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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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Despite already having some of the most restrictive virus measures in the country, Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday that the state might have to take “drastic action” to slow the spread of the virus, including full stay-at-home orders, which could come within the next couple of days.

Already, 99 percent of residents are living under an overnight curfew that bars them from leaving their homes for nonessential trips after 10 p.m. Los Angeles recently went further and banned gatherings with other households, while a ban on contact sports in Santa Clara County has forced the San Francisco 49ers to play home games in Arizona.

Still, the numbers continue to soar. Governor Newsom warned that with so many sick patients, intensive care units could be overloaded by the middle of December, and its hospitals could be dangerously close to full by Christmas. The state is also facing a shortage of nurses.

As my colleagues Thomas Fuller and Manny Fernandez report, despite its size and economic power, California has one of the nation’s lowest number of hospital beds relative to its population, with just 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. California has one-third the number of beds per capita of, for example, Poland, and only two states have fewer beds for residents, Washington and Oregon.

With the pandemic raging across the country, California may not be able to rely on other states for its disaster planning, as it did when thousands of firefighters traveled to put out its mega-fires.

“You have to think of this as a natural disaster, like an earthquake — there’s a lot of need for hospitalization,” said George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “But the difference here is that it’s happening across the country. We can’t send people to Reno, Phoenix or Tucson. We’re stuck.”


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee met today and voted on guidance about who should get the vaccine first. Their recommendation: Health care workers should receive the first doses, along with residents of nursing homes and of long-term care facilities. The C.D.C. director will decide by Wednesday whether to accept the recommendation.

But the agency does not have the final say. The distribution of the vaccine is up to individual states, and they don’t have to follow C.D.C. advice (as we’ve seen with masks or travel restrictions). Still, experts say that most states probably will.

For insight into the vaccine rollout, and when you might get the vaccine, I turned to Carl Zimmer, a science writer for The Times.

We now know who the C.D.C. says should get the vaccine first, but who’s next in line?

We won’t know until the advisory committee votes again later this month. But it’s likely that the next group in line will be essential workers — firefighters, police and so on. And then after that, it may be people over 65, and people with comorbidities like diabetes, obesity, cancer that put them at high risk of death or severe disease.

When should the general public expect a vaccine?

Nobody should be marking their calendar with “Vaccine Day.” But I think it would be reasonable to expect that the general public would be getting vaccines in May or June.

Is that the time frame without other vaccines entering the market?

It will definitely take longer to vaccinate the U.S. with just Pfizer and Moderna than with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. But there are also two other vaccines that are going to go into late-stage clinical trials probably this month. One is from Sanofi, one is from Novavax. If their results come through quickly, and if everything looks good to the F.D.A., they could be also adding their vaccines to the supply, that would speed things up as well.

So after I’m vaccinated, can I just return to normal life?

No. Sorry. You can’t. First of all, you’re going to need two shots. After your first shot, you’re not fully vaccinated. Second of all, after your second shot it’s going to take awhile for you to get maximum immunity. Third of all, we don’t know yet if these vaccines simply prevent people from getting the symptoms of Covid or actually stop the spread of the virus from one person to the next. They might, but we don’t know. So you do not want to be walking around feeling fine and breathing viruses all over people who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, or people who can’t get vaccinated.

Any thoughts, then, on when normal life will return?

This is an experience that none of us has gone through before, so we’re not going to get the kind of precise timetable that we might want. But Tony Fauci has talked about life getting back to normal by late 2021. But that comes with a big asterisk — that timetable will depend on at least 75 percent of the country getting vaccinated promptly.


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



My husband of 27 years and I got our final divorce paper a month ago. After traveling for two years in Europe, I was grounded by the pandemic and moved to a rental 20 minutes away from our small Pennsylvania house. Even though the ex and I found that we can’t live under the same roof together, we admitted that we’re both lonely in this pandemic and started making local fitness dates with each other: soccer, walking, or swimming as a “family bubble” at the Y in one lane. We then decided to enjoy Friday pizza evenings together and Sunday supper at the house. I love to see the cats, use the fireplace, and realized my ex can use a little help running the house. Even though we still annoy each other in the same ways, we found that this strange new situation gave us a way to grow a new friendship. And we no longer feel lonely.

— Danielle Lehtinen, Scranton, Pa.

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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Carole Landry contributed to today’s newsletter.

Email your thoughts to [email protected].


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