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American Public Grows Increasingly Wary of Coronavirus Vaccines

Credit...Marco Bello/Reuters

As the Trump administration has pressed publicly for top-speed development and approval of a coronavirus vaccine, allotting billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies, political leaders and public health experts have warned of the dangers of rushing the process.

That divide has only grown recently, as two of the country’s high-profile governors, Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California, revealed their caution about potential vaccines.

Mr. Newsom announced plans to form an independent panel in his state to review any federally approved vaccines before they are administered to residents. “Of course we won’t take anyone’s word for it,” he said in a news briefing Monday.

California’s new case rates have stayed relatively low, but in much of the rest of the country, the numbers are alarming: On Friday, according to a New York Times database, the United States reported at least 70,464 new cases, the highest figure since July 24. Over the past week, there have been an average of 56,655 cases per day, an increase of 30 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

Mr. Newsom’s announcement came after Mr. Cuomo said last month that New York would also review vaccines approved by the federal government — although Mr. Cuomo tied the move to doubts raised when President Trump suggested that he would reject tougher Food and Drug Administration guidelines. “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Recent surveys appear to show that the public shares the governors’ skepticism, with the idea of getting a vaccine as soon as it is available losing appeal for many Americans.

In a poll of likely voters conducted by The New York Times and Siena College, 33 percent said they would definitely or probably not take a vaccine after F.D.A. approval.

In a STAT-Harris poll of about 2,000 people, conducted Oct. 7-10 and published Monday, 58 percent of respondents said they would get vaccinated right away, down from 69 percent who said the same in August.

The decline was twice as steep among Black respondents: Just 43 percent said in October that they would get the vaccine, down from 65 percent in August.

Rob Jekielek, the managing director of The Harris Poll, which has been asking the question throughout the pandemic, said two news events appeared to have played a role in the decline: the back-and-forth between the F.D.A. and the White House over vaccine guidelines, and Mr. Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis and treatment.

Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump attacked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as “a disaster” on Monday and said, despite signs that the nation was headed toward another coronavirus peak, that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus from “these idiots” in the government.

The broadside, during a conference call with campaign staff just two weeks before Election Day, was hardly the closing message Trump advisers were looking for. It threatened to focus the electorate squarely on the president’s coronavirus response and pitted him against Dr. Fauci, who as the nation’s top infectious disease expert is a career government scientist the public likes and trusts far more than Mr. Trump.

In increasingly vocal terms, Dr. Fauci has been separating himself from the White House and warning Americans to “hunker down” and brace for a difficult winter — a message at odds with Mr. Trump’s repeated, if false, assurances that the nation is “rounding the corner” on a pandemic that has claimed about 220,000 American lives.

“People are tired of Covid,” Mr. Trump complained on the call, which several reporters were invited into. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

He added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”

Later Monday, at a campaign rally in Prescott, Ariz., Mr. Trump invoked Dr. Fauci as a way of ridiculing the coronavirus plan of his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Biden wants to lock it down. He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci,” the president said, referring to coronavirus-related restrictions on the economy. (Dr. Fauci, addressing a group of pathologists last week, said no one wants to “shut down the country again.”)

The Biden campaign, which has been emphasizing a promise to listen to science over politics, responded with relish: “Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: The American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus.”

In today’s edition of the Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt writes:

Let’s check in on the state of the coronavirus this morning, with help from three charts. Here’s the first:

Credit...By The New York Times | Sources: The COVID Tracking Project, state and local health agencies and hospitals

As you can see, the number of new virus cases in the U.S. is surging — and not far from this summer’s peak. You’re probably familiar with versions of that blue line. It is the most common metric for tracking the virus.

The rising line mostly reflects reality: The virus is surging, especially in the Upper Midwest. Cooler weather is leading to more indoor activity, which often leads to new cases, and many Americans seem tired of pandemic restrictions.

But you’ll notice that the red line on the chart — the number of Americans currently hospitalized with virus complications — looks less bad. It has risen lately, but it is not close to its peak.

Why? Partly because the number of virus cases is not actually rising as much as the official case numbers suggest.

That brings us to chart No. 2:

Credit...By The New York Times | Sources: The COVID Tracking Project

The U.S. is conducting a lot more tests than in the summer or spring. More widespread testing means that the official numbers are capturing a larger share of new virus cases than earlier this year.

“We have probably gotten better at finding cases, as testing capacity has increased, and so we can’t directly compare the size of the waves based on case counts alone,” Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University told me. “That’s a good development.”

The third chart also suggests some encouraging news:

Credit...By The New York Times | Sources: state and local health agencies and hospitals

Even as case numbers have soared and hospitalizations have risen, deaths have held fairly steady.

That’s happened as many older people — who are most vulnerable — have been careful about avoiding exposure. A greater share of current new cases is among young Americans.

The quality of virus treatments is also improving. Remdesivir, dexamethasone and monoclonal antibodies all seem to help, as my colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. points out. Just consider how quickly both President Trump and Chris Christie recovered, despite their age and underlying health risks.

The full picture: There are some silver linings. The statistics on new virus cases that get so much attention are somewhat exaggerating the severity of the current outbreak, because of the rise in testing. And treatments have improved, reducing the death count.

But the virus’s toll has still been horrific — and worse than in many other countries. More than 220,000 Americans have died, and hundreds of people are still dying every day.

The overall situation is also getting worse, as the hospitalization numbers make clear. In some states, hospitals are almost full, and the virus continues to spread. “I’m just waiting to see if our community can change our behavior,” Debra Konitzer, the top health officer in Oconto County, Wis., recently said. “Otherwise, I don’t see the end in sight.”

As Donald McNeil says, “The fall wave has just begun.”

Credit...Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The government of Ireland announced a six-week lockdown beginning Wednesday night, becoming the first European country to reimpose a national lockdown.

The new measures, announced on Monday, are a dramatic U-turn for the government, which just two weeks ago fell short of imposing the highest level of restrictions despite advice from public health experts.

But Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach or leader of the government, said that with coronavirus infections on the rise across Europe and much of the world, Ireland could no longer avoid the strict measures, despite the potentially detrimental impact on the economy. He noted that, while recent restrictions appeared to have stemmed the spread of the virus, “evidence of a potential grave situation arriving in the weeks ahead is now too strong.”

“While we have slowed the spread the virus, this has not been enough and further action is required,” he said in a national address on Monday night.

Under the new restrictions, nonessential shops will be closed and people will be urged to stay at home, with the exception of exercise that must take place no more than three miles from home. Restaurants will be limited to takeout or delivery.

Meeting in private homes or yards will be banned as will larger gatherings — though there is an exemption for weddings and funerals with strict limitations on numbers. Schools and child-care services will remain open despite the restrictions, a move that Mr. Martin defended as being in the best interest of children.

He encouraged the nation to remain hopeful, even as new restrictions altered lives and livelihoods once again and the days grow shorter, adding that “even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light.”

“If we pull together over the last six weeks,” Mr. Martin told the nation, “we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.”

Credit...Paul Kane/Getty Images

New Zealanders, under a travel arrangement announced earlier this month with Australia, are allowed to visit the states of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, which have seen relatively low cases of the coronavirus.

But some appear eager to keep on traveling.

Gaps have emerged in the arrangement, meant to be the start a travel bubble that would later encompass Australia, after New Zealanders who entered the country via participating states have traveled on to other parts of Australia for vacations, or to visit friends and family.

But the rules for where they could travel after arriving are unclear, and many have caught connecting flights to other cities, including Melbourne — which has been under some of the strictest lockdown laws in the world after a second wave of the virus hit in July.

Initially, the state government of Victoria, the state that encompasses Melbourne, took the position that the dozens of passengers were unwelcome and sent police to track them down. It later backtracked, acknowledging that anyone from New Zealand, which has for the second time eliminated the virus, did not pose a risk to the state.

Michael Outram, the head of the Australian Border Force, said that the states had never raised objections to New Zealanders entering the country.

“Once a passenger leaves the international terminal, once they depart the customs controlled area, the back of the baggage hall, they cease to be an international traveler or passenger, they’ve entered Australia,” Mr. Outram told reporters on Monday.

The bubble, he added, “stops at the international terminal.”

Credit...Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

This summer, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana mandated face coverings in public spaces to combat a spike in Covid-19 cases. But the sheriff in the town of Hamilton, backed up by the Ravalli County commissioners, elected not to enforce the order, saying individual rights took priority.

That decision left small businesses stuck in the middle of a monthslong national conflict over mask wearing as they try to keep staff safe and their doors open without alienating customers.

For the owner of River Rising Bakery, Nicki Ransier, the commissioners’ decision made her life easier: “It kind of took some pressure off of us, because we’re not having that confrontation with our customers when they walk in.”

Before the governor’s order, Ms. Ransier asked her staff to wear masks, but a few customers berated her employees — some of whom are in high school — over the decision. One customer told the teenagers that they were “bending the knee to tyranny” by following Mr. Bullock’s order.

Other patrons wanted Ms. Ransier to flatly require masks for all and install costly plexiglass barriers. She felt she couldn’t please anyone, so she decided her policy would focus on what she could control: employees. She would let customers choose, but ask her 14 workers to wear masks even though it can be hot and miserable.

But the commissioners’ move frustrated Randy Lint, the owner of Big Creek Coffee Roasters. He thought the governor’s order would put an end to mask conflicts. Instead, he said, the commissioners’ decision “puts us at odds with customers.”

“Dealing with fallout from stressed customers has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic,” Mr. Lint said.

Global Roundup

Credit...Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China has vaccinated 60,000 people against the coronavirus and none of them have experienced any adverse reactions, a senior Chinese official said on Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time the scope of a mass vaccination campaign that has occurred even before the completion of late-stage trials.

The figures came from Tian Baoguo, a senior official at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, who spoke at a news conference. “Initial results show that they are safe,” he said.

The Chinese government’s confidence in its vaccines, four of which are in the last stage of clinical trials, could signal that it is ready to inoculate more people.

China is an outlier in vaccinating so many people before the conclusion of clinical trials. Officials have said the experimental use of the vaccines would not be part of trial data but would give them extra assurance that there are no safety issues. But scientists have warned that taking a vaccine that has not completed Phase 3 trials, the last stage of clinical trials before approval, carries health risks.

Before Mr. Tian’s announcement, it was not clear how many people in China had received coronavirus vaccines. Officials had already laid out plans to give shots to even more people, citing emergency use. On Sunday, the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu stopped the sale of a coronavirus vaccine after dozens of people demanded to be inoculated over the weekend.

Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company with two vaccine candidates in late-stage trials, has said hundreds of thousands of people have received its shots. Sinovac, a Beijing-based company, said more than 10,000 people in Beijing had been injected with its vaccine. Separately, it said nearly all its employees — around 3,000 in total — and their families had taken it.

China is expected to produce up to 610 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this year, Zheng Zhongwei, head of China’s coronavirus vaccine development task force said at the news conference, adding output will grow next year.

In other developments around the world:

Credit...Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

In a New Jersey suburb, a woman sets up a tent around 8 p.m. outside a state Motor Vehicle Commission office. She will spend the night there, accompanied by her 4-year-old son, until just before the office opens at 8 a.m. The woman, Sumbal Nadeem, doesn’t need a driver’s license or anything else from the agency.

But she does need money. She is being paid $150 to hold a place in line by a motorist who needs a car registration.

The pandemic has spawned a new class of worker in New Jersey: line holders who, for a fee, will wait for hours, sometimes all night, outside a branch of the Motor Vehicle Commission — which was closed for four months — until whoever hired them comes to take that place right before the office opens.

The Motor Vehicle Commission has been overwhelmed by demand since it reopened in early July, after having shut down in March during the state’s lockdown.

Even after making some services available online and pushing back the expiration dates for certain documents, the agency’s 39 locations — where paperwork is processed — have been inundated by customers. Lines stretch for blocks in the wee hours of the morning.

Because of capacity limits to protect public health, offices often start turning people away by mid- or late morning. The agency itself has been hit by the virus, with some offices forced to close for two weeks after employees tested positive.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy has acknowledged the aggravation many motorists have experienced, especially as temperatures drop. “Folks are frustrated by long lines, and so am I,” the governor recently told reporters.

While these struggles have been maddening to many, for others they have created an opportunity to make money at time when New Jersey has only added back about half of the 800,000 jobs it lost in March and April.

Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are filled with people offering to stand in line, charging $50 to $600.

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