Health officials brace for a surge in US Covid-19 cases after the holidays

With Christmas in the rear view mirror, public health experts are bracing for yet another surge in...

Posted: Dec 28, 2020 12:24 PM

With Christmas in the rear view mirror, public health experts are bracing for yet another surge in Covid-19 cases, similar to those seen after other US holidays in recent months.

"We've just seen these amplification events, and that's what's happened at the end of this year in the US," said Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

"We had Thanksgiving, we had Labor Day, we had Halloween, and each one of these events brought lots of people together and just gave the virus more fuel to move through the population," Bromage said. "Christmas is going to do a similar thing."

Despite warnings by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone travel and stay home, more than 7.1 million people were screened at TSA checkpoints over the last week, according to the agency's numbers.

Nearly 1.2 million people were screened at airports on Wednesday alone, an air travel record for the pandemic. While the number of travelers screened on Christmas Day -- 616,469 people -- represents just 23% of the total screened on the same day a year ago, the figure remains worrying for officials because it doesn't signal the end of the holiday travel rush, but a lull before travelers begin to return home.

For weeks, health experts and officials have urged Americans to be safe this holiday season, and that guidance extends to New Year's Eve, with the CDC urging revelers to celebrate at home or virtually. If they host an in-person celebration, the agency suggests staying outside, limiting the numbers of guests, making extra masks available and keeping background music low to avoid shouting.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University's School of Medicine, said if people get together they should keep gatherings below 10 people and get tested at least once, maybe twice.

"Your level of protection is as strong as your weakest link, and if there's a weak link, then the virus is going to spread," he told CNN. "We've learned how quickly this virus and how easily this virus spreads, so we have to take all the precautions possible."

The fears of a holiday surge come as the US met yet another grim milestone for the pandemic: On Saturday afternoon, the US death toll surpassed 330,747, according to data from Johns Hopkins University -- meaning 1 in 1,000 Americans have died of Covid-19.

And December is now the deadliest month since the pandemic began. At least 63,575 deaths from Covid-19 have been totaled so far this month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. April held the previous record of 60,738 deaths.

On Saturday, Johns Hopkins reported 186,164 new cases and 1,494 deaths.

There are also 117,334 current Covid-19 hospitalizations, the fifth highest daily number of hospitalizations reported since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

At least 9,547,925 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 1,944,585 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the CDC.

UK travelers face new US testing requirement Monday

Officials fear the surge even as the US plans to require a negative Covid-19 test for all travelers from the UK, following the emergence of a new coronavirus variant that is potentially more transmissible and said to have originated in the UK.

The CDC announced Thursday passengers will need a negative PCR or antigen test within 72 hours of boarding a flight from the UK to the US, along with documentation of their laboratory results. Airlines will be required to confirm the test prior to the flight.

The order goes into effect Monday.

Two cases of the new variant have been found in Ontario, Canada, according to a press release from the Ontario government issued Saturday. Ontario is the first province in Canada to detect cases of the variant.

A couple from Durham with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts tested positive for the new variant, according to the release. They are now in self-isolation.

A travel ban on all flights arriving to Canada from the UK is already in place until January 6, 2021, according to the release.

CDC researchers have found getting a Covid-19 test three days before traveling reduces the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus by just 5 to 9%, according to a paper posted online last month.

Testing on the day of departure may reduce that risk by 37 to 61%, per the paper, which has not been peer-reviewed.

Dr. del Rio was skeptical that the testing requirement would be effective, telling CNN Saturday he believed it would be better to also require a rapid antigen test at the time of boarding, and perhaps at the time of landing in the US.

One test 'not enough'

"One test in my mind is not enough," he said. "I think you need to do two tests at least."

The CDC said earlier this week that the variant has not been identified through sequencing efforts in the US, but that could be because the US surveillance system established for Covid-19 hasn't caught it yet.

It's "highly possible" the new variant is already in the US, del Rio said, given how quickly the virus spreads.

"I want to stress to the public that rather than getting terribly concerned about this new strain, I think we need to just reinforce the restrictions we've been talking about," he said, pointing to mask wearing and social distancing.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17331186
Hinds16373328
Harrison13731199
Rankin10854217
Jackson10557187
Lee8922141
Madison8335166
Jones6483112
Forrest6038120
Lauderdale5965187
Lowndes5425118
Lafayette503193
Lamar490865
Washington4826124
Bolivar4024109
Oktibbeha397681
Panola374680
Pontotoc369855
Monroe3591105
Warren3569100
Union348063
Marshall347769
Neshoba3413152
Pearl River3329103
Leflore3059107
Lincoln299386
Sunflower288271
Hancock282559
Tate274362
Alcorn267454
Itawamba265260
Pike264679
Scott250847
Prentiss248252
Yazoo247356
Tippah244450
Copiah243949
Coahoma242254
Simpson238368
Leake232966
Grenada220671
Covington215072
Marion215073
Adams207870
Wayne203232
Winston202667
George201939
Newton195044
Attala194659
Tishomingo191661
Chickasaw185744
Jasper174438
Holmes169168
Clay161335
Tallahatchie148235
Stone145921
Clarke141762
Calhoun137621
Smith122725
Yalobusha119134
Walthall112836
Noxubee111423
Greene111029
Montgomery110136
Carroll105321
Lawrence103217
Perry102831
Amite98826
Webster93924
Tunica87421
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85827
Benton83323
Humphreys83324
Kemper78420
Quitman6969
Franklin67115
Choctaw61213
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55419
Sharkey44017
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 429655

Reported Deaths: 6283
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63040956
Mobile30794557
Madison27486201
Tuscaloosa20996268
Montgomery19352315
Shelby18833120
Baldwin16653184
Lee12749102
Morgan12389119
Etowah11861176
Calhoun11292201
Marshall10290113
Houston8746156
Limestone813276
Cullman8125106
Elmore7999104
DeKalb776599
Lauderdale768698
St. Clair7651121
Talladega6309108
Walker5954174
Jackson586341
Colbert539873
Blount537683
Autauga525755
Coffee450456
Dale402981
Franklin369948
Russell340711
Chilton338966
Covington332668
Escambia326043
Dallas308896
Chambers293170
Clarke287833
Tallapoosa2641107
Pike255230
Marion248953
Lawrence246649
Winston229535
Bibb218847
Geneva205446
Marengo202829
Pickens197531
Hale179542
Barbour176036
Fayette172928
Butler170858
Cherokee161930
Henry156523
Monroe149818
Randolph142135
Washington139126
Clay127645
Crenshaw121544
Cleburne119023
Lamar119021
Macon118637
Lowndes112036
Wilcox105121
Bullock101128
Perry99019
Conecuh95720
Sumter89626
Greene76623
Coosa61015
Choctaw51624
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