July 28 coronavirus news

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2:53 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Russia claims it will soon approve the world's first Covid-19 vaccine, but major questions remain

From CNN's Matthew Chance

CNN has learned that Russia intends to approve the world’s first coronavirus vaccine in less than two weeks, despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness and that the country has cut essential corners in development.

Russian officials tell CNN they are working towards a date of August 10 or earlier for approval of the vaccine, which has been created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. 

“It’s a Sputnik moment,” said Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is financing Russian vaccine research, referring to the successful 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union. 

“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping. It’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he added.  

But Russia has released no scientific data on its vaccine testing and CNN is unable to verify its claimed safety or effectiveness. Critics say the country’s push for a vaccine comes amid political pressure from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force. There are also wide concerns human testing of the vaccine is incomplete. 

Russians scientists say the vaccine has been quick to develop because it is a modified version of a vaccine already created to fight against other diseases. Russia’s defense ministry says that Russian soldiers served as volunteers in human trials. 

In recorded comments provided to CNN, Alexander Ginsburg, the director of the project says he has already injected himself with the vaccine.

Russian officials say the drug is being fast-tracked through registration because of the global pandemic and Russia’s own severe coronavirus problem. Russia now has more than 800,000 confirmed cases. 

“Our scientists focused not on being the first but on protecting people,” said Dmitriev, whose government fund is helping finance Russia’s vaccine program. 

 “Russia marshaled its leadership position in vaccine development and its proven Ebola and MERS vaccine platform to bring the first safe and efficient solution to the world’s biggest problem,” he told CNN previously.

The World Health Organization says there is no approved vaccine for MERS.

3:16 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

New York suspends 45 businesses' liquor licenses for coronavirus violations

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23 in New York City.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23 in New York City. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

About 45 businesses in New York have had their liquor licenses suspended for "egregious violations" of coronavirus regulations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced in a statement on Tuesday, including 12 suspensions over the weekend in New York City.

Over 100 business have been cited for violations – which can carry a fine of up to $10,000, according to the statement. 

A multi-agency task force conducted 644 compliance checks on Monday night and observed 26 additional violations, Cuomo's office says.

"New Yorkers have worked hard to flatten the curve, but the bars and restaurants that ignore public health guidance are disrespecting their sacrifices which have saved lives while allowing us to sustain the reopening of our economy," Cuomo said in the statement.

State Liquor Authority Chair Vincent Bradley said the SLA will continue to suspend licenses of those "who jeopardize lives" by violating the governor's executive order.

"Our communities, as well as the majority of restaurant and bar owners and staff, have endured great sacrifices to bend the curve, and the SLA will not hesitate to take immediate action against those who threaten the progress our state has made," Bradley said in the statement.

2:33 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Ohio fairs will have only junior events to limit Covid-19 spread

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Today Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced his decision to limit all fairs to junior fair events only. This applies to all fairs starting on or after this Friday.

“As we head into really the busiest part of the year of the summer with the county fairs, it’s become increasingly clear that we cannot have a regular safe fair in the Ohio summer, Covid-summer of 2020, that we simply cannot do that,” DeWine said.

Going forward, only livestock competitions and other 4-H and FFA competitions for children and teenagers will be allowed. The state is also prohibiting rides, games and grandstand events in order to limit crowds.

Additionally, fairgrounds will be under a 10 p.m. local time curfew, with the exception of a show that might run later than that, according to DeWine.

2:55 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Florida governor touts "positive developments" in Covid-19 fight as state breaks record for new deaths

From CNN’s Angela Barajas

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks during a news conference as Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Don Soffer Clinical Research Center on July 27 in Miami.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks during a news conference as Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Don Soffer Clinical Research Center on July 27 in Miami. Wilfredo Lee/AP

At a roundtable in Orlando today with medical professionals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has seen "positive development over the last few months, generating improved outcomes in patient recovery."

Earlier today, Florida recorded 186 new deaths, breaking the previous record of 173 deaths on Thursday, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. The statewide total resident death toll is at least 6,117 to date. 

DeSantis said the Covid-19 fatalities reported today were "probably reflective of infections and hospitalizations that have happened in the past, so it's more of a lagging indicator."

DeSantis explained, "whereas, I think the ED visits and some of the hospital censuses is probably more of a leading indicator about where things are trending. And so as you have fewer ED visits, as you have fewer Covid-positive patients in the hospital, we think and I'm pretty sure with what the good work they're doing, you'll see mortality decrease as well." 

A new shipment of 20,000 remdisivir vials is expected to be distributed across Florida hospitals today

Medical professionals at today's roundtable expressed concerned for non-Covid patients in need of treatment for other conditions keeping away from the hospital but ultimately need critical care. 

Hospital officials noted they have seen "a steady, but very consistent decline" in their census among Central Florida facilities. They peaked at 515 patients on July 19th. Today they are accounting for 406 patients. 

 

2:28 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Covid-19 is not known to spread through food or food packaging, FDA commissioner says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn speaks during a press conference at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on July 27 in Miami.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn speaks during a press conference at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on July 27 in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Coronavirus is not known to spread through food or food packaging, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said on Tuesday.

In pre-recorded remarks for the National Food Policy Conference, Hahn said that although there are still a lot of questions about Covid-19, "what we do know is that the virus is not known to be transmitted via food or food packaging. It is much more likely to be spread through person-to-person transmission."

Hahn said that while the US food supply chain "remains strong," the FDA and US Department of Agriculture are monitoring for potential nationwide and regional shortages.

The agency has also provided flexibility on things such as packaging and label requirements to "help clear new paths to the retail market" for food producers who found themselves with a surplus due to schools and restaurants closing, Hahn explained.

2:31 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

This California county added nearly 1,900 new cases

From CNN's Stella Chan

Kern County, situated in California’s Central Valley, reported 12 new deaths and 1,893 new coronavirus cases Tuesday morning, primarily due to delayed results from labs, public health director Matthew Constantine said this morning. 

“We’ve actually been told that some labs are holding asymptomatic nonessential worker samples until the turnaround time improves from health care workers and first responders, with an indefinite amount of time. So you can imagine contact tracing on something that is 19 days old is really difficult,” said Constantine at a Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting. He said contact tracing is hampered by missing or wrong information as well as the lab delays. 

Constantine said current modeling shows a slow increase in cases over time until a February peak which diminishes until next summer. He added that while intensive care units are nearing capacity, they are more limited by nurse staffing. 

“We’re actually talking about meeting with all the Central Valley counties that were identified by the governor and asking them what are we doing as a group because we all link together,” he said. 

More context: Gov. Gavin Newsom brought focus to the Central Valley on Monday and its eight counties as a state hotspot. The state is committing $52 million to the area comprising Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties.

“The rising community transmission rates we are seeing, particularly among Latinos in the Central Valley, are concerning. This is alarming and we are taking action,” said Newsom.

The money will be used to improve isolation protocols, testing protocols, and to enhance health care workers to provide more support and personnel. 

The county health department said last week it expects a large increase in positive reporting for the next few weeks, if not longer.

Kern County has a total of 16,896 cases and 135 deaths.

2:24 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Duke limiting on-campus housing in the fall to freshmen and sophomores 

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

The entrance to the main Duke University campus is shown in Durham, North Carolina, on January 28, 2019.
The entrance to the main Duke University campus is shown in Durham, North Carolina, on January 28, 2019. Gerry Broome/AP

Duke University is scaling down its plans for welcoming back students on campus for the fall semester due to the growing number of Covid-19 cases in both North Carolina and the country, according to a note sent Sunday to the campus community.

President Vincent E. Price said the decision was made to reduce the on-campus residential population by about 30% to provide a safe environment for students and staff. This marks a reversal of an earlier plan put out in June that would have welcomed back students from all years back to campus.

"To achieve the necessary reduced density, Duke campus housing for the Fall 2020 semester will now be limited to first-year students, sophomores, and those students who have specific needs for campus housing because of their personal or academic situations," Price said.

Juniors and seniors will be given the option of remote-learning for the fall, and will have first priority for campus housing in the spring, the note said.

According to the note, Duke's plans for the spring semester are tentative "and will be based on the continuing course of the pandemic, medical guidance, prevailing local and national conditions, and our ability to conduct a safe and successful fall semester."

1:50 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Moderna's chief medical officer expects vaccine candidate to be effective for those at risk of serious illness

From CNN Health’s Wes Bruer

Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of Moderna, says he expects the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate to be effective in those at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus. 

“We have an expectation that, elderly people and people with comorbidities, that their immune system is still going to respond to the vaccination,” Zaks said during the Disease Control and Prevention Summit on Tuesday.

Though he said the data will ultimately prove whether it is effective for everyone, he said “there's another more subtle explanation, which is, the more likely you are to get sick, the higher benefit typically people see from vaccines.” 

Zaks said that a quarter of the volunteers in the Moderna Phase 3 trial, which began Monday morning, are expected be elderly or those with significant underlying illnesses such as diabetes “because that's the population we need to know we're protecting, but that's also the population where the event rate of significant disease is going to be likely higher, and so that's the population where actually I expect to see if anything is greater benefit.”

 

1:55 p.m. ET, July 28, 2020

Operation Warp Speed accelerating every part of vaccine development, except safety and efficacy, adviser says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Moncef Slaoui listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15 in Washington, DC.
Moncef Slaoui listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The US government's Operation Warp Speed is accelerating every aspect of vaccine development apart from the two most important: safety and efficacy, according to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the operation's chief adviser, who explained how the program worked to develop, manufacture and distribute a successful vaccine, and to do all that quickly. 

Speaking during a prerecorded keynote interview for the Disease Prevention and Control Summit on Tuesday, Slaoui said that they are accelerating the process by “taking financial risk, running things in parallel and taking platform technologies that are predictable in their behavior, but not curtailing the understanding of safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”

Companies are modifying vaccine technologies that been tested already in people so they can move more quickly through the testing process, for instance. Plus, it is important to be able to speedily manufacture any new vaccine.

“We’re selecting very carefully and thoughtfully vaccine technologies that are very likely to work, and work for us, because we know them somewhat,” Slaoui said. 

Secondly, the companies are “accelerating every single aspect of the development, except the two most critical ones, in terms of human safety and efficacy,” Slaoui said. 

All of this is being done for a portfolio of vaccines, Slaoui said, “because we want at least one of them to work. And, ideally, all of them to work.”