Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warned on Friday a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available until well into 2021 as COVID-19 deaths topped 1,000 for the third consecutive day high –California, Texas and Florida reporting more than half of the deaths.
As the pandemic surged unabated, Republicans and Democrats battled over a coronavirus relief package.
Fauci, in a live interview with the Washington Post, said a COVID-19 vaccine may not be “widely available” until several months into 2021, and life really can’t get back to normal until enough people have received the shot. He said scientists just don’t know that much about the virus.
“It is likely that at the beginning of next year we would have tens of millions of doses available. I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have vaccines that would be widely available,” he said
At the same time, Fauci discussed school reopenings, which came on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release of new guidelines for school reopenings in the fall.
The Trump administration has said that at least 300 million doses of a vaccine will be available in January. But Dr. Fauci maintained that more information is needed to understand how much protection the body’s immune system needs from the virus and how long that protection will last.
The U.S. reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths for the third consecutive day Thursday with Florida, California and Texas making up more than 500 of those deaths, The New York Times database indicated. Nationwide there have been 144,300 COVID-19 deaths, Johns Hopkin University reported.
Texas reported the largest number of deaths at 192, followed by Florida with 173 and California with 152, the Times database said. The three states have seen a surge in cases in recent days. Overall, Florida has 389,800 cases of the virus while Texas reported 373,000 positive cases, Johns Hopkins said. California, which is now considered the new epicenter for the infection, leads with 430,700 confirmed cases of the virus.
The news of the increasing cases of the coronavirus and growing number of deaths in the three states prompted Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, to call the three states “three New Yorks” on “NBC’s “Today” show. New York, which was previously considered the epicenter of the virus, has managed to reduce its spread, reporting 409,600 cases of the coronavirus as of late afternoon Friday.
“I just want to make it clear to the American public, what we have right now are essentially three New Yorks with these three major states,” Birx said during the interview.
“We’re really having to respond as an American people, and that’s why you hear us calling for masks and increased social distancing to really stop the spread of this epidemic,” she added.
Birx also warned in a private meeting with local and state health officials that the coronavirus task force was monitoring 12 U.S. cities that are seeing significant increases in the coronavirus, urging them to take aggressive mitigation efforts, nonprofit Center for Public Integrity reported from audio it obtained.
“There are cities that are lagging behind and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore, so we’re tracking this very closely,” Birx said. “We’re working with the state officials to make sure we’re responding together, but when you first see that increased test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts.
“I know it may look small, and you may say that only went from 5 to 5.5 [%], and we’re going to wait and see what happens,” she added. “If you wait another three to four, even five, days, you’ll start to see a dramatic increase in cases. So finding and tracing those very early individuals is really critical.”
Also, on Friday as Republicans and Democrats continued to hash out a plan for the next coronavirus relief package as the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit was set to run out at the end of the month.
While the week was spent negotiating, the parties had yet to come to agreement as they headed home for the weekend. Republicans haven’t even come to agreement within the caucus.
As unemployment numbers rose for the first time since March and many states consider rolling back reopening plans, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “We don’t want this to expire next Friday. It’s not a difficult concept. You don’t get paid more to stay home than you do when you have a job.”
Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate, disagreed, saying ending the payments would create a “gratuitous disaster.”
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