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U.S. passes 11 million cases; Fauci wants officials to work with Biden

U.S. passes 11 million cases; Fauci wants officials to work with Biden
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday "it would be better" for federal health officials to begin working with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team on a COVID-19 response plan as cases in the nation have surged. File Pool photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The United States surpassed 11 million COVID-19 cases on Sunday as Dr. Anthony Fauci said it would be beneficial for federal health officials to begin working with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team.

Total cases since the start of the pandemic reached 11,029,470, most in the world, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, after the university's cumulative case tracker showed the United States added 166,555 new cases on Saturday following a record of more than 184,000 cases the day prior.

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The United States also added 1,266 new deaths on Saturday as the world-leading death toll rose to 246,129.

Fauci told CNN's State of the Union that it would be best for public health if health officials could work with Biden's team, although President Donald Trump and his administration have not allowed such cooperation as they have contested the results of the presidential election in several states.

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"Of course it would be better if we could start working with them," Fauci said, adding that it has been "several months" since Trump met with the White House coronavirus task force.

Fauci, who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, stressed the importance of working with an incoming president before they take office.

"I've been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years. And it's very clear that the transition process that we go through ... is really important in a smooth handing over of the information as well as it's almost like passing the baton in a race," he said. "You don't want to stop and then give it to somebody, you want to essentially keep going."

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He also said Biden made "an excellent choice" selecting Ron Klain as White House chief of staff, noting that they worked closely coordinating the Obama administration's response to the Ebola outbreak.

"He was absolutely terrific at the Ebola situation where we had a very successful ultimate endgame with Ebola," said Fauci.

Texas led the nation with 1,014,160 COVID-19 cases and had the second-highest death toll in the United States with 19,470 fatalities as of Saturday.

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California surpassed that case total, adding 10,968 infections Sunday for 1,019,345 since the start of the pandemic. The state also reported 35 new deaths for the third-highest death toll at 18,253.

Third-place Florida reported 10,105 new cases, its largest increase since July 25, for a total of 885,201 cases. The state also reported 29 new resident deaths for a total of 17,518, as well as 216 nonresident deaths within the state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state reported 3,649 new cases for the fourth-highest total in the nation at 560,200, while the state also added 30 new fatalities bringing its death toll to 26,133. Including probable deaths, the toll is 34,016, according to Hopkins.

Illinois added 10,631 new cases for a total of 573,616, ranking fifth in the United States, as well as 72 deaths, bringing its total to 10,742. On Friday, Illinois set a U.S. record with 15,415.

In response to the surge, the governors of Michigan and Washington announced new wide-ranging restrictive measures in efforts to stymie the virus' spread.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced a three-week suspension to all in-person learning at high schools and post-secondary institutions, indoor dining, fitness classes and organized sports. The measures also close all theaters, stadiums, arenas, bingo halls, ice rinks, casinos and other locations where social groups congregate.

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People are also to work from home if possible, she said during a press conference while wearing a face covering.

"We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date," she said. "The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action."

The measures that go into effect from Wednesday were announced as Michigan has been fighting skyrocketing cases since October with daily infections exponentially climbing.

On Sunday, the state's Health and Human Services Department reported an increase of 7,072 infections and 65 deaths to the virus in the past 24 hours, lifting its totals to 251,813 cases and nearly 8,000 lives lost.

"This is the worst public health emergency our nation has faced in over a century and our response has got to reflect the same level of urgency," the Democratic governor said, while calling for unity amid rising cases.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a prohibition on indoor social gatherings while limiting outdoor events to five people, the closure of indoor restaurant and bar service with limited outdoor table sitting to five people a table.

The measures also close indoor fitness facilities and gyms and bowling centers. Religious services will also be limited to 25% occupancy with no more than 200 people allowed to congregate while requiring face coverings at all times.

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"The time has come to re-instate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public's well-being, and to save lives," Inslee said. "These were very difficult decisions that have very real consequences to people's livelihoods. I recognize that and don't take those impacts lightly, but we must act now and act quickly to slow the spread of this disease."

The measures will be in effect from Monday to Dec. 14 with the modified restrictions on restaurants taking effect Wednesday, he said.

Similar to Michigan, Washington has also seen skyrocketing cases since last month though to a lesser degree.

The state's Department of Health reported more than 130,000 infections amid the pandemic and more than 2,500 deaths.

Several other states, including Oregon, North Dakota and New Mexico, instituted restrictions on Friday.

Scott W. Atlas, an advisor to Trump's Coronavirus Task Force who has made controversial anti-masks comments, tweeted Sunday seemingly in protest of the measures in Michigan, saying, "The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept."

Trump has feuded with Whitmer over her response to the pandemic having frequently demanded she open up Michigan from restrictions.

Whitmer responded to Atlas, a radiologist and not an epidemiologist, Sunday night in an interview with CNN, saying "I'm not going to be bullied" into veering away from the advice of health officials.

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"I listen to people that actually have studied and are well respected worldwide on these issues, not the individual that is doing the president's bidding on this one," she said.

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