According to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, the U.S. leads the world in the number of cases, with more than 11.5 million as of noon Thursday. Also on Wednesday, Georgia’s Department of Public Health reported 8,536 confirmed COVID deaths.
The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz cited the skyrocketing number of new cases in the U.S. over the past week as the reason for the new guidance. “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” she said.
U.S. doctors, nurses and hospital officials joined the CDC on Thursday to urge scaled-back holiday gatherings to help keep Americans and overburdened hospitals safe during the coronavirus surge.
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“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the U.S. public.
“We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands,” the groups said.
“We will get through this pandemic,” the letter said, “but the only way out is to follow the science and adhere to the public health steps we know work.’'
Governors across the U.S. are asking for more help from Washington ahead of what is shaping up to be a bleak winter.
Renewed restrictions on indoor businesses, overloaded hospitals and the coming end of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans have led governors to paint a dire picture of the months ahead unless the federal government steps in with more money and leadership to help them shore up their damaged budgets and beat back the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Between now and June 2022, state and local governments could be facing a shortfall of $400 billion or more by some estimates.
On a conference call Tuesday of Democratic governors from the Midwest, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for a sequel to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act adopted by Congress in March.
“There are workers and families and farmers and small businesses that are going to need our help, and frankly, we can’t do it alone,” he said. “We’re going to need a robust federal support system to help our states and economies recover beyond the federal CARES funds that expire at the end of the year.”
Casey Katims, federal liaison for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said the situation there is too dire for the state to wait until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in Jan. 20. “We need help by the end of this year,” Katims said.
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In a news conference Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, made a similar push. “Everyone on both sides of the aisle in Washington needs to come together and finally get this done for the American people,” he said.
And in Colorado on Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, called a special legislative session to craft a $220 million state virus-related stimulus measure. “Even as cases have exploded across the country, Congress and the president have not yet passed much needed relief for people. Here in Colorado, we want to do the best with what we have to take care of our own,” he said.
The cost of distributing tens of millions of doses of a vaccine in 2021 is also emerging as a major concern for governors. State health authorities have called on Congress to provide $8.4 billion.
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A new infusion of federal money does not appear to be on the way anytime soon. A lame-duck session of Congress and a presidential administration on its way out have chilled the prospects for a deal.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans generally say a new stimulus bill is needed, but they disagree on the scope of it. Some Republicans are opposed to another round of checks directly to most taxpayers, and some don’t want Washington to “bail out” state and local governments that had financial struggles before the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democrats’ approach includes “huge sums of money for state and city governments with no linkage to demonstrated COVID needs.”
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“Democrats still want coronavirus relief for the entire country held hostage over a massive slush fund for their own use,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Last spring, Congress and President Donald Trump agreed to a series of measures worth nearly $3 trillion to deal with the outbreak. The aid included a big boost, since expired, to weekly unemployment benefits, along with grants and loans for businesses and assistance to state and local governments.
States have used the money for testing and contact tracing, assisting businesses, helping residents with utility bills and rent and expanding broadband access for students attending school remotely. But they have not generally been allowed to use it for one of their major needs: replacing declining tax revenue to keep regular government services running.
The needs have become more urgent as the virus rampages across virtually every state. California and Texas each have exceeded 1 million cases.
As intensive care units fill up, some Republican governors once reluctant to impose mask mandates have reversed course, and some cities and states are threatening fines against businesses that violate restrictions on social gatherings.
Biden this week called for Congress to immediately adopt a version of a $2.4 trillion stimulus bill passed by the House, but not the Senate, in May: “This is about keeping Americans afloat.”
A vaccine appears to be on the horizon after two companies announced that early trials show their versions are at least 90% effective. But the powerful freezers needed to store the doses, protective equipment for the workers and the task of getting the vaccine into every community and administering the shots are becoming logistical and financial challenges.
With coronavirus cases surging and families hoping to gather safely for Thanksgiving, long lines to get tested have reappeared across the U.S. The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify the latest U.S. outbreak.
Lines spanned multiple city blocks at testing sites across New York City this week, leaving people waiting three or more hours before they could even enter health clinics. In Los Angeles, thousands lined up outside Dodger Stadium for drive-thru testing.
Experts like Johns Hopkins University researcher Gigi Gronvall said the U.S. is still falling far short of what’s needed to control the virus.
Gronvall said the current testing rate “is on its way, but it’s nowhere close to what’s needed to shift the course of this epidemic.” Many experts have called for anywhere between 4 million and 15 million daily tests to suppress the virus.
Trump administration officials estimate the U.S. has enough tests this month to screen between 4 million and 5 million people a day.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the U.S. official overseeing testing, downplayed reports of lines and delays earlier this week. In some cases, he said, lines are caused by a lack of scheduling by testing locations, which should stagger appointments.
“I’m sure that is going to happen from time to time, but we’re aggressively helping states in any way that we can if there are those kinds of issues,” Giroir said Monday.
Since Sept. 15, the daily count of U.S. tests has increased nearly 100%, based on a seven-day rolling average. However, the daily average of new COVID-19 cases has increased over 300%, to more than 161,000 as of Wednesday, according to an AP analysis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.