May 17, 2020 - Health

Azar on reopening country: "Everything does not depend on a vaccine"

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that while the government and the private sector are committing their "full power" to developing a coronavirus vaccine, it will not be the sole determinant of Americans' ability to return to normal life.

Why it matters: President Trump claimed at a press conference last week, "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back." Azar explained that what Trump meant is that "traditional public health tools," like testing, surveillance and new treatments, will contribute to a "multifactorial approach" that allows the U.S. to safely reopen.

Yes, but: Most health experts agree that, despite what Trump says, the U.S. does not currently have the testing capacity or contact tracing infrastructure necessary to reopen the country without a possible surge in cases.

  • Anthony Fauci warned in testimony last week that the U.S. will "without a doubt" have more coronavirus infections and deaths in the fall and winter if effective testing, contact tracing and social distancing measures are not scaled up to adequate levels
  • Adm. Brett Giroir, the federal government's testing coordinator, says that the U.S. should have the capacity to test more than 25 million people per month by August or September. He claimed that as of now, states have enough testing to begin a gradual "phase one" reopening.

The big picture: In terms of developing a vaccine, Trump's claims that the U.S. will have one by the end of the year is more ambitious than most experts' projections.

  • Rick Bright, the former director of a key vaccine agency, testified last week that even a 12- to 18-month timeline is "aggressive" and that the U.S. does not have a plan to distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus in a "fair and equitable manner" when one becomes available.

Go deeper: The race to make vaccines faster

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Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

WHCA: White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop"

Reporters watch President Trump in the Rose Garden on June 5. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said Friday that the White House "needlessly put reporters' health at risk" by moving chairs closer together for President Trump's Rose Garden event in violation of the CDC's social-distancing guidelines.

What he's saying: "The health of the press corps should not be put in jeopardy because the White House wants reporters to be a prop for a 'news conference' where the president refused to answer any questions," Karl told CNN's Brian Stelter.

Unemployment rate falls to 13.3% in May

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, with 2.5 million jobs gained, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The far better-than-expected numbers show a surprising improvement in the job market, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.