There have been more than 224,000 coronavirus-linked deaths nationwide, more than any other country in the world. The U.S. recorded 83,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest number reported since the pandemic began.
While many wealthy countries have been able to control the spread of the virus through strict mitigation measures, the U.S. has consistently been leading the world in reported cases and deaths.
Read more here.
― Hayley Miller
Spain has declared its second nationwide state of emergency after it became the first European country this week to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases amid a resurgence of infections.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Sunday ordered an overnight curfew across the country in hopes of scaling back cases.
“The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic,” Sánchez said. He added that he plans to ask Parliament to extend the state of emergency to six months.
The declaration allows the government to temporarily restrict basic freedoms that are guaranteed in Spain’s Constitution, including the right to free movement.
Spain declared its first state of emergency back in March. That was lifted in June.
― Nina Golgowski
At least five aides to Vice President Mike Pence have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including his chief of staff, Marc Short.
Short tested positive on Saturday. He is quarantining and will assist in the contact tracing process, Pence’s office said in a statement.
A source told the Times that three other Pence staff members have also tested positive.
Both the vice president and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative for the coronavirus Saturday and again on Sunday and “remain in good health,” according to Pence’s office. Despite the new COVID-19 cases, the vice president intends to continue his campaign schedule. He plans to travel to North Carolina on Sunday.
Read more here.
― Hayley Miller
As states across the U.S. continue to set records for new coronavirus cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci said for the first time on Friday evening that a nationwide mask order might now be necessary.
Although Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease, has been reluctant to call for a mandate at the federal level, instead trusting local governmental leaders to implement rules as needed, he said on CNN that “it would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly.”
“One of the issues, though, I get the argument that, ‘Well, if you mandate a mask, you’re going to have to enforce it and that’s going to create more of a problem,’” Fauci said. “Well, if people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it.”
The U.S. reported 83,000 new coronavirus cases across the country on Friday — a new single-day record. Back in August, Fauci warned that in order to contain the virus the country would need to get new cases under 10,000 per day by fall flu season, which has already begun. Experts including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield have voiced concerns about a serious case spike in the colder months, as Americans spend most of their time indoors, where the virus can more easily spread.
Fauci stressed Friday that Americans need to “double down” on non-pharmaceutical containment strategies immediately.
— Sara Boboltz
There were 83,757 new cases of the coronavirus across the United States on Friday, the highest number recorded since the pandemic began.
The previous record of daily cases came on July 17, when there were 77,362 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins data.
So far, in the U.S., nearly 224,000 people have died from COVID-19 and nearly 8.5 million have been infected.
This latest spike in cases is different than the July spike, when New York, California, Texas and Arizona had more than 40,000 of the cases. This time, the virus is on the rise in states across the country. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased in 38 states in the past week and, according to The Washington Post, 24 states broke their single-day case records in the last two weeks.
Despite repeated assurances from the president that the country is “rounding the corner” on the disease, health experts are worried.
“One key way we got through previous waves was by moving health-care workers around. That’s just not possible when the virus is surging everywhere,” Eleanor J. Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told the Post.
— Nora Biette-Timmons
A new study published in Nature Medicine warns that the United States could see more than 511,000 people dead of COVID-19 by the end of February.
Currently, the number of recorded coronavirus deaths stands around 223,000 in the U.S. Researchers at the University of Washington found that the death toll could surpass the 500,000 mark even taking into account non-pharmaceutical mandates, such as enforced social distancing, that kick in when cases and deaths start to rise in an area. If states continue easing off restrictions meant to contain the pandemic, even as cases skyrocket, the death toll could be even worse — potentially more than 1 million by the end of February.
However, universal mask-wearing could make a big difference. The researchers estimate that if 95% wore masks in public, it could save up to 130,000 lives by the end of February.
— Sara Boboltz
The United States saw more new coronavirus cases than ever Thursday as public health officials warned that cases are spiking across the country.
There were 77,640 new reported cases on Thursday, topping the previous record of 75,723 new cases set in July, according to NBC News. There were also 921 deaths related to the coronavirus reported on Thursday.
Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC News that the numbers compiled by the agency show a “distressing trend” in which cases are “increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country.” Officials blamed the spikes, in part, on cooling weather, which is pushing people back indoors and into close quarters.
— Andy Campbell
Moments after an Idaho regional health board heard that a hospital was so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients they were considering sending sick people to Seattle, the members voted to repeal a mask mandate, AP reported Thursday.
Doctors and nurses across the state have been asking for help in dealing with the rising case numbers and hospitalizations, but have often been met with skepticism or outright denial from officials. Board members overseeing Idaho’s public health system are appointed by county commissioners and aren’t required to have medical experience.
Idaho is sixth in the nation for most coronavirus cases per capita. Over the past week, there have been an average of 782 cases per day, an increase of 39 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times tally.
— Liza Hearon
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday officially approved Remdesivir for treating symptoms of COVID-19, more than five months after issuing an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug, which allowed doctors to begin giving it to patients.
Remdesivir may be used to treat adults and children ages 12 and above. It is the first drug to receive FDA approval for treating COVID-19.
“Today’s approval is supported by data from multiple clinical trials that the agency has rigorously assessed and represents an important scientific milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agency’s commissioner, Stephen Hahn, said in a statement.
— Sara Boboltz
The University of Oxford said Wednesday that late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil will resume following reports of a participant’s death.
The volunteer was reportedly in a control group that did not receive the experimental vaccine. He died of COVID-19, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported, citing unnamed sources.
The university, which is developing its vaccine with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, said it is unable to comment on specific incidents but that an independent review found no reason for concern, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
“There have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue,” a spokesperson for the university said in a statement.
Clinical trials for the university’s vaccine candidate were also briefly paused last month after a participant in the United Kingdom had a suspected adverse reaction to it.
Less than a week later, AstraZeneca announced that the trials had resumed after the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority, which is Britain’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said that it was safe to do so.
— Nina Golgowski
The U.S. is likely to have at least one safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine available by the end of the year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.
The U.S. is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., will be available and the most vulnerable individuals would receive them first, he said in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We expect that we would have by end of this year enough vaccine that is FDA-authorized to be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable individuals,” he said. “Then, by end of January, we’d expect we’d have enough to vaccinate all seniors, as well as our health care workers and first responders. And by the end of March to early April, enough for all Americans who would want to take a vaccine.”
The government’s effort to create a vaccine is called Operation Warp Speed, and participating companies have been ramping up their manufacturing capabilities even before a vaccine has been authorized as safe for use.
President Donald Trump was hoping to deliver a vaccine in time for the presidential election on Nov. 3. But Pfizer said last week that it wouldn’t have enough data from trials to apply for emergency-use authorization until at least late November.
— Liza Hearon
Hospitals in Midwest states are setting new records every day with the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as the number of hospitalizations across the U.S. hit 40,000 for the first time since August, according to a Reuters tally.
The seven-day average of new cases of the coronavirus has risen 45% in the past four weeks and is approaching summer peak levels, according to the Reuters analysis.
So far in October, 16 states have reported their highest daily numbers of hospitalized patients since the pandemic started.
A COVID-19 field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs has admitted its first patient since it opened last week. “Folks, please stay home,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. “Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”
— Liza Hearon
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its definition of who constitutes a “close contact” of someone confirmed to have COVID-19, The Washington Post first reported Wednesday. CDC Director Robert Redfield confirmed the change at a subsequent press conference.
The agency had previously defined a “close contact” as someone who had spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of someone with the coronavirus. Now, it defines close contact as someone who has spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone with the coronavirus within a 24-hour period.
The change, which emphasizes the importance of wearing face masks, is based on a new report describing how a prison guard contracted the virus after coming into brief contact with inmates several times throughout his shift. The new definition will likely affect the way schools, offices and other enclosed group settings deal with positive cases.
— Sara Boboltz
On Wednesday, Spain became the first country in western Europe to report more than 1 million COVID-19 cases, as countries around the world battle a second wave of coronavirus cases.
The country’s health minister said it has now counted 1,005,295 cases since the start of the pandemic. This follows 16,973 new cases over the last 24 hours.
The grim development comes as the country mulls imposing tighter restrictions to prevent a second lockdown.
“I want to be very clear,” Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday. “Some very hard weeks are coming.”
Illa said he plans to meet with regional heads of health on Thursday to discuss strategies to combat the virus.
— Nina Golgowski
The coronavirus pandemic is likely responsible for nearly 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S., according to an early release of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study Tuesday. The toll is significantly higher than the 221, 083 officially recorded deaths.
“Excess deaths” are the total number of deaths that occur beyond the average of a typical year. The study says that about 66% of the excess deaths can be directly attributable to COVID-19. The rest might be of people who were unable or scared to access hospital care for heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Washington Post.
The study found that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino people, as other research has found. But this study also surprisingly found that the largest percentage increase in excess deaths was among the 25-44 age group, complicating the perception that younger people have an easier time with the virus.
— Liza Hearon
First lady Melania Trump won’t join President Donald Trump for a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night because she continues to have coronavirus symptoms.
“Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day following her recovery from COVID-19, but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today,” spokesperson Stephanie Grisham told NBC News in a statement.
Both Trumps contracted the coronavirus earlier this month. Tuesday’s rally appearance would have been Melania Trump’s first in over a year, according to NBC News.
— Sebastian Murdock
Asked how the U.S. would handle rising COVID-19 cases and a potential second wave in the winter, Trump insisted he would not impose a full shutdown, and again tried to downplay the severity of the pandemic.
“We’re doing much better, and we will never shut down,” he said on “Fox & Friends,” making one of his frequent call-in appearances.
Trump falsely claimed the U.S. is “doing much better than Europe.” Many countries in Europe are currently experiencing spikes in cases, and leaders have responded by re-imposing local and regional restrictions. But unlike the U.S., Europe was largely successful in containing the virus over the summer.
Trump, who was hospitalized for COVID-19 less than three weeks ago, again claimed he “felt like Superman a day later.”
“I got better very fast, very, very fast,” he said.
He also claimed a vaccine would be available “very soon.”
Researchers have warned that even if a vaccine were to be developed by the end of the year, it would take several more months and possibly into late next year for health officials to be able to widely distribute it.
More than 220,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.
— Marina Fang
Volunteers could be deliberately exposed to the coronavirus in a controlled setting from January in studies designed to speed up vaccine development, UK officials confirmed.
In the “human challenge” studies, about 90 young, healthy participants will receive a vaccine and then be exposed to COVID-19. They will be carefully monitored in a controlled setting to assess how the vaccine works and if there any side effects.
The UK government announced that it is investing £33.6 million ($43.5 million) in partnership with Imperial College London, hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
Lead researcher on the human challenge study Dr. Chris Chiu, from Imperial College London, said: “Our number one priority is the safety of the volunteers. No study is completely risk-free, but the Human Challenge Programme partners will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can.”
— Liza Hearon
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Monday that a team of public health experts will “independently review the safety and efficacy of any vaccine that receives FDA approval for distribution” before it’s given out to Californians.
“Of course we don’t take anyone’s word for it,” Newsom said of a federally approved vaccine at a press conference.
That panel of experts will ensure that the first doses of an approved vaccine go to health care workers, first responders and other high-risk groups. It will also come up with a strategy to further distribute vaccines throughout next year.
— Lydia O’Connor
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tested negative for the coronavirus on Monday, according to his campaign.
“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said in a statement.
Two people who regularly travel with Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tested positive last week, forcing the temporary cancelation of in-person campaign events.
She’s set to resume campaigning this week after all of the COVID-19 tests she took last week came back negative.
— Ryan Grenoble
Infighting within the White House’s coronavirus task force has reportedly left its members deadlocked on the appropriate pandemic response, even as COVID-19 cases in the United States are expected to surge in the coming weeks with seemingly no end in sight.
A report in The Washington Post on Monday details exhaustive feuds and stalemates among President Donald Trump’s health advisers, based on interviews with 41 administration officials, Trump advisers, public health leaders and others with knowledge of the internal government deliberations.
In addition to disagreements on mask-wearing, testing and vaccines, Scott Atlas — a radiologist who joined the task force in August after his controversial Fox News commentary caught Trump’s eye — has been outspoken in challenging the accuracy of his fellow members’ work and analysis, particularly the infection rate data collected and analyzed by White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx.
Rather than focusing on ways to mitigate the spread of the virus, Trump and many of his advisers have resolved to obtain a vaccine as the only way to revive the economy and return to normality, even as outside experts warn that developing a vaccine would not be a silver bullet, the Post reported.
“They’ve given up on everything else,” said a senior administration official involved in the pandemic response, per the Post. “It’s too hard of a slog.”
— Nina Golgowski
Worldwide coronavirus cases topped 40 million on Monday as the pace of infection picked up with the onset of winter, taking just 32 days to go from 30 million to 40 million cases. It took three months to reach 10 million cases from when the first cases were reported in early January.
There have been more than 1.1 million deaths globally, Reuters reported.
The true numbers of both cases and deaths are likely much higher, given inconsistencies in reporting and deficiencies in testing by some countries.
The U.S., India and Brazil remain the worst affected countries in the world.
— Liza Hearon
More than 1,000 current and former officers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed a letter criticizing the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and demanding “our nation’s leaders to allow CDC to resume its indispensable role.”
The signees were current and former members of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, sometimes known as “disease detectives.” Founded nearly 70 years ago, the EIS is a two-year postdoctoral program for epidemiologists to get hands-on experience in the field.
“The absence of national leadership on COVID-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” the letter said. “The U.S. epidemic is sustained by deadly chains of transmission that crisscross the entire country. Yet states and territories have been left to invent their own differing systems for defining, diagnosing and reporting cases of this highly contagious disease. Inconsistent contact tracing efforts are confined within each state’s borders — while coronavirus infections sadly are not. Such chaos is what CDC customarily avoided by its long history of collaboration with state and local health authorities in developing national systems for disease surveillance and coordinated control.”
The Trump administration has been criticized for sidelining the CDC. It reportedly went so far as to interfere in the agency’s reports as it has largely failed in its response to the virus’s spread.
— Sara Boboltz
Small towns and rural counties in the Upper Midwest and northern Plains are seeing surging COVID-19 rates as hospitals worry about sufficient resources.
Health officials have seen resistance to mask-wearing by residents who feel that it is “some kind of a political statement,” Tom Dean, one of only three doctors working in South Dakota’s Jerauld County, told the Associated Press.
Jerauld County, with a population of around 2,000, has a death rate that’s about four times higher than the nationwide rate.
— Hilary Hanson