Overnight Health Care: US sets a new record for average daily coronavirus cases | Meadows on pandemic response: ‘We’re not going to control it’ | Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy
Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising sharply even as President Trump continues to downplay the pandemic. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the administration has effectively given up on controlling the spread of the coronavirus, and more cities have begun reimposing restrictions.
We’ll start with new numbers:
The cases just keep going up: The US set a new record for average daily coronavirus cases
The average new cases per day over a seven-day period was 68,954 on Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, beating the previous record of 66,844 set on July 23.
Big picture: The country has now passed the July peak, and there is no end in sight as the weather gets colder and more activity moves indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
It’s not just more testing: The president blamed the rise in cases on an increase in testing in a tweet Monday. However, hospitalizations are also rising, a sign that the rise in cases is not just because of more testing. There are more than 41,000 people hospitalized with coronavirus, up from around 30,000 at the end of September.
The percentage of tests coming back positive is also rising, another sign of the rising spread of the virus. It is now at about 6 percent nationally and climbing, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Meadows doubles down on White House pandemic response: ‘We’re not going to control it’
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attempted to clarify his remarks indicating that the Trump administration has given up on fighting the spread of the coronavirus, but then doubled down on them.
“We’re going to defeat the virus; we’re not going to control it,” Meadows told reporters outside the White House. “We will try to contain it as best we can, but … we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines.”
Meadows was seeking to defend comments he made Sunday, when he told CNN “we’re not going to control the pandemic,” an extraordinary admission that the administration has essentially given up on fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
The comment from Meadows runs counter to the rosy campaign trail message from President Trump that the country is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, that the media is overreacting, and that there will soon be vaccines and therapeutics widely available.
The context: Meadows said “the full context” of his remarks was about making sure people have access to the same kind of experimental therapies that Trump had when he was treated for COVID-19 earlier this month.
The reality: The White House is putting all its hope on a vaccine. But the drug companies working on coronavirus vaccines are still conducting clinical trials. Even if a vaccine is deemed safe and effective before the end of the year, it will not be able to be produced and widely distributed until mid-2021 at the earliest.
Meadows’s comments also seem to echo the approach being advocated by White House health advisor Scott Atlas and others, who argue the country should let the virus spread unchecked among the majority of the population, while protecting the “vulnerable,” in order to hasten the development of herd immunity.
Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy
Another day in the up and down of coronavirus response package talks.
On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the Trump administration for declining to sign on to Democrats’ plan for a COVID-19 testing strategy, despite earlier public statements from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating that there was an agreement.
“Today, we are waiting for an important response on several concerns, including on action to crush the virus. Ten days after Secretary Mnuchin went on CNBC to declare that he was accepting our testing plan, the Administration still refuses to do so,” Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have been negotiating for weeks on a COVID-19 relief package that has included discussion of another round of stimulus checks to individuals, renewed enhanced unemployment insurance, tax credits and funds for the airline industry, in addition to a testing plan.
House Democrats have called for $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as part of their relief proposal. Earlier this month, Mnuchin said that he had largely agreed to Pelosi’s demand for a national testing strategy with some minor changes.
El Paso issues stay at home order, nightly curfew to curb spread of COVID-19
El Paso County, Texas, has imposed a two-week stay-at-home order with a daily curfew in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued the order Sunday night, requiring all residents to stay home unless conducting essential business. He also imposed a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Violations could result in a $500 fine.
Samaniego recommended that nonessential businesses close if they can’t offer curbside, drive-thru or takeout services, but did not require it.
The numbers: Cases have spiked in the region, with a 160 percent increase in the positivity rate in just the past three weeks. As of Saturday, El Paso County had 104.3 cases per 100,000 residents, which is the highest number of new cases per capita in the state.
On Monday, officials announced a record 1,443 new COVID-19 cases, as well as a record 853 hospitalized patients, up from 786 on Sunday.
AstraZeneca says its vaccine produces immune response in older adults
AstraZeneca said Monday that its potential coronavirus vaccine provokes an immune response in older adults, which it touted as a positive development as clinical trials proceed.
The immune response in older adults was similar to that in younger people, the company said, and adverse responses to the vaccine, known as reactogenicity, was lower in older people.
“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson said. “The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of [the vaccine].”
AstraZeneca, partnered with Oxford University, is developing one of the leading potential coronavirus vaccines, which is now in the third phase of clinical trials, along with other potential vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
AstraZeneca faced a setback in early September when its vaccine trial was halted to review potential safety concerns from a participant developing neurological symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration allowed the trial to resume on Friday.
The pandemic has led to an unprecedented demand for medicines. As a consequence, concerns and fears have arisen surrounding drug availability and shortages. What are stakeholders doing to ensure that disruptions do not occur, especially as we head into flu season and colder weather? And what plans are being put in place for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine once available? On Tuesday, October 27th at 1:00 PM ET, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), headline “COVID-19 & A Responsive Rx Supply Chain.”
An excerpt from former President Obama’s memoir, on the ObamaCare fight (The New Yorker)
Stocks tumble as coronavirus cases spike again in U.S. and Europe (NPR)
Drop in non-coronavirus hospitalizations suggests people are skipping key medical care (CNN)
State by state
Texas now tied with California for most Covid-19 cases in country (NBC News)
Alaska’s second wave of COVID-19 is bringing surging daily case counts, more hospitalizations and a new foe: fatalism. (Anchorage Daily News)
614 Minnesota hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients (Star Tribune)
COVID-19 Amplifies Dire Staffing Shortages At Tennessee Prisons (WKU)
Op-eds in The Hill