Virus Updates: NIH Says Pause in Vaccine Trial Is ‘Reassuring'; NYC to Reopen Indoor Dining With Restrictions

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As schools and universities across the United States welcomed students back after Labor Day weekend, some had to change their plans amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

West Virginia University announced Monday its 30,000 students will now take classes online amid a rise in cases, and the University of New Hampshire is tracking an outbreak after 11 students tested positive after going to a fraternity party. At the California University of Pennsylvania, a football player died from complications from COVID-19 Tuesday.

Meanwhile, several school districts experienced technical issues Tuesday as they tried to launch their virtual classrooms.

More than half a million children in the U.S. have had the coronavirus, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday, and the rate of new cases among kids continues to rise. As many as 103 children have died, according to the report.

The U.S. has more than 6.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 190,000 deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

NIH: Halted Vaccine Study Shows 'No Compromises' on Safety

AstraZeneca's suspension of final testing of its potential COVID-19 vaccine while it investigates a volunteer's illness shows there will be “no compromises” on safety in developing the shots, the chief of the National Institutes of Health told Congress on Wednesday.

“This ought to be reassuring,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said before a Senate committee. “When we say we are going to focus first on safety and make no compromises, here is Exhibit A of how that is happening in practice.”

Late Tuesday, AstraZeneca announced its final-stage studies are on temporary hold while the company looks into whether a test subject's illness is a side effect of the shot or a coincidence. The company gave no details on the illness, but Collins said it involved a “spinal problem.”

Read the full story here.

Trump Knew in Feb. That COVID-19 Was ‘Deadly Stuff' But Wanted to ‘Play It Down,' Book Reveals

President Donald Trump seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said. Trump's recorded remarks were shared with CNN and broadcast on MSNBC on Wednesday.

The Washington Post, where Woodward serves as associate editor, reported excerpts of the book, “Rage" on Wednesday, as did CNN. The book also covers race relations, diplomacy with North Korea and a range of other issues that have arisen during the past two years.

Trump, asked about the revelations in the Woodward book Wednesday afternoon, defended his public comments, saying he did not want to cause a panic over the danger of the coronavirus. He said he instead aimed to show confidence and strength. 

“I’m a cheerleader for this country,” he said at a press briefing about potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. “I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic as you say.”

NYC Indoor Dining to Resume Sept. 30 With Heavy Restrictions, Cuomo Says

New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Sept. 30 at 25% capacity with other restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. Cuomo says all customers will undergo temperature checks at the door and one member of each party will have to provide information for contact tracing if needed. There will be no bar service and restaurants must close at midnight. Tables must be 6 feet apart and customers must wear masks while not at the table. Indoor dining is already allowed in restaurants elsewhere in New York state. Cuomo said the state could halt indoor dining if infection rates go up, but if it remains steady, Cuomo said more restrictions could be lifted on indoor dining on Nov. 1.

Get the full story here from NBC New York.

Fauci Sticks With Projection of Vaccine in 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s sticking with his projection that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine may be ready in early 2021. He says it’s possible it could be sooner, but “unlikely.”

The White House adviser on the coronavirus told “CBS This Morning “the more likely scenario is that we will know by the end of this calendar year and hopefully we’ll be able to start vaccinations in earnest as we begin early 2021.”

AstraZeneca paused its late-stage trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday due to safety concerns, CNBC reported. Fauci says it’s routine for late-stage vaccine studies to be put on hold because of side effects.

“It’s important to point out that that’s the reason why you have various phases of trials, to determine if in fact these candidates are safe,” Fauci said. “It's really one of the safety valves you have on clinical trials such as this.”

Meanwhile, two other vaccines are in large final-stage tests in the United States, one made by Moderna Inc. and the other by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Those two vaccines work differently than AstraZeneca’s, and the studies already have recruited about two-thirds of the needed volunteers.

NIH Director: Doubt About COVID Vaccines ‘A Troubling Situation'

National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins explains how scientists will make sure any vaccines go through proper testing to ensure safety and that transparency will be crucial to stopping the spread of conspiracy theories.

National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins explains how scientists will make sure any vaccines go through proper testing to ensure safety and that transparency will be crucial to stop conspiracy theories.

New Jersey Nursing Home Where 17 Bodies Were Stuffed Into Tiny Morgue Hit With Lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against a New Jersey nursing home where 17 bodies were found stuffed into a four-person morgue during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, NBC News reports.

The lawsuit against Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II in Sussex County alleges that the facilities did not take the proper precautions to keep residents safe from contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The suit alleges that in the years leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, both facilities were cited by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for "a litany of systemic issues," including that Andover II "continuously failed to meet the requisite safety and sanitary standards needed to protect against the spread of infection and communicable disease."

Both facilities were told to implement changes, but the lawsuit claims those changes were never made and that the nursing homes misled potential residents by claiming to be "high quality and regulatory-compliant."

In March, there was a coronavirus outbreak at both facilities that killed 94 people, according to the lawsuit.

Read the full story here.

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