U.S. surpasses 6 million coronavirus cases

The United States has surpassed 6 million confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday, as the pandemic has already killed more than 183,000 in the nation.

According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, 6,002,615 cases have been reported in the U.S., far more than No. 2 Brazil at 3,862,311 or India’s third-ranked number of 3,621,245. Globally, 25,259,201 have been reported.

Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House’s coronavirus response team, urged Americans to take all of the steps they can to prevent the continuing spread of the virus and not to wait for a vaccine.

“Do the right thing today,” Birx told CNN. “Because if we do the right thing today, we go into the fall with much fewer cases.”

“Right now, we gain freedom through wearing our masks and socially distancing,” Birx said.

On Saturday, Missouri reported its largest number of COVID-19 deaths in a day, with 32 counted in a 24-hour period, according to the state public health agency. Previously the largest number of deaths recorded in a day in Missouri had been 30, on April 24. During the same 24-hour period Saturday, the state reported 1,198 new infections.

In Georgia, Saturday was the first time the state has reported fewer than 1,300 daily cases in more than two months. On Sunday, Florida reported its lowest daily death figure in months, 14.


Also Sunday, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration promised the review of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. will be transparent to the public, with any clearance by the agency driven by data alone.

Commissioner Stephen Hahn responded to questions about the different ways the FDA could clear a vaccine for use: either under an emergency authorization, likely based on more limited data and for use in a narrow group, or a broader approval that could lead to wider use.

“We’ve said all along we’re not going to pre-judge what mechanism we’re going to use to authorize or approve a vaccine,” Hahn told Bloomberg News by phone. “We’re going to let the data dictate that. The data will dictate what kind of decision is made on the vaccine.”

No decision on that has been made because the agency hasn’t seen trial results yet, he said.

Hahn was appointed by President Donald Trump late last year. Only months into his tenure, he found himself at the center of the administration’s response to the coronavirus. A vaccine is considered crucial for ending the pandemic and reviving the U.S. economy.

A vaccine is also pivotal to Trump’s reelection. The president has said a vaccine could be available by Election Day on Nov. 3. On Twitter, the president has attacked Hahn’s agency for harboring “deep state” staff slowing vaccine and drug work to hurt him politically.

Hahn said the agency will share as much of the data on any vaccine it reviews as is possible. The agency has scheduled an Oct. 22 meeting of outside experts to discuss a vaccine. At this point, however, large, final-stage trials of experimental shots by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and others haven’t been completed or offered enough data to make a public judgment on.

“We are committed to being transparent because we realize this is very important to the American people,” he said. In an interview last week, he said he was aware of the outside pressure from Trump and others, but Hahn emphasized the need for data to drive the agency’s decision-making.

“What I tell internally our folks is they need to make the decisions based upon the data,” Hahn said in the earlier interview. “I have not reversed one of their decisions, nor do I intend to unless I think it’s absolutely wrong. So, yeah, I listen to it, but it’s not going to change what we do.”

U.S. health officials have been preparing for the roll-out of a vaccine. Under the White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” program, the government has made agreements with drugmakers to fund vaccine development and manufacturing.

It’s also planning for distribution of a vaccine. Given limited supply, any vaccine is likely to go to health care and other frontline workers first, as well as populations at higher risk of the virus.

An emergency authorization of a vaccine would likely limit use to similar groups of higher-risk people while more safety data are collected.