coronavirus pandemic

Virus Updates: US Layoffs Remain Elevated; N95 Mask Shortages Continue

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AstraZeneca's suspension of final testing of its potential COVID-19 vaccine while it investigates a volunteer's illness shows there will be "no compromises" on safety in developing the shots, the chief of the National Institutes of Health told Congress on Wednesday. Some have raised concerns that the Trump administration will rush to get a vaccine on the market prior to the presidential elections in November.

However, President Donald Trump is facing fresh criticism after a new book revealed he knew in February that COVID-19 was "deadly stuff" but wanted to "play it down." Trump, asked about the revelations Wednesday afternoon, defended his public comments, saying he did not want to cause a panic over the danger of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert, maintained his projection that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine may be ready in early 2021. It's possible it could be sooner, but "unlikely," he said Wednesday.

In a promising step for a city that was once the largest coronavirus hotspot in the nation, New York City will resume indoor dining for the first time in months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The U.S. has more than 6.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 191,000 deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Hospitals Still Face N95 Mask Shortages

White House officials say the United States has all the medical supplies needed to battle COVID-19, but health care workers, hospital officials and even the FDA say that’s not the case.

Shortfalls of medical N95 respirators — commonly referred to as N95 masks — and other protective gear started in March, when the pandemic hit New York.

The American Medical Association's president, Dr. Susan Bailey, says the tremendous pressure on the supply chain continues today, and in "many ways things have only gotten worse.”

“N95s are still in a shortage,” said Mike Schiller, the American Hospital Association’s senior director for supply chains. “It’s certainly not anywhere near pre-COVID levels.”

Mask makers say part of the problem is the Trump administration hasn't committed enough long-term resources to making meltblown textile — the key ingredient in medical-grade masks.

Mike Clark, a division president at Hollingsworth and Vose, a meltblown maker based in East Walpole, Massachusetts, said his company has tripled production of meltblown for masks by ramping up and exiting other markets. But he and other makers have reservations about investing significant amounts of their own money.

Read the full story.


US Layoffs Remain Elevated as Job Market's Gains Weaken

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 884,000, a sign that layoffs remain stuck at a historically high level six months after the viral pandemic flattened the economy.

The latest figures released by the Labor Department Thursday coincide with other recent evidence that the job market's improvement may be weakening after solid gains through spring and most of summer. The number of people seeking jobless aid each week still far exceeds the number who did so in any week on record before this year.

Read the full story here.


Why This Expert Says a COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Safe: ‘Have Faith in the FDA'

With the pharmaceutical industry fast-tracking a vaccine, some have questioned whether the public can trust that it is safe. But Former FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts says people can rely on the scientific community to approve a vaccine that can be trusted.

With the pharmaceutical industry fast-tracking a Covid-19 vaccine, some have questioned whether the public can trust that it is safe. But Former FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts says people can rely on the scientific community to approve a vaccine that can be trusted.

US Has Charged 57 People in PPP Fraud Cases, Justice Department Says

The Justice Department has charged 57 people since May with trying to steal more than $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, a department official said on Thursday.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt said coordinated criminal rings have worked to defraud the program. “The involvement of these rings isn’t surprising, but it is particularly troubling to us here at the department, we will be focusing on these types of cases, going forward,” he said at a news conference.

Read the full story at CNBC.com.


Daughter of Trump Supporter Who Died of COVID Rips President's Pandemic Comments to Woodward

The woman who publicly recounted how her father died of COVID-19 because he trusted President Donald Trump doubled down on her criticism Thursday following the revelation that the president told journalist Bob Woodward he intentionally played down the pandemic even though he knew it was “deadly.”

Kristin Urquiza, who blamed Trump during an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention last month for the death of her father from COVID-19 and blasted his overall handling of the pandemic, tore into the president anew Thursday during a phone call with reporters organized by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Get the full story here.


Teacher Deaths Raise Alarms as New School Year Begins

Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the dawn of the new school year.

A teachers’ union leader worries that the return to in-person classes will have a deadly impact across the U.S. if proper precautions aren’t taken.

AshLee DeMarinis was just 34 when she died Sunday. She taught social skills and special education in Potosi, Missouri.

A third- grade teacher died Monday in South Carolina. And two other educators died recently in Mississippi.

It’s unclear how many teachers in the U.S. have become ill with the coronavirus since the new school year began.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said schools need guidelines such as mandatory face coverings and strict social distancing rules to reopen safely.

“If community spread is too high as it is in Missouri and Mississippi, if you don’t have the infrastructure of testing, and if you don’t have the safeguards that prevent the spread of viruses in the school, we believe that you cannot reopen in person,” Weingarten said.

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Virus Alters How 9/11 Anniversary is Commemorated

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped how the U.S. is observing the anniversary of 9/11.

The terror attacks' 19th anniversary will be marked Friday by dueling ceremonies at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza and a corner nearby in New York.

Leaders of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum said their plan for a no-reading ceremony would honor both virus precautions and 9/11 families’ attachment to being at ground zero on the anniversary.

But another 9/11-related organization, the Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, quickly arranged its own simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying victims’ relatives could recite names while keeping a safe distance.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected at both remembrances. The two ceremonies reflect a divide over how to observe the anniversary in a time of social distancing.

The double beams of light that evoke the fallen twin towers were nearly canceled because of virus concerns, until an uproar sparked a change of heart.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden plan to attend a truncated ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

Read the full story.


Minnesota Wedding Linked to More Than 70 Cases, Officials Say

A summer wedding in southwest Minnesota is the source of at least 70 coronavirus cases, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Wednesday.

The number has grown from 58 on Friday to 70 at last count, she said by email.

The wedding, reception and "dance" took place Aug. 22 at KB's Bar and Grill in the small town of Ghent, the regional health authority, Southwest Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

Ehresmann described the festivities as "indoors" and said they exceeded state capacity and social distancing rules.

Southwest Health and Human Services in late August asked attendees and their close contacts to voluntarily quarantine.

Read the full story here


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