Coronavirus live updates: Moderna could provide 1 billion vaccine doses in 2021; swastika masks draw outrage

John Bacon
USA TODAY
Published 9:46 AM EDT Jul 27, 2020

Moderna has begun the world’s largest study of a COVID-19 vaccine and remains on track to provide as many as 1 billion doses per year beginning in 2021, the Massachusetts-based biotech firm announced Monday.

The Phase 3 study is expected to involve 30,000 volunteer participants in collaboration with Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s scheme to end the crisis by encouraging vaccine candidates from multiple companies. 

In Minnesota, a couple who wore swastika masks have been banned from Walmart stores nationwide for at least a year. And in Washington, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were working out details for a $1 trillion relief bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring forward Monday afternoon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has assailed Republican “disarray” over the new pandemic relief package.

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has more than 4.2 million confirmed cases and over 146,900 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 16.2 million cases and 648,900 deaths, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins.

📰 What we’re reading: The COVID economy, in 6 striking charts.

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Moderna kicks off world’s largest study of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna said it has begun dosing participants in the Phase 3 study of its mRNA vaccine candidate against COVID-19. Moderna is one of several companies around the world in the final stages of producing a vaccine, although none have yet to prove effectiveness among a large population. Several vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University earlier this month began smaller, final-stage tests in Brazil around the world.

Moderna said the vaccination was done in Savannah, Georgia, the first site to get underway among more than seven dozen trial sites scattered around the country.

“We are pleased to have started the Phase 3 COVE (Coronavirus Efficacy) study,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said. “We look forward to this trial demonstrating the potential of our vaccine to prevent COVID-19 so that we can defeat this pandemic.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien tests positive

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a senior administration official. O’Brien, who was named to his job last September, is the highest-ranking administration official to contract the coronavirus. The news came days after the announcement that a Marine assigned to the military unit that flies Marine One tested positive for coronavirus but did not have direct contact with Trump or his presidential helicopter. 

The White House also conducted contact tracing last week after an employee for a cafeteria vendor at the two eateries inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building tested positive for the coronavirus.

David Jackson

Scores of worshipers infected after Alabama Baptist revival

More than 40 people became infected with coronavirus after a week-long revival at a small north Alabama Baptist church last week, pastor Daryl Ross said. Ross told al.com that two male members of the Warrior Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Strawberry  suffered relatively serious cases. The services were shut down by Friday after one of the attendees tested positive for the virus. The person had no symptoms but was tested after several of his coworkers tested positive, Ross said.

“The whole church has got it, just about,” Ross said. Ross said he also tested positive but has few symptoms. “We shut down revival and, by Friday night, I’ve got church members sick everywhere.”

Diabetes a killer when combined with COVID-19

Americans with diabetes and related health conditions are12 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without such conditions. Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, said roughly 90% of Americans who die of COVID-19 have diabetes or other underlying conditions. And people of color are over-represented among the very sick and the dead. People with diabetes are more vulnerable to many types of infections because their white blood cells don’t work as well when blood sugar levels are high. 

“In a test tube, you can see the infection-fighting cells working less well if the sugars are higher,” said Dr. Anne Peters, director of the USC Clinical Diabetes Programs. 

Karen Weintraub

Minnesota duo banned from Walmarts for wearing swastika masks

A Minnesota man and woman who wore swastika masks into a Walmart were issued no-trespass notices but were not cited or arrested, authorities said. The duo have been banned from Walmart stores nationwide for at least a year. The video, posted to Facebook on Saturday by Raphaela Mueller, shows a man and woman in a Walmart in Marshall wearing the swastikas as the woman flips off the camera while the man checks out groceries.

“You can’t be American and wear that mask” a person can be heard saying. “We literally had a war about this.” The masked woman can be heard saying, “If you vote for Biden you’re gonna be in Nazi Germany. That’s what it’s going to be like.” Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Jordan Culver

Florida now has second-most confirmed COVID-19 cases

More than 9,300 new cases were reported in Florida on Sunday, along with 78 new deaths. The state has recorded more than 5,000 new cases per day for 33 consecutive days. Florida’s nearly 424,000 coronavirus cases as of Sunday are surpassed only by California, which has more than 450,000. With 39.5 million residents, California has almost double Florida’s population of 21.4 million. 

New York, slightly less populous than Florida with 19.4 million residents, has close to 412,000 cases and was once the epicenter of the virus in the U.S. Texas, the only state besides California with more people than Florida, has about 390,000 cases.

– Rachael Thomas, Florida Today; Associated Press

North Korean border city put on lockdown amid virus fears

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying “the vicious virus” may have entered the country, state media reported Sunday. If the person is officially declared a coronavirus patient, he or she would reportedly be North Korea’s first confirmed case. The North has steadfastly said it has had no cases of the virus, a claim questioned by outside experts.

The lockdown was declared Friday afternoon. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the suspected virus patient is a runaway who fled to South Korea three years ago before illegally crossing the border into the North early last week.

Plandemic segment pulled from Sinclair TV stations

The Sinclair Broadcast Group said this weekend that it is pulling an edition of its “America This Week” program that discusses a conspiracy theory involving Dr. Anthony Fauci and the coronavirus. The company said Sinclair hopes to add context and other viewpoints and still air the controversial segment next week.

“America This Week” is hosted by Eric Bolling, a former Fox News Channel personality, and sent to stations in 81 markets. The show it initially distributed for this weekend’s show featured an interview with Judy Mikovits, maker of the widely discredited “Plandemic” video, and her lawyer, Larry Klayman.

Mikovits, an anti-vaccine activist, said she believed that Fauci manufactured the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and shipped it to China. There has been no evidence that the virus was produced in a lab, much less any of Fauci’s involvement.

Viral ‘Plandemic’ video: Claim ‘could lead to imminent harm,’ Facebook says

Home test for coronavirus may not be far away

A quick, inexpensive and readily available home test to detect the coronavirus would be a critical tool in helping curb its spread, and it might be getting closer to reality. With support from the National Institutes of Health, researches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating with a team at 3M to develop and scale such a test. The diagnostic exam would work similarly to an early pregnancy test, using an individual’s body fluids to reveal on a specially made piece of paper whether the virus is present in that person.

“That could be one of our most important interventions as we come into the fall to prevent large outbreaks from happening,” said Stephen Kissler, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

– Karen Weintraub

COVID-19 group testing saves resources, not time

With results from COVID-19 tests routinely taking one week or longer to complete, some labs are trying a new approach called sample pooling.

The idea is labs can save coveted supplies if they test samples from multiple patients at once. If the test finds no signs that a pooled sample contains the coronavirus, the group of people tested are considered negative. A positive result requires each sample to be tested individually.

The testing method is a new option; however, it won’t deliver results more quickly. That’s a hurdle for labs struggling to keep pace in hot spot communities. Read more here.

– Ken Alltucker 

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This content was originally published here.