The Latest: Mark Meadows hopes for virus vaccine by the fall
WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows says he’s looking forward to the U.S. having a vaccine for COVID-19 by the fall, a faster timeline than top government scientists have sketched out.
Meadows told Politico he’s “optimistic that one of the seven or eight candidates that we have will actually get approved. And hopefully be able to be deployed by this fall.”
Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a congressional hearing he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.” He suggested health workers and medically vulnerable people will go first.
Meadows didn’t directly say whether the Food and Drug Administration would authorize emergency use of a vaccine, which it did recently for donated blood plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19.
Meadows says, “We’re going to make sure it’s good science and the efficacy and the safety of those vaccines are well tried.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— World Economic Forum becomes digital Davos next summer
— Philippines reach 200,000 coronavirus cases
— Gaza reports first community coronavirus death
— U.S. health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu in record numbers to avoid “twindemic” as fall looms
— New coronavirus mandates on health care facilities get pushback in U.S. The Trump administration requires facilities to test staff regularly or face fines and funding cutbacks.
— South Korea orders doctors to stop strike amid virus crisis. The three-day strike started against government plans to boost the number of medical students.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
GENEVA — The World Economic Forum is delaying its annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, until next summer out of health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Davos is generally held the week of Jan. 25. Instead, the forum will digitally host “Davos Dialogues” to explore the state of the world at an unspecified date next summer.
Managing Director for Public Engagement Adrian Monck says it was a difficult decision because many world and civic leaders had hoped to use the meeting to help shape what the forum calls the “Great Reset” after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monck says, “the advice from experts is that we cannot do so safely in January.”
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska state health data indicates Pacific Islanders and Alaska Natives are more likely to contract the coronavirus and be hospitalized with the illness.
Alaska Public Media reported culture and economics can contribute to the disparity.
Pacific Islanders in Alaska have contracted COVID-19 at about eight times the rate of the rest of the population. Alaska Natives are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to contract the coronavirus. Officials say the groups are more likely to live in crowded, multi-generational housing where the virus can easily spread and customary community gatherings can contribute to infections.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s annual spring celebration of maple syrup will finally take place this fall.
Maine Maple Sunday was scheduled to take place in March, when the pandemic was intensifying around the country.
The Maine Maple Producers Association say the event will be held Oct. 9 to 11. The association say the weekend will include virtual elements and traditional in-person visits to the state’s sugar houses.
Maine is the third-largest maple producer in the country, after Vermont and New York. Maple association president Scott Dunn says the industry has taken a hit from the pandemic.
Maine Maple Sunday typically happens when sap buckets are a common sight on maple trees around the state. Fall harvest festivals in Maine tend to be more about apples or pumpkins than syrup.
Maine has more than 4,300 reported cases of the virus and 131 deaths.
HONOLULU — Officials say some nonviolent inmates released from the Oahu Community Correctional Center by a state Supreme Court order have been isolated or quarantined at Honolulu hotels.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the state Department of Health says the inmates include those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, await test results or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.
Health department officials say those in the hotels must show they cannot quarantine or isolate in residences without assistance. Officials wouldn’t say how many former inmates are quarantined at the hotels.
MANILA, Philippines — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines surged past 200,000 Wednesday. The country has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.
The Department of Health reported a daily tally of 5,277 recent infections, the majority in Manila. That brings the country’s confirmed total to 202,361 and 3,137 deaths.
President Rodrigo Duterte has faced growing criticisms over the alarming spread of infections. Vice President Leni Robredo said in televised remarks on Monday: “It’s as if no one is at the helm, no direction, no clear horizon as to when and how this pandemic will be addressed.”
Duterte said Robredo didn’t back up her allegations of government shortcomings with evidence, and her criticisms came amid public desperation. He said, “Please do not add fuel to the fire. You will just destroy the government.”
LONDON — Scotland has recorded the first coronavirus deaths in more than a month.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says two people have died in Scotland after testing positive for COVID-19.
Sturgeon says it’s the first coronavirus deaths reported in Scottish since July 16. Both deaths were recorded in the past day and bring the total confirmed death toll in Scotland to 2,494.
Meanwhile, the number of positive cases linked to a food processing plant rose by four to 156. The factory, which employed more than 1,000 workers north of Edinburgh, closed Aug.17.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Patients at the The Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City will be allowed two visitors.
Some adults at University of Oklahoma hospitals in Oklahoma City and Edmond will be allowed one visitor each. The hospitals have been limiting visitor numbers in recent months to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma County Jail Trust has approved $3 million in bonuses to county jail employees who have worked during the pandemic. That amounts to $1,000 per worker. Also, the University of Oklahoma says tailgating will be banned on campus for the 2020 football season. The university requires everyone on campus to wear masks, including at all athletic events.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Health Department reported a total of 54,172 confirmed coronavirus cases. The state has confirmed 744 deaths.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will resume weekly audiences with the faithful present, starting next Wednesday.
The pope held his last public audience on Feb. 26, just days after the first locally transmitted coronavirus outbreaks were identified in northern Italy. Since then, they’ve been held in the pope’s private library.
The Vatican announced audiences in September will be held outdoors in the San Damaso courtyard, part of the Apostolic Palace. It’s much smaller than St. Peter’s Square, where audiences are held in good weather.
The Vatican announced a lockdown in early March, barring the general public from St. Peter’s Square until late May, when well-spaced faithful were permitted back for the traditional Sunday blessing.
BEIJING — The city of Urumqi in China’s northwest resumed large-scale virus testing of residents Wednesday to stop a coronavirus outbreak, the government announced.
The Xinjiang region has recorded 826 confirmed virus cases from mid-July through Tuesday in the outbreak, the government reported. It says 124 still were hospitalized.
The announcement says testing would cover “key communities” but gave no indication how many people would be involved.
CAIRO — Egypt’s prime minister is warning about an increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Arab World most populous country.
Mustafa Madbouly says his government will keep tightening its preventive measures “to avoid a new wave of the pandemic,” according to the state-run MENA news agency.
Health Minister Hala Zayed is concerned people aren’t wearing face masks or observing social distancing. She called for police to activate penalties for those not wearing masks on public transportation.
In May, the government made wearing face masks mandatory, with violators fined 4,000 pounds (around $250) by police.
The government in July allowed the reopening of mosques, cafes and restraints, and lifted the nighttime curfew. It also reopened selected tourist destinations to international charter flights.
Egypt reported more than 97,600 infections and nearly 5,300 confirmed deaths. However, the actual numbers of infections and deaths from coronavirus, like elsewhere in the world, are likely far higher due to limited testing and reporting.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza health officials have reported the first death from COVID-19 since authorities detected community transmission of the coronavirus earlier this week.
A wider outbreak in the blockaded territory, which is home to 2 million Palestinians, could be catastrophic. The health infrastructure has been strained by years of conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.
The Health Ministry says the deceased was a 61-year-old man who had been put on life support and died during his transfer to a special isolation center.
The ministry said nine new local cases were detected Wednesday, raising the total to 15. Authorities have reported more than 100 cases and a fatality since March, but until this week they were all linked to quarantine centers for returning travelers.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says that the pandemic has both ’’exposed and aggravated” social inequalities.
Francis said during his weekly audience Wednesday that disparities show up in the workplace, schools and government programs to address the economic impact of the pandemic.
He underlined that not everyone can work from home; school has been “abruptly interrupted” for some children, but continues for others; and while “some powerful nations can issue money to deal with the crisis,” that would mean ‘’mortgaging the future for others.’’
The pope said, “these symptoms of inequality reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy. It is the fruit of unequal economic growth that disregards fundamental human values.”
NEW DELHI — Indian plans to double coronavirus testing in New Delhi as the Indian capital’s caseload has started rising again, with experts warning against complacency and a resurgence of the outbreak.
State Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Wednesday that the capital was conducting 20,000 tests every day and the capacity would be increased to 40,000.
New Delhi was the first major hot spot in the country to have successfully reined in the outbreak last month but cases have been climbing recently.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is re-introducing measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus after the number of confirmed single-day infections jumped to levels that were previously seen in June.
Civil service employees will again be able to take turns to come into the office and to work remotely from home, according to a presidential circular on “flexible working methods” published in the Official Gazette Wednesday.
Meanwhile, authorities banned large gatherings in the capital Ankara and 13 other provinces worst hit by the outbreak, according to an Interior Ministry. Wedding ceremonies will be limited to just one hour, while people aged 65 and over and children under the age of 15 who are not related to the bride or groom, are barred from attending the ceremonies.
The new restrictions came after Turkey reported 1,502 new cases on Tuesday, the highest since June 15.
LONDON — The University of Cambridge says it hopes to begin trials of a vaccine designed to protect against COVID-19 and other related coronaviruses later this year after receiving 1.9 million pounds ($2.5 million) from the British government.
The university said Wednesday that researchers at DIOSynVax, a company spun off by Cambridge in 2017, developed the vaccine using three-dimensional computer modeling of all known coronaviruses to create synthetic genes that train the immune system to target the disease.
Professor Jonathan Heeney, who heads the university’s laboratory of viral zoonotics, said “ultimately we aim to make a vaccine that will not only protect from SARS-CoV-2, but also other related coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans.”
PARIS — France’s prime minister is urging his compatriots to wear masks more but insists that rising infections across the country are “nothing to panic about” and that it’s time for people to get back to work and school and “cultivating themselves.”
France is now reporting more than 25 positive tests per 100,000 people, up from five a month ago, and neighboring countries are requiring quarantines for visitors from parts or all of France. There has also been a small but steady uptick in virus patients in intensive care, though the situation is far from the crisis levels French hospitals faced in March and April.
Despite the rising infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex insisted on France-Inter radio Wednesday that France needs to return to work and school and avoid “falling into an economic and social crisis that would be much more dangerous than the health crisis.”
He urged a careful return to cultural venues, too, pledging 2 billion euros for the French culture industry to help it survive a plunge in revenues for museums, cinemas and other sites. The money will be part of a 100 billion economic recovery package to be unveiled next week.
MADRID — Faced with a surge of coronavirus infections, the Spanish government will seek to lower from 12 to 6 years old the age for mandatory mask wearing in schools.
In an interview Wednesday with Spain’s Cadena SER radio, Education Minister Isabel Celaá also said that parents who need to stay at home to take care of an infected child will receive compensation or paid medical leave.
Officials at the central and regional level in charge of education and health are meeting on Thursday to negotiate revised measures ahead of the school year opening over the next three weeks.
NEW DELHI — India has reported more than 67,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s number of reported infections to 3.2 million with 1.5 million reported infections coming this month alone.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 1,059 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the pandemic to 59,449.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on Aug. 19. New reported infections dropped to around 61,000 on Monday and Tuesday, but picked up again in the past 24 hours.
The ministry said India’s recovery rate was now around 76% with a fatality rate of 1.84%.
Even though the country of nearly 1.4 billion people has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, areas identified as most affected by the virus continue to remain under lockdown.