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Wednesday September 23rd, 2020 2:58PM

The Latest: Health officials: Vaccine still 6-8 months away

By The Associated Press
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It will likely be at least six to eight months longer before a coronavirus vaccine can be distributed in a best-case scenario, leading Maryland health officials and lawmakers said as they make plans for the state.

Senate President Bill Ferguson said he spoke on Tuesday with one of the principal investigators at Johns Hopkins University who is working on a vaccine now in its third phase. While there has been remarkable progress, Ferguson said Wednesday that the logistics that go into distributing a vaccine are “enormous and herculean.”

“I think it’s really important that we keep that in mind moving forward as we make decisions about the future of Maryland — that even with an amazing light-speed approval, it is still six to eight months from that point until we’ll start to see the impact on herd immunity overall, so there is time to go in this ballgame,” Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said during a meeting of a legislative panel on the coronavirus.

Robert Neall, Maryland’s health secretary, emphasized that people need to be prepared to use available tools like masks and handwashing well into next year.

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

— CDC director: Scientific integrity unchanged despite White House pressure

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

— UK to ration COVID-19 testing amid testing failures

— 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.

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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:

BERLIN — Germany has declared three European capitals and several regions “risk areas” for coronavirus.

The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the Austrian capital Vienna, Budapest in Hungary and the Dutch region that includes Amsterdam were added to the risk list due to high numbers of COVID-19 infections there.

Also listed were several regions in France, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Travelers arriving in Germany from those locations have to go into mandatory quarantine and take a coronavirus test.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister says Phase 3 trials for China’s Sinovac Biotech’s two-step vaccine have begun in Turkey with three Turkish health workers.

Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday the trial would expand to 1,200 volunteers and then to 10,000. He said trials for a Pfizer vaccine were also beginning and others were pending, adding that he hoped widespread vaccinations would start towards the end of 2020.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the COVID-19 pandemic remains “out of control,” with the world approaching “the grimmest of milestones: 1 million lives lost to the virus.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference Wednesday that the coronavirus “is the number one global security threat in our world today,” posing a crisis that is “unlike any in our lifetimes.”

He said that’s why he called for a global cease-fire on March 23 to tackle the pandemic.

And in his speech to world leaders at next Tuesday’s mainly virtual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres said he will make “a strong appeal to the international community to mobilize all efforts for the global cease-fire to become a reality by the end of the year.”

The secretary-general urged the international community to come together to defeat the virus, stressing that a vaccine alone can’t solve the crisis.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president says the country will reopen for international travel as of Oct. 1 after confirmed coronavirus cases have dropped dramatically in recent weeks.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says visitors may not be allowed from countries deemed at high risk and a list of countries will be published in the coming days.

Visitors will be required to show negative test results for the virus no older than 72 hours before departure. Those who didn’t test before departure will be required to stay in quarantine at their own cost.

International flights will be allowed only at the country’s three main airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

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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."

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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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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.

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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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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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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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NEW DELHI — An Indian pharmaceutical company and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund have agreed to distribute 100 million doses of 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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