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Coronavirus Update: China locks down Peking University over one COVID case, showing commitment to zero-COVID policy

Chinese authorities have locked down Peking University after finding a single COVID case, evidence of their continued commitment to the country’s zero-COVID policy.

Beijing reported more than 350 new cases in the latest 24-hour period, representing a small fraction of its population of 21 million but still enough to trigger localized lockdowns and quarantines under China’s zero-COVID strategy, as the Associated Press reported. Nationwide, China reported about 20,000 cases, up from about 8,000 a week ago.

Authorities are trying to move away from the lockdowns, such as those seen earlier this year in Shanghai, that have frustrated locals and prompted protests. And revised national guidelines issued last week instructed local governments to follow a targeted and scientific approach that avoids unnecessary measures. But that doesn’t mean an end to zero-COVID, a policy that has hurt the country’s economy.

Peking University has more than 40,000 students on multiple campuses, most of them in Beijing. It was unclear how many were affected by the new lockdown. The 124-year-old institution is one of China’s top universities and was a center of student protest in earlier decades. Its graduates include leading intellectuals, writers, politicians and businesspeople.

The news comes as known U.S. cases of COVID are climbing again for the first time in a few months. The daily average for new cases stood at 39,414 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 2% versus two weeks ago.

Cases are climbing in 29 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. They are up a staggering 868% in Nebraska from two weeks ago, with an average of 16 cases per 100,000 residents. Cases are up 77% in Utah, 54% in Oklahoma and 53% in Arizona.

The U.S. daily average for hospitalizations is up 2% to 27,807, but it is up by higher rates in Western states, led by Colorado at 67%, Arizona at 60% and Nevada at 45%.

On a brighter note, the daily death toll continues to decline and is now down 15%, to 292, from two weeks ago.

Physicians are reporting high numbers of respiratory illnesses like RSV and the flu earlier than the typical winter peak. WSJ’s Brianna Abbott explains what the early surge means for the winter months. Photo illustration: Kaitlyn Wang

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• A federal judge has approved a nearly $58 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in response to the deaths of dozens of veterans who contracted COVID-19 at a Massachusetts veterans home, the AP reported. “It was with heavy hearts that we got to the finish line on this case,” Michael Aleo, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday, the day after the settlement was approved by a U.S. district court judge in Springfield. The coronavirus outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke in the spring of 2020 was one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the U.S.

• Australian health authorities have recommended against getting a fifth COVID vaccine shot, even as they urged those who are eligible to sign up for their remaining booster doses as the country’s latest COVID wave grows rapidly, Reuters reported. Average daily cases were 47% higher last week than the week before, said Health Minister Mark Butler at a press conference on Tuesday, announcing the new vaccination recommendations. But cases remain 85% below the previous late July peak.

• A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Biden administration to lift Trump-era asylum restrictions that have been a cornerstone of border enforcement since the beginning of the pandemic, the AP reported separately. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in Washington that enforcement must end immediately for families and single adults, calling the ban “arbitrary and capricious.” The administration has not applied it to children traveling alone. Within hours, the Justice Department asked the judge to let the order take effect Dec. 21, giving it five weeks to prepare. Plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union didn’t oppose the delay.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 635.9 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.61 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 98 million cases and 1,075,112 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 227.8 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.6% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.

So far, just 31.4 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants, equal to 10.1% of the overall population.

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