Moderna announced a crucial step Thursday in its progress toward winning approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it has secured all 30,000 participants for its Phase 3 study, more than a third of whom are of color. Meanwhile, the FDA approved the antiviral medicine remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.
“Completing enrollment of the Phase 3 COVE study is an important milestone for the clinical development of our vaccine," CEO Stéphane Bancel said. "We are indebted to all of the participants."
A vaccine can't come fast enough. Blood supply agencies warn that demand is outstripping supply, and that things could get worse when flu season kicks into high gear later in the fall.
"A month or two ago we were at probably a good place ... because so many heard that message to come out (and donate)," said Kate Fry, CEO of America's Blood Centers. "But now it's lost that momentum. We see the blood supply steadily decrease."
In Massachusetts, Salem is known as "Witch City" and draws big Halloween crowds. Not this year. Officials have announced stricter guidelines for Halloween to prevent gatherings. Businesses will shut down early, city officials will triple fines over the Halloween weekend, and streets will be closed.
Some significant developments:
Spain is the first country in western Europe to reach 1 million cases of COVID-19.
Boston public schools are switching to all-remote learning starting Thursday in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.
Former President Barack Obama, in his first campaign event for Joe Biden, slams President Trump's response to the pandemic.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.3 million cases and 222,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 41 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
Worked to death: Latino farmworkers have long been denied basic rights. COVID-19 showed how deadly racism could be. Read the latest installment in USA TODAY's series, Deadly Discrimination.
When will there be a COVID vaccine? In general, scientists and public health experts say a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved at the earliest by December, but that doesn't mean it will be widely available to most Americans. The federal government is developing a distribution plan that would get vaccine to various populations first, such as essential workers, those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and the elderly. See what USA TODAY's expert panel has to say.
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FDA approves remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 patients
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday approved the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.
As an antiviral drug, remdesivir works to stop replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the drug's manufacturer, Gilead. Previously authorized by the FDA for emergency use to treat COVID-19, the drug is now the first and only approved COVID-19 treatment in the United States, Gilead said in a release.
The drug is also known by its brand name Veklury.
College students can spread virus to nursing homes, Wisconsin study suggests
A new study shows how quickly college students can spread the virus, linking them to a Wisconsin outbreak that resulted in a spike in nursing home deaths.
The study out of Kabara Cancer Research Institute in Wisconsin, which has not yet been formally peer-reviewed, found genetic links between an outbreak in La Crosse and infections among students at the university there.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse reopened campus with in-person instruction Sept. 8, before suspending instruction after a spike in cases Sept. 13. On-campus courses resumed Oct. 5.
Researchers said the outbreak in the town of La Crosse “coincided with the return to in-person instruction,” finding links between college-aged students and the “rapid transmission of the virus into more vulnerable populations.”
The study said the majority of cases were associated with the largest institution, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, followed by Viterbo University, also in La Crosse. Relatively few cases were associated with students enrolled at Western Technical College in La Crosse.
In recent weeks, La Crosse County has seen 19 deaths, most of them in long-term care facilities, according to county data.
– Elinor Aspegren
Indiana reports daily high of nearly 3K new COVID-19 cases
Indiana reported a new daily high of nearly 3,000 new coronavirus infections on Thursday as state health officials added 42 more COVID-19 deaths to the pandemic toll.
The 2,880 new infections reported by the Indiana State Department of Health topped the 2,521 new infections the agency reported Saturday that had been Indiana’s daily high. Indiana’s 42 new deaths raised the state’s pandemic death toll to 4,065.
Chicago orders business curfew amid virus’ ‘second surge’
Chicago businesses will have to close by 10 p.m. and residents are asked to limit gatherings to six people as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases among residents continues to rise, the city’s mayor announced Thursday.
“We are – no doubt whatsoever – in a second surge,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “This is what it looks like.” Lightfoot also announced that bars without food licenses must stop serving customers indoors and liquor sales citywide must end at 9 p.m.
Lightfoot warned earlier this week that rising numbers of new confirmed cases could lead to reinstated restrictions on the city’s economy. As of Thursday, Lightfoot said the city was reporting an average of 645 new cases during the past seven days.
Most Americans could be vaccinated by June 2021, adviser says
Immunization against the coronavirus could be accomplished for most Americans before the midway point of next year, according to one of the leaders of the effort to find a vaccine.
"It's not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.," Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, told ABC News Wednesday.
Slaoui said pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer could request emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and start vaccinating health care workers before the end of the year.
'Perfect storm' of problems leaves blood supply in critical condition
Most health care services have returned to some sense of normal operation since struggling at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but blood centers are still reporting significant declines in blood collections. The U.S. blood supply is at critically low levels, according to a joint statement issued late last week by the American Red Cross and other groups.
COVID-19, coupled with wildfires in the Western states, recent hurricanes and other storms have led to “unprecedented fluctuations,” the groups say. The approaching flu season and continued rise in COVID-19 cases will further decrease the nation’s blood supply as more people become sick and are unable to donate, experts say.
"We’re able to collect less, but demand is up and that’s what created this perfect storm," said Kate Fry, CEO of America's Blood Centers.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Moderna enrolls 30,000 for vaccine trial; 37% of them non-white
Biotech firm Moderna announced Thursday that it has enrolled all 30,000 participants in its COVID-19 vaccine trial – and that nearly 37% of them were non-white. The company had delayed the study for a few weeks in September to ensure adequate minority representation. About 10% of the volunteers are Black, 20% Hispanic and 4% Asian; a quarter were over 65 and 17% were at high risk for a serious case of COVID-19 for other reasons.
Company President Stephen Hoge said he expects the trial will meet two key milestones in mid-November: About half the participants will be two months past their second dose of the vaccine, meaning the company will have enough safety data to present to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and at least 53 of the participants will have caught COVID-19, so the company will have its first snapshot of effectiveness. Then the company will decide whether to submit an application to the FDA, which could take weeks to months to approve it or issue an emergency use authorization.
– Karen Weintraub
Drive-thru South Carolina State Fair draws 10,000 on first day
The South Carolina State Fair opened to huge, drive-thru crowds that gobbled funnel cake served through car windows and admired agriculture exhibits on the move. Fair organizers decided that after more than 150 years of festivities, the show must go on, albeit with coronavirus-driven restrictions and shortened to just a couple of days.
Fair Manager Nancy Smith said more than 10,000 people came through in cars on Tuesday, opening day. The bulk of the events wrapped up Wednesday, but food windows remain open through Saturday. The only rides were provided by the cars people arrived in.
“Safety has always been our first priority, and we are so thrilled to see how our patrons have embraced the changes while still showing tremendous support for the fair,” Smith said.
New Jersey woman whose husband died from virus blasts Trump
A new Jersey woman whose husband, a police officer, died of complications related to COVID-19 says she received a compassionate call from Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden but no call from President Donald Trump. Glen Ridge Police Officer Charles "Rob" Roberts died in April, and this week Alice Roberts wrote an opinion piece criticizing the president for his response to the pandemic. Roberts appeared on CNN's "New Day" Wednesday, expressing her appreciation for Biden's phone call and saying she received a similar call from Gov. Phil Murphy. She had no kind words for Trump.
By continuing to host what Roberts called "superspreader" rallies, the president is "spitting on all these loved ones' graves," she said.
"I know a lot of people feel he speaks for them, and he’s just one of them, but he’s not one of us," she said. "He was able to get top-notch medical care" compared to her husband, whose tests were "mixed up," and results took weeks to obtain.
– Nicholas Katzban, NorthJersey.com
CDC redefines COVID-19 close contact, adds brief encounters
U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters. For months, the CDC said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more – so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.
The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks. The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert. It also serves notice that the coronavirus can spread more easily than many people realize, he said.
Obama: Donald Trump couldn't 'protect himself,' US from COVID
Former President Barack Obama gave a fiery speech Wednesday in Philadelphia that attacked President Donald Trump as incompetent and surrounded by "hacks," while promoting Obama's former vice president, Joe Biden, as someone who would better deal with the pandemic and heal the economy.
Obama, in his first in-person campaign event two weeks before the end of 2020 voting, noted 220,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions of jobs have been lost He said the country’s reputation is in tatters around the world under Trump.
“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention,” Obama said. “This is not a reality show – this is reality. The rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”
– Bart Jansen
US numbers: State case records are leading to record deaths
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows 14 states set records for new cases in a week while six states had a record number of deaths in a week. New case records were set in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The United States has reported 8.3 million cases and more than 222,200 deaths.
– Mike Stucka
Massachusetts governor, Salem mayor unveil stricter Halloween restrictions
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll announced stricter coronavirus restrictions for Halloween to prevent gatherings. The new guidelines include early business shutdowns, road closures and travel and parking restrictions in Salem.
"We normally welcome throngs of visitors from around the globe to our community," Driscoll said at a news conference. "This is just not the year and we want to send the message that, if you want to come to Salem, come in November, come next year."
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: FDA approves remdesivir; Halloween; blood supply shortage