Researchers at Imperial College London are planning to deliberately infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus early next year as part of the world’s first effort to study how people immunized with different vaccines respond to controlled exposure to the virus.
The study, known as a human challenge trial, is scheduled to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London with 34 million pounds, or $44 million, of British government funding, the government announced on Tuesday.
Such a study could save time in the race to winnow down a large number of vaccine candidates.
Rather than testing vaccines the usual way — by waiting for vaccinated people to encounter the virus in their homes and communities — researchers would expose them to the virus in a controlled setting.
In the first stage of the study, scientists will try to determine the smallest doses of the virus required to infect people. The scientists will test gradually increasing doses of virus on up to 90 healthy volunteers from 18 to 30 years old until they reach a level that reliably infects them.
Once they have decided on a dose — potentially by late spring, the government said — researchers will begin to compare a set of coronavirus vaccine candidates by immunizing people and then deliberately infecting them. The government will decide which vaccines to test, but it has not announced them yet.
It is possible that by early next year, some of the vaccine candidates now undergoing trials will have already received approval.
But experts in medical ethics are divided over whether such a study is acceptable, largely because there is no highly effective treatment for Covid-19. The Imperial College London researchers said they would use the antiviral medicine remdesivir, but that drug has been found to have only modest benefit. Most other challenge trials have involved diseases like cholera and typhoid, which can be quickly and reliably cured with drugs.
Another concern is that the illness caused by the coronavirus is unpredictable, and although young people in general do not become gravely ill, there have been unexpected and unexplained cases of severe illness in young patients.
The trial will need approval from Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency before volunteers are enrolled, and it will be monitored by independent experts once it begins, the researchers said.
At least initially, the challenge trial will involve only young, healthy volunteers, meaning the findings may not fully apply to the people at greatest risk of severe illness from Covid-19 — older people and those with underlying health problems.
The researchers said volunteers would be compensated for their time taking part in the trial and their two to three weeks in quarantine following infection. About 2,000 people in Britain have expressed interest in taking part in challenge trials through an American group, 1Day Sooner, that advocates for such studies.
The trial will be run by Imperial College London together with hVivo, a company that specializes in human challenge trials. It will initially be held at a hospital in north London.
As the Trump administration has pressed publicly for top-speed development and approval of a coronavirus vaccine, allotting billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies, political leaders and public health experts have warned of the dangers of rushing the process.
That divide has only grown recently, as two of the country’s high-profile governors, Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California, revealed their caution about potential vaccines.
Mr. Newsom announced plans to form an independent panel in his state to review any federally approved vaccines before they are administered to residents. “Of course we won’t take anyone’s word for it,” he said in a news briefing Monday.
California’s new case rates have stayed relatively low, but in much of the rest of the country, the numbers are alarming: On Friday, according to a New York Times database, the United States reported at least 70,464 new cases, the highest figure since July 24. Over the past week, there has been an average of 56,655 cases per day, an increase of 30 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
Mr. Newsom’s announcement came after Mr. Cuomo said last month that New York would also review vaccines approved by the federal government — although Mr. Cuomo tied the move to doubts raised when President Trump suggested that he would reject tougher Food and Drug Administration guidelines. “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Recent surveys appear to show that the public shares the governors’ skepticism, with the idea of getting a vaccine as soon as it is available losing appeal for many Americans.
In a poll of likely voters conducted by The New York Times and Siena College, 33 percent said they would definitely or probably not take a vaccine after F.D.A. approval.
In a STAT-Harris poll of about 2,000 people, conducted Oct. 7-10 and published Monday, 58 percent of respondents said they would get vaccinated right away, down from 69 percent who said the same in August.
The decline was twice as steep among Black respondents: Just 43 percent said in October that they would get the vaccine, down from 65 percent in August.
Rob Jekielek, the managing director of The Harris Poll, which has been asking the question throughout the pandemic, said two news events appeared to have played a role in the decline: the back-and-forth between the F.D.A. and the White House over vaccine guidelines, and Mr. Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis and treatment.
President Trump attacked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as “a disaster” on Monday and said, despite signs that the nation was headed toward another coronavirus peak, that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus from “these idiots” in the government.
The broadside, during a conference call with campaign staff just two weeks before Election Day, was hardly the closing message Trump advisers were looking for. It threatened to focus the electorate squarely on the president’s coronavirus response and pitted him against Dr. Fauci, who as the nation’s top infectious disease expert is a career government scientist the public likes and trusts far more than Mr. Trump.
In increasingly vocal terms, Dr. Fauci has been separating himself from the White House and warning Americans to “hunker down” and brace for a difficult winter — a message at odds with Mr. Trump’s repeated, if false, assurances that the nation is “rounding the corner” on a pandemic that has claimed about 220,000 American lives.
“People are tired of Covid,” Mr. Trump complained on the call, which several reporters were invited into. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”
He added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”
Later Monday, at a campaign rally in Prescott, Ariz., Mr. Trump invoked Dr. Fauci as a way of ridiculing the coronavirus plan of his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Biden wants to lock it down. He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci,” the president said, referring to coronavirus-related restrictions on the economy. (Dr. Fauci, addressing a group of pathologists last week, said no one wants to “shut down the country again.”)
The Biden campaign, which has been emphasizing a promise to listen to science over politics, responded with relish: “Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: The American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus.”
In today’s edition of the Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt writes:
Let’s check in on the state of the coronavirus this morning, with help from three charts. Here’s the first:
As you can see, the number of new virus cases in the U.S. is surging — and not far from this summer’s peak. You’re probably familiar with versions of that blue line. It is the most common metric for tracking the virus.
The rising line mostly reflects reality: The virus is surging, especially in the Upper Midwest. Cooler weather is leading to more indoor activity, which often leads to new cases, and many Americans seem tired of pandemic restrictions.
But you’ll notice that the red line on the chart — the number of Americans currently hospitalized with virus complications — looks less bad. It has risen lately, but it is not close to its peak.
Why? Partly because the number of virus cases is not actually rising as much as the official case numbers suggest.
That brings us to chart No. 2:
The U.S. is conducting a lot more tests than in the summer or spring. More widespread testing means that the official numbers are capturing a larger share of new virus cases than earlier this year.
“We have probably gotten better at finding cases, as testing capacity has increased, and so we can’t directly compare the size of the waves based on case counts alone,” Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University told me. “That’s a good development.”
The third chart also suggests some encouraging news:
Even as case numbers have soared and hospitalizations have risen, deaths have held fairly steady.
That’s happened as many older people — who are most vulnerable — have been careful about avoiding exposure. A greater share of current new cases is among young Americans.
The quality of virus treatments is also improving. Remdesivir, dexamethasone and monoclonal antibodies all seem to help, as my colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. points out. Just consider how quickly both President Trump and Chris Christie recovered, despite their age and underlying health risks.
The full picture: There are some silver linings. The statistics on new virus cases that get so much attention are somewhat exaggerating the severity of the current outbreak, because of the rise in testing. And treatments have improved, reducing the death count.
But the virus’s toll has still been horrific — and worse than in many other countries. More than 220,000 Americans have died, and hundreds of people are still dying every day.
The overall situation is also getting worse, as the hospitalization numbers make clear. In some states, hospitals are almost full, and the virus continues to spread. “I’m just waiting to see if our community can change our behavior,” Debra Konitzer, the top health officer in Oconto County, Wis., recently said. “Otherwise, I don’t see the end in sight.”
As Donald McNeil says, “The fall wave has just begun.”
The government of Ireland announced a six-week lockdown beginning Wednesday night, becoming the first European country to reimpose a national lockdown.
The new measures, announced on Monday, are a dramatic U-turn for the government, which just two weeks ago fell short of imposing the highest level of restrictions despite advice from public health experts.
But Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach or leader of the government, said that with coronavirus infections on the rise across Europe and much of the world, Ireland could no longer avoid the strict measures, despite the potentially detrimental impact on the economy. He noted that, while recent restrictions appeared to have stemmed the spread of the virus, “evidence of a potential grave situation arriving in the weeks ahead is now too strong.”
“While we have slowed the spread the virus, this has not been enough and further action is required,” he said in a national address on Monday night.
Under the new restrictions, nonessential shops will be closed and people will be urged to stay at home, with the exception of exercise that must take place no more than three miles from home. Restaurants will be limited to takeout or delivery.
Meeting in private homes or yards will be banned as will larger gatherings — though there is an exemption for weddings and funerals with strict limitations on numbers. Schools and child-care services will remain open despite the restrictions, a move that Mr. Martin defended as being in the best interest of children.
He encouraged the nation to remain hopeful, even as new restrictions altered lives and livelihoods once again and the days grow shorter, adding that “even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light.”
“If we pull together over the last six weeks,” Mr. Martin told the nation, “we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California set a Tuesday deadline for a compromise stimulus deal that could be considered before the election.
She instructed key Democratic lawmakers on Monday to work with top Republicans to try to resolve critical differences holding up a broad agreement with the Trump administration.
The directive came after she and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, held their latest talks, speaking for nearly an hour by phone. The two “continued to narrow their differences,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi. He added that “the speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election.”
The odds of a last-minute deal remain long, with Democrats and the Trump administration still haggling over funding levels and policy issues. Even if they could agree, Senate Republicans have all but ruled out embracing a plan anywhere near as large as the more than $2 trillion package under discussion.
If such a deal were struck, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said the chamber would consider it, but he also made a point of scheduling two separate votes in the coming days on narrower bills of the kind senators in his party are more willing to accept. One would revive a lapsed federal loan program for small businesses and the other would provide $500 billion for schools, testing and expired unemployment benefits.
President Trump has insisted in recent days that he wants to spend more than the $2.4 trillion Ms. Pelosi has put forward in negotiations, and claimed he could easily cajole enough Senate Republicans into supporting an agreement of that size — a notion that many of them have told his top deputies would never happen.
In a private call with Democrats on Monday, Ms. Pelosi outlined a number of remaining areas of disagreement, including Democratic demands for hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for state and local governments, support for restaurants devastated by the pandemic and additional health provisions, according to a person on the call, who disclosed the details on condition of anonymity. Democrats also remain wary that the administration would spend the funds as Congress intended.
Still, Ms. Pelosi insisted she was optimistic a bargain could be reached and said she was intent on reaching one before a new Democratic administration began in January.
“I don’t want to carry over the droppings of this grotesque elephant into the next presidency,” Ms. Pelosi told her members. “We’ve got to get something big, and we’ve got to get it done soon and we’ve got to get it done right.”
The the second-largest public school system in California is overhauling its grading system in an attempt to address what its board of trustees said were “discriminatory practices” that have worsened during the pandemic.
The San Diego Unified School District, with about 105,000 students, said it would de-emphasize behavioral factors like classroom conduct, allow students to retake tests, and base each student’s final grade more on the student’s grasp of material at the end of the grading period, rather than on homework, quizzes or mid-term exams.
“We’re not getting rid of grades; we’re not eliminating homework; we’re not eliminating attendance as a responsibility for students,” said Richard Barrera, the vice president of the board. “But if a student gets a few bad grades and then aces the final, we’re saying that shouldn’t just average to a C.”
Mr. Barrera said the new district-wide “standards-based grading” policy, approved last week, was already being used in the system’s elementary schools and is now being expanded into middle and high schools.
The idea was under discussion before the pandemic, stemming from disproportionate numbers of failing grades among Black and Latino students, and from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. But it gained new urgency this fall, as the difficulties of remote learning deepened disparities in student performance.
Only 7.2 percent of white students in San Diego’s secondary schools received grades of D or F in the last school year, according to district data, compared with 20 percent of Black students, more than 22 percent of Latino students and more than 23 percent of Native American students.
Forty-six percent of the district’s students overall are Latino, 12 percent are Asian-Pacific Islander, 8 percent are Black and a small proportion are Native American, he said. Two-thirds of the teachers are white.
“We focused on becoming an anti-racist school district,” Mr. Barrera said.
The grading change has drawn criticism from some conservatives, who say it diminishes the idea of academic excellence. But Kevin Beiser, a trustee who teaches middle-school math in a nearby district, said standards-based grading is meant to mitigate inequities like teachers conflating behavior with academic achievement, or affluent students having greater access to tutors.
“It doesn’t matter when you learn how to solve for x in algebra, as long as you learn it before the end of the school year,” he said.
New Zealanders, under a travel arrangement announced earlier this month with Australia, are allowed to visit the states of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, which have seen relatively low cases of the coronavirus.
But some appear eager to keep on traveling.
Gaps have emerged in the arrangement, meant to be the start a travel bubble that would later encompass Australia, after New Zealanders who entered the country via participating states have traveled on to other parts of Australia for vacations, or to visit friends and family.
But the rules for where they could travel after arriving are unclear, and many have caught connecting flights to other cities, including Melbourne — which has been under some of the strictest lockdown laws in the world after a second wave of the virus hit in July.
Initially, the state government of Victoria, the state that encompasses Melbourne, took the position that the dozens of passengers were unwelcome and sent police to track them down. It later backtracked, acknowledging that anyone from New Zealand, which has for the second time eliminated the virus, did not pose a risk to the state.
Michael Outram, the head of the Australian Border Force, said that the states had never raised objections to New Zealanders entering the country.
“Once a passenger leaves the international terminal, once they depart the customs controlled area, the back of the baggage hall, they cease to be an international traveler or passenger, they’ve entered Australia,” Mr. Outram told reporters on Monday.
The bubble, he added, “stops at the international terminal.”
As the pandemic settled into New York City, hunger drove tens of thousands of residents into food pantry lines, many for the first time. An estimated 1.5 million people cannot afford food.
City Harvest, one of the largest emergency food distributors in New York, recorded nearly 12 million visits to the pantries in its network from March through August — about three million more than in the same period last year.
The New York Times spoke with New Yorkers who are relying on food banks to get by. They showed that at a time when we feel that nothing is in our control — not even the air we breathe — food is still comfort. y.
José Gavidia and his wife, Leyla Moale, began going to a food pantry in March after his $30,000-a-year freelancing business evaporated overnight.
Going to the pantry quickly became part of their shared schedules. One day after they had stood in line for about an hour, José said with a chuckle: “We got carrots. We got chicken. Eggs. What else? Oil. What else? I don’t remember. Oh, some chips, which is good because my wife doesn’t let me have chips. ‘No, that’s too expensive,’” he said, imitating her.
Leyla chimed in with her rule about snacks: “We make only popcorn at home.”
They had their best conversations over meals. “When we are not together here, it’s not the same,” José said. “Talking, eating, it’s something really special for me.”
By August, José was among thousands of Americans who had landed jobs as temporary census data collectors. He was grateful, but still worried. “It ends on October 24,” he said of his job.
Chinese vaccines have been administered to 60,000 people in clinical trials, many of them around the world, and none of them have experienced any serious adverse reactions, a senior Chinese official said on Tuesday.
The figures came from Tian Baoguo, a senior official at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, who spoke at a news conference. “Initial results show that they are safe,” he said.
China has four vaccine candidates in Phase 3 trials, the last stage of testing before regulatory approval. Because the outbreak is largely under control in China, these trials are conducted in more than 10 countries.
Within China, the Chinese government has not waited for clinical trials to conclude before vaccinating tens of thousands of people. Officials have already laid out plans to give shots to even more people, citing emergency use. But scientists have warned that taking a vaccine that has not completed Phase 3 trials carries health risks. On Sunday, the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu stopped the sale of a coronavirus vaccine after dozens of people demanded to be inoculated over the weekend.
China is expected to produce up to 610 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this year, Zheng Zhongwei, head of China’s coronavirus vaccine development task force said at the news conference, adding output will grow next year.
In other developments around the world:
Starting Tuesday, Heathrow Airport in London will offer one-hour coronavirus tests to travelers to Hong Kong and Italy, which require arriving passengers to show a negative test result. Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, typically sees more than 80 million passengers a year.
In a New Jersey suburb, a woman sets up a tent around 8 p.m. outside a state Motor Vehicle Commission office. She will spend the night there, accompanied by her 4-year-old son, until just before the office opens at 8 a.m. The woman, Sumbal Nadeem, doesn’t need a driver’s license or anything else from the agency.
But she does need money. She is being paid $150 to hold a place in line by a motorist who needs a car registration.
The pandemic has spawned a new class of worker in New Jersey: line holders who, for a fee, will wait for hours, sometimes all night, outside a branch of the Motor Vehicle Commission — which was closed for four months — until whoever hired them comes to take that place right before the office opens.
The Motor Vehicle Commission has been overwhelmed by demand since it reopened in early July, after having shut down in March during the state’s lockdown.
Even after making some services available online and pushing back the expiration dates for certain documents, the agency’s 39 locations — where paperwork is processed — have been inundated by customers. Lines stretch for blocks in the wee hours of the morning.
Because of capacity limits to protect public health, offices often start turning people away by mid- or late morning. The agency itself has been hit by the virus, with some offices forced to close for two weeks after employees tested positive.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy has acknowledged the aggravation many motorists have experienced, especially as temperatures drop. “Folks are frustrated by long lines, and so am I,” the governor recently told reporters.
While these struggles have been maddening to many, for others they have created an opportunity to make money at time when New Jersey has only added back about half of the 800,000 jobs it lost in March and April.
Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are filled with people offering to stand in line, charging $50 to $600.
This summer, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana mandated face coverings in public spaces to combat a spike in Covid-19 cases. But the sheriff in the town of Hamilton, backed up by the Ravalli County commissioners, elected not to enforce the order, saying individual rights took priority.
That decision left small businesses stuck in the middle of a monthslong national conflict over mask wearing as they try to keep staff safe and their doors open without alienating customers.
For the owner of River Rising Bakery, Nicki Ransier, the commissioners’ decision made her life easier: “It kind of took some pressure off of us, because we’re not having that confrontation with our customers when they walk in.”
Before the governor’s order, Ms. Ransier asked her staff to wear masks, but a few customers berated her employees — some of whom are in high school — over the decision. One customer told the teenagers that they were “bending the knee to tyranny” by following Mr. Bullock’s order.
Other patrons wanted Ms. Ransier to flatly require masks for all and install costly plexiglass barriers. She felt she couldn’t please anyone, so she decided her policy would focus on what she could control: employees. She would let customers choose, but ask her 14 workers to wear masks even though it can be hot and miserable.
But the commissioners’ move frustrated Randy Lint, the owner of Big Creek Coffee Roasters. He thought the governor’s order would put an end to mask conflicts. Instead, he said, the commissioners’ decision “puts us at odds with customers.”
“Dealing with fallout from stressed customers has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic,” Mr. Lint said.