Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The U.S. is in a terrible spot, and all indications point to things probably getting much worse.

Jonathan Wolfe

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Credit…The New York Times

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.

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Credit…The New York Times

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Credit…The New York Times

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.”


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.”


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Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

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.

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Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

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Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

  • 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.

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


  • The Times Opinion section put together a tool to help you find where you might fit in your state’s coronavirus vaccine line.


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

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Adam Pasick contributed to today’s newsletter.

Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

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Jonathan Wolfe