California Sees Deeper Crisis; Bidens Get Vaccine: Virus Update

California’s overburdened hospitals face the prospect of even more patients. Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday the state could see more than 90,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 by mid-January. Hospitalizations in Texas surpassed 10,000 for the first time in five months.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine won the backing of a key European review panel, clearing the way for inoculations to start before year-end. And the Wall Street Journal reported that China’s Sinovac vaccine was shown to be effective in late-stage trials in Brazil.

Europe and regions from Canada to Hong Kong suspended travel links to the U.K., as a full lockdown came into force in London and southeast England to contain a mutation to the coronavirus.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 77.2 million; deaths at 1.7 million
  • U.S. Hot Spots: Covid killing faster in rural areas than cities
  • Why the U.K.’s mutated coronavirus is fanning worries: QuickTake
  • U.S. virus relief package includes tax breaks, airlines aid
  • Europe turns to super-freezers, church leaders in vaccine drive
  • Covid Wreaked Havoc on Airlines in 2020. Here’s How, in Charts

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID

South Korea to Shut Down Ski Resorts, Tourist Spots (7:51 a.m. HK)

South Korea will close its ski resorts and tourist spots from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 in an attempt to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun said.

Texas Hospitalizations Surge (7:45 a.m. HK)

The state’s hospitals tallied 10,009 virus patients on Monday, the highest since July 24, state health department figures showed. Almost half the state’s 22 trauma service areas have more than 15% of hospital capacity occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Earlier in the day, Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to reopen the state capitol on Jan. 4 as lawmakers prepare to convene their bi-annual legislative session.

Southeast Asian Companies Find Cases at Plants (7:40 a.m. HK)

Karex Bhd., the world’s top producer of condoms, and Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd. became the latest companies in the Southeast Asian nation to say that some of their employees caught the coronavirus.

Karex said 35 tested positive after a routine screening of more than 2,000 employees, while Panasonic said it found 116 cases among its 2,137 workers, according to filings on Monday.

Philippines Expects to Sign More Vaccine Deals Soon (7:15 a.m. HK)

The Philippines expects to soon sign deals for the supply of as many as 60 million coronavirus vaccine doses for delivery as early as the second quarter of 2021, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said.

The Southeast Asian nation will next week sign an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc for 20 million vaccine doses, and was assured of 30 million doses by Serum Institute of India which will produce Novavax Inc.’s vaccine, Galvez said in a televised briefing late Monday.

California Sees Worsening Crisis (7 a.m. HK)

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday the state could see more than 90,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 by mid-January, if the current surge in cases doesn’t slow down.

The state reported a record 18,359 coronavirus patients in its hospitals Monday, a 67% increase in two weeks. Intensive care units in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are effectively full, and just 2.5% of the entire state’s ICU capacity remains open.

In Los Angeles County, the center of the state’s crisis, hospitals are taxed to the limit. Health Services Director Christina Ghaly urged everyone not to mingle with people outside their household, and to not shop for gifts or make plans for gatherings.

“People are very sick in the hospital, people are dying there,” she said in a separate briefing. “Though they may seem benign these actions are very dangerous.”

California may start quarantining travelers from the U.K. and testing them for the new coronavirus strain if the federal government doesn’t do so first, Newsom said. The state began discussing such a step with airlines over the weekend, he said, while noting the virus’s latest mutation has not yet surfaced in California.

Bidens Get Coronavirus Vaccine (4:53 a.m. HK)

President-Elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, received the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, joining a list of U.S. political leaders who’ve sought to boost public confidence in the shot.

Joe Biden received the first of a two-shot regimen at a public event at ChristianaCare Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. Jill Biden got the vaccine earlier in the day. Both received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

China Vaccine Effective in Brazil, WSJ Says (4:21 a.m. HK)

China’s Sinovac vaccine, which scientists hope can be used to combat Covid-19 in much of the developing world, has shown to be effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, people involved in its development told The Wall Street Journal.

Brazil is the first country in the world to complete Phase 3 trials of Sinovac’s vaccine, CoronaVac, which is also being tested in Indonesia and Turkey, the Journal reported. With Covid-19 largely under control in China, the country’s vaccine developers have had to conduct their clinical trials abroad.

U.S. Airlines Carry 1 Million for Third Day (3 a.m. HK)

Americans are putting aside health risks and flying in increasing numbers during the Christmas holiday season.

Sunday was the third day in a row in which more than 1 million people passed through U.S. airport screening, the first time that has occurred since the virus erupted in mid-March, according to Transportation Security Administration data.

Airline travel during the Covid-19 pandemic remains well below 2019 levels, however. Even with the recent surge, the number of people flying on Friday through Sunday was only 42% of the equivalent three days last year.

Separately, the U.S. recommends that airports and airlines encourage testing for passengers before departure and after arrivals, according to new guidance issued by three federal agencies.

N.J. Sees Post-Holiday Case Spike (2:22 a.m. HK)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said there’s been a 20% increase in cases since Thanksgiving, up to 4,800 a day on average since the holiday. Some of those days have recorded totals of more than 6,000 new cases. He warned New Jerseyans not to travel or gather with those outside immediate family.

New Jersey reported 3,186 new positive test results for the coronavirus, bringing cumulative positives to a total of 435,463. Its positivity rate for tests stood at 10.78%. One data point of good news: The state’s rate of transmission was 0.99, the point at which spread rates may start

U.K. Says Vaccines May Work on New Strain (2:20 a.m. HK)

The U.K.’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, warned the public to stay local to keep the new coronavirus strain in check, but said some areas of England will face tighter restrictions with the variant likely to spread across the country.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who ordered London and much of southeast England into lockdown over the weekend, Vallance said current vaccines should work against the latest Covid-19 mutation.

NIH to Study Allergic Reactions to Shots (1:55 a.m. HK)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health plans to begin a clinical trial that aims to help doctors “predict and manage” allergic reactions related to the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. vaccine program.

Slaoui said during a Monday news briefing that the aim of the trial, which will also study the Moderna Inc. shot just authorized for emergency use, will be to pinpoint why the incidents, known as anaphylaxis, are occurring.

WHO Eyes Emergency Use OK for Pfizer Shot (1:47 a.m. HK)

The World Health Organization is finalizing its emergency use listing for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine, likely to be issued before the end of December, said Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general for drug access, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

The WHO’s vaccination dashboard, which will track inoculations worldwide, is planned to go live early in 2021 and will “hopefully” be updated monthly, said Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan. She added a limited Pfizer shot rollout through the facility run by Covax, the global effort to ensure that countries get equal access to vaccines, could start late January or early February.

Separately, WHO officials said there is no evidence yet that a new virus variant seen in the U.K. is likely to cause more severe disease, or that it will impact the value of vaccines.

N.Y. Seeks Testing of U.K. Passengers (1:01 a.m. HK)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the three airlines that fly from the U.K. directly to New York to add the state to a list of 120 countries requiring pre-boarding Covid tests.

British Airways has already agreed to do so, starting Tuesday, Cuomo said Monday at a virus briefing. The other two airlines are Delta and Virgin Atlantic, he said. The three carry several thousand passengers every day, said Cuomo, who added that he believes “intuitively” that the new mutation found in the U.K. has already reached the U.S.

N.Y. MTA Says Aid Deal Avoids Major Cuts (12:02 a.m. HK)

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it stands to receive $4 billion of aid from the economic stimulus agreement struck in Congress, allowing the nation’s biggest mass-transit system to avoid thousands of job cuts and deep reductions to bus, subway and commuter train service.

The latest coronavirus relief package will help balance the MTA’s budget through 2021 by making up for its steep revenue loss over the course of the pandemic. The MTA last week approved a $17.1 billion budget for 2021 that put off some of the draconian measures under consideration to close its deficit, assuming Congress would allocate more money to the agency.

NYC Vaccinates More Than 18,000 (12:00 a.m. HK)

New York City is vaccinating at more than twice the national rate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. More than 18,000 doses were administered as of Dec. 20. That’s 42.2% of all available doses, compared with 19.6% for the U.S., de Blasio said Monday at a virus briefing.

Residents can track the progress at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data-vaccines.page

Pfizer, BioNTech Vaccine Wins Europe Nod (10:20 p.m. HK)

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine won the backing of a key European review panel. European Union leaders pushed the European Medicines Agency to speed up its review amid complaints that residents across the continent were still waiting to get a vaccine — pioneered in Germany — that is already being used in the U.K. and U.S.

The goal is to start a European immunization campaign on Dec. 27, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week.

— With assistance by Dan Reichl, David R Baker, and Christopher Palmeri

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