• 2 months ago

Coronavirus: In the first distribution push, 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will be shipped across the U.S. around mid-December.
The president of France said the country was past the peak of the second wave and shops could reopen on Saturday.
Canada enters a second lockdown, though unlike in the U.S., many school districts are keeping their classrooms open.
Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and vaccines in development.

Day 1 for Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden’s battle against the coronavirus officially began today.

Mr. Biden’s pandemic response plan had been held up by the Trump administration’s refusal to authorize the transition of presidential power. But that changed yesterday when the federal government finally signed off on the start of the transition, unlocking funds, equipment and government data to the incoming president.

So what happens now?

One of the first things that Mr. Biden will do to confront the pandemic is dispatch what are known as “landing teams” to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. The teams will be given enormous briefing books that detail nearly everything the agencies have been working on for the past four years. (And they can expect a friendly reception at the agencies, particularly among scientists whom Mr. Trump has criticized for years, write my colleagues Sheila Kaplan and Ron DePasquale.)

At the F.D.A., the landing team will need to get up to speed on a planned vaccine rollout, as well as promising vaccine candidates and therapeutics on the horizon.

When the landing teams arrive at the C.D.C., one of the most pressing issues will be taking over a public education campaign, now in development, to persuade the public to trust — and to take — the vaccine once it becomes widely available.

Also expected today are meetings between Mr. Biden’s coronavirus advisory group and government health officials, and that cooperation is expected to intensify over the next several days.

Transition officials are especially eager to start coordinating with officials at the National Institutes of Health and members of the Warp Speed project, which is responsible for vaccine distribution, writes Michael D. Shear, who covers the White House for The Times. They have also said they want to begin receiving official government data about the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.

Mr. Biden will also need to respond to the struggling pandemic economy, and that task will fall to Janet Yellen, his pick for Treasury secretary. Ms. Yellen has a record of supporting stimulus measures, and she is expected to focus on a new relief bill, which would include negotiating a deal with the Republican-controlled Senate.
The mutation that may have ‘made the pandemic’

New research suggests that a mutation in the coronavirus early in the pandemic helped it spread more easily and made it more difficult to stop.

The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in China in January, before it quickly spread throughout Europe and New York and eventually took over much of the world, edging out other variants of the virus.

For months, many scientists argued that the mutation might have simply been lucky, appearing by chance in large epidemics, like in Northern Italy, that seeded outbreaks elsewhere. But a host of new research supports the idea that the virus evolved the ability to infect people more easily than the original variant detected in Wuhan, China.

The original virus would have spread around the world regardless, researchers say. But this mutation may have supercharged it.

“When all is said and done, it could be that this mutation is what made the pandemic,” said David Engelthaler, a geneticist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona.
The New York Times