Live Coronavirus News Updates and Analysis
Live Coronavirus News Updates and Analysis
Scientists express cautious optimism about developing a vaccine quickly.
In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers around the world are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus only months after it was discovered.
Companies like Inovio and Pfizer have begun early tests of candidates in people to determine whether the vaccines are safe. Researchers at the University of Oxford in Britain say they could have a vaccine ready for emergency use as soon as September.
Moderna Therapeutics on Monday announced encouraging results of a safety trial of its vaccine in eight volunteers. There were no published data, but the news alone sent hopes — and the company’s stock — soaring.
In labs around the world, there is now cautious optimism that a vaccine, and perhaps more than one, will be ready sometime next year. With many states and nations anxious to ease restrictions and reopen their economies despite the risk of further outbreaks, the race to create and manufacture a vaccine is more urgent than ever.
Scientists are exploring at least four approaches to creating a vaccine. The urgency is so great that they are combining trial phases and shortening a process that usually takes years.
“What people don’t realize is that normally vaccine development takes many years, sometimes decades,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “And so trying to compress the whole vaccine process into 12 to 18 months is really unheard-of.”
“If that happens,” he added, “it will be the fastest vaccine development program ever in history.”
Even if scientists develop a vaccine that proves to be safe and effective, hurdles will remain. With nearly all of humanity vulnerable to the virus, officials will have to figure out how to speed the mass production of vaccines.
But signs of progress continue to appear. Researchers reported Wednesday that a prototype vaccine had protected monkeys from the virus, a finding that offered new hope for effective human vaccines.
“To me, this is convincing that a vaccine is possible,” said Dr. Nelson Michael, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
In Connecticut, flags that had been lowered to half-staff during the somber peak of the pandemic were raised high again to signal the state’s return to business.
In Kentucky, gift shops opened their doors. South Carolina will let minigolf, water parks, amusement parks and other attractions reopen for Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Henry McMaster said on Wednesday.
And across Alaska, restaurants, bars and gyms, which have already been seeing customers for weeks, were getting ready to rev back up to full capacity. “It will all be open,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced, “just like it was prior to the virus.”
As of Wednesday, all 50 states had begun to reopen to some degree, two months after the outbreak thrust the country into lockdown. But vast variations remain in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others. Many began to reopen despite not meeting White House guidelines for progress against the virus, and newly reported cases have been increasing in some states, including Texas and Minnesota, that are moving to ease restrictions. Public health officials warn that moving too fast could risk more outbreaks.
The dynamic has left many business owners and customers to decide for themselves what they think is safe.
“It is still a little scary, considering we don’t exactly know what this is,” said Ipakoi Grigoriadis, whose family owns Pop’s Family Restaurant in Milford, Conn., a diner that reopened its outdoor seating on Wednesday morning.
“It is quite exciting to see our customers we haven’t seen in a while,” she said. But it was not business as usual: Pop’s, like other Connecticut restaurants, now offers only outdoor seating and plans to gradually ramp up to 50 percent capacity. Servers are gloved and masked, and patrons are expected to wear masks as well, except when they are eating and drinking.
In New Jersey and many parts of New York State, the reopening has been more limited, with only curbside pickup at retail stores and allowances for certain industries.
Governors are increasingly facing intense pressure to reopen, as millions of Americans have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate reached a staggering 14.7 percent. But reopening in Texas, where businesses have been allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity for weeks, looks far different than it does in Illinois, where stores are still limited to curbside pickup.
It was unclear how closely the guidelines would be followed. The C.D.C. said that restaurants “may consider” a number of strategies to maintain healthy environments, including: “Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars and drink stations.”
When Vice President Mike Pence visited Beth’s Burger Bar in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday with Gov. Ron DeSantis to call attention to restaurants reopening, he was filmed filling his own cup at a self-serve soda fountain. Mr. Pence — who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force and whose press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus this month — was not wearing a mask.
Here are some key elements from the C.D.C. guidance:
If a person in a school building tests positive, schools should evaluate the risk and consider a brief dismissal of about two to five days, to clean and disinfect the building, coordinate with local health officials and contact trace. The C.D.C. offers different measures based on the level of community spread.
As restrictions across the country on restaurants and bars ease, the C.D.C. recommends owners give workers at a higher risk of getting sick a job that limits the person’s interaction with customers. The agency also suggests opening initially with limited seating to allow for social distancing. Once fully reopened, the C.D.C. recommends having a clear policy about when employees should stay home if sick and rules on hygiene, including at times wearing face coverings.
When mass transit resumes its full service, the agency recommends being prepared to adjust routes based on the different levels of virus spread and to coordinate with local health officials about prevention strategies, such as wearing a face covering.
For businesses that provide child care during the pandemic, the C.D.C. recommends having plans in place, for example, to have substitute workers if staff members are sick, and requiring staff and children older than 2 to wear face coverings.
The guidance describes the balance of slowing the virus’s spread with the economic threat of shuttering most businesses, and largely mirrors a draft version that was previously shelved by the White House, but with some changes.
The document omits a section on “communities of faith” that had troubled Trump administration officials and also tones down the guidance in several instances. For example, language that initially directed schools to “ensure social distancing” became “promote social distancing,” and the phrase “if possible” was added in several sentences.
Severe flooding struck Central Michigan on Wednesday after two dams were breached by rain-swollen waters, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents when many were wary of leaving their homes during the pandemic.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer implored residents to take the threat seriously and evacuate immediately. But she added that they should continue to observe precautions related to the virus, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing — something she acknowledged would be difficult in temporary shelters.
“To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable,” she said. “But we are here, and to the best of our ability we are going to navigate this together.”
There have been at least 52,337 cases in Michigan, and at least 5,017 people have died.
The failures on Tuesday of the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam, about 140 miles northwest of Detroit, led the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning for areas near the Tittabawassee River. Residents in nearby towns, including Edenville, Sanford and Midland, were evacuated
As news of the disaster spread, Mr. Trump threatened on Twitter to withhold federal funds to Michigan if the state proceeded to expand vote-by-mail efforts. The president then followed up with a tweet saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military had been deployed to Michigan to assist with disaster response.
The president is scheduled to visit a Ford plant on Thursday in Ypsilanti, Mich., that is manufacturing ventilators. This is his first trip to the state since January and comes at a time when his campaign advisers are increasingly concerned about his re-election chances there.
“I think that even at this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting,” he said. “But we need to find out how to do it, and do it safely and do it smartly.”
It is particularly significant for Jewish congregations, where a minyan, defined as 10 people over the age of 13, is required for a worship service.
On the West Coast, California was warned this week by the Justice Department that it believed the state’s restrictions to combat the virus discriminated against religious institutions. In a letter to the governor, department officials said that the state’s reopening plan allowed for restaurants and shopping malls to reopen before religious institutions could hold worship services. They also objected to the state’s current policy limiting how members of the clergy could be classified as essential workers.
The officials also said that while the department “does not seek to dictate” to California, they insisted that any restrictions must treat secular and religious activities equally. The missive was not connected to any specific case, but it represented another phase of its efforts to curb state and local restrictions.
Back in New York, Mr. Cuomo also released the results of antibody testing in some of low-income New York City neighborhoods hit hardest by the virus.
In many of them, more than 1 in 3 residents tested positive for antibodies, a far higher rate than the citywide rate of about 20 percent, he said. In two neighborhoods, Brownsville in Brooklyn and Morrisania in the Bronx, more than 40 percent of people tested had antibodies.
Another public health hazard has surfaced in New York City: Vaccination rates for childhood disease — whooping cough, measles, chickenpox — have dropped precipitously, putting children at risk, the mayor said.
As lockdowns are lifted, bacteria that built up internally in stagnant water, especially in the plumbing, may cause health problems for returning workers if the issue is not properly addressed by facilities managers. Employees and guests at hotels, gyms and other kinds of buildings may also be at risk.
A single small outbreak can sicken many people. The deaths of 12 people from Legionnaires’ disease were linked to the water crisis that started in Flint, Mich., in 2014 after the city changed its water source and officials failed to inform the public of quality problems.
Most worrying, Legionnaires’ disease tends to affect people with compromised immune systems. “Covid patients and survivors could be more vulnerable to this, so when they go back to work we might be concerned about another infection,” said Caitlin Proctor, a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University.
While many roads and highways across the United States have become ghost towns during the pandemic, new data shows that the people still driving on them are dying more frequently.
There was a 14 percent increase in fatality rates per miles driven in March compared with the year before, according to preliminary data reports released by the National Safety Council.
There were 8 percent fewer roadway deaths over all, and the number of miles driven fell 18.6 percent.
It is possible that speeding and reckless driving on emptier roads — as people follow stay-at-home orders — have led to a disproportionate number of deaths.
“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” Lorraine M. Martin, the council’s chief executive, said in a statement on Wednesday. She added that law enforcement and health care workers “are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”
Less than a week after lawmakers approved a major rule change, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday formally initiated the remote work period for the House, jump-starting a 45-day period when remote voting can be used in the chamber.
With the move, the House will now be able to use proxy voting, which allows lawmakers to give specific instructions on each vote to a colleague authorized to vote on their behalf. Votes are expected in the chamber next week, and several lawmakers had previously expressed frustration with the need to travel to Washington during the pandemic.
The announcement came after the sergeant-at-arms, in consultation with Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol physician, sent Ms. Pelosi a letter formally notifying her of “an ongoing public health emergency.”
In direct contrast, however, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday highlighted the Senate’s ongoing presence in Washington, outlining how “over here in the United States Senate, the lights are on, the doors are open, and we are working for the American people.”
Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, thanked Dr. Monahan — a Navy doctor whose office is responsible for the care of both chambers and the Supreme Court — for his continued guidance, saying that it had allowed the Senate to operate “smartly and safely” during the pandemic.
The shuttering of the American education system severed students from more than just classrooms, friends and extracurricular activities. It has also cut off an estimated 55 million children and teenagers from school faculty members whose open doors and compassionate advice helped them build self-esteem, navigate the pressures of adolescence and cope with trauma.
But the challenges hard-wired into online learning present daunting obstacles for the remote guidance counselor’s office, particularly among students from low-income families who have lost jobs or lack internet access at home. And mental health experts worry about the psychological toll on a younger generation that was already experiencing soaring rates of depression, anxiety and suicide before the pandemic.
“Not every kid can be online and have a confidential conversation about how things are going at home with parents in earshot,” said Seth Pollak, the director of the Child Emotion Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Desperate to safeguard students’ emotional well-being amid the isolation and financial turmoil, teachers are checking in during video classes, counselors are posting mindfulness videos on Facebook, and school psychologists are holding therapy sessions over the phone.
Hospital executives and doctors, wary of what comes next, are asking whether this is a lull before a new wave of cases or a less chaotic slog. At hospitals, staff members are preparing for both possibilities.
Elmhurst is decontaminating rooms as managers try to persuade residents to come in now for emergencies and elective surgery as soon the governor lifts a ban imposed in March. Brooklyn Hospital Center is nervously waiting for those numbers to rise again.
At the same time, a new survey of nearly 23,000 nurses across the country shows continued concern over inadequate personal protective equipment as well as a lack of widespread testing among health care workers.
Many nurses remain fearful of becoming ill because they do not have the equipment they need to remain safe, according to the union that conducted the survey, National Nurses United, which has more than 150,000 members in the United States.
The survey, conducted from April 15 through May 10, includes responses from both union members and nonunion nurses in all 50 states. It found that a vast majority of nurses, 87 percent, reported having to reuse personal protective equipment, including respirators, a practice that the nurses said would not have been allowed before the pandemic.
More than 100 nurses have died of the disease, according to the union, and at least 500 of those surveyed said they had already tested positive. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed reported they had not yet been tested.
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is set to return to sea in the next day or so after its deployment to the western Pacific was derailed by the outbreak, military officials said.
The Roosevelt has been docked in Guam for nearly two months, with much of its crew isolated in hotels and on the U.S. naval on the island. About 1,100 sailors from the Roosevelt have been infected since the outbreak began in March.
It is unclear whether the Roosevelt will return to Guam after its initial stint at sea; it might continue with its deployment that is set to end in July, officials said. If Navy officials choose the latter, the sailors left on Guam to recover from the illness are likely to be sent back to the United States, leaving the crew of the nuclear-powered carrier with only about 3,300 of its more than 4,800 crew members.
Navy officials said on Sunday that more than a dozen sailors on the ship had retested positive after they seemed to have recovered. The virus has forced the crew to take extraordinary measures to combat its spread in their cramped quarters: Sailors can be punished for not wearing masks, areas are cleaned at least twice a day, and if a crew member shows any signs or symptoms, they are promptly whisked off the ship.
Specialists — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert — say the jury is still out on whether the drug might help prevent infection or help patients avoid hospitalization. Mr. Trump’s frequent pronouncements and misstatements — he has praised the drug as a “game changer” and a “miracle” — are only complicating matters, politicizing the drug and creating a frenzy in the news media that is impeding research.
“The virus is not Democrat or Republican, and hydroxychloroquine is not Democrat or Republican, and I’m just hopeful that people would allow us to finish our scientific work,” said Dr. William O’Neill, an interventional cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who is studying hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic in health care workers.
“The worst thing in the world that would happen,” he added, “is that at the end of this epidemic, in late September, we don’t have a cure or a preventive because we let politics interfere with the scientific process.”
The College Board has been sued over flaws in online Advanced Placement tests.
As the virus swept the country, the College Board announced that it would introduce an online version of its Advanced Placement tests, which students use to show their mastery of subjects like physics and government.
For the first time, college applicants could take the tests at home, the board said, and submit their answers online.
Now a group of students, their parents and FairTest, a nonprofit critical of standardized testing, have sued the College Board and its partner in administering the exams, the Educational Testing Service, saying that technical problems prevented them from submitting answers, and that when they complained, they were told they would have to take makeup exams.
“Students are entitled to the valid and reliable exam they signed up and paid for, absent the severe stress and anxiety associated with the new format,” said the complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles.
In an email on Wednesday, the College Board said that nearly three million A.P. exams had been given over the last 10 days, and that only a small fraction of the students who took them during the first few days — perhaps 1 percent — had run into problems. It called the lawsuit a “P.R. stunt masquerading as a legal complaint.”
The lawsuit disputes the 1 percent figure, saying that schools have reported that the failure rate for students trying to submit their answers was more like 5 to 20 percent, and as high as 30 percent. It claims breach of contract and negligence, among other accusations, and asks for restitution and damages.
The lawsuit said that after vigorously defending the way the test was being administered for a week, the College Board finally acknowledged that there was a problem. On Monday, the board began providing a backup email option for students who could not submit their answers, but the fix was not retroactive.
The remarks by Purdue University’s president on the risk to young people draw criticism.
As he laid out his plans for the fall semester, the president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels, said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday that young people faced “essentially zero lethal risk” from Covid-19.
The remarks from Mr. Daniels, who served two terms as Indiana’s governor, drew criticism online, as there is still much that is unknown about how the virus affects younger populations and how they might unknowingly spread the virus.
In March, data from the C.D.C. showed that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were between 20 and 54 years old. More recently, neurologists in New York, New Jersey, Detroit and elsewhere have reported a sudden increase in unexplained strokes among younger patients that may be linked to the virus.
Mr. Daniels said that Purdue, in West Lafayette, Ind., would carry out a new hybrid approach to teaching that would protect both its staff members and students during the fall semester.
“We’ve learned over the past two months where the real risk and danger reside. That will be our area of focus with everything we do — from physical facilities to the way we teach,” Mr. Daniels said. “We’re going to have to work as hard on the cultural aspects as the physical.”
New measures include having fewer people in classrooms, requiring masks for all students, building plexiglass barriers for teachers to stand behind and having students take at least one course online.
Students will also be expected to maintain social distancing, practice good hygiene, have their temperature taken daily and self-quarantine if they experience symptoms. The university will also be conducting testing and tracing, he said.
But amid C.D.C. warnings that the United States can expect multiple waves of infections until the development of a vaccine, the nearly 500,000-student California State University system announced last week that it would keep all of its 23 campuses mostly closed in the fall, holding classes primarily online.
Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he might try to convene world leaders at Camp David for the annual Group of 7 meeting as a further sign of “normalization” as the United States and many other countries begin to reopen.
“Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness’, I am considering rescheduling the G-7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, D.C., at the legendary Camp David,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all – normalization!”
It is unclear whether Mr. Trump has discussed the idea with other Group of 7 leaders and how willing they would be to travel abroad with the large staff and security entourages they require.
The French government said that President Emmanuel Macron was “prepared to go to Camp David, health conditions permitting,” given the importance of the group in the pandemic response.
After the virus struck, the Group of 7 agreed to hold the gathering by video for the first time. It is scheduled for June 10 to 12. The group is made up of the United States, Britain, Canada. France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Keep up with global coverage.
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Reporting was contributed by Reed Abelson, Mike Baker, Karen Barrow, Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Nick Corasaniti, Michael Crowley, Caitlin Dickerson, Reid J. Epstein, Sheri Fink, Neil Genzlinger, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Michael Gold, Max Horberry, Anemona Hartocollis, Shawn Hubler, Annie Karni, Dan Levin, Sarah Mervosh, Andy Newman, Sarah Maslin Nir, Jan Ransom, Anna Schaverien, Knvul Sheikh, Kaly Soto, Chris Stanford, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Vanessa Swales, Hiroko Tabuchi, Jim Tankersley, Daniel Victor, David Waldstein, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer.