Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today


Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

AstraZeneca’s strong showingA U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine found that it completely prevented the worst outcomes from Covid-19.

Your Monday Briefing
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Your Monday Briefing

A U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine found that it completely prevented the worst outcomes from Covid-19. No subjects in the trial reported serious safety issues.

More than 32,000 subjects participated in the trial, the largest yet for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Based on those results, it was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections. It also offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well represented in earlier studies.

The company will soon seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration, even though the U.S. may not need the vaccine — doses are unlikely to become available before May, when federal officials predict there will be enough doses from the three vaccines that have already been authorized for all U.S. adults. But the results could help the vaccine recover from the safety scare it faced in Europe.

More than a dozen countries temporarily suspended the shot’s use over concerns about possible rare blood complications. Global confidence wavered, even though only a handful of people out of millions inoculated had any serious side effects. In India, for example, where AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of two available, many people are currently skeptical of the shots as the country races to contain a second wave.

Alongside a public trust-building campaign from European officials, U.S. clearance would further burnish the shot’s reputation, as the F.D.A.’s rigorous review process is considered the global gold standard. Because of its low cost and simple storage requirements, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the backbone of vaccine rollouts in many poor and middle-income countries.

“This is the vaccine that will likely vaccinate the world,” Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter on Monday, adding: “If you were rooting for global vaccination, this is a good morning.”

If you’ve had to loosen your belt a few notches this year, you’re not alone.

A new study suggests that adults under shelter-in-place orders gained more than half a pound every 10 days — that’s nearly two pounds a month — which could easily translate to 20 pounds over the course of the year.

The study participants had mostly been losing pounds before the orders were issued, but their weights began rising steadily, in part because of dietary patterns that changed during stay-at-home orders. The restrictions also curtailed the humdrum physical activity that is part and parcel of daily living.

The study was relatively small, and its results are not generalizable. But because participants were losing weight beforehand, “it’s reasonable to assume these individuals are more engaged with their health,” the senior researcher on the study said. “That suggests we could be underestimating — that this is the tip of the iceberg.”

If you want to move more, try an exercise snack. Here are five workouts that you can do in 10 minutes or fewer.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

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

I have been reading everyone else’s responses to how they have dealt with the pandemic. I have cried for other readers; I have laughed with other readers; I have wished there was a way to reach out to them and support them, encourage them, thank them, commiserate with them. Mostly I have wanted to tell them they are not alone. And give them a virtual hug. — Sarah Martin, Hoschton, Ga.

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

Whet Moser edited today’s newsletter.

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