CDC says U.S. is seeing ‘distressing trend’ in outbreak

Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on July 30, 2020.

Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images

A top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that the agency is seeing a “distressing trend” in the United States’ coronavirus outbreak.

Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, said Covid-19 cases are now growing “really in all parts of the country,” with particularly high transmission in the Midwest.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a distressing trend here in the United States,” he told reporters on a call. “Smaller, more intimate gatherings of family, friends and neighbors may be driving transmission as well, especially as they move indoors.”

The U.S. is now reporting roughly 60,000 new Covid-19 cases daily, growing nearly 17% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Figures are based on a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting. Only two states — Hawaii and Virginia — reported declines greater than 5% as of Tuesday.

Butler said the U.S. will likely have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine “very soon,” adding that he is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine will be available in limited quantities by the end of the year. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on the same call that Pfizer and Moderna, front-runners in the Covid-19 vaccine race, are “very close if not fully enrolled in their trials.”

Butler added every state and jurisdiction has submitted plans to the federal government to distribute a vaccine. The agency had set a deadline of last Friday.

States have less than two weeks to set up distribution centers across the country to meet the Nov. 1 deadline set by the CDC — a monumental undertaking made even more difficult by the fact that a vaccine hasn’t been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and clinical trials of two of the four leading candidates have been halted.

The comments come days after the Trump administration announced a deal with CVS Health and Walgreens to administer coronavirus vaccines to the elderly and staff in long-term care facilities. The vaccine will be free of charge and available for residents in all long-term care settings, Butler told reporters on Friday.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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