Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Welcome back.

A lot happened while some of us were downsizing casserole recipes and Zooming Grandma during the holiday weekend. So allow us to catch you up on the most important news from the last four days that you may have missed.

  • Around 136,000 new U.S. coronavirus cases were reported yesterday, a substantial decline from last week. However, as David Leonhardt explained in today’s edition of The Morning newsletter, case numbers and deaths might have been artificially reduced in the last few days because of a slowdown in testing and reporting around Thanksgiving. Hospitalization is a better indicator: 91,635 people were in hospitals with Covid-19 as of Nov. 28, almost twice as many as there were on Nov. 1, and triple the number on Oct. 1.

  • Despite warnings from public officials, millions of Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. The Transportation Safety Administration recorded about 800,000 to one million people passing through T.S.A. checkpoints on each of the days before and after the holiday. That was far lower than previous years, but much higher than epidemiologists hoped to see.

  • The drug maker Moderna said it would apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of its vaccine. If approved, the first doses could be given as early as Dec. 21. Moderna is the second company, after Pfizer, to apply for approval from the F.D.A. It said it was on track to have enough doses for 10 million people by the end of the year, and up to 500 million people in 2021.

  • Our colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reported yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering shortening the recommended isolation period for people with Covid-19 and may issue new guidelines as early as next week. The possible change is based on a new analysis of research that suggests people with Covid-19 are most infectious about two days before symptoms begin and for five days afterward.

Bergamo, in Northern Italy, is one of the deadliest killing fields for the virus. More than 3,300 people have officially died from the virus there, although the death toll could be double that. Fatalities in the spring soared to such heights that the local priest ordered a stop to the incessant tolling of the bells for the dead.

The province was wealthy, well educated and had top-level hospitals, so why was the death toll so high?

Our colleague Jason Horowitz, who covers Italy, investigated that question in the latest entry in The Times’s “Behind the Curve” series, which explores the mistakes and missteps that allowed the virus to spread.

Jason found that faulty guidance from the World Health Organization, which recommended testing only people with a link to China, missed early cases and allowed the virus to spread rapidly throughout the region. Only after a doctor in a nearby province broke protocol, in late February, and tested a man with serious pneumonia who was not responding to standard treatments, did the country discover its first locally transmitted case and the terrifying knowledge that the virus was already spreading in the community.

Even after hospitals became incubators for the virus, businesses lobbied the government to keep the economy open. The bureaucratic back-and-forth between Rome and the regional authorities delayed an early lockdown that might have saved lives.

Read his full investigation here.

  • Turkey imposed its strictest lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic, as the country’s total number of cases surpassed half a million.

  • Hospitals in Rhode Island are full and the state opened a 353-bed field hospital today for coronavirus patients, The Providence Journal reports.

  • Europe’s traditional Christmas markets, which draw thousands of festive revelers into plazas to enjoy mulled wine, colorful lights and public art, have largely been canceled this year.

  • Hong Kong will limit public gatherings to two people, including two per table at restaurants, as it battles a surge in cases.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

My two daughters sent me a task to do beginning in September, for my 71st birthday. I am now writing answers to weekly questions inquiring about my life in story form. I’m told this will result in book form at the end of 52 weeks, and they will be the recipients of their “gift” to me. The questions are clever ways of finding out about days gone by that bring fond memories of my youth as well as discovering what made me who I am today. I’m finding this far more rewarding than I first thought it would be. So, to my daughters who decided this was one way of staying connected, thank you.

— Mary J. Craig, La Conner, Wash.

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