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US Covid-19 cases exceed 100,000 for third day, Biden announces virus task force

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The number of coronavirus cases in the United States rose by more than 100,000 for the third day in a row on Saturday (Nov 7), as Covid-19 continues its aggressive escalation around the nation.

The day’s cases, tallied by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg, were not completely counted and could rise. Infections on Friday reached a record 126,714.

Deaths are rising: the nation counted 1,153 on Friday, the fourth day this week with more than 1,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

That was almost 100 a day more than the previous week and 31 per cent higher than average daily deaths in the first week of October. It is significantly lower than the outbreak’s first spike last spring, when several days neared or passed 2,500 daily deaths. The US death toll is now 236,099.

Overall, hospitalisations remain over 1,000 and the statewide positive rate is over 2 per cent.

President-elect Joe Biden’s victory signals a turning point in the United States response to the pandemic with his promise of an aggressive federal effort to contain a virus surge across the country.

He said he would appoint a 12-member coronavirus task force on Monday, his first step towards fulfilling one of his biggest campaign promises – to mount an effective response to the pandemic that has infected millions and damaged the US economy.

“I will spare no effort, none, or any commitment, to turn around this pandemic,” Mr Biden said on Saturday, as he delivered his victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

The panel will convert his coronavirus-fighting plan into an “action blueprint” that “will be built on a bedrock of science”, he added.

The task force will be co-chaired by former surgeon-general Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and professor of public health Marcella Nunez-Smith from Yale University, according to a person familiar with his plans. It will also include former Obama administration health adviser Ezekiel Emanuel.

The co-chairmen of the task force are scheduled to brief Mr Biden on Monday after the members are announced.

Dr Kessler and Dr Murthy were deeply involved in guiding the Biden campaign’s plans for responding to the virus, briefing Mr Biden regularly, helping develop policy and helping top officials organise safe campaign events.

Mr Biden’s plan calls for increased testing capacity, funding for businesses and schools to reopen safely and eventually a vaccine distributed equitably and for free.

Meanwhile, New York reported 3,587 cases on Saturday, the second day of more than 3,000 and the most since early May at the tail of the deadly spring outbreak.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has focused on reining in “clusters” of the virus that have spread in parts of New York City and upstate, where the positive rate is double the rest of the state.

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City was “really threatened with a second wave”.

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“There are several warning flags in New York,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday. “As we head into winter months, it’s going to take the work of all New Yorkers to ensure we don’t go back to where we were this spring.”

Mr Biden’s victory signals a turning point in the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, as he promises a newly aggressive federal effort to contain a virus that is spiking nationwide in contrast to a president who has consistently downplayed the outbreak’s dangers and promised it would disappear.

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While the president-elect can begin to lay the groundwork, Mr Biden will have to wait until he’s inaugurated on Jan 20 to put any of those plans into place.

His transition team has been working for months on how to coordinate federal agencies to execute the plans that Mr Biden outlined months ago. The proposals include a national mask mandate – although Mr Biden has acknowledged that would be difficult to enforce except on federal property.

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