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Wednesday September 23rd, 2020 2:48PM

The Latest: White House says herd immunity isn't US strategy

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday was asked whether the White House was now counting on herd immunity to deal with the virus.

President Donald Trump said during an ABC News town hall on Tuesday that eventually there will be herd immunity to the virus, but that with a vaccine, the virus will go away “very quickly.”

For the United States to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus, most experts say, the nation would likely need to vaccinate roughly 70% of Americans.

“Herd immunity has never been a strategy here at the White House,” McEnany said. “The president last night was noting ... (that) over a period of time a country, a society, can reach herd immunity. It’s a fact. It was not a strategy ever presented here at the White House. And in fact, he went on, in that very same exchange, to say with the vaccine, this will go away very quickly noting our strategy is to get a vaccine.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— CDC director: Scientific integrity unchanged despite White House pressure

— University of Colorado students told to self-quarantine for 2 weeks

— Eli Lilly says antibody study gives hint of help for COVID-19 patients

— The U.S. government released a sweeping plan to make vaccines for the coronavirus available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is developed.

— South Africa’s minister of health says about 12 million people have “probably” been infected with the coronavirus. That’s more than 20% of South Africa’s population of 58 million.

— The Big Ten Conference will give fall football a shot after all. It reversed a decision to push the season to spring after push back from lawmakers, coaches and parents and President Trump. The daily, rapid-response coronavirus testing now available helped trigger a re-vote by the Big Ten presidents.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — The U.K. has recorded nearly 4,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since May amid mounting concerns the country is on the verge of a second wave.

Government figures show new cases rising to 3,991, up markedly from Tuesday’s figure of 3,105. Though more testing is picking up more cases, it’s clear the virus is spreading. The latest daily increase is more than two times the level reported a few weeks back.

Officials recently banned social gatherings in England of more than six people both indoors and outdoors. Though many of the recent cases involve younger people, there are concerns more vulnerable people may become infected.

The government reported Wednesday another 20 people died within 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19, the new U.K. cutoff for official deaths instituted in the last few weeks.

That takes the death toll to 41,684, Europe’s highest and fifth highest in the world. On Aug. 20, the reported death toll in the U.K. was 41,483.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is tightening restrictive measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic amid a record surge of infections.

Starting Friday night, it will ban public gatherings in interior spaces of more than 10 standing people.

The Health Ministry says in gatherings for more people, all must be seated and wear face masks while every visitor has a ticket for a particular seat.

The measure also applies for bars, restaurants and clubs where the number of visitors cannot be higher than the number of seats.

The restrictions come a day after the country registered a record of 1,667 new coronavirus cases in one day. The ministry says are ages 20 to 29.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the authorities have been monitoring the situation and “cannot rule out more restrictions.”

The Czech Republic has 40,186 confirmed cases and 481 deaths.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s prime minister set a maximum price for coronavirus tests, extended mandatory use of face masks and ordered temperature checks at school for all students and teachers starting Oct. 1.

Viktor Orban says in a video posted on Facebook that tests cannot cost more than 19,500 forints ($64.50). Wearing masks, already obligatory on public transportation and stores, will be extended to theaters, cinemas, health care and social institutions, among others, and nightclubs must close at 11 p.m.

Orban says the health care system was prepared to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, with a plan to increase the availability of hospital beds and deploy doctors and nurses where needed.

He reiterated the goal of keeping people safe while also keeping the country running.

Hungary has confirmed 14,460 cases of COVID-19 and 654 deaths.

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BERLIN — German public broadcaster ARD reports a far-right lawmaker in the national Parliament has tested positive for the coronavirus.

ARD quoted the Alternative for Germany party confirming Wednesday that Norbert Kleinwaechter was tested positive for COVID-19 and informed his caucus Tuesday. Six other lawmakers for the party and several parliamentary staff he’d been in contact with were sent home to isolate.

Some Alternative for Germany lawmakers took part in protests against pandemic restrictions in recent months.

Germany’s disease control center says the country recorded 1,901 new infections in the past day, taking the total to nearly 264,000. Germany has confirmed 9,368 COVID-related deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Senate lawmakers that his agency has not altered its scientific publications on the coronavirus.

That comes despite pressure from Trump officials who allege the agency has worked against the re-election of President Donald Trump.

Dr. Robert Redfield testified that the CDC’s “scientific integrity ... has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

Last week news outlets reported that Michael Caputo, a Health and Human Services Department political appointee, tried to gain editorial control over CDC’s weekly scientific report. In a separate online video last week, Caputo reportedly said some CDC scientists constituted a “resistance unit” conspiring against the Trump administration.

Redfield rejected the allegation and says he was “deeply saddened” by the comments.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, says the apparent political pressure on CDC, among other health agencies, had damaged public trust in federal health information.

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BOULDER, Colo. — All students at the University of Colorado’s main campus are being told to self-quarantine for the next two weeks to stem an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

Jeffrey J. Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health, urged the measure in a letter Zayach sent Tuesday to Boulder campus students, faculty and staff. Zayach warned mandatory restrictions could follow if students do not comply.

University officials reported 13 positive tests the first week of school, 90 the second week and 205 the third week. Most cases involved students who live off-campus.

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, says there’s been six coronavirus outbreaks at Colorado colleges and universities.

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ROME — Another 1,452 people tested positive for coronavirus in Italy, in line with the average daily increase in Italy’s six-week surge of infections.

Every Italian region recorded new cases, including the southern region of Campania, which had the most nationwide in the past 24 hours at 186. Campania and the rest of southern Italy largely avoided the peak of the original outbreak, which hit harder in the more north.

While Campania, the region around Naples, and the Lazio region around Rome still have a fraction of the cases of northern Lombardy, they account for a sizeable number of the new spate of infections.

The health ministry says another 12 people died in the past day, bringing Italy’s confirmed death toll to 35,645.

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JOHANNESBURG — A new survey across 18 African countries finds a “worryingly high levels of misinformation” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The phone survey conducted last month indicates just over one in three people agreed with the inaccurate statements that foreigners were trying to test vaccines on the population and they were trying to discredit African medicines.

The countries where more than 40% of respondents agreed with the statements were Tunisia, Senegal, Guinea and Cameroon. Nandita Murukutla, of the public health organization Vital Strategies, called such misinformation “potentially harmful.”

In other survey highlights, 45% of people say they missed or delayed health care services because of the pandemic and 72% reported barriers in accessing food.

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INDIANAPOLIS — A drug company says partial results from a study testing an antibody drug give hints that it may help mild to moderately ill COVID-19 patients from needing to be hospitalized.

Eli Lilly announced the results Wednesday in a press release, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists. The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except at the middle of three doses being tested. However, most study participants had cleared the virus by then anyway.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. The blood of survivors is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 patients because it contains such antibodies. But the strength and types of antibodies varies depending on each donor.

The drugs Lilly and other companies are testing involve concentrated versions of specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests, and can be made in large, standardized doses.

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PHILADELPHIA — President Donald Trump is denying he played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating that.

The president participated in a televised town hall Tuesday with uncommitted voters, hosted by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. In an exchange with one voter, Trump said he actually “up-played” the virus threat.

Trump also cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration, which strongly recommends the use of face coverings.

Trump says, “There are people that don’t think masks are good.” However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges their use.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese officials say nursing and care homes have had difficulty in recruiting staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Marta Temido told a parliamentary committee Wednesday “the stigma attached to this illness is still very great.”

Specialist teams have visited about half of the country’s 2,628 licensed homes for the elderly to check whether proper procedures are in place.

Labor Minister Ana Mendes Godinho says in the past three years, authorities have shut down 407 clandestine homes, which have long been a problem in Portugal.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities are increasing the number of intensive care unit beds set aside for patients with COVID-19 in and around the Greek capital.

That comes amid what officials have called a worrying increase in coronavirus cases and people severely ill with the virus.

The greatest increase in cases has been in the wider Athens region, Greece’s most populous, where intensive care units are starting to come under pressure.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said Wednesday that 40 more ICU beds would be set aside for COVID-19 patients in the Athens region within the next seven days.

On Tuesday, 310 new coronavirus cases were announced nationwide. Greece has a total of 13,730 confirmed cases and 313 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — An Indian pharmaceutical company and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund have agreed to distribute 100 million doses of the Russia’s experimental Sputnik V vaccine in India.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) says it had paired with Indian company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. The pharmaceutical company will be conducting phase three trials in India to meet the country’s regulatory requirements.

Press secretary Arseniy Palagin confirmed the 100 million doses of the experimental vaccine were meant for “population wide use” as long as they met regulatory requirements and clinical trials were successful.

Palagin confirmed RDIF was in talks with several Indian companies for manufacturing the vaccine.

Indian officials said last week that Russia had asked for assistance for the vaccine to be manufactured by Indian companies and the government was facilitating this.

Dr. V.K. Paul, who heads a government task force on vaccines, has called a partnership with Russia a “win-win for India and the world.”

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MADRID — The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in urban areas where the coronavirus is spreading faster.

Deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero says the measures will most likely affect southern, working-class neighborhoods of Madrid where infection rates have been steadily soaring since August.

Zapatero says Madrid wants to “flatten the curve before the arrival of autumn and the complications that cold weather could bring,” adding that the measures to be taken will be decided by this weekend.

Madrid and its surrounding region of 6.6 million people have accounted for nearly one third of Spain’s new cases, which have averaged 8,200 per day for the past week.

Overall, Spain has more than 600,000 cases and just over 30,000 deaths.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proved that our own health depends on the health of others and the environment, and exploiting nature means exploiting others.

Francis reiterated his insistence of the interconnectedness of people and the planet during his general audience Wednesday, held in a Vatican courtyard with the faithful spaced apart to limit contagion.

Francis says if people are unable to contemplate the beauty and majesty of nature without exploiting it, they will be similarly unable to contemplate others without taking advantage of them. He says: “He who lives to exploit nature ends up exploiting people and treating them like slaves. This is a universal law.”

Francis is expected to elaborate on the themes of solidarity, fraternity and care for creation in an encyclical he’s expected to sign Oct. 3 on living in the post-coronavirus world.

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