Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

States jump ahead on boosters,


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.


Daily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.Credit…The New York Times

Fully vaccinated people will be allowed to gather in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Amazon agreed to pay $500,000 in California over claims that it hid Covid-19 cases from workers.

The Basque region restricted gatherings as cases rise again in parts of Spain.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Moving ahead with boosters

The F.D.A. is aiming to authorize booster doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for all adults as early as Thursday, according to people familiar with the agency’s plans.

If both the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. sign off this week, any adult who received a second vaccine at least six months earlier would be eligible for a booster as soon as this weekend. But some states aren’t waiting.

Arkansas, Colorado, California and New Mexico have expanded eligibility to all adults, and the authorities in New York and West Virginia have also encouraged all adults to get the booster. New York City yesterday became one of the first major cities to tell all adults they could get another shot if they wanted one.

States and cities are forging ahead as the country faces an upswing in coronavirus cases and experts warn of a possible surge this winter. The U.S. reported almost 85,000 new cases yesterday, a 14 percent increase from two weeks ago, although deaths and hospitalizations have decreased.

A growing body of research has shown that vaccine effectiveness against infection wanes over time. Still, the consensus in the scientific community is that all the vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Some experts have even argued that the protection is so good, the vast majority of Americans don’t need booster shots.

The question of whether you should get one may invite knotty ethical questions, like one from Miriam, in New York, who recently wrote in to Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine.

Miriam, 49, a public-school teacher, wanted to know if she should get a booster shot, even though she was on sabbatical and quite healthy. “I’m eager to protect myself, as well as those around me, but I am unsure if getting the booster would prevent someone who is needier from getting one,” she wrote.

Kwame responded: “Get the booster. There is a reasonable rule in place, and under that rule, you are eligible. Given the widespread availability of the vaccine here, you won’t be depriving someone in greater need of it. And plenty of people who are less in need than you — including young, healthy teachers in their 20s — will be getting the booster. I can’t help adding that your letter presents a painful paradox: While some people may forgo a jab because they care so much about the larger community, others skip getting vaccinated because they don’t care enough.”

More resources:

Tara Parker-Pope answered questions about third shots.

Here’s the latest on what you need to know about the mix-and-match approach to vaccines.

A guide to getting a booster in New York City.

Pills for the unvaccinated

The Biden administration is planning to pay more than $5 billion for a stockpile of Pfizer’s new Covid pill, enough for about 10 million courses of treatment, after the company gears up production next year, according to people familiar with the agreement.

Pfizer said today that it applied to the F.D.A. to authorize the pill to treat unvaccinated people with Covid-19 who are at high risk of becoming severely ill. The drug, which will be sold under the brand name Paxlovid, could become available within weeks if authorization is granted. It is meant to be dispensed by pharmacies and taken at home.

Pfizer also announced today that it had reached an agreement to allow other manufacturers to make and sell the pill inexpensively for use in 95 developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.

In a key clinical trial, Paxlovid was found to sharply reduce the risk of hospitalization or death when given to high-risk unvaccinated volunteers soon after they started showing symptoms. It appears to be more effective than a similar offering from Merck, known as molnupiravir, that could be authorized as soon as early December.

Pfizer’s drug is designed to stop the coronavirus from replicating by blocking a key enzyme that the coronavirus uses to replicate itself inside cells. Merck’s pill works differently, by inserting errors into the virus’s genetic code — a mechanism that has raised concerns among some scientists. They worry that Merck’s drug could trigger genetic mutations that cause reproductive harm. That difference could give Pfizer’s pill an advantage.

Hybrid work isn’t working

As more companies reopen offices and adjust to hybrid work — with people both at home and in the office — few are finding it to be a smooth transition.

It seems that some companies used delays in return-to-office plans as an excuse to avoid questions about how to balance the needs of their remote and in-person employees. The result, my colleague Emma Goldberg writes, is a mushy middle ground that calls into question whether hybrid setups are sustainable, even with all the benefits they confer.

Remote workers, for example, may feel undercut, and it’s not hard to imagine why. They might be muted in a heated discussion or shut out of lunchtime bonding. But in-person employees might feel just as neglected, in some cases being forced to join meetings on their laptops from the office.

“It’s the American-in-Europe rule,” said Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who has surveyed hundreds of hybrid companies. “When an American is traveling abroad, you look around the room and everyone is speaking English for your benefit. If there’s one person working from home, everyone in the office dials into the meeting.”

Your Thanksgiving plans

Last year, doctors and politicians across the country urged Americans to skip a big group meal for Thanksgiving. But this year, months after vaccines have become widely available, the guidance from officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is more relaxed — and families are getting together to celebrate.

As holiday traditions change — yet again — we’d love to hear how you and your loved ones are adjusting. We’re asking readers to tell us their Thanksgiving plans, and how they differ from last year’s.

If you’d like to participate, you can tell us your story using the form here. We may feature your response in an upcoming edition of the Coronavirus Briefing newsletter.

What else we’re following

The Florida legislature kicked off a special session to pass bills limiting federal Covid mandates.

Washington, D.C., will ease its indoor mask requirement but still recommends masking.

Over 10,000 Australians have sought compensation over vaccines, despite low reports of adverse effects.

Hong Kong exempted JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive from its lengthy quarantine.

A video of decontamination workers clubbing a pet corgi in a quarantined resident’s apartment has stirred anger in China.

New York City’s outdoor dining program has turned into a contentious battle over who should have ownership of streets and sidewalks.

What you’re doing

The very best thing about telework is if you have to work late you don’t have to stay late. It is wonderful not to waste time and money commuting and buying lunches and coffees. Also there is no big yank out the door in the morning and constant laundry and dry-cleaning. Screw the water cooler culture. Let me do my job and I promise, as an adult, I will provide you with an excellent product in a timely matter. I love eating dinner at a reasonable hour and my dogs have never loved me more.

— Bonnie Myhre, Md.

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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Amelia Nierenberg contributed to today’s newsletter.

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