Election day miracle? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked states to prepare to distribute coronavirus vaccines by November 1, Stephanie Armour reports for The Wall Street Journal. Three vaccines are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S.: an AstraZeneca PLC vaccine developed with Oxford University, one from Moderna Inc. and a candidate from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Pfizer has said they expect results from the study by the end of October. The timing of the notice to the states has prompted speculation about the process being rushed to influence the November election. “From this report, expect a photo-op of vaccines being delivered November 1,” tweeted Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications,” said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist based in Arizona, according to The New York Times. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine.” However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, has said that researchers have “a moral obligation” to end research trials early and distribute a vaccine if the results are overwhelmingly positive. He also said he trusts members of an independent panel, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, to not be influenced by politics in their decision. Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program, said in a radio interview that it was “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine would be available before the election, but that it would be irresponsible not to prepare for it if it was.
- Also: There are nearly 6.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., and more than 186,800 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. Globally there have been more than 26.3 million cases and about 870,000 deaths. Russia has become the fourth country to log more than one million coronavirus cases, after the U.S., Brazil and India.
Short-handed: Even if a vaccine is ready, rolling it out will not be easy. Many state and local health departments have been underfunded for years. The Associated Press reports that they don’t have the staff, money or tools for a mass immunization effort this fall, and there’s no sign they’ll get federal aid anytime soon. “There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to be prepared for this vaccination program and it will not be complete by Nov. 1,” Dr. Kelly Moore, an associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition, an education and advocacy group, told the AP. “States will need more financial resources than they have now.”
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Promising remedy: Multiple studies have shown that the use of corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce an overactive immune response, can reduce the likelihood of a death from Covid-19 by about a third, Joseph Walker reports for The Wall Street Journal, although the benefit only seems to extend to the sickest patients. Fortunately, corticosteroids are inexpensive and widely available. “This to me feels like one of the first unambiguous wins in trying to combat Covid-19,” Derek C. Angus, a co-author of a paper that looked at seven studies in total, told The Journal. “Clearly, now steroids are the standard of care,” said Dr. Howard C. Bauchner, editor of JAMA, which published the papers, according to The New York Times.
CDC bars evictions: In a surprising move, the CDC has ordered a four-month eviction moratorium for those who are struggling to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic. The agency ordered the moratorium to reduce the spread of infections from evicted tenants being forced onto the street or crowding in with families and friends. However, the moratorium won’t apply to everyone. Per The New York Times, to qualify renters must meet several requirements, including having an income below $99,000 in 2020 (or $198,000 if married); having suffered a “substantial” loss of income or increased medical expenses; and having requested other forms of government rental assistance and made every effort to make partial rent payments.
Unemployment blues: Overall unemployment may be down from the pandemic peak, but job losses are still piling up. United Airlines said it will cut more than 16,000 jobs because travel demand is so low, Doug Cameron reports for The Wall Street Journal. And CNBC reports that Ford has warned employees that the company will be trimming 1,400 white collar workers by offering buyouts to those eligible for retirement soon.
Burned by Amazon?: A new class action lawsuit accuses Amazon of fraudulently marketing lithium-ion batteries that are prone to causing fires and explosions. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says the online marketing giant knowingly allowed sellers to overstate the capacity of batteries and to falsely claim that they include safety features to lower the risk of dangerous overheating. The lithium-ion batteries, known as 18650 batteries, are used in laptop computers, flashlights, cameras, toys, e-cigarettes and other consumer devices. The lawsuit lists several cases of burn injuries and property damage allegedly caused by defective batteries sold by Amazon. An Amazon spokesperson declined comment.
Burning the Amazon: Lucas Landau and Tom Phillips report for The Guardian that there have been nearly as many fires in the Amazon this year as last, when rainforest blazes garnered global attention and alarm. “The Amazon is condemned to destruction,” one former top official at Brazil’s enfeebled environmental agency, Ibama, told reporters. “Under this government there will be no combating [of rainforest destruction],” the ex-official said. “The future looks dark.” Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro denies that this is the case. “This story that the Amazon is going up in flames is a lie,” Bolsonaro said earlier this month. But satellite images showed more than 29,000 fires in the Amazon in August, the second highest number in a decade and only slightly less than last year’s figure of 30,900. “We are watching last year’s tragedy repeat itself,” Rômulo Batista, a Greenpeace campaigner in Amazonas, one of the nine states within the Brazilian Amazon forest, told The Guardian.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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