This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, October 7th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
In a strange and abrupt reversal, the White House has approved the Food and Drug Administration's proposal for tougher guidelines on any coronavirus vaccine, despite stiff opposition from President Donald Trump.
The new rules, which includes requiring a longer follow-up with clinical trial patients to ensure safety and efficacy of treatments, make it very unlikely for a vaccine to receive federal approval before Election Day on November 3rd.
The FDA had submitted the new guidelines weeks ago amid increasing signs of waning public confidence surrounding a vaccine that appears to be rushed to market. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that only 51% of Americans said they would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine.
Both the Washington Post and New York Times on Monday reported that Trump administration officials, led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, were trying to stall or block the agency's recommendations. The news alarmed medical experts, who have accused the White House of trying to politicize the vaccine development process by pushing for an early November deadline in hopes it will help Trump win reelection.
It's unclear how the new FDA guidelines came to be approved. Late Tuesday, the Post reported unnamed sources as saying that the FDA had gone ahead and published their new criteria online as part of documents related to an upcoming meeting, thus forcing the White House to grant approval. At least one pharmaceutical company in the late stages of of testing a vaccine, Pfizer, had voiced public support of the FDA's new rules, which are advisory rather than legal requirements.
Trump, who is recovering from the coronavirus at the White House after receiving experimental therapies for several days at Walter Reed Medical Center, immediately expressed his displeasure with the turn of events, tagging Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, in a tweet.
But the drug industry’s largest trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, backed the new guidance.
“We have engaged with the agency to support bringing greater transparency to the review process for COVID-19 vaccines,” the group said, in a statement. “We welcome the agency’s efforts to instill confidence in the rigorous safety of these potential vaccines.”
There are currently four potential vaccines undergoing final testing in the United States, with a fifth scheduled to start this month.