October 21 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020
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11:42 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Brazil's Health Minister tested positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Shasta Darlington in São Paulo

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has tested positive for Covid-19 and is isolating at home, Brazil's Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Pazuello, an army general, is the third health minister appointed by President Jair Bolsonaro after the first two were squeezed out after clashing with the President over how to tackle the pandemic. Pazuello has stood behind Bolsonaro’s views.

Dozens of cabinet members and elected officials -- including Bolsonaro himself -- have tested positive for Covid-19 since the virus was first detected in Brazil in March.

Pazuello had a fever earlier in the week, according to the ministry, and canceled an in-person meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday. He participated in a virtual meeting with governors from the Brasilia hotel where he lives. 

Devastating toll: No country in Latin America has been hit harder by the pandemic than Brazil. More than 5.2 million Brazilians have been infected and at least 154,000 have died -- the world's third-highest number of confirmed cases and second-highest death toll, respectively.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized abroad for his response to the pandemic. He has repeatedly insisted that hunger and unemployment caused by social isolation measures could be more harmful than the virus. He has also been a major proponent of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, although it has not proven effective combating Covid-19.

10:54 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Spain has now surpassed 1 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Claudia Rebaza in London

Spain topped 1 million Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, according to data released by the country’s Health Ministry.

Spanish authorities say a total of 1,005,295 of Covid-19 cases have now been diagnosed since the pandemic began. At least 34,366 people have died.

Another 16,973 new cases and 156 deaths were added to the tally Tuesday.

CNN is tracking worldwide cases:

10:25 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

A Covid-19 vaccine should be available in "next couple of months," NIH director says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

The United States should have a viable vaccine against the coronavirus in the “next couple of months,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said Wednesday.

Collins said it’s “truly breathtaking” that a Covid-19 vaccine will have been developed in under a year given that it can take a decade to create a successful vaccine. 

“We are on the path towards having, I believe, a very good likelihood, and within the next couple of months of having at least one vaccine directed against SARS CoV-2 that will be found to be safe and effective in Phase 3 trials of tens of thousands of individuals,” Collins said during the closing session of the Milken Institute 2020 Global Conference, which is sponsored by the former banker Michael Milken’s think tank.

Collins told the Milken panel that the development of therapeutics for Covid-19 is also moving along. Some of those include the antiviral drugs remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone, both of which were used to treat President Donald Trump after he was diagnosed with Covid-19.

9:59 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Ohio sees highest number of Covid-19 cases in a day since the beginning of the pandemic

From CNN's Anna Sturla

Ohio reported 2,366 new cases of Covid-19 Wednesday, the highest number since the pandemic began, the state's Department of Health said. A further 66 virus-related deaths were also reported.

The previous daily high had been set Saturday when 2,234 positive cases were reported, according to the department.

Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer for The Ohio State University, said during a state news conference Tuesday that authorities were concerned that they had not seen cases peak yet.

"At this point we just don't know where it's going to top out," he said.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health said that there could be a delay in reporting the number of deaths due to some labs not being open on Sundays that are now reporting numbers.

More than 177,000 positive cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Ohio since the pandemic began, killing at least 4,839 people.

8:28 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

A "building distrust" in public health agencies is "the elephant in the room," Fauci says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, looks on before testifying at a Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill, on September 23 in Washington.
Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, looks on before testifying at a Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill, on September 23 in Washington. Graeme Jennings- Pool/Getty Images

There is a “building distrust” in public health agencies as the coronavirus pandemic resurges in large parts of the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview.

Public transparency in public health information is “absolutely essential,” Fauci said in the interview with the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, which was posted online Wednesday by the Project On Government Oversight.

“It’s absolutely essential because if you're going to make scientific-based public health recommendations, everything has got to be transparent,” Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told the group of government watchdogs. “Otherwise once you lose the confidence of people, they don't believe what you're saying or they believe you're holding things back or they believe there's a political motivation to things."

Fauci didn’t say why he believes Americans’ distrust is building, only that he believes it is.

“And we've got to admit it, those of us in government, all of us, you and I and all of the people that work for me, and all the people that work for you, that there is a building distrust now in the transparency of what we do,” he added. “It's the elephant in the room.”

Governments must be transparent in a public health crisis, said Fauci, who has worked through responses to epidemics and outbreaks ranging from AIDS in the 1980s to Zika in the past decade.


8:14 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Ireland imposes strictest coronavirus lockdown in Europe  

From CNN’s Maria Fleet in Atlanta

People are out and about on Grafton Street in Dublin on October 21 as Ireland prepares to enter a second national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
People are out and about on Grafton Street in Dublin on October 21 as Ireland prepares to enter a second national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland has now moved to “Level 5” measures — in what is now Europe’s strictest coronavirus lockdown. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the restrictions on Monday when the country’s case count topped 50,000. The restrictions are set to be in place for six weeks to deal with the “deteriorating situation with the disease across the country.”  

Martin tweeted late Wednesday, “This evening, as we think about the next six weeks of increased restrictions at Level 5, we just need to remember that we are doing this to protect our families and the most vulnerable in our communities. We will come through it and we will see each other again. #LockdownEve.”

Under the new measures, people are asked to work from home, unless providing an essential service. Social gatherings at homes and gardens are prohibited, but people will be allowed to exercise in parks close their homes. Schools, childcare services and “essential retail” services will remain open under the restrictions. Bars and restaurants are allowed to be open only for take-away and delivery service during the period.   

Ireland recorded an increase of nearly 2,000 new cases last week over the week before, prompting the government to impose the stringent measures.  

6:00 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

FDA says there is no timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine, but the goal is spring 

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

A health worker works in a lab during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on September 9.
A health worker works in a lab during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on September 9. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Wednesday that the agency does not have a set timeline to review a Covid-19 vaccine.

The goal, he said, is that everyone could get a vaccine by spring. But it “really depends on a number of factors.”

“We want to expedite it,” Hahn said at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank founded by ex-banker Michael Milken.

“We've said that we will schedule a vaccine advisory committee to review those data. We have committed for every application to have a vaccine advisory committee,” Hahn said.

“We will make that public, as I mentioned. Our scientists will make an initial determination, will ask specific questions about the product from the vaccine advisory committee. And then we will incorporate that in our decision making,” Hahn said.

“At the end of the day, only our career scientists in the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research will be making this decision, and they will be making it solely upon the science and data that come from the clinical trials.”

To speed up the process, Hahn said the FDA has been working with manufacturers from day one and have stayed in touch throughout the manufacturing process, rather than reviewing everything at the end of the process. 

“We need to make sure that there's quality and consistency and that every lot has the same ability to provide protection to all of Americans,” Hahn said. “We have a lot of confidence in the manufacturing of these developers, and we will be doing our part with respect to working with them to make sure that manufacturing can be ramped up as quickly as possible.”

5:44 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

USA Wrestling will skip world championships due to Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

USA Wrestling announced Tuesday night that it won’t be sending a team to Belgrade, Serbia, for the 2020 Senior World Wrestling Championships in December due to Covid-19 concerns. 

“The health and safety of US athletes, coaches and staff is always the No. 1 concern for USA Wrestling. After reviewing updated medical, scientific and government data, and providing an opportunity for athlete and stakeholder input, the executive committee concluded that it would not be in the best interest of all involved to organize a delegation to travel to and participate in the Senior World Championships in Serbia,” USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner said in a statement.

Some context: This isn’t the first time USA Wrestling has opted to skip the World Championships due to safety concerns. In 2002, a team was not sent to the Senior World Freestyle Championships in Iran due to a potential threat to the team’s safety.

“My heart breaks for our athletes, as nobody is more affected by this decision than they are,” said Veronica Carlson, executive committee member and chairperson of the USA Wrestling Athlete Advisory Committee. “In the same breath, abstaining from the 2020 World Championships is the right decision. I am proud that the athlete voice was solicited and considered through every step of this process. In choosing to make this decision now, versus delaying it, the athletes have time to recover and refocus on what is most important — the 2021 Olympic Games.”

7:15 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

CDC redefines close contact with someone with Covid-19 to include cumulative exposure

From CNN's Maggie Fox and Elizabeth Cohen

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures, director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.

The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined a close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual. 

Some background: The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates – none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.

“As we get more data and understand the science of Covid, we are going to incorporate that in our recommendations,” Redfield said at a news conference held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta. “Originally, contact that was considered to be high risk for potential exposure to Covid was someone within six feet for more than 15 minutes."

The new data is being incorporated into recommendations, he said.