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Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends Americans avoid traveling for Thanksgiving | Health experts call on GSA to recognize Biden victory | White House holds first task force briefing in months

Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends Americans avoid traveling for Thanksgiving | Health experts call on GSA to recognize Biden victory | White House holds first task force briefing in months
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Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care.

As the pandemic worsens by the day, the White House coronavirus task force gave its first public briefing in months and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We'll start with CDC:

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CDC recommends Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending people avoid traveling to see friends and family during the Thanksgiving holiday as COVID-19 cases continue to surge, with millions currently infected, many of whom are not showing symptoms and don't know they are contagious.

“As we're seeing exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager at the CDC, said in a press call with reporters Thursday.

Thanksgiving should be spent only with people living in your household, Walke said.

Updated CDC guidance released Thursday also clarifies the definition of “household” to mean people who have been living in the same home for at least 14 days before celebrations. The update was particularly aimed at college students who typically return home from campus for the holidays but risk bringing an infection with them this year. 

Why it matters: Confirmed COVID-19 cases are at their highest levels, and millions more are infected but don’t know it. Millions of people gathering for Thanksgiving could accelerate the pandemic, overwhelm hospitals and result in more deaths, experts say. 

Read more here.

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The CDC guidance was echoed by doctors, hospitals and nurses:

Medical groups urge Americans to scale back holiday plans amid COVID-19 surge

Leading medical societies on Thursday urged Americans to scale back Thanksgiving gatherings because spiking coronavirus cases are overwhelming hospitals across the country.

"In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly," the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the public.

"We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands," they said. 

The groups noted that COVID-19 spread has followed a predictable pattern around holidays and mass gatherings. Positive cases spiked after Memorial Day, after the Fourth of July, after Labor Day and now two weeks after Halloween. 

Read more here.

White House coronavirus task force holds first briefing in months, but there wasn’t much new

It was a day of rare events from the Trump administration that used to be common. 

The White House coronavirus task force held its first press briefing in months on Thursday as infections surge around the country and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving.

The CDC also held a rare briefing earlier in the day to talk about its guidance. 

But at the White House briefing, a succession of officials led by Vice President Pence mostly focused on a vaccine, not the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and guidance for avoiding a surge in infections. 

Officials also did not take any questions. 

Health experts call on GSA to recognize Biden victory, allow transition to begin

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The Trump administration is still not sharing coronavirus information with the incoming Biden team, and calls are rising for that to change. 

A group of nearly 200 public health experts is calling on the General Services Administration (GSA) to recognize President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE's victory and allow the transition to officially begin, a step they say is key in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The former government officials, advocates, medical school deans and other experts said the transition, which is currently being held up by GSA Administrator Emily Murphy amid legal challenges to this month's election from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE, would enable Biden and his aides to conduct critical meetings with government staffers and receive information that will be needed to effectively curb a rapidly worsening health disaster.

“In light of the public health crisis facing the nation, it is imperative that you ascertain Joe Biden as President-elect immediately under the Presidential Transition Act. Doing so will enable the incoming Biden team to liaise with key health officials in the Trump Administration and prepare a robust, coordinated response to the pandemic,” they wrote in a Thursday letter to Murphy. 

Among other things, they wrote that a smooth transition is instrumental in maintaining preparation for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, developing mitigation strategies for businesses and schools, gauging hospital capacities and more. And with coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the experts warned a halting response to the pandemic could be costly.

Read more here.

States with least restrictions now have worst outbreaks: NYT

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States that imposed the least coronavirus restrictions tend to have worse outbreaks, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford.

The analysis plots new cases against an Oxford index of how strict an area’s restrictions are.

South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa, for example, have the fewest restrictions and the most per capita cases. Maine, New York and Hawaii, on the other hand, have more restrictions and fewer cases per capita.

Governors in Iowa and North Dakota had long resisted imposing a mask mandate, and only did so in recent days as the outbreaks continued to get worse and worse. Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemMembers of law enforcement sue to halt marijuana legalization in South Dakota Thanksgiving gatherings could inflame COVID-19 crisis More GOP governors embrace mask mandates, but holdouts remain MORE (R) in South Dakota still has not imposed a mask mandate, amid one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

The correlation is not perfect. Outbreaks are now worsening almost everywhere in the United States, across a wide range of varying policies. New Mexico, for example, stands out for having a bad outbreak amid tougher restrictions. 

Read more here

What we’re reading: 

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When will we throw our masks away? I asked Dr. Fauci (The New York Times

Biden adviser says scientists, not political appointees, should lead public communications on Covid-19 (Stat News

The coronavirus is airborne indoors. But we’re still scrubbing surfaces. (The New York Times)

State by state: 

Texas, Florida and South Dakota governors refuse lockdowns as coronavirus resurges (NBC News

New moms on Medicaid are five times more likely to do from pregnancy-related causes. Illinois officials hope to change that. (Chicago Tribune)

'It's not enough': Health experts say Iowa governor's new Covid order is 'weak' (NBC News

The Hill op-eds

COVID-19 isn't the only health risk we face this Thanksgiving 

Restaurants have this one trick up their sleeve to survive the COVID winter