Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are seeking emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as early as Friday, two days after announcing its COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective.
“Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent, as we continue to see an alarming rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 globally,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
This comes as the coronavirus continues to ravage the United States ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a month-long 10 p.m. curfew, beginning Saturday, for nearly all residents in the nation’s most populous state. Here’s a look at restrictions in every state.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 11.7 million cases and more than 252,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 57 million cases and 1.36 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Pfizer takes candidate vaccine to FDA for emergency approval
Pfizer said Friday it is asking for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, the next step in bringing its candidate vaccine to market. Health and other frontline workers could get the vaccine as soon as December but reaching everyone could take up to a year.
The move follows an announcement from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech, that its vaccine appears 95% effective against the coronavirus. Also this week, drug company Moderna released positive news, with its vaccine also showing a high rate of efficacy. Both candidates, each of which require two shots, protect more than 90% of those immunized, self-reported results indicate.
The FDA and an independent advisory board will review Pfizer’s application before it is able to get into peoples’ arms.
“If we do get people vaccinated to a high degree, then you can start talking about this umbrella or blanket of protection on society that would diminish dramatically the risk of a person being exposed or even being infected,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious isease expert, told USA TODAY earlier this week.
– Cara Richardson
CDC recommends against holiday travel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against travel for Thanksgiving. Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said the “tragedy that could happen” is that family members could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying. The CDC’s warning is the latest and most high profile about the risks of traveling as coronavirus cases rise nationwide. Officials in California, Illinois and other states have urged residents to avoid nonessential travel even as airlines tout holiday fare deals.
“These times are tough, it’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months, and we understand people are tired,” Walke said. “But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel.”
– Sara M. Moniuszko
Long testing lines across US ahead of planned Thanksgiving gatherings
With coronavirus cases surging and families hoping to gather safely for Thanksgiving, long lines to get tested have reappeared across the U.S. – a reminder that the nation’s testing system remains unable to keep pace with the virus.
The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify a U.S. outbreak that has already swelled past 11.6 million cases and 252,000 deaths.
Laboratories warned that continuing shortages of key supplies are likely to create more bottlenecks and delays, especially as cases rise across the nation and people rush to get tested before reuniting with relatives.
“As those cases increase, demand increases and turnaround times may increase,” said Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “So it’s like a dog chasing its tail.”
Lines spanned multiple city blocks at testing sites across New York City this week, leaving people waiting three or more hours before they could even enter health clinics. In Los Angeles, thousands lined up outside Dodger Stadium for drive-thru testing.
Texas county makes plea for workers to move 200-plus bodies
El Paso County, one of the hardest-hit areas in Texas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, put out a call Thursday night for the immediate hiring of morgue attendants to help move bodies.
“Not only is this assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing as well,” a county announcement stated.
The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office had 247 bodies at the morgue and inside nine refrigerated trailers serving as mobile morgues, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said in news release, prompting county commissioners to authorize the hiring of additional workers.
– Daniel Borunda, El Paso Times
Mexico becomes 4th country to top 100K deaths
Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in COVID-19 deaths Thursday, joining the United States, Brazil and India as the only countries to reach the somber milestone.
José Luis Alomía Zegarra, Mexico’s director of epidemiology, said there were 100,104 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of Thursday. That comes less than a week after Mexico said it had topped 1 million registered coronavirus cases, though officials agree the number is probably much higher because of low levels of testing.
The lack of testing — Mexico tests only people with severe symptoms and has performed only around 2.5 million tests in a country of 130 million — the lack of hospitals in many areas and the fear of the ones that do exist, has created a fertile breeding ground for ignorance, suspicion and fear.
Legendary Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz tests positive
Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz has confirmed he has tested positive for COVID-19. Holtz, 83, told ABC Columbia on Thursday that he is recovering from the virus. “I don’t have a lot of energy right now,” said Holtz, who’s best known for his 11-year tenure at Notre Dame that included a Fiesta Bowl win and a national championship in the 1988 season.
Over the summer, when the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced they were postponing their college football schedules because of the coronavirus pandemic, Holtz strongly objected, comparing players to American soldiers in World War II.
Since his retirement from coaching in 2004, Holtz has worked as an analyst for ESPN and has made numerous public appearances supporting President Donald Trump.
– Steve Gardner
California adopts stricter COVID workplace safety rules
California officials on Thursday approved new regulations requiring employers to implement safety measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, the latest state to adopt stricter rules.
The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board heard testimony on an emergency temporary standard that requires businesses to educate employees on ways to prevent infection, provide free personal protective equipment and offer free COVID-19 testing to all employees if three or more employees are infected with the coronavirus within a 14-day period, among other measures.
California joins Oregon, Michigan and Virginia in implementing similar standards. Virginia became the first state in the country to approve temporary new workplace safety rules after lawmakers passed the measures in July, citing inaction by federal officials.
Smithsonian’s DC-area sites plan to close again
After reopening seven Washington-area museums and the National Zoo over the summer, the Smithsonian on Thursday announced it would close again, starting Monday, and did not give a date for reopening.
The sites were closed in March during the first wave of the coronavirus. They reopened in July, August and September with limited hours, lower capacity, social distancing and mandatory face masks.
Nearly 30% of U.S. museums remain closed from the original March shutdown, according to a survey by the American Alliance of Museums. (Most of the Smithsonian’s sites in Washington and New York have not reopened.) Those that have reopened are operating at 35% of their regular attendance, which Laura Lott, the group’s president and CEO, called “unsustainable long-term.”
– Curtis Tate
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press