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Between 9,500 and 19,500 Americans could die of COVID-19 during Christmas week, CDC warns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta.Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg News

The recent spate of good news about a vaccine was leavened by a sobering update released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that forecasts thousands of new COVID-19 deaths in the United States over the next four weeks, including an estimated 9,500 to 19,500 deaths the week of Christmas alone.

The CDC’s National Ensemble Forecast, which aggregates models from 37 different groups, projects that by the end of December, the overall US death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, could reach 303,000 on the low end and 329,000 on the high end.

Public health and other officials use the ensemble forecast to gauge the range for best- and worst-case scenarios in the days ahead; the wide margin between the most conservative and most aggressive forecasts is tied to what behavioral assumptions each group uses in its calculation, such as whether people’s social distancing behavior will maintain, erode, or intensify.

As of Thursday, at least 272,693 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States since February, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.


Washington Post

Fauci says he will stay on in new administration

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, said Thursday that he plans to stay on in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after the Biden administration takes office.

In an interview with CBS News’s Major Garrett, Fauci said that he has already spoken several times with Ronald A. Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, and that he was to meet by teleconference Thursday with the entire Biden “landing team,” a group that facilitates the presidential transition.

“Today will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the . . . transition, between me and the Biden team,” Fauci said during a podcast interview with Garrett.


Before Trump gave the go-ahead to the General Services Administration to allow the transition to proceed, Biden had warned that the delay meant that his team would potentially be weeks or months behind in planning its response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 273,000 people in the United States.

Washington Post

Supreme Court sides with Calif. church objecting to restrictions

The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with a California church protesting Governor Gavin Newsom’s pandemic-related restrictions on indoor worship services. It said a lower court should heed a decision by the justices last week blocking similar restrictions in New York.

The unsigned order, which contained no noted dissents, seems to leave in place for now the Democratic governor’s substantial restrictions, which in some places serve as a ban on indoor services.

But it threw out a district court’s order upholding the restrictions in the state, which like many others is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases.

The challenge was filed by the Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, which has churches across the state.

The Supreme Court on Nov. 25 voted 5 to 4 to block restrictions on synagogues and churches in New York imposed by Democratic Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as a violation of religious rights.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the New York orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”


Meanwhile, California will impose stay-at-home orders in areas where intensive care units are close to filling up, the governor announced on Thursday. It was the state’s most aggressive move since March, when it ordered all residents to stay home as much as possible, and it came as cases and hospitalizations have once again begun to soar.

“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” Newsom said in a statement.

The new order will go into effect if available beds in intensive care units in an area drop below 15 percent of capacity, and will require residents to stay home except for essential tasks.

Most businesses will have to shut down, including in-person dining, salons, and sports events. Hotels in affected areas will be allowed to operate only “in support of critical infrastructure services.”

Church services will be allowed to take place outdoors, and any schools that have been allowed to reopen can continue to operate.

Mr. Newsom encouraged residents to go outside, to visit parks and beaches, or even take outdoor fitness classes, a change from earlier this year, when many beaches and parks were closed.

None of the five regions in the state have reached the threshold that would trigger the order, but some have been projected to get there this week, officials said.


Washington Post and New York Times

Protesters denounce Staten Island bar’s closing

Hundreds of mostly maskless protesters stood shoulder to shoulder outside a Staten Island bar on Wednesday night to demonstrate against the state’s coronavirus restrictions and support a tavern that was forced to shut down for flouting those guidelines.

The raucous scene of about 400 demonstrators in front of Mac’s Public House came a day after plainclothes city sheriff’s deputies busted the bar, which had been operating without a liquor license, for serving food and alcohol to patrons indoors past the 10 p.m. citywide curfew in exchange for a mandatory $40 “donation,” authorities said. The bar’s owners previously declared the establishment an “autonomous zone,” and had publicly taunted New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Mac’s co-owner Danny Presti on Tuesday for obstructing governmental administration, and a cook, bartender, and the bar’s lawyer were also charged, according to the New York Daily News. Presti was released Wednesday.

The tavern’s defiance is part of a larger pushback from bars and restaurants in Staten Island — a borough largely sympathetic to President Trump — that are flouting the state and local restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 24,000 throughout New York City. The state is facing a significant surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the last week, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.


It mattered little to the hundreds gathered on Lincoln Avenue on Wednesday night, many of whom were waving American flags in an area described as “the middle of a COVID hot zone.” They chanted, “F--- Cuomo!” and “Open up!” and sang songs like Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and a cover of the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.,” a staple of Trump rallies.

New York Times