Trump disputes his CDC director on vaccine timeline
President Donald Trump at a White House briefing Wednesday evening said CDC director Robert Redfield was “confused” and “incorrect” when he testified at a Senate hearing earlier in the day that most of the American public may not get access to a COVID-19 vaccine until the middle of next year.
“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information,” Trump said in response to a question about Redfield’s testimony.
“When he said it, I believe he was confused,” Trump said of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced. It could be announced in October. It could be announced a little bit after October,” Trump said.
He then pointed to the phamaceutical giant Pfizer — one of the many firms researching a vaccine — and said “they’re spending billions of dollars actually making this vaccine. They’re in a stage where they’re actually making it because they feel very confident as to the results. They’ll be announcing their results fairly soon.”
Redfield, a medical doctor and infectious disease expert, testified that a vaccine could be announced soon, possibly before the presidential election, but that it would become available gradually over time depending on various factors, including who needs it most based on vulnerability to the virus.
CDC director says coronavirus vaccines won’t be widely available till the middle of next year
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted Wednesday that most of the American public will not have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus until late spring or summer of next year.
At a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC director Robert Redfield adhered to President Trump’s oft-stated desire for a safe and effective vaccine to become available in November or December — perhaps just before the presidential election seven weeks away.
But Redfield said the vaccine will be provided first to people most vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and supplies will increase over time, so Americans who are lower priority for the protection will be offered the shot more gradually. For it to be “fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life,” he said, “I think we are probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
Though any individual vaccinated should benefit, he said, the progressive widening of its availability means there will be a time lag between when a vaccine is approved and when it could have a measurable effect in controlling the pandemic. That might be six to nine months after the day it is approved by federal drug regulators, Redfield predicted.
The comments were the most detailed time frame outlined so far by the leader of the government’s main public health agency.
They came as Trump has latched onto the prospect of a vaccine as crucial to his prospects for a second term, with low approval ratings among voters for his handling of the worst public health crisis that the country and world have confronted in a century. A vaccine also is widely regarded as a pivot point for Americans to be unfettered from the constraints the pandemic has imposed on daily life — from recreation such as concerts and movie theaters to workplaces that remain shuttered.
“There’s even more urgency now because of where we are with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had a real reduction in revenues,” Wolf said. “I think the entire General Assembly, everybody in public life at the local, county and state level, we’re all looking for ways to actually jumpstart our economy and look for sources of revenue that we lost throughout this, so this is really the right time to do this.”
Wednesday marked the second time this month that Wolf has held a press conference to call on the legislature to legalize cannabis and pursue criminal justice reform policies for people previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses, which he says could help Pennsylvania’s workforce by eliminating previous conviction records.
The governor has backed recreational legalization since September 2019, but Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature, have said they are not on board.
St. Joe’s Prep suspends in-person classes due to positive coronavirus cases
St. Joseph’s Preparatory School has suspended in-person instruction through Sept. 24 after two students tested positive for the coronavirus.
Bill Avington, spokesperson for the all-boys Catholic school, said the school was informed Tuesday of the test results. The students were last in school on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9, he said.
The school decided to suspend in-person learning for the week — as well as activities and sports — and move to all-virtual instruction after consulting with the Philadelphia Department of Health, Avington said.
Avington declined to comment on any specifics of the cases.
The school, which is using a hybrid model this fall that brings half of students to campus on Mondays and Tuesday, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays, began instruction on Sept. 8. Students were also on campus the week of Aug. 31 for in-person orientation.
Murphy warns about indoor house parties as N.J. adds more than 400 new cases
As cases of COVID-19 in young people continue to climb, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said indoor house parties are “at or near the top of the list” of the biggest threats in terms of a possible second wave of coronavirus infections this fall.
“We’re not remotely close, and I don’t know when we’ll get there, to packed congregating around a bar. So what makes people think a house party is any different than that?” Murphy asked.
About two weeks after a host of businesses like gyms, movie theaters, and indoor restaurants were given the green light to reopen, Murphy said the state had not received widespread reports of “bad behavior” in those places. He said it was still too soon to tell whether reopened schools are leading to transmission among students, but officials have no evidence yet of any in-school spreading and schools are tracing cases aggressively.
But Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the rate of positivity for COVID-19 testing among 14- to 18-year-olds has gone from 3 to 7% since mid-August. For 19- to 24-year-olds, that metric has climbed from 2.7 to 7.1%. Many such infections are a result of parties, she said.
Though generally symptoms are milder in teenagers and young adults, Persichilli cited a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed people under 21 can still be vulnerable to serious cases of COVID-19.
“With schools and colleges reopening ... now is not the time for indoor parties or large gatherings,” Persichilli said. “These activities allow the virus to spread.”
New Jersey added 447 new cases of the coronavirus, the second in a row for that number to top 400. The rate of transmission is steady at 1.06, meaning each confirmed case is leading to at least another infection.
Wolf said his administration is expected to seek a stay in the case Wednesday to temporarily block the judge’s decision, but that the state intends to release new guidelines to schools quickly in the interim while the case continues to play out in court.
“It’s a work in progress,” Wolf told reporters. “We’re actually trying to figure out what we can do to give some guidance quickly to the school districts, while we’re going through this process.”
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV found that the Wolf administration’s policy limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings and events to 25 and 250 people, respectively, violates “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”
The Pittsburgh-based judge also found Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s stay-at-home and business closure orders to be unconstitutional.
While “school districts are making up their own minds and all these things,” Wolf said it is important to remember that the coronavirus spreads when large groups convene.
“You put 3,000 people together, packed in closely. My bet is that the virus is really, really going to like that. And if you’re looking to get people infected, that’s a good way to do it,” he said. “So regardless of what that number ends up being, or how we ended up calculating it that it conforms to whatever constitutional principles, we always keep having to come back to that virus.”
Top health official takes leave of absence after accusing scientists of plotting to ‘replace’ Trump
The Trump administration health official embroiled in a furor over political meddling with the coronavirus response is taking a leave of absence, the government announced Wednesday.
The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that Michael Caputo was taking the time “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family.”
Caputo, the department’s top spokesman, apologized on Tuesday to his staff for a Facebook video in which he reportedly said scientists battling the coronavirus are conspiring against President Donald Trump and warned of shooting in America if Trump were to lose the November election.
“There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president,” Caputo said. “To allow people to die so that you can replace the president is a grievous venial sin, venial sin. And these people are all going to hell.”
The Trump appointee also was accused of trying to muzzle a scientific weekly put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s the conclusion of University of Pittsburgh physician Mark S. Roberts, whose team developed a model to estimate the impacts of closing and reopening schools, offices, restaurants and stores.
Nearly 8,000 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed so far in the state. Had fewer restrictions been imposed, that toll likely would have been several times higher, said Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab at Pitt’s graduate public health school.
“It clearly has saved lives, no question at all,” he said. “It’s easy to project that there would be two to three times the deaths, at a minimum, with less social distancing.”
In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV found the Wolf administration’s policy limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings and events to 25 and 250 people, respectively, violated “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.” The judge, who sits in Pittsburgh, also ruled that the administration’s stay-at-home and business closure orders were unconstitutional.
Yet two weeks earlier, a federal judge in Philadelphia took the opposite view in a case that dealt solely with business closures, setting the stage for an appeal.
“We saw perhaps our most extreme, which is saying something by the way, and egregious display of knucklehead behavior,” Murphy said.
The YouTube personalities the Nelk Boys had announced they planned to rent the house once used to film Jersey Shore, the notorious MTV reality show. As they posted videos of themselves at the house, a group of hundreds of people arrived on the scene, many of them unmasked.
The crowd, which Murphy said was larger than 1,000 people, led police to block the streets to traffic. State Police and officers from more than half a dozen towns responded to disperse the crowd throughout the night.
“It was irresponsible from top to bottom in every respect, and these so-called influencers need to be taken to task,” Murphy said.
Murphy encouraged anyone who attended the event to get tested for COVID-19.
CDC director: Masks may offer more protection to coronavirus than a vaccine
CDC Director Robert Redfield suggests masks are better than vaccines at Senate hearing today:
"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%." pic.twitter.com/y8kn3w7rsO
Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said masks may offer more protection to the coronavirus than a vaccine.
“These facemasks are the important, powerful public health tool we have,” Redfield said during testimony on Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the coronavirus.
“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Redfield added. “Because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face will."
Redfield said there is clear scientific evidence that mask work to limit the spread of COVID-19, and if all Americans wore facial coverings while out in public for six to 10 weeks, “we’d bring this pandemic under control.”
Pennsylvania reports 776 new cases, 28 additional deaths
Pennsylvania reported 776 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The commonwealth is now averaging about 830 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, increasing slightly over the past few days.
The Department of Health said 173,790 coronavirus tests were administered between Sept. 9 and Sept. 15, with 5,855 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.3%. Overall, 146,990 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
At least 7,903 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 28 new deaths reported on Wednesday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,308 (about 67%) have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
Philadelphia’s rental assistance program will now pay up to $1,500 per month for tenants who lost income because of the pandemic, the city and Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. announced Wednesday.
Landlords had argued that the previous $750 per month funding cap was too low, and many of them chose not to participate in the program because their full rent would not be covered but they would still be expected to waive late fees and participate in other renter protections.
The funding will apply to tenants who have applied for the second phase of rental assistance and those who apply by the Sept. 30 deadline.
The state’s rental assistance program required the $750 per month cap, but cities can use local funding to increase the funding limit.
Philadelphia is getting $11.3 million in new federal funding to help residents pay their rent and mortgages, Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) announced this week.
The federal government has outlined a sweeping plan to provide a free COVID-19 vaccine
The federal government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is established and widely accepted though polls show skepticism remains across America.
In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even later this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot. The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers would be the ones giving shots.
The federal Paycheck Protection Program was, by most accounts, instrumental in helping to provide money for many small businesses through the pandemic. According to the Small Business Administration, the program — which ended Aug. 8 — provided more than five million forgivable loans to small companies, amounting to $525 billion. The loans were used not only to help keep their employees on the payroll, but also for other operating expenses such as rent and utilities.
Last week, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have offered another round of PPP funding. But that wasn’t Washington’s only failure. Neither the Senate nor the House has addressed a ticking time bomb within the program: a potentially huge tax bill for recipients.
Rejoice, Nittany Lions fans — Penn State football will return next month.
After days of conversations behind closed doors, Big Ten college football will officially return in October, the conference announced Wednesday morning.
Fourteen universities are part of the Big Ten conference. In addition to Penn State, those schools include: Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK. All teams to participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped!!!
At Philly town hall, Trump questions the value of wearing masks and claims he ‘up-played’ the pandemic
President Donald Trump attempted to rewrite the history of his early response to the coronavirus during a town hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday, saying he “up-played” the pandemic rather than downplaying it — an assertion directly at odds with his own comments in public and on tape.
“I didn’t downplay it; I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action, my action was very strong,” Trump said at the National Constitution Center, where he took questions from undecided voters in an event hosted by ABC News.
“I don’t want to scare people. I don’t want to make people panic and you’re not going to go out and say, oh, this is going to be, ‘This is death, death, death,’” Trump said. He later predicted, again, that the virus would “disappear,” a claim he has long made, even as the virus has continued to spread and kill almost 200,000 people in the United States.
At one point, Trump said the virus would go away even without a vaccine, “over a period of time.” Trump said Americans would “develop like a herd mentality” — garbling the phrase “herd immunity,” the threshold at which enough people have been infected that the virus spreads more slowly. ABC host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that would also mean “many deaths.”
Trump also questioned the value of wearing face masks, which he often refuses to do, even though public health experts say it’s one of the most important ways to slow the virus' spread. He frequently mocks his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.
Fauci says all states should follow Vermont’s approach to the pandemic
While much of the country continues to struggle containing COVID-19, Vermont hasn’t reported a new coronavirus death since the end of July and currently is averaging a positivity rate around 0.2%, the lowest in the country.
Among those praising the state’s approach to deal with the pandemic is Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, who said he wished he could “bottle up” the state’s approach and export it to other states.
“Notwithstanding that you’re a small state, but it should be the model of how you get to such a low test positivity, that you can actually start opening up the economy in a safe and prudent way,” Fauci said via a video feed at Gov. Phil Scott’s news conference Tuesday.
Fauci said Vermont’s approach has been relatively straightforward — a wide acceptance of the state’s mask mandate, aggressive contact tracing when outbreaks occur, keeping proper social distancing from others, avoiding large crowds, and washing hands frequently. But even Fauci admitted something that seemed as simple as a mask mandate wouldn’t work in many states.
“In some areas, anything that smacks of an authoritative statement to the citizenry often is met with a considerable amount of pushback,” Fauci said.
The cluster of coronavirus infections that originated from the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket on Aug. 7 continues to grow in Maine, state health officials said, after guests flouted social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. Now people who have no association with the party have died, including six residents of the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said in a news briefing on Tuesday.