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U.S. adds 120K COVID-19 cases; HHS head says vaccine possible in spring

U.S. adds 120K COVID-19 cases; HHS head says vaccine possible in spring
A masked man walks in New York City on Monday near the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- As cases continue to spike to record levels nationally, a top U.S. health official said Tuesday that public COVID-19 vaccination campaigns could begin in the spring.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there should be sufficient available quantities of a vaccine, when one is approved, by the start of April or May to begin mass inoculations.

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"We have anticipated that we will have enough vaccine by the end of December to have vaccinated our most vulnerable citizens in nursing homes and otherwise, and by the end January, enough for all healthcare workers and first responders," he told NBC's Today.

Azar cited government contracts with drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to deliver millions of doses.

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No vaccine has been approved for the coronavirus disease, although several are now in late-stage human trials. Pfizer said Monday it will seek emergency FDA authorization for its vaccine, which it said has shown so far to be about 90% effective.

Updated data at Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday showed the United States added about 120,000 more cases on Monday -- the sixth day in a row with more than 100,000 -- and almost 700 deaths.

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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been about 10.1 million cases and 238,300 deaths nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins, and more than 50 million people have been sickened worldwide.

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Thirty-two states have seen record spikes in cases over the past week and four saw their highest numbers of deaths in a single week.

Hospitalizations nationwide approached 60,000 on Monday, equaling record levels during the summer, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Texas on Tuesday became the first state to surpass a million cases, as the state reported a record 10,865 new cases. The data showed that cases have surged in and around El Paso, the Texas Panhandle and in major cities.

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Intensive care patients in the Houston area rose almost 10% in a single day, according to the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions as the Minnesota Department of Health reported 4,843 new cases on Tuesday.

"I have to be absolutely candid in Minnesota -- we are in the midst of a significant surge in coronavirus cases," he said.

Under the new restrictions, the state will limit indoor and outdoor private social gatherings that include a maximum of three households to 10 people. Receptions for events such as funerals will be limited to 50 people beginning Nov. 27 and 25 starting Dec. 11 and cannot take place between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

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Bars and restaurants will also be limited to 50% capacity indoors and outdoors with a maximum of 150 people and dine-in service will be required to end at 10 p.m.

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