October 1 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Steve George, Tara John, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, October 2, 2020
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3:03 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

Gilead now to oversee distribution of its Covid-19 drug remdesivir, US officials announce

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A sign is posted in front of the Gilead Sciences headquarters in Foster City, California.
A sign is posted in front of the Gilead Sciences headquarters in Foster City, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration has updated its emergency use authorization for the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19.

The agency is no longer requiring remdesivir to be distributed through the US government, officials announced during a call with reporters on Thursday.

Starting on Thursday, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead — the maker of remdesivir — will be responsible for the distribution of the drug in the United States.

"The supply of remdesivir now outweighs demand and there is no need for the federal government to oversee allocation," Dr. John Redd, an official at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said during Thursday's call.

Gilead said in a news release the company is "now meeting real-time demand" for the drug, sold under the brand name Veklury in the United States.

The release also noted that AmerisourceBergen will continue to serve as the sole US distributor of remdesivir through the end of this year and will sell the product directly to hospitals. It costs about $3,200 for a five-day treatment course.

"We feel very confident in supply ramp up and that's what we've been working through all year," Johanna Mercier, chief commercial officer for Gilead Sciences, said during Thursday's call. 

"By the end of the year we will have more than 2 million treatment courses available," Mercier said. "We feel very confident that, even if there was a surge in the epidemic, that we can manage that."

  

2:22 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

Loss of smell could be a highly reliable indicator of Covid-19 infection, research says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Loss of smell and taste are a strong sign that someone is infected with Covid-19, according to new research published Thursday. 

People who lose either smell or taste should consider self-isolating, even if they have no other symptoms, researchers in Britain said.

“Our findings show that loss of smell and taste is a highly reliable indicator that someone is likely to have Covid-19 and if we are to reduce the spread of this pandemic, it should now be considered by governments globally as a criterion for self-isolation, testing and contact tracing,” Rachel Batterham of University College London and University College London Hospitals, who helped lead the study team, said.

How the study was conducted: The team studied 590 volunteers who experienced a new loss of smell or taste. They tested 567 of them for coronavirus.

Of the 567, 77.6% tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. In total, 80.4% of participants reporting smell loss and 77.8% of those reporting taste loss had a positive test result, the team reported in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Nearly 40% of those who tested positive for antibodies had neither a fever nor a cough.

Batterham and her colleagues also found that participants with a loss of smell alone were nearly three times more likely than patients with just a loss of taste to have Covid-19 antibodies, and participants with a combined loss of smell and taste were four times more likely to have antibodies.

“These findings suggest that a loss of smell is a highly specific symptom of Covid-19, in contrast to a loss of taste, despite their comparable frequency,” the researchers wrote.

The study recruited its volunteers between April 23 and May 14, during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in London. It did not include a comparison group of people who did not lose their sense of smell and/or taste.

1:56 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

27 US states are reporting an uptick in Covid-19 cases. Here's a look at where infections are rising. 

From CNN's Amanda Watts

CNN
CNN

As the United States continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of states are showing an increase in new cases compared to the previous week.

According to Johns Hopkins University data:

  • 27 states are showing upward trends  
  • 14 states are showing steady trends   
  • states are showing downward trends   

The US is currently averaging 42,785 new Covid-19 cases a day, which is down 1% from last week. The country continues to lead the world in total cases, with more than 7 million coronavirus cases.

Watch CNN's John King break down the latest figures:

12:24 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

White House on Trump's Wisconsin rallies: "People can choose whether or not to come"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on October 1 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on October 1 in Washington, DC. Carolyn Kaster/AP

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was questioned Thursday on the President’s decision to hold rallies in Wisconsin Saturday against recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force regarding social distancing.

“The President believes that people have a First Amendment right to political speech. He is having a rally. People can choose whether or not to come,” McEnany said, adding that there would be “measures to protect rallygoers.”

The Trump campaign told CNN Thursday that “everyone attending will receive a temperature check, be provided a mask they are encouraged to wear and have access to plenty of hand sanitizer.”

The events come as Wisconsin “has continued to see a rapid worsening of the epidemic in the last week,” a September 27 task force report obtained by CNN said. The state has the third highest case rate in the country and has a test positivity rate between 8% and 10%, the seventh highest in the country. 

The task force recommended increased social distancing “to the maximal degree possible.”

“During the intense period of viral surge, large numbers of acutely infected individuals caused exponential growth in infections. Although young adults are the most affected group currently, spread to other age groups is inevitable. To the maximal degree possible, increase social distancing mitigation measures until cases decline, including through supporting local authorities to pass and enforce mitigation measures,” the report said. 

The state also reported a grim new milestone Thursday — 27 people died of Covid-19 Wednesday, according to the state's Covid-19 website. That is the highest death count on record for the state.  

McEnany attacked what she described as “two standards of health in this country: one for Trump supporters and one for everyone else,” railing against social justice protesters.

12:09 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

Delta may have to furlough about 1,900 pilots if Congress doesn't reach a stimulus deal, CEO says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Delta Air Lines planes are seen through a window at Salt Lake City International Airport on September 15.
Delta Air Lines planes are seen through a window at Salt Lake City International Airport on September 15. George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

American and United Airlines are cutting 32,000 jobs after Congress failed to reach a new deal on federal aid plans. Delta has been able to a delay job cuts for now, but CEO Ed Bastian says they may have to furlough 1,900 pilots in the future if Congress doesn’t reach a stimulus deal.

“If we don't get the support from Congress, we will be required as an industry to furlough tens of thousands of workers,” he told CNN Thursday. “Also very importantly, we're flying to a lot of small cities because of the CARES Act, that we're being provided, that otherwise would lose service.”

Apart from severely impacting jobs in the aviation industry, the pandemic has also impacted the sense of safety among flyers. Delta has already mandated masks on flights and Bastian says the company is also working on offering its flyers rapid tests.

There is a possibility where Delta may require a flyer to first take a rapid Covid-19 test before boarding, he adds, saying it would largely ensure safety and help passengers avoid quarantines upon arriving at their destination.

“The thing that's holding traffic back internationally and you know, in New York, are the quarantine measures. No one is going to be flying to Europe in the spring if they are uncertain whether they can do anything or how long they have to stay or if they are able to enjoy their trip or conduct business. The testing is critical to avoid those quarantines," he said.

Watch:

12:03 p.m. ET, October 1, 2020

Speaker Pelosi "hopeful" for a compromise despite being far apart in stimulus talks

From CNN's Clare Foran, Haley Byrd and Lauren Fox

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a press briefing in Washington, DC, on October 1.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a press briefing in Washington, DC, on October 1. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Thursday that the House is likely to move forward with a vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal from House Democrats. 

“I’m hoping that we will be voting on it today,” she said during her weekly news conference. The legislation goes beyond the price Republicans are comfortable with, and it is unlikely to pass the GOP-held Senate.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still far apart in talks for a new round of aid, although she said she remains hopeful that a compromise can be found.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach agreement because the needs of the American people are so great,” Pelosi said. “But there has to be a recognition that it takes money to do that, and it takes the right language to make sure it is done right.”

“State and local, we’re still far apart on that," she said, adding, “we are coming closer on money for our health provisions in the bill, it’s just a question of the language.”

Pelosi also said Democrats “have concerns about a sufficient amount of money to address the unemployment needs of the American people.”

During the news conference, Pelosi also emphasized the need for politics to remain separate from the effort to produce a vaccine. 

“What we have to do is have confidence, trust in the vaccine,” Pelosi said. “Let science determine this, and not politics. And then people will have confidence in the product.”

She said she would take a Covid-19 vaccine, even though she doesn’t like needles and takes her flu shot “under great duress” each year.

11:51 a.m. ET, October 1, 2020

World's poorest countries receive $150 million to prepare for delivery of Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN’s James Frater

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has approved $150 million of funding to help 92 low-and middle-income countries “jumpstart” their “readiness to deliver Covid-19 vaccines, in the form of planning, technical assistance and cold chain equipment.”

“The decisions taken today serve the twin goals of moving forward rapidly with our need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in a statement on Thursday. 

Okonjo-Iweala added that the decision will support, “lower-income countries’ ability to maintain routine immunization programmes and protect against the threat of other infectious diseases.”

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance announced earlier this week it had so far secured 200 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. 

The vaccines will have a ceiling price of US$1.60 to US$2 per dose for the 92 of the world’s low income countries. 

Through the COVAX facility coordinated by Gavi, 75 countries have formally committed to providing funding to provide at least part of the cost for procuring the vaccine for poorer nations.

 

11:40 a.m. ET, October 1, 2020

Not a "good look:" White House fight over masks signaled Covid-19 plans running awry

From CNN's Vivian Salama

President Donald Trump walks outside the White House on March 3.
President Donald Trump walks outside the White House on March 3. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The first masks arrived on the White House grounds in February by special order of the National Security Council, mobilizing early on to address the emerging threat of the coming coronavirus. Job one in their emergency response was to take personal precautions, preparing for the critical work at hand, multiple officials tell CNN.

But word that some NSC staffers were being told to wear masks quickly made its way back to the West Wing and it wasn't long before a sharp dictum came down.

"If you have the whole West Wing running around wearing masks, it wasn't a good look," one administration official recalled of the directive that came down from senior staff and lawyers.

The West Wing wanted to "portray confidence and make the public believe there was absolutely nothing to worry about," the official said, revealing the image-conscious reason for the opposition to masks for the first time.

The directive opened a schism in the White House complex that would ultimately hinder its ability to contain the spread of the new virus they were now calling Covid-19. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration officials show how that fissure appeared and spread even as confirmed cases in the US began to grow.

The officials all requested anonymity either because they were not authorized to discuss the matter or because they were sharing private conversations with people currently in the administration. But they tell a consistent story of how the White House attempts to deal with the virus were dogged by the president's fixation on one thing: optics.

The ensuing disaster has now claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, in what may be the most politicized health crisis of the modern presidency. The radical polarization that now grips the country traces back to the very first workplace where it really sank in, at the West Wing of the White House.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews, addressing questions about this story, said that the President "took the virus seriously from the beginning, as evidenced by his administration taking early steps in January to protect the American people." It was Democrats and the media, she says, who were obsessing at the time -- "over the partisan and futile impeachment trial."

But several key officials tell a consistent and different story, about image management and the trouble it caused in pandemic response from the very beginning.

"We lost so much time," a former administration official said, looking back. "The whole thing was mind-blowing. This could have been so different."

11:22 a.m. ET, October 1, 2020

European Medicines Agency starts rolling review of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate

From CNN’s James Frater and Vasco Cotovio

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started a rolling review of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate, it said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the EMA, “a rolling review is one of the regulatory tools that the Agency uses to speed up the assessment of a promising medicine or vaccine during a public health emergency,” and it basically means that instead of evaluating all the data on the vaccine after it is completed, the agency will evaluate the data as it becomes available, in order to speed up its potential approval, if all the safety and effectiveness criteria are met.

 “The decision to start the rolling review of the vaccine is based on preliminary results from non-clinical and early clinical studies suggesting that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies and T cells (cells of the immune system, the body’s natural defences) that target the virus,” the EMA said in its statement. “The rolling review will continue until enough evidence is available to support a formal marketing authorisation application.”

“EMA will complete its assessment according to its usual standards for quality, safety and effectiveness,” the EMA also said in its statement.

The EMA had used the rolling review process in the assessment of the Covid-19 medicine remdesivir, but it’s the first time it is applying it to a vaccine.

Trials for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine have been resumed in Britain, Brazil and South Africa after a participant developed a serious illness, but remain on hold in the United States, the US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn confirmed on Wednesday, without revealing why.

“I can’t speak to confidential commercial information and this summit knows that all too well,” he said.