Former President Barack Obama took aim at President Donald Trump's COVID-19 response at a rally in Philadelphia for Joe Biden. Associated Press

Moderna announced a crucial step Thursday in its progress toward winning approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it has secured all 30,000 participants for its Phase 3 study, more than a third of whom are of color.

“Completing enrollment of the Phase 3 COVE study is an important milestone for the clinical development of our vaccine," CEO Stéphane Bancel said. "We are indebted to all of the participants."

In California, one of the world's most notorious prisons has been ordered to cut its population by half because of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 28 inmates and resulted in more than 2,200 infections. A California appeals court described the situation at San Quentin State Prison as "the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history." State prison officials must decide whether to transfer about 1,100 inmates now or appeal the order.

In Massachusetts, Salem is known as "Witch City" and draws big Halloween crowds. Not this year. Officials have announced stricter guidelines for Halloween to prevent gatherings. Businesses will shut down early, city officials will triple fines over the Halloween weekend, and streets will be closed.

Health experts fear that even small gatherings during Halloween, Thanksgiving and other holidays could cause a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Some significant developments:

Spain is the first country in western Europe to reach 1 million cases of COVID-19.Boston public schools are switching to all-remote learning starting Thursday in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.Former President Barack Obama, in his first campaign event for Joe Biden, slams President Trump's response to the pandemic. 

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.3 million cases and 222,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 41 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

Worked to death: Latino farmworkers have long been denied basic rights. COVID-19 showed how deadly racism could be. Read the latest installment in USA TODAY's series, Deadly Discrimination

When will there be a COVID vaccine? In general, scientists and public health experts say a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved at the earliest by December, but that doesn't mean it will be widely available to most Americans. The federal government is developing a distribution plan that would get vaccine to various populations first, such as essential workers, those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and the elderly. Fully immunizing the U.S. population could take another year or more.See what USA TODAY's expert panel has to say.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.


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Moderna enrolls 30,000 for vaccine trial; 37% of them non-white

Biotech firm Moderna announced Thursday that it has enrolled all 30,000 participants in its COVID-19 vaccine trial – and that nearly 37% of them were non-white. The company had delayed the study for a few weeks in September to ensure adequate minority representation. About 10% of the volunteers are Black, 20% Hispanic and 4% Asian; a quarter were over 65 and 17% were at high risk for a serious case of COVID-19 for other reasons.

Company President Stephen Hoge said he expects the trial will meet two key milestones in mid-November: About half the participants will be two months past their second dose of the vaccine, meaning the company will have enough safety data to present to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and at least 53 of the participants will have caught COVID-19, so the company will have its first snapshot of effectiveness. Then the company will decide whether to submit an application to the FDA, which could take weeks to months to approve it or issue an emergency use authorization.

Karen Weintraub

Drive-thru South Carolina State Fair draws 10,000 on first day

The South Carolina State Fair opened to huge, drive-thru crowds that gobbled funnel cake served through car windows and admired agriculture exhibits on the move. Fair organizers decided that after more than 150 years of festivities, the show must go on, albeit with coronavirus-driven restrictions and shortened to just a couple days. 

Fair Manager Nancy Smith said more than 10,000 people came through in cars on Tuesday, opening day. The bulk of the events wrapped up Wednesday, but food windows remain open through Saturday. The only rides were provided by the cars people arrived in.

“Safety has always been our first priority, and we are so thrilled to see how our patrons have embraced the changes while still showing tremendous support for the fair,” Smith said.

New Jersey woman whose husband died from virus blasts Trump

A new Jersey woman whose police officer-husband died of complications related to COVID-19, says she received a compassionate call from Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden but no call from President Donald Trump. Glen Ridge Police Officer Charles "Rob" Roberts died in April, and this week Alice Roberts wrote an opinion piece criticizing the president for his response to the pandemic. Roberts appeared on CNN's "New Day" Wednesday, expressing her appreciation for Biden's phone call and saying she received a similar call from Gov. Phil Murphy. She had no kind words for Trump.

By continue to host what Roberts called "super-spreader" rallies, the president is "spitting on all these loved ones' graves," she said.

"I know a lot of people feel he speaks for them, and he’s just one of them, but he’s not one of us," she said. "He was able to get top-notch medical care" compared to her husband, whose tests were "mixed up," and results took weeks to obtain.

– Nicholas Katzban,

CDC redefines COVID-19 close contact, adds brief encounters

U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters. For months, the CDC said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more – so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks. The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert. It also serves notice that the coronavirus can spread more easily than many people realize, he said.

Obama: Donald Trump couldn't 'protect himself,' US from COVID

Former President Barack Obama gave a fiery speech Wednesday in Philadelphia that attacked President Donald Trump as incompetent and surrounded by "hacks," while promoting his former vice president, Joe Biden, as someone who would better deal with the pandemic and heal the economy.

Obama, in his first in-person campaign event two weeks before the end of 2020 voting, noted 220,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions of jobs have been los. He said the country’s reputation is in tatters around the world under Trump.

“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention,” Obama said. “This is not a reality show – this is reality. The rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”

– Bart Jansen

US numbers: State case records are leading to record deaths

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows 14 states set records for new cases in a week while six states had a record number of deaths in a week. New case records were set in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The United States has reported 8.3 million cases and more than 222,200 deaths.

– Mike Stucka

Massachusetts governor, Salem mayor unveil stricter Halloween restrictions

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll on Wednesday announced stricter coronavirus restrictions for Halloween to prevent gatherings. The new guidelines include early business shutdowns, road closures and travel and parking restrictions in Salem.

"We normally welcome throngs of visitors from around the globe to our community," Driscoll said at a news conference. "This is just not the year and we want to send the message that, if you want to come to Salem, come in November, come next year."

Texas woman died from COVID-19 while on Spirit flight in July

A woman in her 30s died from COVID-19 while on a Spirit Airlines flight in July, according to airport officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico.           

The late July flight from Las Vegas to Dallas-Fort Worth was diverted to Albuquerque when the crew reported an unresponsive female on board,  according to Stephanie Kitts, a spokesperson for Albuquerque International Sunport.

"Based on that report, and the fact that there was no mention of COVID at the time of the diversion, we treated this as we would any other medical incident," Kitts said. Authorities responded and determined the woman was dead on arrival, she said.

– BrieAnna J. Frank and Mike Cruz, Arizona Republic

Spain becomes first western Europe country to reach 1M COVID infections

Spain became the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the virus.

The health ministry said that its accumulative caseload since the start of the pandemic reached 1,005,295 after reporting 16,973 more cases in the past 24 hours.

The ministry attributes 34,366 deaths to COVID-19. Experts say that, as in most countries, the real numbers of infections and deaths are probably much higher because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues impede authorities from capturing the true scale of the outbreak.

Puerto Rico shutters 911 call centers amid coronavirus outbreak

Both of Puerto Rico's 911 call centers were shut down Wednesday night after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced.

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said people should call the island's emergency management agency at 787-724-0124 or police at 787-343-2020 in an emergency. He said both agencies are operating 24 hours a day.

It is the first time Puerto Rico has shut down its primary and secondary 911 call centers. Janer said the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and that he will soon announce when operations at the 911 call centers will resume. It was unclear how many employees tested positive.

COVID resources from USA TODAY 

In your inbox: Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for the daily Coronavirus Watch newsletterTips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we'll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together.On Facebook: A lot is still unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we're sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, Coronavirus Watch, to receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.  

Contributing: The Associated Press


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