Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Coronavirus Briefing: Vacation stigma - The New York Times

Hurricane Laura slammed into the Louisiana and Texas coasts overnight, sending residents in areas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic scrambling to find shelter. The hurricane was among the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S., and more than 500,000 residents in its path were urged to leave their homes.

The challenge facing officials was immense: evacuate and house thousands of residents, quickly, while also protecting them from the coronavirus.

In Texas, many traditional shelters, which were running at lower capacity to allow for social distancing, had filled up by Wednesday morning, The Texas Tribune reported. Across the region, evacuees were instead urged to book hotel and motel rooms as a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the coronavirus.

In many ways, the virus changed the calculus for those weighing the decision to evacuate or hunker down. The risk of catching Covid-19 has made people less likely to evacuate in the event of a hurricane, reported Bloomberg. Others in Laura’s path simply did not have the means to escape because their livelihoods were eviscerated when the economy cratered. And those infected before the storm hit have found it difficult to find accommodations willing to host them.

As of this evening the storm continues to plow through Louisiana, and once it passes, the virus will be harder to track there. Louisiana, one of the states most ravaged by the pandemic, closed its testing sites ahead of the storm. Gov. John Bel Edwards said it would be difficult to get them running again because of the damage from the storm and staffing issues.

Rebuilding looks equally difficult.

Vernon Pierce, who coordinates nonprofit aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit the region in 2017, told The Texas Tribune that he was worried people might be weary of donating cleaning supplies or volunteering to fix damaged homes.

The pandemic, he said, “is going to make it harder to bring people in to help.”

Around 35 vaccines are speeding through human clinical trials, and experts predict that the first vaccines could become available as early as the beginning of next year. Behind those front-runners, more than 60 candidates are preparing to enter trials in the coming year.

With so many promising vaccines so much further along, why would researchers start trials at a time when the world may already have a viable vaccine — possibly even a few of them?

Our colleague Carl Zimmer, who covers science, told us that these slow and steady scientists are betting they can make stronger and cheaper vaccines.

“We don’t know if any of the vaccines that are in clinical trials actually work,” Carl told us. “And the fact that they got into clinical trials quickly does not mean that they’re going to turn out to be the best.”

Many of the leading candidates use a similar approach, and the slower scientists worry that we may be putting too many eggs in one basket. So research groups are designing vaccines that use different approaches, like nanoparticles or T cells. They’re trying new delivery methods, such as nasal sprays, or developing vaccines that they hope can protect people for longer.

The world may also need billions of doses, and some researchers believe their vaccines can meet the demand — and at a fraction of the cost.

“It’s possible that the first wave of vaccines is a luxury good that only wealthy nations can afford,” Carl told us. “And meanwhile, there can be other vaccines that are going to be effective, maybe even more effective, and they’re going to be super cheap.”

  • The governor of Iowa has ordered bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries and nightclubs to close in six counties starting this evening, amid a spike in cases.

  • South Korea reported 441 new cases today, its highest daily tally since early March. The government has pointed the finger at doctors on strike and churches’ obstruction of epidemiological efforts.

  • A lockdown was extended in the Gaza Strip as the densely populated territory faces its first outbreak of community-transmitted cases.

  • The virus has infiltrated remote island territories of India in the Bay of Bengal, where members of a vulnerable aboriginal tribe have been infected.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

I love going to the city park. Unfortunately, many parks in Jakarta, especially near my home, are mostly closed during this pandemic. Some friends from Europe, Singapore and Australia know this and they, from time to time, video call me when they take a walk, so I can talk to them and see the park virtually as if I were there.

— Lia Zakiyyah, Jakarta, Indonesia

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