Political and public health messages clashed Wednesday as the U.S. hurtles toward a high-stakes presidential election and the approval of a vaccine aimed at ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield told a Senate panel that a vaccine may not be available to the American public until summer or fall 2021 and that masks are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” — possibly even more effective than a vaccine.
Hours later, President Donald Trump criticized and contradicted both comments, repeatedly suggesting Redfield may have misunderstood the questions asked of him under oath.
Also Wednesday, Trump loyalist Michael Caputo announced he was taking a leave of absence from his role as the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, citing a “lymphatic issue discovered last week.” Caputo previously accused scientists at the CDC of “sedition.” Caputo was also accused of trying to manipulate COVID-19 data for political purposes.
Meanwhile, the CDC is under heavy scrutiny, too, after a USA TODAY investigation exposed how it failed to communicate vital information to local health authorities at the start of the pandemic, even downplaying the virus’ threat.
‘Let people choose’:How the CDC failed local public health officials fighting the coronavirus
Some significant developments:
- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the majority of children, teens and young adults who’ve died from COVID-19 are Hispanic, Black or Native American.
- India surpassed 5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 82,000 deaths.
- Pfizer, one of the frontrunners in creating a COVID-19 vaccine, reported its candidate has “potential” after expanding its trial over the weekend.
📈 Today’s numbers: Alabama, North Dakota and Wisconsin set records for new cases, while Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota and Tennessee set records for number of deaths reported, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Tuesday. The U.S. has reported more than 6.6 million cases and 196,000 deaths. Globally, there have been more than 29.7 million cases and 938,000 fatalities.
📰 What we’re reading: Even as thousands of their employees fell ill with COVID-19, meatpacking executives pressured federal regulators to help keep their plants open, according to a trove of emails obtained by USA TODAY. Read more.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom to act ‘very, very shortly’ on theme park reopenings
Under pressure from the amusement industry and tourism-dependent cities, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed action “very, very shortly” that could reopen Disneyland and other shuttered theme parks.
Even a partial reopening would help Anaheim and surrounding cities in California’s Orange County that depend on a flood of tourists from around the world to spend lavishly at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, hotels, restaurants and shopping districts.
The city of Anaheim projects a fiscal-year deficit of at least $75 million, instead of the surplus that had been expected before the pandemic struck, officials said.
“We are disappointed with the state’s lack of progress in providing the industry with guidance and clarity on reopening,” Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland Resort, said in a statement.
The California Attractions and Parks Association, whose members include both Disneyland and Universal Studios, called for Newsom to release rules for reopening on Tuesday.
– Chris Woodyard
President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention misspoke when he testified that a coronavirus vaccine might not be widely available until next year and that face masks are a more effective way of fighting the disease.
Trump said during a White House news briefing that Redfield was wrong on both counts.
“I called him — I said, ‘What did you mean by that?’” Trump told reporters. “I think he just made a mistake. … I think he misunderstood the question.”
Redfield told a Senate panel on Wednesday that a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine may be available between November and December, but that it was unlikely to be available to the general public until the summer or fall of next year. His remarks contradicted Trump, who has said a vaccine could be available by the end of the year, perhaps by the Nov. 3 election.
– Michael Collins and David Jackson
A 2-month-old from Michigan died this week of COVID-19 and is believed to be the state’s youngest victim of the…