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‘World-Class Experts’: Biden Introduces Health Team Nominees

On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced his nominees for his health team, which will play a defining role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.

“Health care is a right for all, not a privilege for a few. But as all of you know, I know that out of our collective pain, we’re going to find a collective purpose to control the pandemic, to save lives and to heal as a nation. Today, I’m pleased to announce a team that is going to do just that. It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis-tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism.” “No one, no one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation, the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America.” “I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to serve again. And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people have lost their jobs and are struggling for child care, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic.” “I never anticipated I would take on a role helping lead our national response, and government service was never part of my plan. But every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don’t matter. You answer the code. And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.” “I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science, and to centering equity in our response to this pandemic. And not as a secondary concern, not as a box to check, but as a shared value. It will get into all of the work that we do, and prioritized by every member of the Biden-Harris team.” “I believe, as you do, that in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science, and that a key piece of our ongoing work is communicating consistently with the American people.” “We will oversee the rollout of the vaccine, which as the president-elect said, will be one of the greatest operational challenges our country has ever faced.” “Thank you to these accomplished physicians, and experts and public servants, for answering the call to serve the American people in this critical hour of need.”

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On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced his nominees for his health team, which will play a defining role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.CreditCredit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The current president hailed a “monumental national achievement.” His successor grimly described a “mass casualty” event.

The remarks about the coronavirus pandemic by President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday offered a striking, split-screen moment, underscoring how differently the two men are approaching the worst public health crisis in 100 years that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

Speaking in Wilmington, Del., as he introduced the people who will lead his health care agencies, Mr. Biden painted a grim picture of the infections ravaging the nation even as he vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.

“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden, speaking at a virtual event in an almost empty room, said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced we can change course.”

It was a much more upbeat message at an auditorium near the White House, where Mr. Trump packed industry officials and members of his administration — most of them wearing masks — for a “vaccine summit” to celebrate the expected approval of a vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration this week.

The dueling scenes came as Britain began vaccinating people in the wake of that country’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — the same one on the verge of approval in the United States. In Britain, scenes of people receiving the first doses of the vaccine dominated television coverage offering a bit of good news in the fight against the virus.

Asked why he had not included members of Mr. Biden’s transition team in the summit to ensure smooth delivery of the vaccine by the next administration, Mr. Trump again complained, without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election and said he hoped the next administration would be “the Trump administration.”

Mr. Trump, who entered to a recording of “Hail to the Chief” and stood in front of a backdrop with American flags, claimed credit for the vaccine, thanking his White House staff and advisers — though he pointedly excluded Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, who has been tapped by Mr. Biden to be his chief medical adviser and appeared remotely at the president-elect’s event.

Mr. Trump barely mentioned the surge in cases and deaths across the country in recent weeks, only repeating his longstanding — and false — assertion that the United States only has more cases because it does more testing. The country has shattered record after record as it approaches 300,000 deaths and surpassed 15 million known cases amid a brutal and accelerating surge. As of Monday, the nation recorded the most virus-related deaths over a weeklong period — about 2,200 daily — and an average of more than 201,000 cases a day.

The president did not wear a mask, though those who lined up behind him when he signed an executive order did. That image — of a maskless president surrounded by aides wearing masks — was a sharp contrast to Mr. Biden, who delivered his remarks from a lecturn, with a handful of people seated far away.

The president’s entrance was preceded by a slickly-produced video of critics who had predicted on television that it could take much longer than a year to produce an effective vaccine. Mr. Trump gloated about those remarks, saying that the creation of an effective vaccine proved that they were wrong.

But many of the critics had predicted that mass vaccination of the entire population was not likely to occur before about the middle of 2021, which experts say is still likely to be the timeline.

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‘Go for It’: U.K.’s First Vaccine Patient Encourages Others

Margaret Keenan, the first patient in Britain to receive the coronavirus vaccine, hopes to set an example for people hesitant to get vaccinated.

It was fine, it was fine. I wasn’t nervous at all. It was really good. “And what do you say to those who might be having second thoughts about this?” Well, I would say go for it. Go for it, because it’s free and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened, at the moment. So, do please go for it. That’s all I’ll say, you know. If I can do it, well, so can you.

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Margaret Keenan, the first patient in Britain to receive the coronavirus vaccine, hopes to set an example for people hesitant to get vaccinated.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Jacob King

Britain’s National Health Service delivered its first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, opening a mass vaccination campaign with little precedent in modern medicine and making Britons the first people in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested vaccine for the disease.

Across the nation, vaccine centers are beginning the careful process of delivering vaccinations on a tight schedule, as the vaccine must be used or discarded within five days of being defrosted. “We’re doing it with military precision, and in fact, we have had the military helping with our planning too,” said Fiona Kinghorn, who oversaw the vaccine rollout at one site in Cardiff, Wales.

The effort marks a turning point in the remarkable race to produce a vaccine and the global effort to end a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million people worldwide. At one Welsh vaccination center, a retired nurse on the facility staff described the response by her most recent patient, another nurse. “She just cried and said this was such an emotional day,” she said, adding: “I think partly because she worked on a Covid ward, so she has seen the consequences and probably the outcomes. I presume she has seen a lot.”

At 6:31 a.m. Tuesday, Margaret Keenan, 90, a former jewelry shop assistant, rolled up the sleeve of her “Merry Christmas” T-shirt to receive the first shot, and her image quickly became an emblem of hope and resilience.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Ms. Keenan, who lives in Coventry, in central England. “It means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”

British regulators leapt ahead of their American counterparts last week to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, upsetting the White House and setting off a spirited debate about whether Britain had moved too hastily, or if the United States was wasting valuable time as the virus was killing about 2,200 Americans a day over the last week, as of Monday.

President Trump planned on Tuesday to issue an executive order proclaiming that other nations will not get U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated, a directive that appeared to have no real teeth but nevertheless was indicative of the heated race to secure shipments of doses.

For the people receiving vaccinations in Britain, among them doctors and nurses who have fortified the country’s National Health Service this year, the shots were an early glimpse at post-pandemic life. Besides Ms. Keenan, none attracted as much attention as William Shakespeare, who was second in line for a shot in Coventry and who, the National Health Service confirmed, really is named William Shakespeare. Twitter took the news of his vaccination as an opportunity for delighted wordplay, cracking jokes about the Taming of the Flu and the Gentlemen of Corona.

“Today is a great day for medical science, and the future,” Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said on Tuesday. (An earlier version of this item mistakenly said he was the chief medical officer for all of Britain.)

The first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Britain were transported in recent days from a manufacturing plant in Belgium to government warehouses in Britain, and then to hospitals.

Fifty hospitals will be administering the shots until the government can refine a plan for delivering them at nursing homes and doctor’s offices. The vaccine must be transported at South Pole-like temperatures before it can be stored for five days in a normal refrigerator, Pfizer has said. First to receive the vaccine will be doctors and nurses, certain people age 80 and over, and nursing home workers.

Some doctors and nurses have received invitations in recent days to sign up for appointments, with the first shots intended for those at the highest risk of severe illness. The government has indicated that people aged 80 and over who already have visits with doctors scheduled for this week, or who are being discharged from certain hospitals, will also be among the first to receive shots.

Nursing home residents, who were supposed to be the government’s top priority, will be vaccinated in the coming weeks, once health officials start distributing doses beyond hospitals.

Hundreds of people are still dying in Britain each day from the virus, and the country has made allowances for travel over the Christmas period that scientists fear will seed another uptick in infections.

“It is amazing to see the vaccine, but we can’t afford to relax now,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said on Tuesday morning as he visited a London hospital. Trying to calm a recipient’s nerves about needles, he suggested, “I always try to think of something else — recite some poetry.”

Ms. Keenan, the first vaccine recipient, showed no such nerves. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said on Twitter that watching Ms. Keenan receive the shot gave her “a bit of a lump in the throat.”

“Feels like such a milestone moment after a tough year for everyone,” Ms. Sturgeon added.

Administering Ms. Keenan’s shot was May Parsons, a nurse who is originally from the Philippines and has worked for the National Health Service for 24 years.

“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the N.H.S.,” she said, “but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

An Oxford Vaccine Group researcher in a laboratory in Oxford, England, working on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
Credit…John Cairns/University of Oxford, via Associated Press

The University of Oxford published a much-anticipated paper on Tuesday detailing the findings of its coronavirus vaccine trials, echoing results first announced two weeks ago that showed the vaccine had 70 percent efficacy on average across two different dosing regimens.

But while it was the first peer-reviewed publication outlining late-stage results of a leading coronavirus vaccine, it did little to answer the most pressing questions facing the university and AstraZeneca, the drug maker, since they offered a glimpse at the same promising, if somewhat puzzling, results two weeks ago.

Among nearly 8,900 participants who received two full doses of the vaccine, it had 62 percent efficacy. But after a discrepancy over methods for measuring the concentration of viral particles in the vaccine created uncertainty over the dosage during an early stage of manufacturing, 2,741 participants were given a half dose of the vaccine followed a month later by a full dose. In that smaller group of participants, the vaccine had 90 percent efficacy.

The Oxford scientists said in the paper, published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, that “further work is needed to determine the mechanism of the increased efficacy.”

Both dosing regimens appeared to protect participants in the trials from hospitalization or severe disease.

The results combined data from a trial in Brazil with a trial in Britain. In the British trial, the researchers asked participants to swab their noses and throats weekly to test for asymptomatic infections, a way of determining whether the vaccine could protect not only against disease but also transmission.

The vaccine appeared to be more effective in protecting against asymptomatic infections in the low-dose, high-dose regimen, but the numbers were so small that it was difficult to be sure. The researchers wrote in the paper that the results “provide some hope that Covid-19 vaccines might be able to interrupt some asymptomatic transmission,” though they said “more data are needed to confirm.”

Jenna Ellis and Rudolph W. Giuliani, members of President Trump’s legal team, appearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee in Lansing, Mich., last week.
Credit…Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to President Trump, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a White House official familiar with the situation. She is the latest in a string of officials connected to Mr. Trump who have tested positive.

Ms. Ellis has appeared in recent weeks alongside Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump lawyers — a group Ms. Ellis has described as an “elite strike-force team” — at public hearings where she amplified the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Mr. Giuliani, the lead lawyer for the president’s efforts to overthrow the results of the election, confirmed over the weekend that he had tested positive for the virus, and a person who was aware of his condition but not authorized to speak publicly said then that he had been hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical. At age 76, Mr. Giuliani is in a high-risk category. Mr. Trump said on Monday that he had spoken to Mr. Giuliani and he was doing “very well.”

Ms. Ellis was photographed last week, on Wednesday, sitting next to Mr. Giuliani during a hearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee. It was not immediately clear whether she had any symptoms, or what kind of test she had taken. Ms. Ellis continued to post to Twitter throughout the day on Tuesday, including sharing a statement attributed to her and Mr. Giuliani about their legal efforts. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Ellis has been a frequent guest on cable news, where she aggressively defended Mr. Trump as he faced investigation and impeachment. She presents herself as a constitutional law attorney, but has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases. She does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond criminal and civil work in Colorado.

Ms. Ellis’s most recent work appears to have been largely in a public-relations capacity. The Trump campaign and its supporters have so far filed about 50 election-related lawsuits. She has not signed her name or appeared in court to argue a single one.

More than 40 members of Mr. Trump’s administration, campaign and inner circle have contracted the virus since late September. In early October, Mr. Trump was hospitalized for a few days after testing positive and developing symptoms of Covid-19.

The Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, an area that has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit…Michael Dantas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Seven months after its arrival in the Amazon, the coronavirus has infected more than 70 percent of the population in the Brazilian city of Manaus, a grim vision of what can happen when the pathogen is left to spread unchecked, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Brazil has seen 6.6 million coronavirus infections, and more than 177,000 deaths. The toll serves as a warning against letting the virus spread naturally in order to achieve so-called herd immunity, a theory espoused by Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s former science adviser, and widely denounced by most scientists.

The first cases of Covid-19 in Manaus, a city of more than 2 million people, were diagnosed on March 13. The virus tore through the region, and the percentage of people with antibodies indicating past infection jumped from less than 5 percent in April to nearly 45 percent in June, according to the study, published today in the journal Science.

In October, only 26 percent of the population tested positive for antibodies. But antibodies to the coronavirus can wane over time, complicating efforts to assess how widely the virus has spread. The researchers attempted to account for this decline, and estimated that 66 percent of the population in Manaus had been exposed to the virus by July and 76 percent by October.

In São Paolo, the most populous city in Brazil, the first cases were diagnosed on Feb. 25. The prevalence there has also increased steadily, but had reached only 13.5 percent by June.

A young and mobile population, household crowding and travel on congested boats may all have contributed to the toll in Manaus, the scientists said.

Their estimate is “conservative,” the researchers said, but they noted there is no widely accepted standard for measuring the decline in antibodies to the virus.

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William Shakespeare Receives Coronavirus Vaccine in Britain

In Coventry, England, on Tuesday, a man named William Shakespeare, 81, joined Margaret Keenan, 90, as a recipient of the new coronavirus vaccine.

“I hear your having an an injection then, OK?” “OK.” “I’ll speak to you soon. Do you want me to look after these?” “Yes.” “OK.”

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In Coventry, England, on Tuesday, a man named William Shakespeare, 81, joined Margaret Keenan, 90, as a recipient of the new coronavirus vaccine.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Jacob King

All the world might have been a stage on Tuesday, or at least all of Britain, but William Shakespeare was not content to be a mere player. As Britons rolled up their sleeves for the start of a coronavirus vaccine campaign, he was the second to get a shot.

That’s William Shakespeare of Warwickshire, not the guy from Stratford-on-Avon, and he did not shy away from his duty.

“It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?” Mr. Shakespeare, 81, said with a smile shortly after being vaccinated at University Hospital Coventry, in central England. That’s just 20 miles north of where the poet and playwright was born.

That one of the first recipients of the vaccine bore such a famous name (a fact confirmed by the National Health Service) offered a chance for some levity on a day when Britain began the daunting task of mounting the largest vaccination campaign in its history.

“Shakespeare gets Covid vaccine,” the BBC said in a headline. “The Taming of the Shrew” became “The Taming of the Flu.” And “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” quickly turned into “The Gentlemen of Corona.”

If the first Briton to get the shot was Patient 1A, one Twitter user asked, “would William Shakespeare be 2B, or not 2B?”

Even British theaters weighed in. The National Theater offered this tweet:

Casting director: So what would you bring to the role of second patient? We want a sense of real drama and patriotism here.

Auditionee: I’m literally called William Shakespeare.

Casting director: Fair enough, the part’s yours.

Mr. Shakespeare received the shot in his left arm and wore a hospital gown and bright red socks. History records that he was pricked, but it was not clear if he bled.

Mr. Shakespeare has been hospitalized in Coventry for several weeks since suffering a stroke. On Tuesday after his vaccination, he felt a little frail and took a nap in the afternoon, according to his niece, Emily Shakespeare.

“He’s delighted with it,” Ms. Shakespeare said in a telephone interview about her uncle’s first injection. “He’s dying to come home.”

Countless families around the world have been unable to visit relatives in nursing homes or hospitals during the pandemic, leaving many patients to suffer loneliness, atrophy and depression. Others died alone, and families never got to say goodbye.

So Mr. Shakespeare’s vaccination brought a bit of heartwarming news for people in Britain, and for his family. “He is fed up being in the hospital,” Ms. Shakespeare said, “but today I just want to say that I’m proud that he’s leading the way.”

Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, appeared to shed some tears as he lauded Mr. Shakespeare and the other Britons lining up to be vaccinated in this unspeakably difficult year. More than 60,000 people have died in the United Kingdom in the pandemic.

May Parsons, a nurse at the hospital who administered the dose to Mr. Shakespeare, said the injections were a first step toward giving people a sense of normality. “This is really important for me knowing that they’re going to be safe, that they’re going to be protected,” Ms. Parsons told Sky News.

For all the jokes made about Mr. Shakespeare’s name, his relatives were quick to remind everyone that much more was at stake than the ephemeral fame of “their” William Shakespeare.

“He wants to to see his wife, his children and his grandchildren, who can’t visit him at the moment,” Ms. Shakespeare said of her uncle. “But the outpouring of attention will surely give him a boost.”

Gov. Roy Cooper spoke about new restrictions in Raleigh on Tuesday.
Credit…Travis Long/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina imposed a curfew in his state on Tuesday, joining a scattering of other governors and mayors who have imposed similar restrictions in the hope of slowing the explosive spread of the coronavirus over the last month.

The governor’s “modified stay-at-home order” requires people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for essential trips, and orders most businesses to close during those hours. All sales of alcohol for on-premise consumption must end at 9 p.m.

Mr. Cooper said the curfew, which takes effect Friday, may be just one of several steps the state takes to tamp down the virus outbreak. New rules for restaurants and other businesses may come next if daily reports of new cases continue to climb, he said.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in North Carolina has nearly doubled in the past month, and the state is averaging more deaths each day than ever before. The trend mirrors that of the nation, which set a new record last week for most deaths reported in a 7-day period.

Other states that have imposed curfews and other modified stay-at-home orders include Ohio, Massachusetts and New Mexico. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Monday that his state’s curfew would be extended indefinitely. It had been set to expire this week.

Both Mr. DeWine and Mr. Cooper presented the curfews as compromises between sweeping shutdowns to fight the virus, as many states did early in the pandemic and parts of California are doing again, and lifting restrictions to help the economy. Health experts say it is not clear how effective compromise measures like curfews can be in slowing virus transmission.

Mr. Cooper implored the federal government on Tuesday to provide more assistance for small businesses that will suffer from new restrictions. But he said the state’s main priority “is and must be saving lives, and keeping our health care system from being overwhelmed.”

Workers who lost jobs early in the pandemic in April waited in line to get unemployment forms at a public library in South Florida. 
Credit…Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

If you were lucky enough not to lose your job during the pandemic, you may still have lost pay and your health insurance, according to a new analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About half the U.S. businesses surveyed by the federal government said they had furloughed employees at some point in 2020. Of those, roughly half continued to pay wages to at least some of their workers while furloughed, but only 42 percent continued to pay at least a portion of the workers’ health insurance premiums. Individuals who could not afford to pay the premiums on their own may have lost their coverage.

People working in the hotel and restaurant industry, devastated by the crisis, were hardest hit, with just 23 percent of employers paying health insurance premiums for their furloughed workers. In the airline industry, 68 percent of businesses continued to pay for coverage when their employees were not working; in the health-care industry, the figures was a little more than half.

The largest businesses were much more likely to keep on paying for furloughed workers’ coverage. About 88 percent of establishments with 1,000 or more workers did so, compared to just one-third of those with fewer than five workers. Many small businesses have been unable to maintain coverage, resulting in thousands of workers losing their insurance.

The latest analysis, based on data collected from July 20 through Sept. 30, was first reported by the Axios newsletter.

Global Roundup

Pope Francis during the prayer for the feast of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Tuesday.
Credit…The Vatican Media, via EPA, via Shutterstock

Pope Francis canceled the traditional Dec. 8 papal visit to a Rome landmark because of social distancing concerns, he said on Tuesday. The afternoon event, observing the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, normally draws thousands of people.

“The traditional homage” did not take place, “to avoid the risk of crowds, as ordered by civil authorities, who we must obey,” Francis told the faithful who gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer. Instead, the pope went to the site unannounced at 7 a.m., and left a bouquet of roses at the base of a column near the Spanish Steps that is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Other than in September and October, when new coronavirus cases in Italy appeared to have dropped significantly, Pope Francis has canceled most of his regular public appearances during the pandemic, so that crowds would not gather to see him. In their place, he has been streaming events online from the Apostolic Library in the Vatican. But he still appears every week at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to pray with and bless socially distanced worshipers below in the square.

Late last month, though, the pope did meet with a delegation of five N.B.A. players and officials from the players’ association privately at the Vatican to discuss their efforts to address social justice and economic inequality.

In other developments around the world

  • Hong Kong said it would once again ban restaurant dining after 6 p.m., and close all gyms and beauty salons, to help curb a rise in virus cases, Reuters reported. Health authorities said on Tuesday that people arriving in Hong Kong, who already must be tested on arrival and toward the end of the mandatory two-week quarantine, would also be required to be tested a third time three weeks after arrival. Hong Kong recorded 78 new cases on Monday, raising its total for the pandemic to 6,976 — tiny figures compared with most large Western countries, but a sign that even places that have been able to keep a tight lid on the virus are facing problems now.

  • Australia, where coronavirus cases are low, extended for another three months its ban on residents leaving the country, official said Tuesday. The country, which has some of the tightest restrictions anywhere, also extended its ban on cruise ships until March.

  • Chile announced new measures for Santiago, the capital, this week that are meant to avoid a total lockdown, the authorities said. The new restrictions include a full lockdown on weekends and lesser limitations during the week. The capital region reported an 18 percent increase in new cases last week, which “is shocking and worries us a lot,” said Enrique Paris, the health minister.

  • Four lions at the Barcelona Zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials in Barcelona said Tuesday. The lions — three females and a male — were tested after showing symptoms, and were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Two employees also tested positive, officials said. It is the second known instance involving large felines: several lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive in April.

Last year’s Ohio State-Michigan game in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Credit…Leon Halip/Getty Images

One of the biggest rites of college football — the annual Michigan-Ohio State game — is off for this weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan said Tuesday that it would be unable to play at fourth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday because of the number of virus cases inside its football program.

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Warde Manuel, Michigan’s athletic director, said in a statement. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to Covid-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close contact individuals.”

The cancellation raised the possibility that Ohio State (5-0) would prove ineligible for the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19 because it had not played enough games this season. But conference officials have said that the Big Ten policy requiring teams to play at least six games to qualify for the title matchup could be adjusted.

Ohio State struggled with the virus toward the end of November and canceled its Nov. 28 game at Illinois. The Buckeyes had earlier missed out on a game when Maryland canceled because of its own virus troubles.

The federal corrections complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where hundreds are infected with the virus and where an execution team with infected members intends to return in December.
Credit…Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Eight members of a team that carried out a federal execution last month in Terre Haute, Ind., have contracted the coronavirus, and a majority of them plan to return for federal executions this week, according to a court filing from the Bureau of Prisons.

The Justice Department has rushed forward with executions during the pandemic, after an informal 17-year moratorium on federal capital punishment. Since July, eight inmates have been executed by the federal government, despite pleas from some involved in the execution cases to halt the lethal injections until the threat of the coronavirus had largely subsided.

Revelations about the coronavirus cases at the Terre Haute federal prison emerged from a declaration in court by Rick Winter, regional counsel for the Bureau of Prisons’ North Central Region. Inmates at the Terre Haute complex have sued Attorney General William P. Barr and others for risking the spread of the coronavirus from the executions.

Mr. Winter attested that the team members followed C.D.C. guidelines when deciding when to return to work. Two of the execution team members, who tested positive more than a week after returning home, do not plan to attend the December executions in Terre Haute, he noted in the declaration.

The Trump administration intends to execute two more inmates this week, followed by three more in January. Among those scheduled is Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row. Her lawyers have also said they tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after visiting their client.

The November execution was of Orlando Cordia Hall for the kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old girl. Yusuf Ahmed Nur, a professor of business and management at Indiana University Kokomo who served as a spiritual adviser to Mr. Hall, said in a separate filing that he also tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the execution.

The federal corrections complex at Terre Haute, the site of the executions scheduled for December, has become a hotbed of coronavirus infections, like many correctional facilities across the country. As of Tuesday, hundreds of inmates and staff members there are reported to have tested positive for the virus.

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‘World-Class Experts’: Biden Introduces Health Team Nominees

On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced his nominees for his health team, which will play a defining role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.

“Health care is a right for all, not a privilege for a few. But as all of you know, I know that out of our collective pain, we’re going to find a collective purpose to control the pandemic, to save lives and to heal as a nation. Today, I’m pleased to announce a team that is going to do just that. It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis-tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism.” “No one, no one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation, the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America.” “I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to serve again. And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people have lost their jobs and are struggling for child care, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic.” “I never anticipated I would take on a role helping lead our national response, and government service was never part of my plan. But every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don’t matter. You answer the code. And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.” “I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science, and to centering equity in our response to this pandemic. And not as a secondary concern, not as a box to check, but as a shared value. It will get into all of the work that we do, and prioritized by every member of the Biden-Harris team.” “I believe, as you do, that in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science, and that a key piece of our ongoing work is communicating consistently with the American people.” “We will oversee the rollout of the vaccine, which as the president-elect said, will be one of the greatest operational challenges our country has ever faced.” “Thank you to these accomplished physicians, and experts and public servants, for answering the call to serve the American people in this critical hour of need.”

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On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced his nominees for his health team, which will play a defining role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.CreditCredit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., setting ambitious goals to change the course of the coronavirus pandemic, vowed on Tuesday to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office. He also said he would make it a “national priority” to get children back to school during that time.

Appearing in Wilmington, Del., to introduce members of his health team, Mr. Biden pledged to run “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history” but did not say how and through what companies his administration would purchase vaccine shots. Mr. Biden also implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make doing so a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.

“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced than in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”

Mr. Biden’s announcement offered a telling split-screen counterpoint to an event being held at the same time at the White House: a vaccine summit where President Trump boasted about what he called a “monumental national achievement” by drug companies to develop a vaccine for the virus in about nine months. He did not address the growing death toll or the devastation across the country, but he used the occasion to suggest, yet again and without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election.

“Well, we’ll have to see who the next administration is,” the president said, “because we won.”

In Delaware, the next administration was clearly taking shape. The senior officials Mr. Biden will appoint — including Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the California attorney general, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services — will face the immediate challenge of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 285,000 people in the United States and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

The event was the first time that Mr. Becerra and other cabinet candidates have spoken out in public. Some appeared in person and others appeared virtually, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who will be Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser in addition to continuing in his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci said he could not be present in person because he was attending a ceremony for a close friend and colleague at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Harvey J. Alter, who had won the Nobel Prize in Medicine — “a reminder,” Dr. Fauci said, “of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.”

Other members of the team — including Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former and now incoming surgeon general — focused largely on their personal stories.

Dr. Murthy, who like Mr. Becerra is a son of immigrants, volunteered greetings from his grandmother. Dr. Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, has never served in government; she spoke about her early days in medicine working to fight the H.I.V. epidemic.

“Every doctor knows that when the patient is coding, your plans don’t matter — you answer the code,” she said. “And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.”

Other health officials included in the event were Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will lead a Covid-19 equity task force, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the incoming coordinator of the Covid-19 response. Mr. Biden has yet to name his candidates for other health posts, including the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The card that British people receive when vaccinated records the specifics of the shot and when to get a second dose. 
Credit…Pool photo by Gareth Fuller

When Britons receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shots, they also get a wallet-size vaccination card showing that they have received the first of two required doses.

They are not ID cards; they do not contain any personal information, not even the person’s name. Even so, there are worries that they could be the beginning of a “passport” system that would divide society into two tiers, granting cardholders access to some services and businesses, like boarding a plane or eating at a restaurant, while others are excluded.

British health officials have argued that the cards are merely meant as a reminder of when a patient received the first shot and when they are scheduled to get the second, three weeks later.

The blue-and-white vaccination card, seen in images released by health officials, has spaces to record the vaccine name, dates of the injections and batch numbers. “Don’t forget your Covid-19 vaccination,” it reads. “Make sure you keep this record card in your purse or wallet.”

Britain faces tremendous logistical and security challenges to vaccinate millions of its citizens, and other countries will face them as well when they begin vaccination programs. The authorities have highlighted the need for a reliable record of who has been vaccinated, and have discussed the idea of issuing people documents certifying that they have received the vaccine or recovered from the disease, and thus presumably have some immunity.

But ministers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government have brushed off the idea that the vaccination card will become a so-called immunity passport, and it remains unclear whether such a system will ever exist in Britain. Scientists are skeptical about the idea as well.

Two experts at the University of Birmingham noted in an article published on The Conversation that data on protected people following vaccination had not yet been published. “This is important because if we don’t understand the key ingredients for protection, we can’t monitor immunity effectively,” the experts — KK Cheng, a professor of public health and primary care, and Zania Stamataki, a lecturer in viral immunology, wrote on Monday.

They argued that while the vaccine greatly reduces the chance that the recipient will become severely ill, vaccinated people could still transmit infection to others, limiting an immunity passport’s usefulness.

“Being personally protected following successful vaccination does not absolve us of social responsibility,” they said.

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Senate Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Stall

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on Tuesday offered to drop his demand for liability protections if Democrats would forego aid to states and local governments. Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, rejected the offer.

“My view, and I think it’s a view shared by literally everybody on both sides of the aisle, is we can’t leave without doing a Covid bill. The country needs it. We have an agreement that we need to do this. We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package. What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we can agree on knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.” “Now, Senator McConnell has put the jobs of firefighters, ambulance workers, sanitation officers, police officers in jeopardy. Every governor and mayor across the country has been fighting to keep these people working. And McConnell is pulling the rug out from under them. Leader McConnell has refused to be part of the bipartisan negotiations, and now he’s sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not getting a good reception.”

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Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on Tuesday offered to drop his demand for liability protections if Democrats would forego aid to states and local governments. Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, rejected the offer.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, signaled on Tuesday that he would be willing to drop his demand for a sweeping liability shield as part of a pandemic stimulus package, provided that Democrats abandoned their insistence on including billions of dollars in aid for state, local and tribal governments.

Democrats immediately dismissed Mr. McConnell’s suggestion as a nonstarter, but it was the first offer of a major concession since congressional leaders agreed last week to renew their efforts to reach a deal on another round of coronavirus relief before they conclude this year’s session. Mr. McConnell has previously called the liability provision a “red line,” refusing to consider any stimulus package that lacked one.

“We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday, offering a tacit acknowledgment of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

Democrats panned the idea, after months of insisting that any stimulus agreement include funds to bolster state and local governments that have lost hundreds of billion of dollars during the pandemic and are facing devastating budget cuts. Republicans have branded the provision as a “blue-state bailout,” though state officials in both parties have lobbied for additional relief.

“He’s sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not getting a good reception,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, charging that “Senator McConnell is trying to pull the rug out from beneath” lawmakers working to hash out an agreement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, in her own statement, declared that “Leader McConnell’s efforts to undermine good-faith, bipartisan negotiations are appalling.”

Mr. Schumer said Democrats’ proposals for funding state and local governments had “broad bipartisan support,” unlike Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal. But some liability protections are included in the negotiations among a bipartisan group of senators working on a $908 billion stimulus compromise, which Democratic leaders said should be a starting point for negotiations.

Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal would provide five years of legal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for businesses, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations that make “reasonable efforts” to comply with government standards. But many Democrats have rejected what Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, derided as “a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.”

Leaders of both parties have agreed that some form of relief needs to be approved before Congress departs at the end of the year, and to work toward attaching it to a catch-all government spending package. Both chambers are expected to approve a one-week stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown on Friday and buy additional time for negotiators.

As moderates work to cement their compromise, Democrats are also mounting a renewed push to include an additional round of stimulus checks in any deal. Mr. McConnell has omitted it from his stimulus proposals because of conservative concerns that it is too costly.

Orignially published in NYT.

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