* * *
Update (1437ET): Texas Gov. Greg Abott has just announced plans to relax coronavirus-related economic restrictions across the Lone Star state. More ancillary businesses like gyms, restaurants and bars, the latter of which Abbott blamed for stoking the summer wave that hit the state in June and July before waning in August.
Here's a breakdown courtesy of one local reporter:
For hospital regions where COVID hospitalizations are <15% for 7 consec days, the following can open to 75% capacity, as early as Sept. 21.
-restaurants— Molly Oak (@MollyAndAMic) September 17, 2020
Also, Gov. @GregAbbott_TX announced:
-hospitals in those regions can return to ordinary elective surgery procedures.
-nursing home facilities, etc. can reopen for visitation. However, they must comply with certain health protocols and there must be no COVID outbreak. @KVUE— Molly Oak (@MollyAndAMic) September 17, 2020
Hospitals can return to elective surgeries: effective immediately.
The additional visitations to nursing homes can begin Sept. 24. @KVUE— Molly Oak (@MollyAndAMic) September 17, 2020
Liberals, as expected, are freaking out over Abbott's decision to start reopening the state,
If it hasn’t been made clear to you by now: Greg Abbott is willing to sacrifice human lives for the sake of money. He doesn’t care about Texans and his carelessness is going to cost people their lives— hannah schinzing (@hannahschinz) September 17, 2020
While data from recent days shows a small spike, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are well below their summer peaks.
Source: The COVID-19 Tracking Project
* * *
Update (1045ET): New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is once again caving to the teacher's unions by delaying the start of school for a secont time, while also changing up the plan.
According to the New York Times, the city will instead start bringing kids back "on a rolling basis", beginning next week.
Instead, the city will phase students back into classrooms on a rolling basis, starting with the youngest children, who will report to schools next week. Students in pre-K classes and students with advanced special needs will return on Monday.
On Sept. 29, elementary schools will open, and middle and high schools will open on Oct. 1.
The sudden shift comes just three days before the nation’s largest school district was set to reopen. It is the second time that Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed the start of in-person classes, which were originally set to begin on Sept. 10.
According to the NY Post, de Blasio "caved to mounting pressre" from teachers unions and elected officials, all of whom have slammed the city's and the school district's lack of preparedness.
The NYT says de Blasio will explain more during a Thursday press briefing, but with NYC's cases and hospitalizations and deaths all still near their all-time lows, we can't imagine a clear-cut data-driven argument for doing so.
Looks like one more sop to the teacher's unions.
* * *
One day after crossing the 5 million-case threshold, India has reported yet another record single-day jump in coronavirus cases, with 97,894 reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 5.12 million, as the world is roughly one day away from topping the 30 million case mark.
Indian cases are now climbing at roughly double the rate of the US.
Perhaps the biggest news on Thursday is that Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech plans to start a clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine with children and adolescents later this month, yet another round of final-stage testing, as China races to beat both the US and Russia in the race to a mass-produced, internationally-accepted vaccine. In the US, Moderna CEO Stephan Bancel appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" once again Thursday morning as vaccine-makers generally engage in a PR campaign to try and 'rebuild trust with the public' after a patient was reportedly sickened during Phase 3 trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate. US authorities are looking into the issue, but Oxforx said earlier this week that the patient wasn't sickened during the trial.
Last night, President Trump responded to questions about testimony from CDC Director Robert Redfield, who told Congress that COVID-19 vaccines wouldn't be widely available until next year during testimony earlier in the day. Trump chalked it up to a misnderstanding, and once again insisted that the first vaccinations were just weeks away.
China reported nine new cases on Wednesday, down from 12 a day earlier, as the border city of Ruili, situated near Myanmar, remains on lockdown.
In a note to clients published Thursday, analysts at JPM noted that the rise in daily confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe has not shown signs of leading to a rapid increase in hospitalizations across the continent, which is an important sign that this wave likely won't be anywhere near as deadly.
As is the case in the US and elsewhere around the world, more young people are becoming infected as older individuals keep contact with others to a minimum.
"The disconnect between new cases on the one hand, and hospitalisations and deaths on the other, remains very evident everywhere," said JPM economist David Mackie.
Finally, South Korea confirmed 153 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, up from 113 a day eariler, bringing the country's total infections to 22,657, along with 372 deaths. Kia Motors suspended operations at two plants in its Sohari Factory near Seoul, as 10 cases were confirmed among the automaker's employees and families.