September 16 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 12:51 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020
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9:43 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Goal is that no American will have to pay "a single dime" for Covid-19 vaccine, Health official says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas, Niamh Kennedy, Katie Polglase, Lauren Mascarenhas and Ivana Kottasová

Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, speaks during a debate at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2018.
Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, speaks during a debate at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2018. Chris Knight/AP

Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, said during a briefing on Wednesday it’s an aspiration that no American will have to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine

“In terms of a principle and an aspiration, it’ll be that no American has to pay a single dime out of pocket to get a vaccine,” Mango said. “And we’re getting very close to that aspiration right now.” 

Where things stand on vaccine development: The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial, halted last week after an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers, will resume, the University of Oxford announced Saturday.

The university, which is developing the vaccine with AstraZeneca, did not say when the trial would resume. AstraZeneca said the trial will only resume in the United Kingdom, adding that it's working with health authorities across the world to determine when other trials can resume.

Before the pause, the company was testing its vaccine, dubbed the Oxford vaccine, in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of three coronavirus vaccines in late-stage, Phase 3 trials in the US. It has the backing of the US federal government. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTec are the other two groups with phase three trials under way, also with federal government funding.

9:38 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Pelosi continues to defend stimulus negotiations stance

From CNN's Haley Byrd

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a television interview in the Senate Russell Office Building in Washington, D.C., on September 16.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a television interview in the Senate Russell Office Building in Washington, D.C., on September 16. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her approach to coronavirus stimulus negotiations on Wednesday morning, as a vulnerable swath of her caucus is raising concerns about the impasse over new aid between top Democrats and Republicans.

“What we want is to put something on the floor that will become law, and that requires a negotiation,” Pelosi said during an interview with MSNBC. 

She said there are “a number of schools of thought” among Democrats about how they should proceed as talks remain stalled. Some members want the House to vote on the more than $3 trillion Heroes Act again, Pelosi said. 

“We could put a bill on the floor, but we want to put a bill on the floor that will become law,” she said.

Pelosi argued that Republicans don’t recognize the needs of the moment and noted Democrats have already lowered their offer. GOP lawmakers hold that a $2 trillion package would be too expensive. 

“We have come down, but the needs of the American people, we can only go so far,” Pelosi said. 

“We think they should come to the table,” she added.

9:30 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Trump administration releases interim guide for Covid-19 vaccine distribution

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense on Wednesday released two documents outlining the Trump administration’s strategy to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.

HHS said it developed the documents with the Department of Defense and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Preparing for the implementation of the safe and efficacious Covid-19 vaccine programs is a critical next step in the efforts to protect Americans and reduce the impact of Covid-19 and restore our normal way of life,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
9:01 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Florida's Broward County schools could reopen for in-person learning in October

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

A sign with information about 'eLearning' is pictured outside Riverglades Elementary School in Pompano Beach, Florida, on August 11.
A sign with information about 'eLearning' is pictured outside Riverglades Elementary School in Pompano Beach, Florida, on August 11. mpi04/MediaPunch/IPX/AP

Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie is recommending Broward schools reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 5, according to a tweet from the superintendent's verified account.  

"The same science criteria we used to close our schools is what we will use to open them," Runcie said in the tweet. 

Runcie is proposing the school district advance to "eLearning Phase 2," which opens schools but allows for learning from home as well, according to the Broward County Public School (BCPS) coronavirus website.   

The phase two reopening plan will be presented to the Broward County School Board for review on Tuesday, said Runcie.  

BCPS has reported at least 50 Covid-19 cases among its school staff and contract employees, affecting 38 school and administrative office sites, according to the BCPS coronavirus dashboard.  

8:30 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

UK Prime Minister says virus testing issues are due to "colossal spike" in demand

From CNN's Simon Cullen

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons in London, on Wednesday, September 16.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons in London, on Wednesday, September 16.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain’s coronavirus testing record compares favorably to other European countries, adding that recent problems are due to a “colossal spike” in demand.

“What is happening is that the British people -- quite understandably -- are responding to that system with a huge, huge surge in demand and so it’s very important that everybody follows the guidance about when they should be getting a test,” Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday.

However, the government has at times sent mixed messages on who should be getting coronavirus tests.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that there had been “a rise in the number of people who are not eligible for a test coming forward and getting those tests.” He estimated that 25% of those getting tested were not eligible.

UK government guidelines are that only those displaying one of three symptoms, or those who have been asked by a government body, are eligible for a test.

Nonetheless, on July 21, Hancock tweeted that “anybody who needs a test can get a test,” and that “if you have symptoms, if in doubt, get a test.”

But the National Health Service Providers organization, which represents many of the UK’s hospitals and other health services, says some health staff are having to isolate for extended periods because they are unable to access coronavirus testing.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said Tuesday that it is “unacceptable” that some people in the country have reportedly been asked to wait weeks, or travel hundreds of miles, for a coronavirus test.

Testing is the latest hurdle for Johnson's government, which has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic as the UK has so far recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

And reported coronavirus infections have been surging again in the UK. There were an average of 3,004 new infections per day in the seven days to Tuesday, compared to 2,032 per day in the previous seven-day period.

7:55 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Racism and discrimination are factors in higher deaths and hospitalization rates for minorities

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Racism and discrimination are factors that play a role in the larger number of minority deaths and hospitalizations from Covid-19, according to a new analysis from the Epic Health Research Network and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Although minorities were more likely to test positive for Covid-19 and need more immediate care at the time of testing than Whites, they were also more likely to require hospitalization and to die from the virus than White patients, the analysis found.

Researchers examined the Epic electronic health records of about 50 million patients in 21 states, including 53 health systems and 399 hospitals.

“The racial disparities in illness and death are not fully explained by differences in underlying sociodemographic characteristics and health conditions,” the authors said.

“This analysis points to delays in testing for people of color, who are sicker and more likely to be infected when they do get tested,” said KFF President and CEO Drew Altman. “The findings highlight the continued importance of addressing racial disparities in responding to COVID-19 as in health care more broadly.”

Among the key findings of the research: Hispanics were more than two and a half times more likely to test positive for Covid-19, and Blacks and Asians were nearly twice as likely to test positive compared to Whites – and they were more likely to be hospitalized by the time they were tested.

Covid-19 infection rates for Hispanics were three times higher and for Blacks and more than two times higher compared to their White counterparts. Hospitalization rates for Hispanics were four times that of Whites – and for Blacks, it was more than three times that of Whites.

“Death rates for both groups were over twice as high as the rate for White patients (5.6 and 5.6 compared to 2.3 per 10,000)” the analysis found. “Asian patients also faced significant disparities in these measures.”

The findings of this analysis suggest that racism and discrimination are affecting outcomes among similar sociodemographic groups, the authors wrote.

“Understanding the factors underlying COVID-19 infections and severe complications can help us devote resources appropriately to the most vulnerable communities,” Dr. Christopher Alban, Epic Vice President of Clinical Informatics, said in a news release.

“This study adds nuance to our understanding of inequities in our COVID-19 response by showing racial and ethnic disparities that persist when comparing populations with similar health and socioeconomic status." 

7:46 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

One wedding in Maine is linked to 176 infections and the deaths of 7 people who didn't even attend

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A wedding in Maine is linked to 176 Covid-19 cases and the deaths of seven people who didn't attend the celebration, demonstrating just how easily and quickly the virus can spread at social gatherings, public health experts say.

As officials continue to push preventive measures, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing to keep infection rates low, they also have been vocal in warning against large gatherings.

But Americans have continued to congregate, leading to outbreaks tied to a number of events, from Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations to a massive motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

The wedding held in Millinocket on August 7 had about 65 guests, in violation of the state's 50-person cap for indoor events, Maine CDC said.

The event is linked to outbreaks that have unfolded at a nursing home and a jail, both more than 100 miles away from the wedding venue, and among people who had only secondary or tertiary contact with an attendee.

Read the full story here:

7:39 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Lilly's coronavirus antibody treatment shows modest signs it may treat infection

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Eli Lilly and Co. says early data from its mid-stage trial of an antibody therapy shows it is safe and may reduce some symptoms of coronavirus disease.

It’s one of several so-called monoclonal antibodies being tested in coronavirus patients. These are lab-engineered immune system particles designed to home in on specific parts of the virus. LY-CoV555 is targeted against the spike protein of the virus -- the part it uses to attach to the cells it infects.

This Phase 2 trial involving about 450 volunteers with coronavirus infections showed nearly everyone had cleared the virus by 11 days – including people given placebo. The highest dose of antibody sped up the process of clearing the virus, Lilly said in a statement. No one needed help breathing using a ventilator, and no one who got placebo or treatment died.

There was a 72% reduction in hospitalization rates among those treated, but only a very few people were hospitalized. Lilly said 1.7% of the patients who got the antibody were hospitalized, compared to 6% of those on placebo. But in terms of numbers, this meant five people out of 302 treated with the antibody were sick enough to need hospitalization, compared to nine people out of 150 given placebos.

“Most study hospitalizations occurred in patients with underlying risk factors (age or BMI), suggesting a more pronounced treatment effect for patients in these higher-risk groups,” Lilly said. 

“LY-CoV555 was well-tolerated, with no drug-related serious adverse events reported,” it added.

“These interim data from the BLAZE-1 trial suggest that LY-CoV555, an antibody specifically directed against SARS-CoV-2, has a direct antiviral effect and may reduce COVID-related hospitalizations,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories.

“The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19.”

The company is recruiting volunteers to try a combination of this monoclonal antibody with another one that targets a different part of the virus.

7:31 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Czech Republic sees record coronavirus infections

From Tomas Etzler

People wait in line to get tested for coronavirus disease in Prague, Czech Republic, on Wednesday, September 16.
People wait in line to get tested for coronavirus disease in Prague, Czech Republic, on Wednesday, September 16. Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

The Czech Republic has recorded its biggest increase in new Covid-19 infections since the begin of the pandemic, the country's ministry of health said Tuesday.

A total of 1,677 cases were recorded, beating the previous record of 1,538 cases from last Saturday.

The total number of infections now stands at 38,896, the ministry said, with 476 deaths.

The reason for the increase is a massive increase in testing, according to the ministry, with authorities testing around 15,000 people a day.

Last Wednesday health minister Adam Vojtech announced that people in the Czech Republic would once again be required to wear masks in enclosed public spaces, citing the “worsening epidemiological situation” in the country.