Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today



Here’s promising news in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine to ward off the coronavirus. The Jenner Institute at Oxford University has one that seems to work in lab animals and is ready to test its effectiveness in humans, if regulators approve.

The institute had a big head start, our correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick reports. Its scientists had an approach that they already knew was safe: They had proved it in trials last year for a vaccine to fight MERS, a respiratory disease caused by a closely related virus.

That has enabled the institute to skip ahead and schedule tests of its new Covid-19 vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of May, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana got very good results when they tried out the Oxford vaccine last month on six rhesus macaque monkeys. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the coronavirus. After more than four weeks, all six were still healthy.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.

Immunity in monkeys doesn’t guarantee that a vaccine will protect people, but it’s an encouraging sign. If the May trials go well and regulators grant emergency approval, the Oxford scientists say they could have a few million doses of their vaccine available by September — months ahead of other vaccine projects.

“It is a very, very fast clinical program,” said Emilio Emini of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is helping to finance a number of competing efforts.

All in the genes: The Jenner Institute isn’t following the classic approach of using a weakened version of the disease pathogen. Instead, its approach starts with another familiar virus, neutralizes it and then genetically modifies it so that it will prompt the body to produce the right antibodies for Covid-19.

Researchers originally cooked up the technology in a quest to develop a vaccine for malaria, which is caused by a parasite. No luck there yet. But when the idea was borrowed to go after MERS, it worked well.

Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio have joined Georgia and South Carolina in relaxing some social distancing guidelines and allowing certain businesses to reopen, and more states are expected to follow this week — even though health experts and epidemiologists are warning that more widespread testing is needed to do so safely.

Better-off workers, who tend to be college-educated and white, may keep working from home and avoiding the virus. But lower-paid blue-collar workers, who are more likely to be black or Latino, will not have that option. They’ll face a tough choice: Return to work and put their health at risk, or stay home and put their jobs at risk.

The burdens of the pandemic have already fallen disproportionately on lower-income workers and minorities. The virus is killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate, and people making less than $50,000 a year are more than twice as likely as others to say they or a family member lost their job during the crisis.

Some activists say the recovery from the crisis doesn’t have to be that way, if policymakers act responsibly and fairly.

“The inequality we’re seeing isn’t unfortunate, like a car accident,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of the racial justice advocacy group Color of Change. “It’s unjust. It’s being manufactured through a whole set of choices.”

While most people can shelter at home, workers classified as essential to keeping the country running during the pandemic have been forced onto the front lines, jeopardizing themselves and their families. They are nurses and police officers and power-line repair crews, of course, but also workers in many less obvious occupations, from grocery cashiers to morticians.

“I’m basically risking my life,” said Joseph Morales, who delivers liquor in the city.

It’s not known exactly how many truck drivers have gotten sick from the coronavirus, but the International Brotherhood of Teamsters says thousands of its New York members have reported having symptoms.

Sign-language interpreters have become some of the most visible essential workers, appearing on television and in live internet streams beside governors and public health officials. The challenge they face: ad-libbing new gestures for phrases like “bend the curve,” “social distance” and “don’t drink Clorox.”

Risky business: In mid-April, essential workers came into contact with an average of 22 other people a day, compared with four a day for nonessential workers, according to a new Gallup survey. More than half of the essential workers said they were moderately or very concerned about being exposed to the virus at work.

Nurses in the Philippines and Mexico have been doused in bleach. Medical workers in India were chased by a stone-throwing mob. And in Pakistan, a nurse and her children were thrown out of their apartment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began by listing just three symptoms for Covid-19: fever, cough and shortness of breath. But we now know that the disease can hit one patient very differently from another. So the C.D.C. has officially added six more:

Not everyone who is infected will have them all, and some people won’t have any. The only sure way to know if you have the virus is to get tested.

Attend to your pets’ needs. Forget caring about how they look and concentrate on keeping them safe and healthy. Thinking about adopting a quarantine puppy? Here are some things to consider.

Stock the liquor cabinet. Whether creating a small home bar or mixing Instagram-worthy cocktails, the trick is to improvise and innovate, and above all, keep it simple.

Get your rest. Practicing meditation may help you fall asleep. Here’s a guide.

Can I make a mask out of bra pads? They aren’t the most effective at filtering out particles, but they can work in a pinch. Here’s how other everyday materials, like denim, coffee filters and bandannas, stack up for mask-making.

Whenever I traveled, I bought postcards as souvenirs. Going through things, I started to find them. So I decided to start writing two each day, and share something great about each place with my friends. It’s a wonderful reminder of my pleasant past life, and it lets people know I am thinking of them!

— Leslie Dunn Levine, Oceanside, Calif.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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