The Trump administration is negotiating a deal to use its power to free up supplies of raw materials to help Pfizer produce tens of millions of additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for Americans in the first half of next year, people familiar with the situation said.
Should an agreement be struck, it could at least partially remedy a looming shortage that the administration itself arguably helped create by not pre-ordering more doses of the vaccine Pfizer developed with its German partner, BioNTech. Pfizer agreed this summer to provide the United States with 100 million doses by the end of March, enough to inoculate 50 million people since its vaccine requires two shots.
The Pfizer vaccine is one of only two so far that have been proved to work. The Trump administration has locked in only enough doses of the two vaccines — the other, produced by Moderna, is on track to receive emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration this week — to cover 150 million people by the end of June, or less than half the nation.
The administration recently asked Pfizer to sell it enough doses to cover an additional 50 million Americans, but Pfizer said it had already found customers around the world for all the doses it can produce until around the middle of next year.
In recent days, however, Pfizer has indicated that it would be able to manufacture more doses if the administration orders the company’s suppliers to prioritize its purchase requests. The two sides are now negotiating a contract under which Pfizer would provide tens of millions more doses from April to the end of June.
According to one person familiar with the situation, Pfizer asked for that favored status with suppliers months ago. But before it was clear which vaccine trials would succeed, Trump administration officials were apparently worried about hindering other vaccine makers that had accepted billions of dollars in federal subsidies. Federal officials worked to prioritize orders for manufacturing supplies from those firms, including Moderna.
It is unclear whether the government’s concerns about squeezing the supply chain have now faded, or whether its interest in securing more of Pfizer’s vaccine has simply grown. Pfizer announced in November that clinical trials had shown that its vaccine was about 95 percent effective, and the firm was the first to win approval from the F.D.A. for emergency use of its vaccine.
After the company signed a contract last July pledging to sell the United States 100 million doses by the end of March, Pfizer officials suggested at least twice that the Trump administration reserve more doses, but were turned down, according to people familiar with the situation.
Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, told “PBS News Hour” on Monday that in early October, the government resumed negotiations with Pfizer about delivering more doses. But he said Pfizer “resisted giving us any date by which they would do it.”
Moderna, a small Massachusetts-based firm that developed a similar vaccine, agreed last summer to provide the United States with 100 million doses by the end of March. It has now pledged to sell another 100 million doses by the end of June.
With spiking coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths all shattering records in recent weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said the state was preparing for bleak days to come: The state has ordered an extra 5,000 body bags, activated a mutual aid network for morgues and coroner’s offices, and stationed 60 refrigerated storage units in counties around the state to handle remains.
The governor heralded the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine in his state as the starting gun for a final sprint to the end of the pandemic, but he underscored the danger the nation’s most populous state faces in the next few weeks.
The governor said he didn’t want the news of those preparations to cause panic, “but I think I have an obligation to share it.”
Over the past week, he said, California has reported an average of 163 deaths a day from Covid-19 — four times the average daily toll of a month ago. And the outlook is worsening.
Despite the start of vaccinations, deaths and disruptions in the United States are likely to persist for months, since virus cases have soared across the country and the vast majority of Americans will not be eligible for vaccinations until this spring or later. Even as applause rang out at hospitals as the vaccines arrived, many intensive care units remained near capacity and more than 110,000 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, a record.
The 201,600 new coronavirus cases reported across the United States on Tuesday represented a fall of about 18,000 from last Tuesday’s figure. But the seven-day average for new deaths — nearly 2,500 — has been creeping up and is larger than what was reported during a spring surge.
Total deaths in the United States have also surpassed 300,000, the largest toll of any country in the world.
More than 10 percent of coronavirus tests in California over the past two weeks have come back positive, the highest rate since April, when testing was not widespread. More than 260,000 people are now being tested for the virus in California on an average day.
Vaccination will soon allow the thousands of frontline health care workers to escape the stress hanging over every interaction with their loved ones, Mr. Newsom said, and those workers will have a crucial role to play as hospitals continue to fill.
“These are the folks we’re going to count on the most,” he said.
Across the country in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has warned of another shutdown if hospitalizations continue to accelerate, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City echoed concerns about a worsening situation at a news conference on Tuesday.
The mayor said that the virus data was “going in the wrong direction” and a shutdown after Christmas — similar to what the city experienced in the spring — would help curb the spread. However, only Mr. Cuomo, not the mayor, has the power to impose a shutdown. Statewide, hospitalizations were at 5,982, the state reported on Tuesday.
“With some good luck and hard work and the vaccine starting to help us, we could be out of that in a matter of weeks,” Mr. de Blasio said.
In New York City, 40,950 doses are expected to be available at 42 hospitals, he said. After the first batch of vaccines arrived in the city, which was once the epicenter of the pandemic, 73 health care workers have already received their first dose, he said. On Monday, Mr. Cuomo said about 10,000 vaccine doses were to be administered throughout the day in hospital systems across the state.
Mr. de Blasio, who was still “feeling the glow from yesterday,” expressed his excitement for the vaccine’s long-awaited arrival. “It was really good to see that sense that we could actually have a positive moment together,” he said. “Didn’t matter which state you came from or what party you’re in, people were just working together.”
The swamped intensive care units and emergency departments at many American hospitals have little flexibility these days for employees to be out sick. So it came as a relief that some of the hundreds of frontline health care workers who received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine Monday were able to return to work the next day with just a bit of soreness at the injection site.
In interviews Tuesday, six vaccinated frontline workers said they had no significant side effects.
Fernando Pires, a 60-year-old maintenance worker who cleans rooms in the emergency department at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, said he was not feeling anything other than a lot of pain in his arm. It was a small annoyance, he said, considering the peace of mind the vaccine gave him after months of coming to work despite being at risk himself, as someone with diabetes and asthma.
When his boss called him to ask if he wanted to be in the first round of vaccine recipients, Mr. Pires said, “I didn’t even think twice.”
At Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Dr. Mercy Dickson, a 35-year-old emergency medicine resident, said she was feeling good, even after working night shifts before and after receiving the vaccine.
“I have a little bit of soreness on my right arm where I got the shot,” she said. “But otherwise, I feel as I felt before.”
After months spent alongside Covid-19 patients who struggled to breathe, were isolated from family members, and died from the virus, Dr. Dickson said the vaccine was a first step for her toward healing. And as a Black doctor, she said, she especially hopes it will make a dent in the disproportionately deadly toll the virus has taken on Black Americans.
“Hopefully, someone sees me — someone who looks like them — and is encouraged to get their own vaccine, and we are able to change positively the trajectory of people’s lives and minimize the suffering and pain that families have to go through,” she said.
Luciana Thornton, a pharmacist at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita, Kan., said she was surprised by how good she felt the day after receiving her shot, given what she had read about the vaccine’s potential side effects.
“Some people have fever or chills, and I have had none of that,” she said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to feel pretty good. Some people have had headaches. I feel a lot better than I expected to.”
A handful of states are getting an early start on vaccinating some of their most vulnerable citizens, beginning with West Virginia, which began inoculating residents and staff at long-term care facilities on Tuesday, nearly a week before the majority of nursing homes around the United States are scheduled to get started.
The state expects to have 48 of its 214 facilities fully vaccinated by Friday, according to Marty Wright, chief executive of the West Virginia Health Care Association. Most of the country’s nursing homes will not begin vaccinations until Monday, when a major drive run by CVS and Walgreens will get underway in earnest. West Virginia is instead using local pharmacies.
West Virginia is one of four states — along with Florida, Ohio and Connecticut — that are getting an earlier start.
“We chose to not go along that time frame — to begin immediately, using the local pharmacies,” Mr. Wright said.
Covid-19 has ravaged the country’s nursing homes, despite an array of safety measures and bans on visitors, put in place months ago to slow the devastation. Deaths of residents of long-term care facilities have swelled to account for almost 40 percent of the country’s death toll, now over 300,000.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “strike force” that will distribute 21,450 doses this week at nursing homes in two counties, in advance of the pharmacy chains’ campaign next week. The strike force vaccinations are set to begin Wednesday or Thursday, according to Margarita Hall, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.
Ohio expects to begin on Friday, with between five and 10 institutions giving shots that day, Gov. Michael DeWine announced. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had selected Ohio to start early.
Complicating the process at long-term care facilities is the need to obtain written consent for vaccination.
“When you have residents, many of whom are not capable of consent, you have find their guardian, their family, somebody else to consent for them,” said Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, an organization of some 1,100 long-term care facilities. “That is challenging.”
There is also some hesitancy about the vaccine among both residents and staff members, he noted. Facilities in Ohio have so far not made vaccination mandatory; rather, administrators are hoping that briefings and educational materials will persuade most people to take the shot.
Mr. Van Runkle said it would probably take until early March to get all 200,000 to 300,000 people who either live or work in Ohio’s long-term care facilities inoculated.
In Florida, industry experts said that about 75 percent of nursing home employees had agreed to receive the vaccine.
As the mass vaccination campaign entered its second day in the United States, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said it was his “strong recommendation” that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris receive a Covid-19 vaccine quickly.
“For security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can,” he said on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. “You want him fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January.”
Mr. Biden told reporters in Delaware on Tuesday that Dr. Fauci, who will be his chief medical adviser, “recommends I get the vaccine sooner than later.”
“I want to just make sure we do it by the numbers,” Mr. Biden said. “When I do it, you’ll have notice and we’ll do it publicly.”
A vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, and a second vaccine, made by Moderna, is expected to be authorized later this week. The first shots have generally gone to frontline health care workers.
Dr. Fauci said he would also recommend that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence get the vaccine, even though the president has already had Covid-19.
“You still want to protect people who are very important to our country right now,” Dr. Fauci said. “Even though the president himself was infected and he has, likely, antibodies that likely would be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts.
“So to be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated as well as the vice president.”
At a briefing on Tuesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said that the president would “receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best,” but that he was not yet scheduled to do so. She added that “some senior administration officials” would take the vaccine publicly in the coming days in order to “instill that confidence” in it, but she did not say who would do so.
During a round-table discussion at a Catalent Biologics facility in Bloomington, Ind., on Tuesday, Mr. Pence said he planned to get a vaccine “in the days ahead” and would “do so without hesitation.” The company is working with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to produce vaccines.
Ms. McEnany said that the number of White House staffers receiving the vaccine would be “a very limited group of people,” a shift that came after The New York Times reported on Sunday that there was a plan in place to try and vaccinate everyone who worked in the West Wing.
Mr. Trump said on Sunday night that he would delay the plan for senior White House staff members to quickly receive the vaccine.
“People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”
The acting secretary of the defense, Christopher C. Miller, received the vaccine at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. The Defense Department is one of the agencies coordinating Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible.
For some elected officials and public figures, getting vaccinated may be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition. On the one hand, doing so publicly could be useful as a show of confidence to members of the public, and particularly to minority groups who can be especially wary of vaccination and of government-sponsored programs.
Dr. Fauci, who is 79, has said that he will be vaccinated publicly for those reasons. In an interview with NPR on Tuesday, he said that he had not yet scheduled his shot, but would do it “as soon as I possibly can, because I’ve always said I want people to understand that I am very confident in this vaccine.”
But there is a flip side to that argument, particularly for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. With the vaccine in scarce supply, some in positions of power do not want to be accused of jumping the line.
The issue came up on Capitol Hill last week when Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Health Committee, acknowledged to The Wall Street Journal that he had sought advice from Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about how lawmakers should handle vaccination.
“If they want public figures to take the vaccine early in order to reassure Americans that it’s safe, I’m sure many of us will do that,” Mr. Alexander said he told Dr. Redfield. But he added, “I’m not going to do that on my own. I’m going to do it when the public health officials tell me it’s my turn.”
The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna is highly protective for adults and prevents severe cases of Covid-19, according to data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Based on the encouraging findings, the agency intends to grant emergency authorization for use of the vaccine on Friday, people familiar with the F.D.A.’s plans said. The decision would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as next week.
The review by the F.D.A. confirms Moderna’s earlier assessment that its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent in a trial of 30,000 people. Side effects, including fever, headache and fatigue, were unpleasant but not dangerous, the agency found.
The success of Moderna’s vaccine has become all the more crucial to fighting the pandemic as other vaccine efforts have faltered. The hopeful news arrives at a time of record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus cases in the United States, which are overwhelming hospitals, and of an ever-increasing total death toll, which reached a bleak milestone of 300,000 on Monday.
The data release is the first step of a public review process that will include a daylong meeting on Thursday by an independent advisory panel of experts. They will hear from Moderna, F.D.A. scientists and the public before voting on whether to recommend authorization. The panel is expected to vote in favor, and the F.D.A. generally follows the experts’ recommendations.
Distribution of about six million doses could then begin next week, significantly adding to the millions of doses already being shipped by Pfizer and BioNTech, the companies that developed the first coronavirus vaccine given emergency clearance last Friday. Health care workers received the first shots on Monday of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 95 percent.
The rollout of vaccines has been highly anticipated, and is one of the most ambitious immunization campaigns ever conducted in the United States.
The federal government signed deals last summer with Moderna and Pfizer to deliver a total of 200 million doses in the first quarter of 2021. Because both vaccines require two doses, those contracts guaranteed enough shots for 100 million people.
Last week, the U.S. government announced that it had purchased another 100 million doses from Moderna for the second quarter, increasing the number of Americans who could be vaccinated to 150 million. But that still leaves the question of how and when the roughly 180 million other Americans will be covered.
A major winter storm is bearing down on the Northeast, from Virginia to New England, with the potential to snarl distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in the region.
The storm is expected to bring strong winds, more than six inches of snow and blizzard conditions in many areas on Wednesday and Thursday, threatening to hamper highway travel and knock out power, according to the National Weather Service. Some places may get two feet of snow; others may get freezing rain.
The same weather system is also producing snowfalls and slick conditions in parts of the Plains states on Tuesday as it moves eastward and gathers strength, the service said.
Two giant rivals, UPS and FedEx, are working side by side to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine to vaccination sites from Pfizer’s plants in Michigan and Wisconsin. A spokesman for UPS, Matthew O’Connor, said the company had a team of meteorologists monitoring the weather around the clock.
“We develop contingency plans based on weather forecasts and local conditions, enabling our employees to safely deliver what matters most,” Mr. O’Connor said in a statement. “Should roadways or airports be closed, we will observe all closures, and UPS will be ready to deliver as soon as it is safe.”
He added that UPS’s new health care command center, set up at its air hub in Louisville, Ky., was keeping track of the Covid-19 vaccine shipments, which must be kept frozen and require special handling. The command center “can step in with contingency plans should it appear that a package may be delayed,” he said.
Gen. Gustave F. Perna, who heads the operations of Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine distribution effort, told reporters on Monday that officials were ready to deal with any issues that could disrupt smooth deliveries, including wrong delivery addresses and truck or airplane accidents.
“I know you’ve seen the weather report,” General Perna said, noting that the storm “could be a problem.” He continued, “My responsibility to deliver safe and effective vaccines means get ahead of that problem.”
About 600 sites, many of them hospitals, were scheduled to receive the vaccine this week, nearly three million doses in all. Some 500,000 doses were delivered on Monday to 142 of the sites around the country.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that vaccine delivery and administration would continue despite the weather.
“There’s nothing about the storm at this point that should disrupt the supply of vaccine coming in,” he said.
But the city will close virus testing sites run by the city’s Health and Hospitals system from 2 p.m. on Wednesday to noon on Thursday, said Deanne B. Criswell, the commissioner of emergency management.
Restaurants have already been ordered by the city to close their roadway dining programs at 2 p.m. Wednesday. They were already grappling with the loss of indoor dining this week.
The closure order is temporary, and officials said it could be lifted by Thursday night. But the major snowstorm, expected to sweep into the area on Wednesday afternoon, will pose a significant test for restaurant owners and of how the city’s now-permanent outdoor dining program can withstand severe winter weather.
The city urges restaurants to remove the tops of their outdoor dining structures, but it will not require them to take those structures off the street.
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an emergency authorization for the country’s first coronavirus test that can run from start to finish at home without the need for a prescription.
People as young as 2 are cleared to use the test, which takes just 15 to 20 minutes to deliver a result. Unlike many similar products, which are only supposed to be used by people with symptoms of Covid-19, this test is authorized for people with or without symptoms.
The test, developed by the Australian company Ellume, detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens. It’s slightly less accurate than gold standard laboratory tests designed to look for coronavirus genetic material using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R. But in a clinical study of nearly 200 people, Ellume’s product was able to detect 95 percent of the coronavirus infections found by P.C.R., regardless of whether the infected people felt sick. It also correctly identified 97 percent of the people who received negative laboratory test results.
Like other antigen tests that have received the F.D.A.’s emergency stamp of approval, Ellume’s test performs best within the first few days after a person starts experiencing Covid symptoms. In people without symptoms, the product found only 91 percent of the coronavirus infections discovered by P.C.R.
Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, a pathologist at Rutgers University, noted that all of the study’s false positives occurred in the asymptomatic group. That “does make me a little nervous,” Dr. Fitzhugh said. False positives could send people into unnecessary periods of isolation or erode trust in testing.
Ellume, which was awarded a $30 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, plans to manufacture and deliver about 20 million home tests to the U.S. within the first half of 2021. The tests are expected to cost about $30 or less.
The test’s price tag — compared with some competitors that cost just $5 — and limited availability will likely restrict it from very frequent use.
But a test that can ping back immediate results could allow someone to promptly begin their isolation and break the chain of transmission. People carrying the virus are thought to be most contagious in the few days before and after their symptoms start, if they experience symptoms at all.
“I think this is hugely impactful, potentially,” Dr. Butler-Wu said.
Ellume’s test starts with a self-collected nasal swab. Plugged into a cartridge, the sample is analyzed, then the data is pinged to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The results go to the person taking the test, and can be shared with health care providers, as well as public health authorities.
The actor Tom Cruise recently erupted at crew members on the set of “Mission: Impossible 7” over a breach of Covid-19 protocols. His expletive-laden rant was an apparent effort to prevent further disruptions to a film whose production has already been delayed by the pandemic.
“We are creating thousands of jobs,” Mr. Cruise, the star of the film, can be heard saying in a leaked audio clip. “I don’t ever want to see it again! Ever! And if you don’t do it, you’re fired!”
The recording was published on Tuesday by The Sun, a British tabloid, and its authenticity was confirmed by two sources close to the film. One source said that Mr. Cruise had been speaking to members of the “Mission: Impossible 7” crew about a breach in Covid-19 protocols on the set in London.
Mr. Cruise apparently became enraged after spotting two crew members standing together at a computer screen, in violation of an on-set rule requiring people to stand about six feet apart, The Sun reported.
Paramount Pictures declined to comment, and The Sun did not say when the recording of Mr. Cruise, 58, had been made. Reuters reported that the filmmakers for “Mission: Impossible 7” — the latest installment in the 24-year-old series — arrived in London this month.
In February, production on the film was shuttered in Venice, Italy, amid a raging coronavirus outbreak in that country, Reuters reported. Production resumed in September, and has since moved between Italy, Norway and Britain.
Production was paused again in October after 12 crew members on a set in Italy tested positive for the virus, Variety reported.
In the leaked clip, Mr. Cruise said he would not accept any apologies for what had happened on the set, an apparent reference to the breach in Covid-19 protocol.
“You can tell it to the people that are losing their homes because our industry is shut down,” he said, adding an expletive. “It’s not going to put food on their table or pay for their college education.”
Even as the first few days of mass vaccinations in the U.S. signaled what may be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic, officials in hard-hit areas were nonetheless imposing new restrictions this week to try to curb outbreaks.
In Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the closure of museums, movie theaters and indoor fitness centers starting on Wednesday, among other measures. “Unfortunately, we are at the point where we need to take stronger action to control Covid-19 in Boston, and urgently, to ensure our health care workers have the capacity to care for everyone in need,” Mr. Walsh said in a statement. Several surrounding communities announced similar rules.
A few days earlier, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts had imposed other restrictions, including a 90-minute time limit on restaurant dining and fewer people per table.
New restrictions took effect in Delaware on Monday, limiting the capacity of various businesses and imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars. Gov. John Carney also extended the state’s mask mandate to apply whenever Delaware residents or visitors are indoors with anyone from outside their households. Winter sports competitions are banned through Jan. 11, and restaurants must post signs requiring that patrons at individual tables all be from the same household.
In Virginia, new limits on social gatherings, a new curfew and a universal mask requirement took effect on Monday. With some exceptions, residents will be required to stay home from midnight until 5 a.m. Masks will be required outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
The new restrictions come as the coronavirus continues to surge across the country. On Monday, the United States announced nearly 1,700 newly reported deaths and surpassed 300,000 total deaths for the pandemic.
A Georgia couple who dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus for an outdoor photo session that was attended by about 50 children last week tested positive for the coronavirus two days after the event.
The event was on Thursday and was part of an annual Christmas parade and tree-lighting ceremony in Ludowici, Ga., about 235 miles southeast of Atlanta, said Robert D. Parker, the chairman of the Long County board of commissioners.
The couple wore masks during the event at a pavilion, Mr. Parker said, but many of the children who posed for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus did not have face coverings, including Mr. Parker’s two children.
Mr. Parker said that the couple, county residents whose names have not been made public, developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, after the event and were tested on Saturday. The couple notified county officials on Sunday that they had tested positive for the virus, he said.
“They’re good folks,” Mr. Parker said. “They would never knowingly put anybody in danger.”
Congressional leaders scrambled on Tuesday to reach agreement on a stimulus bill and a catchall omnibus funding package to keep government funding flowing, meeting to try to hammer out critical spending deals ahead of a Friday deadline.
Their talks broke up about 10 p.m. Tuesday, with lawmakers voicing some optimism as they left the Capitol. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said, “We’re making significant progress.”
He added that he was encouraged that they were “going to be able to complete an understanding sometime soon.”
As he left the Capitol, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, echoed Mr. McConnell’s optimism and said that “hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.” Discussions and staff work were expected to continue on Wednesday.
The Tuesday meetings of the top two Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate were the first in-person spending talks in months for the leaders, with a final deal still elusive on both the dozen must-pass spending bills and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic aid for individuals and businesses struggling amid the pandemic, and to fund the distribution of a vaccine.
They took place in the Capitol office suite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, who hosted Mr. Schumer and the Republican leaders Mr. McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California.
The group first met for a little under an hour to discuss how to resolve its differences before government funding is scheduled to lapse at week’s end, and reconvened later in the evening for a second session.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, joined the first session by phone, after speaking separately with Ms. Pelosi for more than an hour.
Mr. McCarthy, headed back to his office after the evening meeting, said that “we’re exchanging our papers.” He also offered a note of optimism for the chances of a deal.
“We’re making significant progress,” Mr. McConnell said, “and I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to complete an understanding sometime soon.”
The four leaders have agreed that any additional pandemic aid should be wrapped into the year-end spending measure, and that Congress should not adjourn without approving some pandemic relief as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country and the government works to distribute the vaccine to essential workers and others. “We’re going to get an agreement as soon as we can agree,” Mr. McConnell told reporters after the first meeting.
Aides involved in the discussion said they were nearing agreement on a catchall spending package, and the text could be released as early as Wednesday. But it remained unclear what congressional leaders would agree to for pandemic relief, as well as what additional legislative items may be merged with the broader spending package.
Even if Congress were to pass a bill this week, it may not be in time to prevent millions of Americans from going weeks with no source of income, given that many state unemployment offices have already programmed their systems to cut off benefits after next week, when the current pandemic programs expire.
Reinstating the benefits in those states will take time, especially because the plan being considered by Congress would make several technical changes to the programs, which the Labor Department must then incorporate into formal regulations, said Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy adviser for Employ America, an advocacy group. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when state offices are shut, will add further delays, she warned, though workers would eventually receive back pay for the weeks where their benefits lapsed.
Masks are to be “required at all times” and “without exception” in the House of Representatives, including by members who are speaking, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday.
The announcement strengthened an existing mask requirement, which did not apply to people who were speaking.
“This is a matter of order and decorum in the chamber,” Ms. Pelosi said during a pro forma session. “To be clear, members will not be recognized unless they are wearing a mask and recognition will be withdrawn if they remove the mask while speaking.”
After Representative Louie Gohmert, a mask-shunning Republican from Texas, tested positive for the coronavirus in July, Ms. Pelosi announced that lawmakers would be required to wear a mask on the House floor or while moving through House office buildings. She warned that a failure to do so would be considered a serious breach worthy of removal from the premises.
But even with the existing requirement, mask wearing on Capitol Hill has been inconsistent and difficult to enforce. Certain lawmakers at times have pointedly refused to comply.
Both Ms. Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, have declined to require members to get tested, although the office of the Capitol’s attending physician does offer same-day testing for anyone who works there.
The Chinese authorities on Tuesday were investigating a cargo pilot in a province in southwestern China who tested positive for the virus shortly after attending a 300-person wedding, just days after returning to the country from the United States.
His case added to fears about an outbreak in the province, Sichuan, where a few dozen cases — most of them imported — have been registered in recent days. Even though China has largely contained the virus since it emerged in the central city of Wuhan last year, small clusters of cases have continued to surface in the country.
And it is a stark reversal: Earlier this year, travelers from China were seen as posing a major risk of carrying the virus, but now, with the U.S. the center of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, the tables have turned.
It is unclear how the pilot, who was identified in Chinese news reports by his surname, Gao, had contracted the virus. Mr. Gao, 26, returned to the city of Chengdu from Los Angeles in late November and spent time in quarantine after testing negative for the virus, according to Chinese news media reports. The authorities have classified his case as an imported infection.
As news of the case spread on Chinese social media sites, many people expressed anger over Mr. Gao’s decision to attend the wedding, which took place in the city of Jiangyou on Saturday, 13 days after his return from the United States. He tested positive on Monday, according to Chinese news reports.
China has some of the strictest virus-control measures in the world, and the government typically mandates two weeks of quarantine for people returning to the mainland. But pilots are allowed exemptions. Some do not need to undergo quarantine if they test negative for the virus upon returning to China.
Here’s what else to know in coronavirus news from around the world:
Officials in the Philippines, fearing a surge in cases over the holiday season, said on Tuesday that anyone going out in public must wear a face shield on top of a face mask. Face shields had previously been required only on public transit and in enclosed spaces like malls and grocery stores, while masks have been mandatory since April. The Philippines, a country of more than 100 million people, has had a total of more than 450,000 cases, one of the worst outbreaks in Southeast Asia.
Officials in the United Kingdom imposed tighter restrictions on London, closing pubs and restaurants in the city, effective Wednesday, after British health authorities identified a new, faster-growing variant of the virus. Under a previously announced plan for Christmas, the government will temporarily lift the restrictions again a week later to allow up to three families to mix indoors.
Political infighting, haphazard planning and a nascent anti-vaccine movement have left Brazil, which has suffered the pandemic’s second-largest death toll, without a clear vaccination program. Its citizens now have no sense of when they may get relief from a virus that has brought the public health system to its knees and crushed the economy.
At least 274 journalists around the world were in prison on Dec. 1, including some who had covered the pandemic, according to a report published early Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group in New York. Notably, at least three journalists in Egypt were arrested after covering their government’s response to the coronavirus, the report said. One of them, Mohamed Monir, contracted the coronavirus in custody and died a few days after his release. In Honduras, the journalist David Romero, who had been serving a 10-year defamation sentence when the pandemic started, died of Covid-19 complications in prison.
The European Medicines Agency has said in a statement that it will bring forward a meeting to decide whether to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Dec. 21. The meeting was originally planned for Dec. 29. The agency, which supervises drugs and vaccines for the European Union, said it had decided to expedite the meeting after receiving additional data from the pharmaceutical firm at the request of its experts.
Delivery workers in South Korea say they’re dying of “overwork.” More than a dozen couriers have died this year. Some died after complaining of unbearable workloads that kept them on the clock from dawn until past midnight.
Last Thursday, Dale Mclaughlan bought a Jet Ski.
On Monday, the 28-year-old Scotsman was sentenced to four weeks in jail.
What happened on the three days in between, according to court documents, may be one of the more unusual instances of rule-flouting during the pandemic.
The day after purchasing the watercraft, Mr. Mclaughlan set off at 8 a.m. for what he thought would be a 40-minute trip from the southwestern coast of Scotland to his girlfriend’s home on the Isle of Man, between England and Ireland. He later told the authorities that he had never ridden a Jet Ski before and that bad weather on the Irish Sea caused the trip to stretch to four and a half hours.
Mr. Mclaughlan finally reached his girlfriend on Friday night, after walking 15 miles from the Isle of Man’s coast to her home in its capital, Douglas. The couple spent the weekend enjoying the city’s nightlife, but their reunion was cut short on Sunday, when he was arrested and later charged with one count of violating the Isle of Man’s coronavirus restrictions.
On Monday, he received a four-week jail sentence.
“This individual was aware of the law and showed a flagrant disregard when they chose to break it, mixing in the community and potentially putting lives at risk,” Howard Quayle, the chief minister of the Isle of Man, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Isle of Man, which relies on Britain for defense but is self-governing, is closed to nonresidents, except for those who have special permission. Mr. Mclaughlan arrived without an entry permission and failed to declare his arrival or self-isolate, Mr. Quayle said.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered federal judges in New Jersey and Colorado to reconsider rulings allowing limits on attendance at indoor religious services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The court’s brief orders, which instructed the judges to take account of its decision last month lifting similar limits in New York, were unsigned and gave no reasons. The New Jersey ruling appeared to be unanimous, while the court’s three liberal justices dissented from the one concerning Colorado.
The Supreme Court has changed direction on how to balance public health and the free exercise of religion since Justice Amy Coney Barrett succeeded Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While Justice Ginsburg was alive, the court upheld restrictions in California and Nevada by votes of 5 to 4. In the New York case, it struck down restrictions by the same margin.
In New Jersey, a priest and a rabbi sued over restrictions that limited attendance at indoor religious services to the lesser of 150 people or 25 percent of capacity.
In Colorado, a church and its minister sued to challenge 50-person limits on attendance at religious services, and lost in the lower courts. In the Supreme Court, state officials argued that the matter was moot, because the state removed the limits after the court issued its decision in the New York case.
Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented from the order concerning Colorado on Tuesday, accepting the state’s argument that the case was moot and saying there was no prospect that the state would reimpose the capacity limits.
More than 500 teachers in Georgia, Texas and other cities around the country called in sick on Tuesday as part of a nationwide protest against standardized testing during the pandemic, along with other policies that educators say are putting them at risk as coronavirus cases rise.
“This is legit just teachers who are just fed up across the nation and are saying this has to stop,” said Alfred Brooks, the founder of Teachers for Good Trouble, which organized the national sickout on Tuesday.
Teachers participated in at least seven cities including Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minn., said Mr. Brooks, a high school teacher near Atlanta, where more than 80 people rallied in front of the State Capitol building. Some participants with health concerns spoke out on Instagram in support of the sickout, Mr. Brooks said. Teachers at a school in Pensacola, Fla., came to work for in-person classes on Tuesday but wore yellow, the color associated with Teachers for Good Trouble, and taught the organization’s lessons on social justice and the racial context of standardized testing, he said.
In Texas, anger over a policy requiring teachers and students to take a state standardized test, with some districts requiring that students sit for the exam in school buildings, motivated some Houston-area educators to participate in the sickout, especially because a high school teacher died of the coronavirus earlier this month.
“They’re prioritizing testing over the safety of students, teachers and communities,” said Naseeb Gill, 32, a fifth-grade teacher in Houston, who called in sick on Tuesday.
Known as a Day Without Teachers, the sickout reflects an escalation in the contentious debate over the safety of in-person instruction that is playing out as the virus surges in many states.
Teachers at about 50 schools in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, were expected to participate, according to some who planned to take part. They are motivated by a range of policies, including requirements for teachers to use sick days to quarantine unless their absence is ordered by administrators. Many teachers in so-called right-to-work states have few labor protections.
Calling in sick has been a common method for teachers to express their concerns during the pandemic. About 100 teachers in Arizona’s third-largest school district staged a sickout on Friday, demanding that schools close after winter break and stay remote until the region’s infection rate declines.
Closed borders and a sharp drop-off in international travel have slowed to a trickle the number of people entering or leaving New Zealand. That includes prisoners who have already done their time.
Fourteen foreign citizens are being held in the country’s prisons beyond the end of their sentences because there are no international flights for deporting them, according to government data. Some have been held for months, and one has been detained for more than 270 days, Immigration New Zealand said on Tuesday.
As of Dec. 8, 132 other foreign nationals had completed prison sentences and were awaiting deportation from within the community, where some are required to remain at a given address.
There have been no recent local transmissions of the coronavirus in New Zealand, so holding detainees in prison poses little risk to public health. But other countries still grappling with the pandemic have taken steps to absolve themselves of responsibility for as many detainees as possible.
In Britain, the immigration charity Bail for Immigration Detainees reported in May that 95 percent of requests for bail from detainees in custody had been granted since the start of lockdown in March, as part of an effort to avoid potential prison outbreaks. And in the United States, deportation flights have continued, with more than 40,000 immigrants deported from the United States between March and July.
Of the 14 prisoners being held past their sentences in New Zealand, nine had criminal convictions and five had significantly overstayed the terms of their visa, the government said. Radio New Zealand initially reported on the cases on Monday.
Many of the detainees are from countries in the Pacific Islands.
Deportations to Pacific Island nations are especially challenging “because of their unwillingness to take back their citizens and their limited capacity to manage returning deportees,” New Zealand’s immigration minister, Kris Faafoi, said in a statement.
But some immigration advocates warn that detaining overstayers could come at a significant cost to public health if New Zealand experiences another coronavirus outbreak.
Alastair McClymont, an immigration lawyer based in Auckland, said that many visa overstayers were already wary of any form of bureaucracy that could allow them to be tracked, and that this might incentivize them to go further underground.
When it came time to crack down on Mac’s Public House, the Staten Island bar that has notoriously defied Covid-19 restrictions, New York City sent in law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s Office, a relatively tiny force that relies on 150 deputies and remains unknown even to most New Yorkers.
But the obscure sheriff’s office has moved into the spotlight as a surprising and highly visible frontline enforcement unit in the city’s ongoing battle to maintain its coronavirus restrictions.
The deputies have cracked down on restaurants that disobey curfews and indoor-dining rules. They have become staples at bridge and tunnel checkpoints watching for visitors from high-infection states.
Most prominently, they have been the city’s chief party crashers.
The designation of the sheriff’s office as a primary enforcer of restrictions reflects the scramble of states and localities around the country to figure out how they should police a pandemic.
In New York, whether it was the crowded sex club in Queens, the raging Halloween warehouse parties in Brooklyn and the Bronx, or nightclubs with bottle service and D.J.s performing in vacant commercial spaces in midtown Manhattan, it fell to the sheriff’s office to shut them down.
But the deputies are also vigilant about pursuing tips about large gatherings in private homes. They show up and inform hosts that big get-togethers are not permitted.
Though sheriffs in other parts of the country are leading officials with a major role in public safety decisions, the New York City sheriff’s office has long been overshadowed by the New York Police Department.
That changed with the pandemic.
Early on, the police department was carrying out social distancing and lockdown regulations. It generally handles criminal enforcement while the sheriff’s office carries out civil and court orders.
But sheriff’s deputies took on more of those duties as complaints mounted that police officers were discriminating against poor people of color. The N.Y.P.D. was enforcing restrictions more frequently in neighborhoods that had more households that were Black and Hispanic and had lower incomes. The police also had to pivot to address rising crime and to patrol Black Lives Matter protests.
For years, Varan Suzme has frequented the Kiral Coffeehouse near his home, where men of his Istanbul neighborhood while away hours chatting, sipping from tiny, steaming cups and playing backgammon and cards.
“Every day I used to come here,” said Mr. Suzme, 77, a retired textile salesman. “This is our second home. It’s a place I love, I see my friends, and I am happy and I play games.”
Until the pandemic. A lockdown this year closed coffeehouses across the country, along with bars and restaurants, and when the government allowed them to reopen in June, it forbade the usual games, saying they increased the risk of viral transmission.
Customers, who are mostly middle-aged or older, stopped coming for fear of the virus, and with games banned, coffeehouse owners saw business dwindle. Even before another lockdown took effect this month, they had been worried that the coronavirus could endanger the survival of many coffeehouses, robbing the country of a hub of Turkish life.
A uniquely male preserve, the Turkish coffeehouse is everything from a post office to a social club, fueled by cups of coffee — or these days, as tastes change, tea. In every neighborhood, from Istanbul’s narrow back alleys to the ancient towns spread across the country, it is where men stop on the way to and from work, where pensioners meet and swap gossip, and where political parties campaign.
“We miss our friends and playing backgammon,” said Mamuk Katikoy, 70, when he came by the Kiral Coffeehouse, which is in the Istanbul neighborhood of Yesilkoy, for an interview recently. “I haven’t seen this man for eight months,” he said, greeting a 90-year-old friend who had also stopped by.
SURAT, India — The crowds surged through the gates, fought their way up the stairs of the 160-year-old station, poured across the platforms and engulfed the trains.
It was May 5, around 10 a.m. Surat was beastly hot, 106 degrees. Thousands of migrant laborers were frantic to leave — loom operators, diamond polishers, mechanics, truck drivers, cooks, cleaners, the backbone of Surat’s economy.
Tens of millions of migrant workers were stranded without work or food after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a national coronavirus lockdown in March. By spring and summer, these workers were so desperate that the government provided emergency trains to carry them back to their home villages. The trains were called Shramik Specials, because shramik means “laborer” in Hindi.
India has now reported more coronavirus cases than any country other than the United States. And it has become clear that the special trains operated by the government to ease suffering — and to counteract a disastrous lack of lockdown planning — instead played a significant role in spreading the coronavirus into almost every corner of the country.
The trains became contagion zones: Every passenger was supposed to be screened for Covid-19 before boarding but few if any were tested. Social distancing, if promised, was nonexistent, as men pressed into passenger cars for journeys that could last days. Then the trains disgorged passengers into distant villages, in regions that before had few if any coronavirus cases.
Hospitals around the country who have been waiting months for the first doses rapidly scrambled to put together events after unknowns about the vaccine and its distribution made it difficult to perfectly plan for its arrival.
Some hospitals deliberately worked to spotlight the moment, picking a person — a Black or Latino nurse or doctor, a housekeeper — who would be among the first to receive the shot as a way to send a message to diverse communities about trusting the vaccine.
Others — like a hospital in Iowa that first vaccinated a health care worker who had a few upcoming days off, or a hospital in Pittsburgh that let staff members vote on who would get the honor — left the specifics of who would go first more to chance.
But each place was preparing for its own historic moment, the beginning of what they hoped would be the end of a pandemic that had devastated their communities. And in selecting who would be first, each sent a message in its own way about the importance of the vaccine — and recognized the courage of its medical staff.
That health workers in high-risk positions would go first was a common point of agreement through much of the country. An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended that health care workers should be among the first to receive the vaccine, along with nursing home residents and workers.
Hospitals, with their ability to store vials at subzero temperatures, were prioritized to get the first doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, which was the first drugmaker to get approval from the F.D.A.
Russia has released additional results from a clinical trial of its leading coronavirus vaccine, called Sputnik V, showing an efficacy rate of 91.4 percent, similar to results obtained by Western vaccine makers.
Unlike in the West, the Russian authorities have taken a different path on vaccination, promoting the government-funded shot, which is based on genetically modified common cold viruses, before testing was complete. Moscow approved Sputnik V for emergency use in August, before wide-scale clinical trials to prove its efficacy and safety had even begun.
The World Health Organization and independent experts criticized the move as risky, noting that it undermined confidence in the vaccine, which Russia plans to market in more than 70 countries.
The financial company promoting the vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, released on Monday data from the interim result of its Phase 3 study, based on 22,714 participants receiving either the vaccine or a placebo. A total of 78 people across the two groups contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
It showed that among those who received the vaccine, none became severely ill with Covid-19 and that 91.4 percent were protected from mild or moderate cases. Twenty severe cases were recorded among the placebo group.
Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the fund, praised the result as “astonishing” and said it would help Russia apply for registration for Sputnik V in potential export markets. He said the fund intended to apply in Argentina this month, and in other Latin American nations and countries in Asia and Africa in January.
So far, Russia has shipped about 320,000 doses of the vaccine and inoculated about 200,000 people outside of the clinical trials.
The vaccine this month received a vote of confidence from AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, when it opened talks with Russian vaccine scientists about combining efforts.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed at the University of Oxford, England, showed encouraging but perplexing results: Two doses of the vaccine provided stronger results (90 percent efficacy) when the first dose was only at half strength than when two full-dose shots were injected (a 62 percent efficacy). The joint efforts will explore whether that vaccine can be made more effective if recipients also receive a shot of Sputnik V.
The Russian trial is scheduled to continue until May, but Mr. Dmitriev said that regulators might halt it on ethical grounds as the vaccine had been proved effective. The efficacy rate was similar to what the Russian group had reported earlier but based this time on a larger, more statistically relevant sample. The results were comparable to those of the Pfizer vaccine, which reported a 95 percent efficacy and has already been approved for use in several countries, and of Moderna’s, which reported a 94.1 percent efficacy rate.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has announced a raft of new restrictions as the country enters a second coronavirus wave, with infections expected to rise further over the festive season.
Alcohol sales will be restricted, curfews will be in place from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and gatherings of more than 100 people indoors are banned across the country. In areas with the highest number of case, there will be even tighter restrictions, including the closing of beaches and public parks in some areas, Mr. Ramaphosa said in a televised address on Monday.
Four provinces are driving the surge in cases: Eastern Cape; Gauteng, the economic heart of the country; KwaZulu-Natal; and Western Cape, known for its wine routes and stunning beaches. Before the holiday season, when many gather at the seaside, beaches will be closed in Eastern Cape and along the Garden Route in Western Cape.
“The festive season now poses the greatest threat to the health and well-being of our nation,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in his broadcast.
The president warned that the resurgence threatened to overwhelm the South African health system, noting that, “if we do not act urgently and if we do not act together, the second wave will be more severe than the first wave.”
South Africa, the sub-Saharan region’s most developed economy, has recorded more than 866,000 coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database. The average number of new daily cases has risen to more than 6,800, from around 3,800 a week ago, according to the database and government statistics. Officials said that another concern was the fact that new infections were highest among young people for the first time since the pandemic began.
The trend is being driven by student “rage” events — a series of alcohol-fueled parties, or gatherings at nightclubs and festivals, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, the South African health minister, said in a radio interview on Monday.
Dr. Mkhize said that the large number of these parties with “no adherence” to social distancing, adequate ventilation and other mitigation measures had led to several so-called superspreader events. After one big party in the southeastern coastal town of Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal Province this month, almost 1,000 students tested positive.