Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities begging people not to travel and urging them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small, some 1 million people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints in the five days ahead of the holiday.
Meanwhile, governors and mayors are ratcheting up mask mandates and imposing restrictions on small indoor gatherings that have been blamed for accelerating the spread of the coronavirus. But such measures are largely unenforceable, and officials are banking on voluntary compliance.
Experts say that if people disregard restrictions and socialize anyway, that could put greater stress on overburdened hospitals and lead to an even bigger spike in sickness and death over the holidays.
The warning comes as 10 states reported single-day records of new infections on Tuesday. The U.S. has averaged 173,766 cases of the coronavirus per day over the last seven days, up from an average 87,340 cases per day four weeks ago, according to a tally by NBC News. In all, more than 12.8 million cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and the virus is blamed for more than 262,000 deaths.
27 Veterans Die in Outbreak at Illinois VA Home
State officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans nursing home in rural Illinois that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff and killed 27 veterans.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs are attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home in LaSalle, about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.
The department on Tuesday requested an independent probe into the facility, which was the focus of a state Senate committee virtual hearing on the outbreak.
The current outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus. Since the beginning of November, two-thirds of residents and employees have tested positive, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
California Sets Record for New Coronavirus Cases Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday
California reported a record number of coronavirus cases Wednesday as Los Angeles restaurants prepared to close for three weeks and firefighters in Silicon Valley were being enlisted to enforce public health rules to try to halt the spread of infections, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Cases of COVID-19 have been climbing at an alarming rate for weeks and hit a new high of 18,350 recorded Tuesday, surpassing a previous record of more than 15,000 cases announced Saturday, state officials said.
Nearly all of the state is now under a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and subject to the strictest regulations for businesses to operate, including a ban on indoor dining and limited capacity in stores.
But Los Angeles has gone even further. As cases spiked in the past week, it ordered restaurants to stop serving meals after Wednesday night and has been mulling another stay-home order.
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NJ's Largest City Begins 10-Day Stay Home Advisory
Newark, New Jersey's largest city, began a 10-day stay-at-home advisory on Wednesday, with Mayor Ras Baraka advising "everybody close down" and get tested during that holiday period, NBC New York reports. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and laundromats will be allowed to stay open in Newark; restaurants can be open for takeout until 8 p.m.
The test positivity rate in Newark is 21%, double the rate in New York, and in the Ironbound section of the city, the rate is an alarming 41%, according to Baraka.
"We cannot risk a continual spread of COVID-19 in our community. We cannot go back to where we were in April and May. But what we can do is urge everyone to be responsible, cautious, and think of the greater good. People’s lives depend on this," he said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed the same concerns for travel, noting that for all the restrictions the state has put in place, people ultimately have to do the right thing themselves.
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Colorado Governor to Quarantine After Exposure
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will quarantine after he was exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, he announced Wednesday night.
Polis said he has tested negative but will be re-tested in the coming days, NBC News reports.
Polis, a Democrat, has repeatedly raised alarms about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Colorado, and this week urged people to be safe in their Thanksgiving celebrations, saying they would have to live with their conscience if someone becomes ill or worse.
The person who tested positive was not identified by the governor.
Supreme Court Blocks NY's COVID Restrictions Limiting Attendance at Houses of Worship
As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court late Wednesday temporarily barred New York from enforcing certain attendance limits at houses of worship in areas designated as hard hit by the virus, NBC New York reports.
The court’s action could push New York to reevaluate those restrictions. But the court’s action also won’t have any immediate impact since the two groups that sued as a result of the restrictions, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues in Brooklyn and Queens, are no longer subject to them.
The groups sued to challenge attendance limits at houses of worship in areas designated red and orange zones, where New York had capped attendance at 10 and 25 people, respectively. But the groups are now subject to less-restrictive rules because they’re now in areas designated yellow zones.
The justices split 5-4 to bar the state from enforcing the restrictions against the groups for now, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority. It was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
The justices acted on an emergency basis while lawsuits challenging the restrictions continued. In an unsigned order, a majority of the court said the restrictions “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”
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