Covid-19 Live Updates: Health Officials Tiptoe Around Trump’s Vaccine Timeline


Health officials sidestep questions about Trump’s timeline for ‘enough vaccines for every American by April.’

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.

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

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

The latest lockdown measures, which come into force on Monday, will affect about 850,000 residents in both the city and the surrounding Madrid region. If residents live in one of the 37 areas that have been place under lockdown, residents will only be allowed to travel outside them for emergency medical purposes, or if required to go to a workplace or drop their children at a school outside their residential area.

Protests were held in several of the lockdown 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 there — a comment that she later attempted to clarify but nevertheless quickly drew sharp criticism.

Madrid has once more become the center of the pandemic in Spain, and its regional authorities are warning that they are prepared to reopen a giant field hospital that was used last spring if hospitals get saturated. On Sunday, the Madrid authorities 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.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • New Zealand on Sunday reported four new cases. In a case reported the day before, a man who traveled to New Zealand from India last month developed symptoms after his two-week quarantine and infected two household members, officials said. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce on Monday whether restrictions will be further eased in Auckland and lifted entirely in the rest of the country.

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.

Indoor dining in Maryland will rise to 75 percent of capacity Monday.

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.

The U.S. military has set up a field hospital in Jamaica.

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.

Democrats link the coming battle over the Supreme Court to the pandemic and health care.

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 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.

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.

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.

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


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