U.S. crosses 300,000 COVID-19 deaths as vaccine rollout begins

By Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus deaths in the United States crossed 300,000 on Monday, according to Reuters tally, as the hardest hit nation rolled out its first vaccine inoculations on Monday.

The staggering death toll comes as the nation begins a historic inoculation campaign using a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE. Moderna Inc’s vaccine could get approval as soon as this week.

The vaccine comes as COVID-19 cases explode across the nation and hospital intensive care units run out of beds. Daily coronavirus cases and deaths have set records multiple times since Thanksgiving holidays with daily fatalities topping 3,000 for the second time last week on Friday, the same day the vaccine got approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

It took 27 days to go from 250,000 total U.S. COVID-19 deaths to 300,000 – the fastest 50,000-death jump since the pandemic began. Some models project that deaths could reach 500,000 before vaccines become widely available in the spring and summer.

In recent weeks, South Dakota and North Dakota have led the nation in deaths per capita. Overall, New Jersey and New York, early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, lead the nation in per capita deaths.

The United States recently crossed 16 million confirmed cases – the most in the world.

According to Reuters analysis, the United States is reporting 91 deaths per 100,000 people, seventh worst in the world on a per capita basis and 2.5 times the rate in Canada.

The nation’s hospitals are flooding with COVID-19 patients, threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems and providers. There are over 108,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the highest since the first coronavirus case was detected in the country in January.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. posts sharpest weekly rise in COVID-19 deaths since August

(Reuters) – The United States recorded its biggest weekly rise in COVID-19 deaths since August, increasing 32% from the previous week to average about 1,500 people per day, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

New cases rose 13% in the week ended Nov. 22, or an average of more than 168,000 per day

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, at least 23 states have announced new restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus but so far only New Mexico has issued a stay-at-home order.

Cases rose by 90% in New Mexico last week, the biggest percentage increase in the country, followed by Virginia at 62% and Arizona with a 50% increase.

In North Dakota, the hardest hit state on a per capita basis, nearly 73,400 tests have come back positive for the new coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak. That is equivalent to 9.6% of the state’s population. North Dakota mandated masks starting Nov. 14 but another 14 states still do not require them.

Across the United States, 9.8% of tests came back positive for the virus for a second week in a row, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The World Health Organization considers positive test rates above 5% concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

Out of 50 states, 26 had positive test rates above 10% last week, led by Iowa at 56%, South Dakota at 45% and Idaho at 40%.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)

U.S. COVID-19 cases cross 11 million as pandemic intensifies

By Roshan Abraham and Seerat Gupta

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in the United States crossed the 11-million mark on Sunday reaching yet another grim milestone, according to a Reuters tally, as the third wave of COVID-19 infections surged across the country.

Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic in the United States has quickened, with one million more new cases from just 8 days ago when it hit 10 million, making it the fastest since the pandemic began. This compares with 10 days it took to get from 9 to 10 million and 16 days it took to reach 9 million from 8 million cases.

The United States, hardest-hit by the coronavirus, crossed 10 million COVID-19 cases on November 8 and is reporting over 100,000 daily cases for the past 11 days straight.

The latest 7-day average, shows the United States is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

Texas and California have reported the highest number of COVID-19 infections across the United States, together accounting for about 2.1 million cases or about 19% of the total cases since the pandemic began, according to Reuters analysis.

As COVID-19 related hospitalizations continue to rise, crossing 69,000 on Saturday, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers have stressed the need to control the pandemic, warning that local healthcare systems are at a tipping point.

The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capita with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska the top five worst-affected U.S. states.

Illinois, which has emerged as the pandemic’s new epicenter in the region as well as across the country, reported a record 15,433 new cases on Friday, the most of any state in a 24-hour period, surpassing the previous all-time high of 15,300 set by Florida in July.

Several states this week re-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus across the nation. North Dakota became the latest state to require that face coverings be worn in public, as it joins 39 other states this month in reporting record daily jumps in new cases.

State governors urged residents to stay home as much as possible, including Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak, who said late on Friday that he became the fourth governor to become infected with the virus.

The United States accounts for about 20% of more than 54 million global cases and close to 19% of the 1.31 million deaths reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

(Reporting by Roshan Abraham and Seerat Gupta in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft)

U.S. crosses 10 million COVID-19 cases as third wave of infections surges

By Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia

(Reuters) – The United States became the first nation worldwide since the pandemic began to surpass 10 million coronavirus infections, according to a Reuters tally on Sunday, as the third wave of the COVID-19 virus surges across the nation.

The grim milestone came on the same day as global coronavirus cases exceeded 50 million.

The United states has reported about a million cases in the past 10 days, the highest rate of infections since the nation reported its first novel coronavirus case in Washington state 293 days ago.

The country reported a record 131,420 COVID-19 cases on Saturday and has reported over 100,000 infections five times in the past seven days, according to a Reuters tally.

The U.S. latest reported seven-day average of 105,600 daily cases, ramped up by at least 29%, is more than the combined average for India and France, two of the worst affected countries in Asia and Europe.

More than 237,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the illness caused by the coronavirus first emerged in China late last year.

The daily average of reported new deaths in the United States account for one in every 11 deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.

The number of reported deaths nationwide climbed by more than 1,000 for a fifth consecutive day on Saturday, a trend last seen in mid-August, according to a Reuters tally.

Health experts say deaths tend to increase four to six weeks after a surge in infections.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who spent much of his election campaign criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, pledged on Saturday to make tackling the pandemic a top priority.

Biden will announce a 12-member task force on Monday to deal with the pandemic that will be led by former surgeon general Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler. The coronavirus task force will be charged with developing a blueprint for containing the disease once Biden takes office in January.

The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capita with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska the top five worst-affected U.S. states.

Illinois emerged as the new epicenter in the Midwest, with the state reporting over 60,000 COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, the highest in the country, according to Reuters data. The state reported more than 12,454 new cases on Saturday, the highest single-day number so far.

Texas, which accounts for 10% of total U.S. cases, is the hardest-hit state and became the first to surpass a million coronavirus cases in the United States on Saturday.

According to a Reuters analysis, the South region comprises nearly 43% of all the cases in the United States since the pandemic began, with nearly 4.3 million cases in the region alone, followed by the Midwest, West and Northeast.

New York, with over 33,000 fatalities, remains the state with highest number of deaths and accounts for about 14% of total U.S. deaths.

The United States performed about 10.5 million coronavirus tests in the first seven days of November, of which 6.22% came back positive, compared with 6.17% the prior seven-days, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Diane Craft and Michael Perry)

U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpass 190,000; Iowa and South Dakota emerge as new hotspots

By Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – Coronavirus deaths in the United States topped 190,000 on Wednesday along with a spike in new cases in the U.S. Midwest with states like Iowa and South Dakota emerging as the new hotspots in the past few weeks.

Iowa currently has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation, with 15% of tests last week coming back positive. Nearby South Dakota has a positive test rate of 19% and North Dakota is at 18%, according to a Reuters analysis.

The surge in Iowa and South Dakota is being linked to colleges reopening in Iowa and an annual motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Kansas, Idaho and Missouri are also among the top 10 states for positive test rates.

New coronavirus infections have fallen for seven weeks in a row for the United States with a death rate of about 6,100 per week from COVID-19 in the last month.

On a per capita basis, the United States ranks 12th in the world for the number of deaths, with 58 deaths per 100,000 people, and 11th in the world for cases, with 1,933 cases per 100,000 residents, according to a Reuters analysis.

U.S. confirmed cases are highest in the world with now over 6.3 million followed by India with 4.4 million cases and Brazil with 4.2 million. The U.S. death toll is also the highest in the world.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had forecast last month that the U.S. death toll will reach 200,000 to 211,000 by Sept. 26.

The University of Washington’s health institute last week forecasted that the U.S. deaths from the coronavirus will reach 410,000 by the end of the year.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

COVID-19 cases rise in U.S. Midwest and Northeast, deaths fall for third week

(Reuters) – Several states in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast have seen new COVID-19 cases increase for two weeks in a row, though nationally both new infections and deaths last week remained on a downward trend, a Reuters analysis showed.

The United States reported more than 287,000 new cases in the week ended Sept. 6, down 1.4% from the previous week and marking the seventh straight week of declines. More than 5,800 people died from COVID-19 last week, the third week in a row that the death rate has fallen.

Nevertheless, 17 states have seen cases rise for at least two weeks, according to the Reuters tally of state and county reports. They include Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin, where between 10% and 18% of people tested had the new coronavirus.

In the Northeast, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York also reported increases in new cases for at least two weeks, though the positive test rate ranged from a low of 0.9% in New York to a high of 4.3% in Delaware — below the 5% level the World Health Organization considers concerning.

In some states, testing has increased as schools reopened. New York City, for instance, is testing 10% to 20% of students and staff every month. The University of Illinois is testing students twice a week.

Nationally, the share of all tests that came back positive for COVID-19 fell for a fifth week to 5.5%, well below a peak of nearly 9% in mid-July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The United States tested on average 741,000 people a day last week, up 5% from the prior week, but down from a peak in late July of over 800,000 people a day.

(Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Graphic by Chris Canipe; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

U.S. coronavirus cases top six million as Midwest, schools face outbreaks

By Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus surpassed six million on Sunday as many states in the Midwest reported increasing infections, according to a Reuters tally.

Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have recently reported record one-day increases in new cases while Montana and Idaho are seeing record numbers of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Nationally, metrics on new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and the positivity rates of tests are all declining, but there are emerging hotspots in the Midwest.

Many of the new cases in Iowa are in the counties that are home to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, which are holding some in-person classes. Colleges and universities around the country have seen outbreaks after students returned to campus, forcing some to switch to online-only learning.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said his state was sending a “SWAT team” to a State University of New York (SUNY) campus in Oneonta in upstate New York to contain a COVID-19 outbreak. Fall classes, which started last week at the college, were suspended for two weeks after more than 100 people tested positive for the virus, about 3% of the total student and faculty population, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said.

“We have had reports of several large parties of our students at Oneonta last week, and unfortunately because of those larger gatherings, there were several students who were symptomatic of COVID,” Malatras said.

Across the Midwest, infections have also risen after an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota drew more than 365,000 people from across the country from Aug. 7 to 16. The South Dakota health department said 88 cases have been traced to the rally.

More than eight months into the pandemic, the United States continues to struggle with testing. The number of people tested has fallen in recent weeks.

Many health officials and at least 33 states have rejected the new COVID-19 testing guidance issued by the Trump administration last week that said those exposed to the virus and without symptoms may not need testing.

Public health officials believe the United States needs to test more frequently to find asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers to slow the spread of the disease.

While the United States has the most recorded infections in the world, it ranks tenth based on cases per capita, with Brazil, Peru and Chile having higher rates of infection, according to a Reuters tally.

The United States also has the most deaths in the world at nearly 183,000 and ranks 11th for deaths per capita, exceeded by Sweden, Brazil, Italy, Chile, Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Peru.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker in Chicago and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Paul Simao)

New U.S. COVID-19 cases drop for fifth week in a row, deaths decline

(Reuters) – The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the United States fell 17% last week, the fifth straight week of declines, according to a Reuters tally of state and county reports.

Nearly 1,000 people a day continue to die from COVID-19, though last week’s total of more than 6,700 deaths was down 9% from the previous seven days.

The United States posted 297,000 new cases for the week ended Aug. 23, down from a weekly peak of over 468,000 cases in mid-July. The country is now averaging less than 50,000 new infections a day for the first time since early June.

The United States still has the worst outbreak in the world, accounting for a quarter of the global total of 23 million cases.

The state with the biggest percentage increase in new cases last week was South Dakota at 50%. Infections have been rising since the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, which drew more than 100,000 people from all over the country from Aug. 7 to 16. The South Dakota health department was not immediately available for comment.

Cases rose by 30% in nearby North Dakota and by 24% in Wyoming.

The United States tested on average 675,000 people a day last week, down from a peak in late July of over 800,000 people a day.

Nationally, the share of all tests that came back positive for the new virus was 6.3%, down from 7% the prior week and below a peak of 9% in mid-July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

South Carolina had the highest positivity rate in the nation at 22%, followed by Texas, Nevada and Idaho at 16%.

At least 29 states reported a positivity rate above 5%, the level the World Health Organization considers concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

(Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Graphic by Chris Canipe; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

Dakota Access oil pipeline users downplay need for line to investors

By Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The largest oil pipeline out of the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota could be forced to shut this week, and the companies that use it are telling investors they can survive without it. But in legal filings, they have made its closure seem dire.

The 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is facing a federal court order to be closed and drained pending a new environmental assessment. A decision on whether it can remain running while a legal battle continues is expected any day. The pipeline is critical for moving oil out of North Dakota, the second-largest crude-producing state, trailing only Texas.

Numerous industry groups and states issued legal statements in support of DAPL both prior to and after a judge last month ordered the line, operated by Energy Transfer LP, closed by early August.

Before opening in 2017, producers and refiners relied on a patchwork of pipelines and rail to get oil out of the region.

But on recent earnings calls and fillings, companies including Marathon Petroleum Corp and Continental Resources Inc, the largest Bakken producer, said they have plenty of alternatives should the line be shut.

“It would not have a major impact on moving all of our production if DAPL were shut in, and the cost to us would be a few dollars per barrel,” said John Hess, chief executive officer of Hess Corp, which transports about 55,000 bpd of oil on DAPL, on an earnings call last week.

However, in an April court filing, the company said it “does not have other practical options to transport the crude oil that is currently being shipped on DAPL.”

A source familiar with the company’s thinking said Hess has since found alternatives for shipping its oil.

The differing statements come down to the need to reassure investors, experts said.

“They really shouldn’t do that,” said Ted Borrego, who has practiced oil and gas law for over 45 years and teaches at the University of Houston Law Center. “But a big chunk of what you need to be able to drill wells is money, and if you’ve got investors that are nervous, they tend to sit on their wallets.”

Last month, a U.S. district court judge found fault with one of the pipeline’s permits and ordered DAPL shut and drained by Aug. 5. That order was delayed by an appeals court, which is still deciding whether DAPL can remain in use during the appeals process.

Energy Transfer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Producers and refiners that use Bakken oil relied for years on rail transit due to the lack of pipelines. North Dakota output peaked at 1.5 million bpd in late 2019 and is at about 1 million bpd as of August, according to the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.

“The loss of the pipeline has less of an impact if production is reduced,” said Sandy Fielden, analyst at financial services firm Morningstar.

Privately, shippers and executives say ramping up rail shipments takes time and rail cannot handle the same volume as pipelines. One unit train can carry between 50,000 and 90,000 barrels of oil, far less than DAPL’s daily capacity.

“No producer wants DAPL to close,” said one shipper on the line, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In May, 52 million barrels of crude was transported from the PADD 2 region that includes North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast, compared with just 351,000 barrels shipped via rail, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Continental Resources said in a legal filing in June that shutting the line could cost between $4 and $7 a barrel extra, boosting costs for all producers and shippers by $832 million to $1.5 billion annually. Bakken oil currently costs about 20 cents less than U.S. benchmark crude.

Executives on the company’s earnings call on Tuesday said they were confident that the line would remain open.

(Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Ten more states added to New York quarantine order: Cuomo

(Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered those arriving in New York from an additional 10 states to quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus as cases flare up across the country.

Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington were added to the travel order which was first issued in June. Minnesota was removed.

Travelers arriving in New York from a total of 31 U.S. states are now required to quarantine upon arrival in New York, according to the travel advisory.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)