HONG KONG — Hong Kong is re-imposing a ban on in-restaurant dining after 6:00 p.m. and closing gyms, beauty parlors and other businesses and public venues as it tries to get a grip on the latest wave of coronavirus infections in the territory.
Restaurants may only provide takeout between 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. and while open, must limit numbers of patrons at 50 percent of capacity with diners restricted to two per table. Enforcement of the new measures will begin Thursday and remain in effect for two weeks.
Hong Kong has already limited public gatherings to just two people and closed bars and other entertainment venues, and the new orders further reduce the number of shopping, dining and leisure options available to residents of the crowded city of 7.5 million. Swimming pools, night clubs, karaoke halls and mahjong parlors are also among the establishments ordered closed.
Hong Kong on Wednesday reported an additional 100 cases, bringing its two-week total to 1,274. Most are cases of local transmission and the origins of 303 remain unknown, according to the government’s Center for Health Protection. Hong Kong has reported a total of 7,075 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 112 deaths.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the peak reached last April. The average cases per day has eclipsed 200,000 for the first time ahead of more holiday gatherings.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration says Pfizer’s vaccine is strongly protective against COVID-19 and appeared safe in the agency’s initial review, setting the stage for possible approval within days in the U.S.
— Britain rolls out COVID-19 vaccine shots; 90-year-old women gets first
— Studies suggest AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe
— 7-year-old girl in Chicago raises money for hospital’s pandemic gear
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 686 new cases of the coronavirus, tying its second-highest daily jump since the emergence of the pandemic, as a resurgence driven by the greater capital area threatens to erase hard-won gains against the virus.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Wednesday that 536 of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, where new clusters of infections have been popping up from seemingly everywhere, including restaurants, markets, saunas, hospitals, long-term care facilities and army units.
The country’s caseload is now at 39,432, including 556 deaths. The agency said 149 among 8,699 active patients were in serious or critical condition, a group that is being closely monitored amid concerns about a possible shortage in intensive-care beds.
South Korea had also reported 686 cases on March 2 during a major outbreak in its southeastern region, which health workers managed to contain by April with an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign.
While South Korea had been seen as a success story against COVID-19 since, critics said the country let its guard down by easing social distancing restrictions to the lowest tier in October, even as experts warned of a surge during cold weather months when people spend longer hours indoors.
DALLAS — Texas on Tuesday reported more than 15,000 newly confirmed daily cases of the coronavirus amid spikes in cases and hospitalization as winter approaches.
The Texas Department of State Health Services also said 9,028 people were hospitalized across the state. Last week marked the first time Texas surpassed a daily count of 9,000 hospitalizations since a deadly summer outbreak.
During the summer outbreak, the state saw the numbers of new daily cases go just past 10,000 for the first time. Since late November, the new daily cases have soared past 10,000 on several days, with 15,103 new cases reported Tuesday, according to state health officials.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say Texas has had more than 23,000 COVID-19 related deaths so far, the second highest in the U.S.
Over the last two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 17%, according to Johns Hopkins. The university says that one in every 309 people in Texas tested positive in the past week.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho public health officials abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday evening after the Boise mayor and chief of police said intense anti-mask protests outside the health department building — as well as outside some health officials’ homes — were threatening public safety.
The request from Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and the Boise Police Department came just a few minutes after one health board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, tearfully interrupted the online meeting to say she had to rush home to be with her child because protesters were banging outside her front door.
The board had been expected to vote on a four-county mask mandate in Idaho’s most populated region.
Coronavirus is so widespread in Idaho that hospital officials have repeatedly warned they are becoming overwhelmed and could be forced to implement “crisis standards of care” -- where the patients most likely to survive are given access to life-saving treatment because there aren’t enough of the resources to go around -- as soon as the end of the year.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports that at least 113,905 Idaho residents have been infected with coronavirus so far, including 2,012 new cases reported on Tuesday. So far at least 1,074 residents have died from COVID-19.
EDMONTON, Alberta — Canada’s Alberta is restricting restaurants and bars to delivery or takeout and closing casinos and gyms in an effort to fight the highest rate of new coronavirus infection of any province in the country.
Alberta was the only province without a province-wide mask requirement. Conservative Premier Jason Kenney is now imposing a province-wide mask mandate in indoor public spaces, including workplaces, and is banning social gatherings of any size indoors or out.
Kenney is also ordering the closure of recreation centers, libraries, theaters and personal service providers such as hair salons, barbers and nail bars. Infection numbers have also been over 1,000 since Nov. 24 and more than 1,600 a day for almost a week.
COLUMBIA S.C. — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says her sister-in-law has died after contracting the coronavirus.
Haley tweeted Tuesday evening that Rhonda Lee Nelson, sister of her husband Michael, “passed the day before Thanksgiving of Covid.”
According to an online obituary, Nelson, 53, lived in West Milton, Ohio, and died November 25. She was remembered as a singer and piano musician who “ministered to many inside and outside of the church.”
According to Nelson’s obituary, Tuesday’s memorial service was held at the Shepherd’s Field Christian Church in Potsdam, Ohio.
Haley provided no further details on Nelson’s death, which came as coronavirus numbers rise across the country and in states including Ohio. According to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,618 on Nov. 22 to 8,656 on Dec. 6.
One in every 193 people in Ohio tested positive for the virus in the past week.
Nelson’s obituary thanked her wide support network of family and friends “who have all showed their love for her through the years and even greater through her last days.” In her tweet, Haley said her sister-in-law “loved God, her family & all who knew her. She will be missed.”
WASHINGTON — A second member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, attorney Jenna Ellis, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Her diagnosis came days after she attended a White House holiday party without a mask, according to two administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about her condition publicly.
Another member of Trump’s legal team, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was hospitalized Sunday with the virus.
Giuliani and Ellis have traveled across the country in recent weeks as part of Trump’s futile effort to subvert the Nov. 3 election, which he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.
Ellis attended the White House holiday party on Friday night. Trump has continued to host large gatherings with hundreds of largely maskless guests despite the pandemic and his own administration’s warnings against them.
Giuliani defended Ellis when he called into his radio show Tuesday from a Washington hospital. “All you can go by is the test you take,” Giuliani said. “If you are invited to a place and they test you and test you as negative, you go in. You don’t know you have it.”
Ellis’ diagnosis was first reported by Axios.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky -- As Kentucky continues to wrestle with a pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 residents, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that hospitals in many parts of state are nearing full capacity, and warned that it could make it more difficult for people to receive proper treatment.
The Democratic governor announced that hospital capacity for inpatient beds, ICU beds, or ventilators is at or above 80% in four parts of the state. ICU capacity in two zones, one along the Tennessee border, and one in eastern Kentucky, is over 90%. Beshear added that he does not anticipate that the state will run out of ventilators.
Hospitalizations are up roughly 17% since the beginning of November, and Kentucky has averaged around 3,300 new cases per day in the past week alone, according to data released by the governor’s office.
Kentucky on Tuesday reported 3,114 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 new virus-related deaths. Roughly 1,760 people are currently hospitalized, including 416 people in intensive care units and 207 on ventilators.
JACKSON, Miss. -- The number of people who have died of coronavirus complications in Mississippi surpassed 4,000 Tuesday, and health officials warned there will be more fatalities and hospitalizations if residents continue having non-essential social gatherings.
“We are seeing ongoing heavy case burdens — many, many cases, rising deaths and increasing strain on our health care system,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a virtual press briefing.
Dobbs said rising cases are attributable to social gatherings — funerals, parties, sporting events — where people are not following safety guidelines.
“It’s not a joke — if we would just wear a mask in public and avoid nonessential social gatherings, the universe would be an entirely different place,” he said.
Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported at least 4,017 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening. There have been at least 167,926 total cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the health department said.
The number of coronavirus hospitalizations has peaked in recent days as numbers of new cases have surged. However, the number of intensive care unit patients has not yet reached the record highs of the summer, although most units are full, Dobb said. That’s something he expects will change soon.
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Gov. John Bel Edwards says Louisiana expects to quickly administer its first two weeks of coronavirus vaccine doses within 48 hours of receiving the shipments.
Edwards’ comments came Tuesday at panel discussion with three other governors at President Donald Trump’s “vaccine summit” in Washington.
Edwards says Louisiana is holding weekly logistics discussions to ready for distributing and administering a vaccine and expects to receive 39,000 doses in its first shipment week and 40,000 vaccines the following week.
Louisiana’s governor was the lone Democrat during the livestreamed talk that also included governors from Tennessee, Texas and Florida.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ longtime partner was discharged from a hospital Tuesday after undergoing treatment for the new coronavirus.
First gentleman Marlon Reis was hospitalized over the weekend as a precaution after experiencing shortness of breath and a worsening cough after he was diagnosed on Nov. 28.
The Democratic governor also was diagnosed with COVID-19 but has not experienced severe symptoms. He has been working from home in quarantine.
Polis’ office said in a statement that Reis’ doctors at UCHealth at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have advised him to take steroids for two days as he recovers. Reis did not require supplemental oxygen during his hospital stay.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a modified stay-at-home order on Tuesday that requires the state’s roughly 10.5 million residents to remain off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The executive order set to take effect on Friday orders bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and personal care businesses closed by 10 p.m., though grocery chains and some retailers that sell groceries will be allowed to operate within the seven-hour window.
On-site alcohol sales at bars must end by 9 p.m.
Travel to and from work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is still permitted, as is travel to get food, gas, medical care or social services.
Cooper hinted at further restrictions if spread does not slow.
The order will remain in effect until Jan. 8.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The nursing home industry is suing Pennsylvania, claiming Tuesday that the state illegally withheld more than $150 million that was intended to help long-term care facilities shoulder the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit contends the Department of Human Services is refusing to provide supplemental payments to nursing homes as required by law, depriving them of crucial funding to fight the pandemic.
Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, which represents hundreds of nonprofit nursing homes statewide, says the nursing homes didn’t want to file the lawsuit but felt the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf had ignored “the clear language of state law” to “essentially steal more than $153 million from nursing homes battling a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
The state denies the accusations.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani says that he’s making a rapid recovery after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and expects to be released from the hospital as early as Wednesday.
Giuliani calling into his own radio show on WABC in New York said he decided to go to the hospital after being urged by the president’s physician. The 76-year-old former mayor of New York was admitted into Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington on Sunday. He says he has been treated with dexamethasone and remdesivir--some of the same drug treatments that Trump received when he was hospitalized with the virus in early October.
Giuliani said the experience hadn’t changed his view that some Democratic-elected officials have gone too far by imposing restrictions to try to stem the spread of the virus.
“This is a curable disease at this point,” said Giuliani, who added that virus-related restrictions are “destroying American business.”
Giuliani has traveled extensively to battleground states in recent weeks in an effort to help Trump subvert his election loss to Joe Biden. On numerous occasions he has met with officials for hours at a time without wearing a mask.