Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warned on Friday a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available until well into 2021 as COVID-19 deaths topped 1,000 for the third consecutive day high --California, Texas and Florida reporting more than half of the deaths.

As the pandemic surged unabated, Republicans and Democrats battled over a coronavirus relief package.

Fauci, in a live interview with the Washington Post, said a COVID-19 vaccine may not be “widely available” until several months into 2021, and life really can't get back to normal until enough people have received the shot. He said scientists just don’t know that much about the virus.

“It is likely that at the beginning of next year we would have tens of millions of doses available. I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have vaccines that would be widely available,” he said

At the same time, Fauci discussed school reopenings, which came on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release of new guidelines for school reopenings in the fall.

The Trump administration has said that at least 300 million doses of a vaccine will be available in January. But Dr. Fauci maintained that more information is needed to understand how much protection the body’s immune system needs from the virus and how long that protection will last.

The U.S. reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths for the third consecutive day Thursday with Florida, California and Texas making up more than 500 of those deaths, The New York Times database indicated. Nationwide there have been 144,300 COVID-19 deaths, Johns Hopkin University reported.

Texas reported the largest number of deaths at 192, followed by Florida with 173 and California with 152, the Times database said. The three states have seen a surge in cases in recent days. Overall, Florida has 389,800 cases of the virus while Texas reported 373,000 positive cases, Johns Hopkins said. California, which is now considered the new epicenter for the infection, leads with 430,700 confirmed cases of the virus.

The news of the increasing cases of the coronavirus and growing number of deaths in the three states prompted Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, to call the three states “three New Yorks" on “NBC’s “Today” show. New York, which was previously considered the epicenter of the virus, has managed to reduce its spread, reporting 409,600 cases of the coronavirus as of late afternoon Friday.

“I just want to make it clear to the American public, what we have right now are essentially three New Yorks with these three major states,” Birx said during the interview.

“We’re really having to respond as an American people, and that’s why you hear us calling for masks and increased social distancing to really stop the spread of this epidemic,” she added.

Birx also warned in a private meeting with local and state health officials that the coronavirus task force was monitoring 12 U.S. cities that are seeing significant increases in the coronavirus, urging them to take aggressive mitigation efforts, nonprofit Center for Public Integrity reported from audio it obtained.

“There are cities that are lagging behind and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore, so we're tracking this very closely,” Birx said. “We're working with the state officials to make sure we're responding together, but when you first see that increased test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts.

"I know it may look small, and you may say that only went from 5 to 5.5 [%], and we're going to wait and see what happens," she added. "If you wait another three to four, even five, days, you'll start to see a dramatic increase in cases. So finding and tracing those very early individuals is really critical."

Also, on Friday as Republicans and Democrats continued to hash out a plan for the next coronavirus relief package as the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit was set to run out at the end of the month.

While the week was spent negotiating, the parties had yet to come to agreement as they headed home for the weekend. Republicans haven't even come to agreement within the caucus.

As unemployment numbers rose for the first time since March and many states consider rolling back reopening plans, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “We don’t want this to expire next Friday. It’s not a difficult concept. You don’t get paid more to stay home than you do when you have a job.”

Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate, disagreed, saying ending the payments would create a “gratuitous disaster.”

In other coronavirus news:

  • McDonald’s is now requiring all customers to wear face masks in its U.S. restaurants as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the nation. The fast-food chain also announced it would be pausing the reopening of its dining rooms for the next 30 days.
  • The U.K. now requires all residents to wear a face mask when in shops, supermarkets, transportation hubs and shopping centers or face a fine of 100 pounds ($127). The face mask mandate went into effect on Friday. Face masks are not required in theaters, cinemas or pubs.
  • Massachusetts has issued a travel ban that requires people entering the state to fill out a Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days unless they are from a lower risk state or have a negative coronavirus test that was administered in the last 72 hours. Violators of the travel ban will be faced with a $500-per-day fine.
  • More than 150 medical experts have called on the Trump administration and Congress urging them to close the U.S. back down as they look to “save lives.” In their letter they wrote: “The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it's to save as many lives as possible.”
  • South Africa has shut down schools for the next four weeks as the country prepares for a surge in coronavirus cases. President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to residents: “We have taken a deliberately cautious approach to keep schools closed during a period when the country is expected to experience its greatest increase in infections." South Africa had reported more than 408,000 positive coronavirus cases as of Friday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University said.
  • Eviction moratoriums are set to expire at the end of July, leaving millions of unemployed Americans living in apartments in the lurch. As many as 23 million renters could face eviction by the end of September, ABC News reported. More than 30 million Americans currently are collecting unemployment benefits.
  • A quarter of U.S. adults see truth in a conspiracy theory that has been circulating online that suggests powerful people intentionally planned the coronavirus outbreak, a June survey from Pew Research Center indicated. Five percent of those queried said the theory is definitely true while 20% said it is probably true.
  • More than 75 hand sanitizers have been recalled because they contain methanol – wood alcohol. The hand sanitizers were recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has issued a warning for consumers about the products. The hand sanitizers originate from Mexico and pose a serious health risk that could lead to methanol poisoning or death.
40% American Adults At Risk For COVID-19 Complications
40% American Adults At Risk For COVID-19 Complications Tumisu - Pixabay