The current president hailed a “monumental national achievement.” His successor grimly described a “mass casualty” event.
The remarks about the coronavirus pandemic by President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday offered a striking, split-screen moment, underscoring how differently the two men are approaching the worst public health crisis in 100 years that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.
Speaking in Wilmington, Del., as he introduced the people who will lead his health care agencies, Mr. Biden painted a grim picture of the infections ravaging the nation even as he vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
He pledged to run “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history” but did not say how and through what companies his administration would purchase vaccine shots. Mr. Biden also implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make doing so a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.
“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden, speaking at a virtual event in an almost empty room, said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced we can change course.”
The senior officials Mr. Biden will appoint — including Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the California attorney general, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services — will face the immediate challenge of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 285,000 people in the United States and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.
Other health officials included in the event were Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will lead a Covid-19 equity task force, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the incoming coordinator of the Covid-19 response.
It was a much more upbeat message at an auditorium near the White House, where Mr. Trump packed industry officials and members of his administration — most of them wearing masks — for a “vaccine summit” to celebrate the expected approval of a vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration this week.
The dueling scenes came as Britain began vaccinating people in the wake of that country’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — the same one on the verge of approval in the United States. In Britain, scenes of people receiving the first doses of the vaccine dominated television coverage offering a bit of good news in the fight against the virus.
Asked why he had not included members of Mr. Biden’s transition team in the summit to ensure smooth delivery of the vaccine by the next administration, Mr. Trump again complained, without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election and said he hoped the next administration would be “the Trump administration.”
Mr. Trump, who entered to a recording of “Hail to the Chief” and stood in front of a backdrop with American flags, claimed credit for the vaccine, thanking his White House staff and advisers — though he pointedly excluded Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, who has been tapped by Mr. Biden to be his chief medical adviser and appeared remotely at the president-elect’s event.
Mr. Trump barely mentioned the surge in cases and deaths across the country in recent weeks, only repeating his longstanding — and false — assertion that the United States only has more cases because it does more testing. The country has shattered record after record as it approaches 300,000 deaths and surpassed 15 million known cases amid a brutal and accelerating surge. As of Monday, the nation recorded the most virus-related deaths over a weeklong period — about 2,200 daily — and an average of more than 201,000 cases a day.
Britain’s National Health Service delivered its first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, opening a mass vaccination campaign with little precedent in modern medicine and making Britons the first people in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested vaccine for the disease.
Across the nation, vaccine centers are beginning the careful process of delivering vaccinations on a tight schedule, as the vaccine must be used or discarded within five days of being defrosted. “We’re doing it with military precision, and in fact, we have had the military helping with our planning too,” said Fiona Kinghorn, who oversaw the vaccine rollout at one site in Cardiff, Wales.
The effort marks a turning point in the remarkable race to produce a vaccine and the global effort to end a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million people worldwide. At one Welsh vaccination center, a retired nurse on the facility staff described the response by her most recent patient, another nurse. “She just cried and said this was such an emotional day,” she said, adding: “I think partly because she worked on a Covid ward, so she has seen the consequences and probably the outcomes. I presume she has seen a lot.”
At 6:31 a.m. Tuesday, Margaret Keenan, 90, a former jewelry shop assistant, rolled up the sleeve of her “Merry Christmas” T-shirt to receive the first shot, and her image quickly became an emblem of hope and resilience.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Ms. Keenan, who lives in Coventry, in central England. “It means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”
British regulators leapt ahead of their American counterparts last week to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, upsetting the White House and setting off a spirited debate about whether Britain had moved too hastily, or if the United States was wasting valuable time as the virus was killing about 2,200 Americans a day over the last week, as of Monday.
President Trump planned on Tuesday to issue an executive order proclaiming that other nations will not get U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated, a directive that appeared to have no real teeth but nevertheless was indicative of the heated race to secure shipments of doses.
For the people receiving vaccinations in Britain, among them doctors and nurses who have fortified the country’s National Health Service this year, the shots were an early glimpse at post-pandemic life. Besides Ms. Keenan, none attracted as much attention as William Shakespeare, who was second in line for a shot in Coventry and who, the National Health Service confirmed, really is named William Shakespeare. Twitter took the news of his vaccination as an opportunity for delighted wordplay, cracking jokes about the Taming of the Flu and the Gentlemen of Corona.
“Today is a great day for medical science, and the future,” Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said on Tuesday. (An earlier version of this item mistakenly said he was the chief medical officer for all of Britain.)
The first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Britain were transported in recent days from a manufacturing plant in Belgium to government warehouses in Britain, and then to hospitals.
Fifty hospitals will be administering the shots until the government can refine a plan for delivering them at nursing homes and doctor’s offices. The vaccine must be transported at South Pole-like temperatures before it can be stored for five days in a normal refrigerator, Pfizer has said. First to receive the vaccine will be doctors and nurses, certain people age 80 and over, and nursing home workers.
Some doctors and nurses have received invitations in recent days to sign up for appointments, with the first shots intended for those at the highest risk of severe illness. The government has indicated that people aged 80 and over who already have visits with doctors scheduled for this week, or who are being discharged from certain hospitals, will also be among the first to receive shots.
Nursing home residents, who were supposed to be the government’s top priority, will be vaccinated in the coming weeks, once health officials start distributing doses beyond hospitals.
Hundreds of people are still dying in Britain each day from the virus, and the country has made allowances for travel over the Christmas period that scientists fear will seed another uptick in infections.
“It is amazing to see the vaccine, but we can’t afford to relax now,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said on Tuesday morning as he visited a London hospital. Trying to calm a recipient’s nerves about needles, he suggested, “I always try to think of something else — recite some poetry.”
Ms. Keenan, the first vaccine recipient, showed no such nerves. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said on Twitter that watching Ms. Keenan receive the shot gave her “a bit of a lump in the throat.”
“Feels like such a milestone moment after a tough year for everyone,” Ms. Sturgeon added.
Administering Ms. Keenan’s shot was May Parsons, a nurse who is originally from the Philippines and has worked for the National Health Service for 24 years.
“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the N.H.S.,” she said, “but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
It was a simple thing. A swipe with an alcohol pad, a tiny needle prick in the upper arm and the application of a small Band-Aid.
But the health care workers receiving a new coronavirus vaccine here on Tuesday, among the first in Britain, know it’s more than that.
“I’m excited for the world, really,” said Dr. Chris Hingston. “I just feel very lucky that we’re making this first step back toward normality.”
He was among 225 people given the vaccine at this makeshift clinic in Cardiff on Tuesday, a site scrambled into existence as Britain revved up a mass inoculation program that a week ago was only theoretical.
In a separate room nearby, pharmacists filled syringes with the vaccine, and trained new staff members in the careful process. Unlike a typical vaccine — like the flu shot — which often comes preloaded in a syringe for ease of use, the new Pfizer doses must be prepared on-site. Before being used, they must be stored in a deep freeze, and once thawed last for only five days.
They are kept refrigerated on site and then prepared vials must be used within hours, contributing to a sense of urgency among the staff.
Dr. Hingston has described the past year as a challenging one. He and his colleagues scrambled to prepare their I.C.U. for an outbreak as they saw coronavirus cases grow from a cluster in China to a global pandemic. He watched doctors in the same roles as his fall ill and die in hospitals in China, Spain and Italy as the numbers swelled.
For the health care workers like Dr. Hingston who were vaccinated here on Tuesday, it was just the start of this next stage. He’s booked for the second dose next month, and according to Pfizer’s data, within seven days will have the full protection this particular vaccine offers.
“Will it change anything I do today? No,” Dr. Hingston said. He’ll still be wearing his mask, still donning his P.P.E. at work, social distancing and hand washing frequently.
“But, in months’ time,” he said, “when everyone can be vaccinated, then life will change back to some normality, hopefully, for all of us.”
Betty Spear, a retired pediatric nurse, pulled back the blue curtain from the small cubicle she was working in after administering a vaccine to a nurse who openly wept. The woman had worked in a Covid ward.
“She just cried and said this was such an emotional day,” Ms. Spear said. “I presume she has seen a lot.”
The University of Oxford published a much-anticipated paper on Tuesday detailing the findings of its coronavirus vaccine trials, echoing results first announced two weeks ago that showed the vaccine had 70 percent efficacy on average across two different dosing regimens.
But while it was the first peer-reviewed publication outlining late-stage results of a leading coronavirus vaccine, it did little to answer the most pressing questions facing the university and AstraZeneca, the drug maker, since they offered a glimpse at the same promising, if somewhat puzzling, results two weeks ago.
Among nearly 8,900 participants who received two full doses of the vaccine, it had 62 percent efficacy. But after a discrepancy over methods for measuring the concentration of viral particles in the vaccine created uncertainty over the dosage during an early stage of manufacturing, 2,741 participants were given a half dose of the vaccine followed a month later by a full dose. In that smaller group of participants, the vaccine had 90 percent efficacy.
The Oxford scientists said in the paper, published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, that “further work is needed to determine the mechanism of the increased efficacy.”
Both dosing regimens appeared to protect participants in the trials from hospitalization or severe disease.
The results combined data from a trial in Brazil with a trial in Britain. In the British trial, the researchers asked participants to swab their noses and throats weekly to test for asymptomatic infections, a way of determining whether the vaccine could protect not only against disease but also transmission.
The vaccine appeared to be more effective in protecting against asymptomatic infections in the low-dose, high-dose regimen, but the numbers were so small that it was difficult to be sure. The researchers wrote in the paper that the results “provide some hope that Covid-19 vaccines might be able to interrupt some asymptomatic transmission,” though they said “more data are needed to confirm.”
Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to President Trump, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a White House official familiar with the situation. She is the latest in a string of officials connected to Mr. Trump who have tested positive.
Ms. Ellis has appeared in recent weeks alongside Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump lawyers — a group Ms. Ellis has described as an “elite strike-force team” — at public hearings where she amplified the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.
Mr. Giuliani, the lead lawyer for the president’s efforts to overthrow the results of the election, confirmed over the weekend that he had tested positive for the virus, and a person who was aware of his condition but not authorized to speak publicly said then that he had been hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical. At age 76, Mr. Giuliani is in a high-risk category. Mr. Trump said on Monday that he had spoken to Mr. Giuliani and he was doing “very well.”
Ms. Ellis was photographed last week, on Wednesday, sitting next to Mr. Giuliani during a hearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee. It was not immediately clear whether she had any symptoms, or what kind of test she had taken. Ms. Ellis continued to post to Twitter throughout the day on Tuesday, including sharing a statement attributed to her and Mr. Giuliani about their legal efforts. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Ms. Ellis has been a frequent guest on cable news, where she aggressively defended Mr. Trump as he faced investigation and impeachment. She presents herself as a constitutional law attorney, but has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases. She does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond criminal and civil work in Colorado.
Ms. Ellis’s most recent work appears to have been largely in a public-relations capacity. The Trump campaign and its supporters have so far filed about 50 election-related lawsuits. She has not signed her name or appeared in court to argue a single one.
More than 40 members of Mr. Trump’s administration, campaign and inner circle have contracted the virus since late September. In early October, Mr. Trump was hospitalized for a few days after testing positive and developing symptoms of Covid-19.
Seven months after its arrival in the Amazon, the coronavirus has infected more than 70 percent of the population in the Brazilian city of Manaus, a grim vision of what can happen when the pathogen is left to spread unchecked, according to a study published on Tuesday.
Brazil has seen 6.6 million coronavirus infections, and more than 177,000 deaths. The toll serves as a warning against letting the virus spread naturally in order to achieve so-called herd immunity, a theory espoused by Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s former science adviser, and widely denounced by most scientists.
The first cases of Covid-19 in Manaus, a city of more than 2 million people, were diagnosed on March 13. The virus tore through the region, and the percentage of people with antibodies indicating past infection jumped from less than 5 percent in April to nearly 45 percent in June, according to the study, published today in the journal Science.
In October, only 26 percent of the population tested positive for antibodies. But antibodies to the coronavirus can wane over time, complicating efforts to assess how widely the virus has spread. The researchers attempted to account for this decline, and estimated that 66 percent of the population in Manaus had been exposed to the virus by July and 76 percent by October.
In São Paolo, the most populous city in Brazil, the first cases were diagnosed on Feb. 25. The prevalence there has also increased steadily, but had reached only 13.5 percent by June.
A young and mobile population, household crowding and travel on congested boats may all have contributed to the toll in Manaus, the scientists said.
Their estimate is “conservative,” the researchers said, but they noted there is no widely accepted standard for measuring the decline in antibodies to the virus.
Few schools in England saw confirmed outbreaks of the coronavirus over the summer, adding to evidence that children are unlikely to be superspreaders, according to a new study published on Tuesday.
Schools closed in late March during England’s first lockdown. Many of them reopened from June to mid-July, when the number of new cases in the country had fallen.
In all, the country recorded 55 outbreaks and about 450 cases in schools during the period, according to researchers at Public Health England. A majority of infections was among staff members, while student-to-student transmission was rare. The results were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Of the 55 outbreaks identified in the analysis, 27 were in elementary schools, 16 in nurseries, seven in secondary schools and five in schools of mixed age groups. This finding was surprising, because most other studies have suggested that children under 10 are least likely to become infected or to spread the virus to others.
But many students did not attend school over the summer, and few secondary schools reopened, which may have skewed the results, the researchers said. Of the 8.9 million students in England, only 1.6 million attended school over the period covered.
The study was limited by other factors, including a lack of testing at many schools. Most infected children don’t have symptoms, which may also have led to an underestimate of the number of cases.
Overall, there were more school outbreaks in communities with higher levels of circulating virus, a trend many other studies have reported. The risk of an outbreak rose by 72 percent for every five cases per 100,000 within the community, the study found.
The finding underscores “the importance of controlling transmission outside the school gates to protect educational settings,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Shamez Ladhani, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Public Health England.
All the world might have been a stage on Tuesday, or at least all of Britain, but William Shakespeare was not content to be a mere player. As Britons rolled up their sleeves for the start of a coronavirus vaccine campaign, he was the second to get a shot.
That’s William Shakespeare of Warwickshire, not the guy from Stratford-on-Avon, and he did not shy away from his duty.
“It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?” Mr. Shakespeare, 81, said with a smile shortly after being vaccinated at University Hospital Coventry, in central England. That’s just 20 miles north of where the poet and playwright was born.
That one of the first recipients of the vaccine bore such a famous name (a fact confirmed by the National Health Service) offered a chance for some levity on a day when Britain began the daunting task of mounting the largest vaccination campaign in its history.
“Shakespeare gets Covid vaccine,” the BBC said in a headline. “The Taming of the Shrew” became “The Taming of the Flu.” And “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” quickly turned into “The Gentlemen of Corona.”
If the first Briton to get the shot was Patient 1A, one Twitter user asked, “would William Shakespeare be 2B, or not 2B?”
Even British theaters weighed in. The National Theater offered this tweet:
“Casting director: So what would you bring to the role of second patient? We want a sense of real drama and patriotism here.
“Auditionee: I’m literally called William Shakespeare.
“Casting director: Fair enough, the part’s yours.”
Mr. Shakespeare received the shot in his left arm and wore a hospital gown and bright red socks. History records that he was pricked, but it was not clear if he bled.
Mr. Shakespeare has been hospitalized in Coventry for several weeks since suffering a stroke. On Tuesday after his vaccination, he felt a little frail and took a nap in the afternoon, according to his niece, Emily Shakespeare.
“He’s delighted with it,” Ms. Shakespeare said in a telephone interview about her uncle’s first injection. “He’s dying to come home.”
Countless families around the world have been unable to visit relatives in nursing homes or hospitals during the pandemic, leaving many patients to suffer loneliness, atrophy and depression. Others died alone, and families never got to say goodbye.
So Mr. Shakespeare’s vaccination brought a bit of heartwarming news for people in Britain, and for his family. “He is fed up being in the hospital,” Ms. Shakespeare said, “but today I just want to say that I’m proud that he’s leading the way.”
Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, appeared to shed some tears as he lauded Mr. Shakespeare and the other Britons lining up to be vaccinated in this unspeakably difficult year. More than 60,000 people have died in the United Kingdom in the pandemic.
May Parsons, a nurse at the hospital who administered the dose to Mr. Shakespeare, said the injections were a first step toward giving people a sense of normality. “This is really important for me knowing that they’re going to be safe, that they’re going to be protected,” Ms. Parsons told Sky News.
For all the jokes made about Mr. Shakespeare’s name, his relatives were quick to remind everyone that much more was at stake than the ephemeral fame of “their” William Shakespeare.
“He wants to to see his wife, his children and his grandchildren, who can’t visit him at the moment,” Ms. Shakespeare said of her uncle. “But the outpouring of attention will surely give him a boost.”
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina imposed a curfew in his state on Tuesday, joining a scattering of other governors and mayors who have imposed similar restrictions in the hope of slowing the explosive spread of the coronavirus over the last month.
The governor’s “modified stay-at-home order” requires people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for essential trips, and orders most businesses to close during those hours. All sales of alcohol for on-premise consumption must end at 9 p.m.
Mr. Cooper said the curfew, which takes effect Friday, may be just one of several steps the state takes to tamp down the virus outbreak. New rules for restaurants and other businesses may come next if daily reports of new cases continue to climb, he said.
The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in North Carolina has nearly doubled in the past month, and the state is averaging more deaths each day than ever before. The trend mirrors that of the nation, which set a new record last week for most deaths reported in a 7-day period.
Other states that have imposed curfews and other modified stay-at-home orders include Ohio, Massachusetts and New Mexico. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Monday that his state’s curfew would be extended indefinitely. It had been set to expire this week.
Both Mr. DeWine and Mr. Cooper presented the curfews as compromises between sweeping shutdowns to fight the virus, as many states did early in the pandemic and parts of California are doing again, and lifting restrictions to help the economy. Health experts say it is not clear how effective compromise measures like curfews can be in slowing virus transmission.
Mr. Cooper implored the federal government on Tuesday to provide more assistance for small businesses that will suffer from new restrictions. But he said the state’s main priority “is and must be saving lives, and keeping our health care system from being overwhelmed.”
If you were lucky enough not to lose your job during the pandemic, you may still have lost pay and your health insurance, according to a new analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About half the U.S. businesses surveyed by the federal government said they had furloughed employees at some point in 2020. Of those, roughly half continued to pay wages to at least some of their workers while furloughed, but only 42 percent continued to pay at least a portion of the workers’ health insurance premiums. Individuals who could not afford to pay the premiums on their own may have lost their coverage.
People working in the hotel and restaurant industry, devastated by the crisis, were hardest hit, with just 23 percent of employers paying health insurance premiums for their furloughed workers. In the airline industry, 68 percent of businesses continued to pay for coverage when their employees were not working; in the health-care industry, the figures was a little more than half.
The largest businesses were much more likely to keep on paying for furloughed workers’ coverage. About 88 percent of establishments with 1,000 or more workers did so, compared to just one-third of those with fewer than five workers. Many small businesses have been unable to maintain coverage, resulting in thousands of workers losing their insurance.
The latest analysis, based on data collected from July 20 through Sept. 30, was first reported by the Axios newsletter.
Pope Francis canceled the traditional Dec. 8 papal visit to a Rome landmark because of social distancing concerns, he said on Tuesday. The afternoon event, observing the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, normally draws thousands of people.
“The traditional homage” did not take place, “to avoid the risk of crowds, as ordered by civil authorities, who we must obey,” Francis told the faithful who gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer. Instead, the pope went to the site unannounced at 7 a.m., and left a bouquet of roses at the base of a column near the Spanish Steps that is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Other than in September and October, when new coronavirus cases in Italy appeared to have dropped significantly, Pope Francis has canceled most of his regular public appearances during the pandemic, so that crowds would not gather to see him. In their place, he has been streaming events online from the Apostolic Library in the Vatican. But he still appears every week at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to pray with and bless socially distanced worshipers below in the square.
Late last month, though, the pope did meet with a delegation of five N.B.A. players and officials from the players’ association privately at the Vatican to discuss their efforts to address social justice and economic inequality.
In other developments around the world
Hong Kong said it would once again ban restaurant dining after 6 p.m., and close all gyms and beauty salons, to help curb a rise in virus cases, Reuters reported. Health authorities said on Tuesday that people arriving in Hong Kong, who already must be tested on arrival and toward the end of the mandatory two-week quarantine, would also be required to be tested a third time three weeks after arrival. Hong Kong recorded 78 new cases on Monday, raising its total for the pandemic to 6,976 — tiny figures compared with most large Western countries, but a sign that even places that have been able to keep a tight lid on the virus are facing problems now.
Australia, where coronavirus cases are low, extended for another three months its ban on residents leaving the country, official said Tuesday. The country, which has some of the tightest restrictions anywhere, also extended its ban on cruise ships until March.
Chile announced new measures for Santiago, the capital, this week that are meant to avoid a total lockdown, the authorities said. The new restrictions include a full lockdown on weekends and lesser limitations during the week. The capital region reported an 18 percent increase in new cases last week, which “is shocking and worries us a lot,” said Enrique Paris, the health minister.
Four lions at the Barcelona Zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials in Barcelona said Tuesday. The lions — three females and a male — were tested after showing symptoms, and were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Two employees also tested positive, officials said. It is the second known instance involving large felines: several lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive in April.
One of the biggest rites of college football — the annual Michigan-Ohio State game — is off for this weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan said Tuesday that it would be unable to play at fourth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday because of the number of virus cases inside its football program.
“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Warde Manuel, Michigan’s athletic director, said in a statement. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to Covid-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close contact individuals.”
The cancellation raised the possibility that Ohio State (5-0) would prove ineligible for the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19 because it had not played enough games this season. But conference officials have said that the Big Ten policy requiring teams to play at least six games to qualify for the title matchup could be adjusted.
Ohio State struggled with the virus toward the end of November and canceled its Nov. 28 game at Illinois. The Buckeyes had earlier missed out on a game when Maryland canceled because of its own virus troubles.
Eight members of a team that carried out a federal execution last month in Terre Haute, Ind., have contracted the coronavirus, and a majority of them plan to return for federal executions this week, according to a court filing from the Bureau of Prisons.
The Justice Department has rushed forward with executions during the pandemic, after an informal 17-year moratorium on federal capital punishment. Since July, eight inmates have been executed by the federal government, despite pleas from some involved in the execution cases to halt the lethal injections until the threat of the coronavirus had largely subsided.
Revelations about the coronavirus cases at the Terre Haute federal prison emerged from a declaration in court by Rick Winter, regional counsel for the Bureau of Prisons’ North Central Region. Inmates at the Terre Haute complex have sued Attorney General William P. Barr and others for risking the spread of the coronavirus from the executions.
Mr. Winter attested that the team members followed C.D.C. guidelines when deciding when to return to work. Two of the execution team members, who tested positive more than a week after returning home, do not plan to attend the December executions in Terre Haute, he noted in the declaration.
The Trump administration intends to execute two more inmates this week, followed by three more in January. Among those scheduled is Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row. Her lawyers have also said they tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after visiting their client.
The November execution was of Orlando Cordia Hall for the kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old girl. Yusuf Ahmed Nur, a professor of business and management at Indiana University Kokomo who served as a spiritual adviser to Mr. Hall, said in a separate filing that he also tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the execution.
The federal corrections complex at Terre Haute, the site of the executions scheduled for December, has become a hotbed of coronavirus infections, like many correctional facilities across the country. As of Tuesday, hundreds of inmates and staff members there are reported to have tested positive for the virus.
Erika Becerra was eight months pregnant when she learned she had tested positive for the coronavirus. Almost immediately after she got the result, her body began aching, she developed a fever and she felt tightness in her chest. When she began having trouble breathing, her husband called for an ambulance.
Three days later, on Nov. 15, she gave birth in a Detroit hospital to a healthy boy, Diego. She never got to hold him, her brother told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.
Ms. Becerra’s health declined so rapidly that doctors put her on a ventilator, which she remained on for 18 days. Ms. Becerra, 33, who had no known health problems before she became ill, died on Thursday, surrounded by her parents and brother, who had rushed from East Los Angeles, according to her godmother, Claudia Garcia.
“It was a complete shock — she was fine,” Ms. Garcia said. “I’m speechless. I’m still trying to wake up from this nightmare.”
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added pregnancy to the list of conditions that put people with Covid-19 at increased risk of developing severe illness, including a heightened risk of death.
Ms. Garcia said the family did not know how Ms. Becerra contracted the virus. Relatives speculated that she must have become infected in early November, during her many visits to the doctor late in the pregnancy, when she began experiencing mild contractions. She learned she was infected with the virus on Nov. 7.
Ms. Becerra’s husband, Diego, a landscaper, has been taking care of his infant son and the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Erika. All three have tested negative for the virus, Ms. Garcia said.
Ms. Garcia said her goddaughter was ecstatic when she learned she was having a boy.
“She was so excited,” Ms. Garcia said. “She would say, ‘I’m going to have my boy and I’m going to have my girl and they’re going to grow up together.’”
Roni Caryn Rabin contributed reporting.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that New York’s electors would formally cast their Electoral College votes in person next week even as the state grappled with a resurgence of the coronavirus and rising hospitalizations.
Under state law, electors are required to cast their ballot in the State Capitol in Albany, a worrisome prospect during a pandemic in which public health officials, and Mr. Cuomo, have urged people against crowding indoors.
Mr. Cuomo said his team had explored the legal repercussions of holding the vote virtually. But he concluded that doing so could open the state’s votes, which will be awarded to Joseph R. Biden, to a legal challenge, presumably from President Trump’s campaign.
“It’s not a large group, but you can’t do it virtually,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, told WAMC, a radio station. “We don’t believe legally you can do it virtually. If we did do it virtually, there could be a challenge. I don’t want to give anyone an opportunity to legally challenge the actions of the electors.”
That means that on Dec. 14, the state’s 29 electors will have to travel to Albany to formally cast their votes in the Capitol building, an imposing work of masonry constructed in the late 19th century where the State Legislature and the governor typically conduct the people’s business.
Making the trek will be some of the most prominent Democrats in New York and the nation, including former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, both of whom are electors. Mr. Cuomo is also an elector, as are Letitia James, the state attorney general, and Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council.
The Capitol building is currently closed to visitors because of the virus, with state legislators mostly working remotely this year. The Electoral College has traditionally been held in the Senate chamber, but it is still unclear where in the building it will be held this year or what precautions will be in place.
“By law, the electors must convene in the State Capitol,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It doesn’t say, ‘Except if you have a global pandemic.’ We’re actually going to have to convene people in the Capitol in the midst of this situation.”
About 4.8 percent of people tested for the virus in the Capital Region were positive on Tuesday, mirroring the state’s overall positivity rate, which has steadily increased in the last few weeks, prompting the governor to recently increase the number of hospital beds statewide and impose new restrictions in areas where the virus is surging.
When Britons receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shots, they also get a wallet-size vaccination card showing that they have received the first of two required doses.
They are not ID cards; they do not contain any personal information, not even the person’s name. Even so, there are worries that they could be the beginning of a “passport” system that would divide society into two tiers, granting cardholders access to some services and businesses, like boarding a plane or eating at a restaurant, while others are excluded.
British health officials have argued that the cards are merely meant as a reminder of when a patient received the first shot and when they are scheduled to get the second, three weeks later.
The blue-and-white vaccination card, seen in images released by health officials, has spaces to record the vaccine name, dates of the injections and batch numbers. “Don’t forget your Covid-19 vaccination,” it reads. “Make sure you keep this record card in your purse or wallet.”
Britain faces tremendous logistical and security challenges to vaccinate millions of its citizens, and other countries will face them as well when they begin vaccination programs. The authorities have highlighted the need for a reliable record of who has been vaccinated, and have discussed the idea of issuing people documents certifying that they have received the vaccine or recovered from the disease, and thus presumably have some immunity.
But ministers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government have brushed off the idea that the vaccination card will become a so-called immunity passport, and it remains unclear whether such a system will ever exist in Britain. Scientists are skeptical about the idea as well.
Two experts at the University of Birmingham noted in an article published on The Conversation that data on protected people following vaccination had not yet been published. “This is important because if we don’t understand the key ingredients for protection, we can’t monitor immunity effectively,” the experts — KK Cheng, a professor of public health and primary care, and Zania Stamataki, a lecturer in viral immunology, wrote on Monday.
They argued that while the vaccine greatly reduces the chance that the recipient will become severely ill, vaccinated people could still transmit infection to others, limiting an immunity passport’s usefulness.
“Being personally protected following successful vaccination does not absolve us of social responsibility,” they said.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., setting ambitious goals to change the course of the coronavirus pandemic, vowed on Tuesday to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office. He also said he would make it a “national priority” to get children back to school during that time.
Appearing in Wilmington, Del., to introduce members of his health team, Mr. Biden pledged to run “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history” but did not say how and through what companies his administration would purchase vaccine shots. Mr. Biden also implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make doing so a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.
“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced than in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”
Mr. Biden’s announcement offered a telling split-screen counterpoint to an event being held at the same time at the White House: a vaccine summit where President Trump boasted about what he called a “monumental national achievement” by drug companies to develop a vaccine for the virus in about nine months. He did not address the growing death toll or the devastation across the country, but he used the occasion to suggest, yet again and without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election.
“Well, we’ll have to see who the next administration is,” the president said, “because we won.”
In Delaware, the next administration was clearly taking shape. The senior officials Mr. Biden will appoint — including Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the California attorney general, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services — will face the immediate challenge of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 285,000 people in the United States and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.
The event was the first time that Mr. Becerra and other cabinet candidates have spoken out in public. Some appeared in person and others appeared virtually, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who will be Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser in addition to continuing in his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Fauci said he could not be present in person because he was attending a ceremony for a close friend and colleague at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Harvey J. Alter, who had won the Nobel Prize in Medicine — “a reminder,” Dr. Fauci said, “of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.”
Other members of the team — including Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former and now incoming surgeon general — focused largely on their personal stories.
Dr. Murthy, who like Mr. Becerra is a son of immigrants, volunteered greetings from his grandmother. Dr. Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, has never served in government; she spoke about her early days in medicine working to fight the H.I.V. epidemic.
“Every doctor knows that when the patient is coding, your plans don’t matter — you answer the code,” she said. “And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.”
Other health officials included in the event were Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will lead a Covid-19 equity task force, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the incoming coordinator of the Covid-19 response. Mr. Biden has yet to name his candidates for other health posts, including the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.