A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a “herd immunity” approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO.
“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.
The Food and Drug Administration said early Friday that it “will rapidly work toward” authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on an emergency basis, an action that would kick off an unprecedented effort to inoculate enough Americans to stop a rampaging pandemic.
The FDA statement, which came hours after federal advisers endorsed the vaccine, added that the agency has also notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, “so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution.”
But the prospect of relief from the coronavirus came as 107,000 people were hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and a record 3,347 deaths were reported by state health departments, topping the milestone reached one day earlier. Within days, the country is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths since the pandemic’s arrival.
For the first time in the course of the pandemic, the United States reported more than 3,100 deaths in a single day, according to a Washington Post analysis. With overtaxed intensive care units running out of beds in many parts of the country, the number of people hospitalized with covid-19 reached a record 106,000 on Wednesday.
The grim reminders of the pandemic’s devastating toll came as two vaccine candidates appeared to be on the verge of clearing the final U.S. regulatory hurdles. An advisory panel convened Thursday morning to decide whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The number of new applications for unemployment insurance surged last week to 853,000, a jump of more than 100,000 from the previous week, amid record-high coronavirus cases that are slowing economic growth.
In the week ending December 5, initial weekly jobless claims rose by 137,000 from a revised total of 716,000 applications. The non-seasonally adjusted number of claims totaled 947,504 last week, rising by 228,982, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. Another 427,609 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program created to expand jobless benefits to contractors, gig workers and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. More than 19 million Americans were on some form of jobless aid as of November 21, according to the Labor Department.
More than 33 million people in California will wake up Monday to new orders from the government not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes, forcing restaurants to offer take-out only while limiting retailers to 20% capacity as a surge of new coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
The new rules took effect just before midnight for Southern California and a large swath of the Central Valley, triggered after more than 85% of beds in intensive care units were occupied in those regions.
Five San Francisco Bay Area counties voluntarily joined the rules, saying they didn’t want to wait until their capacity dropped too low to take action. Those restrictions will last until Jan. 4, a week longer than the state’s timeline.
The rules apply to more than 80% of the state’s population, and they took effect one day after California announced more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases — the most ever in a single day. The state reported more than 9,700 people were in the hospital because of COVID-19, including more than 2,200 in intensive care. The state had just over 1,500 ICU beds available as of Sunday.