As if to underline how high the stakes are, there were more setbacks in trying to contain the virus.
In Washington, the White House revealed that national security adviser Robert O’Brien has the coronavirus – the highest U.S. official tested positive so far.
The move to resume the national pastime ran into trouble just five days after the long-delayed season: Two Major League baseball games scheduled for Monday-evening were called off when the Miami Marlins faced an outbreak – the Marlins’ home opener against the Baltimore Orioles and the game of the New York Yankees in Philadelphia, where the Marlins used the clubhouse over the weekend.
In the fight against viruses, Republicans on Capitol Hill planned to roll out a $ 1 trillion package that could include another round of $ 1,200 stimulus checks, but the additional $ 600 a week in federal unemployment benefits this week for millions of Americans would decrease.
In Europe, increasing infections in Spain and other countries triggered only weeks after countries reopened their borders in hopes of reviving tourism. Over the weekend, Britain imposed a 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving from Spain, Norway ordered a 10-day quarantine for people returning from all over the Iberian Peninsula, and France urged its citizens to take the Spanish region not to visit Catalonia.
In Binghamton, New York, nurse Melissa Harting received one of the first injections of the Moderna vaccine candidate. She said she volunteered to “do my bit to help.”
“I’m excited,” said Harting. Especially with family members in front lines who could expose them to the virus, she said, “Helping to eradicate it is very important to me.”
After two doses, scientists will closely monitor which participants – those who get real photos or a dummy – experience more infections while performing their daily routine, especially in severely affected areas where the virus is still spreading. Tests are planned in nearly 90 locations, officials said.
“Unfortunately for the United States of America, we currently have numerous infections” to get that answer, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, recently.
Several other vaccines made by China and the British University of Oxford started smaller tests in the final phase in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month. But the U.S. needs its own testing of every vaccine that can be used in the country.
Every month through fall, the government-funded Covid-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study by a leading candidate, each with 30,000 volunteers, to test not only that the shots work, but also whether they are safe.
The last American study of the Oxford shot begins in August, followed by a candidate from Johnson & Johnson in September and one from Novavax in October. Pfizer Inc. is planning its own survey this summer with 30,000 people.
It normally takes years to make a vaccine from scratch, but this time scientists set speed records, fueled by the knowledge that vaccination is the world’s best hope against the pandemic.
Governments around the world are already trying to save millions of doses of the lead candidates, so that immunizations can start immediately if the vaccines get approval. But the first available doses are most likely reserved for people at the highest risk.
“We are optimistic, cautiously optimistic” that the vaccine will work and that “by the end of the year” there will be data to prove it, Dr. Stephen High, president of Moderna in Massachusetts, last week on a House subcommittee.