The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1, a timeline that has raised concern among public health experts about an “October surprise" — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.
In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp. The company has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration has been "very explicit" that it will make its decision based on the data, not politics. The results from vaccine trials will also be reviewed by independent experts on the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, CNBC reported.
“We can have some confidence and some faith in what the FDA is saying," Fauci said.
His comments come as Pfizer's CEO said Thursday that it could have results from its phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trial by the end of October. Pfizer's vaccine is one of three efforts being funded by the United States.
The U.S. now has more than 6.1 million virus cases and over 188,000 COVID-related deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.
The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths
The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:
Fauci Warns Illinois, 6 Other States ‘at Risk for Surging' of Coronavirus Over Labor Day Weekend
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has reportedly issued a warning to residents of Illinois and six other states to be particularly vigilant over Labor Day weekend in order to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases.
"There are several states that are at risk for surging, namely North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois,” Fauci said in an interview with Bloomberg this week.
"Those states are starting to see an increase in the percent positive of their testing; that is generally predictive that there’s going to be a problem," he added, according to Bloomberg.
Studies Suggest COVID Can Cause Heart Damage Even After Recovery
A growing number of studies suggest many COVID-19 survivors experience some type of heart damage, even if they didn't have underlying heart disease and weren't sick enough to be hospitalized. This latest twist has health care experts worried about a potential increase in heart failure.
"Very early into the pandemic, it was clear that many patients who were hospitalized were showing evidence of cardiac injury," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, chief of the division of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "More recently, there is recognition that even some of those COVID-19 patients not hospitalized are experiencing cardiac injury. This raises concerns that there may be individuals who get through the initial infection, but are left with cardiovascular damage and complications."
Fonarow said these complications, such as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, could lead to an increase in heart failure down the road. He's also concerned about people with pre-existing heart disease who don't have COVID-19 but who avoid coming into the hospital with heart problems out of fear of being exposed to the virus.
"The late consequences of that could be an increase in heart failure," he said. "It is much safer if having symptoms that could represent heart attack or stroke, to come into the emergency department than to try to ride it out at home."
Nearly one-fourth of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have been diagnosed with cardiovascular complications, which have been shown to contribute to roughly 40% of all COVID-19-related deaths.
But two recent studies suggest heart damage among those infected may be more widespread. In JAMA Cardiology, an analysis of autopsies done on 39 COVID-19 patients identified infections in the hearts of patients who had not been diagnosed with cardiovascular issues while they were ill.
Fauci: Coronavirus Vaccine Won't Be Distributed Unless It's Based on 'Hard Data'
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that he believes federal regulators will allow a coronavirus vaccine to be distributed this fall only if it’s based on science and “hard data.”
Fauci made the assessment after the disclosure of an Aug. 27 letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that told states to prepare for the “large-scale” distribution of a vaccine by Nov. 1, two days before the presidential election.
Fauci had previously said he believed a vaccine would likely be developed by the end of the year.
Asked Thursday if he worried the process had become too political, Fauci said there might be a perception of outside influence, “but I don't see that as being something that's going to be practically playing out,” he said.
Regulators at the Food and Drug Administration and experts at the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board are “very, very committed to making sure that science prevails and not politics,” he said.
Tokyo Olympic CEO: Vaccine Not Requirement to Hold Games
A vaccine is not a requirement for holding next year's postponed Olympics and Paralympics, the CEO of the Tokyo Games said Friday.
Toshiro Muto was speaking after a task force meeting with government officials, disease experts and Japanese Olympic officials. It’s the first of several high-level meetings dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as Tokyo tries to figure out if it can hold the games.
“It's not a prerequisite,” Muto said of the vaccine. “The International Olympic Committee and the WHO already discussed this matter. It’s not a condition for the delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Games. A vaccine is not a requirement. Of course, if vaccines are developed we’ll really appreciate it. And for Tokyo 2020 this will be great. But if you ask me if that’s a condition — it's not a condition.”
The task force meetings over the next several months will deal with issue like getting athletes into Japan, COVID-19 testing, measures to keep venues safe, anti-virus measures at the Athletes' Village, immigration issues and the status of fans.
A statement outlining the schedule of five meetings said an “interim summary is planned by approximately the end of 2020.”
“As far a spectators, we don't have any conditions yet, but we'd like to avoid no spectators," Muto said.
Pfizer May Have Vaccine Results in October, CEO Says
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday the company could have results from its phase 3 trial as early as October, CNBC reported.
“We expect by the end of October, we should have enough … to say whether the product works or not,” he said.
The company has already enrolled 23,000 volunteers for its late-stage trial, which began in late July. It hopes to up that number to 30,000 participants between ages 18 and 85 across 120 sites across the globe.
Per Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. is paying Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine if it proves safe and effective, CNBC reported.
“We will not cut corners,” Bourla said. “Our phase three study will be the only one that will allow us to say if we have a safe and effective vaccine. If we don’t have results from a phase three study, we would not submit.”
Jobless Claims Fall Below 1 Million
The number of laid-off Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a still-elevated 881,000 last week, evidence that the viral pandemic keeps forcing many businesses to slash jobs.
The latest figures suggest that nearly six months after the eruption of the coronavirus, the economy is still struggling to sustain a recovery and rebuild a job market that was devastated by the recession. In the previous week, more than 1 million had sought jobless aid.
All told, the government said that 13.3 million people are continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 1.7 million a year ago.
Teen Accused in Cyber Attack on Miami Schools
Florida authorities say a 16-year-old student has been arrested for orchestrating a series of network outages and cyberattacks during the first week of school in the state’s largest district.
The Miami-Dade Schools Police say he’s a student at South Miami Senior High School. They say there could be others involved in cyberattacks that have plagued the Miami-Dade schools all week.
He is charged with computer use in an attempt to defraud, a felony, and misdemeanor interference with an educational institution.
Authorities say the student told police he had conducted eight attacks on the school computer system “designed to overwhelm district networks.”
Tyson Foods to Open Medical Clinics at Some Plants
Tyson Foods says it is planning to open medical clinics at several of its U.S. plants to improve the health of its workers and better protect them from the coronavirus.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20% of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., says its plan to open the clinics was in the works before the coronavirus struck this year, but that they will undoubtedly help the company respond to the pandemic.
Tyson joins a long list of companies that have clinics on or near their worksites.
At least 17,700 meatpacking workers in the U.S. have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus and 115 have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers said.
This summer, the families of three Tyson workers in Iowa who died from COVID-19 sued the company, saying it knowingly put employees at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
James Madison, San Diego State University Latest to Switch to Virtual Learning
Two large state schools announced plans to switch to remote learning after reporting several COVID-19 cases Wednesday.
James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, will move primarily to online learning after some 500 students were diagnosed with COVID-19 less than two weeks after students returned to campus, NBC Washington reports.
JMU, a public university, has about 20,000 undergraduate students. The university's president asked that all students return home by the time online classes begin Monday, unless they get an exemption to stay.
On the West Coast, San Diego State University paused all in-person instruction Wednesday as a county health official said 64 SDSU students reported confirmed or probable cases since the semester began last Monday, NBC San Diego reports.
Not surprisingly, SDSU, which has some 30,000 undergraduates, said on Wednesday that all classes will be online for the next month, and athletics will be put on hold for two weeks. However, students will not be asked to move out.
LA City Council Declares Fiscal Emergency, Approves Furlough and Buyout Plans
The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to declare a fiscal emergency and approved plans to furlough more than 15,000 city employees and carry out early retirement buyouts for another 1,280 employees to try to recoup as much anticipated lost revenue as possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Revenues for the 2021 fiscal year are currently difficult to forecast due to the pandemic, with the City Administrative Officer's staff reporting they could come in anywhere between $45 million to $409 million below the estimate of $6.68 billion.
City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn estimated that Los Angeles has already lost more than $50 million while noting that revenue projections were based on the economy reopening more fully by July than has occurred.