Covid-19 News Live Updates: Vaccines and Antibody Treatment – The New York Times

ImageDr. Francis Collins was appointed to the National Institutes of Health’s top post by President Barack Obama.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the National Institutes of Health director who has led the agency through three presidential administrations and has been an outspoken advocate for coronavirus vaccines, said on Tuesday that he would step down from his post by the end of the year.

Dr. Collins, 71, was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama after more than a decade leading the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of the N.I.H.

A geneticist by training, Dr. Collins endorsed President Biden’s decision this summer to require federal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and has said that businesses asking employees for proof of vaccination or regular testing were taking steps “in the right direction.”

“I think anything we can do to encourage reluctant folks to get vaccinated — because they’ll want to be part of these public events — that’s a good thing,” Dr. Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union” in August.

As the pandemic raged in the summer of 2020, Dr. Collins testified on Capitol Hill that a vaccine would not be made available in the United States unless it was safe and effective, pushing back against President Donald J. Trump’s assertions that a vaccine would be ready by Election Day.

“Certainly, to try to predict whether it happens on a particular week before or after a particular date in early November is well beyond anything that any scientist right now could tell you and be confident they know what they are saying,” Dr. Collins told a Senate panel at a hearing in September 2020.

Credit…Ting Shen for The New York Times

AstraZeneca said on Tuesday that it had asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency authorization for an antibody treatment to prevent Covid-19 in people who are at high risk of the disease. If authorized, it would become the first such preventive treatment to be available in the United States, the company said.

The company said in a statement that the treatment had reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by 77 percent in a trial in which most participants either had other medical conditions that placed them at greater risk of severe illness or were not producing sufficient antibodies after vaccination.

It said the treatment could be used in conjunction with vaccines in people with weaker immune systems. Other antibody treatments in use in the United States, including one developed by the drug maker Regeneron, have mainly been used to treat people who are already infected with the coronavirus.

“Vulnerable populations such as the immunocompromised often aren’t able to mount a protective response following vaccination and continue to be at risk of developing Covid-19,” Mene Pangalos, an executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said in a statement. “With this first global regulatory filing, we are one step closer to providing an additional option to help protect against Covid-19 alongside vaccines.”

An F.D.A. authorization would raise the fortunes of AstraZeneca, whose coronavirus vaccine, which is in use in numerous countries, has not been authorized in the United States.

Antibody treatments have gained greater attention in recent months as an alternative, if expensive, tool against Covid-19 in the United States, particularly by some who have shunned vaccines. The Biden administration has emphasized that vaccinations are the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but has urged state and local health officials to make antibody therapy — which the federal government covers at a per-dose cost of roughly $2,100 — more widely available.

The AstraZeneca treatment is one of several in a class of therapies known as monoclonal antibodies, which introduce lab-made, disease-fighting proteins into the bodies of patients, usually through an infusion.

Last month, a World Health Organization panel endorsed the use of Regeneron’s antibody treatment in high-risk Covid-19 patients, while the health agency urged the company and its partner, the Swiss manufacturer Roche, to lower the cost of the therapy and make it more widely available.

Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus death toll could now amount to a government payout of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The country’s Supreme Court has ordered India’s disaster management agency to pay 50,000 rupees, about $671, to families of people who have died from Covid. India’s official toll from the pandemic is 449,260, although experts estimate that the true number of Covid deaths is several times higher. Even that smaller number would suggest payouts amounting to about $300 million.

The number of families applying for compensation could quickly balloon, because the government has expanded the definition of what qualifies as a Covid-19 death to anyone who died within 30 days of a positive RT-PCR test or clinical examination confirming the infection.

“This is a herculean task for the government,” said Gaurav Kumar Bansal, the lawyer who brought the litigation to India’s top court.

India’s National Disaster Management Act stipulates that government compensation of 400,000 rupees, about $5,400, should be given to families who lose relatives in typhoons, floods and other disasters.

Millions of India’s 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line, and the Supreme Court order, issued on Monday, came in response to public interest litigation, a type of case in India that is brought on behalf of the public at large rather than by any specific plaintiff.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government declared the pandemic a disaster in March 2020, a move that gave it power to impose a strict nationwide lockdown.

Mr. Bansal said the disaster declaration should also have led to compensation payments being made.

“We challenged them to pick and choose,” he said. “If it is notified as a disaster, then all provisions of the Disaster Management Act will apply.”

The government offered $671 per death. The Supreme Court, which factored in the agency’s other costs, agreed.

Anirudh Singh Rathore, 60, a garment trader in the capital, New Delhi, lost his wife to India’s ferocious second wave last spring. He has applied online for compensation through the Delhi government, but he is doubtful that the money will arrive.

“Such compensation is not easy to take from the government,” he said. “It is very easy to announce but difficult to get.”

Credit…Lukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock

Australia and New Zealand moved closer on Tuesday to fully reopening their economies in the coming months, with leaders in both countries outlining steps to allow people vaccinated against the coronavirus to move more freely.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia could allow vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country in 2022 at the earliest, even as it prioritizes travel by its own inoculated citizens and permanent residents.

Skilled migrants and students who are vaccinated would then be allowed in, he said in an interview on Channel Seven, reaffirming plans announced in recent days.

“We will get to international visitors as well — I believe next year,” Mr. Morrison said. “The priority is Australians.”

The prime minister’s comments were the firmest assurances of when the island nation may reopen to the world, having closed its borders in March 2020. Millions of Australians have since endured lengthy lockdowns and strict border policies during the course of the pandemic.

Mr. Morrison said on Friday that an international travel ban would be lifted by mid-November as national vaccination rates continue to rise. As of Tuesday, 67 percent of Australians had received a first vaccine dose and 46 percent were fully vaccinated, according to figures compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

In neighboring New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that people would be required to use a national vaccine certificate to get into “high-risk settings” like summer music festivals.

The certificate, which is expected to be introduced in November, will be a document that people can show in a digital form or download and print out.

New Zealand’s government is still finalizing where certificates will be used beyond large-scale events, though restaurants and bars are one possibility, Ms. Ardern said at a news conference. They will not be required for shopping in supermarkets or receiving health care, she added.

Ms. Ardern urged people in the country to get vaccinated before the passes became a requirement. “It’s one of the best ways we can ensure that summer plans can go ahead uninterrupted,” she said. “It will help us to keep people safe.”

“To be fully vaccinated and fully protected and enjoy the things you love,” she added, “you need to be vaccinated — this month, not in December.”

The plan follows in the footsteps of countries like France and Israel, which have used similar passes to manage access to cafes, restaurants and other services.

New Zealand also said this week that because of an outbreak of the Delta variant in Auckland that has proved impossible to suppress, the country would move away from a zero-Covid plan that has allowed residents to live with few restrictions throughout the pandemic.

As of Monday, nearly 80 percent of people age 12 and up in New Zealand had received one Covid vaccine dose and about 48 percent had received two doses.

Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines said on Monday that it would require all of its more than 54,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the first week in December to remain employed.

Gary Kelly, the company’s chief executive, said that the budget carrier needed to follow competitors, including United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue, in requiring shots for its employees. The company has contracts with the federal government, which now requires all employees at federal contractors be vaccinated.

The airline industry was hard hit during the pandemic as borders closed, tourism evaporated and remote working kept business travelers at home. In recent months, it has seen an uptick in business as more people get vaccinated and travel restrictions are relaxed around the globe.

United Airlines mandated vaccines for its 67,000 U.S.-based employees in August. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have since made similar announcements.

Southwest employees must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or “be approved for a religious, medical or disability accommodation” the company said.

Credit…Sonny Tumbelaka/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Indonesia will allow international flights to begin landing at the airport on Bali island next week as it weighs reopening the country to foreign tourists for the first time in more than 18 months.

International carriers from countries including China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates could resume flights to Bali on Oct. 14, Luhut Pandjaitan, a top minister in the cabinet of President Joko Widodo, said on Monday.

Under the current rules, eligible passengers would include Indonesian citizens as well as foreigners with a work permit or business visa. They would be subject to eight days quarantine at a hotel at their own expense.

Bali is Indonesia’s most important tourist destination, and closing the island to foreign tourists has devastated the tourism industry, leading to tens of thousands of people losing their jobs. Indonesia has been the Southeast Asian nation hit hardest by Covid, with nearly 143,000 deaths. It reached a peak of nearly 57,000 cases a day in July, though the number of infections has dropped sharply since then.

Foreign tourists have been barred from entering Indonesia since April of last year, and international flights have been allowed to land only in Jakarta, the capital, and the city of Manado on Sulawesi island.

Indonesia’s tourism minister, Sandiaga Uno, told reporters that reopening Bali’s airport to overseas flights would serve as a “trial opening of Bali for foreign tourists,” though he did not provide a timetable for their return. Domestic tourists are already allowed to visit.

Earlier he said that Indonesia was studying the example of Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox,” which allows vaccinated foreign tourists who test negative for Covid-19 to roam freely on Phuket island.

Taufan Yudhistira, a spokesman for Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, said the airport had not received specific instructions for the reopening but had begun readying the international terminal and preparing health protocols.

Credit…Stacey Brimer/Oshner Health

Louisiana’s largest nonprofit health care provider will increase its employees’ insurance fees next year if their spouses or domestic partners are not vaccinated against the coronavirus, the provider said.

Ochsner Health said in a letter to its employees last month that it was adding the extra charge — about $200 a month, starting next year — for unvaccinated spouses and domestic partners who are covered by the company’s insurance plan.

The letter said the move was an effort to “protect our entire Ochsner team, which includes employees, their families and the communities we serve.”

2,000 hospitalized

7–day average

724

About this data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

Warner Thomas, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a statement that spouses and domestic partners would be allowed to file for medical or religious exemptions to the policy.

“This is not a mandate,” he said, because spouses and domestic partners can switch insurance plans to avoid the new fee.

“The reality is the cost of treating Covid-19, particularly for patients requiring intensive inpatient care, is expensive,” he added.

Mr. Thomas said that about 90 percent of the company’s Covid patients since December had been unvaccinated. According to a New York Times analysis in August, fully vaccinated people accounted for as much as 5 percent of hospitalizations in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

In August, Ochsner said that its employees must be vaccinated by the end of this month. Around 70 percent of its employees were inoculated at the time the mandate was announced.

The provider’s decision to charge extra was similar to a policy implemented by Delta Air Lines, which said in August that starting on Nov. 1, it would charge any employee who remains unvaccinated an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health care plan.

Delta became the first large U.S. employer to embrace an idea that has been widely discussed but is mired in legal uncertainty: charging unvaccinated employees more for health insurance.

Insurance surcharges may appeal to companies that are seeking a less coercive means to increase vaccination rates, said Wade Symons, a partner at Mercer, a benefits consulting firm.

New infections in Louisiana on Sunday were less than a fifth of the amount in August, when the state reached a pandemic high, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are experiencing a similar trend.

The state authorities are still struggling to vaccinate people, however. Less than half of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to a Times database, which is below the nationwide average of 56 percent.

Credit…Suzy Allman for The New York Times

Lazar Hayward, a former N.B.A. player, was arrested in Hawaii last week for trying to enter the state with a fake negative Covid test, the authorities said.

Mr. Hayward, a first-round draft pick in 2010, and a woman he traveled with, Raven Randle had uploaded the fake documents onto Hawaii’s Safe Travels portal, the Kauai Police Department said in a statement on Facebook. The state requires unvaccinated travelers to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival unless they present a negative Covid test.

The pair were arrested on Sept. 28 soon after they had flown to Kauai from Los Angeles, the police said. They were immediately sent back to California.

The Safe Travels system flagged the tests, which were then investigated by the state’s Department of the Attorney General before the two were arrested, the statement said.

Mr. Hayward, 34, and Ms. Randle, 33, are due in court, but a date has not yet been set. Phone calls placed to a number listed as belonging to Mr. Hayward were not returned on Monday night.

Mr. Hayward, a standout player at Marquette University, was the 30th-overall pick in the 2010 N.B.A. draft. He spent three seasons in the league, where he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder before he was sent to the N.B.A.’s development league.

Mr. Hayward and Ms. Randle traveled to Hawaii despite the governor’s request in August that tourists stay away to ease the strain on hospitals.

New infections in the state on Sunday were less than a third of the amount a month ago, when the state reached a pandemic high, according to a New York Times database. Fifty-eight percent of the state’s residents who are eligible for vaccinations are fully inoculated, which is above the nationwide average of 56 percent.

Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

In Germany, where one in four jobs depends on exports, the crisis gumming up the world’s supply chains is weighing heavily on the economy, which is Europe’s largest and a linchpin for global commerce.

Recent surveys and data point to a sharp slowdown of the German manufacturing powerhouse, and economists have begun to predict a “bottleneck recession.”

Almost everything that German factories need to operate is in short supply: not just computer chips, but also plywood, copper, aluminum, plastics and raw materials like cobalt, lithium, nickel and graphite, which are crucial ingredients of electric car batteries.

More than 40 percent of German companies said they had lost sales because of supply problems in an August survey by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. Europewide, exports would have been 7 percent higher in the first six months of the year if not for supply bottlenecks, according to the European Central Bank.

While every economy in the world is suffering from shortages, Germany is particularly sensitive because of its dependence on manufacturing and trade. Nearly half of Germany’s economic output depends on exports of cars, machine tools and other goods, compared with 12 percent in the United States.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

In the chic Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo, more than 40 stores have closed during the pandemic. More than a quarter of the offices, once among the most desirable and expensive in New York City, are empty, the highest vacancy rate in Manhattan. The international tourists who fueled the area’s economy vanished a year and a half ago.

As New York climbs out of the depths of an economic free-fall, it has reached some major milestones lately. In-person classes have resumed at the city’s schools, Broadway theaters have reopened and 300,000 municipal workers have returned to their offices for the first time in 18 months.

But on SoHo’s cobblestone streets, the economic scars remain, a sign of how vulnerable New York is to a contagious disease that has unraveled an urban economy built on face-to-face interactions in offices, restaurants and stores.

Just a few years ago, SoHo was one of the world’s hottest retail districts, packed with luxury brands like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren that paid some of the highest rents in the country. Shoppers spent $3.1 billion in SoHo and neighboring NoHo in 2016, according to a report by HR & A Advisors, second only to Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in total retail revenue.

Almost overnight, the shoppers, notably those from overseas, evaporated.

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Covid-19 News Live Updates: Vaccines and Antibody Treatment – The New York Times

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