Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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The prime minister of Greece announced a three-week nationwide lockdown, starting Saturday, after a sharp spike in infections.

Officials in France warned that the country’s intensive care units could be overwhelmed by mid-November.

The growing chance that Democrats and Republicans will divide power in Washington next year has revived the possibility of a new economic rescue package before Christmas.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and vaccines in development.

A terrifying U.S. record: more than 100,000 cases in a day, two days running

While Americans focused on a nail-biting stream of election results, the country reached a tragic record, recording more than 100,000 new daily cases on both Wednesday and Thursday — a global first.

In contrast to the spring, when outbreaks were occurring largely in the Northeast, and the summer, when they were clustered in the Sun Belt, the pandemic has now engulfed most of the nation, reaching new heights in nearly half of the country. Twenty-three states recorded more cases over the past week than in any other seven-day stretch.

Places like Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado and Indiana have all hit single-day case records. Regionally, the Midwest and the Great Plains — including North and South Dakota and Wisconsin — have for weeks led the country in cases per capita, and the infection rates are getting worse.

Those hunting for signs of progress will be hard pressed to find any. Deaths related to the virus, which lag behind case reports, have increased 21 percent across the country in the past two weeks, reaching 1,616 on Wednesday. More than 50,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, an increase of roughly 64 percent since the beginning of October.

And while things are bad now, to be blunt, there are very real possibilities that they’ll worsen over the coming month. Tens of millions of Americans turned out to vote in person in the presidential race this week. Earlier this week, our colleague Sarah Mervosh told us that after the last time Americans voted during a pandemic (in 1918), infections remained high for months, although there were other contributing factors.

Given that the incubation period of the virus can range up to two weeks, we can expect to have a better idea of election-linked cases before Thanksgiving — which is when hundreds of thousands of college students will travel home, and family gatherings could become petri dishes for the virus.

Watch out for Covid fees

Health care during the pandemic has become more costly. Providers need to purchase protective gear and sanitize equipment more often — even as their revenue declines. Dentists, for example, have lost billions as their patients have postponed care, and assisted-living facilities have had to take on fewer residents to help prevent infection.

To address the financial shortfall, some health providers are charging surprise “Covid” and “P.P.E.” fees, according to bills examined by two Times investigative reporters, Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg.

One woman found a $45 fee tacked on to a dental cleaning in New York City. An 87-year-old resident in assisted living was charged a one-time fee of $900 for masks, cleaning supplies and meal delivery. The bill for a woman who took a one-mile ambulance ride included a $60 charge for personal protective equipment, even though she was already wearing a mask.

Some state attorneys general have said that charging patients directly can take advantage of vulnerable consumers or violate health insurance contracts and consumer protection laws. The new charges range from a couple of dollars to nearly $1,000 and seem to be especially prevalent in dentists’ offices.

“If someone sees a P.P.E. or Covid fee on their medical bill, they should feel comfortable asking questions about it,” Sarah told us. “You might want to ask your health provider why it was charged, or ask your insurance company why it wasn’t covered. If your health provider is billing you directly, you might consider filing a complaint with your state attorney general’s office. Maryland, Connecticut and New York have already outlawed this type of practice, all after they received consumer complaints.”

You can also be proactive, she said, and ask if any new fees have been implemented since your last visit.

“This is obviously easier for some services than others — you can do this for a trip to the dentist, but not necessarily a ride in an ambulance,” she said.

Resurgences

England began a four-week national lockdown today as Europe confronts a growing wave of coronavirus infections.

China halted the entry of almost anyone traveling from Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, India or the Philippines, the latest move by Beijing to keep out anyone with even a slight chance of being infected with the virus.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

What else we’re following

A study found that an inexpensive nasal spray that blocks the virus in the nose and lungs was able to prevent infection in ferrets, which can catch viruses through the nose much as humans do.

More than 2,000 inmates in New Jersey were freed to reduce the spread of Covid in the state’s prison system. Photographers from The New York Times documented their reunions with family members.

On the first day of a new monthlong lockdown in England, the British government announced an extension of emergency stimulus measures introduced in the spring.

Two administrators at a Massachusetts nursing home where 76 veterans died of Covid-19 were arraigned on criminal neglect charges, the first such case in the U.S.

Officials in Missouri said a person who tested positive for the coronavirus last week had disregarded orders to go into quarantine and had worked as an election judge in suburban St. Louis on Tuesday. The person has since died, NBC News reports.

It’s not just a loss of smell. The Washington Post reports that some coronavirus patients have experienced parosmia, a temporary distortion of smells that can make a glass of wine, for example, smell like gasoline.

What you’re doing

In our home province of Ontario, Canada, we have a Covid restriction on the number of people who can gather in our homes. Our dining room, usually the place of large, noisy family meals, has been silent and empty for months — a mournful reminder of what we’re missing these days and a regrettable waste of space. Last month my husband gave me a Ping-Pong table for my 66th birthday. We squashed our dining room furniture into other rooms and created a Ping-Pong parlor. We’re having so much fun resurrecting this beloved game of our youth and have the high hope that our hilarious competition and ever-improving skills will help carry us through the long winter ahead.

— Joan Gregorich, Ottawa

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