US President Donald Trump says he is optimistic about having a coronavirus vaccine on the market by the end of this year or thereafter.
Former pharmaceutical executive Moncep Slaoui, Moncef Slaoui, picked by the White House to lead a crash development programme to develop coronavirus vaccine, said that early trial data suggests that “a few hundred million doses of vaccine” will be delivered by late 2020.
Speaking at a Rose Garden event on Friday, Trump reiterated that he wants to see states move forward with reopening their economies.
“We are back, vaccine or no vaccine,” Trump said, reports AP.
The US has been the hardest-hit country by coronavirus with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths – more than 1,457,593 and 86,912 respectively, according to Wordometer.
Meanwhile, the global death tally from coronavirus pandemic reached 303,351 on Friday morning. Since it was first reported in China in December last year, coronavirus has infected more than half a million people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic on March 11. The virus is now affecting 212 countries and territories around the world and two international conveyances.
Meanwhile, confirmed coronavirus cases Bangladesh surged to 20,065 on Friday. The death toll has climbed to 298.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the task force, has become nationally known for his simple and direct explanations to the public about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.
Also quarantining are Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn.
Fauci's institute said that he has tested negative for COVID-19 and will continue to be tested regularly. It added that he is considered at “relatively low risk” based on the degree of his exposure, and that he would be “taking appropriate precautions" to mitigate the risk to personal contacts while still carrying out his duties. While he will stay at home and telework, Fauci will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.
Redfield will be “teleworking for the next two weeks" after it was determined he had a “low risk exposure" to a person at the White House, the CDC said in a statement Saturday evening. The statement said he felt fine and has no symptoms.
Just a few hours earlier, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed that Hahn had come in contact with someone who tested positive and was in self-quarantine for the next two weeks. He tested negative for the virus.
All three men are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the panel, said the White House will allow Redfield and Hahn to testify by videoconference, a one-time exception to the administration's policies on hearing testimony. The statement was issued before Fauci's quarantine was announced.
Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus this week. White House officials had confirmed Thursday that a member of the military serving as one of Trump’s valets had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump, who publicly identified the affected Pence aide as spokeswoman Katie Miller, said he was “not worried” about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.
Miller had been in recent contact with Pence but not with the president and had tested negative a day earlier. She is married to Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser. The White House had no immediate comment on whether Stephen Miller had been tested or if he was still working in the White House.
The CDC and FDA would not disclose the identity of the person who had tested positive and with whom the agency leaders had come in contact.
Trump has resisted wearing a mask, and in a meeting with the nation’s top military leaders Saturday evening, he did not wear a mask during the brief portion that reporters were allowed to view. The generals around Trump also did not wear a mask, but participants did sit a few feet away from each other.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the administration was stepping up mitigation efforts already recommended by public health experts and taking other unspecified precautions to ensure the safety of the president. He said the White House was “probably the safest place that you can come,” but the he was reviewing further steps to keep Trump and Pence safe.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds conducted a flyover on Saturday in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Prince George's County in Maryland in support of the frontline healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The show is one of a series of flyovers the squadrons have been making around the country.
The 20-minute Washington D.C. flyover, which followed one in Baltimore of Maryland earlier in the day, started at 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time in Prince George's County of Maryland. The planes then hovered around Montgomery County of Maryland and headed into Northern Virginia via Arlington.
After passing over Fairfax City, the planes looped back in Prince William County, and then flew toward the National Mall in the downtown D.C. area, where the flyover was brought to an end at around 12:05 p.m.
Saturday's flyover was part of the "America Strong" tour, which President Donald Trump announced at a recent news conference.
"What we are doing is paying tribute to our front-line health care workers confronting COVID, and it's really a signal to all Americans to remain vigilant during the outbreak," Trump said at an April 22 news briefing.
"Operation America Strong was the idea of our great military men and women - the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels crews who wanted to show support to the American medical workers who, just like military members in a time of war, are fiercely running toward the fight," said the president.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States topped 65,000 on Saturday morning, reaching 65,244 as of 12:00 a.m. (1600 GMT), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
A total of 1,106,373 cases have been reported in the country, according to the CSSE.
The state of New York suffered the most, with 308,314 cases and 24,039 deaths. Other hardest-hit states included New Jersey with 7,538 deaths, Michigan with 3,866 deaths, and Massachusetts with 3,716 deaths, the data showed.
A New York City nursing home on Friday reported the deaths of 98 residents believed to have had the coronavirus — a staggering death toll that shocked public officials.
"It's absolutely horrifying," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "It's inestimable loss, and it's just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place."
It is hard to say whether the spate of deaths at the Isabella Geriatric Center, in Manhattan, is the worst nursing home outbreak yet in the U.S., because even within the city facilities have chosen to report fatalities in different ways. A state tally of nursing home deaths released Friday listed only 13 at the home.
But officials at the 705-bed center confirmed that through Wednesday 46 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 had died as well as an additional 52 people "suspected" to have the virus. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.
The number of bodies became so overwhelming the home ordered a refrigerator truck to store them because funeral homes have been taking days to pick up the deceased.
"Isabella, like all other nursing homes in New York City, initially had limited access to widespread and consistent in-house testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff," Audrey Waters, a spokeswoman for the nursing home, wrote in an email. "This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms."
Isabella also encountered staffing shortages, prompting it to hire from outside agencies and early challenges securing personal protective equipment for employees. Waters said the home finally is "getting more access to testing" now.
The nursing home's death toll was first reported by local cable news station NY1.
Nursing homes have been known since the earliest days of the outbreak as a trouble spot. They have been particularly hard hit in New York, which has had at least 3,065 nursing home deaths — by far the most in the nation — as of Thursday, according to an Associated Press count.
The state Department of Health said it has received "outbreak reports" from 239 nursing homes, including at least six facilities with death tolls of 40 patients or more.
"The one thing we now know about the nursing homes is the status quo cannot continue to say the least," de Blasio said. "Something very different has to happen."
City officials are "trying to provide help in every way we can," the mayor added, saying the city had delivered thousands of respirator masks to the Washington Heights facility.
U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, accused Isabella of keeping the public and elected officials in the dark about the outbreak. He sent a letter Friday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James urging them to investigate the "information sharing practices" of New York nursing homes.
"People deserve to know what's happening," Espaillat said in an interview with AP.
Isabella Geriatric Center said it "could not speculate" as to why a state survey previously listed only 13 COVID-19 deaths at its facility. It sent a lengthy statement to AP on Friday insisting it "truthfully and accurately reported" its death toll to state officials.
State officials said they are building an updated data set intended to offer a more detailed window into nursing home deaths. Cuomo referred to a "vagueness" in some reporting of suspected COVID-19 cases but warned nursing homes not to misrepresent their death tolls.
"They submit these numbers under penalty of perjury," Cuomo told reporters. "They can be prosecuted criminally for fraud on any of these reporting numbers."
Isabella said it kept family members in the loop about changes in their loved ones' conditions despite the circumstances.
"When we believe their loved one is nearing death, we do reach out to a resident's primary contact and ask if they would like to say goodbye in person or via phone or an app," Waters said. "In-person goodbye visits were never interrupted and continue to happen."