A version of this story appeared in the September 3 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
A debate is raging as to whether the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should give emergency use authorization to a coronavirus vaccine before it has been formally approved.
There has been pressure from the White House on government agencies to approve new treatments and even a vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete – which could provide a short-term political boost for President Donald Trump.
Yet public health experts say a fast-tracked vaccine could lead to safety and quality issues, or even inflame anti-vaccination sentiment. “We haven’t done this before for a vaccine, or at least a major vaccine released to a large segment of the population,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said on Twitter yesterday.
There is also an issue of public trust, which has been falling, Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former CDC disease detective, told CNN. “My concern is that dropping credibility in science and scientists, in the FDA, which already this year has fast-tracked two emergency use authorizations and very questionably,” she said
Social media was awash with speculation yesterday after it was reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told US public health officials to prepare to distribute a potential vaccine as soon as late October.
But do not read it as the CDC jumping the gun on the vaccine, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of National Institutes of Health, told CNN. It’s just in case one of the vaccines now being tested shows fast, clear evidence it is protecting people, he added. Pandemic planning exercises have for years included recommendations that the federal government ready a distribution network while scientists work on a vaccine, Jamie Gumbrecht and Maggie Fox write.
In better news, hopes of finding a cheap and widely available drug to treat Covid-19 patients were buoyed yesterday when research found that a common steroid reduced deaths among the critically ill. Following publication of the new research, the World Health Organization recommended the use of corticosteroids in patients with severe and critical cases.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Should I send my children back to school?
A: The fact that other causes are referenced doesn’t mean that the patients did not die from coronavirus, Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at CDC, said in a statement.
“In 94% of deaths with Covid-19, other conditions are listed in addition to Covid-19. These causes may include chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension,” Anderson said. “In 6% of the death certificates that list Covid-19, only one cause or condition is listed.”
“The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s death. In 92% of all deaths that mention Covid-19, Covid-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death,” the statement added.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Israel sees record rise
Israel set a new daily record of coronavirus cases, with 3,074 new cases diagnosed on Wednesday, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. The previous record, set one day earlier, was 2,183 new cases in 24 hours.
The spike comes two days after schools reopened and two weeks before the high holidays in Israel, when Jews congregate in synagogues and homes to observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Though too recent to be a factor in the surge in cases, the start of the school year has the potential to exacerbate an already serious situation.
Virus cases almost back to March levels in Europe
Coronavirus cases in Europe are “almost back” to March levels, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Andrea Ammon, said Wednesday.
Young people were initially seen as driving the less-deadly surge in Europe at the beginning of August, but Ammon said infections now also appear to be affecting older populations. He added that the incidence rate in EU and EEA (European Economic Area) countries and the UK is now 46 per 100,000 people, when it was once below 15.
And when it comes to children returning to class, the evidence was inconclusive as to “whether it’s useful or not from a transmission point of view to close schools,” Ammon added.
Biden lays school crisis at Trump’s door
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden blamed President Trump for schools’ struggles to open amid the pandemic, saying that if Trump had done his job, “American schools would be open and they’d be open safely.”
“Instead, American families across this country are paying the price for his failure and his administration’s failure,” Biden said in a Wednesday speech in Delaware. Opening schools is “a national emergency,” he added. “But President Trump still doesn’t have any real plan to open our schools safely,” he added, accusing Trump of offering “nothing but failure and delusion.”
Biden is pushing a plan for schools in an effort to draw contrasts with Trump’s handling of the pandemic and its effect on families. It comes as parents and students are finding themselves in the same position as when classrooms closed at the start of the pandemic – now two-thirds of the nation’s largest school districts are starting online.
More than half a million health workers in the Americas have contracted the virus
Almost 570,000 health care workers in the Americas have contracted coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said during its weekly briefing, adding that health care workers in the US and Mexico made up one-in-seven of all cases reported in those countries.
The US and Brazil, the two worst-hit countries in the world, have seen health workers become infected at an alarming rate. PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said that more than 140,000 workers in the US healthcare sector had become sick with Covid-19 – of whom 660 had died. In Brazil, almost 270,000 workers in health care had tested positive.
Etienne said the Americas region now has 13.5 million Covid-19 cases and around 469,000 deaths from the virus. She noted that after months of unrelenting spread, cases were stabilizing in the US and Brazil.
Officials plead to Americans to stay safe over Labor Day weekend
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made a “plea” to Americans to continue virus mitigation efforts as Labor Day weekend approaches.
Covid-19 surges were recorded after Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July, and health professionals worry that virus fatigue and lower infection numbers will lead Americans to keep their guard down. Birthday and graduation parties, weekend get-togethers, backyard barbecues, family reunions and weddings can all quickly turn into clusters of infection.
“Despite the fact that Covid-19 is now the third leading cause of death, people still doubt that we have a problem. They may think they are out of danger and behave as they did around Memorial Day,” epidemiologist Ali Mokdad told CNN.
ON OUR RADAR
- Dwayne Johnson said he’s won a fight against Covid-19, but is warning others that the virus was a formidable foe even for him.
- The red carpet at this year’s Venice Film Festival is proving to be unlike any before it, with celebrities arriving on the island of Lido in face masks and gowns to a muted reception.
- Brazilian soccer star Neymar is one of three Paris Saint-Germain players to have contracted coronavirus, according to multiple reports.
- China resumed international commercial flights to and from Beijing on Thursday from select countries.
- First toilet paper, then yeast. Now laptops are hard to find in the pandemic.
- Early stage clinical trial results show the Covid-19 vaccine candidate made by Novavax is safe and elicits an immune response, according to a study published Wednesday.
If you have a family gathering planned or a wedding to attend, here are the safest ways to congregate according to experts:
- First, get a test for Covid-19 to make sure you are negative.
- Then isolate yourself for two weeks, to make sure you stay free of the virus.
- Gather with other families or family members outside, not inside.
- Make plans to remain outside if there is bad weather – or get in your car and go home.
- Wear masks at all times when not eating.
- Keep the family units separated by at least six feet or more.
- Make sure tables, food, condiments, eating utensils and trash containers are also separated.
- Have each family bring their own food.
- If food is shared, separate it in advance into small containers for individual servings.
“One of the things … we always do, is we respond when there is a need. So it doesn’t matter that it’s a resource-rich country or it’s a country that has poor access to health, we intervene.” – Karin Huster, a nurse for Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
Doctors Without Borders has built a reputation parachuting into war zones and natural disasters. Now they are bringing their expertise to American nursing homes hit hard by the pandemic. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks with them about it. Listen Now.