Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

President Emmanuel Macron of France has become the latest world leader to contract Covid-19.

Jonathan Wolfe


Credit…The New York Times

They may have access to near unlimited testing and a glut of resources, but we’ve learned time and again this year that the world’s top officials are still vulnerable.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has become the latest to contract Covid-19, joining a list that includes President Trump, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, among others.

A French statement said Mr. Macron felt unspecified symptoms on Wednesday night and was given a P.C.R. test, the most reliable available, which came back positive today. He is to work in isolation for seven days. At 42, Mr. Macron is one of Europe’s youngest leaders, and he is not known to suffer any medical problems. His wife, Brigitte Macron, who is 67, tested negative but is also working in isolation.

The diagnosis set off a frantic effort to contact trace and identify those who recently met with Mr. Macron. Throughout the day, a cascade of politicians went into isolation, including Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain and Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal, who lunched with Mr. Macron earlier this week.

It’s bad timing, with Europe struggling under rising caseloads and some countries, including France, hoping to preserve some freedoms for Christmas.

How the French president became infected is a mystery, but unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Macron has consistently emphasized the gravity of the threat, writes my colleague Roger Cohen, who covers international affairs and diplomacy.

The deployment of vaccines that is getting underway should offer some top officials a measure of protection.

The Trump administration announced that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday at a public event at the White House to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended this week that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris get the vaccine quickly, as well as Mr. Trump, even though he has already had Covid-19. Mr. Biden is expected to be inoculated as early as next week. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump would “receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best,” but that he was not yet scheduled to do so.

For politicians, getting the shot may be a double-edged sword. Doing so in front of the cameras could boost public confidence in the vaccine — or lead to accusations that they’re cutting in line.

The U.S. is four days into its mass vaccination campaign, and we’ve already seen elation, confusion and lots of the unexpected.

A good surprise: Pharmacists discovered that some of the glass vials from Pfizer that are supposed to hold five doses of the vaccine contained enough for a sixth — or even a seventh — shot. To end any consternation over the unanticipated extras, the Food and Drug Administration said that, given the public health emergency, it was acceptable to use every full dose in the vial.

Not such a happy surprise: Two workers at one hospital in Alaska developed concerning reactions just minutes after receiving Pfizer’s vaccine this week.

One surprise we hope you won’t see: a vaccine bill. My colleague Sarah Kliff writes that even though federal rules say that Americans will not have to pay anything out of pocket for the vaccine, consumer advocates fear that bills will be sent to patients anyway, as they were with coronavirus testing and treatment earlier this year.

“It is the American health care system, so there are bound to be loopholes we can’t anticipate right now,” said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.

Elation: Vaccines have now been administered at long-term care facilities in several states, and residents are rejoicing. And a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, moving a second vaccine close to emergency authorization as early as Friday.

Confusion: As doses were given out to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents, entire categories of health workers are wondering when they’ll be able to get the shot. Many are at high risk of infection, including primary care doctors, workers who handle bodies, firefighters who respond to 911 calls, dentists, pathologists who handle coronavirus samples in labs, hospice workers and chaplains.

It’s a problem that will linger as states work out who is an essential worker, and as each hospital system comes up with its own plan and priorities on how to vaccinate.

  • Despite strict stay-at-home orders, the surge in California continues its astonishing, deadly ascent. The state reported more than 60,000 new cases and 398 deaths yesterday.

  • In New York City, public hospitals have canceled elective surgeries in response to a second wave of the coronavirus.

  • Poland will enter a national lockdown on Dec. 28. All shopping centers, hotels and ski resorts will close, and there will be a curfew on New Year’s Eve.

  • The start of the Australian Open will be delayed by three weeks because of the pandemic.

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

Hi there — it’s Jonathan. Readers’ submissions on how you’re confronting the pandemic are one of the things I love most about working on this newsletter. Today I want to take a moment to let you know what I’m doing. Nearly two weeks ago my partner and I went into quarantine so that we can safely hold our niece, who was born six months ago, for the first time. I’ll be spending a few weeks with my family, but before I go, I want to thank all of you who read this newsletter, and those who comment with such thoughtfulness and curiosity. My colleagues on the Briefings team will fill in while I’m gone. Have a safe end of the year, and see you soon.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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Jonathan Wolfe