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Discussions on how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and deal with the global economic damage it has wrought dominated the Group of 20 summit, which began on Saturday and is being hosted virtually by Saudi Arabia.
In private sessions, heads of state of the world’s 19 richest countries and the European Union spoke about how to ensure the equal distribution of vaccines and potential debt relief for poor countries hit hard by the virus.
“We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 84, said of vaccines and treatments during his opening address. “At the same time, we must prepare better for any future pandemic.”
The pandemic has reached new levels around the world and killed more than 1.3 million people. The seven-day average of new daily infections topped 578,000 as of Friday, double what it was two months ago. Major economies collapsed in the first half of the year, improved in the late summer and then tumbled again in a new surge of virus cases. The strains of the catastrophe — from failed businesses and elevated joblessness to disrupted education and increasing global poverty — appear likely to endure, potentially for years.
Speaking from New York a day before the summit, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, called on the leaders to ensure that vaccines be made available to people around the world, not just the rich countries that have already reserved much of the vaccine supplies. He said $28 billion would be needed to achieve that goal, in addition to the $10 billion already invested.
“This funding is critical for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new Covid-19 vaccines and tools around the world,” Mr. Guterres said. “G20 countries have the resources.”
President Trump briefly participated in the summit from the White House Situation Room. But he was not listed as a participant at a sideline event on pandemic preparedness, instead following his recent weekend routine of tweeting assertions of election “fraud” and heading to his Virginia country club for a round of golf.
The virus transformed the annual summit, reducing an event that was supposed to allow Saudi Arabia to play host to the world’s great powers to a giant webinar.
The shift deprived Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a son of the king and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, the opportunity to mingle with other global leaders, which could have helped revive his international reputation.
Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed, 35, have faced harsh criticism for the Saudi military intervention in Yemen, the arrest of peaceful activists and the killing and dismembering of the dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
Saudi critics lobbied G20 members to boycott the summit or to use the platform to speak out about human rights. None did. Diplomats said the meeting was too important to miss, but that they often raised rights concerns with Saudi leaders privately.
As the United States continues breaking record after record — over 198,000 new cases in a single day on Friday, more than 82,000 people hospitalized — some states and cities are hoping nightly curfews will help stop the coronavirus from leaping from person to person at bars, parties and other nocturnal events.
California is the latest to issue an overnight curfew, a measure more often imposed to calm public unrest than for the sake of public health.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, issued the order for most of the state’s counties on Thursday, requiring that, beginning Saturday, people not leave their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for essential reasons, and that restaurants close for dining then as well. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, issued a similar curfew that went into effect on Thursday.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered that bars and restaurants in the state close at 10 p.m. Some local governments have also imposed curfews, such as in Pueblo, Colo., and Miami-Dade County, Fla. Chicago also ordered that restaurants and bars close at 10 p.m.
The measures also show how widely the response to the virus can vary by state. None of the states where the virus is spreading at the fastest rates — South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa and Nebraska — have issued curfews, even as governors of some of those states have begun to require face masks indoors for the first time.
The changes come as the virus has, in the past week, killed more than 1,900 people and infected more than 168,000 new people each day, on average as of Friday.
Public health officials have repeatedly warned that the virus can spread more easily at late-night gatherings as people shout, sing, get closer to one another or, perhaps, flout the rules as they drink. In June, health officials in Ada County, Idaho, which includes Boise, determined that half of the area’s newly infected were people who had likely gotten the virus from bars and nightclubs.
“The rules for when bars are open are supposed to be that you can come down with your group and you don’t interact with others,” said Mayor Nick Gradisar of Pueblo, Colo., a city of about 112,000 people where a curfew has been extended to Nov. 27. But people sometimes don’t follow those rules after they have been drinking, he added. “That’s how this virus spreads.”
Public health experts also caution that it can take several weeks for measures like mask mandates, restaurant closings and restrictions on gatherings to influence people’s behavior and start to flatten the epidemic curve. The effect may be delayed because the incubation period for the disease is up to 14 days, so some proportion of the public is already infected.
A spokesman for Mr. DeWine said he believed Ohio’s three-week curfew “can make a dent” in the state’s rising cases while letting bars and restaurants continue to make money by serving people earlier in the evening.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California Health and Human Services, said that the state’s curfew was targeted to stop the most harmful behaviors.
“We’ve seen in the past that Covid goes from zero to 60 miles per hour very quickly,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. “We know that those who are out, who might be engaging in higher-risk behaviors, that those infections can quickly spread to other settings.”
The drug maker Pfizer said on Friday that it had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, setting in motion an accelerated regulatory process that could allow some Americans to get a vaccine by the middle of December.
Regulators at the F.D.A. plan to take about three weeks to review Pfizer’s vaccine before an outside panel of experts meets to review the application the second week of December. That meeting has been scheduled for Dec. 10.
The agency typically, though not always, follows the advice of its advisory committees. If committee members reach a consensus about the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine, the company could receive emergency clearance by mid-December.
Another front-runner, Moderna, is also on the verge of submitting its vaccine for review, and the outside panel could review the company’s vaccine soon after Pfizer’s. Both use a synthetic version of coronavirus genetic material, called mRNA, to program a person’s cells to churn out many copies of a fragment of the virus, teaching the immune system how to build a protective response.
Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, announced on Wednesday that their vaccine was 95 percent effective. Moderna said on Monday that its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective.
You might assume that means that these vaccines will protect 95 out of 100 people who get them. But exactly how the vaccines perform out in the real world will depend on a lot of factors we just don’t have answers to yet.
Here are some things to consider about the vaccines’ actual effectiveness.
What’s the difference between efficacy and effectiveness?
Efficacy is a measurement made during a clinical trial, while effectiveness describes how well it works in real life. If previous vaccines are any guide, effectiveness may prove somewhat lower than the impressive efficacy found in clinical trials.
That’s because the people who join clinical trials are not a perfect reflection of the population at large. Out in the real world, people may have a host of chronic health problems that could interfere with a vaccine’s protection, for example.
What exactly are these vaccines effective at doing?
The clinical trials run by Pfizer and other companies were specifically designed to see whether vaccines protect people from getting sick from Covid-19. So only volunteers who developed symptoms like a fever or cough were tested for the coronavirus. But it’s possible that some people who got vaccinated in the trials got infected without developing symptoms. If those cases exist, none of them are reflected in the 95 percent efficacy rate, and the real rate would actually be lower.
Will these vaccines put a dent in the epidemic?
Even a vaccine with extremely high efficacy in clinical trials will have a small impact if only a few people end up getting it. A. David Paltiel, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, modeled different vaccines based on their efficacy rates, and also how quickly and widely they can be distributed.
“Infrastructure is going to contribute at least as much, if not more, than the vaccine itself to the success of the program,” he said.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met on Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, the first in-person gathering of the Democratic leaders since the election.
In a one-minute photo opportunity with reporters, Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were seated in a conference room at a large table with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer. All were masked and sat several feet from one another.
“In my Oval Office, me casa, you casa,” Mr. Biden joked, drawing chuckles from the others. “I hope we’re going to spend a lot of time together.”
Ms. Pelosi gave Mr. Biden a white orchid to celebrate his 78th birthday, according to an aide.
In a joint statement afterward, the four Democrats said the meeting was focused on the need “to pass a bipartisan emergency aid package in the lame duck session,” one that included money to fight the coronavirus and provide financial relief to the unemployed, businesses, and state and local governments.
Mr. Biden also discussed his agenda for the first 100 days of his presidency, according to the statement, including his plans to contain the coronavirus and restore the economy, based on “the American people’s mandate for action.”
Jen Psaki, a transition spokeswoman, told reporters earlier in the day that the four leaders were “going to be working in lock step and they are in lock step agreement that there needs to be emergency assistance and aid during the lame duck session to help families, to help small businesses.”
“There’s no more room for delay,” she added.
The meeting came as the nation continues to be led by a president who refuses to concede the election and is using lawsuits, divisive language and pressure tactics to try to overturn the results.
Mr. Biden, Democrats and a small number of Republicans have been urging the president to focus on fighting the surging pandemic and bolstering economic recovery.
In recent days, Mr. Biden has spoken repeatedly about the urgent need for Congress to agree on a new stimulus spending package, saying that Senate Republicans should drop their opposition to a measure passed by House Democrats last month. He has made no public suggestion that Democrats should change their position or offer new compromise legislation.
Beyond his meeting with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer on Friday, Mr. Biden was speaking with “elected officials from both sides of the aisle” about the issue, Ms. Psaki said, but did not offer more specifics.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of the week and has been isolating since Monday, a spokesman for Mr. Trump said on Friday.
He added that Mr. Trump has shown no symptoms and is following virus protocols.
Mr. Trump is the latest person close to the president who has tested positive for Covid-19. Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son, tested positive last month. Melania Trump, the first lady, also tested positive in October. In July, Mr. Trump’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, had tested positive for the virus.
President Trump tested positive for the virus in October and was hospitalized as his symptoms worsened. The president underwent a series of invasive therapies typically reserved for people seriously sick with Covid-19.
Donald Trump Jr.’s announcement comes hours after Rudolph W. Giuliani’s son, Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to the president, announced on Twitter that he had tested positive. This week, two Republican senators, Rick Scott of Florida and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also said they had the virus.
After an exposure to the virus, symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, if they ever appear at all. In that time, the virus can still spread from person to person.
According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Trump should isolate for at least 10 days following his positive test. The spokesman did not indicate which test Mr. Trump had taken.
In recent months, Mr. Trump has questioned the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, saying in a Fox News interview that since deaths from the virus had dropped to “almost nothing” the outbreak had come under control. That day deaths in the United States topped 1,000.
Mr. Trump’s diagnosis, reported earlier by Bloomberg, comes as the virus is surging across the nation. As of Thursday, at least 1,962 new coronavirus deaths and 187,428 new cases were reported in the United States.
The governments of Hong Kong and Singapore have temporarily scrapped a plan for a travel bubble, as Hong Kong grapples with a spike in coronavirus infections. The delay underscores the challenges of reopening international travel routes as efforts to control the virus remain unstable across the world.
The arrangement between the two Asian financial centers, which would allow travelers to bypass quarantine, was set to begin on Sunday. But Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary of commerce, said on Saturday that the two cities were pushing back the plan for two weeks because of a “recent upsurge in local cases” in Hong Kong.
“For any scheme to be successful, it must fulfill the condition of securing public health and also making sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Mr. Yau said, describing the delay as a “responsible” decision. Further announcements about the plan will be made by early December, he added.
The travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore would have allowed one designated daily flight into each city, carrying up to 200 passengers who tested negative for the virus.
After a period of relatively few infections, Hong Kong recorded 43 new cases and was verifying more possible ones on Saturday, the city’s health authorities said, up from 26 new cases on Friday. Singapore on Saturday recorded five infections, and said that all of them had been brought in from abroad.
Hong Kong has also further tightened its social distancing rules, banning live performances and dancing at bars and nightclubs, and banning room rentals for private parties.
In other news from around the world:
Two of China’s largest port cities, Shanghai and Tianjin, are conducting major testing efforts after announcing a handful of locally transmitted coronavirus infections, renewing worries about whether the country can continue to keep out the virus after coming close to eradicating it over the summer. Tianjin said on Friday that it had discovered four cases, all in its port area, and it sealed off the residential community there. Shanghai said on Saturday that an airport cargo security officer and his wife, a nurse, had both been infected.
A day after Japan reported a record 2,427 new cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Saturday that the country would scale back a subsidy program for domestic tourism in places where infection rates are high. The roughly $16 billion “Go to Travel” program was meant to stimulate the economy, but many questioned its wisdom. Mr. Suga told the Japanese parliament on Friday that about 40 million trips had been taken through the program so far, and that 176 of the tourists had contracted the virus. Toshio Nakagawa, the head of the Japan Medical Association, has said that while there is no concrete evidence linking the program to the country’s recent surge in infections, “there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst.”
Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, said on Saturday that domestic travel would be banned and schools closed around two upcoming holidays in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus ahead of Christmas, Reuters reported. Travel between municipalities will be banned from 11 p.m. on Nov. 27 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 2, and then again from 11 p.m. on Dec. 4 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 9, to prevent movement around national holidays on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. Schools will close on the Mondays before both holidays, and businesses must close early.
This year, as they prepare to let turkeys brine and pie crusts thaw, people across the country are waiting for something extra: a coronavirus test they hope can clear them to mingle with loved ones.
Because a positive test filters out people who should definitely not be out with others, many people consider a negative coronavirus test to be a ticket to freely socialize without precautions. But scientists and doctors say this is dangerously misguided.
The main reason is that a test gives information about the level of the virus at the time of the test. A person could be infected but not have enough virus for it to register yet. Or, a person may become infected in the hours or days after taking a test. Also, the tests do not have 100 percent accuracy.
“If you require all of your guests to email you a negative test result before your Thanksgiving dinner, it will definitely decrease the risk of an outbreak — but not completely,” said Dr. KJ Seung, chief of strategy and policy for the Covid response at Partners in Health. Yet this is a common misperception contact tracers hear when talking to people, he said.
Laboratory tests that rely on a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., can detect the virus when it’s present even at very low levels. But it might take a couple of days to return results, leaving time for someone to be exposed.
Antigen tests are faster, less expensive and more convenient — they can deliver results in a matter of minutes — but are also more prone to missing the virus when it’s scarce. And that could give someone a false sense of security en route to Thanksgiving dinner, said Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago, where she specializes in infectious disease diagnostics.
“A negative result is a snapshot in time,” Dr. Larkin said. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”
In summary, as Dr. Esther Choo, an emergency medicine physician and a professor at Oregon Health and Science University, put it: “Testing negative basically changes nothing about behavior. It still means wear a mask, distance, avoid indoors if you can.”
This is an excerpt of Farhad Manjoo’s latest column for Times Opinion.
After all that has happened this year, the idea of skipping Thanksgiving has brought me low. I am blessed not to have lost anyone close to me to the coronavirus. For my family, the pandemic’s most crushing hardship has been its enforced isolation, especially the cruel way it has cleaved us apart at generational seams, separating my kids from their grandparents.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it is to resist taking the future for granted and to impose an actuarial frankness on all of our planning. Sure, we could skip Thanksgiving this year — but how many future Thanksgivings will we all have together, anyway?
To find some empirical foothold in a debate mired in uncertainty, I decided to investigate my own potential lethality to the older people in my life. Among other things, I contact-traced myself — an exercise that ended up being nearly as vulgar as it sounds. I went to all of my regular close contacts, then I went to all of their contacts, and so on, asking everyone about their potential exposure to the virus.
What I found floored me.
I thought my bubble was pretty small, but it turned out to be far larger than I’d guessed. My only close contacts each week are my wife and kids. My kids, on the other hand, are in a learning pod with seven other children, and my daughter attends a weekly gymnastics class.
I emailed the parents of my kids’ friends and classmates, as well as their teachers, and asked how large each family’s bubble was. Already, my network was up to almost 40 people.
Turns out a few of the families in our learning pod have children in day care or preschool. And one classmate’s mother is a doctor who comes into contact with about 10 patients each week.
Once I had counted everyone, I realized that visiting my parents for Thanksgiving would be like asking them to sit down to dinner with more than 100 people.
The family of one epidemiologist plans to celebrate Thanksgiving in a garage, with tables 10 feet apart and the doors rolled up. Another epidemiologist’s family is forgoing a traditional meal for an outdoor hot cider toast with neighbors. A third is dining in an outdoor tent, with a heater, humidifier and air purifier running.
And, according to an informal survey of 635 epidemiologists by The New York Times, the large majority are not celebrating with people outside their household. Public health experts from a range of backgrounds answered our questionnaire. Not all of them study Covid-19, but all have professional training about how to think about disease spread and risk.
Seventy-nine percent said they were having Thanksgiving dinner with members of their household or not at all. Just 21 percent said they would be dining with people outside their household — and in most cases, they described going to great lengths to do so in a safe way. Their answers were similar for the other winter holidays, like Christmas and Hanukkah.
About 8,000 epidemiologists were invited to participate in our survey, which was circulated by email to the membership of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and to individual scientists.
The holiday season is arriving as the coronavirus spreads with renewed strength across the United States, with cases up 67 percent and deaths up 63 percent in the last 14 days. On Thursday, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to avoid travel and celebrate the holiday only with members of their household. Epidemiologists are making these same personal decisions, with added expertise.
With coronavirus cases in New York surging and health officials pleading with people to wear masks, social distance and stay home ahead of the holiday season, one group of Democratic power brokers in New York did not seem to get the message.
Photos published by the New York Daily News on Thursday show some city leaders at a birthday party for the leader of an influential trade organization, sipping drinks at a private residence in Brooklyn, speaking while standing close to one another and rubbing shoulders, with few masks in sight. The crowd appeared to exceed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s limit of 10 people for gatherings in homes,
According to an official familiar with the gathering, the party, for Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, was held on Nov. 14 — a day when the city reported 1,800 coronavirus cases, and shortly before Mayor Bill de Blasio closed schools. It prompted cries of hypocrisy, calls for resignations and, eventually, a round of apologies.
“This is a particularly trying time and there were shortcomings that I regret,” Mr. Scissura said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the gesture of my friends to throw me a surprise party, but we all must follow strict protocols so we can get past this pandemic.”
At the party, guests were given masks, each person’s temperature was taken and the event was primarily held outside, according to someone who attended the party. But the photos show Frank Seddio, the former chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, chatting closely with Ingrid Lewis-Martin, the deputy Brooklyn borough president, whose boss has just announced his intention to run for mayor. Neither wore masks.
“I apologize for my lapse in compliance with Covid-19 precautions,” Ms. Lewis-Martin said in a statement. “As a public figure in Brooklyn, I know it is my responsibility to lead by example.”
Mr. Seddio gave The Daily News two estimates from that night; he put the party’s attendance at roughly a dozen, and, oddly, the number of times he passed gas at four. He did not respond to a request for comment.