CVS Health executive vice president and chief medical officer Dr. Troy Brennan said the company is preparing for the massive effort to roll out coronavirus vaccines.
Brennan said CVS expects to have vaccinations in hand by “mid-December.” They are focusing right now on getting them to nursing homes and assisted living facilities first, in coordination with the White House’s Operation Warp Speed.
When asked by CNN’s Kate Bolduan when the average person can go in and make an appointment for the first and second vaccine dose, Brennan said “a lot turns on what the FDA does and how quickly they act with the information.”
He expects CVS stores throughout the country to begin offering Covid-19 vaccines by the end of February or beginning of March, and they are prepared to “move rapidly,” he said.
“We have a capacity to do 20-25 million vaccinations per month in our fleet of stores alone,” he said.
“If you take the other major retailers doing the same thing, you can see very quickly we can build numbers through the spring in terms of number of people who are vaccinated,” he added.
The demand has increased at all Covid-19 testing sites in Illinois, said Kevin Jaques, communications director for HRSupport, the company running the state’s Covid-19 testing project.
“Wait times usually last about an hour, [and] at some sites, up to three to four hours,” he said.
The surge first began in early October followed by another wave at the beginning of November, he added.
The goal is to test every person in line but the increase in demand affects factors like staffing and partner labs, he told CNN.
“In part, it does make people wait more in lines. It delays the testing results as well,” Jaques said Friday.
As Thanksgiving approaches, Jaques said there is also a concern that people won’t follow the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and take basic precautions like wearing masks and social distancing that help keep the number of new Covid-19 cases down.
“We’re concerned that during the holidays people won’t be following these guidelines as much, and in part, increasing the cases of positivity of Covid-19,” he added.
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated the city could move into the state’s orange zone as soon as the week after Thanksgiving, the mayor said on the WNYC radio show Friday morning.
The mayor said in part, New York City would move in to the orange zoon based on state data, “soon after Thanksgiving probably the first week of December.”
What this means: The orange zone would shut down indoor dining and gyms, according to previous guidelines released by the state.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be responsible for making that decision when that time comes, according to officials.
New York City has a 7-day-test-positivity rate of 3.02%, de Blasio said. The city reports at least 1,307 new cases of the virus, according to city spokesperson Bill Neidhardt.
At least 115 patients have been hospitalized for the virus, Neidhardt said.
Remember: These numbers were released by the city’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.
With most of the United States in the “red zone,” the country faces an increasingly dire coronavirus spread situation than before, White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
“When you look at what’s happening now, the rate of rise is dramatically different,” Birx said. “This is faster. It’s broader. And what worries me, it could be longer.”
In a public briefing by the task force Thursday — its first since July — Birx also showed a series of graphs showing the current increase in cases is sharper and steeper than at any other time during the pandemic.
This comes as the US hits increasing numbers, including a record-setting number of cases cases on Thursday, as well as more than 2,000 deaths. Birx made clear that it’s our collective responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I’m making the personal sacrifices not to infect my parents and my pregnant daughter,” she said. “There’s a lot of people out there who know how to protect one another. And we just need to make sure we’re all doing that.”
The US is extending travel restrictions on the northern and southern borders until Dec. 21, according to soon-to-be-published notices in the Federal Register.
The Department of Homeland Security has extended the restrictions with the US shared borders every month since they were first implemented in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The restrictions apply to nonessential travel.
The notices are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Monday.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said he learned this morning he has tested positive for Covid-19. Scott’s test was administered on Tuesday, according to the news release from his office.
Scott’s office said that he had already been quarantining at home after being exposed to someone last Friday, Nov. 13, who tested positive for Coronavirus. He will now self-isolate and work from home.
“After several negative tests, I learned I was positive this morning. I am feeling good and experiencing very mild symptoms. I will be working from home in Naples until it is safe for me to return to Washington, D.C.,” Scott said in the statement. “I want to remind everyone to be careful and do the right things to protect yourselves and others. Wear a mask. Social distance. Quarantine if you come in contact with someone positive like I did.”
The race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine could leave a lasting impact on how vaccines are developed in the future — and one way is by showing how mRNA technologies can be used, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Johns Hopkins University symposium on Friday morning.
“When we made the decision to make mRNA — one of our first priorities for this — there was a lot of concern and skepticism and maybe even criticism by people saying well this is an unproven platform,” Fauci said. But the technology worked.
Now it appears mRNA technologies “are here to stay,” Fauci said. “Certainly mRNA is because we had not only one but two — and that’s really great.”
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Americans should limit indoor gatherings to immediate households this Thanksgiving.
“I don’t like it to be any number,” she said. “Because you know, if you say it can be 10, and it’s eight people from four different families, then that probably is not the same degree of safe as 10 people from your immediate household.”
Birx said she understood why the lack of uniformity in open and close spaces across the country can make social distancing messaging confusing for Americans.
“I worry about that,” she told CNN. “[People] say, ‘Well, bars and restaurants are open, then I can have 20 people over for Thanksgiving.’”
She also said Americans need to look at their choices when all this is over.
“Europe was willing to sacrifice restaurants and bars to maintain their schools. We ask college students to sacrifice their college experience … to change their behaviors, to wear a mask, to physically distance. We have 18 to 22-year-olds doing the right thing, and we’re not willing to tell people that they really can’t gather in public spaces or even indoors with their mask off,” she said.
Birx said it’s on every American to protect each other.
“I’m making the personal sacrifices not to infect my parents and my pregnant daughter, and there’s a lot of people out there who know how to protect one another, and we just need to make sure we’re all doing that.”
Covid-19 is spreading faster than ever before in the United States, with hospitals in some states running at capacity. The country is now in the same situation that France, Belgium and the Czech Republic were last month, when rapidly rising infections put their health care systems within weeks of failure.
But these countries have managed to avert, for now, the worst-case scenario, in which people die because hospitals are full and they can’t access the care they need to survive. They slowed down the epidemics by imposing lockdowns and strict mask mandates.
Despite the clear evidence from Europe, the White House is still opposing new restrictions. “President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our President, does not support another national lockdown. And we do not support closing schools,” Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday, at the first White House coronavirus task force briefing since July.
“They need to look at the European situation,” said Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease modeling expert at the University Warwick and a UK government scientific adviser.
“And I mean, by no means what we have done in Europe is perfect, these governments are probably reacting a little bit slowly, but they are at least reacting, they are doing what they can to make sure that health services are not overwhelmed… and I think this is clearly what’s needed in the US.”
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