Analysis: Trump again minimizes the pandemic as officials warn of a fall surge
Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson
A new clash between Donald Trump's political goals and his duties to public health threatens to deprive America of presidential leadership in the critical weeks that will decide if a second wave of Covid-19 swamps the country this winter.
As the US death toll from the pandemic passed 200,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday that he was worried that the high base level of infections could make it difficult to keep the virus under control in the colder months.
While the government's top infectious diseases specialist, who has been marginalized by Trump, said serious trouble was not "inevitable," he added at the Citizen by CNN conference that "it's not acceptable to not realize that we are entering into a risk period and we've got to act accordingly."
Fauci spoke while medical indicators head in a perilous direction as the US approaches its 7 millionth infection. Cases are rising in 24 states, Washington, DC, and two territories. Wisconsin's Gov. Tony Evers warned Tuesday of a "new and dangerous stage" of the pandemic in the crucial swing state, where Trump held a rally last week. And there are now more than 59,000 cases of coronavirus on college campuses after many schools decided to open despite adopting insufficient safety measures.
Notre Dame canceled its football game on Saturday against Wake Forest after seven Fighting Irish players tested positive for the virus. The move comes just a week after Trump claimed he had orchestrated the return of football for many of Notre Dame's Midwest (and battleground state) neighbors in the Big Ten conference.
But there is no visible sign of concern from the White House about this potential pivot point on which thousands of lives may depend. That may be because it coincides with the moment of highest tension in a presidential race in which the President is trying to convince voters that the worst of the emergency has passed.
"I think we've done an amazing job ... in my opinion we're rounding the turn," the President said in an interview with a local Fox station in Detroit in which he continued to minimize the danger. On Monday, he had claimed the virus "affects virtually nobody" -- a staggering comment on the eve of such a tragic milestone.
The public can trust the CDC and the FDA for coronavirus information, Fauci says
From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane
A unnamed person's attempt to manipulate information coming out of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for political reasons “has been unfortunate,” White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
"The person who was trying to influence the CDC, and even me, with emails is gone," Fauci said at the Atlantic Festival. “So, I think we can put that behind us right now.”
Fauci appeared to be referring to Michael Caputo, who served as the assistant for public affairs in the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Caputo, who announced last week that he was taking a leave of absence, has been accused by critics of politicizing the CDC and HHS response to the pandemic, and of trying to influence studies published in the CDC's journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, to align with the Trump administration’s position.
When asked where Americans should go for trustworthy information on the coronavirus, Fauci replied: "I would trust the CDC, and I would trust the FDA."
"The FDA commissioner has made it very clear that he is going to make sure that the in-the-trenches scientist who look at these types of things all the time -- that's what they do for a living -- they're going to be the ones that are going to be making the recommendation (about any potential coronavirus vaccine)."
12:58 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020
As the US surpasses 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, survivors have a message: This is not a hoax
From CNN's Theresa Waldrop
Even as the United States surpasses 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, there are still people who think the coronavirus is a hoax. Survivors of the disease and members of victims' families beg to differ and are sharing their very real experiences with the deadly disease.
Ann and Marvin Robinson, a married couple in Casper, Wyoming, got the virus almost three months ago. Marvin, 73, still has shortness of breath, and both are battling fatigue.
"We have friends who still believe it's a hoax. They think that it's going to go away on Election Day," Ann, 72, told CNN's Brianna Keilar on Tuesday.
"It's trying to convince people that the 200,000 people who have died were important," Ann said of her efforts to assure people of the reality of the virus.
Their friends "kind of discount the fact that older people get it that have underlying conditions, that they were going to die anyway," Ann said. "Well, I'm an older person and I have underlying conditions, and I intend to live for a lot more years."
Nearly 6.9 million people have contracted the virus nationwide, and at least 200,768 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
"The virus is hurting us, not the public health measures," Fauci says
From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that some people interpret public health measures he’s promoting during the coronavirus pandemic as hurting them.
“No, the virus is hurting us, not the public health measures. The public health measures really should be looked upon as a vehicle, or a pathway to reopen the economy and to get the country back and to get employment back, it shouldn't be looked upon as an obstacle,” he said at the Atlantic Festival
Fauci said that people have been threatening him and his family “because I'm saying we should be doing public health things like wearing a mask, physical distancing, as if I'm doing something that is harmful for them.”
He said that he is not suggesting another shutdown, but rather, opening the economy “in a measured and careful way.”
Fauci called forces that have been downplaying the pandemic “detrimental.”
“What the general public needs is a message that's consistent, and that they can believe,” he said, noting that we are living "in a very divisive society right now,” one that is so politically charged that public health recommendations have taken on an us-versus-them approach and where wearing or not wearing a mask is a statement.
11:44 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Saudi Arabia plans to gradually resume Umrah pilgrimage from next month
From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta
Saudi Arabia will allow pilgrims living inside the country to perform the Umrah pilgrimage at a reduced capacity from early next month, after it was suspended earlier this year due to Covid-19 concerns, state news agency SPA reported Tuesday.
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year, unlike the Ḥajj, which has specific dates. It is also much smaller than the Hajj.
According to the SPA report, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said the Kingdom will allow pilgrims to perform Umrah in gradual reopening phases. They will also need to take health precautions.
Two phases: The first phase, which starts on October 4, allows pilgrims to attend Umrah at 30% capacity -- or around 6,000 citizens and residents. The second phase, scheduled for October 18, will increase capacity to 75%.
11:30 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Will a Covid-19 vaccine be announced on Trump administration’s "political timeline"? Fauci says no
From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane
Asked if there will be a coronavirus vaccine on the Trump administration’s “political timeline,” Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said “No.”
“The data will determine the announcement,” Fauci said at the Atlantic Festival.
Fauci explained that the data that’s produced by a vaccine trial is monitored by its Data and Safety Monitoring Board. “The only person who sees that data is the unblinded statistician on the Data Safety Monitoring Board, who's beholden to no one: not to the FDA, not to the President, not to me and not to the company,” he said.
President Donald Trump has said on more than one occasion that there will be a vaccine available by Election Day in early November -- a timeline that health officials, doctors involved in trials and companies have said is unlikely.
Fauci added: "If someone tries to make an end-run, that is going to be clearly obvious."
11:00 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
US FDA considering authorization rules that could push coronavirus vaccine past Election Day
From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, John Bonifield and Jeremy Diamond
The US Food and Drug Administration is considering new rules for authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine, according to three sources familiar with the situation -- and calculations show these rules would push an authorization beyond Election Day.
That would dash the hopes of President Donald Trump, who has said repeatedly the vaccine could be ready by November 3.
The sources described two different scenarios that the FDA is assessing before a pharmacy company can be given an emergency use authorization for its vaccine.
"Either way, it's going to be Thanksgiving at the earliest before a company gets an EUA," the first source said.
That source said the FDA is expected to tell vaccine makers that they need to wait two months after giving all their study participants their second doses of the vaccine until they can apply for an EUA.
Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies that began Phase 3 clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines in the US in July, have given second doses to fewer than half of their participants.
"They (the FDA) are strongly considering this move. They haven't said the 'thou shalt,' but they are giving signals that this is important to them and they are moving in this direction," the source said.
China’s UN ambassador calls the US coronavirus response "a complete failure"
From CNN's Laura Dolan
China’s ambassador to the United Nations hit out at the United States on Tuesday, calling the country's handling of the coronavirus pandemic “a complete failure.”
In a news conference held at the Chinese Mission in New York, Zhang Jun said: “If we do have to hold anyone accountable, it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives with their irresponsible behavior.”
He also defended his own country’s response to the crisis, which he says is now under control after “great effort and enormous sacrifice.”
The news conference was held solely in response to US President Donald Trump’s attack on China at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Tuesday.
During his pre-recorded address to the UNGA, Trump said the United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions. He accused the country of spreading the virus and falsely declaring that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
Zhang called Trump’s accusations lies.
“Let me make it very clear that lies are lies -- even though lies can be repeated 1,000 times, they remain lies,” said Zhang, adding that attempts to shift blame would not help the US solve its own problems. “It’s really time for some US politicians to wake up from their self-created illusions or fictions instead of going further along the wrong direction. They may wish to be great, but to be great you have to behave like a leader,” Zhang said.
The ambassador also criticized the US’ health care system, saying: “This is the country with the most advanced medical system with the most advanced medical technology, but still they have ranked #1 in confirmed cases and lost lives."
Ambassador Zhang said China will exercise its right of reply in accordance with the rules of the General Assembly, which means a China delegate will address the session at some point this week to officially respond to Trump’s speech.