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

The Four Percent


The drugmaker Moderna spells out how it is conducting the late-stage trial of its coronavirus vaccine.

The biotech company Moderna released a 135-page document on Thursday that details how it is conducting the late-stage trial of its coronavirus vaccine, and how safety and efficacy will be determined.

The document suggests that the first analysis of the trial data may not be conducted until late December, and that there may not be enough information then to determine whether the vaccine works. Subsequent analyses, scheduled for March and May, are more likely to provide an answer.

The company is among the front-runners in the global race to produce a vaccine to fight the pandemic. Moderna’s vaccine uses genetic material from the virus, known as mRNA, to prompt cells in the body to make a fragment of the virus that will train the immune system to fight off an infection.

The vaccine is now in a Phase 3 study that enrolled more than 25,000 of its intended 30,000 volunteers, and Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said the enrollment should be complete in the next few weeks.

About 28 percent of the participants are Black, Latino or from other groups that have been particularly hard hit by the disease. A diverse enrollment has been considered essential.

Half of the participants receive the vaccine, and half receive a placebo shot consisting of salt water. Two shots are needed, four weeks apart. Then the participants are monitored to see if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 and test positive for the virus.

Side effects of the vaccine are also tracked, with participants recording symptoms in electronic diaries, taking their own temperatures, making clinic visits and receiving periodic phone calls to assess their condition. The vaccine can cause transient reactions like a sore arm, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and headaches.

To determine the vaccine’s efficacy, Covid-19 cases are counted only if they occur two weeks after the second shot. Some patients are already two weeks beyond the second shot, but Dr. Zaks said he did not know if any trial participants had contracted Covid-19 yet.

A total of 151 cases — spread between the vaccine and placebo groups — will be enough to determine whether the vaccine is 60 percent effective. The Food and Drug Administration has set the bar at 50 percent.

New claims for state unemployment insurance fell last week, totaling 790,000 before adjusting for seasonal factors, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The weekly tally is roughly four times what it was before the coronavirus pandemic shut down many businesses in March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, 860,000 claims were filed, down from the previous week.

Six months after the shutdowns began, the American economy remains on shaky ground, and layoffs continue at an extraordinarily high level by historical standards.

The situation has been compounded by Congress’s failure to agree on new federal aid to the jobless.

A $600 weekly supplement established in March that had kept many families afloat expired at the end of July. The makeshift replacement mandated by President Trump last month has encountered processing delays in some states and would cover only a few weeks.

The president’s comments put him at odds with the C.D.C., the world’s premier public health agency, over the course of a pandemic that he keeps insisting is “rounding the corner” to an end. Mr. Trump lashed out just hours after Dr. Redfield told a Senate committee that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year.

“I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It’s just incorrect information.” A vaccine would go “to the general public immediately,” the president insisted, and “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.”

Mr. Trump also said Dr. Redfield “made a mistake” when he told senators that masks were so vital in fighting the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19, that they might be even more important than a vaccine. “The mask is not as important as the vaccine,” Mr. Trump said.

The president has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine could be available before Election Day on Nov. 3, a timeline that most health experts say is unrealistic, prompting concerns that the Food and Drug Administration might give emergency authorization to a vaccine before it has been fully vetted for safety and effectiveness. Nine pharmaceutical companies have pledged to “stand with science” and to not push through any product that didn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Earlier on Wednesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, accused the president of trying to rush out a vaccine for electoral gain.

“Let me be clear: I trust vaccines,” Mr. Biden said. “I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either.”

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a “very serious” resurgence of the coronavirus across Europe but said that transmission could be contained by local rather than national measures.

“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us. Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe, told reporters.

The number of virus cases has increased by more than 10 percent in the past two weeks in more than half the countries of Europe, Dr. Kluge said. He noted that in seven countries the number of cases has doubled.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, they also show alarming rates of transmission,” he said. The region has recorded at least 220,000 deaths from the virus.

“The response to the crisis has been very effective whenever the actions were prompt and resolute, but the virus has been merciless whenever partisanship and disinformation prevailed,” he said, appealing for a coherent collective effort from European countries and more effective communication to combat the growing public fatigue with recommended measures to halt the spread of the virus.

Business and leisure travelers entering South Africa, which closed to international passengers in March, will need to present a negative coronavirus test from within 72 hours of their departure or stay in quarantine at their own expense. Anyone showing symptoms will be quarantined until proved to be negative. Mr. Ramaphosa said the government would publish a list of countries with high infection rates that may be subject to travel restrictions.

South Africa will also drop to its lowest alert level starting at midnight Sunday, allowing for indoor gatherings of up to 250 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 500, with gyms, theaters and other venues limited to 50 percent of their capacity. The nightly curfew will also be reduced to between midnight and 4 a.m. Restrictions on sporting events will remain in place, and masks will still be required in public.

“By any measure, we are still in the midst of a deadly epidemic,” Mr. Ramaphosa said. “Our greatest challenge now — and our most important task — is to ensure that we do not experience a new surge in infections.”

South Africa, the epicenter of the outbreak in Africa and a major tourist destination, went into a strict nationwide lockdown in March that included an unpopular ban on cigarette and alcohol sales. In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Ramaphosa noted the “scourge” of violence against women and children during lockdown as well as widespread allegations of corruption related to pandemic relief efforts.

South Africa has recorded at least 653,000 cases of the coronavirus and 15,705 deaths, according to a New York Times database. But the country’s health minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, estimated this week that more than a fifth of the population, or 12 million people, had “probably” been infected.

In other developments around the world:

  • India reported 97,894 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, its highest one-day increase. The country has the world’s second-highest number of cases after the United States, according to a New York Times database.

  • New Zealand has entered its first recession in a decade, new economic data showed. Officials said the economy shrank 12.2 percent in the second quarter, the country’s biggest fall on record, amid a nationwide lockdown this spring. On Thursday, the country reported no locally transmitted cases for the third consecutive day.

  • A small group of wealthy countries has bought more than half of the expected supply of the most promising coronavirus vaccines, the British charity group Oxfam said Thursday. Supply deals have been announced for 5.3 billion doses of five vaccines in the last stage of clinical trials. More than 2.7 billion doses, or 51 percent, have been bought by countries including Australia, Britain, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States as well as the European Union, which together represent about 13 percent of the world’s population. Even if all five vaccines are approved, their combined production capacity of six billion doses is enough for only about three billion people, since each person is likely to need two doses. That means that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population would not have a vaccine until at least 2022, Oxfam said.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said Thursday that he wanted to increase the number of people who can enter the country each week by about 2,000 starting at the end of next week, pending approval from state governments that would have to allocate more hotel rooms for quarantine. Mr. Morrison’s government imposed a weekly cap of 4,000 arrivals in July amid a second wave of infections, and more than 25,000 Australians are still stranded overseas. A group representing major airlines that service Australia said Wednesday that under the current caps, some Australians might not be able to return home until next year.

  • Germany’s foreign ministry added a number of regions to its high-risk travel list on Wednesday. The additions include Vienna and Amsterdam, as well as more parts of France, the district of Freiburg in Switzerland and other regions in Europe where more than 50 cases had been registered for 100,000 people in seven days. The classification is less strict than a travel warning, but returning travelers from these regions must isolate until they get a negative test. The testing for returning travelers is free. Germany registered 2,194 new cases on Wednesday, a daily infection total not seen since April; the country’s seven-day average is about 1,500 cases.

  • Cases of the virus are rising quickly in the Netherlands. Earlier this week, the country broke its daily record of confirmed cases, with 1,542 new infections in a single day. The percentage of people testing positive is up to 3.9 percent this week from 2.8 percent the week before, according to government data. In response to the rising cases, the prime minister and the health minister will hold a news conference on Friday, where they may introduce local regulations to curb the virus’s spread.

  • Top Glove, the world’s largest medical glove manufacturer, on Thursday reported its best financial performance ever because of demand stemming from the pandemic. The Malaysia-based company said its net profit last quarter was 1.33 billion ringgit, or about $321 million, 18 times higher than the same quarter a year earlier. Rights activists have raised concerns about forced labor in Malaysia’s glove industry, which provides two-thirds of the global supply, leading U.S. Customs and Border Protection to impose an import ban on two of Top Glove’s subsidiaries in July. The company, which says it has begun reimbursing foreign workers for the fees they paid recruitment agencies, said on Thursday that it was “making good progress” in working with the U.S. authorities to lift the ban.

High-earning parents have been most likely to receive child care help from employers during the pandemic.

Some of the biggest companies in the United States, including Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have tried to support their employees who are parents by offering paid time off and subsidized child care. Other companies have gotten creative, hosting online camps or hiring teachers and turning their empty offices into remote schools for employees’ children.

Yet more than three-quarters of employed parents say their workplaces have not provided additional time off or money for child care, according to a survey of 1,081 parents by Morning Consult for The New York Times. Workers who are highly educated and high-earning are significantly more likely to receive time off, the ability to work flexible hours or subsidized child care or tutoring.

During the pandemic, Congress authorized 12 weeks of partial paid leave for parents whose children’s schools or child care centers were closed. But at least half of workers were ineligible, and the crisis has lasted much longer than the leave covered.

Many companies can’t afford to offer extra benefits. Other employers are having to rethink caregiving benefits for the pandemic, because the circumstances are so different from what workers typically need.

Flexibility is the most common benefit employers are providing, according to surveys. Eighty-six percent of 1,087 human resource professionals surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management said they were offering flexible hours. Half of working parents in the survey by Morning Consult for The Times said their employers were letting them shift their hours.

Less than 10 percent of employers are offering subsidies to pay for child care. Yet money for babysitters or teachers may be more valuable for parents than flexibility or even time off. Although a parent might ordinarily need a finite period at home for something like the birth of a baby, now children need long-term care or daily in-person help with online school.

A small group of wealthy countries has bought more than half of the expected initial supply of the most promising coronavirus vaccines, the British charity group Oxfam said Thursday.

Supply deals have been announced for 5.3 billion doses of five vaccines in the last stage of clinical trials. More than 2.7 billion doses, or 51 percent, have been bought by countries including Australia, Britain, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States as well as the European Union, which together represent about 13 percent of the world’s population.

Even if all five vaccines are approved, their combined production capacity of six billion doses is enough for only about three billion people, since each person is likely to need two doses. That means that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population would not have a vaccine until at least 2022, Oxfam said.

The head of the World Health Organization and Pope Francis have also warned against so called vaccine nationalism, which would leave poorer countries behind when a vaccine is found.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., earlier this month called for vaccines to be used fairly and effectively and said that “vaccine nationalism” would only slow the effort to end the pandemic.

Last month during a general audience, the pope said, “It would be sad if the rich are given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.” Adding, “It would be sad if the vaccine becomes property of this or that nation, if it is not universal and for everyone,” Reuters reported.

And Bill Gates said in an interview this week that he would push Congress to add $4 billion to the next federal stimulus passed by Congress so that poor countries could also get vaccines.

In the early days of the pandemic, New York City was plagued with problems, from limited supplies preventing testing capacity to long delays in getting results as national labs couldn’t meet the increased demand.

But with schools in the city set to reopen this month, reliable and quick testing will be key to keeping students, parents and teachers safe. Public schools will begin randomly testing about 10 to 20 percent of students and teachers every month, starting in October.

Officials recommend visiting one of the 22 priority testing sites run by the city’s Health and Hospitals system. People can walk in without an appointment. The city is also offering a popular new option, called rapid testing, with results in 24 hours. You have to schedule an appointment online in advance, and those sites tend to get booked quickly.

Many of the city’s testing sites also offer antibody tests.

City officials said you should be tested if you have symptoms, if you have been exposed to someone who has the virus or if you have traveled somewhere with a high infection rate. They are also encouraging New Yorkers to get tested more regularly — as often as once a month.

In other developments around the United States:

  • The University of Georgia said on Wednesday that it would not be able to host on-campus voting at a student center this fall over concerns about long lines and “insufficient indoor air space” for social distancing. It said it would provide a shuttle to other voting sites, and that other sites could be made available for in-person voting with the state’s approval. Critics noted that the university’s football team has not canceled its Oct. 3 season opener, but the university said the game would be held in an outdoor stadium with “substantially reduced capacity.” In its weekly coronavirus report on Wednesday, the university said a total of 421 positive tests had been reported from Sept. 7 to 13, most of them students, a decline of more than 70 percent from the previous week.

  • At an event for Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday, Attorney General William P. Barr likened state-by-state stay at home orders, which lasted several months in the early stages to the pandemic, to centuries of forced labor in the United States under slavery. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said. Mr. Barr was an early and vocal critic of state efforts to prevent large gatherings during the first wave of the pandemic in April, in particular those covering large congregations in churches.

  • Gov. David Ige of Hawaii said Wednesday that starting Oct. 15, travelers arriving from out of state will no longer have to self-quarantine for 14 days as long as they can provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their departure. Travelers who arrive while their test results are still pending will have to stay in quarantine until they receive them. The quarantine requirement, which was put in place in March, has devastated Hawaii’s crucial tourism sector, and efforts to lift it have already been postponed twice.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Nick Bruce, Stacy Cowley, Sydney Ember, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Denise Grady, Jennifer Jett, Alex Marshall, Claire Cain Miller, Claire Moses, Anna Schaverien, Nelson D. Schwartz, Christopher F. Schuetze and Katie Thomas.


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