, the finance minister for the Canadian province of Ontario, has resigned after receiving heavy criticism for vacationing in St. Barts at the same time people were being told to stay home.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the resignation on Thursday, saying this shows the government "takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard." Phillips left for St. Barts on Dec. 13 and returned on Thursday morning; before meeting with Ford, he told reporters at the Toronto airport he "made a significant error in judgment" and a "dumb mistake," and while he "will be accountable for that," he aimed to keep his job.

Instead, it was announced later in the day that Phillips had resigned. Ontario is Canada's most populous province, and due to an increase in coronavirus cases, all non-essential travel was discouraged, with a strict lockdown going into effect on Dec. 26. On Thursday, a record 3,328 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the province, as well as 56 deaths. Catherine Garcia

December 20, 2020

On Friday and Saturday, more than one million people made their way through U.S. airport security checkpoints, as public health officials urge Americans not to travel for the holidays due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

U.S. airports have screened more than one million people a day only four times since mid-March, with three of those times around Thanksgiving. Now, the seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases is more than 215,000 a day, up from about 176,000 on the day before Thanksgiving. Public health experts — who asked people to stay home and not gather indoors with other households during the holiday — believe Thanksgiving travel is one reason why the number has increased.

The coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably in most of the country, and hospitals are straining to provide care. In an advisory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19." Still, AAA projects about 85 million Americans will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, primarily by car. Catherine Garcia

December 4, 2020

The U.S. has seen more than 275,000 people die of COVID-19 as of Friday, with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the virus all reaching record highs across the country.

This week alone, 12 states and Puerto Rico hit daily death records, Axios notes. The U.S. itself hit a daily death record on Wednesday, when around 3,100 people died of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top coronavirus expert, warned Thursday that the U.S. hasn't even seen its expected post-Thanksgiving case surge yet.

While vaccine developments could bring an end to the pandemic next year, researchers predict there are still several dismal months ahead. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected in mid-November that 470,000 people in the U.S. would die of the virus by March 1. The institute's director Christopher Murray told The Washington Post that researchers are currently revising that estimate to project even more deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meanwhile rolled out an aggregated forecast of 37 coronavirus models on Thursday that projected anywhere from 303,000 to 329,000 people will die of COVID-19 by Dec. 26. Around 9,500 to 19,500 people are projected to die of the virus the week of Christmas alone. Hospitals across the country are struggling to keep up with the record hospitalizations, trying to bring back retired nurses and doctors and recruit nursing students who don't even have their licenses yet, The Associated Press reports. Kathryn Krawczyk

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