July 29 coronavirus news

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12:40 p.m. ET, July 30, 2020

FDA could issue Covid-19 vaccine emergency authorization weeks after evidence it works safely

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

The US Food and Drug Administration could issue emergency use authorization (EUA) of a coronavirus vaccine in a matter of weeks, once a vaccine meets efficacy requirements, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which approves vaccines, said Wednesday. 

“We stand ready for using emergency use authorization in an appropriate setting,” Marks said during an online event called the Disease Control and Prevention Summit.

An EUA would green light a coronavirus vaccine for use on an expedited basis.

Marks said the increased attention the agency is giving to coronavirus vaccine trials should speed up the process of granting emergency use authorization to a vaccine that crosses an efficacy boundary in a clinical trial.

“We'd like to hope that when that happens, it will be a matter of weeks before we could actually potentially have something like an emergency use authorization,” said Marks, who added that he hopes the EUA will apply to a relatively broad population. “Emergency use authorization will be for the population for which we have appropriate data."

Marks emphasized that safety will not be sacrificed in the race for a vaccine. 

“The first vaccines that come along may be slightly disadvantaged compared to ones that come along later,” said Marks, who suspects the “trailblazer” vaccines will reveal information that can speed up the process for subsequent vaccine candidates.

Some context: Two potential vaccines started advanced trials this week in the US.

“There are aspirational timelines, and I think that's actually wonderful here, that people have aspirations for moving forward as quickly as possible, but we all know that real life generally does not go as well as our aspirations,” Marks said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this headline failed to specify the FDA would issue an emergency authorization once a coronavirus vaccine meets safety and efficacy requirements.

8:09 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Texas surpasses New York state in total Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Haley Brink

A nurse conducts a coronavirus test at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21 in El Paso.
A nurse conducts a coronavirus test at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21 in El Paso. Cengiz Yar/Getty Images

Texas has now surpassed New York in total coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Johns Hopkins now reports a total of 417,098 total cases across Texas since the start of the pandemic. 

New York state has 413,593 total cases across as of Wednesday.

Florida, Texas, and New York are behind California, which currently leads the country with 475,806 total cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

7:57 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Brazil will allow foreigners to enter by air travel despite record amount of new Covid-19 cases

From Fernanda Wenzel and and Rodrigo Pedroso

The Brazilian government is allowing foreigners to enter the country by air travel, according to a decree issued hours after the country reported a record number of new coronavirus cases and deaths.

The decision will go into effect immediately. 

The decree was signed by four ministers, including Minister of Health Eduardo Pazuello, and was published Wednesday in Brazil's official gazette. 

Foreigners were previously banned from entering Brazil since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in March.

Road and water travel is still banned for the next 30 days, according to the decree.

The latest numbers: Brazil saw new records on coronavirus figures Wednesday. 

In the last 24 hours, 69,075 new cases and 1,595 new deaths were registered by the health ministry. Brazil has reported 2,552,265 Covid-19 cases and 90,0134 deaths since the pandemic began.

7:39 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

It's time to "radically rethink" coronavirus testing in US, leading health expert says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, during a CNN interview earlier in July.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, during a CNN interview earlier in July. Source: CNN

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said "it's time for a paradigm shift" when it comes to Covid-19 testing in the US.

He said the federal government needs to step in and distribute faster antigen tests to power through the backlog of testing and get ahead of outbreaks, according to an opinion piece he penned for Time magazine.

With current Covid-19 testing results delayed by days, and in many cases more than a week, due to a critical shortage in testing supplies, Jha said testing is practically useless in identifying who has the virus.

If health officials can’t quickly determine who has the virus and where it is, they can’t prevent the spread, Jha wrote in the op-ed. 

“It’s time to radically rethink our approach to testing,” Jha said.

The country needs to switch to faster antigen tests that can quickly return test results, even though the results are not as accurate as the slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, he said.

PCR tests require amplification of the virus, a time-consuming process, while antigen tests look for proteins made by the virus.

“By putting a premium on the accuracy of tests, we fail to test a majority of people with Covid-19 and these built in delays actually undermine our ability to timely identify cases which is the key purpose for widespread testing,” Jha wrote in the commentary.

 

7:18 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Early coronavirus spread came from 3 countries, analysis finds

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The earliest global spread of the novel coronavirus came from travel involving mostly three countries: China, Italy and Iran, researchers reported Wednesday.

Three-quarters of cases reported outside of China in January and February were linked to travelers from an affected country, mostly those three, a team at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

“Cases with travel links to China, Italy, or Iran accounted for almost two-thirds of the first reported Covid-19 cases from affected countries,” the CDC’s Dr. Fatimah Dawood and colleagues wrote in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“Our findings suggest that travel from just a few countries with substantial SARS-CoV-2 transmission may have seeded additional outbreaks around the world before the characterization of Covid-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020,” Dawood added in a statement.

The team went through online reports from national ministries of health and other government agency websites, social media feeds, and news releases to tally up all coronavirus cases reported between December 31 and March 10.

Half of the early cases in Africa were linked to travel from Italy, they found. Travelers from Italy also carried the virus in a third of the earliest cases elsewhere in Europe and the Americas.

The analysis also showed that large gatherings were a source of spread.

“Four large clusters in our analysis, and large outbreaks reported elsewhere, have been linked with transmission in faith-based settings, highlighting the need to partner with faith-based organizations when designing and implementing community mitigation efforts,” the CDC’s Dr. Philip Ricks, who worked on the analysis, said in a statement. “Six healthcare-associated clusters were also identified, underscoring the need for strict infection prevention and control practices and monitoring health-care workers for signs of illness.”

While many studies have confirmed that the virus originated in China, genetic analysis shows that a new strain arose in Europe, likely Italy, early in the pandemic and that strain predominated in the US.

 

7:15 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Citations mount in Florida's Broward County in effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

The Broward County Sheriff Department carried out 25 arrests and issued 260 citations as part of an ongoing operation aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19, the department said today.

The arrests and citations were part of an effort to prevent crime as well as crackdown on large gatherings and parties, the department added.

The operation followed several shooting incidents in connection to large party gatherings and the agency decided to take a “very aggressive stance” with “zero tolerance,” Sheriff Gregory Tony told reporters during a virtual news conference.

“This operation has been very pivotal in our ability not only just to break up the crime patterns that we're seeing, but also for helping reduce the spread of Covid-19,” Tony said.
7:24 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

GOP congressman won't isolate after interacting maskless with Rep. Louie Gohmert last week

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11. Patrick Semansky/AP

Last week, Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, was on the House floor interacting at length with Rep. Louie Gohmert who has since tested positive for Covid-19.

Neither men were wearing masks.

Today, Roy was in the House and wearing a mask. He said he isn't going to isolate and wasn't worried about contracting the virus.

"I'm not concerned," Roy said.

Roy says he's not concerned "anymore than the interactions with perfect strangers on an airplane with circulating air. With cotton masks on an airplane, where everybody is pretending like they're doing something noble to try to save people from a virus on a cylinder with 50 people on it flying through the air."

"My question to you all is how are people wearing a cotton mask on an airplane saving you from circulating virus on an airplane?" he added. 

Roy contended he's "happy to wear a mask" and is not skeptical of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but questioned whether a "thin piece of cotton" on someone's face — often with a valve — is enough to prevent the virus from spreading. He argued there are doctors who raise questions about the effectiveness.

"But my question here is we act like wearing this thin piece of cotton, then everybody gets the blessing that they're somehow saving everybody," he said.

6:55 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Georgetown University will begin fall semester online

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Georgetown University.
Georgetown University. Shutterstock

Courses for all undergraduate and graduate students at Georgetown University will begin all online for the fall semester, according to a letter from university President John J. DeGioia.

He cited the acceleration of Covid-19 and increasing restrictions on travel between states for the move to online instruction in his letter Wednesday.

The decision marks a reversal for Georgetown, which earlier this month planned to welcome back about 2,000 undergraduate students to campus.

"This was a very difficult decision — and one that I know will disappoint members of our community who have been eagerly anticipating a return to campus," said DeGioia. "We plan to introduce in-person course elements as soon as health conditions permit."

DeGioia outlined the travel restrictions put in place by Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, which require 14 days of quarantine for travelers from 27 states. 

"These developments indicate a strain on our public health framework," DeGioia said, adding that Maryland, DC, and Virginia have also been designated as "high-risk" areas by other states throughout the country.

7:18 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

NBA commissioner says there's "no question" he'll end the season if virus poses risk to players

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

In this October 8, 2019 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference near Tokyo.
In this October 8, 2019 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference near Tokyo. Jae C. Hong/AP

NBA commissioner Adam Silver today said the leagues' fight to operate in a bubble amid a worsening pandemic in Florida is going well, but warned he is willing to end the season if he believes the virus poses a significant health risk to players or personnel. 

"No question," replied Silver, when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he'd end the season if it was "the right thing to do."

"We have a panel of expert immunologists, infectious disease experts, public health experts and really they would make the decision frankly," he said. "It would not be a business decision."

Silver also outlined the extensive measures the league has put in place inside its so-called bubble in Orlando, Florida, saying there are nightly tests and players are expected to wear masks at all times except when they are on the court playing basketball. He also warned, however, the plan is not bulletproof. 

"We're protected in essence from the high case rate around us but it's not a hermetically sealed bubble of any kind ... [But] so far we've been in there for roughy three weeks and we've had zero cases," he said.

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