Coronavirus Live Updates: Fauci ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ U.S. Could Have Vaccine This Year

Since Chinese officials implemented the first coronavirus lockdown in the city of Wuhan in January, there have been more than 18.1 million cases of COVID-19 across the planet.

More than 689,000 people have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Efforts to curb the outbreak have led to the global disruption of daily life and the economy, as schools and workplaces shuttered in hopes of slowing transmission. After months of precautions and lockdowns, governments have begun to reopen their economies.

HuffPost reporters around the world are tracking the pandemic and its effects.

Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic below. (To see the latest updates, you may need to refresh the page. All times are Eastern. For earlier updates on the pandemic, go here.)

Scientists Concerned White House Will Wade Into Vaccine Development: NYT — 8/3/2020, 3 a.m. ET

A growing number of scientists are reportedly worried the Trump administration could push through a potential coronavirus vaccine in hopes of drumming up political support for the president.

According to The New York Times, many in Trump’s orbit are privately hoping for a vaccine to arrive by October ― just before Americans cast their votes in the November election. Several vaccines moved into large-scale Phase 3 trials last week and Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he was cautiously optimistic a vaccine could be available by the end of the year or early 2021. However, scientists have continued to caution that even if a vaccine was created, there were still many hurdles before it could be produced, shipped and distributed to hundreds of millions of Americans and potentially billions around the globe.

Trump has continued to tout his efforts to see the United States develop a vaccine as early as possible, telling supporters on Sunday that one could be available soon. 

“We expect to have a vaccine available very, very early before the end of the year, far ahead of schedule,” Trump said, per the Times. “We’re very close to having that finalized.”

Last week, Trump’s presumptive competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, called on the White House to keep vaccine development “free from political pressure” and urged the president not to hype certain treatments without the science to back them up.

— Nick Visser

Young People Infected At Higher Rates Over The Weekend In Louisiana — 8/2/20, 5 p.m. ET

People aged 29 and under made up 43% of all new coronavirus cases reported in Louisiana over the weekend, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Young adults between the ages of 18 to 29 made up 33%, and teenagers and children 18 years old and younger made up 10% of the new cases.

Health officials noted that the rates of infections for young people were “higher than the >70 age group.”

There were 3,477 new cases reported in the state between Friday and Sunday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 119,747.

The health department said that 95% of the new cases “are tied to community spread.”

Louisiana has the highest rate of per capita coronavirus cases in the country, with 2,463 infections per 100,000 residents, according to USA Today.

— Carla Russo

Birx Says U.S. In ‘New Phase’ Of Pandemic — 8/2/20, 1:40 p.m. ET

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force’s response coordinator, said Sunday that the U.S. has entered a “new phase” of the pandemic. She warned that recent outbreaks across the country are different than the isolated hotspots seen in New York City and Seattle in March and April.

This new wave of infections is “extraordinarily widespread” and appearing in both rural and urban areas, Birx said on CNN’s “State Of The Union.”

“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” she added. “And that’s why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance.”

Host Dana Bash asked Birx whether it’s time for the federal government to “reset” its response to the virus, as recommended last week by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“I think the federal government reset about five to six weeks ago when we saw this starting to happen across the South,” Birx said.

Around that time, Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump appointed to lead the coronavirus task force in February, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that painted a rosy portrait of the state of the spread. He accused the media of “fear-mongering” about a potential second wave of outbreaks.

“Such panic is overblown,” Pence wrote. “Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”

Since Pence published his op-ed in mid-June, the death toll in the U.S. has risen from 116,000 to over 154,000.

— Hayley Miller

At least 36 crew members have tested positive for the coronavirus on a Hurtigruten cruise ship in Norway, the company reported Saturday. The outbreak comes roughly a month after Hurtigruten led the first international passenger cruise voyage since the pandemic shut down the entire industry for several months.

The infected crew members work on the MS Roald Amundsen. All of the ship’s 158 crew members were tested for the virus, and the majority tested negative, according to Hurtigruten. Of those who have tested positive, none have shown symptoms of the virus.

The ship is docked in Tromsø, Norway, which is located about 1,000 miles northeast of Oslo. 

Hurtigruten said it has contacted the nearly 400 total guests who were aboard the ship during two voyages last month. Those passengers have been instructed to self-quarantine in accordance with Norwegian health guidelines.

MS Roald Amundsen was scheduled to depart for another voyage next week, but that trip has now been canceled.

 Hayley Miller

Assistant health secretary Adm. Brett Giroir on Sunday rejected claims that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19, pointing out that there’s no evidence so far to show that it is.

“At this point in time, there’s been five randomized-control placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine,” Giroir said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We don’t recommend that as a treatment. There’s no evidence to show that it is.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, despite a lack of evidence to back up his claims and warnings from public health officials.

Asked if the president’s messaging might cause confusion, Giroir said he believes doctors won’t be influenced by “whatever’s on Twitter” when deciding how to treat coronavirus patients.

“There may be circumstances ― I don’t know what they are ― where a physician may prescribe it for an individual,” Giroir said. “But I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they’re not influenced by whatever’s on Twitter. … And the evidence just doesn’t show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now.”

Hayley Miller

For more on the pandemic, go here.

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