Coronavirus Live Updates: Moderna and N.I.H. Begin Vaccine Trial


Republicans seek to slash expiring jobless payments by two-thirds as part of $1 trillion recovery bill.

Republicans are seeking a $400-per-week reduction in unemployment benefits in their $1 trillion economic recovery package, initially lowering the extra federal payments for tens of millions of jobless Americans from $600 to $200, according to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

The proposal to slash the jobless aid by two-thirds, part of a Republican plan they began rolling out on Monday afternoon, is likely to be among the most bitterly contested issues in bipartisan negotiations over the next round of pandemic relief. Democrats support a $3 trillion package that includes extending the $600-per-week federal payments, which expire on Friday, through the end of the year.

Many Republicans detest the supplement to state jobless aid, put in place by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law, arguing that it is a disincentive to returning to work because it exceeds what some workers can earn in regular wages. The Republican proposal, which has badly divided the party, envisions eventually shifting to a new system of calculating benefits that would cap payments at about 70 percent of a worker’s prior income, which would also amount to about $200 per week.

It also proposes another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans.

In a nod to the long odds of striking a deal before the benefits expire on Friday, administration officials continue to float the prospect of speeding through a much narrower bill that would extend extra jobless aid, provide funding for schools and enact new liability shields for operating businesses.

But Democrats have rejected that idea, saying it would sap momentum for other crucial relief measures.

“We have stood ready to negotiate for more than two months,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Monday, calling on Republican leadership and White House officials “to come to the Speaker’s Office and join Leader Schumer and me within a half an hour of releasing their plan today to negotiate and get the job done.”

“If Republicans care about working families, this won’t take long,” she said. “Time is running out. Congress cannot go home without an agreement.”

Even as the virus rages across much of the nation, forcing many states to slow or reverse their reopenings, President Trump said Monday that more states should be opening up.

During a visit to a North Carolina biotechnology lab, Mr. Trump boasted that progress toward a vaccine is “substantially ahead of schedule” and that a breakthrough would lead to a “tremendous” economic recovery.

In the next breath, Mr. Trump complained that “a lot of the governors should be opening up states that they’re not opening, and we’ll see what happens with them.”

It was something of a return to form for Mr. Trump, who has long pressed states to reopen, downplaying the threat of the virus, but who had seemed to shift last week when he declared at the White House that the virus “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

But on Monday Mr. Trump also urged Americans to “especially focus on maintaining social distance, maintaining rigorous hygiene, avoid large gatherings and crowded into our bars and wear masks, when appropriate.” And he then donned a mask himself for a subsequent tour of the lab facility, where researchers are making components for a potential vaccine.

Mr. Trump spoke after the White House announced that his national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, had tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the most senior White House official known to have contracted the virus. In a statement, the White House said that Mr. O’Brien “has mild symptoms” and is working remotely from “a secure location off site.”

Federal health officials issue guidelines and make recommendations, but state and local officials do not always follow them. Mr. Trump has been dismissive of or slow to promote some federal recommendations — it took weeks for him to appear in a mask after health experts called for face coverings — and suggested on Monday that more governors should reopen.

As Kentucky officials weighed new restrictions, Dr. Birx said over the weekend that the leaders of nearby states should consider doing the same by closing bars again and issuing restrictions on public gatherings “to really make it possible to control the pandemic before it gets worse.”

Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said Monday that the state’s bars would have to close again to slow the spread, about a month after they had reopened. He also reduced the legal restaurant capacity from 50 percent to 25 percent, and issued an informal recommendation that schools wait until the third week of August to resume in-person classes.

Kentucky had already implemented two other recommendations put forward by Dr. Birx: requiring face masks for public indoor spaces, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people. “I don’t want to be a state where casket makers are running out,” Mr. Beshear said.

States in the South and Midwest are facing the prospect of shutting down parts of their economies again to try to stem the virus, which the Trump administration and many governors have increasingly been forced to recognize as unrelenting. Florida has surpassed New York, an early center of the pandemic in the United States when testing was scarce, in the number of known cases. And on Monday, Oklahoma broke another state record for single-day cases, with 1,244.

And despite increased testing capacity across the nation, there is a consensus among federal state and local officials that test results are taking too long.

One of the first large studies of safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States began on Monday, according to the National Institutes of Health and the biotech company Moderna, which collaborated to develop the vaccine.

The first shot was given to a person at 6:45 a.m., Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infections disease expert, told reporters.

The study, a Phase 3 clinical trial, will enroll 30,000 healthy people at about 89 sites around the country. Half will receive two shots of the vaccine, 28 days apart, and half will receive two shots of a saltwater placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the medical staff giving the injections will know who is getting the real vaccine.

Dr. Fauci estimated that the trial’s full enrollment of 30,000 will be completed by the end of the summer, and that results might be available by November. Even earlier results might be possible, he said, but added that he doubted that would be the case.

At the news briefing, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said that at least three other Phase 3 trials would be starting soon, each needing 30,000 patients. Those trials will involve vaccines made by Novavax, by a collaboration of the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, and by Johnson & Johnson. All are part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed.

A fourth vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, is also expected to start Phase 3 this month, but is not part of that program, Dr. Collins said.

The doctor who supplied the data for two discredited Covid studies had a history of cutting corners and misrepresenting information as he pursued his ambitions, former colleagues say.

In May, Dr. Sapan Desai published two high-profile studies, including one that found that anti-malaria drugs promoted by President Trump had harmed patients being treated for Covid-19. The study almost instantly disrupted multiple clinical trials amid the pandemic. (The Food and Drug Administration said that hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be safe and effective and should not be used outside clinical trials.)

Last month, both studies were retracted by the medical journals that had published them, after researchers around the world suggested the data was dubious. Dr. Desai, who declined to share the raw data even with his co-authors, claimed it was culled from a massive trove acquired by Surgisphere, a business he started during his residency.

The New York Times interviewed more than two dozen people who have known Dr. Desai over the past two decades. He has cast himself as an ambitious physician, an entrepreneur with an M.B.A. and a prolific researcher published in medical journals.

But more than a dozen doctors who worked with him during training and residency said they had often found him to be an unreliable physician, who seemed less interested in patient care than in his company and a medical journal he founded.

“You couldn’t trust what he said,” said Dr. Vanessa Olcese, a former chief resident who worked with Dr. Desai at Duke University Medical Center.

In strongly worded remarks on Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, said that of the six global health emergencies that the agency has declared, the coronavirus “is easily the most severe.”

In a prepared statement, Dr. Ghebreyesus defended the organization’s track record, citing the early warnings and guidance it has provided during the pandemic. Critics including Mr. Trump have accused it of being slow to sound the alarm.

Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that the W.H.O. declared the virus a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30, when there were fewer than 100 known cases and no known deaths outside China. The organization mobilized $1 billion from member states, and convened hundreds of experts to advise on research and response, he said.

“Although our world has changed, the fundamental pillars of the response have not: political leadership, and informing, engaging and listening to communities,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said.

Countries that have applied these measures diligently, like New Zealand and Thailand, have avoided large outbreaks, or, like Canada and Germany, have succeeded in bringing outbreaks under control.

“The bottom line is that one of the most fundamental ingredients for stopping this virus is determination, and the willingness to make hard choices to keep ourselves and each other safe,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. He added that the pandemic “has shown what humans are capable of, both positively and negatively.”

U.S. ROUNDUP

Google’s employees will work from home until mid-2021.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, told employees Monday that they would not be expected back in the office until mid-2021.

The company’s work force, which has been working remotely since March, had previously been told to expect a return to offices in January 2021.

A Google spokesman said: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”

Technology companies moved quickly with work-from-home policies, and have been reluctant to bring workers back too early. In May, Facebook said it would allow many employees to work from home permanently.

In other developments around the United States:

The carefully tended grapes of France are condemned to become hand gel after the wine markets collapse.

Across France, thousands of winemakers, famous and obscure, are facing moments of heartbreak.

The economic crisis, combined with the Trump administration’s 25 percent tax on French wines in the trade war dispute with Europe, has collapsed the wine market.

So some of the succulent wine for which France is famous will wind up as hand sanitizer.

The precocious 2020 harvest, blessed by abundant sunshine, is barely a month away. The wine vats must be emptied for the new production. The distillery is the only option.

“We’re producing more than we can sell,” said Thibaut Specht, a winemaker in Alsace. “We have no choice.”

Marion Borès’s family business, Domaine Borès, in Reichsfeld, is sending off half its production — 320,000 liters — to a distiller for conversion into alcohol for sanitizer. “It’s like you are saying goodbye to somebody who is very dear to you,” she said.

North Korea said on Sunday that the North Korean man was “suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus” and could be the country’s first case. And the reverse defection prompted the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to order a total lockdown of Kaesong, a border city of 300,000, and declare a “maximum” national emergency.

Until Sunday, North Korea had ​repeatedly ​said that it had no Covid-19 cases. The claim was questioned by outside experts.

South Korea officials could not say whether the man might have ​carried the virus across the border.

In other news from around the world:

  • Vietnam, which on Saturday broke a streak of 100 days without a local virus transmission, will evacuate 80,000 people from the central city of Danang after four residents there tested positive this weekend.

  • Hong Kong will prohibit dining in restaurants, limit public gatherings to two people and require mask-wearing in public at all times, officials said on Monday, reacting to a spike in coronavirus cases. The territory reported 145 cases on Monday, its highest single-day count since the pandemic began.

  • Belgium’s prime minister reinstated strict social-distancing rules on Monday, saying she was taking aggressive steps to avoid another lockdown. She ordered Belgians not to socialize with more than five people and restricted all shopping visits to 30 minutes. Such measures were in place this spring, as Belgium was just emerging from a strict lockdown. Belgium’s infection numbers remain small but are increasing quickly, particularly in the second-largest city, Antwerp.

  • The health minister of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Dr. Jesus Grajeda, died nearly two weeks after being hospitalized with Covid-19, Reuters reported. Announcing the death on Sunday on Facebook, Chihuahua’s governor expressed “profound sadness.”

A university’s reopening plans are upended by a cluster of virus cases in its staff.

The surge in coronavirus infections in Missouri has temporarily shut down Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, less than a month before the fall semester was set to begin, because of a cluster of reported infections among campus employees.

Harris-Stowe, a historically black university that enrolled 1,620 students last year, conducted all its summer classes online this year, so there were few students and faculty members on the campus. But a smattering of other university employees have been working there since May, and the city of St. Louis and the surrounding county have been reporting high rates of infection.

Some of the eight administrative employees at the university who tested positive this month were working remotely at the time they notified the school, but all were assigned to offices in the same building, according to a spokeswoman for the university, Alandrea Stewart.



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