Governors and public health officials across the country are pleading with Americans to change their behavior and prepare for a long winter as they issue more restrictions and warnings, and the United States shatters record after record on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations — both records fell yet again Friday.
In a reversal, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, which has the highest rates of new cases and deaths per person in the United States and critically understaffed hospitals, announced several measures late Friday, including a mask mandate, a limit on indoor dining of 50 percent capacity or 150 people and a suspension of high school winter sports and extracurricular activities until Dec. 14.
In the spring, North Dakota was one of a handful of states that never entered a lockdown. More recently, Mr. Burgum had for weeks resisted any new orders, emphasizing personal responsibility instead of requirements such as a mask mandate.
But North Dakota’s situation has rapidly deteriorated: over the past week, it has averaged of 1,334 cases per day, an increase of 54 percent from the average two weeks earlier, and deaths are climbing fast. Hospitals are so overwhelmed that on Monday, Mr. Burgum angered the state nurses’ union by announcing that medical workers who test positive could stay on the job to treat Covid-19 patients as long as the workers show no symptoms.
Writing in The Washington Post last week, Renae Moch, the public health director for Bismarck and Burleigh County, N.D., warned: “I can only hope our approach to this disease improves quickly — before our winter of hurt arrives and too many more North Dakotans pay the ultimate price.”
In New Mexico on Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the nation’s most sweeping statewide measure of the fall season, issuing a “stay at home” order to begin Monday and last two weeks. She asked people to shelter in place except for essential trips and said nonessential businesses and nonprofits must cease in-person activities.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon issued orders Friday to place the state in a partial lockdown for two weeks, shuttering gyms, halting restaurant dining and mandating that social gatherings have no more than six people. Ms. Brown, along with the governors of California and Washington, also urged residents to avoid all nonessential interstate travel in the days ahead.
Nearly half of all states have measures in place for visitors, but the measures themselves vary from mandatory testing to quarantine requirements. On Thursday, California surpassed one million cases, becoming the second state, after Texas, to do so.
The latest wave of cases is washing over nearly every part of the United States, unlike the spring, when it was concentrated in the New York metropolitan area. Case numbers are trending upward in 49 states, and no states are seeing declines. More than 30 states, from Alaska to New Hampshire, have set records in recent days.
On Friday, more than 181,100 new cases were reported across the United States, breaking the daily record for the fourth straight day. That has pushed the seven-day average of new daily cases to more than 140,000. It was only eight days earlier that the country had its first 100,000-case day.
Sixteen states set single-day case records; 30 states added more cases in the last week than in any other seven-day period. More than 1,380 new deaths were reported on Friday, pushing the 7-day average to more than 1,090 new deaths a day. Five states announced more deaths in the last week than in any other week
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 also set a national record on Friday for the fourth-straight day, reaching 68,516, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled in just five weeks.
The virus has killed more than 1,000 Americans a day in the past week, a toll that would shock the nation, were it not for the fact that people were dying twice as fast in April, when doctors knew less about how to treat them.
The outlook is especially dire in the Great Lakes region. Pennsylvania, Indiana and Minnesota all exceeded their previous single-day records on Thursday by more than 1,000 cases. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio warned that hospitalizations had soared to record levels. Wisconsin surpassed 300,000 known cases this week, an increase of more than 130,000 in just a month.
“Covid-19 is everywhere in our state,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, the deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. “It is bad everywhere, and it is getting worse everywhere.”
In Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker suggested that he could soon impose a stay-at-home order, and he scolded local officials for not enforcing mask rules and restrictions on businesses.
“We’re running out of time and we’re running out of options,” Mr. Pritzker said.
And in New York City, an early hot spot now facing a possible second wave, the mayor warned on Friday that public schools could close as early as Monday if the seven-day average positivity rate surpasses 3 percent. Private residential gatherings must be limited to 10 people beginning at 10 p.m.
New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, said he believed that the situation is going to “continue to deteriorate in the coming weeks,” and that he was planning an emergency meeting with his counterparts in six northeastern states.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, appeared on “CBS This Morning” on Friday to repeat his pleas to Americans to take the virus seriously.
“If we do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down,” he said. “You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”
President Trump made no mention Friday of the record surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as he spoke in the White House Rose Garden, where he offered a rosy assessment of the development of vaccine candidates.
Officials said that two vaccine candidates are under review for emergency use authorizations, from Pfizer and from Moderna, and that 20 million people could be vaccinated in December. The president declared that the vaccine could be available to most Americans by April, a time frame that’s seen as aspirational as opposed to definitive.
The optimistic view of the vaccine development was at odds with a near-complete ignoring of how rapidly the virus is surging. Only Vice President Mike Pence mentioned that cases are increasing. More than 163,000 new cases were announced nationwide on Thursday, yet another record, with more than 30 states reporting seven-day case records. Deaths, too, have been rising, with more than 1,000 a day on average over the last week.
Mr. Trump, by contrast, repeated a falsehood he’s uttered several times, that the reason the case numbers are so much higher in the U.S. than elsewhere is because the nation conducts more tests — a statement that ignores the rise in hospitalizations and deaths.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s program to develop treatments and vaccines, said, “I think we can say significant progress has been made.”
Warp Speed focused on three types of vaccines, with two in each category, for a portfolio of six vaccine candidates. One type is based on genetic material from the virus, called messenger RNA or mRNA. The two companies using that technology, Pfizer and Moderna, are the front-runners in the race to develop a vaccine.
Mr. Trump touted a new vaccine as something that would dramatically improve the lives of Americans still suffering under restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Senior citizens who are susceptible to the virus will be able “to reclaim their golden years,” Mr. Trump said.
He also said that under his administration, there will not be lockdowns. He then came close to saying that he hoped the next administration — meaning one led by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. — won’t force nationwide restrictions, before catching himself.
“I will not go — this administration will not be going to a lockdown,” Mr. Trump said. “Hopefully the — the uh — whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be, I guess time will tell.”
Mr. Trump has yet to concede the election, despite every network and The Associated Press declaring Mr. Biden the winner.
Mr. Biden blasted the federal response as inadequate in a statement Friday.
“This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking,” Mr. Biden said. “I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is.”
Pfizer reported on Monday that its vaccine, developed with the German company BioNTech, was 90 percent effective, based on early data from a large study.
Moderna said on Wednesday that it was also poised to analyze early data. Hopes are high for strong results because the two vaccines are similar.
Referring to Moderna, Dr. Slaoui said, “I would expect that shortly, probably next week, we may hear what I hope to be another very good information regarding an efficacious vaccine.” He said he expected both companies to apply to the Food and Drug Administration within the next few weeks for authorization for emergency use of their vaccines.
Mr. Trump was furious that the Pfizer announcement came after the Nov. 3 election; he had hoped to be able to point to a successful vaccine before the election in order to boost his chances.
As is often the case, Mr. Trump used the event for score-settling.
He criticized officials with Pfizer for saying that they hadn’t been part of Operation Warp Speed. Pfizer did not accept research funding, but is part of an agreement to sell doses to the federal government as part of the program.
Mr. Trump also criticized New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said he will have independent experts verify the efficacy of any vaccine the Trump administration authorizes before it’s distributed in his state. Mr. Trump said the vaccine won’t be delivered to his former home state until Mr. Cuomo approves of it.
“It pains me to say that,” Mr. Trump said. He did not mention that leaders of other states have expressed similar concerns about vaccine delivery, such as California, Oregon, Washington State and Nevada.
An adviser to Mr. Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said on Twitter that it was Mr. Trump’s own fault.
“.@realDonaldTrump has failed with his pandemic response, lied to Americans about how bad it was when he knew otherwise & was fired by voters for his incompetence,” Mr. Azzopardi wrote. “@NYGovCuomo is fighting to ensure the communities hit hardest by COVID get the vaccine. Feds providing 0 resources.”
Appearing on MSNBC a short time later, Mr. Cuomo said Mr. Trump has a “credibility issue,” adding the president “uses the government as a retaliatory tool.”
Governors in New Mexico and Oregon issued sweeping new lockdown orders on Friday in an effort to combat a surge in coronavirus cases.
In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a “stay at home” order to begin Monday and lasting two weeks, asking people to shelter in place except for essential trips. She said nonessential businesses and nonprofits must cease in-person activities. That is the nation’s most sweeping statewide order of the fall season, as the virus has spread in record numbers across the nation and placed a strain on hospitals.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon issued orders to place the state in a partial lockdown for two weeks starting Wednesday, shuttering gyms, halting restaurant dining and mandating that social gatherings have no more than six people.
While an early outbreak in the spring prompted widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, officials in recent weeks have been reluctant to revisit such expansive measures. But states have started moving in that direction: New York is ordering nighttime closures of bars and restaurants and limiting private gatherings to 10 people statewide, while New York City has warned that it may close in-person schooling. The governors in California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint message Friday that travelers arriving in the state should quarantine for 14 days.
Oregon’s new restrictions don’t include a stay-at-home order, but Ms. Brown is mandating the closure of facilities such as gyms, museums, pools, and entertainment venues. Retail outlets will be allowed to remain open with limited capacity. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to offer only take-out options. Churches will be allowed a maximum of 25 people indoors. The rules aren’t changing for schools, many of which are already in remote learning.
Oregon’s daily coronavirus numbers have more than doubled over the past month, but the state’s numbers are still far below many others around the country. New Mexico’s numbers have risen at an even more dramatic rate, with a record 1,742 new cases identified on Thursday.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada said he had tested positive for the virus after undergoing a routine rapid test on Friday. The governor said in a statement that he was experiencing fatigue but no other symptoms and was awaiting the results of a PCR test. Nevada has been averaging more than 1,350 new cases per day, an increase of 67 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database.
And Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut wrote on Twitter that he will begin self-quarantining after a senior member of his staff tested positive.
In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam tightened several restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, but stopped short of issuing a lockdown. The new guidance limits public and private gatherings to 25 people, expands the state’s mask mandate to include children as young as five and creates a 10 p.m. “on-site alcohol curfew” banning both sale and consumption. The new restrictions take effect at midnight on Sunday.
“Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work,” the governor said Friday in a video statement.
While the virus is worsening on the coasts, it is accelerating at an even more alarming clip in the center of the country, stretching medical resources to the breaking point and prompting states, counties and cities to consider economically devastating lockdowns.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon scolded residents who were not adhering to public health guidelines for “being knuckleheads” during his daily press briefing on Friday. He said hospitals in the state were overwhelmed and they were being forced to bring in untrained staff to help meet demand. The state has averaged 724 new cases per day, an increase of 112 percent from the average two weeks ago, and on Thursday officials reported more than 1,100 new cases.
“It’s time that Wyoming woke up and got serious about what it’s doing,” he said. “We’ve relied on people to be responsible and they’re being irresponsible.”
In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little mobilized the National Guard so that 100 troops could support health care organizations with testing, decontamination or screenings. He ordered the state to roll back to stage 2 restrictions, which prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
In Arkansas on Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a new virus task force and increased funding for public education campaigns to halt the virus. The state already requires masks when people are in proximity to each other, and Mr. Hutchinson reiterated that people should follow public health guidance to avoid the need for drastic measures.
In Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced new restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the virus, including a 10 p.m. curfew, closing public beaches except to those doing exercise and limiting capacity of restaurants, churches, gyms and other establishments to 30 percent. The new restrictions go into effect Monday and the governor is activating the National Guard to help enforce the measures, The Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Facing a second wave of the coronavirus, New York City stands on the precipice of once again closing its classrooms. On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the public schools system could close as early as Monday as the citywide seven-day average rate of positive test results increased to 2.83 percent. He has committed to closing the system if the rate reaches 3 percent.
Parents “should have an alternative plan beginning as early as Monday,” Mr. de Blasio said on “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC.
The mayor emphasized that any closure would only be temporary, saying, “We will be bringing our schools back.”
The state’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, also sounded a potentially ominous note on Friday without specifying any concrete plans. He said that he believed the state would likely have to take additional steps and that he planned to hold an emergency summit with governors from surrounding states over the weekend.
“I believe the situation is going to continue to deteriorate in the coming weeks,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I think you’re going to see an increasing rise in the number of cases.”
Their remarks came as officials across the country grapple with the spread of the virus and which restrictions to take.
Across much of Europe, even as cases rise anew, governments are keeping classrooms open while forcing restaurants and bars to shut their doors. But in some American cities, officials have opted to keep students home even as dining rooms remain open.
But the evidence that indoor dining is a high-risk activity has been growing. Restaurants, gyms and other crowded indoor venues likely accounted for some eight in 10 new infections in the early months of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States, according to a new analysis that used cellphone data from 10 cities from March to May.
Schools, on the other hand, have only had 0.17 percent of tests conducted over the last month came back positive.
Should New York City’s schools close, children could face weeks or months without any in-person instruction. On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said that his administration was working on a plan for how to reopen schools if they need to shut down, but that he wanted to avoid regularly opening and closing schools based on the fluctuating positivity rate.
“We’ve known we might have to turn the system on or off at various points,” Mr. de Blasio said. “My goal here, if we do have to shut schools, is to do it for as brief a period as possible and then come back up.”
The mayor also previously said that the city would re-evaluate indoor dining if the positivity rate hit 2 percent. While the city has exceeded that threshold, it has not yet taken action. Mr. Cuomo, not the mayor, has the power to prohibit indoor dining.
“Obviously, indoor dining has to be re-evaluated,” Mr. de Blasio said Friday.
Of course, there is always the chance that Mr. Cuomo will intervene, as he has in the past few months over different measures to track and tame the pandemic.
During a call with reporters on Friday, Mr. Cuomo said that he respected the mayor’s parameters for closing schools, but that he would “urge the mayor and all involved to open them as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Cuomo said that part of the reason for reopening quickly was that the positive test rates in schools were relatively low.
“The problem is not coming from the schools, it’s coming from the bars, the restaurants, the gyms and the living room family spread,” he said.
The Secret Service’s uniformed officer division has sustained a coronavirus outbreak, according to four people briefed on the matter, the latest blow to a beleaguered agency that has struggled to perform its duties during the pandemic.
The outbreak is at least the fourth to strike the agency since the pandemic began, further hobbling its staffing as it is being called on to provide full protection to President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
At least 30 uniformed Secret Service officers have tested positive in recent weeks for the virus, and about 60 have been asked by the agency to quarantine, according to the people. The Washington Post first reported the outbreak.
It was unclear how the officers contracted the virus. Many traveled to campaign events for both candidates in the final weeks of the campaign, the people said. Several senior White House officials and Trump allies also got the virus after attending an election night party at the White House.
A spokeswoman said the Secret Service kept up its duties during the campaign and that it was taking precautions, including testing and contact tracing as well as isolation, to respond to Covid-19. “The health and safety of our work force is paramount,” said the spokeswoman, Julia McMurray.
Officers in the uniformed division are different from the famed Secret Service agents who guard presidents and their families. The officers provide protection for physical locations like the White House and the vice president’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington or screen crowds at public events.
Several officers and agents expressed concerns in the final weeks of the presidential race that they wanted to avoid traveling to campaign events across the country. They feared contracting the virus at the events or while traveling, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The pandemic has been particularly taxing on law enforcement agencies whose officers come in direct contact with people to do their work. In August, at least 11 employees at the Secret Service’s training facility in Maryland tested positive for the virus.
Earlier in the summer, two members of the Secret Service who were dispatched to provide security at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., tested positive. Around that time, Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Florida after members of his detail showed symptoms of the virus.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, pleaded with Americans on Friday to take seriously the skyrocketing coronavirus case numbers across the country, warning the danger is elevated as families prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.
In an appearance on “CBS This Morning,” he noted that the baseline number of infections never decreased to controllable levels, allowing the virus to spread like wildfire as the weather cooled and life moved indoors. The host, Gayle King, observed that many people “are letting their guards down.”
“It’s understandable, I don’t want to be critical of that,” Dr. Fauci said. “But we want to just plead with them to understand the dynamics of this outbreak.”
He added: “If we do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down. You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”
He added that increased testing of people without symptoms was necessary to catch so-called “silent spreaders.”
As people across the country adjust their plans for the holidays, health experts have warned strongly against gathering in large groups. Meeting with anyone outside one’s household indoors for an extended period of time carries risks. Getting tested, quarantining after travel and wearing masks are ways to reduce that risk, Dr. Fauci reiterated.
“Nothing is going to be perfect in this,” he cautioned.
If people do gather, masks should be kept on when not eating and drinking, even in a small group, he said. If everyone at a gathering has recently received a negative result on a virus test or quarantined, the risks would be substantially lessened.
“You’ve got to use some common sense and make sure you look at what relative risks are,” he said.
Dr. Fauci has said that his daughters, living in different parts of the country, will not travel home to spend Thanksgiving with their parents because of the pandemic.
Health experts have urged people hosting gatherings to keep them small and limit the number of households attending. (It’s best not to mix households at all.) Other ways to decrease risk include moving outdoors, increasing ventilation indoors, not sharing serving utensils and limiting the duration of the gathering.
As cases have exploded in the United States, governors have undertaken a flurry of actions to try to slow the spread of the virus. Just this week, Utah and Ohio, both states led by Republican governors, have mandated masks statewide. In Iowa, the governor, Kim Reynolds, has long resisted a mask mandate, but this week she ordered that masks be worn at large gatherings.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. this week implored Americans to wear masks.
“A mask is not a political statement, but it’s a good way to start pulling the country together,” Mr. Biden said in Wilmington, Del., on Monday.
Mr. Biden has said he will ask governors to institute a mask mandate in their states; if they refuse, he will work with local officials to get mandates in place.
Check here for the latest changes in rules in your state.
Microsoft said Friday that it had found more evidence that hacking groups backed by Russia and some now by North Korea were continuing their attempts to steal information from pharmaceutical companies and researchers involved in developing treatments and vaccines for Covid-19.
The names of the targeted firms, including some that have contracts with the United States government, were not announced; Microsoft said it could only reveal that information with the permission of the firms. But it said seven companies were on the receiving end of the hacking activity, most of which was unsuccessful.
But officials made clear they believe some of the hacks worked — though they do not know whether proprietary research was stolen.
The seven firms were in the United States, Canada, South Korea, France and India.
Ever since the coronavirus crisis began, Chinese and Russian groups have been hacking into research centers and hospitals. Microsoft identified the Russian hacking group as Strontium, also known as Fancy Bear, which is known for the hacking operations into the Democratic National Committee and other American targets in the 2016 presidential election.
The North Korean hackers are best known as the Lazarus Group, which was involved in the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the WannaCry attack ransomware that crippled the British health care system.
Microsoft identified another North Korean group that it called Cerium.
On top of the threat of being hacked, hospitals all over the country have been targeted in a scourge of ransomware attacks in recent months. In September, an attack on Universal Health Services, which runs more than 400 hospitals throughout the country, became the largest medical cyberattack in history.
The SeaDream 1, a ship that had aspired to be a model for a safe return to cruising in the pandemic era, cut short its Caribbean voyage Friday because several passengers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The ship originally set sail Nov. 7 for a weeklong cruise, but it returned to its home port of Barbados sooner than planned after at least seven passengers tested positive, the SeaDream Yacht Club said in a statement. The company didn’t say whether anyone had symptoms. All crew members were also tested on board and their results came back negative.
For now, all 53 passengers are confined to the ship and waiting to be tested again. SeaDream Yacht Club has put in a request with the Barbados government for the passengers to disembark.
“We are working closely with local health and government authorities to resolve this situation in the best possible way,” Andreas Brynestad, a spokesman for the SeaDream Yacht Club, said in a statement on Friday. “Our main priority is the health and safety of our crew, guests, and the communities we visit.”
The company had taken stringent measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak on board, requiring all passengers and crew members to take a coronavirus test before traveling to Barbados and produce a negative result within 72 hours of setting sail, reported Cruise Critic, a cruise ship review site. The passengers and crew were also required to take a P.C.R. test before boarding the ship.
Journalists who participated in the cruise industry’s first Caribbean voyage since March said that the SeaDream 1 only docked at secluded destinations, and that none of the travelers came in contact with people outside of their established bubbles.
“Given that every passenger (and crew, too) must run a gauntlet of multiple Covid tests to get on board, the thinking is that the ship is effectively a Covid-free ‘bubble,’” explained Gene Sloan in an article for The Points Guy website about the experience. However, those measures created a false sense of security where “the extra precaution of mask-wearing was not seen as critical,” Mr. Sloan continued.
Other safety protocols such as social distancing, temperature checks and frequent sanitization were maintained.
In unusually pointed remarks, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. of the Supreme Court told a conservative legal group on Thursday night that government responses to the coronavirus pandemic posed a grave threat to fundamental freedoms.
“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” said Justice Alito in a keynote address webcast during the Federalist Society’s annual convention.
“I am not diminishing the severity of the virus’s threat to public health,” he said. “All that I’m saying is this, and I think that it is an indisputable statement of fact: We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”
Top health and infectious disease experts have repeatedly advised states, localities and private businesses to limit gatherings to small numbers and to reduce the capacity at restaurants, bars and other establishments, especially indoors, to contain the spread of the virus. And many states have sought to limit travel across borders and asked people to self-isolate if they were exposed to someone who became infected.
Several studies have highlighted clusters of infections that stemmed from such varied events as a boys’ church retreat, a megachurch, weddings and crowded bars. Health officials across the country have endorsed mask wearing, hand-washing and social distancing as measures that help to prevent individuals and those around from becoming infected with the coronavirus. Many experts have encouraged people to hold small gatherings outdoors.
Justice Alito was particularly critical of a ruling from the Supreme Court in July that rejected a Nevada church’s challenge to state restrictions on attendance at religious services. The state treated houses of worship less favorably than it did casinos, he said. Casinos were limited to 50 percent of their fire-code capacities, while houses of worship were subject to a flat 50-person limit.
“Deciding whether to allow this disparate treatment should not have been a very tough call,” Justice Alito said. “Take a quick look at the Constitution. You will see the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty. You will not find a craps clause, or a blackjack clause or a slot machine clause.”
Elon Musk, the SpaceX chief executive, has tested positive twice, and negative twice, for the coronavirus after taking four rapid virus tests, he revealed in a disgruntled tweet early Friday morning. The announcement came just days before his company’s much-anticipated launch of a Crew Dragon capsule that will carry four astronauts to the International Space Station.
Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2020
Antigen tests, which look for pieces of coronavirus protein, are cheap and convenient, typically delivering results to people in minutes. But they are also less reliable than laboratory tests that use a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., which hunts for fragments of genetic material. P.C.R.-based tests are widely considered the gold standard in infectious disease diagnostics.
The Veritor, a product produced by the medical device manufacturer BD, is advertised as having a false negative rate of 16 percent, making it very possible that the two negatives Mr. Musk received had mistakenly missed the virus in his body. But antigen tests are also prone to false positive results, which incorrectly identify healthy people as infected.
Mr. Musk’s testing conundrum arrives at a potentially high-stakes moment. Should he be truly infected, NASA might not allow him to visit with the four astronauts on Sunday, as he did with Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley before their successful launch in May.
Shortly after tweeting his frustration at his quartet of antigen test results, Mr. Musk told his followers that he had sought out a P.C.R.-based follow-up test, which would deliver an answer within 24 hours.
Just hours later, Mr. Musk, who has repeatedly voiced his frustration with the pandemic and its economic repercussions, took to Twitter again to cast doubt on the validity of P.C.R.-based tests, asking his followers to educate him on whether the diagnostic tools were likely to generate false positives.
What is the general population (no knowledge of symptoms) accuracy of a sars-cov2 PCR test & is it possible to generate a false positive if you simply run enough cycles?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2020
Mr. Musk’s announcement of his tests, which was imbued with a similar note of skepticism, was met with a mix of encouragement and jeers. Some people baselessly argued his mixed results were proof that recent rises in coronavirus cases had been inflated. Others pointed out that his repetitive testing struck a discordant tone against the backdrop of a nation in which many are still struggling to access coronavirus diagnostics.
Israel has contracted to buy enough of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to inoculate 4 million of its citizens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced with much fanfare on Friday, calling it “a great day on the way to our victory over the coronavirus.”
The agreement, which would supply 8 million doses of the two-dose vaccine to Israel beginning in January, is contingent upon Pfizer’s earning the approval of the United States Food and Drug Administration as well as Israeli health authorities. Pfizer said Monday that an early analysis showed the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.
Mr. Netanyahu has battled intense domestic criticism for botching Israel’s reopening from lockdown after the country fared relatively well during the pandemic’s first wave, and then for repeatedly caving into pressure from his ultra-Orthodox political allies over efforts to curb the spread of the virus in their communities.
He made the most of the opportunity to deliver good news, releasing not one but two videos about his efforts with Pfizer.
He boasted that Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, had taken his calls “at all hours of the day, even at 2 a.m.” — though, given the time difference, it was Mr. Netanyahu who was staying up late. “It became clear that he was very proud of his Jewish and Greek origins,” Mr. Netanyahu added.
With a surge of Covid-19 cases across much of the country showing no signs of abating and straining hospitals, an influential group of public health experts is recommending that many schools end in-person teaching and stay closed until after the holidays.
The group, made up of researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab, projects that the number of cases will increase sharply over the coming weeks in the Northeast through the mid-Atlantic region, as well as in major cities on the West Coast. It is advising schools in areas with rapidly accelerating transmission rates — including those in the Philadelphia area — to immediately switch to all-remote learning, at least for older students, and likely stay remote until January. The group said that districts should make decisions about younger students based on whether there is evidence of transmission in schools.
The Philadelphia researchers had until now focused on advising school districts on how to open safely for as many students as possible. “But we currently find ourselves in a no-win situation,” the group wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Safety protocols that had been largely successful in preventing in-school transmission earlier in the fall were no match for rising community transmission rates, the group said. Infections among children, particularly older ones, were rising. And there was increasing evidence of transmission inside schools.
“It is likely that in the coming weeks, transmission in schools and around school-related activities will contribute to increasing community spread during the height of this crisis,” the group wrote.
The group said it was hopeful that, once this crisis had passed, schools could reopen to even more students in the new year, and that many could offer full in-person instruction by the spring.
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