Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

The F.D.A. chief confirms his agency’s willingness to approve a vaccine before human trials are complete.

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who has been under pressure from the White House to speed coronavirus treatments, said in a newspaper interview that his agency would be willing to approve a coronavirus vaccine before Phase 3 clinical trials were complete if the agency found it “appropriate” to do so.

Dr. Hahn told the newspaper that a vaccine developer could apply for approval before the end of Phase 3 clinical trials, which are the largest and most rigorous, but that the agency would make “a science, medicine, data decision” and might issue emergency authorization for use for particularly vulnerable groups rather than a blanket approval.

“This is not going to be a political decision,” he said.

Dr. Hahn’s comments, published online on Sunday by The Financial Times, were not his first indication that the agency could fast-track a vaccine under the right circumstances, which would not be out of line with the agency’s standard protocols. But the interview came at the end of a particularly turbulent week for the F.D.A.

Last weekend, after President Trump criticized the agency for moving too slowly to develop vaccines and treatments and accused it of being part of the “deep state,” Dr. Hahn appeared with Mr. Trump at a news conference where they made erroneous claims that overstated the benefits of plasma treatments for Covid-19, prompting a wave of scientific disbelief and criticism.

Dr. Hahn later corrected the misleading claims. On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the F.D.A., terminated the contract of a public relations consultant who had advised Dr. Hahn to issue the correction, and the F.D.A.’s chief spokeswoman, who had been on the job for just 11 days, was removed from her position.

Last week, The Times reported that, on July 30, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, that a vaccine would probably be given emergency approval before the end of Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States, perhaps as early as late September.

The account was based on information from two people briefed on the discussion, who said that Mr. Meadows indicated would likely be the one being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which is now undergoing Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. However, senior administration officials disputed the account, saying Mr. Meadows and Mr. Mnuchin were either being misrepresented or had been misunderstood.

Last week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, told The Times of London that three vaccines candidates focused on by Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s effort speed vaccine development, were lined up for testing and that getting results by November or December was “a safe bet.” He also said that “It is conceivable that we would get an answer before that.”

An independent advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Oct. 22 to discuss vaccines in development, but Dr. Hahn has said the agency was prepared to “rapidly” schedule additional meetings once a vaccine application is submitted.

More than 180,000 people in the United States have died of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. But President Trump retweeted multiple messages overnight and Sunday morning by people embracing fringe conspiracy theories claiming the death toll has been grossly exaggerated.

The reposted messages, decidedly at odds with government and other tallies, assert that the virus’s real death toll is only around 9,000 — not 182,000 — because many of those who died also had other health issues and most were of an advanced age.

“So get this straight — based on the recommendation of doctors Fauci and Birx the US shut down the entire economy based on 9,000 American deaths to the China coronavirus,” said the summary of a story by the hard-line conservative website Gateway Pundit that was retweeted by the president, assailing his own health advisers, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Deborah L. Birx.

In fact, experts say, the official estimate of deaths may actually undercount mortality attributable to Covid-19. The more accurate figure may well exceed 200,000, according to an analysis by The Times earlier this month.

There were at least 871 new coronavirus deaths and 44,639 new cases reported in the United States on Aug. 29, according to a database maintained by the The Times. Over the past week, there have been an average of 41,924 cases per day, a decrease of 4 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

Total cases in the United States are nearing 6 million. Worldwide, the caseload has passed 25 million.

In an apparent contradiction, Mr. Trump also retweeted a message calling for New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, to be imprisoned because of the high death toll from the virus in nursing homes in the state. “#KillerCuomo should be in jail,” said the message by the actor James Woods, a strong supporter of the president.

The tweets were part of more than 80 presidential tweets and retweets, many of them inflammatory comments or assertions about violent clashes in Portland, Ore., where a man wearing the hat of a far-right, pro-Trump group was shot and killed Saturday after a large group of Mr. Trump’s supporters gathered in the streets.

Five months after shutting down the subway in New Delhi, India is reopening the city’s underground rail network, even as the country continues to set global records for the greatest number of new daily confirmed cases.

India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, is loosening some restrictions in parts of the country while adding others aimed at thwarting the virus.

“This is good news,” said Anuradha Raman, a college student in New Delhi. “But people are also scared, because we don’t follow social distance guidelines here.”

India imposed one of the world’s most severe lockdowns in late March, but as an ailing economy started sharply contracting, officials lifted some of the restrictions.

The country reported 78,761 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, setting a global record for the third time in recent days. Until this past week, the United States had held the record for a single-day increase in cases, 75,682 on July 16.

Indian officials say the steep rise in confirmed infections is partly explained by an increase in testing. More than 60,000 Indians have died from Covid-19.

Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi’s chief minister, said he was glad the subway, which is used by 2.6 million commuters a day, was resuming service. But the capital also reported 1,954 new cases on Saturday, its largest daily tally in 50 days.

It was not clear whether subways in other cities will also resume service.

While sports events and religious festivals have been allowed with restrictions on attendance, the country’s schools will remain closed until the end of September.

Other coronavirus developments around the world:

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand thanked residents of Auckland, the country’s largest city, as they prepared to come out of lockdown at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. She also encouraged residents to wear masks in public and remain vigilant. “Our system is only as good as our people, and our people are amazing,” she said. The city had been on lockdown since Aug. 12 as it tries to contain a cluster that has grown to 135 cases, including two reported on Sunday.

SUNY Oneonta, part of the State University of New York system, learned of the outbreak after it began testing 3,000 students and faculty members, following “several large parties” and positive tests for 20 people on campus. Fall classes at the school began on Monday.

Around the country, many colleges are finding outbreaks in their student dormitories.

After several cases were discovered at Baylor University in Texas, students living on two floors of one residence, Martin Hall, were ordered not to leave their floors for four days while the university carried out coronavirus testing and contact tracing.

“Since Thursday, we have seen an increase from five positive Covid-19 cases to 21 positives on these two floors as of Saturday,” the university said in a letter to students and parents. “We will evaluate the need for stricter quarantine if evidence suggests that such action is necessary.”

Concern over the potential for campus outbreaks has some colleges turning to innovative approaches to detecting and preventing infections. The schools are testing wastewater, deploying health-check apps and developing versions of homegrown contact technologies that log students’ movements and exposure risks. They are experimenting with test methods that might yield faster results and be easier to administer than those now in widest use.

At more than 15 dormitories and on-campus apartment buildings at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, sewage is being tested twice weekly for genetic evidence of virus shed in feces.

This provides a kind of early-warning system for an outbreak, limiting the need to test every student for the coronavirus. If the virus is found in the sewage, individual tests can be administered to identify the source.

“It’s noninvasive,” said Enid Cardinal, a senior adviser to R.I.T.’s president. The school is among a half-dozen colleges in upstate New York adopting similar technology, which was first introduced by Syracuse University. At the University of Arizona, officials said such tests had led to the discovery that several students in a dorm were infected.

“Wastewater,” Ms. Cardinal quipped. “My new favorite topic.”

Also, on Thursday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that it would spend $82 million over five years to create 11 centers in which American and foreign scientists would collaborate to hunt emerging diseases.

“Yes, it’s like Predict, but it wasn’t the cancellation of Predict that inspired it,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the N.I.A.I.D.’s director.

Many Olympic sports lost their primary showcase with the postponement of this year’s Tokyo Games. The annual international circuit for dozens of sports were also disrupted. Some athletes, their motivation sagging, decided to throw in the towel and resume serious training in the fall.

But not everyone.

On July 18, after driving 10 hours to compete in one of the rare track meets held this summer, Crouser unleashed the best throw of his life — 75 feet 2 inches, or 22.91 meters — which tied for the fourth-best throw of all time.

He is one of many athletes who have performed as well as or better than ever despite the complications of the last several months. They say they feel refreshed by increased rest, less exhaustive travel, enhanced focus on training, healed injuries, creative improvisation and a less stressful perspective.

Claire Curzan, 16, an Olympic swimming hopeful from Raleigh, N.C., said it had been “almost a relief” when the Tokyo Games were postponed. After posting a top-20 time in the world last year in the 100-meter butterfly and reaching the medal podium at the world junior championships, she said she felt pressure to make the Olympic team “to make everyone proud.”

Yet when her club pool shut down in March, Curzan was forced to rethink her approach. She improvised her workouts, ran to maintain her stamina, and began focusing on improvement instead of international rankings. And perhaps most important, she slept at least nine hours per night instead of six or seven.

After resuming her usual workouts, Curzan posted four personal-best times at an intrasquad meet.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Tess Felder, Abby Goodnough, Matthew Haag, Thomas Kaplan, Sharon Lafraniere, Jeré Longman, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Roni Caryn Rabin, Alan Rappeport, Matt Richtel, James B. Stewart, Abby Goodnough, Sameer Yasir and Mihir Zaveri.

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