The UK announced this morning that the National Health can start distributing a vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech next week:
Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.
But because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there - for care home staff, NHS staff and patients - so none of the vaccine is wasted.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.
The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the jab - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Mr Hancock said, with the first load next week and then "several millions" throughout December.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the first people in Scotland will be immunised on Tuesday.
Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shortened the quarantine period recommended for people exposed to the virus but asymptomatic:
The first alternative is to end quarantine after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters. The second option is to end quarantine after seven days if an individual tests negative and also reports no symptoms.
The decision is based on new research and modeling data, Walke said.
Still, Walke noted that a 14-day quarantine is still the best way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
The 14-day quarantine is based on the coronavirus's incubation period - the length of time it can take for a person to become infected after exposure to the virus.
We can see light at the end of this tunnel. Already, the Apollo Chorus have started discussing when we can resume in-person rehearsals and performances, in terms of city-wide infection rates, negative Covid tests, and vaccinations. We're going to get through this all right.
Three items, somewhat related:
- The president's doctor, Sean Conley, released a memo pronouncing the president "no longer considered transmission risk to others," without providing any information on whether he tested negative for Covid-19, because why would you want clarity around the president's health?
- The president, meanwhile, has openly called for prosecutions of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, in a desperate bid to hang on to power befitting a small, whiny loser.
- Three Washington Post reporters trace how a misogynistic conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris wended its way through the Intertubes.
Finally, if you're still undecided in this election, the Times has a quiz for you.
Starting in March, this year has seemed like a weird anthology TV show, with each month written and directed by a different team. We haven't had Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme yet; I'm hoping that'll be the season finale in February. This month we seem to have Armando Iannucci running the show, as the President's antics over the weekend suggest.
So here's how I'm spending lunch:
Tomorrow night will be the vice-presidential debate, which I will again live-blog. I can't wait.
First, a quick note: Joe and Jill Biden have tested negative for the virus.
Many of my friends, who I consider reasonable people, have spent the morning freaking out on social media about the President's Covid-19 infection. I'm a little alarmed and a little sad. Alarmed, because an unhealthy proportion of my friends seem to believe that the President or the White House is lying about it, perhaps to get out of the debate in two weeks, or perhaps to set up a hero's narrative when the President gets better.
I absolutely do not believe these conspiracy theories, not just because Occam's Razor says that someone who meets with dozens of unmasked people every day while spreading more disinformation about the disease than any other single source on the planet is pretty likely to catch it. I see also that the White House has (a) failed to provide information about how or when he may have contracted the virus; (b) downplayed his symptoms; but (c) already put the Vice President on stand-by, as further confirmation that he's actually sick. He's also a well-known germophobe who hates the thought of being infected with something more than he hates the thought of answering questions about his taxes. The evidence that he really has Covid-19 seems convincing, regardless of how he or his campaign may try to spin it later.
That aside, I'm also a little sad. Five years of constantly lying and actively tearing down our institutions has led to very smart people (e.g., my friends) immediately suspecting that this is just one more lie. The President and his pack of lickspittles and cronies have so damaged the country that people I love are wondering what his angle is in this announcement. He's 74 years old, obese, with some evidence of frontotemporal dementia—there is no angle here. If his disease progression is typical for someone with his comorbidities and age, he could be very sick two weeks from now. The Administration invoking the 25th Amendment—mere days before an election, something no president would ever want to happen for any conceivable reason—is now likelier than at any previous moment in his term.
The President contracting Covid-19 after nine months of lying about it and refusing to observe even the simplest prevention techniques in his own house is a breathtaking example of literary irony. That smart, thoughtful people on both sides of American politics immediately thought he was lying about it is its own irony. With only the slimmest apologies to Marx, the first is tragedy; the second, farce.
I sincerely hope the President and First Lady recover quickly, so he is fully aware and healthy when he loses the election, faces multiple criminal indictments in New York and other states, and pays hundreds of millions of dollars back to the US in tax penalties, as the institutions he's spent years trying to break show they still function just fine. Let him live to old age a pauper or an exile.
Take 20 minutes to fully understand the incompetence that brought us to 205,000 Covid-19 deaths when our peer countries have only a fraction:
More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 since we started paying attention six months ago. Let me put that into perspective:
The columns represent the total number of deaths for each event (blue) or per year (gray). The line represents those deaths on an annualized basis. At 400,000 deaths per year, Covid-19 now ranks as the third leading cause of death in the US for 2020 after cancer and heart disease. We're on course to have 133 9/11s or 12 times our usual number of car crash deaths just this year.
Whatever you might think about the policy distinctions between our two political parties, surely the Republicans' callous disregard for human life in this pandemic matters, right?
The cartoonist and author behind Hyperbole and a Half has returned with a new book, which I should receive tomorrow. This news offsets pretty much all the other news from today:
I'm sure there's more, but I'm done for the day.
Choral board meeting followed by chorus rehearsal: all on Zoom, and as president and generally techy guy, I'm hosting. After a full day of work and a 5 km walk. Whew.
So what's new?
Finally, if you want to be a Cook County Judge of Election, you can still sign up—and earn $230.
The official death toll in the US for Covid-19 has passed a milestone Deborah Birx predicted back in March:
In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.
"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News' "Today" show.
On Saturday, Birx's prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.
Meanwhile, though they have consistently done almost nothing right in the six months when 200,000 ordinary Americans have died, the Republican Party has put the pedal to the metal mobilizing after one Associate Justice died. It's all about power, nothing about the people.
Working from home with a gigabit Internet connection has at least one major perk: TV on in the background. I've gone through a lot of it in the last six months. The Expanse, Tales from the Loop, Wyonna Earp, Warrior Nun, Upload, and The Umbrella Academy were all worth watching. Some of them even have new seasons coming out soon.
On the "return to the office full-time" front, we probably have another six months to wait. The New York Times has a rundown of the 92 Covid-19 vaccines currently under development. But despite the president's lies, none of them will be available before the election. And getting 7 (or 14) billion doses manufactured and distributed will take time as well.
So, we work from home, wash our hands, wear our masks outside, and have lots of TV on in the background. Yay us.