Saudi Arabia plans to gradually resume Umrah pilgrimage from next month
From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta
Saudi Arabia will allow pilgrims living inside the country to perform the Umrah pilgrimage at a reduced capacity from early next month, after it was suspended earlier this year due to Covid-19 concerns, state news agency SPA reported Tuesday.
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year, unlike the Ḥajj, which has specific dates. It is also much smaller than the Hajj.
According to the SPA report, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said the Kingdom will allow pilgrims to perform Umrah in gradual reopening phases. They will also need to take health precautions.
Two phases: The first phase, which starts on October 4, allows pilgrims to attend Umrah at 30% capacity -- or around 6,000 citizens and residents. The second phase, scheduled for October 18, will increase capacity to 75%.
11:01 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Will a Covid-19 vaccine be announced on Trump administration’s "political timeline"? Fauci says no
From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane
Asked if there will be a coronavirus vaccine on the Trump administration’s “political timeline,” Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said “No.”
“The data will determine the announcement,” Fauci said at the Atlantic Festival.
Fauci explained that the data that’s produced by a vaccine trial is monitored by its Data and Safety Monitoring Board. “The only person who sees that data is the unblinded statistician on the Data Safety Monitoring Board, who's beholden to no one: not to the FDA, not to the President, not to me and not to the company,” he said.
President Donald Trump has said on more than one occasion that there will be a vaccine available by Election Day in early November -- a timeline that health officials, doctors involved in trials and companies have said is unlikely.
Fauci added: "If someone tries to make an end-run, that is going to be clearly obvious."
10:49 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
US FDA considering authorization rules that could push coronavirus vaccine past Election Day
From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, John Bonifield and Jeremy Diamond
The US Food and Drug Administration is considering new authorization rules for a Covid-19 vaccine, according to three sources familiar with the situation -- and calculations show these rules would push an authorization beyond Election Day.
That would dash the hopes of President Donald Trump, who has said repeatedly the vaccine could be ready by November 3.
The sources described two different scenarios that the FDA is assessing before a pharmacy company can be given an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine.
“Either way, it’s going to be Thanksgiving at the earliest before a company gets an EUA," the first source said.
That source said the FDA is expected to tell vaccine makers that they need to wait two months after giving all their study participants the second doses of the vaccine until they can apply for an EUA.
Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies that began Phase 3 clinical trial for coronavirus vaccines in the US in July, have given second doses to fewer than half of their participants.
"(The FDA) are strongly considering this move. They haven’t said the ‘thou shalt,’ but they are giving signals that this is important to them and they are moving in this direction,” the source said.
There’s a second scenario that might happen instead: A second source, a senior administration official, said the agency is expected to require that companies wait 60 days after giving half their trial participants their second dose before they can secure an EUA. The move is designed to monitor the safety of the vaccine, even if the trial has already determined the vaccine’s efficacy.
Under that rule, the two companies still wouldn’t get an EUA by Election Day, since they have not yet given second doses to half their volunteers.
A third source said the FDA was considering making the 50% requirement, but that it was still in the discussion stage.
Vaccine trials: Pfizer plans to enroll 44,000 volunteers in its clinical trial, and as of Monday it had given second doses to 19,210 participants. Moderna plans to enroll 33,000 volunteers in its clinical trial, and as of Friday, it had given second doses to 11,879 participants.
Both companies expect an initial readout of efficacy data, called an interim analysis, to occur in the coming weeks.
A third clinical trial by AstraZeneca is currently paused in the United States, after a participant in the UK developed a neurological condition.
News that the agency is expected to issue the new guidance to Covid-19 vaccine developers was first reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday.
FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said in an email to CNN on Tuesday: “FDA has previously noted that the agency intends to issue additional guidance shortly,” with “recommendations regarding the data and information needed to support the issuance of an EUA.”
10:58 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
China’s UN ambassador calls the US coronavirus response "a complete failure"
From CNN's Laura Dolan
China’s ambassador to the United Nations hit out at the United States on Tuesday, calling the country's handling of the coronavirus pandemic “a complete failure.”
In a news conference held at the Chinese Mission in New York, Zhang Jun said: “If we do have to hold anyone accountable, it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives with their irresponsible behavior.”
He also defended his own country’s response to the crisis, which he says is now under control after “great effort and enormous sacrifice.”
The news conference was held solely in response to US President Donald Trump’s attack on China at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Tuesday.
During his pre-recorded address to the UNGA, Trump said the United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions. He accused the country of spreading the virus and falsely declaring that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
Zhang called Trump’s accusations lies.
“Let me make it very clear that lies are lies -- even though lies can be repeated 1,000 times, they remain lies,” said Zhang, adding that attempts to shift blame would not help the US solve its own problems. “It’s really time for some US politicians to wake up from their self-created illusions or fictions instead of going further along the wrong direction. They may wish to be great, but to be great you have to behave like a leader,” Zhang said.
The ambassador also criticized the US’ health care system, saying: “This is the country with the most advanced medical system with the most advanced medical technology but still they have ranked #1 in confirmed cases and lost lives."
Ambassador Zhang said China will exercise its right of reply in accordance with the rules of the General Assembly, which means a China delegate will address the session at some point this week to officially respond to Trump’s speech.
40,000 new coronavirus cases per day is "unacceptable," Fauci says
From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane
White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci says reporting an additional 40,000 coronavirus cases each day is "unacceptable" -- and that rate of infection needs to come down before winter.
"We're entering into the fall and into the winter, and that means there's going to be more indoor things than outdoor things," he said Tuesday during the Atlantic Festival. "And going into that situation, I would like to have seen the baseline of ... daily number of infections come way, way down." “That's not good. No matter how you slice it. That's not good,” he said. "We're looking at 40,000 new cases per day. That's unacceptable and that is what we've got to get down before we go into the more problematic winter."
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that some parts of the United States are doing well because they are following simple public health measures -- and said other areas should use them as a models.
“Universal wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoor more than indoors, if possible, and washing your hands. That sounds like it's very simplistic, but we know when we do that consistently, we prevent surges, and we turn them around,” he said.
At least 33,778new Covid-19 cases have been reported in the US on Tuesday, as of 9 p.m. ET, according to Johns Hopkins University.
7:22 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Here's how both doctors and economists say schools should make reopening decisions
From CNN’s Jen Christensen
School reopening policies will be crucial to fixing the economy, but schools should only open if Covid-19 case levels are low enough, experts told the US Joint Economic Committee Tuesday.
Economist Austan Goolsbee told the committee that a lack of daycare and an inability to send kids back to schools is a significant barrier to fixing the economy, particularly for families that make a median income or less.
“That’s a tremendously critical issue because such a high share of those occupations must physically be at their location of work to do the job,” said Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn professor of economics in the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a physician and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, pointed to countries like Taiwan that has kept schools open during the pandemic. Some countries in Europe, he added, have kept schools open for younger students without problems. In the US, he’s not seeing the same commitment to reopening from teachers.
“What we see happening is, in many instances, the teachers themselves are saying, I’m not comfortable going back,” Singer said.
Dr. Ashish Jha told the committee that while many European countries have been able to keep schools open, the levels of transmission of the virus in those communities is much lower than the rate of infection in the United States.
“But nobody lives in America, people live in Arizona or Texas or Massachusetts, so we have to look at local community spread,” said Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Jha thinks a third of the country could go back safely given the level of spread in certain regions, if everyone wore a mask. For another third, where there is more disease, districts would have to be more careful and open up kindergarten through sixth grade. For another third of the country, the level of the virus is so high, schools should remain closed until the level of transmission declines.
“I would close bars and I’d close indoor dining before I close schools,” Jha said. “I think we can get most schools open if we let the data drive our decision.”
6:53 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Trump on America surpassing 200,000 coronavirus deaths: "Well, I think it's a shame"
From CNN's Jason Hoffman
Asked about the coronavirus death toll reaching 200,000 in the US today, President Trump said, “Well, I think it’s a shame."
After ignoring a question from CNN's Nikki Carvajal on his message to the American people, Trump was pressed on passing the 200,000 death threshold, and turned the conversation to his standard response on the virus, blaming China and saying the death count could have been much worse had he not taken action.
“I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have two and a half million deaths. If you take a look at alternatives, you could have two and a half million deaths or something thereabouts. You could have a number that would be substantially more,” Trump told reporters before departing the White House on Tuesday. “And you saw my United Nations speech, China should have stopped it at their border. They should have never let this spread all over the world and it’s a terrible thing.”
Trump went on to say had he not closed the country down, there could have been upwards of 3 million deaths.
“It’s a horrible thing. Should have never ever happened. China let this happen and just remember that,” Trump added.
Facts First: It’s misleading for Trump to say he closed the US border to travel from China and Europe because both policies contained multiple exemptions, including for US citizens and permanent residents; the Europe policy exempted entire countries. Only foreign nationals who had been in China, Europe's Schengen area, the UK or Ireland within the past 14 days were outright banned from entering the US.
6:30 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
Dr. Sanjay Gupta on 200,000 deaths: "I really thought we would rise more to this challenge"
As the US passes the grim milestone of more than 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said at the beginning of the pandemic, he never thought this many people would die from the virus.
He said when early models were predicting even 60,000 deaths by August, he thought that was a high number.
"I really thought we would rise more to this challenge, but sadly, we haven't," Gupta said. "No one likes to hear that these deaths were preventable," he said on CNN's Anderson Cooper Full Circle.
Comparing the coronavirus pandemic to the 1918 influenza pandemic, he said there are a lot of parallels.
In 1918 there were three major peaks of infection. One of them was in October when thousands of people died in a single month as people started gathering indoors again, Gupta said.
"That model for 1918 is a little bit of a cautionary tale," he said, pointing to the importance of wearing masks and continuing safety measures as we enter into the fall season.
5:08 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020
UNC Charlotte will resume some in-person instruction in October
From CNN’s Rebekah Riess
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte announced today that “after careful consideration of available data and consultation with both county health officials and the UNC System,” they will resume select in-person instruction on Oct. 1, according to a statement from the university.
“The ongoing decline in Mecklenburg County’s infection rate, coupled with UNC Charlotte’s comprehensive safety protocols, allows the University to move forward with a measured approach to on-campus living, learning and working this fall semester,” the statement said.
The school is placing an emphasis on the return to on-campus instruction in specific areas of academic study, including programs like engineering, science lab classes, studio and performance art classes, clinical programs in the College of Health and Human Services, architecture, and courses serving primarily first-year students in order to ensure that those students can “successfully transition to University instruction, build community and access campus support.”
According to the statement, all undergraduate classes will be suspended on Sept. 28 and 29 to allow for campus move-in dates.