June 26 coronavirus news

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Lindsay Isaac CNN

Updated 8:03 PM ET, Fri June 26, 2020
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4:41 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Pence insists mask guidance is up to state and local officials

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the coronavirus task force meeting in Washington, DC on June 26.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the coronavirus task force meeting in Washington, DC on June 26. Pool

Vice President Mike Pence said it's up to state and local governments to issue guidance and orders on face masks.

Asked if he had a message to Americans about the importance of wearing masks, Pence said "people ought to listen to their state and local authorities."

While a handful of states require people to wear masks in public, many others have not issued any guidance. Some individual cities and counties have also issued orders to require facial coverings.

Pence said he's in contact with many state and local leaders, and said he's assured them that he will urge Americans to follow local directives.

"In some cases, there's statewide guidance with regard to facial coverings and with regard to events and gatherings. In other cases, there's specific county-wide or city-wide directives, and we just believe that what's most important here is that people listen to the leadership in their state, the leadership in their local community, and adhere to that guidance," Pence said.

Face masks — which has been proven to be an effective way to stop person-to-person spread of coronavirus — has become a contentious topic.

President Trump has been reluctant to wear a face mask in front of cameras, and the debate over their use has spilled into local communities. This week, residents of Palm Beach County in Florida erupted in anger at a commissioner's meeting after an unanimous vote to make masks mandatory.

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1:50 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Chile's Covid-19 deaths surpass 5,000

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza, Florencia Trucco and Ingrid Formanek

Aerial view showing graves at the General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on June 23.
Aerial view showing graves at the General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on June 23. Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

Chile reported a total of 5,068 fatalities from Covid-19 Friday, with 165 new deaths in the last day, according to figures from the country’s health ministry.

The daily death toll decreased slightly compared to the two previous days.

The total number of Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic stands at 263,360, with 4,269 new cases, according to the statistics reported by the health ministry.

The numbers “show hopeful results,” Enrique Paris, Chile’s Minister of Health, said, pointing to lightly decreasing numbers of new daily infections in recent days.

But even with the small improvements in the statistics, Paris urged people to “continue the fight” against Covid-19.

4:49 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

CDC director urges millennials to follow Covid-19 guidelines

Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on June 26.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on June 26. Pool

Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the country is "not defenseless" in its fight against Covid-19, urging the public, especially millennials and those under 40, to commit to following CDC Covid-19 guidelines.

"I also want to appeal to the millennials and those that are under 40. It's really important that this group really commit themselves to these practices to protect those at risk. And it's not just the elderly that are at risk. Many of us may have friends and colleagues that are younger that may not advertise their underlying co-morbidities," Redfield said.

Redfield called coronavirus precautions "powerful weapons" and said the American people have a "collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to put them into routine practice."

The CDC director reiterated the importance of staying six feet apart from each other as much as possible, to wear face coverings when in public, and to practice vigorous hand hygiene. 

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4:57 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

More than 120,000 courses of remdesivir have been distributed to states, Health secretary says

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks at the coronavirus task force meeting in Washington, DC on June 26.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks at the coronavirus task force meeting in Washington, DC on June 26. Pool

More than 120,000 courses of remdesivir have been distributed to all of 50 states, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at today's coronavirus task force briefing.

Remdesivir is the only drug known to work against Covid-19. While not a blockbuster drug, a study shows it shaves four days off a hospital stay, from 15 to 11 days.

Some background: In May, the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral medication studied to treat Ebola but now used on hospitalized Covid patients.

In early May, the government distributed a small amount of remdesivir directly to about two dozen hospitals nationwide without explaining why those hospitals were chosen over others.

Following an outcry, HHS started to distribute remdesivir to state health departments, but questions still remained. For example, the week of May 4, California and Texas received the same amount of remdesivir, even though California had far more coronavirus patients.

While HHS didn't originally disclose where remdesivir was going, the agency is now publishing on its website how much drug is going to each state.

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1:38 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Fauci says Americans have a "societal responsibility" to stop Covid-19 spread

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26. Pool

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Americans have "an individual responsibility" to keep themselves safe, as well as a "societal responsibility" to stop the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable people.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said more younger people are testing positive for coronavirus — and while cases many of them may have mild symptoms, they can spread the virus to vulnerable people.

"So if you get infected, you will infect someone else, who clearly will infect someone else," Fauci said. "So people are infecting other people. And then ultimately, you will infect someone who's vulnerable. Now that may be somebody's grandmother, grandfather, uncle who's on chemotherapy, aunt who's on radiation or chemotherapy or a child who has leukemia."

He continued:

"So there is what I call — and again, I just want to bring this out without making it seem that anybody's at fault — you have an individual responsibility to yourself. But you have a societal responsibility, because if we want to end this outbreak — really end it and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin — we've got to realize that we are part of the process. 

Fauci also said that if the US doesn't "extinguish the outbreak," even states that had been reporting decreased case numbers could be affected.

"If we don't extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread," he said.

WATCH:

1:53 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Fauci: US "facing serious problem" in certain areas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26. Pool

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top health expert, said data shows that parts of the country are "facing a serious problem in certain areas."

"There is something important that I would like to get a message to the country in general. When you have an outbreak of an infectious disease, it's a dynamic process that is global, so remember, what happened in China affected us, what happened in Europe affected us, what's happening here is affecting others. We can't get away from that. It's interconnected. Therefore, if we are an interconnected society we've got to look at what our role is in trying to put an end to this," Fauci said.

Fauci said "we're not going to say blame," but noted that the increase in numbers in some parts of the US could be attributed to many factors including states reopening too soon or citizenry not following the appropriate guidelines.

Fauci urged individual citizens to take responsibility in following precautions, saying each person has a "societal responsibility" to help curb the virus.

"I just want to bring this out without making it seem that anybody's at fault, you have an individual responsibility to yourself. But you have a societal responsibility because if we want to end this outbreak, really end it, and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin. We've got to realize that we are part of the process," Fauci said.

"Therefore, if we are an interconnected society we've got to look at what our role is in trying to put an end to this. Everybody wants to end it. Everybody wants to get back to normal, and everybody wants the economy to recover. I think we all are common in that," he said.

WATCH:

1:26 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

White House coronavirus task force divided over testing

From CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Members of the coronavirus task force hold a briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26.
Members of the coronavirus task force hold a briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26. Pool

A real divide has developed among the White House coronavirus task force over the issue of testing, a source close to the group told CNN. 

Several members of the task force feel that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t handled testing well from the beginning. They say it is “unbelievable” that there still isn’t a widespread testing program available, such as antigen testing, the type of technology often referred to as a rapid flu test. 

The source also mentioned the need for “pooled testing,” a method of testing that can scale up and test much larger numbers of people.

Testing has been an issue throughout the handling of the pandemic. The CDC’s initial test, given to public health labs, did not work and resulted in a lag in getting tests out to public health departments. As far back as two months ago, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that the US needed a “breakthrough” in testing to help screen large numbers of people.

Birx said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 26 that “we have to be able to detect antigen, rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus, or the viral particles itself.” 

How pooled testing works: “Pooling refers to a testing technique in which allows a lab to mix several samples together in a 'batch' or pooled sample and then test the pooled sample with a diagnostic test. For example, four samples may be tested together, using only the resources needed for a single test," Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the US Food and Drug Administration, said in a written statement last week.

"If the pooled sample is negative, it can be deduced that all patients were negative. If the pooled sample comes back positive, then each sample needs to be tested individually to find out which was positive," Shuren said. "Because samples are pooled together, ultimately fewer tests are run overall, meaning fewer testing supplies are used, and results can be returned to patients more quickly in most cases."

5:37 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Pence claims Americans are seeing "encouraging news" as cases surge

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Vice President Mike Pence asserted Friday that “all 50 states and territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly” even as cases surge in many states, and eight states across the country have paused their reopening efforts.

One state, Texas, has even scaled back their reopening plan, closing bars after they had been a part of the states reopening plan.

Pence said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing Friday that the country has “made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward” and that “we've all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again.”

His remarks come as 32 states across the country have seen an increase in cases over the past week, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Pence also discussed the return of jobs that came with reopening America, and said that some of the original coronavirus hotspots such as the New York metro area and New Orleans have made “extraordinary progress.”

He said the task force is focusing on 16 states that have been most impacted by coronavirus in recent weeks with both rising cases and rising positivity rates.

Pence also repeated the President's refrain that more testing has led to more cases, however the rise in new cases has outpaced the increase in coronavirus testing.

“To one extent or another, the volume of new cases coming in is a reflection of a great success in expanding testing across the country,” Pence said.

Pence said that while the US has made progress, the country “still has work to do.”

Watch:

5:38 p.m. ET, June 26, 2020

Young Americans "have a particular responsibility" to not spread coronavirus to vulnerable populations

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, DC, on June 26. Pool

Vice President Mike Pence said that while it is "encouraging news" that new cases of coronavirus are increasingly among young Americans, young people also "have a particular responsibility" to ensure they're not spreading the virus to vulnerable populations.

Pence said about half of news cases among people under the age of 35, "which is at a certain level, very encouraging news, as the experts tell us." Pence said.

Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the pandemic has moved into younger populations — a change that could mean less serious illness and lower rates of death.

"As we know, so far in this pandemic, younger Americans are less susceptible to serious outcomes of the coronavirus," Pence said at an ongoing coronavirus task force briefing.

However, Pence added that young Americans must be careful to not spread the virus to older or more vulnerable people.

"Younger Americans have a particular responsibility to make sure that they're not carrying the coronavirus into settings where they would expose the most vulnerable," he said.

The risk of serious complications and death rises with age, the CDC says, although there's no clear age cutoff for higher or lower risk. People with diabetes, kidney disease, moderate to severe asthma, and obesity are also at higher risk.

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