90% of US adults vulnerable to COVID-19, study says

The number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases has passed 7 million as cases are increasing in 32 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
5:48 | 09/26/20

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Transcript for 90% of US adults vulnerable to COVID-19, study says
7 million, and cases are increasing in 32 states, D.C. And Puerto Rico. This as a faster, cheaper, covid-19 saliva test is coming to market, one that's been used by NBA players. ABC's Ellen Lopez is outside CDC headquarters in Atlanta with more coronavirus headlines. Good morning, Ellen. Reporter: Good morning, janai. Overnight, a FEMA memo showing some states seeing a rise in covid-19 cases following large gatherings over labor day weekend, as health officials caution over what could come in the coming months. This morning a grim warning from world health officials. The global covid-19 death toll could double to 2 million before a vaccine is widely available. The real question is are we prepared connectively to do what it takes to avoid that number? Reporter: The nation's top infectious disease expert fearing a surge of coronavirus cases in the fall. If we don't carefully follow the guidelines, the other guidelines, the masking, the distance, the crowds, then we may see another surge again. Reporter: This as the state of Florida gives the green light to restaurants and bars lifting restrictions and suspending fines for not wearing masks. Some of the locals may be able to -- you know, they can do reasonable regulations but you can't just say no. You can't say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind. Reporter: And the big game in Tampa still on. We're going to host the super bowl in February. We expect to do a full super bowl. Reporter: In Miami, the mayor says he's concerned the move to fully lift restrictions could go wrong. I think, you know, it's risky to open up full blown. This could be something that could backfire. We all want the economy to get going. We want it to happen safely. Reporter: Less than a week ago in volusia county, a family's heartbreaking tragedy, losing two siblings to the deadly virus. Shyla Pennington taught special needs children. Her brother was a paramedic. They died just a day apart. And across the country in parts of Wisconsin, health care workers gearing up as some hospitals are near capacity. This week, the state hits its highest number of hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. There is no doubt that we are in a significant near crunch time in a number of regions in the state. Reporter: A new lancet study found less than 10% of adults in the U.S. Have covid-19 antibodies. That means that 90% are still vulnerable to the virus. Eva? Ellen, thank you. And joining us is Dr. Paul offit, a vaccine expert at the Philadelphia hospital, and a member of the advisory panel. We heard Ellen mention that new study out of "The lancet" estimating that 90% of U.S. Adults are still vulnerable to this infection. What does this mean for the state of the pandemic and for a possible vaccine? Well, it means there's only two ways out of this pandemic. One is hygienic measures, wear masks, social distance, and two is a vaccine. We're not going to get the level of herd immunity that's going to eliminate this virus. It's not going to happen here. It didn't happen in Sweden and frankly, if you look at the history of viruses, it's never happened. Let's talk about one of the routes, the vaccine. The president saying he could bypass the fda on a vaccine, and that he trusts the companies developing them. You're on the fda advisory committee. Why does an fda approval really First of all, I don't think he can do that. I mean, there's the so-called data safety monitoring board, a group of academics and researchers and clinicians who monitor the trials. They're the only ones who knows who's gotten a vaccine. They're the only ones who know who's gotten a placebo, and they're the ones who know whether or not someone has gotten sick or not. They can stop the trial. Donald Trump is not on the board so he can't stop that trial. It's important to know that the fda is the only group that stands between pharmaceutical companies and the American public. I think when president trump says, you know, I think we can trust the companies, he's really ignoring about 100 years of history. One historian said it best, the history of drug regulation is built on tombstones and that's true here. Every drug administration, the food and drug and cosmetics act, the birth of vaccine regulation has followed a major pharmaceutical tragedy in this country. We need the fda, and I think if we're getting to the point where we're ignoring the fda at some level, this country is in trouble. The other way you said to handle the pandemic is hygienic measures. Each state is handling this pandemic very differently. New York very strict, expanding indoor dining and enforcement while Florida's governor is removing restrictions and eliminating fines for not wearing a mask. It's confusing for people. How do you think this affects the efforts to control the virus? I think it cripples the effort. Look at a state in New York where the current positivity rate of tests is less than 1%, and a state like Florida where the current positivity rate is 11%. If Florida chooses to open bars, restaurants and pretend that this pandemic isn't occurring, it's only going to spell trouble. It's hard. You know, the most powerful thing we can do is hygienic measures. Dr. Redfield has said it, Dr. Fauci said it. If you just wear masks and do the best you can to social distance, we can get control of the pandemic to a much greater sense as other countries have similar to ours. It's really hard to watch. There are simple measures that we can all take and it's all in our hands. Thank you so much, Dr. Offit, for being with us this morning. We appreciate you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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