March 20, 2023


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Nation’s capital grudgingly hosting fireworks bash; Pfizer hopes to provide 100 million vaccine doses by year’s end

7 min read

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reported encouraging early results Wednesday for a vaccine targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, and said that if all goes well it could manufacture up to 100 million doses by year’s end.

The encouraging news comes as U.S. coronavirus cases were surging and with multiple states reporting new daily records, and the World Health Organization warning that the global pandemic is “speeding up.”

The Trump administration, undeterred, unveiled plans for the Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza on the National Mall, an annual event that routinely draws hundreds of thousands of people. Others were more reticent, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom planning to announce “aggressive” coronavirus restrictions later Wednesday.

Texas, which set new marks for positive cases and hospitalizations, has shut down bars. So did Arizona, while Florida banned alcohol consumption at them. White House task force leader Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with Arizona officials Wednesday amid that state’s surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Here are some major developments:

📈Today’s stats: There were 44,766 new cases confirmed nationwide Tuesday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Other media tallies put the case count as high as 48,000, which would be a record for daily totals. Globally, there have been more than 10.5 million cases and 512,000 deaths. In the U.S., cases have surpassed 2.6 million with over 127,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

📰 What we’re reading: While the CDC says face shields should not be worn to replace a cloth mask, more and more people are turning to them for additional protection. Here’s where you can buy them. 

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

D.C. to see fireworks, Blue Angels on Fourth; mayor not celebrating

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host a Salute to America on Independence Day over the objections of Washington D.C.’s mayor. The event will feature flyovers by the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels and a massive fireworks display that annually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. The National Mall and surrounding areas will remain open and available to the general public for prime viewing, the Department of the Interior said. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser, however, urged residents to stay at home to avoid fueling spread of COVID-19, which has seen a surge in cases in recent days.

“We’ve communicated to (Interior) that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance,” Bowser said. “But this event will take place entirely on the federal property.”

Mount Rushmore will host celebration, minus social distancing

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said despite health experts’ concerns about a large gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic people would “not be social distancing” during a July 3 celebration at Mount Rushmore that President Donald Trump will attend. Free masks will be provided to those who choose to wear one, but people concerned about social distancing should stay home, Noem said.

“In South Dakota, we’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility,” Noem told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. So, we will be having celebrations of American independence.”

William Cummings

Pfizer says it could have 100 million vaccine doses by year’s end 

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reported encouraging early results Wednesday for the first of four vaccines targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the global pandemic. The initial part of the study included 45 adults ages 18 to 55. Pfizer, partnering with the German company BioNTech, said that if the studies are successful and the vaccine candidate receives regulatory approval, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020. The number could balloon to over 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

“We have positive, preliminary, topline findings,” said Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine development at Pfizer. “We approach this goal with the utmost urgency.”

More than a dozen vaccine candidates are in human testing worldwide, with several poised to begin huge, last-stage studies.

Where are we in the race for a vaccine? We’re one-third of the way there, experts say

WHO leader: ‘The worst is yet to come’

The global pandemic is expanding and is “not even close to being over,” the leader of the World Health Organization says. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said isolating, testing, tracing and quarantines remain the only way to slow the scourge until a vaccine is widely available. He warned that “the worst is yet to come” and called for greater resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.

“We all want this to be over,” he said. “We want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, the pandemic is actually speeding up.”

‘Pooling’ could drastically increase testing capacity

Public health officials say a new “pooling” approach for coronavirus testing could dramatically boost U.S. screening capacity by combining test samples in batches instead of running them one by one. If the batches come up negative, individual tests are not needed. But a positive would mean testing each individual sample. The Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines for test makers two weeks ago but has not approved the protocols until the protocols are tested for accuracy.

FDA approval could help stretch laboratory supplies, reduce costs and expand testing to millions more Americans. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, says pooling “would give us the capacity to go from a half-a-million tests per day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day”.

Companies add 2.4 million jobs as economy restarts amid uncertainty

U.S. companies added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June as the economy struggled to recover amid the unrelenting pandemic, according to a private survey. The payroll company ADP said that small businesses reported the biggest increase, adding 937,000 jobs. Still, the economy remains under pressure amid a new spike in cases across much of the South and West. On Thursday, the government will release the jobs figures for June, projected to show that employers added 3 million jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 12.3%. That would be down a point from May, although both rates are among the highest since the Great Depression.

‘Affordability crisis’: Pandemic puts squeeze on housing supply

Housing inventory has dropped 29% from a year earlier through the week ending June 20, according to More than 40% of buyers who purchased their home during the pandemic reported entering into a bidding war on at least one home, according to recent data from Clever Real Estate, which surveyed 1,000 homeowners from May 31 through June 2 who made their purchase between January and May.

Javier Vivas, director of economic research for, said low mortgage rates have made buying a home attractive – if you can find one. “Housing demand has increased beyond expectations,” he said. “When you combine that with historically low levels of inventory, it’s a perfect storm for increased competition and an affordability crisis.” 

Jessica Menton

What we’re reading

PPE shortage still an issue as cases rise

Physicians and nurses still face a dearth of supplies as coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide. Nearly 45% of those surveyed by the American Nurses Association said they experienced protective gear shortages as late as May 31. Almost 80% said their employers encouraged or required them to reuse disposable equipment. 

The USA TODAY Network analyzed dozens of government reports and interviewed more than 50 experts — including health care administrators, traders and lawmakers — about the PPE shortages, especially the disposable masks that cost anywhere from a few pennies to a dollar. 

“The magnitude and speed of the spread of coronavirus just overwhelmed the entire supply chain from A to Z,” said Mike Crotty, an Ohio-born, Shanghai textile broker with more than 35 years in the business. “It was a madhouse.”

Dinah Voyles Pulver, Katie Wedell and Erin Mansfield

Mike Pence to visit Phoenix as Arizona grapples with COVID-19 surge

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Phoenix on Wednesday, continuing his tour of the nation’s new coronavirus hotspots in an effort to calm growing concerns that leaders in Washington and Arizona have bungled their response to the crisis. Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, is accompanying Pence on his visit to the 2020 battleground state. Amid the growing concerns over the spread of the virus in Arizona, Pence scrapped a planned visit to Yuma and a campaign event in Tucson. Pence and Birx are set to meet with Gov. Doug Ducey, public health officials and health care representatives.

The trip to Arizona follows their stop in Dallas on Sunday, where Pence, who chairs the task force, sounded an optimistic note about the battle to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. He sought to assure leaders there that they had the “counsel, the resources, and the support to meet this moment.” 

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic

Lockdown baby boom may be baby bust

Predictions of a possible baby boom as couples nationwide have had an abundance of alone-time together may go bust amid a spike in birth control requests. Digital health clinic Nurx says they’ve seen a 50% increase in new patient requests for birth control and a 40% increase in emergency contraception requests. The company serves over 250,000 patients. Worth noting: A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women.

“Whether to have a child for the first time or another child … that’s something people are feeling it isn’t the time to explore,” said Nurx spokesperson Allison Hoffman.

Adrianna Rodriguez

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

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How do you stay safe on flights during the pandemic? Experts say flying is safer than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic because of airlines’ changes, but travelers can take precautions, too. Here’s how.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID cases update: WHO warns pandemic is accelerating; EU travel

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