The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

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9:33 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

This expert is optimistic an "effective" coronavirus treatment will be available within 3 months

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, wears a protective mask during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on July 2.
Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, wears a protective mask during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on July 2. Saul Loeb/AFP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, said he’s “optimistic” an “effective treatment” for Covid-19 will be available in two to three months.

“There is a lot of progress in therapeutics,” Collins told CNN Friday. “We have two proven drugs -- remdesivir and dexamethasone, both proven in rigorous randomized control trials, which is the only way you really know if something works.”

What are they: Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that has been shown to reduce the amount of time people are ill with Covid-19. Dexamethasone is a steroid that may reduce the rate of deaths among seriously ill patients.

“And we're in the process of starting, just in the very near future, clinical trials on other compounds -- for instance, anticoagulants,” Collins said.
“We know that people who get very sick, there's something that happens, the blood clots start forming and we could probably help them a lot if we tried to block that. And, maybe most exciting for therapeutics in my view, the use of monoclonal antibodies derived from people who have survived, who have made these antibodies that help them recover, and those can now be turned into products and those trials will get started very soon as well.
“I'm optimistic, without being able to be confident completely, that we'll have something maybe as soon as two or three months from now, in terms of an effective treatment.”

What about a vaccine? Collins is also optimistic about the development of a successful vaccine by the end of the year. 

“The first vaccine trial, as you probably heard, building on very successful preliminary data, will get started around about July 27 all across the southern part of the country where the virus is spreading and we're going to find out whether it works by asking 30,000 people to join," he said.

Collins says if one of the vaccine trials is successful, there will be “tens of millions of doses ready to go by the end of 2020, the end of the calendar year.”

“That’s never been done before at this speed. We’re not compromising on the safety. We'll be sure that they work, but if it does, we'll be ready to go … as soon as possible,” he added.

But Collins said he’s worried about what he sees as some Americans’ skepticism of vaccines, adding that it’s important for everyone to get the vaccine when it’s available.

“One of the things I'm worried about is there's a lot of skepticism in America about the vaccine and something like 25% of people say I'm not sure I would take that vaccine,” he said. 
“It'll be really critical to do that if we're going to develop the level of herd immunity across the country so that this doesn't come roaring back the next time, the next fall, the next summer. We won’t know."
9:34 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

How Dr. Deborah Birx's political skills made her the most powerful person on the coronavirus task force

From CNN's Vivian Salama, Pamela Brown, Kristen Holmes and Kate Bennett

As the relationship between Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Donald Trump publicly disintegrated over the past few months, Dr. Deborah Birx -- Fauci's former mentee -- solidified her standing inside the White House, to the point that sources familiar with the situation say she has essentially taken charge of running the task force day to day. 

Birx spearheaded the administration's recent decision to have hospitals send information on coronavirus patients to a new federal database, a source involved with the process told CNN, bypassing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency Birx has often complained about to colleagues. She has also been a forceful advocate for the President's push to reopen schools, forming a working group to create new guidance after the President criticized the CDC's initial recommendations, calling them "too tough" and "expensive." 

Birx's forward-facing role as a public health expert masks an ambitious political chameleon, whose staying power in numerous administrations during her three decades in government has come at no small cost to her management style and her notoriety among peers, according to interviews with more than a dozen people who have worked with her, including current and former administration officials.

Birx's rise inside the Trump administration has surprised many of her former colleagues, given her past as an Obama appointee. It's also tainted her reputation among some public health experts who view her as having sold out to a chaotic, poorly managed response that has put Trump's political fortunes over the health and safety of Americans. 

"Her reputation is finished," a former State Department colleague said, mentioning specifically the moment in April when, with Birx sitting nearby, Trump talked about using disinfectant as a cure for the coronavirus. "It's one thing to be disagreeing on policy, but you're a medical doctor and you're going to sit in room with this President who says you can inject yourself with bleach?"
"I feel she has signed her fate in blood with these guys," the person added. "She's a Trumper now."

Birx did not respond to requests for comment from CNN about her relationship with the President or her motivations for continuing in the role as he continues to push back against the advice of her medical counterparts.

Read the full story:

7:51 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Georgia reports 28 new coronavirus-related deaths

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher 

The Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) reported 3,908 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the state on Friday.

The GDPH also reported 28 new coronavirus-related deaths today, as well as 301 additional hospitalizations. 

Georgia has reported a total of 135,183 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3,132 Covid-19-related deaths. 

7:26 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

"We’re certainly not winning" the battle against coronavirus, NIH director says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN that the US is "certainly not winning the battle against coronavirus" but could get it under control.

“What happened was we had the terrible outbreaks in March and April, particularly in New York. And a lot of hard work got done, a lot of people were sent home to shelter in place and people learned about social distancing and wearing masks,” Collins said. “There were these phases that were supposed to be followed with various benchmarks along the way and unfortunately some of those just got skipped."

The United States is setting records with daily new cases of coronavirus and inching closer to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s prediction of 100,000 Covid-19 cases a day.

“We shouldn't feel hopeless here and we know what works,” Collins said. “We know that if we could, as Americans, agree to take those recommendations to heart, that we would keep our masks on when we're outside, we'd stay more than six feet apart from each other and we would avoid indoor gatherings where there's a big chance of spread, we wash our hands and all that, then we could implement what we know has worked." 

7:15 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Fauci reiterates that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by this winter

From CNN's Andrea Kane

From PBS
From PBS

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert is “cautiously optimistic” that the country could have a vaccine against the new coronavirus by the end of 2020 or the start of 2021. 

“When you're dealing with vaccines, you can't guarantee things,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told PBS Newshour today. “But you can say, based on the science and the way things are going, that I'm cautiously optimistic that we can meet that projection that we made —  that I made — months ago. And that is, I���ll repeat it, that by the end of this calendar year and the beginning of 2021."

Fauci told PBS that the vaccine won’t be available to hundreds of millions of people "on day one,” but it will be available quickly because production of doses will have started for the major vaccine candidates before the trials show they work.

7:34 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

NIH director says he would refuse to fire Fauci if asked

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Anthony Fauci is a “national treasure” and more knowledgeable about infectious diseases than anybody on the planet, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health and Fauci’s boss, told CNN on Friday.

Collins’ comments come as members of the Trump administration have spent the past week trying to discredit Fauci, who is director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“There is nobody I know on this planet who is more knowledgeable about infectious disease and has had more experience, over 50 years of his career and for 35 of which leading infectious disease for NIH, nobody comes close,” Collins said. “He’s a national treasure.”

Collins said he has no idea why the administration has tried to discredit Fauci.

“I'm not sure I can answer that question, given how important the information he is sharing,” Collins added.

Collins said he’s glad the President said this week that he has a good relationship with the scientist and hopes “we can continue to get things back on an even keel.”

Some context: Trump recently retweeted a comment with the hashtag “Fire Fauci,” causing worry and concern that the administration might attempt to terminate Fauci, who, as a federal civil servant, cannot be fired by the President.

Collins had said before he would not fire Fauci if ordered to do so and he reiterated that sentiment again today on CNN.

“I could not imagine doing something of that sort, no,” Collins said. “I really hope that this kind of circumstance never comes to pass and I'm not sure that it’s a helpful conversation to have, but I certainly would defend the contributions and the remarkable character of Tony Fauci.”

Watch here:

6:30 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Brazil reports nearly 35,000 new coronavirus cases

From Márcia Reverdosa and Taylor Barnes

Transport professionals from Sorocaba, Brazil being tested for Covid-19 on Wednesday, July 15.
Transport professionals from Sorocaba, Brazil being tested for Covid-19 on Wednesday, July 15. Cadu Rolim/Fotoarena/Sipa USA/AP Images

Brazil’s health ministry reported 34,177 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the country’s total to 2,046,328.

The health ministry also reported 1,163 new Covid-19 deaths, raising the country’s death toll to 77,851.

The new cases come as the virus migrates to regions in Brazil, particularly its south and interior, which had avoided the worst of the pandemic earlier in the outbreak.

6:18 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Miami Beach announces evening curfew for entertainment district

From CNN’s Andy Rose

An employee at the Clevelander bar and restaurant on Ocean Drive stacks chairs after they shut down due to public health concerns caused by COVID-19 on Monday, July 13, 2020, in Miami Beach, Florida.
An employee at the Clevelander bar and restaurant on Ocean Drive stacks chairs after they shut down due to public health concerns caused by COVID-19 on Monday, July 13, 2020, in Miami Beach, Florida. Lynne Sladky/AP

Nighttime partying at many Miami Beach hot spots is being suspended due to coronavirus.

The city has announced a curfew beginning Saturday for most of its entertainment district, running each night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET.

Businesses in the district will be required to close to all in-person customers by 8 p.m. each night, although restaurants can continue to offer delivery services. Curfew in the rest of the city begins at 10 p.m.

The order will be in effect for at least a week. In addition to the curfew, a large portion of Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive is being closed to vehicle traffic throughout the day, with only pedestrians allowed.

6:06 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Peru reports nearly 4,000 new coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Taylor Barnes

Peru’s health ministry reported 3,951 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing the country’s total to 345,537.

The ministry also reported 184 new Covid-19 deaths, raising the country’s death toll to 12,799.

Peru’s outbreak is the second-worst in Latin America and the Caribbean, following that of Brazil.