July 22 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Steve George, Tara John, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 3:10 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020
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11:25 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

"We are going as quickly as we possibly can" on vaccine development, Fauci says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

“We are going as quickly as we possibly can” on vaccine development, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a webinar with the TB Alliance on Wednesday.

“If you want to do it correctly, with safety, and real attention to safety and efficacy, I think we are going as fast as we possibly can,” Fauci said.

He said that the speed of the result of vaccine trials will always be determined by the level of infectious activity that is present.

“In other words, if you can get that vaccine trial going in the middle of a lot of viral activity, such as we are experiencing now in the United States, with 50 to 60 to 70 thousand new infections per day, that’s bad news for public health, but that certainly facilitates the development and the proving of the efficacy of a vaccine,” he said.

“So I think, Betsy, we are going as quickly as we possibly can now,” without jumping over important steps Fauci said.

Click here to catch up on the latest on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Watch:

11:55 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

White House adviser says some states reopened "a little too quickly"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway attempted to shift blame for surging coronavirus cases to the nation’s governors, claiming that Trump’s somber message and shift in tone was “not a change,” but instead, a reaction to some states that reopened too quickly. 

“It’s not a change. The briefings stopped, but his work hasn’t stopped,” Conway said in response to a question from CNN.

Remember: Trump warned the coronavirus pandemic is likely to worsen before improving, during the first outing of his revived daily briefings on Tuesday. His tone was relatively sober and offered more realistic projections.

“I think what he added yesterday is him seeing that some of these states moved through our gated criteria, moved through some of our phases, and they opened up some of the industries a little too quickly like bars,” Conway said today of Trump's briefing.

Governors, she said, “wanted complete latitude” over reopening, but, Trump “also sees that if he provides information to the public as the President, he's also giving people guidance as to how to do our part to help flatten that curve and to help some of these cities.” 

She pointed to Georgia as an example of where the President pushed back on reopening phases.

Amid criticism of the President’s Tuesday remarks that the administration is “developing a strategy,” she said, “We do have a strategy,” but suggested that Trump was talking specifically about vaccine development and therapeutics and sheltering vulnerable populations.  

Conway said Trump was briefed on the testing matter by Dr. Deborah Birx and Jared Kushner and his team, but acknowledged, “We all think it’s gotta be better,” pointing to many Americans waiting days for results. 

She was also asked about the lack of public health officials at yesterday’s briefing and noted that they are frequently on television or on Facebook or, in a nod to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “throwing pitches.”

Trump and Fauci, she said, “don’t have a piece of tissue paper between him,” before pivoting to criticize Joe Biden. 

11:09 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

"I don't really see us eradicating" Covid-19, Fauci says

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday the world may not eradicate Covid-19 – but we may be able to control it with a vaccine and good public health measures. 

Speaking during a webcast hosted by the TB Alliance, Fauci explained that due to Covid-19's ability to transmit from human to human, he doesn't think it will disappear like SARS did.

"I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don't really see us eradicating it. I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine — which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get. I think when you put all three of those together, I think we will get very good control of this," Fauci said.

"Whether it's this year or next year, I'm not certain ... but I think we will bring it down to such a low level that we will not be in the position that we're in right now for an extended period of time," Fauci added.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization also said it is unlikely that the world can eradicate or eliminate Covid-19 any time soon.

Watch:

10:35 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

ICU beds in Florida's Broward County are at 90% capacity, mayor says

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Broward County, Florida, Mayor Dale Holness said during a news conference today that ICU beds in the county are 90% filled.

Holness said based on this data the county is taking extra enforcement measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Additional measures include a countywide curfew, mask enforcement, and the closure of businesses who are not in compliance with county mandates, Holness said.  

Broward County has recorded at least 42,121 cases of Covid-19 with 2,839 hospitalizations according to the Florida Department of Health. 

10:14 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

FEMA chief says agency has "a ways to go" on PPE, but current supply is "healthy"

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor testifies at a hearing in Washington on June 9.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor testifies at a hearing in Washington on June 9. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor told a House Homeland Security Committee that personal protective equipment distribution in the US is “healthy” and that states have between 60 and 90 days of PPE stockpiled, but that the agency has “a ways to go” before it is sure there is enough. 

“I’ve talked to every single state director, emergency manager director in the country and got a feel for what they have in stock in the states, its actually pretty positive, 60, 90, 120 days states have stockpiled today,” Gaynor said. 

"Commercial medical grade PPE distribution is very healthy today," he added. But he told the committee that there may be “micro shortages” across the country. 

“Those frontline workers that have a shortage should work with their local emergency management director, their local public health director," he said.

Gaynor noted that the US is “in competition still for PPE around the globe,” and that “We have a ways to go on making sure we have enough PPE. This is not as simple as throwing a light switch and we magically make more. We still have many months to go before we start making enough” to meet the demand.

10:00 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

47% of Covid-19 deaths in Florida linked to long-term care facilities

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Denise Royal

Medical personnel work at a mobile Covid-19 testing site in Miami Beach, Florida, on July 17.
Medical personnel work at a mobile Covid-19 testing site in Miami Beach, Florida, on July 17. Jayme Gershen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In Florida, 47% of all Covid-19 deaths are linked to long-term care facilities, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. 

This comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the deployment of incident management teams to all long-term care facilities across the state. 

To date, at least 2,445 out of the 5,206 total reported deaths in Florida are associated to long-term care facilities.

10:08 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

US commercial labs won't be able to cope with a testing surge during flu season, Quest executive warns

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

People in cars line up in Pittsburgh on March 16 for drive-by Covid-19 testing. The testing is done in partnership with Quest Diagnostics.
People in cars line up in Pittsburgh on March 16 for drive-by Covid-19 testing. The testing is done in partnership with Quest Diagnostics. Gene J. Puskar/AP

US labs won't be able to cope with a surge in demand for Covid-19 tests in the fall during flu season, and time lags to process the tests will likely worsen, James Davis, an executive vice president at Quest Diagnostics, told the Financial Times.

In an interview published Tuesday, Davis said, “There is no way that PCR capacity is going to double in the next three months,” referring to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – the most common and most accurate tests for determining whether someone is currently infected with coronavirus.

Where testing stands now: Quest said in a Monday news release Covid-19 test results are lagging by up to two weeks in some cases, as the company works to handle the increased load from surging cases. The average turnaround time for test results in priority patients is now more than two days compared to one day a week ago, the lab said.

The shortage of chemical reagents and testing machines is what is keeping Quest from being able to expand its testing capacities, Davis told FT. The Quest executive called for academic institutions and the industry to find other solutions to resolve testing problems. He added that pool testing and a blood test that detects a type of antibody early in the infection could help.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Quest to conduct pool testing for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, LabCorp, another prominent diagnostic company, said in a news release Sunday that it is processing 165,000 coronavirus tests per day and is delivering results between 3-5 days from specimen pickup.

Speaking on CNBC's Closing Bell Tuesday, LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter said he is also concerned about the fall, when students go back to school, and called on states to do everything they can to control the spread of the virus.

“We’re continuing to increase capacity every single week over week,” Schechter told CNBC. “The problem is that the number of tests being asked to be performed each week is growing faster than the capacity that we can build.”

9:46 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Commercial scale vaccines for Covid-19 are already being made, HHS secretary says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

The commercial scale vaccine for Covid-19 is already being made and the supply chain is not a concern, according to US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“This is what’s really unprecedented with President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. We are literally making the commercial scale vaccine now, as we’re going through the clinical trials,” Azar said Wednesday on CNBC. “We’re doing that at-risk using the full power of the US government and our financial resources to do that. No one’s ever done this before.”

Azar said he is not concerned with the supply chain when it comes to manufacturing vaccines for Covid-19.

“We’re not concerned about the supply chain and it’s domestic manufacturing across the portfolio that we’re investing in,” he said.

 Azar also said that they have sufficient supplies for the vaccines once they are approved.

 “We – right at the beginning of Operation Warp Speed – worked to lock down fill-finish capacity, as well as syringes, needles and glassware, so we’ve secured that to be able to ensure that we’ll be able to vaccinate the American people once we get vaccines that are demonstrated safe and effective to the FDA’s gold standard of approval or authorization,” he said.

The partnership with the US Department of Defense is critical, Azar said, because “they bring just incredible logistics and procurement capabilities to the table for this historic effort.”

9:45 a.m. ET, July 22, 2020

1,000 public health figures ask Congress to expand vote-by-mail this fall

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Liberal groups continue to press Congress to give more US election funds to states in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.  

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a letter on Wednesday from 1,000 “public health experts” who called on Congress to approve $4 billion for states to expand vote-by-mail and take other health precautions in November in case of another coronavirus outbreak.

The letter was signed by doctors, professors, researchers, nurses, and other health professionals. 

The letter reads:

“In order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and protect the public health at the same time, it is incumbent on our leaders to prepare for a presidential election by mail, in which ballots are sent to all registered voters, to allow them to vote from home and ensure their health and safety in the event of a new outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.”

Some background: Democratic and Republican officials across the county have dramatically expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic, and Congress approved $400 million in March for states to use on elections. But experts say billions of dollars are needed for states to handle the surge of mail-in ballots and to deal with other pandemic-related challenges this November.