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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today


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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Some researchers have begun testing experimental vaccines on themselves.Published Sept. 1, 2020Updated Sept. 2, 2020, 9:23 a.m. ETImageCredit…The New York TimesRussia’s government said coronavirus cases there have passed one million.New York City is delaying the start of its school year by 10 days, until Sept. 21, as part of a deal to avert a teachers’…

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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Some researchers have begun testing experimental vaccines on themselves.

Lara TakenagaJonathan Wolfe

Image

Credit…The New York Times

Do-it-yourself projects in the time of the coronavirus go far beyond homemade masks and Zoom knitting classes. For dozens of scientists who believe that exceptional times call for exceptional measures, experimental Covid-19 vaccines are the new frontier.

These researchers have inoculated themselves — and, sometimes, friends and family — bypassing the rigorous tests required for conventional vaccines and raising fears of potential side effects.

Methods, credentials and claims vary widely. At one end of the spectrum is the 23-person Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, whose ranks include a renowned Harvard geneticist. It plans to offer its vaccine for free and has produced a lengthy scientific document explaining how it works and how to recreate it.

At the other end are one-man shows like Johnny Stine, who runs the Seattle biotech firm North Coast Biologics. Mr. Stine charged people $400 for his unproven vaccine and got in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration, which ordered him to stop “misleadingly” representing it.

These experiments follow a long history of scientists openly testing vaccines on themselves and their children, but they have become less common in recent decades, according to a medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Defenders of the vaccine projects say that everyone can benefit from these scientists’ findings, as long as they’re measured about their claims and transparent about the process. But critics argue that little can be gleaned without extensive studies and trials, and that ineffective vaccines could offer a false sense of protection and even be harmful.

Moving forward in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said the nation’s vaccine, Sputnik V, announced in early August, was ready for use outside of clinical trials. Though health officials said mass vaccination would start next month, the health ministry has pushed back the timeline to November or December, when other countries have said a vaccine may be available.


The U.S. Open kicked off yesterday in New York. But for most of the players the Grand Slam event began at least two weeks ago, when they arrived at a hotel on Long Island to enter a quarantine bubble.

Typically, playing at the U.S. Open, even for those who don’t make it very far, comes with the perk of being able to enjoy New York City’s nightlife, neighborhoods or shopping during downtime. But not during the pandemic. Players this year are mostly confined to the arcades and cafes inside their hotel or the National Tennis Center.

The experience can feel particularly brutal for those who have traveled thousands of miles, only to quickly lose. Damir Dzumhur, who spent more than two weeks in the bubble, was sent home by the world No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, in the first round Monday.

“My friends were telling me how lucky I was to be in New York,” Mr. Dzumhur said after his loss. “I keep telling them, ‘Don’t be jealous.’”

Quarantines aren’t all bad for athletes. Many have performed as well or better than ever, saying they have turned shutdowns into an opportunity. They feel refreshed by less exhaustive travel, enhanced focus on training and more time for injuries to heal.

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  • Doctors in the capital of Nigeria went on strike, saying that the government had not followed through on its promise of hazard pay.

  • With the virus spreading quickly in Gaza, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed Monday night to ease up on bombarding each other.

  • Hawaii, trying to quell a surge of the coronavirus that hit in mid-August, began requiring visitors and residents arriving on the islands to register online beforehand.

  • After tens of thousands of unmasked protesters turned out to rally against virus restrictions in Berlin, the city instituted a rule that requires masks for demonstrations with more than 100 participants.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



I gave myself permission to go up a jean size and to finally ditch the bras — worked wonders for my mental health!

— Jane Olenchuk, San Francisco

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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The F.D.A. is expanding use of antibody-rich plasma as a treatment. Does it work?Aug. 25, 2020ImageTwo more cases of reinfection were reported in Europe today, a day after a man in Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected twice.Mississippi reported 67 new deaths and Montana reported six, each setting single-day state records.American Airlines plans…

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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The F.D.A. is expanding use of antibody-rich plasma as a treatment. Does it work?

Jonathan WolfeLara Takenaga

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The Food and Drug Administration this week gave emergency approval for the expanded use of blood plasma to treat Covid-19, making the treatment more available to those who want it.

Convalescent plasma, as it’s known, comes from blood taken from people who are recovering from Covid-19. The blood is spun down to remove red and white blood cells, leaving a pale yellow liquid that contains antibodies. That serum can be injected into a patient early in an infection to help them fight the virus.

While the treatment is considered safe, scientists can’t say for sure whether it works because there haven’t been many clinical trials with control groups. Setting up those studies has been difficult, because sick people are generally unwilling to sign up for a trial in which they might get a placebo.

Among the limited studies that have been done, researchers found that the treatment showed the best results among patients under 80 years old and not on a ventilator, who received plasma with a high level of antibodies within three days of diagnosis.

President Trump had been pushing for expanded use of the treatment over the concerns of top government scientists who argued that the data was too weak. Our colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. told The Daily that Mr. Trump’s approach might end up doing more harm than good.

“It’s exactly what happened with hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “It was talked up so much that people wanted it. And so it became hard to do the clinical trials in which they got a 50 percent chance of getting a placebo, because they didn’t want it. They’d heard the president say, ‘It’s a miracle drug,’ so they insisted on it.”

Hydroxychloroquine was later found to be dangerous, and an emergency authorization for the drug heralded by Mr. Trump was later rescinded.

Misrepresenting data. At a news conference Sunday announcing the emergency approval, President Trump and two of his top health officials misstated the effectiveness of the treatment. Public health officials and scientists have called for a correction.


Early in the pandemic, U.S. islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific averted the crisis that had swept over parts of the mainland thanks to fast action and easily sealed borders. But now, after relaxed restrictions and slow contact tracing, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico have emerged as the latest American hot spots.

After an early lockdown, the U.S. Virgin Islands began welcoming tourists again on June 1. But the situation has shifted rapidly: Cases spiked to 224 per 100,000 residents over the past week — the highest per-capita increase of any state or territory in the country. To tamp down the virus, the authorities are stopping tourism for a month, shuttering nonessential businesses and imposing stay-at-home orders.

Mounting cases in Puerto Rico, which issued the first U.S. lockdown in March, have prompted a curfew and a shutdown of the Senate, where several top officials have fallen ill. People who don’t wear masks can be confined, and a new stay-at-home order on Sundays was announced to limit socializing.

In Guam, where the infection rate has grown rapidly, the island’s harshest lockdown yet has faced growing criticism from residents, who can be fined $1,000 for violating it. Hawaii has also come under fire for its restrictions, which allow restaurants and gyms to remain open while hiking trails and parks have closed.


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Credit…By The New York Times | Sources: Johns Hopkins University and World Bank
  • A surge in cases has pushed Spain’s per-capita caseload far above its European neighbors, and even above the United States’ in recent days. Officials say thousands of troops may be deployed to track local outbreaks.

  • South Korea is closing schools in the Seoul metropolitan area and returning to online classes as it faces a fast-spreading outbreak.

  • A sweeping lockdown of the Xinjiang region in China has continued even with its outbreak seemingly under control, prompting residents to lash out after more than a month of restrictions.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



My wife, two young daughters and I live in Queens, and the lockdown has coincided with an enormous crop of plums in a tree in our backyard this summer. With a lot of time at home, we donated more than 20 pounds of plums to local food pantries, invited friends and neighbors for socially distanced plum-picking, and made plum jam, plum cake, granita, syrup and plum-infused gin.

— Erik Bierbauer, Jackson Heights, Queens

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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Hurricane Laura tore through part of the U.S. already struggling with the pandemic.Aug. 27, 2020ImageCredit…The New York TimesWeekly unemployment claims topped one million last week, the latest sign that the U.S. economy is losing momentum.Delta Air Lines has barred about 240 customers from flying for refusing to wear masks.Get the latest updates here, as well…

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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Hurricane Laura tore through part of the U.S. already struggling with the pandemic.

Jonathan WolfeLara Takenaga

Image

Credit…The New York Times

Hurricane Laura slammed into the Louisiana and Texas coasts overnight, sending residents in areas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic scrambling to find shelter. The hurricane was among the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S., and more than 500,000 residents in its path were urged to leave their homes.

The challenge facing officials was immense: evacuate and house thousands of residents, quickly, while also protecting them from the coronavirus.

In Texas, many traditional shelters, which were running at lower capacity to allow for social distancing, had filled up by Wednesday morning, The Texas Tribune reported. Across the region, evacuees were instead urged to book hotel and motel rooms as a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the coronavirus.

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Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

In many ways, the virus changed the calculus for those weighing the decision to evacuate or hunker down. The risk of catching Covid-19 has made people less likely to evacuate in the event of a hurricane, reported Bloomberg. Others in Laura’s path simply did not have the means to escape because their livelihoods were eviscerated when the economy cratered. And those infected before the storm hit have found it difficult to find accommodations willing to host them.

As of this evening the storm continues to plow through Louisiana, and once it passes, the virus will be harder to track there. Louisiana, one of the states most ravaged by the pandemic, closed its testing sites ahead of the storm. Gov. John Bel Edwards said it would be difficult to get them running again because of the damage from the storm and staffing issues.

Rebuilding looks equally difficult.

Vernon Pierce, who coordinates nonprofit aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit the region in 2017, told The Texas Tribune that he was worried people might be weary of donating cleaning supplies or volunteering to fix damaged homes.

The pandemic, he said, “is going to make it harder to bring people in to help.”


Around 35 vaccines are speeding through human clinical trials, and experts predict that the first vaccines could become available as early as the beginning of next year. Behind those front-runners, more than 60 candidates are preparing to enter trials in the coming year.

With so many promising vaccines so much further along, why would researchers start trials at a time when the world may already have a viable vaccine — possibly even a few of them?

Our colleague Carl Zimmer, who covers science, told us that these slow and steady scientists are betting they can make stronger and cheaper vaccines.

“We don’t know if any of the vaccines that are in clinical trials actually work,” Carl told us. “And the fact that they got into clinical trials quickly does not mean that they’re going to turn out to be the best.”

Many of the leading candidates use a similar approach, and the slower scientists worry that we may be putting too many eggs in one basket. So research groups are designing vaccines that use different approaches, like nanoparticles or T cells. They’re trying new delivery methods, such as nasal sprays, or developing vaccines that they hope can protect people for longer.

The world may also need billions of doses, and some researchers believe their vaccines can meet the demand — and at a fraction of the cost.

“It’s possible that the first wave of vaccines is a luxury good that only wealthy nations can afford,” Carl told us. “And meanwhile, there can be other vaccines that are going to be effective, maybe even more effective, and they’re going to be super cheap.”


  • The governor of Iowa has ordered bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries and nightclubs to close in six counties starting this evening, amid a spike in cases.

  • South Korea reported 441 new cases today, its highest daily tally since early March. The government has pointed the finger at doctors on strike and churches’ obstruction of epidemiological efforts.

  • A lockdown was extended in the Gaza Strip as the densely populated territory faces its first outbreak of community-transmitted cases.

  • The virus has infiltrated remote island territories of India in the Bay of Bengal, where members of a vulnerable aboriginal tribe have been infected.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



I love going to the city park. Unfortunately, many parks in Jakarta, especially near my home, are mostly closed during this pandemic. Some friends from Europe, Singapore and Australia know this and they, from time to time, video call me when they take a walk, so I can talk to them and see the park virtually as if I were there.

— Lia Zakiyyah, Jakarta, Indonesia

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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

An outbreak among the crew of a fishing boat spared the only three members with antibodies.Aug. 19, 2020ImageCredit…The New York TimesThe number of cases worldwide has passed 22 million, and more than 780,000 people have died.Venezuela is treating the infected like criminals in its virus crackdown.A U.S. report found that officials in Wuhan and Hubei…

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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An outbreak among the crew of a fishing boat spared the only three members with antibodies.

Jonathan Wolfe

Image

Credit…The New York Times

An accidental experiment on a fishing boat is offering the best evidence yet that antibodies — at even moderate levels — offer protection from the coronavirus.

The vessel, American Dynasty, set sail from Seattle in May with 122 crew members who were all tested for both the virus and antibodies. But the ship returned to port after 18 days at sea when one crew member became ill enough to need hospitalization. More than 100 sailors eventually tested positive — but not the three sailors who were the only ones to show antibodies at the start, according to a new report. And two of them had only moderate levels.

The study addressed one of the most important unanswered questions of the pandemic: whether an immune response from contracting the virus protects against reinfection.

Although the study was small, the chance that the crew members with antibodies would, by chance, not have been infected is incredibly small (0.002 percent). The findings are reassuring to scientists, who have been relying on studies of monkeys for evidence of antibodies’ potency.

The researchers don’t know how the virus got on board, according to Apoorva Mandavilli, who reported on the study. “It could have been one of two people whose tests they couldn’t assess,” she said, “or could have been someone newly infected, so too early to test positive yet.”

Treatment on hold. Antibody-rich blood plasma, donated by those who have survived Covid-19, is being tested in clinical trials as a treatment for the disease. But an emergency authorization for its use in the U.S. is on hold, after top federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned that the data on the treatment is still too weak.


Iran, a country hit early and hard by the virus, is in the midst of a second wave.

The country’s health ministry announced today that it had reached 20,000 deaths from the virus, but health experts inside and outside Iran, and even members of the Iranian Parliament, suggest that the number may be many times higher.

To understand what’s going on, we spoke to our colleague Farnaz Fassihi, who covers Iran for The Times. She painted a picture of an outbreak still out of control.

What’s the situation in the country?

It’s very bad. It’s in the thick of a second surge worse than the first one in March. The majority of provinces, including the capital, Tehran, are “red zones.” Doctors are saying hospitals and I.C.U. beds are full. At the same time, there are some restrictions for public gatherings but, generally, it’s open for business.

Even by the government’s own numbers, cases are on the rise. What happened?

They opened too soon. When the virus first arrived in the country, they closed down for just two weeks during the New Year holiday in mid-March. They didn’t meet any of the benchmarks when they reopened. There’s no contact tracing. There’s no quarantine.

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What are Iranians feeling?

In the early months, people were very scared. They were self-isolating and staying home and not sending their kids to school, even when the schools were still open. But I think as time has passed, like a lot of places, we see that people are becoming more reckless.

There’s also a nuanced dynamic here. This is a government that for 40 years has told people what to do, how to dress, how to behave — and many people’s mind-set is to always defy what the government says. So now, when there’s a pandemic, and the government tells them, “Stay home, wear a mask,” they’re like: “No. We don’t trust you. And you don’t tell us what to do.”

And so for Iran, I think the challenge to contain a pandemic may be greater than it is for other countries because the government is dealing with 70 million people whose default mode is to defy it.


  • The Mariinsky Ballet, one of the most renowned companies in Russia, returned to the stage last month but was abruptly ordered to quarantine last week after about 30 members contracted the virus.

  • Finland, which has some of the most severe travel restrictions in Europe, announced that it would tighten restrictions on incoming travelers starting on Monday.

  • Nepal plans to reimpose a strict lockdown and curfew in the Kathmandu Valley for a week, when all movement except essential services will be restricted.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



I’m a widow, age 84, in a single-family home in Southern California, praying daily for the world. To overcome loneliness, I telephone family and friends, read on my front porch and greet neighbors. I drive around town, reminiscing about meeting my husband and raising our children here.

— Ann Gideon, Redlands, Calif.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.


 

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