Covid-19 Live Updates: Republican Governors Reverse Course and Issue Mask Mandates


Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

President-elect Joseph R. Biden warned on Monday that “more people may die” from the coronavirus if President Trump does not agree to coordinate planning for the mass distribution of a vaccine when it becomes available.

Mr. Biden also issued a simple plea. Holding up a paper medical mask, he asked: “Does anybody understand why a governor would turn this into a political statement?”

In the United States, the wearing of a mask has been caught up in the swirl of the nation’s toxic political divide long after the scientific community reached a consensus that they can play a dramatic role in slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives.

For months, Republican governors resisted calls for mask mandates. But as they have watched hospitals in their states stretched to the breaking point in recent weeks — driving home the reality of the dangers posed by a virus allowed to spread unchecked — that is starting to change.

In Utah last week, Gary Herbert, the Republican governor, issued a mask mandate “until further notice” as hospitals across the state were nearing or at full capacity.

Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota ordered residents of the state on Friday to wear masks indoors and outdoors if they could not socially distance. North Dakota has the country’s highest rates of new daily cases and deaths per person, according to a New York Times database.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice ordered on Saturday that residents must wear masks in indoor public settings.

Then on Monday evening, Kim Reynolds, the governor of Iowa, struck a somber tone as she announced that, starting Tuesday, Iowans would need to wear masks while indoors if they are unable to maintain social distance.

“There aren’t enough sheriffs in Iowa’s 99 counties to shut down every noncompliant bar,” she said. “If Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose,” she said, warning that schools and businesses could be closed.

Ms. Reynolds had flouted infectious disease experts who say masks are one of the most effective tools to control the spread of the virus. In September, she issued guidance that told students, teachers and workers that they did not have to quarantine after being in close contact with someone who was infected as long as both were wearing masks.

The rates of new daily cases and hospitalizations have roughly doubled in Iowa over the past two weeks.

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who is reportedly considering imposing a curfew on businesses, is expected to hold a news conference on Tuesday to announce plans to combat the spike in cases in his state.

But even before Mr. DeWine made any announcement, Mr. Trump issued a warning on Twitter, suggesting that he might support a primary challenger against the Republican governor.

“Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Biden offered praise for the Republican leaders, saying he had “enormous respect” for their actions.

“It’s about being patriotic,” he said. “There is nothing macho about not wearing a mask.”

One of the remaining holdouts is South Dakota, which has the country’s second-worst rates of new daily cases and deaths per person.

Its Republican governor, Kristi Noem, said at a rally for President Trump last month that her refusal to issue restrictions made South Dakotans “happy because they are free.” She has yet to issue any restrictions.

Credit…Pool photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez

California’s governor announced Monday that the state is “pulling the emergency brake” on its reopening and reinstating broad restrictions, while Iowa’s governor reversed course and announced a mask mandate.

The announcements came as the United States reported its 11 millionth confirmed case on Sunday, with one million new cases over the past week alone. The country is averaging 150,000 new cases a day and will probably reach 250,000 total deaths sometime this week.

Daily case reports are rising in 48 states, and with little action from the Trump administration, governors and mayors across the country are taking new steps to try to halt the spread. On Monday, a sweeping stay-at-home advisory went into effect in Chicago, and Philadelphia announced strict new rules starting Friday, banning indoor gatherings and closing indoor dining at restaurants.

In California, which had been credited with getting the virus under control for a time, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said the state’s daily case numbers had doubled in the last 10 days, the fastest increase the state had seen since the beginning of the pandemic. The state reached one million known cases on Nov. 12, and the next day issued travel advisories.

The increases, he said, cross age and racial or ethnic groups and appear throughout the state.

Most of California’s larger counties were moved back into the most restrictive reopening tier, meaning that indoor dining and some other businesses would have to shut down again. Mr. Newsom said the state was also studying curfew options.

Mr. Newsom added that emergency health care facilities the state set up during the beginning of the pandemic were being prepared. One facility will open in the next week or so in Imperial County, a border county that was hit hard over the summer, he said.

State leaders including Mr. Newsom have told residents not to gather with people from outside their households, and to resist visiting relatives over the holidays.

Much of the recent rise in cases, state officials say, appears to have grown from at-home parties or family gatherings.

But in what is likely to be remembered as one of the governor’s more damaging moments in the pandemic, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Mr. Newsom attended an outdoor dinner for one of his political advisers at the French Laundry, a Napa Valley restaurant, with guests from several households.

The gathering on Nov. 6 did not technically violate the state’s rules, because there is no formal limit on the number of households at each outdoor restaurant table, but as critics noted, the governor’s attendance undermined the spirit of restrictions.

Mr. Newsom apologized on Monday, saying that he should have turned around and left when he realized there were more guests at the party than he expected.

Credit…Moderna Inc, via Reuters

On Monday, the Massachusetts-based company Moderna reported promising preliminary results from its coronavirus vaccine trial. Coming just a week after similar news from Pfizer and BioNTech, the announcement immediately gave the stock market a fresh jolt. It offered more hope that there’s going to be a way out of the pandemic.

Like Pfizer, however, Moderna released only early data from their trial. There’s more work to be done before they’ll know if the vaccine really is safe and effective. And even if Moderna’s vaccine gets the green light from the Food and Drug Administration, it will take months to reach widespread distribution. In the meantime, the United States is suffering a devastating explosion of new cases of Covid-19.

Here’s where things stand with the development of coronavirus vaccines.

In the short term, no. The soonest that coronavirus vaccines could possibly become widely available would be in the spring. But if effective vaccines do indeed become available — and if most people get them — the pandemic could drastically shrink. As coronavirus infections became rarer, life could gradually return to normal.

Moderna recruited 30,000 volunteers across the United States to participate in its trial. A quarter of the participants are 65 years or older. White people make up 63 percent of the volunteers; 20 percent are Hispanic; 10 percent are Black; and 4 percent are Asian-Americans.

The 95 people who got sick with Covid-19 reflect the diversity of Moderna’s volunteers: Fifteen were 65 or older. The group also included 12 Hispanic volunteers, four Black participants, three Asian-Americans and one multiracial person. The efficacy and safety appeared the same in all of the subgroups, Moderna said in its announcement. But researchers will have to wait for the trial to advance further to confirm this finding.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer trials are continuing to gather more data from large studies. The two companies expect to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in the next few weeks for an emergency use authorization to begin vaccinating the public.

The F.D.A. will review the applications and consult with its own external committee of experts before making a decision. If it authorize the vaccines — as experts think it will — a committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then make recommendations for who should be first to receive a vaccine.

It’s possible that the distribution of one or both vaccines will begin by the end of the year.

“This is not going to dig us out of what’s ahead this next month,” Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, warned about Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season.

If the preparations for vaccines don’t hit any major snags, we can realistically hope for large-scale distribution to begin in the spring.

But with exploding cases across the country right now, we have to take immediate measures. The only way to drive down infection rates for now will be to avoid large indoor gatherings, wear masks, practice physical distancing and use other public health measures.

Credit…UNTV, via Associated Press

A baseless conspiracy theory about the coronavirus has found new life as cases surge once again.

On Monday morning, the phrase “The Great Reset” trended with nearly 80,000 tweets, with most of the posts coming from familiar far-right internet personalities. The conspiracy alleges that a cabal of elites has long planned for the pandemic so that they could use it to impose their global economic control on the masses. In some versions of the unfounded rumor, it is only President Trump who is thwarting this plan and keeping the scheme at bay.

The narrative first took root in late May, when Prince Charles and Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, announced plans to convene world leaders and discuss climate change and how to rebuild an economy damaged by the pandemic. The meeting was branded as a “Great Reset,” and the false rumors about the tight-knit group of elites manipulating the global economy took off.

Then, over the weekend and into Monday morning, a video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada speaking from a United Nations meeting in September gained millions of views online. In the video, Mr. Trudeau referred to a “great reset” and also happened to utter the words “build back better,” which conspiracists saw as a tie-in to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. — who had used the phrase as a campaign slogan.

Soon, far-right internet commentators with records of spreading misinformation posted about the conspiracy, collecting tens of thousands of likes and shares on Facebook and Twitter. The posters included Paul Joseph Watson, a former contributor to Infowars, and Steven Crowder, who has falsely asserted that coronavirus death tolls are inflated.

Joan Donovan, the research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, said it is “maddening” to see the same networks of influencers traffic in recycled conspiracies and get in the way of delivering accurate information to the public. “What is true is that Covid is on the rise in the U.S. because of poor leadership and the lack of a nationally coordinated response,” Ms. Donovan said.

Twitter said the tweets about the conspiracy did not violate its rules, and that “The Great Reset” was no longer trending.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Credit…Courtesy of Wu Yilu, via Agence France-Presse –– Getty Images

China has made its unproven vaccine candidates widely available to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness to a country that has long been skeptical of vaccines after a spate of quality scandals.

The campaign has succeeded perhaps too well. In the city of Yiwu, 500 doses were consumed within hours. Other cities are limiting doses or asking people to show proof that they are traveling. The overwhelming demand has inspired a cottage industry of scalpers charging as much as $1,500 for an appointment.

Users could be taking big risks. People who have taken ineffective vaccines may believe they are safe and engage in risky behavior. They can be barred from taking another, better vaccine because they have already been injected. In a few cases, unproven vaccines have caused health risks.

The potential problems often go undiscussed. Copies of the vaccination consent forms for one candidate that were reviewed by The New York Times did not specify that the product was still in testing.

It is unclear how many people have received a vaccine candidate. China has made three of its four candidates in Phase 3 trials available to tens of thousands of employees at state-owned businesses, government officials and company executives since July.

Local governments have indicated that they plan to make the current vaccines available to more people. Beijing says it is keeping tabs on those who have been given the vaccines but has not disclosed any details.

The contrast with the United States is stark. A growing number of polls have shown that many Americans would not take a coronavirus vaccine. According to a global survey in the journal Nature, respondents from China gave the highest proportion of positive responses when asked if they would take a “proven, safe and effective vaccine.”

Credit…Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

Drawing lessons from the sweeping global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Red Cross said on Tuesday that the world’s governments should show the same commitment in their efforts to deal with the impacts of climate change.

“Covid-19 has demonstrated that humanity has the capacity to recognize and respond to a global crisis, finding resources where none seemed available,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in its annual World Disasters Report.

The climate change threat has not abated during the pandemic. In fact, in many ways it has compounded the difficulties of people struggling to recover from natural disasters. The pandemic has diverted resources from disaster response, while lockdowns, social distancing and other measures to contain the spread of the virus have slowed evacuations and impeded relief efforts, the report said.

“Climate change is not waiting for Covid-19 to be brought under control,” it said. “Many people are being directly affected by the pandemic and climate-driven disasters all at once.”

The pandemic presents an opportunity to “look directly into the face of the climate crisis” and seriously prepare. Describing the shortfall in climate funding as “almost trivial” compared with the multibillion-dollar stimulus packages that have been crafted in response to the virus, the report urged governments to craft pandemic relief packages that include investment in helping communities adapt to climate change.

According to the report, in the first six months of the pandemic there were more than 100 floods, heat waves and other natural disasters — most of them attributable to extreme weather or climate change — that affected more than 50 million people. They include flooding in Kenya, Somalia, India and Bangladesh.

More recently, a series of cyclones has affected millions of people in the Philippines, which has one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Southeast Asia.

In the Western Hemisphere, the pandemic has complicated evacuation efforts during the most active Atlantic storm season on record, with 30 named storms, 13 of which were hurricanes.

Though scientists are not sure whether climate change is increasing the number of hurricanes, they say it is making them stronger. The latest, Hurricane Iota, made landfall in Nicaragua on Monday night as a Category 4 storm, less than two weeks after Hurricane Eta hit almost the same spot.

Global Roundup

Credit…Pool photo by Tolga Akmen

For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this was supposed to be a critical week to reset his government after a tumultuous round of infighting that led to the abrupt ouster of his most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings.

Instead, Mr. Johnson began a 14-day quarantine in his Downing Street residence on Monday after being exposed to a member of Parliament who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The prime minister insisted he was “fit as a butcher’s dog” and was merely heeding the rules of Britain’s test-and-trace program. But Mr. Johnson’s enforced isolation will hobble his plan to regain momentum with public appearances and policy announcements after days of corrosive palace intrigue among his closest advisers.

The prime minister’s second close call with the virus — last April, he was hospitalized with a severe case of Covid-19 — deepens the sense of a government that cannot seem to get out of its own way.

Mr. Johnson’s exposure to the virus this time came during a meeting with Conservative lawmakers, one of whom, Lee Anderson, later developed symptoms and tested positive. A photo showed the two men standing barely three feet apart — neither wearing a mask — which raised questions about whether Downing Street practices proper social distancing, even after the outbreak that infected Mr. Johnson in March.

As a recovered patient, Mr. Johnson said his body was “bursting with antibodies.” He did not broach the risk of re-infection, which, while possible, is rare.

During his self-isolation Mr. Johnson plans to work from his apartment, which is above 11 Downing Street. He will also have access to his office at No. 10 next door without walking through parts of the building where others work.

Mr. Johnson will maintain a full schedule of events, conducted remotely, and hopes to use a video link to take part in Prime Minister’s Questions, his weekly grilling by the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons.

In other developments around the world:

  • The authorities in South Australia have ordered 4,000 people to quarantine as the Australian state reported five new cases of the virus on Tuesday. The outbreak in the capital city of Adelaide was traced to a worker at a hotel where coronavirus patients are quarantined.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The pandemic didn’t arrive in the far northern Canadian territory of Nunavut until early this month. On Monday, the premier of the vast but sparsely populated Arctic region imposed a two-week shutdown of most businesses, schools and events after the number of confirmed cases reached 26.

The cases are in three communities, but officials said on Monday that they feared the virus might have already spread to other places in the territory.

“Think of it as a circuit breaker, a chance to reset,” Joe Savikataaq, the premier, said. “No one is above the rules here. Let’s make this clear, so there’s no misunderstanding.”

The limited medical resources in the territory mean that patients requiring sophisticated treatments must be flown south. One person infected in the current outbreak was evacuated to a hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, about 900 miles away. That person has since been released and is recovering.

Contact tracing has yet to establish the source of the first known case in the territory, on Nov. 6. Until then, Nunavut had been the only region in Canada left untouched by the pandemic. Canada, a country of 38 million people, has had a total of about 300,000 coronavirus cases and 11,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Credit…Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Australians have a long tradition of shortening words and ending them with an “o,” such as “arvo” for afternoon and “servo” for gas or service stations. Now a new abbreviation has joined the Australian English lexicon: “iso.”

Short for “self-isolation,” it has come to be used as a catchall for Australia’s self-isolation measures during the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from quarantine to statewide lockdowns. On Tuesday, the Australian National Dictionary Center said it had been named word of the year.

“Our fondness for abbreviating words in Australia, and a natural human inclination to make the unknown and scary familiar, quickly saw the descriptive term ‘self-isolation’ shortened to ‘iso’ in March this year,” the center’s senior researcher, Mark Gwynn, said in a statement.

He said the word was “linguistically productive” in that it can be combined with other words to describe pandemic life. For example, a bad self-inflicted haircut could be called an “iso cut,” while weight gain during lockdown may be referred to as “iso kilos.”

This year’s shortlist was dominated by coronavirus-related words, including “bubble,” referring to the “household bubble” system in which Melbourne residents on lockdown were allowed to socialize with only one other household, as well as the “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand, both of which have largely brought the virus under control. Other shortlisted words included “Covid-normal,” the phase of reopening in which all restrictions are lifted, and “Black Summer,” the commonly used name for the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019-20.

In Britain, “lockdown” was named Collins English Dictionary’s word of the year. Some other words on the shortlist: “coronavirus,” “self-isolate” and “Tiktoker.”





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