• Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

Covid-19 News: Cuomo Says New York Will Vet Federally Authorized Vaccines

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageStudents wearing masks on the campus of Boston College last week.
Credit…Steven Senne/Associated Press

Infected young people begin waves of the virus that sicken older people, C.D.C. report says.

As millennials mingled in bars and restaurants over the summer, and students returned to college campuses, coronavirus infections surged among young adults.

From June through August, the incidence of Covid-19 was highest among adults aged 20 to 29 years old, according to research published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young adults accounted for more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases.

But the infections didn’t stop with them, the researchers found: Young adults also seeded waves of new infections among the middle-aged, and then in older Americans.

The new data show that outbreaks linked to parties, bars, dormitories and other crowded venues are hazardous not just to the twenty-somethings who are present, but to more vulnerable Americans with whom they are likely to come into contact.

College campuses have become a particular threat. According to a database maintained by The New York Times, there were more than 88,000 coronavirus infections reported on nearly 1,200 campuses as of early September.

At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned against sending home students from colleges experiencing outbreaks.

Speaking about ill students, Dr. Fauci said colleges “should be able to accommodate the students in a facility, maybe a separate dorm or a separate floor so they don’t spread among the student body,” he said. “But do not send them home to their community because of the likelihood of them bringing infection in the community.”

The C.D.C. report examined positive test results and emergency department visits for Covid-19-like illnesses between May and August in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The incidence of Covid-19 cases was highest among those in their 20s, but the spike in cases in this age group was quickly followed by increases in infections among people 60 and older, the researchers found.

In the South, where cases rose dramatically over the summer, a clear pattern emerged. Within nine days of a rise in cases among those in their 20s and 30s, cases rose among those aged 60 and older.

In states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, transmission was more sequential. The increase among those aged 20 to 39 was followed by a bump in cases among those in aged 40 to 59 nine days later, and then another rise in cases among those 60 and older 15 days later.

Younger adults likely are playing a significant role in spreading the virus, which can be transmitted before people know they have been infected and before they show symptoms, the researchers said.

“Strict adherence to community mitigation strategies and personal preventive behaviors by younger adults is needed,” the report concluded.

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Trump suggests that the F.D.A.’s new vaccine approval plans may be driven by politics.



‘It Won’t Be Politics,’ F.D.A. Chief Says of Vaccine Approval Process

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told lawmakers he was confident that the development of a coronavirus vaccine would be safe from political interference.

“We have not made a commitment to the timeline per se because we haven’t seen the data, and we don’t know the complexity of the data or the amount of data that will come our way. What I can tell you, sir, is we do feel the urgency of the moment. We do take very much — very seriously our responsibility to protect American lives. We will not delay, but we will not cut corners in our process.” “Dr. Hahn, you said that you have every confidence in the scientists and staff at F.D.A. And I appreciate that and I do too, by the way — is there some kind of deep state that you have seen in the F.D.A. that is any way trying to do anything other than quickly get a vaccine, get therapeutics to the American public?” “Senator, I will answer your question this way. I have 100 percent confidence in the outstanding scientists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists at F.D.A. who have remarkably stood up during this pandemic to help expedite getting medical products to the American people. I have complete confidence in their decisions. And I have complete confidence in the actions that have been taken to date.” “And that confidence is based on following the science not any political pressure, and that’s what we’re expecting with a vaccine approval.” “Yes, sir. And I’ve said that several times today, and I appreciate the opportunity to say it again, our career scientists for any medical products, and particularly vaccines, will follow the science and data and our rigorous standards. And it won’t be politics that make any part of that decision, sir.”

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Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told lawmakers he was confident that the development of a coronavirus vaccine would be safe from political interference.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Graeme Jennings

The pronouncement once again undercut government scientists who had spent the day trying to bolster public faith in the promised vaccine. Just hours earlier, four senior physicians leading the federal coronavirus response strongly endorsed the tighter safety procedures, which would involve getting outside expert approval before a vaccine could be declared safe and effective by the F.D.A.

Last week, Mr. Trump said that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “made a mistake” when he said that most Americans would not complete the vaccination process until next summer and that masks were at least as important as a vaccine to control the virus’s spread.

The F.D.A. had planned to issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the vetting process, even as the president has insisted a vaccine will be ready as early as next month. Mr. Trump, though, cast doubt on the F.D.A. plan.

“That has to be approved by the White House,” he said, adding, “We may or may not approve it.” Raising questions about why vaccine makers would want to delay the process, he said, “We are looking at that, but I think that was a political move more than anything else.”

He pointedly said he had “tremendous trust in these massive companies” that are testing the vaccines, adding, “I don’t know that a government as big as” the federal government could do as well.

At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the doctors — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the F.D.A.; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director; and Admiral Brett P. Giroir, the coronavirus testing czar — defended their scientific integrity amid mounting evidence that Mr. Trump and his administration have interfered with their agencies’ decision-making and growing public doubts about a vaccine.



C.D.C. Director Projects 700 Million Covid-19 Doses by April

In his Senate testimony, Dr. Robert R. Redfield said that some Americans will not be able to access a coronavirus vaccine until July 2021.

Ultimately, it’s going to be the vaccines that are going to get us back to the way of life — as we get an effective vaccine. What I was trying to comment, as Senator Kaine alluded to, if the vaccine only induces an immune response in half the people, then it’s exceptional that half the people may not get protection from the vaccine. And what really I was trying to say maybe was just to re-emphasize how important this mask is. And we should have, if projected, about 700 million doses by April, late March, and that should be enough to vaccinate 350 million people because you require two doses. When I was alluding to late second quarter, early third quarter, I was alluding to how long I felt it would take to get those 700 million doses into the American public and complete the vaccine process. And you, know, I can defer to Dr. Fauci for his opinion, but I think that’s going to take us to April, May, June, you know possibly July, to get the entire American public completely vaccinated. But we will have the 700 million doses based on projection by late March, early April.

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In his Senate testimony, Dr. Robert R. Redfield said that some Americans will not be able to access a coronavirus vaccine until July 2021.

All four officials pledged to take any vaccine approved by the F.D.A. and said they would encourage their families to do the same.

Polls show a troubling drop in the number of Americans who would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine. A survey published last week by the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans would either probably or definitely take a vaccine, down from 72 percent in May.

Amid a second wave in Europe, hospitalizations remain lower than the first time. But for how long?

Credit…Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

In Munich, normally brimming with boisterous crowds for Oktoberfest this month, the authorities just banned gatherings of more than five people. In Marseille, France, all bars and restaurants will be closed next Monday. In London, where the government spent weeks encouraging workers to return to the city’s deserted skyscrapers, it is now urging them to work from home.

Summer ended in Europe this week with a heavy thud amid signs that a spike in virus cases might send another wave of patients into hospitals. Officials across Europe fear a repeat of the harrowing scenes from last spring, when the virus swamped intensive care units in countries like Italy and Spain.

But just how imminent is the peril?

As they try desperately to curb a second wave of the virus, European leaders are dealing with a confusing, fast-changing situation, with conflicting evidence on how quickly new virus cases are translating into hospital admissions.

In Spain, where new cases have surged to more than 10,000 a day, hospitals in Madrid are close to capacity and the government said it was preparing to reopen field hospitals in hotels and in the city’s largest exhibition center. Yet in France, which reported 66,000 new cases over the last seven days, hospital admissions and deaths, while also rising, are going up much more slowly.

Some experts argue that this shows the virus has lost potency since it first arrived in Europe, or that it is now infecting mostly younger people, who are less likely to experience severe symptoms. Others say it is a testament to social distancing, the widespread use of face masks, greater precautions for more vulnerable people and better medical treatment.

“It’s not going to be like the first time when we needed to stop everything,” said Dr. Karol Sikora, an oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham Medical School. “It’s going to be a slow burn.”

Other experts, however, warn against being lulled into complacency: the gap between case numbers and hospital admissions, they say, is mainly a reflection of the fact that more people are being tested, and more quickly.

Schemes related to the pandemic peaked in the spring, and they focused on federal stimulus payments and other forms of financial relief, as well as unemployment and other government benefits, the commission reported.

The data was compiled by the commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which tracked nearly 206,000 reports of coronavirus-related fraud that were submitted to the F.T.C. from Jan. 1 through Sept. 22.

The median loss was $300. The losses could be higher for older Americans, who are often the targets of this kind of fraud, said Lucy Baker, a consumer defense associate at the United States Public Interest Research Group, which shared the data this week.

Many scammers posed as sources of coronavirus stimulus relief or marketed a cure or preventive treatment for Covid-19. They were crafty, experts said, sending out robocalls, text messages and emails to consumers.

Increased stress can cause people to make impulsive decisions rather than stopping to think about whether they should avoid clicking a link in a phishing email, said Stacey Wood, a psychology professor at Scripps College in California who studies consumer fraud.

AARP has recommended that consumers avoid sites promising coronavirus-related vaccines or cures. They should also be wary of emails, calls or social media posts advertising coronavirus tests, or claiming to be raising money for victims or research.

Israel will tighten its national lockdown as infection rates soar.

Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

The Israeli government said on Thursday that it was tightening its second national lockdown after coronavirus infection rates soared this week to about 7,000 new cases a day, among the highest in the world.

The new measures, which go into effect on Friday, will remain in place at least until the end of the Jewish High Holy Days in mid-October. Most businesses will have to close, and all gatherings, including protests and communal prayers, will be restricted to groups of up to 20 people outdoors within about 1,100 yards of home.

An exception has been made for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which begins at sundown on Sunday. Limited numbers of worshipers will be allowed to pray inside synagogues as they did during last week’s Rosh Hashana, or New Year, holiday.

Ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers had argued that for many Jews, praying outdoors in the heat on Monday would be unbearable, especially for those observing the 25-hour fast of the sacred day of atonement.

The government was still mulling whether to halt outbound flights allowing Israelis to travel abroad from Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The new restrictions were largely meant to address a heated dispute roiling Israel. On one side are those who say they have the right to hold mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which have been taking place weekly in the streets near his official residence in Jerusalem. On the other are Orthodox politicians who oppose restrictions on prayer as long as the protests are allowed to continue.

The Israeli Parliament must approve any measures limiting the freedom to protest, which is anchored in law.


Impeded by uncertainty about the pandemic, New York’s finance industry is reoccupying offices in fits and starts.

Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

Six months ago, New York’s financial industry abandoned its corner offices, conference rooms and trading floors almost overnight as the coronavirus raged across the city.

The industry’s return to office life, by contrast, has been shambolic.

The fitful nature of the industry’s return highlights how the waning threat of the coronavirus in New York — at least for now — has done little to reduce uncertainty about when things will return to normal. As governmental guidance remains nebulous, many Wall Street firms have made up return-to-office policies that reflect their business and their leaders’ philosophies.

Large banks, where facetime and long hours are considered virtues, are generally urging workers to come back. Many hedge funds, which attract more seasoned workers who can afford sophisticated workstations at home, are not. Private-equity firms and asset managers, which have a mix of workers and deal with both long- and short-term investments, appear to be taking a middle path.

The offices of one hedge fund, Pershing Square, remain shut, its trading terminals idle and rooftop tennis court unused since spring. JPMorgan Chase, one of the city’s largest private employers, recently asked some senior staff members in its markets division to come back starting this week.

“Covid is effectively gone from New York,” said Jason Mudrick, who runs Mudrick Capital, a 26-employee hedge fund whose Midtown Manhattan offices never closed, though workers were required to return only after Labor Day. “I personally think that all my hedge fund colleagues who are not coming back until later are just taking it as an excuse to have a long summer vacation.”

In other developments:

  • New York City intends to create a new public health corps and will work on infrastructure for vaccine distribution, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday, without offering specific details, as he laid out four broad pillars he saw as key for the city’s eventual recovery. The mayor said that his plan would rely on continuing to fight the virus, investing in innovation, creating new jobs that help boost public health, and focusing on historically underserved communities. He promised more detailed plans in the coming weeks, adding that “to me you start with a big vision, strategy.” The mayor made his remarks at his first in-person press briefing in weeks, held outside a laboratory opened to provide faster tests to residents.

The ranks of jobless workers in the U.S. seeking aid rose last week.

Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times

Applications for jobless benefits in the United States remained at staggeringly high levels last week as employers continued to lay off workers six months after the coronavirus pandemic first rocked the economy.

About 825,000 Americans filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is up from 796,000 a week earlier, though it is far below the more than six million people a week who were filing for benefits during the peak period of layoffs in the spring. Those numbers do not reflect adjustments for seasonal fluctuations. (On an adjusted basis, last week’s total was 870,000, up from the previous week.)

In addition, 630,000 initial filings were recorded for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program that covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others left out of the regular unemployment system. That program has been plagued by fraud and double-counting, and many economists say the data is unreliable.

By any measure, hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each week, and millions more laid off earlier in the crisis are still relying on unemployment benefits to meet their basic expenses. Applications for benefits remain higher than at the peak of many past recessions, and after falling quickly in the spring, the number has declined only slowly in recent weeks.

“Compared to April, they’re trending down, but if you’re comparing to the pre-Covid era they are still so high,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist for the career site Indeed.

England finally releases a contact-tracing app.

Credit…Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

After various fits and starts, delays and technical missteps, England on Thursday released a contact-tracing app that the government hopes will help slow the spread of the virus by alerting those who have been in proximity to an infected person.

Released just as Britain is imposing new restrictions in response to a surge of cases, the app, called “NHS Covid-19,” uses technology created by Apple and Google to anonymously log when a person comes into close contact with another user of the app. If a person tests positive for the coronavirus, the app sends an alert to those they have come into contact with to get tested and quarantine.

The app, now available in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store, also has a way for people to “check in” at restaurants, bars and other locations they visit by scanning a bar code, another measure to help track down individuals who have been exposed to the virus.

The release of the app follows various delays and challenges. The government had initially vowed to build an app without help from Apple or Google, saying it would offer more flexibility to track the spread of the virus. But after confronting technical challenges, the government reversed course. The switch delayed the release of the app, which at one point had been slated to be introduced in May. The app was released in England and Wales; similar technology had already been released in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Some older phones are not able to handle the new app, which requires version iOS 13.5 or later for an iPhone and version 6 or later for Android.

The effectiveness of the app will in part depend on how many people use it. Without wide adoption, its usefulness is more limited. The technology could also test the government’s overall track-and-trace system, which has been riddled with problems.

“Everybody who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves, helping to protect their loved ones, helping to protect their community because the more people who download it, the more effective it will be,” Matt Hancock, the country’s health secretary, told the BBC.

Also on Thursday, Britain’s top financial official, Rishi Sunak, announced a range of new and extended measures to protect jobs and help businesses, including another government wage-paying program, just days after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, set new social restrictions that he warned could last for months.

Immigrants in the U.S. keep sending money home, often more than usual, despite the hardships of the pandemic.

Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

The World Bank predicted in April that money transferred by immigrants to their homes in Latin America and the Caribbean would plunge by almost 20 percent this year, as the pandemic led to layoffs or reduced work hours.

But their forecast of the “sharpest decline in recent history” seems unlikely to materialize if current trends hold.

After weathering the worst months of the lockdown, many immigrants are back on the job and sending their relatives even more money than before the downturn, according to newly compiled estimates.

“Everybody was talking about how remittances would drop, yet they have remained remarkably strong,” said Matt Oppenheimer, the chief executive of Remitly, a digital money-transfer company based in Seattle.

Remittances to Latin America, about three-quarters of which are sent by immigrants working in the United States, dropped precipitously in March and April but have rebounded. The money transferred to some of those countries in the first half of 2020 actually eclipsed the amount sent during the same period in 2019, according to official data.

Remittances from Indians, Filipinos and Nigerians in the United States have also continued to grow relative to last year, according to executives at money-transfer companies.

“It’s counterintuitive to most Americans,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. “But for immigrants, supporting their families back home is the fundamental reason they came here in the first place.”

Jason Go, a Filipino cardiologist in Grand Forks, N.D., said that not only had he continued to transfer money monthly to his 71-year-old mother in the Philippines, he was now sending her even more.

“Part of my motivation to come here was to help support my mom who put me through med school,” said Dr. Go, 46, who arrived in the United States 17 years ago.

“Given that there are extraordinary circumstances during the pandemic, I send extra so she can buy her medicine ahead of time,” he said. “She also has needed money to buy masks and groceries in bulk, because she can’t keep going out.”


A high-ranking Indian official has died from the virus.

Credit…Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times, via Getty Images

A minister in the Indian government became the first high-ranking official to die from the coronavirus as the country struggles to contain a rapidly increasing caseload.

Suresh Angadi, 65, who died on Wednesday, was a junior minister for the Indian Railways. He is the fourth Indian lawmaker to die from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Mr. Angadi was a powerful politician from the southern state of Karnataka, where he worked to strengthen the base of Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party that rules India.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said Mr. Angadi was an effective minister who worked hard to strengthen his party, and was admired across the political spectrum.

“His demise is saddening,” Mr. Modi wrote on Twitter.

With 5.7 million confirmed cases, India has the world’s second-highest caseload after the United States and is inching toward the top spot. At least 91,000 Indians have been killed by the virus, and the country recorded 1,129 deaths on Wednesday.

At least 17 Indian lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19, a majority of them from the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to officials.

In other developments around the world:

  • China National Biotec Group, a front-runner in developing a coronavirus vaccine, will donate 200,000 doses of its vaccine to health care workers in the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged nine months ago, the chairman of the company said on Thursday. The vaccine, which is developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has only cleared two phases of clinical trials but has been approved for emergency use. It is currently in the final stage of trials in more than 10 countries.

  • Indonesia’s virus death toll surpassed 10,000 on Thursday, as new cases surged around the country and among top officials. Until last week, the country had never reached 4,000 new cases in a single day, but it has now passed that mark five times. Over the past week it has reported nearly 30,000 new cases, on par with Britain, Israel and Mexico. A third minister in the cabinet of President Joko Widodo also tested positive this week. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, already has the second-highest death toll from the coronavirus in the Asia-Pacific region, after India. Experts believe that many more deaths have gone unreported.

  • Germany on Thursday added the cities of Copenhagen, Dublin and Lisbon to a list of high-risk areas in the European Union that travelers are being encouraged to avoid. Germany has a seven-day average of about 1,700 new cases a day. The country’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has also gone into quarantine after a person on his staff tested positive for the virus.

  • Hong Kong has added the United Kingdom to its list of high-risk countries, meaning that, starting Oct. 1, arriving visitors must show proof of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of boarding their flight. Travelers must also have a confirmed hotel reservation for a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

  • Breaking with a lucrative winter tradition, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria announced on Thursday that, while resorts would be allowed to open for skiing, après-ski, or after-ski, gatherings would not be allowed this coming season. At many European resorts, après ski is characterized by copious amounts of alcohol, live music and exuberant celebration. Last winter, health officials traced hundreds of virus cases to the après ski in the Austrian village of Ischgl.

Reporting was contributed by Matt Apuzzo, Aurelien Breeden, Ben Casselman, Choe Sang-Hun, Melissa Eddy, Michael Gold, Christine Hauser, Mike Ives, Miriam Jordan, Isabel Kershner, Mark Landler, Jeffery C. Mays, Raphael Minder, Christina Morales, Eshe Nelson, Benjamin Novak, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Monika Pronczuk, Roni Caryn Rabin, Adam Satariano, Anna Schaverien, Christopher F. Schuetze, Dera Menra Sijabat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sui-Lee Wee, Sameer Yasir and Elaine Yu.