Coronavirus death toll in U.S. surpasses 250,000

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The coronavirus has now killed more than 250,000 people across the United States and a record-shattering 76,000 more Americans are hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday. One in five hospitals says they don’t have enough doctors or nurses to keep fighting the daily onslaught of new cases. 

There is one small ray of hope: the drugmaker Pfizer said new data shows its vaccine is actually 95% effective, which is better than what it first announced last week. Pfizer said it is days away from seeking emergency approval from the FDA to start giving the shot.

The nation’s largest school system, New York City, says it is closing all of its schools, sending about 300,000 students home and creating new challenges for working parents. The decision comes as the infection rate in New York City, once the epicenter of the pandemic, is now at 3%. While experts say that might be one of the largest indications of just how dire the crisis has become, it is far from the most devastating.

New York City was the first major city to reopen schools this fall, and the decision to close is not sitting well with the parents of the nearly 300,000 children still attending in person.

“It’s really disappointing for parents who are constantly scrambling,” one parent told CBS News. “Every day we are waiting for a shoe to drop.”

Adding to the confusion —  bars, restaurants and gyms will all remain open. It was a bitter pill to swallow on a day when one of the leading vaccines got a huge boost.

Drugmaker Pfizer says it will apply for FDA emergency approval within days after late-stage trials found its vaccine to be 95% effective with no serious side effects.

“The vaccine looks extremely promising to help us end this pandemic,” said Dr. Edward Walsh, who headed up one of Pfizer’s phase 3 trials at the University of Rochester. “The benefit is enormous, and the risks are very small.”

U.S. health care workers, the first in line for a vaccine once it’s approved, could get their shots in about a month.

“If we can hang on, and implement the public health measures, help really is on the way,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.

Other big news is the FDA approval of an at-home self-test that provides results in 30 minutes or less and costs less than $50. You do need a prescription, and it’s not widely available until spring 2021.

With a week to go before the Thanksgiving holiday, public officials are not taking any chances. “Don’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving. Be safe,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Americans are looking for the all-clear, lining up by the thousands across the country to get tested.

The CDC says the safest holiday this year is the one celebrated with your household. But if you’re hosting, gatherings should be outdoors with a small group and guests should bring their own food and wear masks.

Around the country, governors are continuing to sound the alarm. 

“Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency and getting back to normal isn’t in the cards right now,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

There are growing fears that hospitals in the hardest-hit areas will be overwhelmed as doctors and nurses speak of nightmare situations now unfolding.

“I think a lot of us now are in kind of, for the lack of a better word, ‘siege mentality,'” Nathan Nielsen told CBS News. “It is fatigue beyond fatigue.”

A comprehensive new study shows most coronavirus patients maintain significant immunity for at least eight months, suggesting if you had the virus and recovered, you could be immune for a significant amount of time. The study still needs to be peer-reviewed, but it is promising.

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