Two major drug companies will supply the US government with 100 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, as the nation’s top health agency predicted that fatalities would rise in the coming weeks.
The agreement calls for the US government to pay French drug maker Sanofi and British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline up to $US2.1 billion ($A2.9 billion) to supply it with enough vaccines for 50 million people, with the option to buy another 500 million doses.
The purchase falls under the Trump administration’s so-called Operation Warp Speed, intended to rush a COVID-19 vaccine to the market by the end of 2020.
The coronavirus, which first appeared in China, has infected 4.5 million people in the US and killed more than 152,000 Americans, according to a Reuters tally.
The US Centres for Disease Control on Friday forecast between 168,000 and 182,000 total fatalities by August 22, predicting that deaths will rise fastest in Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Washington state.
A top White House pandemic advisor, Dr Deborah Birx, has said the virus appeared to be shifting away from Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, and moving into the Midwest.
Dr Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said on Thursday that Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska were particularly at risk.
Four US states reported record increases in deaths on Friday, including Florida, which has in recent weeks been a hot spot of COVID-19 cases.
Florida also reported 9007 new cases, bringing its total infections to over 470,000, the second highest in the country behind California.
Florida is among at least 18 states that saw cases more than double in July, when almost 25,000 people in the United States died of COVID-19.
The state, already reeling from the pandemic and resulting economic damage, was forced to close testing sites on Friday as Hurricane Isaias approached bearing high winds and heavy rains and residents stocked up on essentials.
Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rising at their fastest rate since early June. Roughly one American died about every minute from COVID-19 on Wednesday.
In the nation’s capital, top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, during testimony before a US House of Representatives subcommittee, fended off efforts by both Republicans and Democrats to draw him into the fierce political debate over the handling of the pandemic.