Health Officials Tiptoe Around Trump’s Coronavirus Vaccine Timeline

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Residents of Madrid took to the streets on Sunday to protest the renewed lockdown of dozens of areas across the Spanish capital, largely in working-class suburbs that are most densely populated.

The city has once again become the center of the pandemic in Spain, where new cases throughout the country have risen to more than 10,000 per day on average over the last week, exceeding the level the country had seen earlier this spring, when it was one of the worst-hit nations in Europe.

The latest lockdown measures in Madrid, which come into force on Monday, will affect about 850,000 residents in the city and the surrounding Madrid region. Residents in the 37 areas that have been placed under lockdown will be allowed to travel outside their specified zones only for essential activities, like work, school or emergency medical care.

The restrictions in the working-class areas, spurred by an especially steep increase in cases there, display yet again the disproportionate impact the virus has had on many poorer communities across the globe.

Protests were held in several of the locked-down areas south of the city, while hundreds of demonstrators also gathered on Sunday before the regional parliament to demand the resignation of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Madrid’s regional leader.

Ms. Díaz Ayuso had last week blamed in part the “way of life” of immigrants for the spike in cases — a comment that she later attempted to clarify but nevertheless quickly drew sharp criticism.

Madrid’s regional authorities said they are prepared to reopen a large field hospital that was used in the spring if hospitals become overwhelmed. Though deaths in Spain have not risen to the levels seen earlier this year, Madrid authorities on Sunday said that 37 people had died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, while there are about 4,000 patients in hospitals, some 300 of whom are in intensive care units.

Spain is not alone in confronting a resurgent virus, as much of Europe scrambles to avoid another round of widespread lockdowns.

Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, warned on Sunday that “the nation faces a tipping point,” urging Britons to follow restrictions or face potentially harsher ones.

Britain will impose fines of at least 1,000 pounds, about $1,300, on those who do not self-isolate after testing positive for the virus or who leave their home after being traced as a close contact of someone who has. The fines, which begin on Sept. 28, can increase to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offenders or for the most serious breaches.

Israel is again under a nationwide lockdown for at least three weeks. The new lockdown began on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year holiday, and comes barely four months after Israel emerged from its last lockdown — too hastily, many critics said — and as its per capita infection rate rose to among the highest in the world. More than 1,100 people in the country have died from the virus.

The public sector and some private businesses will continue to work under tight limitations, and citizens will only be allowed to move within 500 meters of their homes. Schools are closed for the duration of the lockdown.

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As the nation’s coronavirus death toll neared 200,000, top administration health officials on Sunday delicately sidestepped President Trump’s ambitious declaration last week that a vaccine would be available for every American by April.

Instead, Adm. Brett Brett P. Giroir, who heads up national testing efforts, and Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, offered a slightly more conservative timetable for vaccine availability.

Both seemed to defend the forecasts made by experts including Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was publicly rebuked by the president for estimating that an effective vaccine may not be widely available to the general public until the middle of next year.

On the CNN program “State of the Union,” Admiral Giroir told the host, Jake Tapper, that “in front of the Senate, Dr. Redfield and I both said that a vaccine that would be widely available in hundreds of millions of doses would not likely happen until mid-2021. That is a fact.”

However, he said, that the president was correct in saying that “We could have as many as a hundred million doses by the end of this year. That is correct.”

“I think everybody is right,” Admiral Giroir said.

Mr. Trump has often promised that the United States would produce a vaccine by Election Day on Nov. 3. But his optimism and projections for widespread availability have been roundly disputed. At the White House on Friday at a news conference, Mr. Trump said that once a vaccine is authorized, “distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice.”

He added: “We will have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year. And likely much more than that. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”

The U.S. population has reached 330 million, according to estimates by the Census Bureau.

Several recent public opinion polls have shown a growing distrust or wariness among Americans of a rushed vaccine. In a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans had a great deal of confidence in the president’s ability to confirm vaccine effectiveness; 18 percent reported only a “good amount” of confidence.

In their separate TV interviews, Admiral Giroir and Mr. Azar reiterated the need for the public to wear masks, a practice the president often mocks. Mr. Trump’s recent campaign rallies are crowded full of supporters who do not wear face coverings, in violation of mask requirements in some localities.

Mr. Trump also clashed last week with Dr. Redfield on the value of masks, saying that the C.D.C. director was also mistaken when he compared the value of masks to a vaccine.

Mr. Azar told Chuck Todd on the NBC program “Meet the Press” that masks were clearly important. “I think the point the president was making is there’s not an equivalence between masks and vaccines,” he said.

In recent weeks, Mr. Azar and some of his deputies have faced withering criticism, accused by public health experts and lawmakers of censoring and altering C.D.C. researchers’ reports on the virus and of putting politics over science at the Food and Drug Administration. In a stunning declaration of authority last week, Mr. Azar barred the nation’s health agencies from signing any new rules regarding the nation’s foods, medicines, medical devices and other products, including vaccines.


On Sunday, Mr. Azar was asked about whether the White House had forced him to hire Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs, who is on medical leave after he posted a Facebook video in which he accused scientists at the C.D.C. of “sedition” and warned of a leftist uprising after the November presidential election.

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Representative Jahana Hayes, Democrat of Connecticut, said on Sunday that she had tested positive for the virus and would quarantine for 14 days.

More than a dozen lawmakers in the House and two in the Senate have tested positive for the virus, and dozens more have come into contact with someone who tested positive, gone into quarantine, or both.

Members of Congress are not regularly tested on Capitol Hill, even though they travel frequently back and forth between their districts and Washington, a point that Ms. Hayes raised in her announcement.

She tweeted a video of herself being tested for the virus, and then posted that she was largely asymptomatic, “except for breathing issues which are being monitored,” and that she had taken “every possible precaution” while on Capitol Hill and in Washington for votes this week.

“My experience and the experience of my staff underscore the need for a nat’l testing strategy with a coherent way to receive speedy, accurate results,” Ms. Hayes wrote on Twitter. “This level of anxiety and uncertainty is untenable.”

Ms. Hayes said she tried without success at two urgent care centers to get tested on Saturday, and finally got an appointment at a third site for Sunday morning.

Global Roundup

Credit…Greg Bowker/New Zealand Herald, via Associated Press

Coronavirus restrictions will be lifted across most of New Zealand starting from midnight on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

However, in Auckland, the country’s largest city, restrictions are still in place and will be eased but not entirely lifted at midnight on Wednesday. The city was the center of a mysterious outbreak in August that prompted Ms. Ardern to again place the city under lockdown. Restrictions on travel and gatherings will be lifted entirely across the rest of the country at midnight on Monday.

Starting Thursday, Auckland residents will be able to gather in groups of up to 100 but will be required to stay home if sick and log their contacts and movements. Face coverings will still be compulsory on public transportation and are encouraged elsewhere in public.

“Some may query the cautious approach we are taking,” Ms. Ardern told reporters at a news conference on Monday, adding that a Health Department analysis suggested that the country had a 50 percent chance of eliminating new infections by the end of September. “That is cause for us not to get ahead of ourselves and remain vigilant,” Ms. Ardern added.

New Zealand, an island nation of five million people, has been lauded for its pandemic response. It has reported just over 1,800 cases of the coronavirus and 25 deaths, according to a Times database.

The guidelines announced Monday will be reviewed again in two weeks, Ms. Ardern said, and restrictions could possibly be lifted further.

  • The state of Victoria in Australia, which has been under strict lockdown for several weeks, recorded 11 cases overnight, its lowest daily rise in infections in three months, the authorities said on Monday. Two deaths were also recorded. Despite the low numbers, Melbourne, the country’s second most-populous city, remains under curfew, while lesser restrictions remain in place across the rest of the state.

  • The Taj Mahal, one of India’s most famous landmarks and a huge tourist draw, reopened on Monday after being closed for more than six months as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The monument, which receives a rough average of 20,000 visitors daily, will restrict admittance to 5,000 people a day. The site reopened despite India having more than 5.4 million cases, the second-highest caseload behind the United States.

  • Italy is allowing as many as 1,000 spectators to attend top-tier soccer matches nationwide starting on Sunday. Officials reported more than 1,600 new infections on Saturday, compared with daily increases of more than 6,000 during the peak of Italy’s outbreak in March, when public attendance was suspended at matches for Serie A, the country’s top soccer league.

  • Indonesia has announced a seven-day suspension of a seafood company’s exports to China after the outside of packaged fish products tested positive for the virus. The Indonesian Fisheries Ministry said on Saturday that an investigation had been opened into the company, PT Putri Indah, according to a Reuters report. Other companies were not affected, the ministry added, and “can still do export activities as usual.”

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The N.F.L.’s second weekend of the season has been marred by injuries to many star players — Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants and Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers, among others.

One piece of good news, though: The league’s efforts to lower the risk from the coronavirus have largely been successful, so far. Unlike Major League Baseball and other leagues that had to reschedule games after outbreaks, the N.F.L. has not had to cancel any games. There have been no mass outbreaks in any locker rooms. No stars have been forced to miss games because they contracted the virus.

Between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12, which included the season opening game in Kansas City between the Chiefs and Houston Texans, only two players were confirmed to have tested positive. Five other league personnel tested positive as well.

The owner of the Washington Football Team, Dan Snyder, and his wife will quarantine “out of an abundance of caution” after they recently came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, though the couple tested negative, the team’s physician said in a statement.

In a league with more than 2,000 players and hundreds of coaches and trainers, the number of positive results were relatively small.

The United States said it has delivered a field hospital to Jamaica to aid its pandemic response, as the Caribbean is bracing for a surge in coronavirus cases and an increasingly dangerous hurricane season.

The 70-bed modular hospital was delivered by military cargo planes to the Caribbean island on Saturday and will be deployed in the coming days, the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement. The U.S. military delivered similar facilities to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica in recent weeks.

The aid comes as Jamaica struggles to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak yet, after keeping the disease in check for months. The island’s total Covid-19 deaths more than tripled, to 70, over the past month.

Overall, more than 3,500 people have died from Covid-19 in the Caribbean, half of them in the Dominican Republic, according to the World Health Organization.

About 8 percent of recorded coronavirus cases in the Caribbean result in deaths, compared with an average of 3.4 percent in the Americas as a whole.

The W.H.O. warned last week that many parts of the Caribbean are approaching a peak of the pandemic, just as the region is dealing with one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. Any natural calamities would complicate a pandemic response in a region already reeling from the collapse of its all-important tourist industry.

As the battle got underway over how the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be filled, Democrats argued Sunday that the stakes for the pandemic-battered nation were as much about health care as about the usual hot-button divides over guns and abortion that typically define court confirmations.

Democrats called for the winner of the presidential election to fill the vacancy, and charged that President Trump was rushing the process in order to have a conservative justice seated in time to hear a case seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act.

Eliminating the act could wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans. Arguments in the case are set for a week after Election Day.

In another sign of how the pandemic has upended traditional politics, Democrats linked the battle over the Supreme Court to health care.

“As I speak, we’re probably passing 200,000 deaths loss to this virus. Tens of millions of Americans unemployed,” Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, said during a speech in Philadelphia on Sunday. “Health care in this country hangs in the balance before the court.”

The Trump administration is supporting a Republican effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, which guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions who often struggled to get insurance in the past.

“He doesn’t want to crush the virus, he wants to crush the Affordable Care Act,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

For months Democrats have sought to make the election a referendum on Mr. Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Now they see the coming battle over the court as a chance to remind voters that the fate of the Affordable Care Act could hang in the balance.

Credit…Rebecca Cook/Reuters

The loved ones left behind by the staggering number who have died from Covid-19 are trapped in a state of torment. They have seen their spouses, parents and siblings fall ill from the virus and endured the deaths through cellphone connections or shaky FaceTime feeds.

Now they are left to grieve, in a country still firmly gripped by the pandemic, where everywhere they turn is a reminder of their pain.

In dozens of conversations, people across the United States who have lost family members to the coronavirus described a maelstrom of unsettled frustration, anger and isolation.

Many are bitter over the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has brought bleak milestones since the first announcement of a coronavirus death in the United States in late February. By May 27, more than 100,000 people in the country had died from the virus. Less than four months later, nearly 100,000 more people are dead.

Some survivors have felt a stigma attached to their loved ones’ deaths, a faint suggestion by acquaintances that their relatives were somehow to blame for being infected. And they have been particularly distraught by the constant mentions of it in conversations and in the news.

“Unless you’re one of the people who has lost somebody to this,” said Corinthia Ford of Detroit, whose father, a beloved pastor, died in April, “you don’t understand.”

Perhaps the most difficult part to process, many survivors said, has been losing a family member to a ubiquitous pandemic but being robbed of the ability to publicly mourn.

Families were not allowed to hold their loved ones’ hands when they died in hospitals. They cannot receive hugs of comfort from friends. They have been forced to curtail gatherings with groups in living rooms, in the pews of churches or at crowded pubs and restaurants in the rituals that guide families through loss.

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In August, Nadzri Harif, a D.J. at Kristal FM radio station in Brunei, set foot in an airport for the first time in six months. The experience, he said, was exhilarating. Sure, moving through Brunei International Airport was different, with masks, glass dividers and social-distancing protocols in place, but nothing could beat the anticipation of getting on a plane again.

His destination: nowhere.

Mr. Harif is one of thousands of people in Brunei, Australia, Japan and Taiwan who have started booking flights that start and end in the same place. Some airlines call these “scenic flights.” Others are more direct, calling them “flights to nowhere.”

“I didn’t realize how much I’d missed traveling — missed flying — until the moment the captain’s voice came on the speaker with the welcome and safety announcement,” Mr. Harif said of his 85-minute experience on Royal Brunei Airlines. On its flight to nowhere, which the airline calls the “dine and fly” program, Royal Brunei serves local cuisine to passengers while flying over the country.

At a time when most people are unable to travel as the pandemic has gutted the global air-travel industry, flights that take off and return to an airport a few hours later allow airlines to keep staff working. The practice also satisfies that itch to travel — even if it’s just being on a plane again.

Royal Brunei has run five of the flights since mid-August, and since Brunei has had very few cases of the virus, the airline does not require passengers to wear masks, though staff members do. The Taiwanese airline EVA Air filled all 309 seats on a Hello Kitty-themed jet for Father’s Day last month in Taiwan, and the Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways had a Hawaiian-resort-themed, 90-minute flight with 300 people on board.

Credit…Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

When California schools began shutting down in March, David Miyashiro, the superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District, immediately started connecting with families and teachers. During hundreds of calls, Zoom meetings and socially distanced in-person gatherings, he heard pleas from parents torn between work and home instruction, or who needed support for high-needs students.

Mr. Miyashiro vowed to reopen schools in the fall, and over the coming months, he took steps to pave the way. The district near San Diego offered free emergency child care for essential workers in April. It ran an in-person summer enrichment program for more than a third of its 17,000 mostly low-income students, road-testing safety measures.

While many low-income districts have been staying remote, Cajon Valley has opened its 27 schools for a mixture of in-person and remote instruction. It was, in the minds of Mr. Miyashiro and many educational experts, a small victory for poorer students who, according to studies, have been disproportionately hurt by remote instruction.

After the first week and a half with in-person instruction, the district has had no infections..

But parents and teachers said the district had prepared in many ways, starting with a good job of responding to the virus crisis when it first hit. In March, the district created playlists with curriculum and content for every grade. Principals frequently made goofy videos to send to students to show that there could be lightness in a heavy moment. Teachers all had Zoom office hours, as well as regular online classes.

Well before that, Cajon Valley had prepared for the kind of challenges the pandemic has presented.

For seven years, the district has provided every child a laptop and access to a curriculum that blends technology into day-to-day teaching. Teachers have received extensive training for high-tech, “blended” classrooms, showcased in YouTube videos as far back as 2014.

Mr. Miyashiro praised the teachers’ union for raising safety concerns he had failed to see, and committed to using federal stimulus funding to offer wraparound services — nutrition, recreation, distance-learning support — for families who need support during the three days that students are not in school. Thirty percent of children’s families opted for all-remote learning until December, while the rest have returned two days a week.

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The scene came seven minutes into a new Chinese-government-sponsored television drama, so short that it would have been easy to miss: The head of a bus company in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, asks his drivers if they are willing to make emergency runs during the city’s lockdown. A line of volunteers forms. None are women. The official asks why.

In reality, women made up the majority of front-line workers during the crisis, according to the official news media. That roughly minute-long clip has set off a furor on Chinese social media. Users have called the scene a flagrant example of sexism in Chinese society and an attempt to erase female contributions to the fight against the virus.

By Sunday, a hashtag about that segment, which aired on Thursday, had been viewed more than 140 million times. Tens of thousands of people had called for the show to be taken off the air.

The uproar reflects lingering tensions even as China emerges from an outbreak that sickened many, cratered its economy and upended the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. Still-simmering tensions include cynicism about the Chinese government’s efforts to rewrite the narrative of the outbreak, disillusionment about the silencing of dissenting accounts and anger toward persistent discrimination against women, both during the crisis and more broadly.

Maryland will allow restaurants to expand indoor dining on Monday to 75 percent of capacity — and is encouraging its citizens to eat out — despite concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the expansion of indoor dining in Annapolis on Friday, to coincide with Maryland’s first statewide Restaurant Week, a 10-day promotional event with discounts and specials meant to draw back customers after months of pandemic restrictions. Governor Hogan wrote on Twitter that restaurants could expand to 75 percent from 50 percent “with strict distancing and public health measures in place.”

The governor cited hopeful trends in the state’s coronavirus statistics, like falling numbers of patients in intensive care units and a seven-day positivity rate of 2.85 percent. (The positivity rate is the share of coronavirus tests conducted in the state that come back positive.)

But data from Johns Hopkins University, calculated in a different way, indicated a positivity rate of 5.7 percent for the state, above the widely recommended 5 percent ceiling for relaxing restrictions.

Some public health experts expressed reservations about the expansion of indoor dining. The director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group said that it could “risk lives unnecessarily.”

And a few counties and cities in Maryland were holding back, including Baltimore, where a spokesman for the mayor told The Baltimore Sun: “We simply do not have enough data to responsibly increase indoor dining capacity within the city.” Baltimore officials have already had to reverse an attempt to reinstate indoor dining in July after a spike in cases.

Around the country, restaurants and bars were hit hard by lengthy shutdowns and have struggled to rebound. New case clusters have been linked to reopening of indoor dining in some places, although it can be very difficult to trace whether they began with workers, patrons, or a combination.

In Howard County southwest of Baltimore, where the expansion is moving forward, the owner of Ananda, an Indian restaurant, says he does not plan to add more tables. “Our capacity is 391 people, and we never seat at any given hour more than 60 people,” said the owner, Binda Singh, adding that “Right now, our tables are about 10 feet apart.”

Opening at 50 percent of indoor capacity got the restaurant back up to 80 percent of its typical profits, with diners still feeling safe.

The extra space used to allow Ananda to accommodate weddings, conferences and parties, but large gatherings like those are out of the question now.

Many restaurants like Ananda have used outdoor seating to serve more guests over the summer. But as the weather grows colder, that will wane, contributing to the growing tensions playing out across the nation between restaurateurs and public health officials who are concerned about indoor spread of the virus.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

More than a month after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russia has yet to administer it to a large population outside a clinical trial, health officials and outside experts say.

The approval, which came with much fanfare on Aug. 11, came before Russia had tested the vaccine in late-stage trials for possible side effects and for its disease-fighting ability. It was seen as a political gesture by President Vladimir V. Putin to assert victory in the global race for a vaccine. Mr. Putin has said that one of his two adult daughters received Russia’s vaccine, called Sputnik V in a reference to the first artificial Earth satellites.

The Russian vaccine is one of nine candidates around the world now in late-stage clinical trials, which are the only sure means to determine whether a vaccine is effective and to find possible side effects.

In one example of the limited scope of distribution, the company financing the vaccine pointed to a shipment sent this past week to the Crimean Peninsula. The delivery contained doses for 21 people in a region with two million.

It is not clear whether the slow start to the vaccination campaign is a result of limited production capacity or second thoughts about inoculating the population with an unproven product.

“Unfortunately, we have very little information,” said Dr. Vasily V. Vlassov, a professor of epidemiology and vice president of the Russian Association for Evidence-Based Medicine. His organization had opposed approval of the vaccine before testing it.

If few Russians are receiving the vaccine, the early approval appears less troubling, he said: “Maybe nothing scary is happening in reality and only the announcement was scary.”

The Russian health authorities have a history of approving medicines after limited testing, a legacy of the Soviet-era regulatory system, Dr. Vlassov said.

Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Jenny Anderson, Julie Bosman, Emily Cochrane, Manny Fernandez, Jacey Fortin, James Gorman, John Koblin, Serge F. Kovalevski, Andrew E. Kramer, Raphael Minder, Tariro Mzezewa, Bryan Pietsch, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Anna Schaverien, Mark A. Walsh, Vivian Wang and Sameer Yasir.

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