The mayor of New York City has warned that the city is getting “dangerously close” to a second wave of coronavirus infections, as the United States passed 10 million cases and public health experts warned that the country is entering the pandemic’s worst phase.
On the day that Pfizer announced highly promising results of its vaccine trials, states across the midwest were being deluged with new cases.
The governor of Utah declared a statewide emergency and issued a mask mandate – after months of resisting the move.
Cabinet member Ben Carson, Donald Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development, announced that he had tested positive, after attending the White House’s Tuesday night election results party. His diagnosis followed that of David Bossie, the head of the Trump campaign’s legal campaign, and, on Friday night, Mr Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Joe Biden, the president-elect, on Monday held the first meeting of his coronavirus taskforce, knowing that getting the pandemic under control would be one of his most immediate priorities.
Bill de Blasio, mayor of the nation’s most populous city, warned on Monday that Covid-19 was “trying to reassert itself,” and urged residents to take the pandemic seriously or face a second lockdown.
“We need to do everything in our power to stop the coronavirus from reasserting in New York City,” he said.
“We have to stop a second wave from happening here, it is getting dangerously close.”
Wild scenes of jubilation erupted on Saturday when Mr Biden was declared the winner, leading some public health experts to warn the public to expect a second wave. The celebrations were in the streets, however, and many people were wearing face masks to reduce the risks.
“We can stop a second wave if we act immediately, but we have one last chance and everyone has to be a part of it,” said Mr de Blasio.
New York’s positivity rate now exceeds two per cent, he said.
The city’s seven-day rolling average of new virus cases is at 779 — 229 more than the city’s warning threshold of 550 cases.
The citywide infection rate on a seven-day rolling average is at 2.21 percent, while the daily percentage of people testing positive citywide is at 2.36 per cent, the data shows.
Additionally, 71 people were admitted to city hospitals with suspected Covid-19.
Health officials rolled out a new Covid map for the city on Monday, allowing residents to input their zip codes and see the level of infections.
Mr de Blasio said that New Yorkers had to accept that Thanksgiving and Christmas would be different this year, and repeated his plea that people do not travel to visit relatives.
“The holidays we associate with travel, and the holidays we associate with indoor gatherings, big meals together — that, unfortunately, this year cannot be the case,” he said.
It’s “not yet time” for broader restrictions, the mayor said, but said he felt indoor dining should be re-evaluated. Currently, indoor dining remains at 25 per cent capacity at restaurants across the five boroughs.
Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, announced on Monday that bars and restaurants must stop their indoor services by 10pm, telling the residents of his state: “A second wave is here. This is our reality.”
Under the new rules, to take effect on Thursday, bars and restaurants will be able to seat groups of diners closer together as long as plexiglass separates them.
The clampdown on social activities comes as New Jersey’s coronavirus cases reach highs on par with those in April and May.
The state reported more than 2,000 cases on Sunday, making the state’s overall total since early March more than 254,500, according to Washington Post data.
A mask mandate went into force at 1pm on Monday after the Republican governor, Gary Herbert, declared a state of emergency on Sunday.
In the past two weeks, Utah’s positivity average — the percentage of coronavirus tests that are positive — has increased from 18.5 per cent to 20.6 per cent, according to state data.
At least 659 state residents have died of the coronavirus and more than 132,000 have been infected.
Utah’s largest teachers union called on Friday for the governor to mandate that all public secondary schools in high coronavirus transmission areas shift to remote learning, a move which Mr Herbert has so far resisted.
“Masks do not negatively affect our economy, and wearing them is the easiest way to slow the spread of the virus,” the governor said. “We cannot afford to debate this issue any longer. Individual freedom is certainly important, and it is our rule of law that protects that freedom.”
Mr Herbert added: “Laws are put in places to protect all of us. That’s why we have traffic lights, speed limits and seatbelts, and that’s why we now have a mask mandate.”
The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, said on Monday that the state is prepared to enact some “surgical” dial-back measures aimed at young people, as the state continued to wrestle with new cases – and deaths and hospitalisations continue to break records.
“We have reached a very dangerous phase in the pandemic in the upper Midwest and now into Minnesota,” said Mr Walz said Monday.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 5,924 new cases across the state, by far the highest single-day total yet and the fifth new single-day high in a row.
Asked if Minnesota was considering a second lockdown, he replied: “We are prepared to take some steps.”
Mr Walz said that would not necessarily mean a second lockdown.
“That’s a pretty blunt instrument to attack Covid-19,” he said. “It was the right tool early on because it allowed us to build up PPE (personal protective equipment).”