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Thursday, September 03, 2020

Covid-19 News: Live Updates - The New York Times

"As the C.D.C. prepares for two vaccines, here are some answers to a few of the most common questions.

In planning documents sent last week to public health agencies around the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described preparations for two coronavirus vaccines simply referred to as Vaccine A and Vaccine B.
But the technical details, including the time between doses and storage temperatures, match well with the two vaccines furthest along in U.S. clinical tests, made by Moderna and Pfizer.
Some experts are concerned about what they see as a rushed process. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine,” said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist in Arizona.
Still, public health experts agree that agencies at all levels of government should urgently prepare for what will eventually be a vast, complex effort to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans.
Here are some answers to some basic questions people may have.
How do these vaccines work?
Moderna and Pfizer are testing a new kind of vaccine that has never before been approved for use by people. It contains genetic molecules called messenger RNA that are injected into muscle cells, which treat them like instructions for building a protein.
How well do they work?
Both vaccines have gone through extensive early tests, but it is not known if they’re safe and effective.
Once designed, vaccines go through four testing stages. In the preclinical stage, researchers test them on animals. For Covid-19, these include hamsters and genetically modified mice, both of which can experience some of the same symptoms as humans.
If these tests yield promising results, then the vaccines go into three phases of clinical trials in people.
Moderna and Pfizer are currently testing their candidates in Phase 3 trials. In their earlier human studies, neither vaccine produced serious side effects. Both vaccines provoked people’s immune systems to make antibodies that can neutralize the coronavirus.
Could a vaccine be approved before clinical trials are completed?
Some federal health officials have said a vaccine could be made available to at least some groups before clinical trials are completed. An independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board is charged with checking in on clinical trials to ensure there are no serious safety issues.
If the vaccine is harming participants, the trial may be ended early. But if it appeared to be working well, the board could decide that it would no longer be ethical to continue giving some participants a placebo and end the trial early.
What have companies said about when their vaccines may be ready?
Pfizer recently said it was “on track” for seeking government review “as early as October 2020.” Moderna has said it expects to complete enrollment in its Phase 3 trial in September, but has not provided an estimate about when the vaccine might be ready for the public.
Federal officials said in May that the first doses of a vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca, in partnership with the University of Oxford, could be delivered by October. But AstraZeneca, which recently began Phase 3 trials in the United States, is now saying it could supply the first doses by the end of 2020.
How would a vaccine reach the public?
Normally, vaccine makers would wait for clinical trials to yield definitive results before moving forward with manufacturing. This time, many manufacturers have begun preparing in advance for production, getting money from governments to buffer the risk.
The C.D.C.’s planning documents indicate the extraordinary complexity of distributing vaccines to hundreds of millions of people in a country with a fragmented health care system. Past experiences serve as a warning about how this undertaking can go awry.
When might the first vaccines be distributed?
The C.D.C. told public health agencies last week that limited doses may be available beginning in late October or November.
Who will get it first?
In its planning documents, the C.D.C. said certain groups would have priority, beginning with health care workers, essential workers (like police officers or those in critical industries like food production), “national security populations,” and employees and residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
Will these two Covid-19 vaccines be the only ones available?
Probably not. Aside from Moderna and Pfizer, there are 34 other vaccines in clinical trials worldwide. There are over 90 more vaccines confirmed to be in active preclinical testing. Over the next year, clinical trials are planned for 69 of them.
Just weeks into the semester, a growing number of colleges and universities are escalating how they respond to student parties — the so-called superspreader events that flout emergency orders — with punitive measures like suspensions and fraternity sanctions.
The crackdown comes as campuses grapple with rising infections.
One day after it drew acclaim for its twice-weekly testing of students and staff with a saliva-based test it developed, the University of Illinois ordered students on Wednesday to limit in-person activities for two weeks, including small gatherings.
The measures were announced after more than 700 students tested positive for the virus since Aug. 24.
The university said students should leave their rooms only to go to class or work, buy groceries or food, exercise alone, or attend religious services. It attributed the rise in cases to parties and students ignoring quarantine orders, saying it would crack down on violators.
At the University of Missouri, 330 students were facing disciplinary action and 10 Greek houses were placed under a temporary suspension for violations of emergency orders, the Missourian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The action came as nearly half of the fraternity and sorority chapter houses in the university’s Greek Village were placed under a 14-day quarantine after some students in them tested positive, administrators said.
On Wednesday, the university, which is in Columbia, S.C., and has about 35,000 students, reported that more than 1,000 students had tested positive for the virus.
U.S. Round up
More than five months into the pandemic, the coronavirus is still battering the economy and the labor market. The latest sign of the damage will come Thursday morning, when the Labor Department releases its weekly report on new jobless claims and the number of workers receiving unemployment insurance.
Wall Street analysts surveyed by MarketWatch estimate that new state claims filed last week fell below a million. That figure does not include hundreds of thousands of new claims from unemployed freelancers, part-time workers and others under an emergency federal program.
There have been modest reductions in new weekly claims through most of August, an encouraging trend. “The declines that we’re seeing are positive,” said Ernie Tedeschi, managing director at the investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI, “but they point to a long, drawn out recovery.”
This week, though, comparisons to previous Labor Department announcements need a warning signal.
That’s because the department is changing the way it adjusts state jobless claims figures for predictable seasonal patterns, like teachers returning to schools in the fall or temporary holiday workers who are laid off in January.
With the pandemic, unemployment claims have been anything but predictable. So the department tweaked its calculations to improve accuracy. But the change means that the latest seasonally adjusted numbers are not comparable with those released in previous weeks.
A big drop, for example, is likely to reflect the change in methodology, not an actual decline in layoffs.
As a result, The Times plans to emphasize the unadjusted figures.
For the week ended Aug. 22, the unadjusted figures showed that 821,591 new state claims were filed; the seasonally adjusted number was slightly over a million. In addition, 607,806 new claims were filed through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, for which data is not seasonally adjusted.
In other developments in the United States:
  • Dwayne Johnson, the actor and former wrestler known as the Rock, announced on Instagram on Wednesday that he and his family had recently tested positive for Covid-19. Mr. Johnson said they had become infected around two and a half weeks ago, from “very close family friends.” Mr. Johnson called it “one of the most challenging and difficult things we have ever had to endure as a family,” but added that he and his family were now “on the other end of it” and were healthy and no longer contagious.
  • Art Basel Miami Beach has been canceled for 2020, organizers said Wednesday, citing the uncertainty of the pandemic. The next edition of the art fair, which had been scheduled for Dec. 3 to 6, will now take place from Dec. 2 to 5 next year. Art Basel’s two other annual shows, which were planned for Hong Kong in March and Basel, Switzerland, in September, were canceled earlier this year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to a hair salon in San Francisco this week was captured on video and sparked backlash. At the time, Bay Area officials’ coronavirus guidelines prohibited indoor beauty services.CreditCredit...Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
At a news conference on Wednesday where she discussed coronavirus relief and reopening schools, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also asked to comment on another issue: her visit to a San Francisco hair salon.
Ms. Pelosi had broken the rules: Salons in the area were supposed to be closed to customers when she visited e Salon SF for a blowout on Monday. The episode drew criticism from President Trump and became a top story on Fox News, which shared video footage of Ms. Pelosi that appeared to show her walking through the salon with wet hair and a mask pulled down around her neck.
Ms. Pelosi called it a setup.
“I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times,” she said, adding that she had been told that the salon could accommodate one customer at a time.
“I trusted that,” she said. “As it turns out, it was a setup. So I take responsibility for falling for a setup.”
Many hair salons in the Bay Area have been shuttered for months in accordance with health officials’ guidelines, although some opened their doors in recent weeks to protest the shutdowns.
On Tuesday, the day after Ms. Pelosi’s visit, the San Francisco Department of Public Health issued new guidance, saying hair salons in the county were allowed to provide some services to customers, but only outdoors.
The owner of e Salon SF, Erica Kious, told Fox News that the appointment had been arranged by a stylist who rented a chair at her establishment. “It was a slap in the face that she went in, you know, that she feels that she can just go and get her stuff done while no one else can go in, and I can’t work,” Ms. Kious said, referring to Ms. Pelosi.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, said that she “always wears a mask and complies with local Covid requirements.” In this case, he said, “This business offered for the speaker to come in on Monday and told her they were allowed by the city to have one customer at a time in the business.”
Mask requirements and reopening plans have both become flash points in the culture wars over the response to the coronavirus in the United States. Many people have resisted face coverings, including some Republican leaders who viewed mask requirements as a threat to personal liberty.
Calls to the salon’s two locations went unanswered on Wednesday, and Ms. Kious could not immediately be reached for comment. Amy Tarkanian, a conservative commentator and former chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, tweeted about a crowdsourcing fund-raiser for Ms. Kious on Wednesday and said the salon owner had told her she was receiving death threats and had been forced to relocate.
Zoe Buhler was fed up with the lockdown in her Australian city. So she created a Facebook event encouraging people to come out and protest this weekend.
Then the police arrived at her door.
Ms. Buhler, 28, livestreamed her arrest in Ballarat on Wednesday, which has been viewed millions of times. In the video, she can be heard expressing disbelief as she tells the officers handcuffing her in her pajamas that she is pregnant, that she has an ultrasound appointment in an hour and that her two children are in the house. When the officers tell her the Facebook post violated laws on incitement, she offers to delete it but to no avail. The officers also told her they had the right to seize her computer and mobile devices.
Ms. Buhler’s arrest has been widely criticized as an overreach of emergency powers enacted to help control the spread of the coronavirus in the state of Victoria, which has seen Australia’s worst outbreak. This week the government extended those powers for another six months.
Frustration is growing in Victoria, where 6.5 million people are in their fifth week of lockdown. Throughout the state, everyone is expected to stay in except for exercise, necessary shopping, medical care and work or education that can’t be done at home. The lockdown in Melbourne, the state capital and Australia’s second-biggest city, is even more severe, with a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., a five-kilometer limit on travel and shopping trips restricted to one person per household per day.
Concerned that the virus could be transmitted among crowds, officials around Australia are trying to put a stop to “Freedom Day,” a set of protests planned for this Saturday that are driven by conspiracy theories.
Ms. Buhler is the fourth person in Victoria to be charged in the past week with incitement related to protests. Those who attend any protests on Saturday can expect a “swift and firm” response from the authorities, the police warned.
Ms. Buhler told reporters on Thursday that she did not realize she was doing anything wrong. While she criticized the arrest as heavy-handed, she said the police “did end up being quite nice.” She said none of her devices had been returned to her yet. She added that one of the conditions of her bail was that she stay off social media until Sunday.
Critics said Ms. Buhler’s arrest was a violation of the right to protest. “It should not be happening in a democracy like Australia,” Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.
Luke Cornelius, assistant commissioner of the Victoria Police, said Thursday that while the “optics” of the situation did not “look good,” the police had behaved appropriately.
The Victorian government has said it will announce plans for reopening this Sunday, though it has not ruled out extending the Melbourne lockdown beyond its Sept. 13 expiration date if necessary. On Thursday, the state reported 113 new infections, its first triple-digit increase in four days.
Global roundup
South Korea was so proud of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that it coined a term for it: K-quarantine, echoing the global musical phenomenon K-pop.
Its two-pronged strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running appeared to work. The country all but halted a large outbreak ​without closing its borders, locking down towns or ​drawing an outcry over draconian restrictions on movement. ​The country was held up as a model for the rest of the world.
But now, South Korea is struggling with a second wave of infections spreading from the populous Seoul metropolitan area, and its strategy seems as precarious as ever. To complicate matters, some of the government’s strongest allies in the fight against​ Covid-19, young doctors, have gone on strike, unhappy with President Moon Jae-in’s medical reform program.
The government is also trying to sustain a fragile balance between controlling the virus and safeguarding the economy, and between ​using ​government power ​to protect public health and not infringing on civil liberties.
South Korea’s daily caseload of new infections​, once fewer than 10, has been in the triple digits​ since Aug. 14, taking the country of 50 million people to more than 20,000 cases and 329 deaths, according to a New York Times database. ​Officials reported 195 cases on Thursday, falling below 200 for the first time since Aug. 17.
The virus has spread quickly from churches and a large antigovernment protest rally. Mr. Moon’s government has threatened lawsuits​ and prosecution against ​churchgoers and protesters accused of impeding official efforts to control the epidemic. But they’ve pushed back, calling him a dictator who is running the country under “quarantine martial law.”
In other developments from around the world:
  • Thailand has gone 100 days without a reported case of local transmission, one of the few major nations to reach that threshold since the pandemic began. But its success in halting the spread of the virus has come at a significant financial cost. Thailand’s last reported case of community transmission was confirmed on May 24. Hundreds of cases have been found since then among residents returning from abroad, but all were detected during the required 14-day quarantine periods. As of Thursday, Thailand had reported 3,425 cases and 58 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
  • India reported 83,883 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, breaking its own global record. It has the world’s third-highest number of cases and deaths after the United States and Brazil.
  • The Czech Republic reported 650 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its highest single-day increase since the virus first appeared in the country in March.
  • Turkey will impose restrictions on weddings and other social events amid a surge in new cases. The daily number of cases was around 1,000 last month, but has reached almost 1,600 in the last week.
Reporting was contributed by Patricia Cohen, Ben Casselman, Jacey Fortin, Ethan Hauser, Choe Sang-Hun, Jennifer Jett, Isabella Kwai, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor and Carl Zimmer."
Covid-19 News: Live Updates - The New York Times

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