Saturday, October 31, 2020

Fauci says vaccine could be out early; Philly mayor ripped

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Approving a vaccine in the U.S. usually takes years, but COVID-19 vaccines are moving through in record time. What does that mean?

USA TODAY

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, Dr. Anthony Fauci says. Fauci says early indication of overwhelming success – or failure – of a vaccine candidate would be grounds for ending the trials early.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident the experts making that call 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. Gov. Gavin Newsom extended California’s moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021, while Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak made a 45-day extension.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney apologized on Twitter after a photo of him eating in a Maryland restaurant made the rounds on social media.

Some significant developments:

  • 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 25.7 million cases and more than 857,000 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

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to the Daily Briefing.

Federal government says ventilator stockpile is full, cancels contracts

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.

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Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time.

USA TODAY

Convalescent plasma not recommended, NIH panel says

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

Fauci says clinical trials could end early to expedite vaccines

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.

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. Fauci said he trusts the independent members of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board  to hold vaccine candidates to high standards. 

“If you are making a decision about the vaccine, you’d better be sure you have very good evidence that it is both safe and effective,” Fauci said. “I’m not concerned about political pressure.”

What we’re reading

First come, first served won’t cut it when vaccine becomes available

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 mayor’s indoor dining despite city ban draws scorn

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.

Joshua Bote

Census Bureau to stop in-person counting early in some cities

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.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says all businesses can reopen Friday

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.

Hurt by COVID-19, Australia slips into first recession in 28 years

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.

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Donald Trump goes maskless during Wisconsin visit despite health order

President Donald Trump, who has expressed off-again, on-again support for mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic, was maskless again Tuesday as he surveyed businesses damaged during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At the start of a roundtable meeting with law enforcement personnel, local officials and business owners, Trump told them they could take off their face masks “if you feel more comfortable” doing so. “Look how fast you took that off,” he told one person.

None of the roundtable participants wound up wearing masks, a group that included Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Some members of Trump’s entourage were seen wearing masks during a tour of torched areas in a state that has suffered its share of coronavirus cases

– David Jackson

Uber to require mask selfie verification for some riders

You may soon need to take a selfie as proof you are wearing a mask before your next Uber ride. Uber announced Tuesday that it is extending the mask verification feature used with drivers since mid-May to some riders in the U.S. and Canada by the end of September. The company has required drivers and riders wear masks since May amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We firmly believe that accountability is a two-way street. That’s why we’re expanding the same technology to riders, too,” the company said in a blog post. “If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber.” Uber extended it’s  “No Mask, No Ride” policy indefinitely throughout the U.S. and Canada last month.

– Kelly Tyko

White House orders four-month eviction moratorium

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

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