California will impose stay-at-home orders in areas where intensive care units are close to capacity.
New York City’s average positive test rate rose above 5 percent for the first time since May.
Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — said they were willing to take an approved vaccine publicly to demonstrate its safety.
Bad as things are, the worst is yet to come
Nine months after the initial outbreak, the United States, by our best indicators, has never been in a worse position in the pandemic.
Across the country, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, a record that is nearly double the high point in the spring, when the pandemic reached its first peak. The country also recorded nearly 200,000 cases yesterday, its second highest daily total since the pandemic began, and today surpassed a total of 14 million infections.
Sadly, all indications point to things probably getting much worse.
When there are so many cases in so many places, as there are now, it becomes much more difficult to bend the curve — it’s like turning around an aircraft carrier, Dr. Anthony Fauci told me recently.
The April peak was the worst moment in the spring. Deaths dropped after lockdowns were imposed, Americans changed their behavior and the summer months arrived.
Now, however, there’s no interruption in sight. The delayed effects of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings are likely to push the cases, hospitalizations and deaths higher. The communal rituals of support and hope that helped get the country through the first surge — like the nightly pot-banging salutes to health care workers — have disappeared. Pandemic fatigue and winter’s grim chill make the appeal of December holiday gatherings even more difficult to resist.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday that he thought that the next few months may not be just the toughest moment of the coronavirus pandemic, but perhaps the most difficult time in the nation’s public health history.
But there is still time to turn things around, he said, if Americans would just take measures to slow the spread, like wearing masks.
“It’s not a fait accompli,” he said. “We’re not defenseless. The truth is that mitigation works. But it’s not going to work if half of us do what we need to do. Probably not even if three-quarters do.”
The vaccine’s “cold chain” is under cyberattack
Researchers in IBM’s cybersecurity division recently discovered a series of cyberattacks against the companies and government organizations that will be distributing the coronavirus vaccine.
Both IBM and the Department of Homeland Security said the attackers appeared to be trying to steal the network credentials of key people in the “cold chain,” or the refrigeration process that protects vaccine doses. Many of the approaches came in the form of “spear phishing” emails that impersonated an executive at a major Chinese company that is a legitimate participant in the distribution chain.
Researchers believe they are state sponsored attacks, but so far don’t know who’s behind them — although hackers in Russia and North Korea are prime suspects.
The motive is also unclear. The attackers may want to steal the technology behind the cold chain, sabotage vaccine distribution, or lock up the system and demand ransom for the doses.
“There is no intelligence advantage in spying on a refrigerator,” said James Lewis, who runs the cybersecurity programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “My suspicion is that they are setting up for a ransomware play. But we won’t know how these stolen credentials will be used until after the vaccine distribution begins.”
New York | The epicenter
Nearly a year ago, as winter turned to spring, the coronavirus hit a corner of Queens harder than almost anywhere else in the United States. The immigrant-heavy neighborhoods of East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside and, yes, Corona, were devastated.
The months when Queens was the epicenter of the pandemic exacted a terrible toll, taking 1,400 lives within a few months. And a nation was put on alert: It’s here.
A team of our colleagues, led by the reporters Dan Barry and Annie Correal and the photographer Todd Heisler, spent months reporting on the stories of seven Queens residents and their families, including an Uber driver, a mother, an entertainer and a doctor.
Minnesota has caught up with North Dakota and South Dakota on the list of the hardest-hit states.
In Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez ordered a new partial lockdown that will force most businesses to close on Sundays and ban weekend alcohol sales from Dec. 7 to Jan. 7.
Germany extended its lockdown, which includes the closure of bars and restaurants, to Jan. 10, three weeks after its restrictions were scheduled to expire on Dec. 20.
What else we’re following
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, discussed a stimulus plan, but a deal still appears out of reach.
President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci this afternoon and asked him to remain in his position and serve as his chief medical adviser, CNN’s Jake Tapper reports.
The French authorities said that coronavirus vaccines in the country would be free and not mandatory, and that the first million vaccinations would go to retirement and nursing home residents, along with their at-risk staff members.
Facebook said it would remove posts that contain claims about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.
As hospitals fill with virus patients, travel nurses who race to virus hot spots have become more urgently needed than ever.
A handful of communities in the U.S. have rolled out the first do-it-yourself home saliva tests. Health officials say they could be a game-changer.
The Times Opinion section put together a tool to help you find where you might fit in your state’s coronavirus vaccine line.
What you’re doing
Covid is my friend. My 90-year-old husband is at home under hospice care (non-Covid related). I don’t have to make excuses when people want to visit, and I can hide behind Covid protocols. I’m his sole caregiver and can’t leave him for more than a few minutes at a time, but I’m not chafing to go out — I can’t go out for lunch with a girlfriend or go shopping. After 42 years of marriage, Covid has meant we are at home, just the two of us, for whatever time we have left together and we are grateful.
— Amanda Marie, Atlanta
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Adam Pasick contributed to today’s newsletter.
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