New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, and professional sports (without fans). A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is ourregularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
- Despite Nationwide Testing Delays, Cuomo Says Most State Test Results Take Only A Few Days
- Two Companies Announce $1.95 Billion Deal To Produce Vaccine Candidate By December
- State Legislature Seeks To Clean Up This Summer’s Election Chaos In Time For November
- Success Academy Blames City For Not Allowing Access To School Buildings By August 4th
- State Suspends Liquor Licenses Of Four NY Establishments For Pandemic Violations
5:30 p.m. First-year undergraduate international students at Harvard won’t be allowed on campus this fall, the school announced Tuesday, because of a gap in federal visa policy that does not allow them to take only online classes.
Originally, international university students were not allowed to take online classes until the decision was changed in March to accommodate the shift to online learning. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced all international students would not be issued new visas if they were taking online-only classes. But Harvard and MIT sued, as well as New York State, and the policy was swiftly repealed.
Now international students who are finishing their course of study will be allowed to stay in the U.S. However, the new federal policy does not include newly admitted students who still need F-1 visa sponsorship.
Neither CUNY or NYU responded to Gothamist’s request for comment on if they plan to welcome incoming first-year international students this year. But Columbia has encouraged their international students to come to campus for the fall semester. On Wednesday, the school outlined what life will look like during a virtual webinar for students. Columbia, NYU and CUNY have all announced they plan on having a hybrid learning model with some classes in-person and others online.
Harvard intends to go fully online for the upcoming academic year. In an email to students on Tuesday, Dean Rakesh Khurana wrote that the university had considered a hybrid system of classes so that new international students could attend, but ultimately decided against it because, “given the unpredictability of current government policies and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, this path could jeopardize both our international students’ ability to enter or leave the United States in the future and our community’s health.”
When unveiling its 2020-2021 online school year plan, Harvard expected international students to learn remotely due to the ongoing hurdles with getting visas processed.
Harvard had over 6,000 international students in 2018, with just over 1,000 of them in undergraduate programs, according to College Factual.
Despite Nationwide Testing Delays, Cuomo Says Most State Test Results Take Only A Few Days
2:30 p.m. As states across the country complain of coronavirus testing delays, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that about 72 percent of New York's testing has a turnaround time of between two to three days.
"The national labs are the ones getting overwhelmed," Cuomo said during a telephone press briefing.
Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor who was also on the call, said that the Wadsworth Center lab in Albany can run 1,000 tests a day and produce results in a 24-hour period. On Tuesday, the state performed more than 67,000 tests.
The governor's comments come as New Yorkers have reported experiencing delays of at least a week, especially at CityMD clinics.
Even people tested at NYC Health + Hospitals sites, which have advertised wait times of three to five days, have said the turnaround was much longer.
Questions about the New York's testing process come amid mounting concerns about other states' ability to ensure timely testing. On Tuesday, Dr. Thomas Friedan, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who once served as the city's health commissioner, and a colleague at his nonprofit group Resolve to Save Lives, penned an op-ed in the New York Times that called for more transparency and information about data being collected on coronavirus testing and outbreaks.
According to Friedan, not a single state has published turnaround time for testing, which the authors said was "crucial to stop spread," adding, "There is little value to tests that come back more than two or three days later."
The latest positivity rate of tests statewide is 1.04 percent, according to Cuomo.
DeRosa said the statistic was still a reliable and recent indicator. “We feel comfortable that we are looking at the most current data," she said.
Two Companies Announce $1.95 Billion Deal To Produce Vaccine Candidate By December
Two companies, Pfizer and BioNTech, announced on Wednesday a $1.95 billion contract with the United States government to produce 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine as early as December, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
If successful, the federal government can acquire up to an additional 500 million doses. All Americans would receive the vaccine for free.
The agreement marks the largest deal to date by the federal government's program "Operation Warp Speed," which seeks to fast track a vaccine.
“Expanding Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio by adding a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said Alex Azar, the U.S. health secretary, in a statement. “Depending on success in clinical trials, today’s agreement will enable the delivery of approximately 100 million doses of this vaccine to the American people.”
Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, and BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, currently have four vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials in both the United States and Germany, two of which have already received a fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The companies expect to select one lead vaccine candidate out of those trials as early as October and manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of the year.
Early data from one of the vaccine candidates showed promising results, with the treatment triggering immune responses in healthy patients, but also fever and other side effects, especially at higher doses. None of the side effects were considered serious, however.
The data, published in the medical journal the Lancet, also show that the vaccine caused side effects, including fever, headaches, muscle aches, and injection site reactions, in about 60% of patients. All of the side effects were deemed mild or moderate, and all resolved themselves over the course of the study.
The Trump administration is not only betting on Pfizer and BioNTech to produce a vaccine. Earlier this month, federal officials said they had awarded $1.6 billion to a Maryland biotechnology company called Novovax to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Similar to the deal with Pfizer and BioNTech, Novovax is aiming to manufacture 100 million doses in late 2020 and early 2021, pending the results of clinical trials. The company, however, has been scrutinized for having never brought a vaccine to the market in its 33-year-history.
Under the deal, the government will bankroll a 30,000-person vaccine trial in the U.S. starting in the summer, plus the ramp-up of manufacturing capacity to make at least 300 million doses. The first doses will be ready in the fall should the vaccine prove effective, it said.
Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services secretary, called the deal a “major milestone” in the administration’s effort to make a safe, effective vaccine widely available to Americans by 2021.
In May, AstraZeneca struck a deal with the U.S. government to produce at least 300 million doses for "up to $1.2 billion." The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being worked on with Oxford University, has advanced faster than any other contenders. In a trial of roughly 1,000 patients, a vaccine spurred two immune responses: an increase in antibodies and a T-cell response, a good sign according to scientists. Side effects from the drug were considered minor.
Two other companies, Moderna and J&J, also have vaccine deals with the government that together are worth over $1 billion.
But even if a successful vaccine treatment is approved, the federal government may still have work to do in convincing the public that it is safe and effective. A recent New York Times story reported that the rush to produce a life-saving vaccine has provoked distrust among some Americans, reflecting the increasing skepticism about vaccines and public health guidance in general. In May, a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about 50 percent of Americans said they would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine. One in five said they would not take the vaccine, while 31 percent were uncertain.
A working group of 23 epidemiologists this month released a report outlining steps that government officials should take to instill public confidence in a vaccine.
"Baseline vaccine hesitancy and uneven access to vaccines, coupled with the country’s currently charged political environment and fragmented pandemic response, call for effective planning and implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine program," the report read. "If poorly designed and executed, a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the United States could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and the public health authorities that recommend them—especially among people most at risk of COVID-19 impacts."