October 8 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 1:12 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020
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11:19 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

China officially joins COVAX vaccine initiative 

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing and CNN Health’s Shelby Erdman

China has signed an agreement officially joining the COVAX initiative led by the World Health Organization, which aims to provide worldwide access to effective Covid-19 vaccines. 

“This is an important step China has taken to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday. 
“We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX. China will also strengthen vaccine cooperation with relevant countries through the COVAX network,” she added.

Through the COVAX Facility coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, more than 75 ‘high-income’ countries have committed funding to provide at least part of the cost for procuring the vaccine for poorer nations. 

The United States -- which has severed its relationship with the WHO -- and Russia have not joined the program. Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and 27 countries represented by the European Commission are members.


10:52 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Bill Gates sees monoclonal antibodies like the treatment Trump got as the best way to treat Covid-19 infections

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Bill Gates speaks with CNN on Thursday, October 8.
Bill Gates speaks with CNN on Thursday, October 8. CNN

Monoclonal antibody treatments like the one President Donald Trump got may be the most effective approach for treating coronavirus infections, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Thursday.

Last Friday, Trump was given an antibody cocktail produced by biotechnology company Regeneron which included a pair of monoclonal antibodies that target the spike protein the virus uses to drill into healthy cells. Trump left the hospital and returned to the White House Monday.

Regeneron and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. have applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for their monoclonal antibody products.

Early data from clinical trials of Eli Lilly and Co’s monoclonal antibody indicates a 60% reduction in hospitalization rates, Gates said. He said Lilly hopes to be able to treat patients with very low doses of the lab-engineered immune system proteins.

Gates said monoclonal treatments may end up being far cheaper than the formulations now used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions -- treatments than can run hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, Gates predicted. 

“That’s always been the most promising therapeutic category,” Gates told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “The early data looks quite good.”

“If everything goes well, the cost of this intervention could be only a few hundred dollars or even under $100,” Gates said.

Gates, who has spun his fortune into a major medical and public health philanthropy, said the Bill & Melinda gates Foundation had invested in manufacturing monoclonals.

Trump has said he thought the Regeneron treatment he was given last week had cured him. 

“The word cure is a bit of an overpromise,” Gates said, laughing. “That makes it sound like it works for everyone and the whole concern about this disease will go away, and that’s the last thing we want people to think about."

9:23 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Trump has “knee on the neck” of public health experts preventing them from fighting Covid-19, former CDC director says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

President Donald Trump and his administration have prevented public health officials from using the might of the country’s foremost disease-fighting agency to properly respond to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. William Foege, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It felt to me like President Trump had his knee on the neck of the public health community holding them down so that they could not actually do their work," Foegoe said in an interview with NPR that aired Thursday. “You can’t sit by and let this happen.”
“You have to have a national plan,” he said. “You can't have 50 states trying to figure this out on their own,” Foege said in the interview, which followed the publication of a private letter he wrote to current CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

USA Today posted the letter online this week.

"I think we've got about the worst response to this pandemic that you could possibly have," said Foege, who was in charge of the CDC from 1977 to 1983.
“The failure of the White House to put the CDC in charge has resulted in the violation of every lesson learned in the last 75 years that made the CDC the gold standard for public health in the world,” Foege wrote.

He told NPR he doesn’t know how USA Today got a copy of the letter, but that he stands by what he said.

In the letter, Foege wrote to Redfield that the Trump administration has “tarnished the CDC’s reputation as the premiere global public health agency through its bungled Covid-19 response, and that the situation in the US “is a slaughter and not just a political dispute.”

Foege told NPR he felt he had to speak up. “If you know how to prevent torture and don't do it, you become the torturer,” Foege said, quoting from the writings of a Holocaust survivor. “This is the burden I found myself living under: that silence was complicity.”

8:40 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Washington state governor announces $15 million grant for small businesses

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez

Gov. Jay Inslee takes part in an interview on September 25 at the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, Washington.
Gov. Jay Inslee takes part in an interview on September 25 at the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, Washington. Ted S. Warren/AP

Small business in Washington state will receive a $15 million grant through the Federal Economic Development Administration, Gov. Jay Inslee said during a news conference on Thursday.

The grant is part of an assistance program to help keep small businesses running. Inslee said businesses had already received $25 million in grants previously to help keep "small businesses afloat." 

"We want to keep Washingtonian workers employed," Inslee said, recognizing the need to strengthen the state's economy hit by the pandemic. 

Inslee also announced that rent eviction moratoriums will be extended through Dec. 31. The moratorium was set to expire this week. 

The governor also talked about outbreaks at fraternities and sororities that have contributed to an uptick in cases in the state. 

"We are concerned about our fraternities and sororities behavior frankly that is exposing us all to great risk," Inslee said, warning that the behavior "has to change." 

What the numbers say: Washington state has at least 91,918 confirmed Covid-19 cases and at least 2,183 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the state's health department.

6:46 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

At least 8,000 mink dead in Utah after contracting Covid-19

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Utah ranchers have lost at least 8,000 mink to an outbreak of Covid-19 among the animals known for their silky, luxurious pelts.

The virus first appeared in the creatures in August, shortly after farmworkers fell ill in July, according to Dr. Dean Taylor, state veterinarian of Utah. Initial research shows the virus was transmitted from humans to animals, and so far has not seen any cases of the opposite.

“Everything we’ve looked at here in Utah suggests it's gone from the humans to the animals,” Taylor told CNN.

“It feels like a unidirectional path,” he said, adding that testing is still underway.

Some context: This is the first outbreak among mink in the United States, though other cases have been detected in the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Mink, which are closely related to weasels, otter and ferrets, appear to suffer similar symptoms to humans. Difficulty breathing and crusting around the eyes are usually seen, but the virus progresses rapidly, and most infected mink are dead by the next day, according to Taylor. It’s unclear what makes mink such a susceptible species, while others appear to be unaffected.

Mink join only cats, dogs, a tiger and a lion to be the only confirmed animals with Covid-19 in the US, according to the USDA data.

The cluster of cases in Utah has spread to nine farms, but Taylor warns that “we’re still in the middle of the outbreak.” Each farm is under quarantine with only essential workers permitted on site. Farmworkers are being directed to use proper protective equipment at all times.

The pelts from most of the mink that have died from the virus have been either contained and buried or incinerated. No pelts have left the state, according to Taylor.

6:10 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Baylor University football team suspends all activities due to Covid-19 test results

From CNN's David Close

McLane Stadium at Baylor University in Waco, Texas
McLane Stadium at Baylor University in Waco, Texas Shutterstock

Baylor University, in Waco, Texas, has announced it is halting all football-related activities following positive results from recent coronavirus testing. The school did not reveal how many players and/or staff tested positive for Covid-19.

Last month, the team was forced to postpone a game versus the Houston Cougars due to Covid-19 cases on the Baylor team.

"At this time and in the interest of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff, we have temporarily suspended all football-related activities. Their health and wellness will always be our top priority," Baylor director of athletics Mack B. Rhoades said in a statement. "We are taking all possible precautions and our focus remains playing the scheduled game with Oklahoma State at McLane Stadium on Oct. 17."


5:24 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Trump's promises of a vaccine by Election Day are "reckless," ousted vaccine director says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Rick Bright speaks with CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, October 8.
Rick Bright speaks with CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, October 8. CNN

It is “irresponsible” for President Trump to suggest a Covid-19 vaccine will be developed by Election Day, according to Rick Bright, the ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine. 

“It’s irresponsible and reckless for the President of the United States to drive the evaluation of something as critical as a vaccine to meet an election timeline,” Bright said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “…There's no rationale in scientific judgment to move that vaccine to meet that target date. He is not a scientist. He is not a doctor. I say let the scientists do their job.”

Bright said that “scientists are working at breakneck speeds” on a vaccine. 

“It is unprecedented to see how fast they are moving through a lot the steps. The one step you cannot rush is the safety evaluation of that vaccine after it's put into people. It takes time,” Bright said. 

The US Food and Drug Administration said it will want to see two months of follow-up data after volunteers get their second vaccine doses for clinical trials. That would make it nearly impossible for any vaccine maker to apply for emergency use authorization by Nov. 3.

4:54 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Ousted director of vaccine agency calls Trump's message on Covid-19 "deadly"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing to discuss protecting scientific integrity in response to the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, May 14, 2020. in Washington, DC. 
Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing to discuss protecting scientific integrity in response to the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, May 14, 2020. in Washington, DC.  Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Rick Bright, the ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said President Trump’s message to not be afraid of coronavirus is “reckless and deadly.”

“The messaging that President Trump gave to America and the world when he left the hospital about there is no need to be afraid of this virus is probably the most reckless and deadly piece of information I have ever heard,” Bright said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. 

Bright resigned from his post at the National Institutes of Health this week. He was ousted from his role leading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and reassigned to a narrower role at NIH. He filed a whistleblower complaint this spring alleging that his early warnings about coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at hydroxychloroquine led to his removal. 

“[Trump] has never told us the truth about the risk or the seriousness of this outbreak. He has not told the truth about his status, when he was infected. … By lying to the American public and not telling us the full truth, you’re actually prolonging the duration and impact of this pandemic. You’re actually allowing more people to die,” he said.

Bright said he is speaking out because he thinks scientists are being pushed to the sidelines. 

“More people are going to die because scientists are being pushed back. … The world needs to know the truth. And if we continue to hide the truth, then we're going to see many more deaths that don't need to occur,” Bright said. 

Watch the moment:

4:14 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Amtrak warns of "drastic impacts" without stimulus money

From CNN's Pete Muntean

A passenger walks to a departing Amtrak train at Union Station on April 09, 2020 in Washington, D.C. 
A passenger walks to a departing Amtrak train at Union Station on April 09, 2020 in Washington, D.C.  Rob Carr/Getty Images

In a dire new warning, Amtrak says without $5 billion in pandemic stimulus funds from Congress, it will shed 2,400 workers, cut the frequency of trains on some routes, and stop major improvement projects.

“We have seen that our ridership is not returning as quickly or at the levels that we had hoped for,” Amtrak president and CEO William J. Flynn wrote in a Thursday letter to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Some context: On Tuesday, President Trump shut the door on House Democrats’ updated Heroes Act, which included $2.4 billion for Amtrak.

“While we were grateful for this sign of support, at this time, there is no clear path to finalize such supplemental funding in Congress and the Administration,” said Flynn. “Amtrak is in a very precarious position as we await final decisions on our funding levels.”

Amtrak’s president said if current funding levels are carried over into the rail system’s next fiscal year, “we will be unable to avoid more drastic impacts that could have long lasting effects on our Northeast Corridor infrastructure and the national rail system.”