Alex Azar: Reopening does not entirely depend on coronavirus vaccine

Illustration courtesy of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

May 17 (UPI) — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that plans to reopen businesses, schools and other facilities do not rely entirely on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Azar sought to clarify comments by President Donald Trump during a news conference on Friday during which he said “vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back” while announcing a crash effort to develop a vaccine before the end of the year.

“So what the president was making the point on is — everything does not depend on a vaccine. We’ere committed to delivering a vaccine, but that’s one of a multi-factorial response program,” said Azar. “First is the testing we talked about before, test symptomatic people, broad surveillance to find cases, surge and to contain. Also therapeutics.”

Azar also told CBS News’ Face the Nation that the administration’s plan to prepare 300 million doses of a coronavirus by the end of the year was a goal and “not a pledge.”

“It’s a goal of what we’re going to mobilize the entire U.S. government private sector to achieve,” he said.

Azar’s comments came as the United States has reported 1,477,815 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 89,023 deaths, according to figures by Johns Hopkins University.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 139 deaths from of COVID-19 were confirmed Saturday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 22,619, the most in the nation. The state has also reported 350,121 coronavirus cases.

In addition, the state is investigating more than 130 cases of a pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome potentially connected to COVID-19.

Cuomo was administered a COVID-19 test during his live coronavirus briefing on Sunday as he said the state has the capacity to conduct 40,000 tests per day, exceeding the amount people in the state are utilizing.

“We need to use our full testing capacity as we reopen,” said Cuomo. “If you have COVID symptoms or have been in contact with COVID — get a test.”

In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state recorded 107 new deaths over the past 24 hours for a total of 10,356 in addition to 1,272 confirmed cases for a total of 146,334.

Several states reported double-digit increases Sunday: Michigan with 11 more deaths for 4,89, Pennsylvania adding 13 for 4,502 and Connecticut with 69 for 3,408.

Illinois reported 4,177 deaths and 94,191 positive cases, Massachusetts reported 92 new deaths for a death toll of 5,797 and 1,077 new cases for a total of 86,010.

California reported 3,261 deaths and 78,839 positive cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday that 75 percent of his state’s economy had reopened including manufacturing, warehouses and restaurants with employees and guests required to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.

Newsom added that it was not an option to reopen sports arenas and he believes many schools will open in the fall, but some will remain closed, stressing the importance of maintaining social distancing procedures.

“We are moving forward, in hope and expectation we can start that school year very strategically and methodically, again, based upon the health as a prime frame of reference in terms of those decisions,” he said.


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