Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine resumed in the U.S. Friday after the U.S. reported more than 71,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday for the first time since the summer surge in July.
“It isn’t showing any signs of slowing down,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech in Delaware on Friday. “The virus is surging in almost every state.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, attended a campaign rally at a retirement community in Florida and mocked Biden for focusing on the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s COVID, COVID, COVID. On Nov. 4 you won’t hear anything about it because we are rounding that turn,” Trump said.
In Europe, France surpassed one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 Friday,and a patient from the Netherlands was airlifted to a German intensive care unit – the first such international airlift since the global pandemic began.
Here’s what to know today:
- New coronavirus restrictions in Chicago go into effect Friday for two weeks as the nation’s third largest city fights a surge of COVID-19 infections.
- In Louisiana, more high school football fans will be allowed to attend games in open-air stadiums in some parishes starting Friday.
- Wyoming on Thursday became one of the last states to reach 10,000 cases, with half of its infections reported in the last month, according to USA TODAY analysis. Only New Hampshire (9,994), Maine (6,063) and Vermont (1,987) had less than 10,000 cases as of Thursday night.
- President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred bitterly over the pandemic Thursday during the second and final debate. Trump claimed the virus would “go away” while Biden warned of a “dark winter.”
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.4 million cases and 223,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 41.7 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
Which activities have the highest and lowest risk? Scientists say 6 feet is not enough, so develop a system to help you make smart decisions about common activities.
When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine? In general, scientists and public health experts say a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved at the earliest by December, but that doesn’t mean it will be widely available to most Americans. The federal government is developing a distribution plan that would get vaccines to various populations first, such as essential workers, those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and the elderly. See what USA TODAY’s expert panel has to say.
Why people of color are dying from COVID-19: Communities of color have disproportionately more cases, more hospitalizations, worse outcomes and more deaths. Why? USA TODAY reporters found systemic racism was the common preexisting condition: pollution, poor health care, crowded housing, high-risk jobs and prejudice. Deadly discrimination. Read The Backstory behind this series.
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Trials of vaccine by AstraZeneca and Oxford to resume in US
The Food and Drug Administration authorized trials of a vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University to restart in the U.S. on Friday.
The company put a hold on its COVID-19 clinical trials worldwide in early September while it investigated an adverse reaction in a trial participant in the United Kingdom. About a week later, trials resumed in the U.K., followed by trials in other countries.
“As part of the standard review process for trial safety events, a voluntary pause to vaccination across all global trials was triggered on 6 September to allow the examination of safety data by independent monitoring committees,” the company said in a statement Friday. “The recommendations from these reviews have been supported by international regulators, who also confirmed that the trials were safe to resume.”
Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial was also paused in mid-October after an unexplained illness in a volunteer. But experts say the pause isn’t cause for concern.
Oglala Sioux Tribe orders one-week lockdown
In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux Tribe ordered a one-week lockdown of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in response to a surging number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Through the morning of Oct. 30, all non-essential travel is banned and non-essential businesses must close.
The tribe posted on its Twitter page that there were 391 active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday on the reservation, which has about 20,000 residents.
The lockdown comes as South Dakota surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases on Thursday and reported an all-time high of 973 new cases in one day.
The federal government underfunded health care for Indigenous people for centuries. A team of USA TODAY reporters explored how the policies of the past and present have made Indigenous Americans prime targets for COVID-19.
– The Associated Press
Massachusetts ice rinks ordered closed for two weeks
Citing multiple COVID-19 clusters connected to indoor ice hockey, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday ordered a two-week “pause” for ice rinks and ice skating facilities.
“This order is in response to multiple COVID-19 clusters occurring at rinks throughout the state following games, practices, and tournaments,” the department said in a press release. “Neighboring states including New Hampshire have enacted similar temporary restrictions regarding indoor ice hockey.”
The department said there have been at least 30 clusters of COVID-19 associated with organized ice hockey activities involving residents from more than 60 municipalities in the state. Each of these includes two or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, totaling 108 confirmed cases, the department said.
– Steven H. Foskett Jr., Telegram & Gazette
Trump’s campaign made stops nationwide. Cases surged in his wake.
As President Trump jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn’t just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.
The president has participated in nearly three dozen rallies since mid-August, all but two at airport hangars. A USA TODAY analysis shows COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five of those rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota.
Together, those counties saw 1,500 more new cases in the two weeks following Trump’s rallies than the two weeks before – 9,647 cases, up from 8,069.
Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.
Northern hemisphere at ‘critical juncture,’ WHO says
The head of the World Health Organization warns that countries in the Northern hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” with rising cases and deaths.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday. “Many countries are seeing an exponential increase in cases,” and he called for immediate action.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, says the U.N. health agency had recorded about 445,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours; nearly half of those were from Europe. She says in many cities across Europe, “the capacity for ICU is going to be reached in the coming weeks.”
– The Associated Press
COVID status quo means half a million deaths by the end of February
The nation’s patchwork of differing COVID-19 mandates and the inconsistent use of masks to prevent virus spread could lead to the cumulative loss of more than half a million lives by the end of February, scientists say.
Researchers from the University of Washington’s School of Medicine predicted that current state strategies surrounding social distancing, phased reopenings and mask mandates could lead to 511,373 deaths by Feb. 28, 2021, according to a study published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.
However, scientists also predicted nearly 130,000 lives could be saved from the end of September through the end of February if at least 95% of the population wore masks in public. If only 85% wore masks, still nearly 96,000 deaths could be prevented.
“People need to start taking this seriously again,” said Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “We want to understand how bad it can possibly get if nothing is done and then we can use that to hopefully work our way back a little bit.”
US reports 71K new daily cases of COVID-19
For the first time since the end of July when cases were surging, the United States on Thursday recorded more than 71,000 new cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The bleak toll comes as 12 states set new cases records in a week, according to a USA TODAY analysis: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, and also Guam.
Bednarczyk said. The new cases record may be a product of virus seasonality, pandemic fatigue and the return of schools and universities.
“I think it’s really a number of factors coming together,” he said. “And what I worry that they’re starting to come together in a perfect storm.”
Presidential debate: Trump predicts COVID-19 is ‘going away’; Biden warns of ‘dark winter’
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred bitterly over the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday during the second and final debate. Trump argued that his administration had saved lives and handled the crisis well. He dismissed questions about the current spike in cases raging across the country.
“We’re rounding the turn, We’re rounding the corner,” Trump said. “It’s going away.”
Biden blasted Trump for refusing to take responsibility for 220,000 American deaths and said that should disqualify him from being president. Biden said his administration would encourage everyone to wear masks, invest in COVID-19 rapid testing, and create national standards to reopen schools and other institutions.
“We’re about to go into a dark winter … but he has no clear plan,” Biden added, disputing Trump’s rosy predictions that a vaccine would be ready within weeks.
Pfizer expands COVID-19 vaccine trial to teens, prompting safety debate
After months of testing its COVID-19 candidate vaccine in adults, Pfizer recently lowered the age of participation to 16, aiming to include at least 3,000 older teens. On Thursday, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital inaugurated an even younger group, vaccinating its first two middle schoolers.
Pfizer is the only one of the leading drug companies to allow minors into a vaccine trial.
Some pediatric vaccine experts say drugmakers and federal regulators should wait until the vaccines have been proven safe and effective in adults before moving to children, while others say it’s immoral not to get kids into trials as soon as possible.
– Karen Weintraub
FDA approves remdesivir as treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.
As an antiviral drug, remdesivir works to stop replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead. Previously authorized by the FDA for emergency use to treat COVID-19, the drug is now the first and only approved COVID-19 treatment in the United States, Gilead said in a release.
The drug is also known by its brand name Veklury.
Popular New York City winter attractions announce opening plans
If you thought that the 2020 holidays were going to be all “bah humbug” in New York City, think again.
There will be a decorated holiday tree in Manhattan’s Bryant Park when its annual Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opens Oct. 30, along with the ice skating rink and holiday shops, reports the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
The organizers have scaled things back to be safe during the coronavirus pandemic, so there will be fewer vendors, with more space between and wider aisles throughout the park; there will be no extravagant tree lighting ceremony as in years past.
All visitors will be required to wear masks, except when eating.
– Karen Croke, Rockland/Westchester Journal News
2020 NBA Draft will be conducted virtually from ESPN headquarters
When the NBA holds its 2020 draft next month, there will be no parade of top picks, dressed in their best (and occasionally most outrageous) suits, shaking hands with commissioner Adam Silver when their names are called.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Nov. 18 event will originate from the ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut, and be conducted virtually. Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will still be on hand to announce the selections for the first and second rounds, but the players will only appear via a video link.
The draft had originally been scheduled for June 25, but was postponed due to the pandemic. It was previously rescheduled for Oct. 15.
– Steve Gardner
Southwest Airlines to start filling middle seat on planes in December
Southwest Airlines will no longer limit the number of seats for sale on each flight, joining rivals American and United. The new policy, which means middle seats will once again be filled on flights with strong demand, takes effect Dec. 1, after Thanksgiving but ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s travel season.
The airline has limited the number of seats for sale for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wooing skittish travelers. American and United have been filling flights for months, with United executives calling blocked middle seats a marketing ploy rather than a safety measure.
“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” the airline said in a statement Thursday. “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.”
– Dawn Gilbertson
Coronavirus resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press