Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Administration Vaccine Chief Casts Doubt on Vaccine by Election Day

The New York Times surveyed more than 1,500 colleges, and found that over two-thirds have reported at least one case. Madrid’s leader said it was “probable that all children would get infected, one way or another.”

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Just days after filming resumed on “The Batman” at studios outside London, it shut down again after the lead actor, Robert Pattinson, tested positive for the coronavirus.

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President Trump’s vaccine chief sees a ‘very, very low chance’ of a vaccine by Election Day.

Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program, said on Thursday that it was “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be available by the end of October.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Dr. Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, explained that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to states to prepare for a vaccine as early as late October — a notification Dr. Slaoui said he had learned of through the news media — was “the right thing to do” in case a vaccine was ready by that time. “It would be irresponsible not to be ready if that was the case,” he said.

However, he described that as a “very, very low chance.”

That message ran counter to the optimistic assertions in recent days from the White House that a vaccine could be ready for distribution before Election Day in November. President Trump, during the Republican National Convention, said a vaccine could be ready “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.” And he and others have tried to project confidence in a quick victory.

Dr. Slaoui confirmed that the two main candidates, referred to as Vaccine A and Vaccine B, were being developed by Pfizer and Moderna. He said that there was “no intent” to introduce a vaccine before clinical trials were completed, and that trials would only be completed when an independent safety monitoring board, separate from the government, affirmed the effectiveness of the vaccine.

The interviewer, Mary Louise Kelly, raised the timing of a possible vaccine given in the documents the C.D.C. recently sent to public health officials, and asked directly whether the delivery of the vaccine was being motivated by political concerns.

“For us there is absolutely nothing to do with politics,” Dr. Slaoui responded, saying that those involved were working as hard as they could because so many people were dying every day. “Many of us may or may not be supportive of this administration. It’s irrelevant, frankly.”

Though he continued to express doubt that a vaccine would be ready by the end of October, Dr. Slaoui said, “I firmly believe that we will have a vaccine available before the end of the year and it will be available in quantities that can immunize patients, subjects at the highest risk,” including the elderly and those who are working in jobs with high exposure to the virus.

He estimated that there would be enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize “probably between 20 and 25 million people.” He said that manufacturing would be ramped up so that there would be enough vaccine doses to immunize the U.S. population “by the middle of 2021.”

Hydroxychloroquine prescriptions soar on President Trump’s say-so.

Prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug promoted by President Trump as a treatment for the virus, skyrocketed in March and April after the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency waiver for its use against Covid-19, but tapered off to more normal levels in May and June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

The F.D.A. withdrew its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine (and its less-prescribed sister drug, chloroquine) in June after scientists concluded that its benefits did not outweigh its risks for Covid-19; the review that led to the revocation found more than 100 cases — including 25 deaths — of serious heart disorders in Covid-19 patients taking the drug. Clinical trials also showed it was of little benefit in treating the disease.

Even so, the C.D.C. reported that more than 1.3 million prescriptions — new and refills — were written in March and April, up from about 819,000 during the same period last year. The strong spike in usage suggests the influence that Mr. Trump and emergency waivers from the F.D.A. can have in driving medical decision-making — even in the absence of limited evidence of a drug’s effectiveness.

But perhaps the most striking finding was that “nonroutine prescribers” — specialists who would not typically have a reason to prescribe the drug — wrote more than 75,000 hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine prescriptions in the month of March alone. That is 80 times the number written during March 2019.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are approved to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus as well as malaria. Mr. Trump, who said he took hydroxychloroquine himself, called it a possible “game changer” and repeatedly promoted it during his daily briefings this spring.

The disease control centers analyzed prescriptions of the drug to gauge the effects of the F.D.A.’s emergency waiver, which was issued March 28 to allow the drugs to be distributed from the national stockpile. “During March and April 2020, nonroutine prescribers accounted for the largest percentage increase in new prescriptions compared with the same period in 2019,” the agency wrote, adding, “The nonroutine prescribing specialties with the highest prescribing volume and growth in March 2020 were ophthalmology, anesthesiology, and cardiology.”

But new prescriptions written by such prescribers have tapered off considerably. In June, roughly 1,900 were written.

Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker

An updated list of potential treatments for Covid-19.

The virus is surging at U.S. colleges, where more than 51,000 cases have been identified so far.

More than 51,000 cases of the coronavirus have been identified at American colleges and universities over the course of the pandemic, including thousands that have emerged in recent days as students returned to campus for the fall.

The New York Times surveyed more than 1,500 colleges, and found that over two-thirds have reported at least one case. More than 100 of the institutions have reported at least 100 cases, including several large public universities in the Midwest and South that have tested aggressively but struggled to contain the spread. Auburn, Illinois State and South Carolina are among at least six universities with more than 1,000 known cases.

Direct campus-to-campus comparisons are not meaningful because of differences in colleges’ size, mission and reporting practices. But it is clear that the pandemic has affected every segment of higher education. Small religious colleges, stand-alone medical schools, Ivy League universities, community colleges and public research institutions have all had significant outbreaks.

The reopening of campuses has led to case surges in several college towns, quarantines at fraternity and sorority houses, and pleas for students to avoid large gatherings. Iowa State scrapped plans to allow fans at its first football game. Virginia Commonwealth had to find more isolation space after a large cluster emerged. And California State University, Chico, sent its students home after dozens of cases emerged in the first days of the fall term.

“I, like you, wish the story of this semester had been much different,” Gayle Hutchinson, the university’s president, wrote in a letter announcing the decision.

Education Roundup

A small college in Pennsylvania has locked down every single student. It may be a first.

Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania has ordered its entire student body to quarantine in their dorm rooms, becoming possibly the first American campus to lock down all its students because of coronavirus cases.

The small liberal arts school reported on Tuesday that 24 students had tested positive in the previous two days, a positivity rate of about 7 percent. (The World Health Organization recommends that the positivity rate be 5 percent or lower for 14 days before schools and businesses reopen.)

It then directed all its full-time students — its enrollment is generally about 2,500 — to remain in their rooms except to get takeout meals at campus dining facilities, use the bathroom, go for a coronavirus test or speak with a counselor. The lockdown could last through the end of the week, officials said.

In a letter to students, Julie Ramsey, the college’s dean of students, said that many of the infections “were connected to certain affinity groups or social gatherings.” Some students assert that Greek life organizations holding gatherings for rush week were responsible for the campus’s uptick in positive cases.

Many larger universities have created special isolation housing for students who test positive, or have ordered individual dormitories or fraternity houses to quarantine after outbreaks. But Jo Ellen Parker, a spokeswoman for the Council of Independent Colleges, said she knew of no other college that had asked an entire student body to quarantine in their rooms.

One Gettysburg student, Alexander Bove, a freshman, summed it up starkly: “It’s essentially a prison situation.”

“Our administration goes home to their families,” he said. “They can buy things. They can go to events. And they’re not being held to the same standard as we are.”

Thousands of coronavirus cases have been reported at American colleges and universities in recent day as more students return to campuses.

In other education news:

Temple University, which had planned to be online-only for just the first two weeks of classes, said Thursday that it would remain virtual for the rest of the fall term because of the continued spread of the virus. . As of Tuesday, the university had reported 212 active cases among students on and off campus, and none of them had more than moderate symptoms.

After testing found “uncontrolled spread” in its fraternity and sorority houses, the Indiana University has told the 2,600 students who live in them to move out and go home if possible. Thirty of the 42 Greek houses and communal living facilities connected with the campus in Bloomington, Ind., were already under quarantine orders, and five have had more than half their residents test positive. The houses were required to have safe living plans in place before opening for the fall, “but many of those plans are proving to be ineffective in adequately providing for the health and safety of the students living in the houses,” the college said in a statement Thursday.

The State University of New York at Oneonta closed its campus Thursday, canceling all in-person classes and ordering students to move out less than two weeks after the school opened. Nearly 400 students have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the school’s Covid-19 dashboard. It is the first New York state school to close its campus after beginning classes.

And elsewhere in New York, officials at Syracuse University said they had detected traces of the virus in wastewater coming from one dorm. They ordered students in the dorm to return to their rooms and said all residents and employees who work there would be tested. The university recently placed 23 students under interim suspension for violating campus safety rules, including taking part in a large gathering on the quad, conduct that officials called reckless.

Filming on ‘The Batman’ shuts down after its star, Robert Pattinson, tests positive.

Just days after filming resumed on “The Batman” at studios outside London, it shut down again after its lead actor, Robert Pattinson, tested positive for the virus.

In a statement Thursday, Warner Bros. confirmed that filming was “temporarily paused” and that “a member of ‘The Batman’ production has tested positive for Covid-19, and is isolating in accordance with established protocols.”

Work on the film first shut down in March because of the pandemic, which has staggered the entertainment industry. Filming began last September.

In the title role, Mr. Pattinson, 34, plays a young Bruce Wayne early in his career as the DC comic-book vigilante.

Backed by U.S. federal funds, new virus tests are hitting the market.

With the pandemic still raging as fall approaches, the government’s efforts to support development and deployment of a variety of testing methods are a rare if belated bright spot amid widespread failures to contain the coronavirus.

In the latest round of U.S. government backing, the National Institutes of Health said on Wednesday that it was providing nine more companies with $123.3 million from a $2.5 billion pot of money allocated last spring by the stimulus bill to support testing. That will bring the total amount disbursed so far by the N.I.H. to $372 million across 16 companies.

The goal is to support production of a broad spectrum of tests, making them more widely available and perhaps ultimately as easy to use as a home pregnancy test. Tests must show that they meet the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for safety and accuracy before they can be sold.

“It’s going to be a wonderful competition,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, the N.I.H. director, said in an interview on Tuesday evening.

Yet even as the government helps rush new tests to market, the administration continues to issue conflicting — and sometimes flatly contradictory — messages about how many and what types of tests are needed, when they should be administered and to whom.

President Trump has long derided testing, complaining that it drives up the number of confirmed cases. The lack of a clear national strategy has confused the public, deeply frustrated public health officials and befuddled pharmaceutical executives.

But as testing options have multiplied, easing some of the shortages and laboratory bottlenecks that hampered the early response to the pandemic, universities, employers, state and local governments and other institutions have been increasingly filling in some of the vacuum left by the administration with their own testing plans.

In a recent interview, Dr. Bruce J. Tromberg, who directs the N.I.H.’s test development program, estimated that the United States needed to test about six million people a day, citing reports by experts at the Rockefeller Foundation and other organizations. Without federal assistance, he said, companies would at best produce only half that number by the end of the year.

Trump administration officials like Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar and an assistant secretary of health, say they want states and localities to create their own testing plans that fit their specific needs rather than to be forced to follow federal dictates. But many experts complain that the lack of federal decision-making — including how many tests a day the United States should aim for — is an impediment in the nation’s battle against the virus, which so far has killed more than 184,000 people and infected more than six million.

“Let’s not just say we are ramping up and hope we get there. Let’s have a goal in mind,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, the director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under former President George W. Bush. “It’s not just a matter of getting the tests to market.”

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