September 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020
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1:42 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Indian PM Modi asks states to reduce Covid-19 restrictions, focus on restarting the economy

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media as he arrives at the Parliament in New Delhi, India, on Monday, September 14, 2020.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media as he arrives at the Parliament in New Delhi, India, on Monday, September 14, 2020. India Government Press Information Bureau via AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a reduction in local lockdowns in order to help the wider economy during an online meeting with state leaders on Wednesday.

In India, state governments are empowered to go beyond the restrictions issued by the federal government and as cases have continued to stack up across various parts of the country, chief ministers have announced partial lockdowns.

Local police in the city of Mumbai announced a partial lockdown last week, with movement in containment zones -- sections of the city identified as coronavirus hotspots -- prohibited except for essential activities.

Modi asked state chief ministers to reconsider state or city lockdowns, which are hampering economic activity.

“We should focus on micro-containment zones which will help in reducing the spread of coronavirus and allow life and activity to continue normally," he said. "These one- to two-day-long local lockdowns and their effectiveness should be surveyed by each state. It should not hamper the restarting of economic activity in your states."

India has recorded over 5.7 million Covid-19 cases, including 91,149 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the worst-hit country after the United States.

1:47 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Trump claims White House can overrule FDA's attempt to toughen guidelines for Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that the White House could override the US Food and Drug Administration if the agency released tougher standards for the authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine, casting such a move as "political."

His comments come as the FDA considers new Covid-19 vaccine guidelines that would likely push an authorization beyond Election Day, according to three sources familiar with the situation. That timeline would dash Trump's hopes of a pre-election authorization, having repeatedly said the vaccine could be ready by November 3.

"We're looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it," the President said of the new FDA guidelines at a White House news conference. "That sounds like a political move."

The FDA "respectfully" declined to comment on Trump's claims. But generally speaking, agency guidelines do go through the White House Office of Management and Budget review process, an FDA official told CNN Wednesday.

In the meantime, the President's comments are sure to fuel new unease in a vaccine process that was already being greeted with skepticism by many Americans in polls. A lack of trust in the program is a nightmare scenario, public health experts say, since a vaccine is the best hope of eventually ending the pandemic and restoring normal life.

Earlier Wednesday, the commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Stephen Hahn, made a commitment to America that the "FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine that we would not feel comfortable giving to our families."

"FDA will not authorize or approve any Covid-19 vaccine before it has met the agency's rigorous expectations for safety and effectiveness. Decisions to authorize or approve any such vaccine or therapeutic will be made by the dedicated career staff at FDA, through our thorough review processes, and science will guide our decisions," Hahn specifically promised the Senate Health Committee.
"FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that," he added.

Read the full story:

12:56 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

"Political motivations" won’t interfere in approval of Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci says

From CNN's Shelby Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens to questioning during a committee hearing on September 23, in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens to questioning during a committee hearing on September 23, in Washington, DC. Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated on Wednesday that "political motivations” won’t interfere with the authorization or approval of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

It’s impossible to bypass the rigorous process used to assure a vaccine is safe and effective, Fauci told an audience at an event sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates.

“Every single vaccine trial has what's called an independent data and safety monitoring board, who's not beholden to the President, it’s not beholden to the FDA, it’s is not beholden to the company or even to me, a person who is involved in the vaccine trial,” Fauci said.

"The fact is, we're going to see the data,” Fauci said. “It's going to be transparent.”

Fauci has sought to reassure Americans before that politics won’t play a role in the vaccine development process, despite President Donald Trump repeatedly touting that he expected a Covid-19 vaccine before the Nov. 3 Election Day.

12:01 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Indian government minister dies from Covid-19

From CNN’s Vedika Sud in New Delhi

Minister of state Railways Suresh Angadi on July 8, 2019 in New Delhi, India.
Minister of state Railways Suresh Angadi on July 8, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

An Indian government minister has died from Covid-19 weeks after testing positive for the virus. Indian Union Minister Suresh Angadi died on Wednesday, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said.

He is the first Indian government minister to have died from Covid-19.

Angadi was the junior Minister of Railways and a member of Parliament from the southern state of Karnataka. He had tweeted on September 11 confirming he had been infected and was admitted to AIIMS on the same day.

9:45 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Fauci says "large proportion" of US will not be vaccinated for Covid-19 this year

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 23.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 23. Graeme Jennings/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate Health Committee on Wednesday that a “large proportion” of the United States will not be vaccinated against Covid-19 this year.  

If a vaccine is approved and begins to get rolled out by the end of the year, Fauci said, “If you're talking about who's going to get vaccinated in December, or November, it is not going to be a large proportion of the population.”  

When you get to January and February of next year, then further into April, that’s when the US could potentially see “a total of about 700 million” doses, he added.

Those prioritized for an early vaccine will likely be health care providers and those who are vulnerable, with underlying conditions, he said.  

“We're not going to have all of the doses available, for example, by the end of December, they will be rolling in as the months go by,” Fauci said. “By the time you get to maybe the third or fourth month of 2021, then you'll have doses for everyone,” he said.
9:44 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine is fourth to begin Phase 3 trials in the US

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine candidate begins Phase 3 trials in the United States today. Trials for the single-dose vaccine will include up to 60,000 adult participants at nearly 215 sites in the US and internationally.

Phase 3 trials will begin immediately, with the first participants receiving doses on Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels said on a call with reporters. The vaccine candidate was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson is now the fourth company to begin large-scale clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States, behind Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

While the other vaccine candidates require two doses, Johnson & Johnson's candidate will be studied as a single-dose vaccine, which should expedite results, said Stoffels.

"We're convinced that a single dose could be very efficacious," said Stoffels.

Initial findings from the vaccine's Phase 1/2 trials in the United States and Belgium suggest that a single dose of the vaccine provokes an immune response and is safe enough to move into large-scale trials. The Phase 3 trial is being conducted in collaboration with Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's coronavirus vaccine effort.

Read the full story:

9:42 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020

A "distressed" Birx questions how long she can remain on White House task force, sources say

From CNN's Jim Acosta

Once a fixture at the administration's coronavirus briefings, Dr. Deborah Birx has confided to aides and friends that she has become so unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role as coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force that she is not certain how much longer she can serve in her position, sources familiar with her thinking tell CNN.

Birx has told people around her that she is "distressed" with the direction of the task force, describing the situation inside the nation's response to the coronavirus as nightmarish.

According to people familiar with her thinking, Birx views Dr. Scott Atlas, a recent addition to the task force, as an unhealthy influence on President Donald Trump's thinking when it comes to the virus.

"The President has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe," a source close to Birx said of her view of Atlas's relationship with Trump. "There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished."

Birx believes Atlas is feeding the President misleading information about the efficacy of face masks for controlling the spread of the virus, the source said. Trump, whose rallies draw crowds of supporters who refuse to wear masks, has repeatedly mocked Democratic rival Joe Biden for using them.

Speaking from the White House briefing room Wednesday evening, Atlas claimed there isn't any bad blood between himself and Birx.

"Dr. Birx speaks for herself but that's a completely false story and she denied it today. It's completely false," Atlas said at a news conference.

Birx has not yet responded to request for comment on the story, despite Atlas saying she had denied the report.

Read the full story:

9:54 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Thousands of commercial flight passengers may have been exposed to coronavirus in 2020, CDC says

From CNN's Pete Muntean, Jamie Gumbrecht, and Greg Wallace

Travelers wait to check their bags at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, on Friday, January 31, 2020.
Travelers wait to check their bags at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, on Friday, January 31, 2020. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says thousands of passengers on board commercial flights may have been exposed to coronavirus since the start of 2020.

In a statement emailed to CNN, the CDC says it was made aware of 1,600 flights between January and August where a person on board may have had Covid-19, potentially exposing 10,900 people "within a 6-foot range for droplet transmission" to coronavirus.

"CDC identified and notified relevant health departments about these 10,900 on-board close contacts," said the statement.

CDC said it has received reports of Covid-19 cases among people who were identified as contacts on flights, but noted this data is limited by incomplete contact information, delayed notification of an infectious traveler and incomplete information about testing and outcomes for contacts, among other factors.

The new data, first reported by The Washington Post, comes as air carriers are ratcheting up their insistence that air travel is safe. Air travel in the United States remains at roughly 30% of last year's levels.

"You are a lot safer in an airplane... than you are probably in your own home," Nick Calio of Airlines for America told CNN on Tuesday. "People don’t like being in a confined space, however, as opposed to being in your house, in a grocery store, in a church, in a bar or restaurant, or even a playground, you’re a lot better off.”

In June, Vice President Mike Pence called for airlines to implement a contact-tracing app, but no announcement has been made since. 

11:00 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020

UK records highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since May 

From CNN's Hilary McGann in London

People wait outside a Covid-19 testing center in Walthamstow on September 23, in London, England.
People wait outside a Covid-19 testing center in Walthamstow on September 23, in London, England. Mark Case/Getty Images

The United Kingdom recorded its third highest daily increase in new coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic on Wednesday, with 6,178 cases confirmed over the last 24 hours. 

The latest government data marks the highest daily increase since May 7 and brings the UK's total number of confirmed cases to 409,729.  

As of Wednesday, there are currently 1,469 coronavirus patients in hospitals across the UK -- 134 of which were admitted in the last 24 hours.  

A further 37 virus-related fatalities were reported on Wednesday, raising the UK's Covid-19 death toll to 41,862.  

New restrictions: This latest surge in cases comes just a day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of new restrictions to stem the spread of the virus, including a curfew on parts of the country's hospitality industry and tougher financial penalties for those who violate regulations.