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U.S. adds 37K COVID-19 cases; Biden slams Trump over vaccine

By
Don Jacobson
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Wednesday at a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. At the briefing, he contradicted the head of the CDC about the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Al Drago/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Wednesday at a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. At the briefing, he contradicted the head of the CDC about the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Amid nearly 40,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has criticized President Donald Trump for contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the timeline for a vaccine.

Updated data Thursday from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University showed an addition of 36,700 cases Wednesday and almost 1,000 new deaths.

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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 6.64 million cases nationwide and 196,900 deaths.

Amid the new cases Wednesday was a bit of confusion about expectations for when a COVID-19 vaccine could be available.

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CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the Senate appropriations committee it will likely be the summer or early fall of 2021 before most Americans can be vaccinated. His projection is in line with the expectations of most experts in the field.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, has also said repeatedly the soonest he expects a vaccine is late this year.

Later Wednesday, however, Trump speculated at a White House briefing that Redfield had been mistaken.

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"I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information," he told reporters, asserting that a vaccine could be ready as soon as next month.

Trump has repeatedly hinted that a vaccine could be ready before the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Biden slammed Trump for contradicting his CDC chief and said the confusion is yet another example that shows why the nation needs new leadership to guide it during a health crisis that's so far killed almost 200,000 Americans.

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"We've had to endure President Trump's incompetence and dishonesty when it comes to testing, wearing masks, and socially distancing," he tweeted Thursday. "We can't afford a repeat of those fiascos with a COVID-19 vaccine. The stakes are too high."

"Yesterday, I met with some of our nation's top experts to discuss how we distribute a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine," he added. "If I win this election, I know that there won't be a minute to waste. I'll get to work on day one implementing an effective distribution plan."

A day earlier, he said, "Let me be clear ... I trust scientists, but I don't trust Donald Trump."

"At this point the American people can't either."

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Biden criticized Trump for putting political ambitions ahead of Americans' health and safety, and raised the possibility that the White House may seek an electoral advantage by pressuring health officials to prematurely approve a vaccine.

The former vice president also called for transparency, insisting that Trump must "honestly" answer questions about what criteria are used to approve a vaccine and whether it will be distributed "safely, cost-free and without a hint of favoritism."

USA Today reported Thursday that there have been record surges in cases in the Midwest.

The report said Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming each set records for new cases over the past week, along with record weekly deaths in Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

In Washington, D.C., leaders of the U.S. airline industry were scheduled to meet with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Thursday to discuss additional federal aid.

Under the terms of previous federal aid, given in the spring, none of the carriers have been allowed to lay off employees until Oct. 1.

The aviation industry is seeking another $25 billion in job preservation funds through the end of next March.

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