Coronavirus updates: US hits 13 million cases; Gov. condemns ‘turkey funeral’ to skirt restrictions; AstraZeneca plans additional trial

A national surge in COVID-19 cases continues as the United States recorded its 13 millionth case on Black Friday, a day typically marked by crowds of bargain hunters. This year, however, many shoppers across the country turned to online deals, keeping crowds thin.

Even so, experts worried that testing disruptions over the holiday will lead Americans to falsely believe the virus’ spread has slowed. That’s because testing sites have shorter hours and fewer people are expected to be swabbed. 

“I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans,” Dr. Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University and an emergency physician, told the Associated Press.

In vaccine news, AstraZeneca hit a setback when it was revealed that a dosing error was behind a high effectiveness rate among some overseas trial participants.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 13 million cases and over 264,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. This week, five states set death records and 23 states had higher case counts than last week. The global totals: more than 61 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day tests positive

Ohio State University football coach Ryan Day has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Friday afternoon.

Day, who has guided the No. 3 Buckeyes to an undefeated start through four games and serves as the primary play-caller for one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country, will miss Saturday’s game at the University of Illinois.

The positive test puts him in jeopardy of missing the Buckeyes’ next game at Michigan State on Dec. 5. Big Ten coaches who test positive for COVID-19 are required to be out for 10 days, according to the conference’s protocols.

In a statement, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said the 41-year-old Day is “doing well physically,” but he did not say if he has experienced any symptoms since contracting the virus. Day is currently in isolation.  

Colorado governor condemns ‘turkey funeral’ to skirt virus restrictions 

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Republican Congresswomen-elect Lauren Boebert has drawn criticism from Colorado’s Democratic governor for saying she rebranded her Thanksgiving gathering as an animal funeral to skirt the state’s social distancing regulations.

“Congresswomen-elect Boebert is calling her Thanksgiving a ‘turkey funeral’ and hosting over 30 people. My hope and prayer is that it doesn’t turn into a real funeral for any of the attendees,” Gov. Jared Polis said on Facebook.

In most areas of the state, personal gatherings are restricted to 10 people, but funerals have less stringent rules.

On Wednesday, Boebert tweeted that she could host about 90 people if she hosted funerals for a turkey, pig and duck. Previously she suggested calling her Thanksgiving gathering a “peaceful protest in honor of my deceased turkey.”

Demand for live Christmas trees skyrockets amid toll of virus

It’s early in the season, but wholesale tree farmers and small, cut-your-own lots are reporting strong demand for real Christmas trees, with many opening well before Thanksgiving.

Businesses say they’ve seen more customers, earlier, as more Americans appear to be seeking a bright spot amid the virus’ worsening toll.

“The season is running approximately six to seven days ahead of what we’ve seen in the past. We’ve never seen the demand like we’ve had this year,” said McKenzie Cook, who ships between 1.8 million and 2 million trees a year from farms in Oregon and North Carolina.

Customers flocked to some pick-your-own-tree farms before Thanksgiving to tag the perfect tree to cut down once the business opened. As demand surges, big-box stores are seeking fresh trees up to a week earlier than last year. Walmart is offering free home delivery for the first time.

Toronto man arrested after allegedly breaking into own restaurant, violating COVID-19 shutdown

A Toronto barbecue restauranteur has been charged with trespassing, obstruction and violating COVID-19 guidelines after allegedly breaking into his own restaurant to serve food to his supporters.

Adam Skelly was arrested Thursday in front of his own restaurant, Adamson Barbecue, CBC and CTV News report, after his restaurant was shut down by city officials for violating lockdown rules.

Skelly was permitted entry into a “rear compartment” of his restaurant, an officer told CTV News, but Skelly and a large crew of supporters allegedly smashed drywall and broke locks set by the city.

Toronto Mayor John Tory told CNN that the congregation was “like a festival” to “celebrate some of their unorthodox views,” including anti-mask sentiments. Video of the scene showed few people in the crowd, aside from police, wearing masks.

Stores kick off Black Friday sales with socially distanced lines

More stores were closed on Thanksgiving than in recent years. Old Navy had the earliest opening time, with some stores opening at midnight.

“This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things, getting a good deal on items and feeling safe,” Rod Sides, U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader for consultancy Deloitte, said in a statement.

This will be the first Black Friday that more shoppers scoop up deals online than at an actual store, Deloitte says, with 61% making purchases with the click of a button as compared to 54% who venture out.

After error, AstraZeneca will conduct additional trial 

AstraZeneca said it plans to conduct a new global clinical trial to assess the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy. The news comes after the company and the university acknowledged a dosing error in trials. 

It’s not clear what effect, if any, these results will have on a separate, 30,000-person trial underway of the candidate vaccine in the United States. 

All 11,000 people who have participated in the U.S. trial so far have received two equal doses of the vaccine, said Moncef Slaoui, co-director of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration program to develop, manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

AstraZeneca said an additional trial shouldn’t delay regulatory approval in Britain or the European Union – but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could take longer.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot does not need to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it easier to distribute. AstraZeneca has agreed not to profit from its vaccine during the pandemic.

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