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Coronavirus: Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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Coronavirus: Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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Coronavirus:

Hollywood film production is restarting with elaborate precautions to protect the cast and crew.

Coronavirus: Lara TakenagaCoronavirus: Jonathan Wolfe

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Credit…The New York Times

After a five-month hiatus, Hollywood film production has returned. But you won’t find cast and crew members in Los Angeles County, where coronavirus cases remain high and testing is scarce. Instead, studios are shooting overseas, bringing numerous safety protocols with them. Among the first test cases is Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which has become a model for moviemaking in the Covid-19 era.

Shot mainly outside London, “Jurassic World” resumed production in early July with some 750 people. To keep the virus at bay, Universal spent about $9 million on measures that include an entire rented hotel for the cast and crew, 150 hand sanitizer stations and temperature stations staffed by nurses. A comprehensive manual covers details like how to serve meals, which are vacuum sealed and distributed from behind plastic barriers.

Production has been divided into two categories: a larger one with departments that don’t need regular access to the set and a smaller “Green Zone” for the director, cast and essential crew. Green Zone workers and hotel staff members are screened three times a week for the virus, thanks to a supply of 18,000 tests, and sets are regularly fogged with antiviral mist. After an initial two-week quarantine, the cast and crew have been able to wander their hotel bubble mask free — no social distancing required.

Only two crew members who had been on set in England have tested positive for the virus. Others have been sent to a second filming location in Malta, where four have tested positive. Universal said no one had fallen seriously ill.

Production changes are one thing, but the pandemic has also thrown a wrench into film debuts. Some Hollywood executives believe consumer behavior may be shifting permanently as big-budget films opt for streaming debuts over theater premieres, explained Nicole Sperling, a Times reporter who covers media and entertainment. “But then there’s the argument that once theaters are open again, aren’t people going to want to get out of the house?”

Changes onscreen. People in the film industry say the future of TV and movies will be defined by austerity, The Washington Post reports. Don’t expect many crowd scenes, real-world locations or displays of romance. And expensive virus safeguards could mean there will be cutbacks in other areas, like the number of takes for each scene, resulting in a less polished final product.


A new study suggests that extreme obesity puts men — but not women — at higher risk of death from Covid-19.

Researchers analyzed thousands of patients at a Southern California health system and found that extreme obesity was a risk factor for dying, particularly among men and patients 60 or younger. For reasons that scientists don’t fully understand, obesity on its own did not appear to increase the risk for women. It could be physiological: Women carry weight differently from men, who tend to have more visceral and abdominal fat.

Science can be messy. A Korean study last month is being re-evaluated after the researchers released additional data. The study suggested that children between the ages of 10 and 19 spread the coronavirus more than adults. But now it’s not clear who was infecting whom.

The findings influenced the debate about the risks of reopening schools, and it’s a reminder that when making important decisions about the coronavirus, it’s important to look at the entire spectrum of evidence, rather than any one specific study.

Treatment delays. Clinical trials for monoclonal antibodies, drugs that make Covid-19 less deadly, are taking longer than expected. Researchers at a dozen clinical trial sites said that testing delays, staffing shortages and reluctant patients were causing them to delay potential treatments by week or months.


Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.


  • The U.S. agreement with Canada and Mexico to limit nonessential travel has been extended a fifth time, through Sept. 21, the Department of Homeland Security said today.

  • The cost of “learning pods” — often from $30 an hour per child to $100 or more — has prompted concerns that they could make public education even more unequal.

  • Researchers have found a way to sanitize N95 masks for reuse using electric cookers like the Instant Pot, The Washington Post reports.

  • Cosmetic surgeons say business is booming, with quarantine offering an opportune time to recover in secrecy.


When the public beaches closed in South Carolina, I started live-streaming sunrise from the ocean for my friends who were craving a nature fix. Somehow it’s become a daily thing: it gives me a way to connect with distant friends and connect them with one of the most basic, reassuring parts of nature.

— Judy Drew Fairchild, Dewees Island, S.C.

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Coronavirus:

Deaths are climbing in the U.S., and data suggests the official toll is an undercount.

Coronavirus: Jonathan WolfeCoronavirus: Lara Takenaga

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[Follow our live Covid-19 news and updates.]

While coronavirus cases have been stabilizing or declining in many areas of the United States, deaths are on the rise. At least 1,470 deaths were reported on Wednesday, making it the deadliest day for the virus since May — aside from a few irregular days where large backlogs were reported.

The new wave of deaths is largely a result of the early summer surge in cases across the Sun Belt states; patients sometimes die a few weeks after they become infected.

The U.S. has now recorded more than 166,000 deaths from the virus, more than any other country. But even that stark statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

According to a Times analysis, the total number of U.S. residents who have died since March is now more than 200,000 higher than it would be in a normal year. These excess deaths suggest that the official death count may be a substantial undercount, failing to count some people who die from Covid-19 as well as those who die from secondary causes that are also linked to the pandemic.

The data suggests that many of the recent coronavirus cases and deaths in the South and the West were driven largely by reopenings and relaxed social distancing restrictions.

As deadly as 1918? The 1918 influenza pandemic is the deadliest in modern history, claiming an estimated 50 million lives worldwide. But by some measures, the death rate at the height of the Covid-19 surge in New York City was nearly as bad. As one doctor put it: “What 1918 looked like is basically this.”


How did an outbreak of 17 cases emerge in Auckland this week, after New Zealand went more than 100 days without a single local transmission?

As officials race to find out, they have locked down the city and rolled out a huge testing, contact tracing and quarantine blitz to quash Covid-19 for the second time.

Some of the infected New Zealanders work at a warehouse that stored imported food, so one theory is that the virus arrived via cargo shipments. But epidemiologists believe human-to-human transmission is more likely. Another focus is quarantine facilities for returning travelers, which seeded a raging outbreak in Melbourne, Australia.

The situation unfolding in New Zealand closely mirrors what happened last month in Vietnam, another nation heralded for its initial response to the virus. After 99 days of no locally transmitted cases, the virus arrived in the port city of Da Nang, which quickly sealed itself off and went into lockdown. Weeks later, epidemiologists still aren’t sure what happened.

Danger lurking in food? Reports that the virus was detected in frozen chicken wings shipped to China from Brazil have prompted concern, but experts say that catching the virus from food is highly unlikely. Though an infected person probably handled the chicken, an extraordinarily unusual series of events would need to occur for the virus to be transmitted, they said.


  • India has now reported 47,033 coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing Britain for the fourth-most in the world.

  • Germany reported 1,445 new cases today — a level not seen since the country tamped down the virus in May.

  • The first virus case has been reported in one of Greece’s migrant camps on the Aegean Islands, which are more overcrowded than those on the mainland.



As a resident physician deep in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been kept emotionally afloat by a monthly Zoom book club with my close college friends and parents (a stellar combination). We’re all hundreds of miles apart, and it’s been a welcome reprieve to have my favorite people virtually sharing literary reflections and laughter in these strange times.

— Katy Markland, Miami

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Coronavirus:

Hurricane Laura tore through part of the U.S. already struggling with the pandemic.

Coronavirus: Jonathan WolfeCoronavirus: Lara Takenaga

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Credit…The New York Times

Hurricane Laura slammed into the Louisiana and Texas coasts overnight, sending residents in areas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic scrambling to find shelter. The hurricane was among the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S., and more than 500,000 residents in its path were urged to leave their homes.

The challenge facing officials was immense: evacuate and house thousands of residents, quickly, while also protecting them from the coronavirus.

In Texas, many traditional shelters, which were running at lower capacity to allow for social distancing, had filled up by Wednesday morning, The Texas Tribune reported. Across the region, evacuees were instead urged to book hotel and motel rooms as a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the coronavirus.

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Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

In many ways, the virus changed the calculus for those weighing the decision to evacuate or hunker down. The risk of catching Covid-19 has made people less likely to evacuate in the event of a hurricane, reported Bloomberg. Others in Laura’s path simply did not have the means to escape because their livelihoods were eviscerated when the economy cratered. And those infected before the storm hit have found it difficult to find accommodations willing to host them.

As of this evening the storm continues to plow through Louisiana, and once it passes, the virus will be harder to track there. Louisiana, one of the states most ravaged by the pandemic, closed its testing sites ahead of the storm. Gov. John Bel Edwards said it would be difficult to get them running again because of the damage from the storm and staffing issues.

Rebuilding looks equally difficult.

Vernon Pierce, who coordinates nonprofit aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit the region in 2017, told The Texas Tribune that he was worried people might be weary of donating cleaning supplies or volunteering to fix damaged homes.

The pandemic, he said, “is going to make it harder to bring people in to help.”


Around 35 vaccines are speeding through human clinical trials, and experts predict that the first vaccines could become available as early as the beginning of next year. Behind those front-runners, more than 60 candidates are preparing to enter trials in the coming year.

With so many promising vaccines so much further along, why would researchers start trials at a time when the world may already have a viable vaccine — possibly even a few of them?

Our colleague Carl Zimmer, who covers science, told us that these slow and steady scientists are betting they can make stronger and cheaper vaccines.

“We don’t know if any of the vaccines that are in clinical trials actually work,” Carl told us. “And the fact that they got into clinical trials quickly does not mean that they’re going to turn out to be the best.”

Many of the leading candidates use a similar approach, and the slower scientists worry that we may be putting too many eggs in one basket. So research groups are designing vaccines that use different approaches, like nanoparticles or T cells. They’re trying new delivery methods, such as nasal sprays, or developing vaccines that they hope can protect people for longer.

The world may also need billions of doses, and some researchers believe their vaccines can meet the demand — and at a fraction of the cost.

“It’s possible that the first wave of vaccines is a luxury good that only wealthy nations can afford,” Carl told us. “And meanwhile, there can be other vaccines that are going to be effective, maybe even more effective, and they’re going to be super cheap.”


  • The governor of Iowa has ordered bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries and nightclubs to close in six counties starting this evening, amid a spike in cases.

  • South Korea reported 441 new cases today, its highest daily tally since early March. The government has pointed the finger at doctors on strike and churches’ obstruction of epidemiological efforts.

  • A lockdown was extended in the Gaza Strip as the densely populated territory faces its first outbreak of community-transmitted cases.

  • The virus has infiltrated remote island territories of India in the Bay of Bengal, where members of a vulnerable aboriginal tribe have been infected.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



I love going to the city park. Unfortunately, many parks in Jakarta, especially near my home, are mostly closed during this pandemic. Some friends from Europe, Singapore and Australia know this and they, from time to time, video call me when they take a walk, so I can talk to them and see the park virtually as if I were there.

— Lia Zakiyyah, Jakarta, Indonesia

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Coronavirus:

The F.D.A. is expanding use of antibody-rich plasma as a treatment. Does it work?

Coronavirus: Jonathan WolfeCoronavirus: Lara Takenaga

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The Food and Drug Administration this week gave emergency approval for the expanded use of blood plasma to treat Covid-19, making the treatment more available to those who want it.

Convalescent plasma, as it’s known, comes from blood taken from people who are recovering from Covid-19. The blood is spun down to remove red and white blood cells, leaving a pale yellow liquid that contains antibodies. That serum can be injected into a patient early in an infection to help them fight the virus.

While the treatment is considered safe, scientists can’t say for sure whether it works because there haven’t been many clinical trials with control groups. Setting up those studies has been difficult, because sick people are generally unwilling to sign up for a trial in which they might get a placebo.

Among the limited studies that have been done, researchers found that the treatment showed the best results among patients under 80 years old and not on a ventilator, who received plasma with a high level of antibodies within three days of diagnosis.

President Trump had been pushing for expanded use of the treatment over the concerns of top government scientists who argued that the data was too weak. Our colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. told The Daily that Mr. Trump’s approach might end up doing more harm than good.

“It’s exactly what happened with hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “It was talked up so much that people wanted it. And so it became hard to do the clinical trials in which they got a 50 percent chance of getting a placebo, because they didn’t want it. They’d heard the president say, ‘It’s a miracle drug,’ so they insisted on it.”

Hydroxychloroquine was later found to be dangerous, and an emergency authorization for the drug heralded by Mr. Trump was later rescinded.

Misrepresenting data. At a news conference Sunday announcing the emergency approval, President Trump and two of his top health officials misstated the effectiveness of the treatment. Public health officials and scientists have called for a correction.


Early in the pandemic, U.S. islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific averted the crisis that had swept over parts of the mainland thanks to fast action and easily sealed borders. But now, after relaxed restrictions and slow contact tracing, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico have emerged as the latest American hot spots.

After an early lockdown, the U.S. Virgin Islands began welcoming tourists again on June 1. But the situation has shifted rapidly: Cases spiked to 224 per 100,000 residents over the past week — the highest per-capita increase of any state or territory in the country. To tamp down the virus, the authorities are stopping tourism for a month, shuttering nonessential businesses and imposing stay-at-home orders.

Mounting cases in Puerto Rico, which issued the first U.S. lockdown in March, have prompted a curfew and a shutdown of the Senate, where several top officials have fallen ill. People who don’t wear masks can be confined, and a new stay-at-home order on Sundays was announced to limit socializing.

In Guam, where the infection rate has grown rapidly, the island’s harshest lockdown yet has faced growing criticism from residents, who can be fined $1,000 for violating it. Hawaii has also come under fire for its restrictions, which allow restaurants and gyms to remain open while hiking trails and parks have closed.


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Credit…By The New York Times | Sources: Johns Hopkins University and World Bank
  • A surge in cases has pushed Spain’s per-capita caseload far above its European neighbors, and even above the United States’ in recent days. Officials say thousands of troops may be deployed to track local outbreaks.

  • South Korea is closing schools in the Seoul metropolitan area and returning to online classes as it faces a fast-spreading outbreak.

  • A sweeping lockdown of the Xinjiang region in China has continued even with its outbreak seemingly under control, prompting residents to lash out after more than a month of restrictions.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



My wife, two young daughters and I live in Queens, and the lockdown has coincided with an enormous crop of plums in a tree in our backyard this summer. With a lot of time at home, we donated more than 20 pounds of plums to local food pantries, invited friends and neighbors for socially distanced plum-picking, and made plum jam, plum cake, granita, syrup and plum-infused gin.

— Erik Bierbauer, Jackson Heights, Queens

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Coronavirus:

An outbreak among the crew of a fishing boat spared the only three members with antibodies.

Coronavirus: Jonathan Wolfe

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Credit…The New York Times

An accidental experiment on a fishing boat is offering the best evidence yet that antibodies — at even moderate levels — offer protection from the coronavirus.

The vessel, American Dynasty, set sail from Seattle in May with 122 crew members who were all tested for both the virus and antibodies. But the ship returned to port after 18 days at sea when one crew member became ill enough to need hospitalization. More than 100 sailors eventually tested positive — but not the three sailors who were the only ones to show antibodies at the start, according to a new report. And two of them had only moderate levels.

The study addressed one of the most important unanswered questions of the pandemic: whether an immune response from contracting the virus protects against reinfection.

Although the study was small, the chance that the crew members with antibodies would, by chance, not have been infected is incredibly small (0.002 percent). The findings are reassuring to scientists, who have been relying on studies of monkeys for evidence of antibodies’ potency.

The researchers don’t know how the virus got on board, according to Apoorva Mandavilli, who reported on the study. “It could have been one of two people whose tests they couldn’t assess,” she said, “or could have been someone newly infected, so too early to test positive yet.”

Treatment on hold. Antibody-rich blood plasma, donated by those who have survived Covid-19, is being tested in clinical trials as a treatment for the disease. But an emergency authorization for its use in the U.S. is on hold, after top federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned that the data on the treatment is still too weak.


Iran, a country hit early and hard by the virus, is in the midst of a second wave.

The country’s health ministry announced today that it had reached 20,000 deaths from the virus, but health experts inside and outside Iran, and even members of the Iranian Parliament, suggest that the number may be many times higher.

To understand what’s going on, we spoke to our colleague Farnaz Fassihi, who covers Iran for The Times. She painted a picture of an outbreak still out of control.

What’s the situation in the country?

It’s very bad. It’s in the thick of a second surge worse than the first one in March. The majority of provinces, including the capital, Tehran, are “red zones.” Doctors are saying hospitals and I.C.U. beds are full. At the same time, there are some restrictions for public gatherings but, generally, it’s open for business.

Even by the government’s own numbers, cases are on the rise. What happened?

They opened too soon. When the virus first arrived in the country, they closed down for just two weeks during the New Year holiday in mid-March. They didn’t meet any of the benchmarks when they reopened. There’s no contact tracing. There’s no quarantine.

What are Iranians feeling?

In the early months, people were very scared. They were self-isolating and staying home and not sending their kids to school, even when the schools were still open. But I think as time has passed, like a lot of places, we see that people are becoming more reckless.

There’s also a nuanced dynamic here. This is a government that for 40 years has told people what to do, how to dress, how to behave — and many people’s mind-set is to always defy what the government says. So now, when there’s a pandemic, and the government tells them, “Stay home, wear a mask,” they’re like: “No. We don’t trust you. And you don’t tell us what to do.”

And so for Iran, I think the challenge to contain a pandemic may be greater than it is for other countries because the government is dealing with 70 million people whose default mode is to defy it.


  • The Mariinsky Ballet, one of the most renowned companies in Russia, returned to the stage last month but was abruptly ordered to quarantine last week after about 30 members contracted the virus.

  • Finland, which has some of the most severe travel restrictions in Europe, announced that it would tighten restrictions on incoming travelers starting on Monday.

  • Nepal plans to reimpose a strict lockdown and curfew in the Kathmandu Valley for a week, when all movement except essential services will be restricted.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



I’m a widow, age 84, in a single-family home in Southern California, praying daily for the world. To overcome loneliness, I telephone family and friends, read on my front porch and greet neighbors. I drive around town, reminiscing about meeting my husband and raising our children here.

— Ann Gideon, Redlands, 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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