WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Senate lawmakers that his agency has not altered its scientific publications on the coronavirus.
That comes despite pressure from Trump officials who allege the agency has worked against the re-election of President Donald Trump.
Dr. Robert Redfield testified that the CDC’s “scientific integrity … has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”
Last week news outlets reported that Michael Caputo, a Health and Human Services Department political appointee, tried to gain editorial control over CDC’s weekly scientific report. In a separate online video last week, Caputo reportedly said some CDC scientists constituted a “resistance unit” conspiring against the Trump administration.
Redfield rejected the allegation and says he was “deeply saddened” by the comments.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, says the apparent political pressure on CDC, among other health agencies, had damaged public trust in federal health information.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. government released a sweeping plan to make vaccines for the coronavirus available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is developed.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— University of Colorado students told to self-quarantine for 2 weeks
— Eli Lilly says antibody study gives hint of help for COVID-19 patients
— Madrid to impose lockdowns in some areas as virus cases spike
— India’s virus cases pass 5 million, challenging health care system. The world’s second-most populous country has added more than 1 million cases this month.
— Iowa governor won’t budge on mandating masks even as virus deaths rise. Gov. Kim Reynolds refuses to let city officials enforce local mandates, even as state maintains one of the highest coronavirus positivity rates.
— Doubts persist as NYC’s hybrid school year is set to start. It begins remotely Wednesday in a soft opening for more than 1 million kids and prologue to return for some to physical classrooms next week.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BOULDER, Colo. — All students at the University of Colorado’s main campus are being told to self-quarantine for the next two weeks to stem an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
Jeffrey J. Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health, urged the measure in a letter Zayach sent Tuesday to Boulder campus students, faculty and staff. Zayach warned mandatory restrictions could follow if students do not comply.
University officials reported 13 positive tests the first week of school, 90 the second week and 205 the third week. Most cases involved students who live off-campus.
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, says there’s been six coronavirus outbreaks at Colorado colleges and universities.
ROME — Another 1,452 people tested positive for coronavirus in Italy, in line with the average daily increase in Italy’s six-week surge of infections.
Every Italian region recorded new cases, including the southern region of Campania, which had the most nationwide in the past 24 hours at 186. Campania and the rest of southern Italy largely avoided the peak of the original outbreak, which hit harder in the more north.
While Campania, the region around Naples, and the Lazio region around Rome still have a fraction of the cases of northern Lombardy, they account for a sizeable number of the new spate of infections.
The health ministry says another 12 people died in the past day, bringing Italy’s confirmed death toll to 35,645.
JOHANNESBURG — A new survey across 18 African countries finds a “worryingly high levels of misinformation” related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The phone survey conducted last month indicates just over one in three people agreed with the inaccurate statements that foreigners were trying to test vaccines on the population and they were trying to discredit African medicines.
The countries where more than 40% of respondents agreed with the statements were Tunisia, Senegal, Guinea and Cameroon. Nandita Murukutla, of the public health organization Vital Strategies, called such misinformation “potentially harmful.”
In other survey highlights, 45% of people say they missed or delayed health care services because of the pandemic and 72% reported barriers in accessing food.
INDIANAPOLIS — A drug company says partial results from a study testing an antibody drug give hints that it may help mild to moderately ill COVID-19 patients from needing to be hospitalized.
Eli Lilly announced the results Wednesday in a press release, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists. The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except at the middle of three doses being tested. However, most study participants had cleared the virus by then anyway.
Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. The blood of survivors is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 patients because it contains such antibodies. But the strength and types of antibodies varies depending on each donor.
The drugs Lilly and other companies are testing involve concentrated versions of specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests, and can be made in large, standardized doses.
PHILADELPHIA — President Donald Trump is denying he played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating that.
The president participated in a televised town hall Tuesday with uncommitted voters, hosted by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. In an exchange with one voter, Trump said he actually “up-played” the virus threat.
Trump also cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration, which strongly recommends the use of face coverings.
Trump says, “There are people that don’t think masks are good.” However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges their use.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese officials say nursing and care homes have had difficulty in recruiting staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Marta Temido told a parliamentary committee Wednesday “the stigma attached to this illness is still very great.”
Specialist teams have visited about half of the country’s 2,628 licensed homes for the elderly to check whether proper procedures are in place.
Labor Minister Ana Mendes Godinho says in the past three years, authorities have shut down 407 clandestine homes, which have long been a problem in Portugal.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities are increasing the number of intensive care unit beds set aside for patients with COVID-19 in and around the Greek capital.
That comes amid what officials have called a worrying increase in coronavirus cases and people severely ill with the virus.
The greatest increase in cases has been in the wider Athens region, Greece’s most populous, where intensive care units are starting to come under pressure.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said Wednesday that 40 more ICU beds would be set aside for COVID-19 patients in the Athens region within the next seven days.
On Tuesday, 310 new coronavirus cases were announced nationwide. Greece has a total of 13,730 confirmed cases and 313 deaths.
NEW DELHI — An Indian pharmaceutical company and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund have agreed to distribute 100 million doses of the Russia’s experimental Sputnik V vaccine in India.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) says it had paired with Indian company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. The pharmaceutical company will be conducting phase three trials in India to meet the country’s regulatory requirements.
Press secretary Arseniy Palagin confirmed the 100 million doses of the experimental vaccine were meant for “population wide use” as long as they met regulatory requirements and clinical trials were successful.
Palagin confirmed RDIF was in talks with several Indian companies for manufacturing the vaccine.
Indian officials said last week that Russia had asked for assistance for the vaccine to be manufactured by Indian companies and the government was facilitating this.
Dr. V.K. Paul, who heads a government task force on vaccines, has called a partnership with Russia a “win-win for India and the world.”
MADRID — The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in urban areas where the coronavirus is spreading faster.
Deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero says the measures will most likely affect southern, working-class neighborhoods of Madrid where infection rates have been steadily soaring since August.
Zapatero says Madrid wants to “flatten the curve before the arrival of autumn and the complications that cold weather could bring,” adding that the measures to be taken will be decided by this weekend.
Madrid and its surrounding region of 6.6 million people have accounted for nearly one third of Spain’s new cases, which have averaged 8,200 per day for the past week.
Overall, Spain has more than 600,000 cases and just over 30,000 deaths.
LONDON — The British government plans to ration coronavirus testing, giving priority to health workers and care home staff after widespread reports of people throughout the country unable to schedule tests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday will face questions about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the House of Commons and before a key committee amid the outcry over the shortage of testing.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says the government is in the process of drawing up a new priority list for testing, suggesting that students and their families could be next in line after the National Health Service and social care.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proved that our own health depends on the health of others and the environment, and exploiting nature means exploiting others.
Francis reiterated his insistence of the interconnectedness of people and the planet during his general audience Wednesday, held in a Vatican courtyard with the faithful spaced apart to limit contagion.
Francis says if people are unable to contemplate the beauty and majesty of nature without exploiting it, they will be similarly unable to contemplate others without taking advantage of them. He says: “He who lives to exploit nature ends up exploiting people and treating them like slaves. This is a universal law.”
Francis is expected to elaborate on the themes of solidarity, fraternity and care for creation in an encyclical he’s expected to sign Oct. 3 on living in the post-coronavirus world.
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam will resume international commercial flights connecting the country to several Asian destinations starting Friday, after a months-long shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
The flights are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, experts, managers, skilled workers, investors and their families. They are not yet available for tourists.
The flights connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to destinations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will operate weekly, the government website announced. Flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume next week.
To board a flight, passengers must hold a certificate showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus no more than five days before the departure date. Upon arrival, they will be tested and quarantined, the report said.
Vietnam shut down international flights on April 1. National carrier Vietnam Airlines estimated last month that it would lose $650 million in 2020.
Vietnam has reported 1,059 cases of the coronavirus. It managed to avoid any deaths until July, when the virus entered the city of Da Nang, killing 35 people.
But no new cases have been reported for two weeks. Last week, Da Nang lifted a travel restriction after two months.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has registered another steep rise in coronavirus infections, with the number of new confirmed cases surpassing 1,600 in one day for the first time.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached a new record of 1,677 on Tuesday. The record was broken four times last week.
The capital of Prague has the highest number of people who tested positive, over 141 per 100,000. The surge has prompted some European countries, including Slovakia, Denmark, Britain and Switzerland to impose travel restrictions for travellers from the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has had 38,896 people infected with 476 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed below 200 for two weeks, but the government is urging people not to lower their guard.
Authorities say the 113 cases added in the last 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,504 and 367 confirmed deaths.
Eighty-one were in the Seoul metropolitan area, the heart of a recent viral resurgence.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip called on people to refrain from having unnecessary gatherings and visiting crowded places.
UNITED NATIONS — The new president of the U.N. General Assembly is warning that unilateralism will only strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling for a new commitment to global cooperation including on the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.
Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the reins of the 193-member world body on Tuesday, announced that the General Assembly will hold a high-level special session on the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, though diplomats said the date may slip.
Bozkir takes over from outgoing General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who presided over a unique year-old session that he said was “defined by a pandemic” and included virtual meetings and new voting procedures.
Bozkir told diplomats from U.N. member nations, seated at socially distanced spaces in the assembly chamber, that “confronting the effects of the coronavirus in all their dimensions will be an overarching priority for my presidency.”
He said “no state can combat this pandemic alone,” and it is the members’ responsibility “to strengthen people’s faith in multilateral cooperation and international institutions, with the U.N. at their center.”