DOD is scouting contractors to set up potential mobile coronavirus hospitals in Florida as outbreak worsens
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber tours the Miami Beach Convention Center as the Army Corps’ builds a coronavirus field hospital inside the facility on April 8, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. The U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers is converting the convention center into a field hospital with 400 regular hospital beds and 50 ICU beds, with the ability to scale up to 1,000 beds if needed, as the region prepares for a possible surge of coronavirus patients.
Al Diaz | Getty Images
The Department of Defense is canvassing Florida for potential contractors and locations to set up emergency mobile hospitals to treat coronavirus patients across the state, according to a contract notice posted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army is helping the state in case it needs to quickly build out more surge capacity at its hospitals as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, seeking contractors who can build temporary facilities with ten days notice. The state doesn’t know how many facilities they’ll need or where they will need them, but officials want to get an idea of how quickly they could build out surge hospital capacity, just in case, according to the notice.
The state is putting out a blanket call “to solicit and purchase any number of these facilities needed necessary to meet the State’s need,” according to the notice that was posted online Tuesday.
“Since Covid has come about, we’ve been working with emergency management departments across the country just to make sure they have the resources they need to respond,” John Campbell, an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman in Jacksonville, Florida, told CNBC. Campbell deferred all questions about the potential need for more hospital capacity to the state of Florida.
He added that the Army Corps of Engineers helped outfit the field hospital at the Miami Beach Convention Center in April. The corps has previously been called on to build field hospitals and surge capacity units in other hard-hit parts of the country, including New York City.
“We have been asked to see what capabilities are out there in the event that we do need more capacity,” Campbell said in an interview.
The notice comes as Florida battles one of the most rapidly growing coronavirus outbreaks in the world. As of Thursday, there were 9,422 people hospitalized across the state and that number’s growing, according to data from Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization launched by journalists at The Atlantic.
Over the past seven days, Florida reported an average of 9,339 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, up 18% compared with a week ago, according to CNBC’s analysis of data from Covid Tracking Project.
Covid-19 deaths in Florida are also on the rise. The state reported 173 new deaths on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Florida has reported more than 120 new deaths per day over the past seven days, up nearly 26% compared with a week ago, according to CNBC’s analysis of Hopkins data.
The document says contractors that respond may be given a notice to proceed “within 7 days of this sources sought notice.”
The location “needs to be available for immediate lease or purchase and delivered/set up to be fully functional” within ten days of the notice to proceed, the document says. The notice was posted so the Army Corps can assess how quickly it can assemble “rapid response mobile hospital facilities.” Bidders have until Sunday to submit their responses.
Florida currently has one “mobile hospital unit” deployed in Winter Haven, Florida and another unit on “standby,” Jason Mahon, spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said in a statement to CNBC.
“These mobile units can be deployed to hospitals across the state to open up additional bed capacity,” he said. “The state has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assist in identifying if there are other, similar mobile hospital units available nationwide.”
The document says eligible bidders are expected to be able to provide 12 or more hospital beds “at an acute level” for Covid-19 treatment. The emergency hospitals “must be transportable” and “capable of being set up in a parking lot” or other area adjacent to a hospital. All bidders must be able to provide hard structures, not tents or fabric, “that can withstand typical Florida storms,” including hurricanes.
Bidders with at least five years of experience “designing and constructing medical care facilities” are preferred, the document says.
Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir told reporters on a conference call Thursday that the administration is concerned about the surge in cases in a number of hot spot states, adding that the data is beginning to show signs of progress. He said the percent of Covid-19 tests nationally that turn up positive is beginning to tick down and that Covid-19 deaths should begin to fall in the “next couple of weeks.”
However, he said that while nationally the outbreak could begin to improve, some particularly hard-hit states could continue to struggle for some time.
“We’re all very concerned about the outbreaks which are occurring across the country, particularly in the Sunbelt states,” Giroir said. “And we’ve all talked about California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, but we are seeing that our public health measures are starting to make a difference, and we are making progress.”
McDonalds and other local stores remain shuttered due to COVID-19 at Times Square on April 13, 2020 in New York, NY.
Eduardo Munoz | Getty Images
McDonald’s pause on reopening U.S. dining rooms will continue for another 30 days as coronavirus cases continue to surge in some parts of the country.
The company will also require customers to wear face coverings, starting Aug. 1, and will add protective panels in its restaurants to allow franchisees to increase order taking, seating capacity and staffing levels.
McDonald’s joins other large retailers and restaurant companies, like Walmart, Kroger and Starbucks, in requiring customers to wear masks across all U.S. locations.
U.S. President Joe Erlinger and National Franchise Leadership Alliance Chair Mark Salebra said in an open letter to McDonald’s U.S. system that nearly 82% of its restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both employees and customers.
Employees will receive extra training to handle customers who do not want to wear masks.
“The intent of this policy is to take a proactive approach and focus on quickly finding solutions when customers are unable or unwilling to wear a face covering,” they wrote. “In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way.”
The protective panels are yet another safety measure for its restaurants. Erlinger and Salebra said in the letter that they are not intended to replace personal protective equipment or adherence to social distancing.
The fast-food chain first paused dining room reopenings on July 1 for three weeks amid a surge of coronavirus cases. Franchisees who have already reopened dining rooms and are not facing any rollbacks from local officials can decide if they want to keep them open.
Shares of McDonald’s, which has a market value of $152 billion, are nearly flat so far this year. The company is expected to report its second-quarter results on Tuesday.
Dr. Fauci says coronavirus vaccine likely won’t be ‘widely’ available until several months into 2021
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | AFP via Getty Images
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that a coronavirus vaccine likely won’t be “widely available” to the American public until “several months” into 2021.
Public health officials and scientists expect to know whether at least one of the numerous potential Covid-19 vaccines in development is safe and effective by the end of December or early next year, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during a live Q&A with the Washington Post.
“It is likely that at the beginning of next year we would have tens of millions of doses available,” Fauci said, adding that some drugmakers have predicted more doses than that. “I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have vaccines that would be widely available.”
Health officials say there is no returning to “normal” until there is a vaccine. There are no FDA-approved drugs or vaccines for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 15 million people worldwide and killed at least 633,656 as of Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 150 potential vaccines are being developed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, with at least 25 already in human trials. Biotech firm Moderna, which is working with the National Institutes of Health, published promising data on its potential vaccine last week and is expected to enter a late-stage trial next week.
Though scientists expect to have an effective vaccine widely available by next year, there is never a guarantee. While drugmakers are racing to make millions of doses of vaccines, there’s a chance the vaccine will require two doses rather than one, potentially further limiting the number of people who can get vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available, experts say.
Additionally, scientists say that questions remain about how the human body responds once it’s been infected with the virus. The answers, they say, may have important implications for vaccine development, including how quickly it can be deployed to the public.
One critical question among scientists is whether antibodies produced in response to Covid-19 offer protection against getting infected again.
Scientists hope the antibodies provide some degree of protection against getting Covid-19, but they can’t say that definitively yet since the virus was discovered just six months ago. It hasn’t been studied in depth and some patients appear to have been reinfected after recovering from Covid-19.
A recent study published in Nature Medicine found coronavirus antibodies may last only two to three months after a person becomes infected with Covid-19. Researchers examined 37 asymptomatic people who were infected but never developed symptoms in the Wanzhou district of China. They compared their antibody response to that of 37 people with symptoms.
Fauci addressed antibodies on Friday, saying that is an area where “we need to get more information.” Besides antibodies, there may be other aspects of the immune response, like T cells, that may play a role in protection against the virus, he added.
“We are only six months into the outbreak,” he said. “Since we are only six months into it, we don’t know how long [antibodies] last in most of the people. But the fact is … that there are some people where antibodies only last a short period of time. We need to know what that means.”
“Again, we are learning as the weeks and months go by, but we don’t have all the information that we need,” he said.
Texas has not yet “conquered” the coronavirus and it’s “going to take a little while” to eliminate, although the state has made some strides, Gov. Greg Abbott told CNBC on Friday.
“We are turning the situation in the state of Texas. It’s just going to take a little while, but we’re going to be fine,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Abbott said that one of the challenges Texas faced as it reopened was that people thought the coronavirus had been “completely defeated” and that the state wouldn’t experience the widespread infections first reported in New York earlier this year.
“The first really challenge I had to do was to help my fellow Texans understand is that the coronavirus is real, it is here, it’s not going away, we need to step up and understand the way we need to fully respond to it,” Abbott said.
Texas was one of the first states to largely reopen its economy toward the beginning of May, allowing in-store retail services, dine-in restaurant services, movie theaters, shopping malls, museums and libraries to return with limited capacity. The state’s bars and gyms were later allowed to reopen with capacity limitations.
However, Abbott rolled back some of the reopenings on June 26 after coronavirus cases in Texas climbed to record highs for weeks. The Lone Star governor issued a state-wide mask mandate on July 2 requiring residents across the state to wear a face-covering in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive cases after requests from several Texas mayors.
Abbott said on Friday that the mask mandate “polls overwhelmingly,” noting that 85% of Texans agree that face masks can prevent businesses from shuttering.
Texas hit a record-high average of daily deaths from the coronavirus Thursday, reporting nearly 138 additional deaths based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Cases, however, showed signs of leveling off, with the state’s seven-day average dropping more than 3% compared with a week ago, according to Hopkins data.
“I feel like we have reached a plateau where we’ve contained the exponential growth of Covid at this particular time, but we have a lot more work to do in the coming weeks,” Abbott said. “We don’t have Covid conquered right now.”
For sale masks are seen displayed on a clothesline in the front yard of a house in Los Angeles on July 20, 2020.
Chris Delmas | AFP | Getty Images
A home-made cloth face mask likely needs two or three layers to be effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to an observational study published Thursday in the medical journal Thorax.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia looked at the effectiveness of single and double-layer cloth face coverings at reducing the spread of respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes. They then compared those results with that of a three-ply surgical face mask.
The researchers used LED lighting and a high-speed camera to film the dispersal of airborne droplets produced by a healthy person with no respiratory infection. The video for speaking was captured at 850 frames per second, while coughing and sneezing was framed 1,000 frames per second due to the higher expulsion speeds, they said.
A three-ply surgical face mask was the most effective at reducing airborne droplet dispersal, the researchers found after reviewing the footage. The single-layer covering reduced the droplet spread from speaking, though the double layer covering was better in reducing droplets from coughing and sneezing, according to the researchers.
“A cloth face covering with at least two layers is preferable to a single-layer one,” Prateek Bahl, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW Sydney, Australia, and a lead author of the study, wrote in the findings. “Guidelines on home-made cloth masks should stipulate multiple layers.”
To be sure, the researchers said a single-layer face covering is better than no face covering at all. Additionally, several other factors determine the efficacy of cloth masks such as type of material, the number of layers, the arrangement of different layers and frequency of washing, they said.
The single-layer face covering was made from a folded piece of cotton T-shirt and hair ties. The double-layer covering was made using the sewing method as shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers used tissue paper to simulate the mucus membrane of the nasal cavity and induce a sneeze, according to the study.
The study comes as the Trump administration pushes for the public to adopt face coverings in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The United States has the worst outbreak in the world with 4 million cases and at least 143,820 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic has also come under increasing scrutiny. In recent weeks, Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus, tying the surge in new cases to an increase in testing. However, public health officials and infectious disease experts dispute those claims, saying the rate of cases that test positive in the U.S., hospitalizations and deaths remain high in some states.
Trump endorsed masks for the first time this week after resisting them for months. The CDC began recommending face masks for the general public in April.
Earlier in the day, Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters that 90% of the public or more need to wear face coverings in order to curb the spread of the virus.
“If we close the indoor bars, reduce the occupancy of restaurants, have face coverings and hygiene, this is essentially equivalent to shutting down the entire economy, which means shutting down elective surgeries and everything else that goes with that,” he said.
An employee wearing a protective mask cleans a men’s room door at a Bloomingdale’s store in New York, June 22, 2020. stores.
Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday the rate of deaths from the coronavirus in the United States should begin to fall in the “next couple of weeks.”
The seven-day rolling average of coronavirus infections is beginning to fall, and U.S. health officials predict hospitalizations will go down next week and mortality rates will follow in about two weeks, Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at HHS, said during a press briefing with reporters.
“Nobody’s letting up their foot from the gas,” he added. “If we throw caution to the wind, go back to the bars, this will all go into reverse.”
The U.S. reported 71,695 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, again topping 70,000 in a single day after four days of slightly lower numbers. The country’s total case count is rapidly approaching 4 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Wednesday’s spike sent the average number of new cases to a fresh all-time high of 67,429 per day over the past seven days, up more than 6% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins. The seven-day average dropped slightly for the first time in weeks on Tuesday, according to CNBC’s analysis.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Infectious disease experts warn against reopening schools in Florida, Texas and other states where coronavirus cases are surging
Children in an elementary school class wear masks and sit as desks spaced apart as per coronavirus guidelines during summer school sessions at Happy Day School in Monterey Park, California on July 9.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
Members of a leading group of infectious disease experts warned Thursday against reopening schools in Florida, Texas and other states where coronavirus cases are surging, saying older children are just as likely to spread Covid-19 as adults.
“The simple answer is no,” Dr. Tina Tan, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University said when asked whether she would suggest reopening schools in states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona in the near future.
“When you have such surges of disease in the community, you’re basically asking for trouble if you open schools because you’re bringing in individuals from all across the community that potentially may be exposed to it,” Tan said on a conference call hosted by the Infectious Disease Society of America.
States in the American South and West have reported weeks of climbing Covid-19 cases. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said officials are “monitoring and aggressively acting to control the infection in Texas, Arizona, California, Florida.”
“Sections of the country come up that we didn’t anticipate, for instance Florida, Texas, etcetera, but we’re working with very talented people, very brilliant people and it’s all going to work out,” Trump said at the press briefing.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state reported a record number of additional new cases and a positivity rate, or the number of positive cases to total tests performed, at around 7.4% over the last 14 days, a number that “continues to go up modestly.”
“It’s imperative that people pay attention to what the rate of infection is in the community because that’s going to drive whether or not it’s safe to open schools,” Tan said.
Before reopening, all schools must have plans in advance in case a student tests positive for Covid-19 and they should consider when to close if the outbreak worsens, said Dr. Wendy Armstrong, a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a board member of the group.
“Schools are a microcosm of their communities. They don’t operate in a vacuum,” Armstrong said. “And so in order for schools to open safely, communities’ spread must be controlled and must not be explosive.”
While some studies have shown that children appear to be infected with Covid-19 less frequently than adults, others have shown they can carry the same amount of the virus, Armstrong said.
She said a recently published study in South Korea indicated that although kids under the age of 9 didn’t transmit the virus as often to their families, teenagers were at least as likely to transmit the disease as adults.
Armstrong noted countries like Denmark and Norway allowed the youngest children to return to school first before older children, but she added that the virus was better contained in those countries.
“Ultimately, the community needs to be responsible for its own health,” Armstrong said. “As an adult infectious disease doctor, again, I can’t reinforce enough that adults need to do the right thing in order to conserve our most precious resource, which is our children.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, June 10, 2020.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that there’s been an increase in coronavirus infections among young people compared with other age groups, posing a threat to the state’s reopening plans.
At a press briefing, Cuomo said infection rates in every age group in New York has either remained flat or has declined except for people between 21 and 30 years old.
“It has ticked up 4 points, that is a significant increase in a short period of time,” Cuomo said. Groups of young people socializing while not complying with recommended health protocols, such as social distancing and wearing a face mask, has been driving the increase, he said.
Source: The State of New York
“We’ve been talking about it, you can see it in the news, you can see it in the newspapers, you can see it in social media. It is not hard to understand what is going on. It’s hard to deal with it, but it’s not hard to understand what’s going on,” Cuomo said.
New York will begin an advertising campaign targeted toward young people in the state to dispel “misimpressions” they may have about Covid-19, like thinking they’re immune to serious illness or death, Cuomo said.
“To young people, this is not the time to fight for your right to party. I respect your right to party, I fully respect it. I would enshrine it in the state law if you want to know. You have the right to party, but let’s be smart about it,” he said.
Overall, however, the daily number of infections and hospitalizations has shown “good news” for New York. There were 706 people hospitalized Wednesday with Covid-19, the lowest level since March 18, Cuomo said. Of the more than 69,600 tests conducted Wednesday, only 1.16% of them returned positive.
“The data is clear, we congratulate New Yorkers because they climbed the highest and hardest mountain and we’re on the other side,” Cuomo said. “The big caution… we don’t want to climb any more mountains. It was not fun.”
This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, March 2, 2020.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Top officials of the World Health Organization on Thursday slammed “unacceptable” comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who alleged that China had co-opted the WHO.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the claims made Tuesday in London by Pompeo that China had “co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization” were untrue and a distraction to the global pandemic response.
“The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros said at a news briefing from the United Nations agency’s Gevena headquarters on Thursday. “WHO will not be distracted by these comments and we don’t want the international community also to be distracted.”
Pompeo has previously accused China of working with the WHO to downplay the growing coronavirus crisis. On Tuesday, he said the entire world “needs to work together to ensure that every country, including China, behaves in the international system in ways that are appropriate, consistent with the international order.”
Standing beside his U.K. counterpart Dominic Raab, Pompeo continued: “You can’t go make claims for maritime regions that you have no lawful claim to. You can’t threaten countries and bully them in the Himalayas. You can’t engage in cover-ups and co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization,” he added.
It’s not the first time Pompeo said China has “co-opted” the WHO.
“When you have an incident in your country that could potentially lead to a pandemic, you have an obligation to report that and to allow others to come in and help you be transparent about it. The Chinese Communist Party chose differently. They co-opted the World Health Organization to achieve that cover-up,” Pompeo said during a virtual event with The Hill on July 15.”
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Christian George, Director of Research at the National Centre of Scientific Research, helps a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to use the COVID-19 ‘Breathalyzer’ test machine at the La Croix-Rousse Hospital in Lyon, France, July 22, 2020.
Yiming Woo | Reuters
The World Health Organization warned Thursday there is no going back to the “old normal” as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates in the United States and poorer, developing countries.
Half of all Covid-19 cases reported so far are from the United States, Brazil and India, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “It’s completely understandable that people want to get on with their lives, but we will not be going back to the old normal.”
The United States has reported more than 3.8 million Covid-19 cases so far, according to data from the WHO. That’s followed by Brazil with 2.1 million cases and India with 1.1 million cases, according to the WHO.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.