By Ted Mann
New U.S. coronavirus cases rose above 44,000 for the first time in nearly a week, with elevated numbers continuing in parts of the Midwest, as President Trump said the administration was committing to giving every American a Covid-19 vaccine by April.
The president's timeline was more ambitious than one laid out earlier this week by Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said he believed a vaccine would be available to the general public in the late second quarter or third quarter of 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told The Wall Street Journal that if a vaccine candidate were determined to be safe and effective by October, it would likely be available for distribution to some vulnerable populations and early responders early next year, and distributed more widely by the middle or end of 2021.
Testing: The CDC changed course again on its Covid-19 testing guidance.
The updated guidance says that people who have been in close contact with an infected person should be tested, even if they are asymptomatic.
The agency faced criticism from public-health and infectious-disease experts in August, when its guidance changed to say close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases didn't necessarily need to get tested if they don't have symptoms. Prior to that change, it had advised that all people exposed to an infected person get tested.
Cases: World-wide, the number of infections reported since the start of the pandemic passed 30 million. The U.S. accounts for a little over 20% of that total. More than 198,000 Americans have died.
On Thursday, more than 44,000 new cases were reported across the U.S. Wisconsin, one of several Midwest states where numbers are running high compared with the spring, reported more than 1,600 cases for Thursday, its highest daily count to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Earlier this week, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers warned residents that cases would continue to increase "until folks decide to take this seriously." Over the past week, the percentage of positive tests, known as the positivity rate, ticked up to 14.9% in Wisconsin. Nationally, the seven-day moving average positivity rate was 4.9%, according to the data from Johns Hopkins.
In all, 14 states reported more than 1,000 new covid cases on Thursday, led by Texas, with 4,543 new cases.
Through Thursday, there were 278,311 new cases of Covid-19 reported over the preceding 7 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins, a slightly larger weekly increase than the week before when 246,084 cases were recorded.
As state officials prepare for the possibility of an autumn surge of new infections, some hospitals say they will be better prepared to handle an influx of new patients than they were at the outset of the pandemic, thanks to deeper stockpiles of equipment and better understanding of how to treat the disease. Medical officials are preparing to use antiviral and steroid medications that studies suggest have helped patients recover from Covid-19.
Schools: Mayors and education officials in some large cities were fine-tuning plans for the beginning of the public school year, balancing the risk of the virus spreading among students and teachers with the desire to relieve childcare strain for working parents.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticized by some parents for his decision Thursday to delay in-person learning a second time, while some teachers criticized the decision to open city preschools Monday. In an appearance Friday on radio station WNYC, Mr. de Blasio defended City Hall's efforts and emphasized the need to get students back to school, saying those attempting to learn from home could fall behind. Continuing with remote learning only would be "the easy and immoral thing," he said.
Other big cities are also taking phased approaches. Boston public schools are set to resume online Monday, with a goal of restarting in-person learning for some students Oct. 1.
In Baltimore, which began online classes earlier this month, officials Thursday released a timeline for returning students to classrooms, placing priority on those most in need of in-person instruction. The city said it would open "academic support centers" in September and October for more than 1,500 students from kindergarten through fifth grade, providing childcare and support for online learning.
World Health Organization: Leaders of the WHO said Friday that although growth in Covid-19 cases world-wide had been flattening, the number of new cases was dangerously high as countries in the Northern Hemisphere begin to enter the winter months and face the prospect of seasonal flu outbreaks.
Globally, records show an increase of 1.8 to 2 million covid cases and 40,000 to 50,000 deaths a week, said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, at a news conference. "We cannot accept 50,000 deaths a week as an acceptable number," he said.
The pandemic "is not burned out," he added. "It is not burning out, it is not going away."
Dr. Ryan and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that the failure of political leaders to cooperate on public-health measures remained a factor in the pandemic's spread, despite the cooperation of epidemiologists around the world. "The major powers are not working together," Dr. Tedros said.
India: More than 96,000 new cases were reported, pushing the country's total above 5.2 million, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. India's death toll rose by 1,174 to 84,372. Its total caseload is the second largest after the U.S. Along with Brazil, the three countries make up more than half of the global cases recorded so far. Total global deaths have now reached 946,673, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Brazil: The pandemic has interrupted therapy sessions and other treatment for children born with birth defects caused by the Zika virus. Health authorities suspended physiotherapy for more than 3,500 children born with abnormally small heads and other disabilities after being infected with Zika while in the womb, and families are concerned that breathing problems linked to Zika could make those children more vulnerable to serious complications if they contract Covid-19.
Guam: The U.S. territory reported 32 new cases late Thursday, bringing the total on the island to 2,045. The number of intensive-care patients has risen to 19, stretching the local hospital system.
Israel: The country began a second nationwide lockdown Friday afternoon. Thousands of policemen and soldiers are being deployed to enforce the sweeping closures, taking place during Jewish new year celebrations and which are widely unpopular. New daily cases are hovering at around 5,000 a day, making Israel one of the countries with the worst infection per capita rates in the world.
Write to Ted Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections & Amplifications
This was corrected September 20, 2020 because the original version incorrectly stated records show an increase of 1.8 million to 20 million coronavirus cases a week, said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program. Records show an increase of 1.8 million to two million cases a week.