By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The U.S. coronavirus case total has passed 12 million cases and hospitalizations have soared past 82,000 while pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of its COVID-10 vaccine late Friday.
At least 1,947 new coronavirus deaths and 198,537 new cases were reported in the United States on Friday, according to a New York Times tracker. Over the past week, there has been an average of 168,695 cases per day, an increase of 67 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
The global case tally of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 57 million on Friday, and the U.S. moved closer to 200,000 cases in a day while setting a fresh record for hospitalizations as the virus continues to infect people in every state and region.
On a brighter note, Pfizer Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.43% and partner BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -1.06% asked U.S. health regulators on Friday to permit use of their Covid-19 vaccine, a milepost in months of frantic efforts to find a medicine that could beat back a rampaging pandemic.
The drug makers said that means the vaccine could possibly be rolled out to a small group of people at high risk in the country by mid-December. Pfizer and BioNTech have said they plan to have 50 million doses of the vaccine, which can be used to treat 25 million people, worldwide in 2020.
There was disappointing news on the medical front when a World Health Organization panel recommended against doctors using the drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients, saying it has “no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients.” The drug made by Gilead Sciences Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210293917/composite GILD -0.76% is the only one to win full Food and Drug Administration approval as a treatment for COVID-19, and not just an emergency-use authorization.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who warned in June that the U.S. could count more than 100,000 cases a day if it did not stick with the containment measures recommended by health experts — frequent hand washing, social distancing and face-mask wearing — on Thursday reiterated a recently employed metaphor that with vaccines showing high levels of efficacy in early analyses of data from clinical trials, “the cavalry is on the way.”
“If you’re fighting a battle, and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting. You keep going until the cavalry gets here,” Fauci said at the first press briefing since July by the White House task force formed to manage the pandemic response.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force, issued a call to action for every American to increase vigilance especially as the U.S. approaches the Thanksgiving holiday.
Standing in front of charts flashing deep red for most of the U.S., Birx explained that the fall surge is “more cases more rapidly than what we had seen before,” as she urged Americans not to let their guards down. As the pandemic includes many asymptomatic patients, it’s important to remain indoors with immediate household members and not to gather with others.
“People are spreading the virus because they don’t know they are infected, she said. “Sometimes indoors, we just assume that if you look OK you are OK,” she said. But many people, especially those under 35, could be infected and unknowingly spreading the virus, she said.
Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Vice President Mike Pence also spoke at the briefing. Pence, who did not wear a face mask, said, “America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today.” To the chagrin of reporters in attendance and health experts, Pence ended the briefing without taking questions.
Separately, the CDC is “strongly’ recommending that Americans not travel over Thanksgiving.
“As we’re seeing exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease, or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to, to avoid travel at this time,” said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.