Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready for American public by summer or fall 2021, CDC director says

Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready for American public by summer or fall 2021, CDC director says. #Predictions #coronavirus #pandemic #vaccines via @usatoday

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Political and public health messages clashed Wednesday as the U.S. hurtles toward a high-stakes presidential election and the approval of a vaccine aimed at ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield told a Senate panel that a vaccine may not be available to the American public until summer or fall 2021 and that masks are "the most important, powerful public health tool we have" — possibly even more effective than a vaccine.

Hours later, President Donald Trump criticized and contradicted both comments, repeatedly suggesting Redfield may have misunderstood the questions asked of him under oath.

Also Wednesday, Trump loyalist Michael Caputo announced he was taking a leave of absence from his role as the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, citing a "lymphatic issue discovered last week." Caputo previously accused scientists at the CDC of "sedition." Caputo was also accused of trying to manipulate COVID-19 data for political purposes.

Meanwhile, the CDC is under heavy scrutiny, too, after a USA TODAY investigation exposed how it failed to communicate vital information to local health authorities at the start of the pandemic, even downplaying the virus threat. 

📈 Todays numbers: Alabama, North Dakota and Wisconsin set records for new cases, while Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota and Tennessee set records for number of deaths reported, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Tuesday. The U.S. has reported more than 6.6 million cases and 196,000 deaths. Globally, there have been more than 29.7 million cases and 938,000 fatalities.

📰 What were reading: Even as thousands of their employees fell ill with COVID-19, meatpacking executives pressured federal regulators to help keep their plants open, according to a trove of emails obtained by USA TODAY. Read more.

Under pressure from the amusement industry and tourism-dependent cities, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed action "very, very shortly" that could reopen Disneyland and other shuttered theme parks.

Even a partial reopening would help Anaheim and surrounding cities in Californias Orange County that depend on a flood of tourists from around the world to spend lavishly at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm, hotels, restaurants and shopping districts. 

The city of Anaheim projects a fiscal-year deficit of at least $75 million, instead of the surplus that had been expected before the pandemic struck, officials said.

“We are disappointed with the state’s lack of progress in providing the industry with guidance and clarity on reopening," Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland Resort, said in a statement.

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