Plans call for 20 million Americans to be vaccinated in December and another 30 million each month, with some semblance of normalcy returning to the country as soon as May, Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said Sunday.
Pfizer submitted an emergency use application for its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The FDA takes up the application Dec. 10. Slaoui, who made the rounds of the morning news shows Sunday, told NBC’s Meet the Press that vaccines will be shipped to every state within 24 hours of FDA approval of that application.
“On the 11th or on the 12 of December hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states,” Slaoui told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Health care workers and highly vulnerable people will be first up, but “it is each state that will decide … who they will vaccinate,” Slaoui said. Operation Warp Speed is the Trump administration’s public–private partnership to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Moderna is also close to bringing its vaccine to the FDA, and several other candidates are progressing through the pipeline. It was not clear whether Slaoui’s estimate of 30 million per month meant only Pfizer’s vaccine and the number would rise as more vaccine candidates become available. Slaoui said about 70% of the nation – about 230 million people – would need to be vaccinated for “herd immunity” to become effective.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 12.1 million cases and more than 256,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 58 million cases and almost 1.4 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
📰 What we’re reading: It’s a hard time to be in college. Now more than ever, students are facing many mental health stressors.
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Georgia Sen. Loeffler tests negative but will continue quarantine
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, who was quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests, tested negative on Sunday, her staff said. Loeffler took two rapid COVID tests Friday morning that came back negative, her campaign said in a statement Saturday night. She received another test Friday evening and the results came back positive. Loeffler tested again Saturday morning and the results were inconclusive. Sunday’s test came back negative, Loeffler’s campaign said.
Loeffler, facing a Jan. 5 runoff for her seat, had campaigned maskless with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. David Perdue in recent days.
“She will continue to self-isolate and be retested again to hopefully receive consecutive negative test results,” Loeffler campaign spokesperson Stephen Lawson said in a statement. “She will continue to confer with medical experts.”
Hundreds protest, defy California curfew
Hundreds of protesters defied California’s new curfew Saturday night, gathering in Huntington Beach as the mandate to stay home from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. went into effect. The demonstrators, some waving large American flags, crossed the Pacific Coast Highway on foot amid blaring car horns in the Orange County city, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles.
Huntington Beach police Lt. Ryan Reilly told the NBC Los Angeles TV station the crowd of about 400 protesters was mostly law abiding, and “some, not all’’ wore masks. Reilly said police did not intend to issue citations for curfew violations. “We are seeking compliance and trying to educate people,” he said.
– Jorge L. Ortiz
CDC: Avoid cruise ships because risk of infection is ‘very high’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that “all people” should avoid travel on cruise ships worldwide because “the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.” Passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, the CDC said on its website. For passengers in high-risk groups because of age or medical conditions, the warning is “especially” applicable, the CDC said.
“Passengers who decide to go on a cruise should get tested 3-5 days after your trip AND stay home for 7 days after travel,” the CDC said. “Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.”
– Morgan Hines
Thanksgiving travel surges despite public health warnings
The number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints has been rising in recent days despite warnings from public health experts that Thanksgiving travel could further spike already-spiraling COVID-19 numbers.
More than 2.9 million flyers passed through TSA security over the three-day period that ended Saturday, including over 1 million on Friday. That marked only the second time the number surpassed 1 million since the start of the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told USA TODAY’s Editorial Board last week that “you’ve got to decide, during this interesting period of a lot of infection going on, colder weather, indoors: Do you want to travel and go to a Thanksgiving meal where there may be 12, 15, 20 people?”
The U.S. reported its 12 millionth case of COVID-19 on Saturday, days after the nation surpassed 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
Some students feel shortchanged when opting for online learning
Providing an equal education to kids learning in person and to those learning at home is undoubtedly difficult, if not impossible. School officials say they just don’t have the means to do both well without more funding and more teachers. Some families choosing remote learning worry their kids have been neglected as schools respond to politicians and parents clamoring for a return to normal.
Bonnie Owen, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom in Williamson County, Tennessee, has asthma and her daughter has two autoimmune conditions. The local school district welcomed students back to full-time, in-person classrooms this fall, but Owen worried the risk of exposing her family. Now she is dismayed at the online option.
“The online students are basically an after-school activity,” said Owen, who added that teachers were “overworked, overloaded and overwhelmed.” Read more here.
– Bracey Harris and Caroline Preston, The Hechinger Report
Trump adviser dismisses claims that vaccine was delayed for politics
A top COVID-19 adviser to the Trump administration on Sunday dismissed claims by President Donald Trump that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer delayed reporting the success of its vaccine candidates to hurt his re-election chances.
“I don’t think any specific action has taken place to delay the vaccine,” Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said on ABC’s “This Week.” Pfizer submitted an emergency use application for its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The FDA is scheduled to discuss potential authorization Dec. 10.
Slaoui said he believes that Pfizer asking for 60 days to follow up after completion of immunizations on thousands of volunteers “to ensure that we understand the short-term and the predictable long-term safety of the vaccine” was an appropriate decision that drove the company’s timeline.
Happy Thanksgiving – alone in a pandemic
The runaway pandemic has prompted people to rethink their Thanksgiving plans, with many choosing to eat a meal known for community and family alone.
“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counsels. About one-third of Americans live in single-person households, according to Census data. Families now must negotiate over social distancing ground rules, how to share meals and whether the whole thing should be called off.
In Chicago, Taylor Edwards is unsure whether she’ll be eating alone on Thursday. Edwards, 28, has mostly kept away from her parents because of COVID concerns.
“This time next year we could be in a much better place, and I want all my family members to be there,” Edwards said.
– Alan Gomez
Experimental drug cocktail given to Trump gets FDA approval
The Food and Drug Administration has granted Regeneron Pharmaceutical an emergency use authorization for a drug cocktail to treat COVID-19. President Donald Trump has touted the experimental antibody treatment and took it while he was being treated for the disease.
“In a clinical trial, the investigational therapy was shown to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or ER visits in certain patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe,” the FDA tweeted Saturday.
The drug, a pair of monoclonal antibodies, is intended to mimic the natural process of the immune system, providing it with molecules the body normally manufactures to fight off specific diseases. Trump was able to get it under a “compassionate use” exemption, which the company said at the time has granted to fewer than 10 people, after requests from their doctors and approval by the FDA. A similar monoclonal antibody treatment was also given emergency authorization earlier this month.
– Joel Shannon, Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise
Kansas counties that opted out of mask order saw COVID-19 cases rise
We already know that wearing face masks in public spaces slows the spread of COVID-19. Now the coronavirus situation in Kansas is providing further proof. Gov. Laura Kelly issued a face mask mandate in early July, and the counties that upheld the order saw a decline in cases, while the counties that opted out saw cases rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Countywide mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission in mandated counties,” according to the report, which analyzed county-level data one month before, and after, the governor’s mandate went into effect.
As of mid-August, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties had abided by the state mandate or adopted their own mask mandate, and 81 counties had opted out, as Kansas law allows. At that time, the number of new daily cases per capita – calculated as a seven-day rolling average – had decreased an average of 6% among counties with a mask mandate and increased by 100% in counties without a mandate. Read more.
Relatives returning home bring higher risk for Thanksgiving gatherings
At a time when Americans are pondering how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely amid the country’s worst surge in coronavirus cases, many families will be faced with yet another complicating factor: the return of students. Colleges and universities have reported 252,000-plus cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times tracker. Returning students – whether they lived in dorms or off-campus housing in the fall term – “exponentially increase the risk (of infection),” especially if they take some form of mass transportation to get home.
That’s the assessment of Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer for the claims management firm Sedgwick, who advises companies about medical strategies and safety practices. Like other specialists in the field, Bartlett is concerned that holiday gatherings, combined with pandemic fatigue and the need to move indoors as the weather gets colder, will exacerbate what’s already a major national spike in COVID-19 cases. Read more.
— Jorge L. Ortiz
Texas National Guard to provide aid to El Paso morgues
The Texas National Guard will be providing help to El Paso morgues as the region continues to be slammed by COVID-19 deaths, a spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said.
After the announcement, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego requested additional aid from Gov. Greg Abbott in the form of leeway to impose some restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Samaniego said in a letter to the governor’s office that his previous order was ended erroneously by an appellate court and was not inconsistent with Abbott’s statewide restrictions.
– El Paso Times
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks her dog past an inflatable turkey ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday during increased COVID-19 restrictions in Manhattan Beach, California, November 21, 2020.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Vaccine December; Thanksgiving travel; normalcy May