Clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine can be legitimately cut short and could allow a vaccine to become available more quickly than previously expected if results are overwhelming, Dr. Anthony Fauci says. And the CDC is telling some health officials to be ready to start distributing a vaccine by November, according to one report.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident the experts making the call on a vaccine would not be swayed by political pressure as Election Day approaches.
The Trump administration announced a nationwide ban on evictions until December to ease financial pressures fueled by the pandemic. The federal edict came down after some states, including California and Nevada, announced similar protections against evictions.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney apologized on Twitter after a photo of him eating in a Maryland restaurant made the rounds on social media. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi faced criticism for visiting a hair salon in San Francisco despite the city’s current guidelines intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Some significant developments:
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defended the Trump administration’s controversial decision not to participate in a global alliance to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel, part of the National Institutes of Health, said Wednesday that there’s no solid evidence for or against recommending convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
- Antibodies produced after infection by the coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis, longer than previously believed, a new study finds.
- Who should be the first to get the coronavirus vaccine? Front-line health care workers, paramedics, firefighters and police, all of whom are at higher risk of contracting the virus, according to a new report from the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering.
📈 Today’s numbers: A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Tuesday shows four states set records for new cases in a week while two states had a record number of deaths in a week. New case records were set in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and West Virginia. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas, Hawaii and Guam. The U.S. has 6 million confirmed cases and over 184,000 deaths. Globally, there are 25.8 million cases and more than 858,000 people have died.
📰 What we’re reading: California, the first state to reach 700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, announced a new tiered plan for reopening businesses that some critics say has inequities.
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The first COVID-19 death associated with a massive biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota has been reported weeks after the event attracted more than 400,000 vehicles and drew widespread concern from public health officials.
The death was reported by Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann at a Wednesday briefing. Minnesota — South Dakota’s neighbor to the east — is tracking an ongoing outbreak of 50 cases tied to the August event, Ehresmann said. That outbreak only includes people who attended the event.
A Minnesota man who died was in his 60s and had underlying health conditions. The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed bikers and the tourist dollars they spend.
– Joel Shannon
That would be on the early side of what officials have laid out as a best-case scenario: that a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. A COVID-19 vaccine could be available earlier than expected if ongoing clinical trials produce overwhelmingly positive results, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, told Kaiser Health News.
“Limited COVID -19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020, but COVID-19 vaccine supply will increase substantially in 2021,” reads the CDC document.
At least two clinical trials of 30,000 volunteers are now expected to conclude by the end of the year, but Fauci said an independent board has the authority to end the trials weeks early if interim results are overwhelmingly positive or negative.
The federal budget deficit is projected to hit a record $3.3 trillion because of COVID-19 costs and the recession, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
That’s more than triple the 2019 shortfall. The deficit projection was attributed to the coronavirus disruption of the economy and the cost of legislation enacted by Congress in response to the pandemic.
It was less than a year ago that Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn – and that was months before the coronavirus appeared in the U.S.
“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee in November.
Three Phase 3 trials have started in the U.S. for vaccines against the coronavirus and volunteers have been stepping up to be human guinea pigs to make sure they are safe.
But with seven candidate vaccines now funded by the federal government on their way towards Phase 3, a lot more volunteers will be needed – a combined total of at least 210,000.
Half receive the active vaccine and half a placebo. Participants won’t know whether they got the actual vaccine until their trial ends in about two years. In the meantime, they are left wondering whether their lack of a sore arm or fever means they received the placebo or just got lucky.
“If I got the placebo, then I will go and get the actual shot when ready,” said one volunteer, Dusta Eisenman, 44, of San Jose, California. Want to volunteer? Here’s how.
– Karen Weintraub
Canada’s chief medical officer issued some guidelines Wednesday on having sex in the age of COVID-19.
Dr. Theresa Tam advised Canadians to wear a mask during sexual intercourse and to check for any symptoms beforehand, especially with a new partner.
“Canadians can find ways to enjoy physical intimacy while safeguarding the progress we have all made containing COVID-19,” Tam said.
Seven more Greek houses at Indiana University-Bloomington are being directed to quarantine because of COVID-19, bringing the total up to 30 out of 40 Greek houses as of Wednesday evening.
IU Bloomington reported an 8.1% positivity rate among students living in fraternity and sorority housing during its mitigation testing, according to a Monday update to its testing dashboard. Residence halls had a 1.63% positivity rate.
All communal living houses are directed to suspend in-person activities other than dining and housing until at least Sept. 14, said IU spokesperson Chuck Carney.
– Lydia Gerike, Indianapolis Star
Kentucky hops up poll worker hunt with beer can labels
With volunteer ranks thinned by fear of the coronavirus, Kentucky is trying to put some fizz into its recruitment effort for poll workers for November’s general election by soliciting for them on beer cans.
Secretary of State Michael Adams’ office is working with the Kentucky Guild of Brewers to get out the word on beer labels. The message includes a QR code linked to a site where people can register to vote and apply to be a poll worker.
“Last year I testified to the Legislature that we had a poll worker crisis in Kentucky,” Adams said in a statement. “COVID-19 certainly hasn’t helped. We need younger generations to step up and be good citizens, and so we enlisted the help of Kentucky’s craft breweries to reach them.”
– Emma Austin, Louisville Courier Journal
A package of new studies published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that patients severely ill with COVID-19 can benefit from steroids. The drugs can save about 1 in 12 patients treated.
Both dexamethasone, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use on COVID-19 patients, and hydrocortisone are equally effective, the research found.
Overall, the research found the most severely ill COVID-19 patients, those who are on ventilators, benefited the most, Dr. Todd Rice of Vanderbilt University, who co-wrote the editorial, said in a JAMA interview. Steroids likely tamped down an immune system overreaction.
Patients who were considered mildly ill with COVID-19, those who were hospitalized but not overwhelmed with inflammation, did not benefit from steroids, the studies found. There is a gray area, the researchers admitted, where it’s hard to determine whether to give steroids to patients who have relatively mild disease at the moment but seem likely to decline.
– Karen Weintraub
First came a shift from classroom instruction to online learning because of the coronavirus. Now comes cyberattacks that could lead to a halt online learning.
Florida’s largest school district has faced multiple cyberattacks this week that appear to be aimed at disrupting instruction via personal computer, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a tweet Wednesday.
So far, he said the hackers haven’t been able to penetrate the district’s servers. The FBI and Secret Service have been asked to investigate.
TSA tests touchless system that avoids COVID-19 risks
The Transportation Security Administration is testing a system that matches your ID to your face, avoiding person-to-person contact that could spread the coronavirus.
The system, now part of a pilot program at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, is similar to a technology that was tested last year at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. However, the new system will allow passengers to insert their ID into the scanner, rather than handing it to a TSA officer.
“In light of COVID-19, advanced health and safety precautions have become a top priority and part of the new normal for TSA,” said Administrator David Pekoske in a statement Tuesday.
Pekoske said if the pilot program proves successful, it may be implemented at more airports.
– Curtis Tate
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defended the Trump administration’s controversial decision not to participate in a global alliance to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
The White House confirmed earlier this week that it would not be part of the vaccine alliance, which is being led in part by the World Health Organization and involves more than 170 other countries. The global effort involves not only developing an effective vaccine but also ensuring it is equitably distributed across the globe.
Pompeo told reporters Wednesday the U.S. would not participate in the global vaccine effort because the WHO is too political. The vaccine alliance is being co-led by Gavi, which focuses on providing vaccines to children in poor countries, and other groups. The Trump administration has moved to withdraw the United States from the WHO, arguing it was too soft on China when the novel coronavirus first emerged.
Critics say this decision isolates the United States and risks hindering the worldwide race to find an effective vaccine.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
The U.S. government is canceling some of its contracts to buy new ventilators, saying the national stockpile is full after some states feared they’d run short on the life-saving machines in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that it has nearly 120,000 ventilators available for deployment to state and local health officials if needed. The Trump administration had signed nearly $3 billion in contracts to get more ventilators as demand surged in the spring, but the cancellation of some of the contracts was billed as a cost-savings measure as demand was no longer as high.
President Donald Trump faced criticism in March from some mayors and governors who urged him to use his powers under the Defense Production Act to ramps up production of ventilators. At the time, the national stockpile had only about 16,660 ventilators ready to deploy.
The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel, part of the National Institutes of Health, said there’s no solid evidence for or against recommending convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The statement Wednesday comes less than 10 days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for using plasma taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. The panel reviewed data from a preliminary study by the Mayo Clinic and found that while the treatment may be beneficial for non-intubated patients, there was no comparable difference in death rates.
“There are currently no data from well-controlled, adequately powered randomized clinical trials that demonstrate efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma for COVID-19,” the panel wrote.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
The first coronavirus vaccine doses to become available should go to front-line health care workers at the highest risk of being exposed to the virus, with paramedics, firefighters and police also would get priority, according to a draft report released by the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering.
Next on the priority list should be people of all ages with underlying conditions, the report said. A vaccine probably would be in scarce supply initially, with enough doses for only 3% to 4% of the U.S. population, the report said.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, created the panel that wrote the draft. The panel is made up of doctors, ethicists, public health officials and scientists.
– Elizabeth Weise
Philadelphia’s mayor apologized after a photo of him eating inside a Maryland restaurant circulated on social media despite a ban on indoor restaurant dining in the City of Brotherly Love. A spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney confirmed that he dined at a friend’s restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay. Kenney justified the decision by saying that he felt the risk was low because Cecil County had fewer than 800 COVID-19 cases.
One vocal critic was chef and restaurant owner Marc Vetri, who criticized the hypocrisy of Kenney dining indoors while restaurants in the city “close, suffer and fight for every nickel.” Plans call for city restaurants to partially open beginning Tuesday.
The U.S. Census Bureau is ending in-person counting in some cities, including San Diego, as early as Sept. 18, two weeks before the Sept. 30 deadline, NPR reported. “In some areas, nonresponse followup will finish earlier than Sept. 30 – based on the rates of completion, self-response rates and the number of hours our available workforce can work,” the bureau told NPR.
Minnesota’s state demographer Susan Brower told NPR that counting may also be done in two weeks in Minnesota’s Hennepin County. The Census Bureau first postponed its spring deadline to Oct. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline changed again last month to Sept. 30.
All businesses in Maryland will be able to open Friday as the state enters the third phase of its coronavirus recovery plan, Gov. Larry Hogan announced. Up to 100 people will be allowed at indoor venues, or 250 people at outdoor venues. All retail stores as well as churches and houses of worship will be able to increase capacity from 50% to 75%. Local jurisdictions will still be able to decide not to open as much as the state plan allows.
“I want to remind the people of Maryland that moving into Stage 3 does not mean that this crisis is behind us and remind them that we must remain vigilant so that we can keep Maryland open for business,” Hogan said at a news conference.
Australia’s economy has suffered its sharpest quarterly drop since the Great Depression because of the pandemic. Data released on Wednesday confirmed the country is experiencing its first recession in 28 years. The latest national accounts showed the economy shrank 7% in the June, the biggest contraction since records began in 1959. Combined with a smaller 0.3% drop in the March quarter, the definition of a technical recession – two consecutive quarters of contraction – has been fulfilled.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is implementing a national four-month moratorium on residential evictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Relying on a 1944 Public Health Service Act that gives the administration broad quarantine powers, the moratorium will run through Dec. 31. It applies to individuals earning less than $99,000 a year and who are unable to make rent or housing payments.
“President Trump is committed to helping hard-working Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus,” White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern told reporters Tuesday.
– John Fritze and Nicholas Wu
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press