Vaccine won't have copay, HHS says; Congress to investigate Operation Warp Speed — 7 COVID-19 updates

The pandemic combined with flu season could create the worst fall the U.S. has ever faced from a public health perspective, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said during an Aug. 12 interview with WebMD. 

About 95 percent to 99 percent of Americans have to follow CDC virus prevention guidelines for them to be effective, Dr. Redfield said, urging Americans to also get the flu vaccine in preparation for the fall. 

Seven updates:

1. COVID-19 vaccines won't require a copay, an HHS official told reporters Aug. 13, according to The Wall Street Journal. Paul Mango, HHS' deputy chief of staff for policy, said the government is working with commercial insurers to offer the vaccines free of cost. The U.S. will shoulder the cost of obtaining and distributing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for Americans.

2. A House subcommittee launched an investigation into Operation Warp Speed, citing concerns about vaccine selection and potential conflicts of interest, according to three letters addressed to operation leaders. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Advanced Decision Vectors President and CEO David Harris and OWS Chief Adviser Moncef Slaoui, PhD, all received letters informing them that their role in the White House's task force would be investigated. Most recently, Russian officials told CNN that OWS officials have declined Russia's offer to work together to develop a vaccine. However, some U.S. officials told CNN that the Russian vaccine, the first in the world to be approved by any government, hasn't piqued U.S. interest because clinical trials for the vaccine haven't concluded yet.

3. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp withdrew his lawsuit seeking to block Atlanta's face mask order Aug. 13, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Filed July 16, the suit claimed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms didn't have the authority to issue a mask requirement. The withdrawal means Atlanta and other cities can keep their mask mandates, though Mr. Kemp said he intends to sign an executive order Aug. 15 specifying that local governments can't order private businesses to require masks.  

4. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris called for a three-month nationwide mask mandate to help limit the virus's spread, reports CBS News. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and his running mate urged governors to implement this requirement during an Aug. 13 briefing in Wilmington, Del.

5. The pandemic is weighing heaviest on young adults' mental health, a new CDC report found. The agency surveyed 5,412 U.S. adults from June 24-30. About 25 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 said they had seriously considered suicide in the past month. Overall, 75 percent of respondents in this age group reported at least one mental or behavioral health symptom.

6. COVID-19 patients appear to benefit from convalescent plasma infusions, according to a nationwide study of 35,000 patients led by Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic. Severely ill patients who received plasma had lower death rates than those who did not. However, the study lacked a control group, so the treatment's true value is still unclear. Mayo Clinic launched the study to collect data while giving plasma to those we needed it — not to definitively study the treatment's efficacy, reports STAT

7. California is the first state to report 600,000 COVID-19 cases, according to The New York Times database. The most populous state in the U.S., California is still not among the most severely virus-affected states on a per-capita basis, according to the NYT.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,254,878
Deaths: 167,277
Recovered: 1,774,648

Counts reflect data available as of 8:50 a.m. CDT Aug. 14.

More articles on public health:
US coronavirus death rates by state: Aug. 14
26 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Aug. 14
New York City's COVID-19 death rate comparable to 1918 flu pandemic, study finds 

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