Positive vaccine news
Novavax, the little-known Maryland company that received $1.6 billion from the federal government to produce an experimental coronavirus vaccine, announced encouraging results in two preliminary studies on Tuesday.
In one study, 56 volunteers produced a high level of antibodies against the virus without any dangerous side effects. In the other, researchers found that the vaccine strongly protected monkeys from coronavirus infections.
There are other vaccines that are further along with clinical trials, but Novavax’s stands out because it is protein-based — the same proven technology used for existing vaccines against diseases like shingles — which could make it safer and easier to manufacture in large amounts.
Our colleague Carl Zimmer, a science writer and author of “A Planet of Viruses,” thinks there will be a number of coronavirus vaccines that will turn out to be safe and effective. “I think that there will be a patchwork,” he told us. India, China, and Russia, could all end up with their own successful vaccines, he said, and “there may be vaccines that are better for old people and other groups.”
Despite the promising initial results, it won’t be possible to say whether the Novavax vaccine is safe and effective until the company conducts a large-scale study — known as Phase 3 — comparing people who get vaccinated to people who get a placebo.
The Times’s Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker monitors vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection that are still being tested in cells or animals.
The strain on Main Street
Even as the larger economy is showing signs that it’s beginning to heal, small businesses are still reeling from the pandemic.
In New York City, family-run restaurants, independent bookstores and other small businesses are the backbone of the economy, but when the pandemic eventually wanes, roughly one-third (around 80,000) may never reopen. Many American small businesses have exhausted federal and local aid, while others have received only a fraction of what they need to stay afloat.
The situation is perhaps most dire for Black business owners, who had a harder time securing federal aid than their white counterparts, own businesses in areas that were hit hard by the outbreak, and now appear to be closing their ventures at nearly twice the rate of the average business owner.
Questionable beneficiaries. A well-connected trucking company received more than $700 million in federal pandemic aid after a Republican senator asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to help the firm — even as the company was being sued by the Justice Department over claims that it had defrauded the federal government.
The second wave crashing over Australia
Australia looked as though it might be one of the few success stories in the fight against the coronavirus, thanks to a rapid, tough response from the government. But after the outbreak had largely been brought under control, cases and deaths have spiked in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, showing just how tenuous any victory can be.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 4, 2020
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
The Stage 3 lockdown, once the toughest level, has given way to even more restrictive policies that will last at least six weeks. Residents are now under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Nearly everyone traveling for a job deemed essential must carry a signed work permit. And after a campaign to check in on people with Covid-19 found that one in four was not at home, a fine equivalent to about $3,500 was established for future violators. Some of the new rules have led to widespread confusion, with unclear guidance for everything from dog-walking to seeing romantic partners.
What else we’re following
President Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with Axios, addressed the U.S. death toll from the virus, saying, “It is what it is.”
As Tropical Storm Isaias moves up the East Coast, Tara Parker-Pope, our Well editor, advises against wearing a wet mask, which does not filter as effectively as a dry one.
The governors of Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia are negotiating a purchase of three million antigen tests — 500,000 per state — as part of a new partnership.
“We were not built for a situation like this”: Many medical facilities in poor American communities lack intensive-care units, exacerbating the toll of the virus.
What is life like inside the N.B.A. bubble at Walt Disney World? Marc Stein, who covers basketball for The Times, shared snapshots of the surreal experience.
What you’re doing
Stuck inside with our new curfew, my girlfriend and I are making our way through the top 250 movies of all time, using a random number generator to pick what we watch next.
— Oliver Bryant, Melbourne, Australia
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.