- Lancet editors express cautious optimism regarding 2 vaccines.
- Pressure grows for a 5th virus aid package in Washington as U.S. cases grow.
- Many schools set to resume in August in U.S., but uncertainty still reigns.
- EU leaders resume talks Monday morning on COVID-19 recovery fund.
- House of Commons meets in Ottawa to discuss extending emergency wage subsidy.
- Wearing a mask became mandatory in Quebec over the weekend.
- How close are we to a vaccine for COVID-19?
Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who received doses.
British researchers first began testing the vaccine in April in about 1,000 people, half of whom got the experimental vaccine. Such early trials are usually designed only to evaluate safety but in this case, experts were also looking to see what kind of immune response it provoked.
In research published Monday in the journal Lancet, scientists said that they found their experimental coronavirus vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55.
“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system.”
Hill said that neutralizing antibodies are produced – molecules that are key to blocking infection. In addition, the vaccine also causes a reaction in the body’s T-cells, which help fight off the coronavirus.
WATCH | Governments plan ahead, buy vaccine supplies before efficacy is known:
He said that larger trials evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness, involving about 10,000 people in the U.K. as well as participants in South Africa and Brazil, are still underway. Another big trial is slated to start in the U.S. soon, aiming to enrol about 30,000 people.
How quickly scientists are able to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness will depend largely on how much more transmission there is, but Hill estimated they might have sufficient data by the end of the year to decide if the vaccine should be adopted for mass vaccination campaigns.
Oxford’s vaccine uses a chimpanzee cold virus to carry the coronavirus’s spike protein into the body, which should trigger an immune system response.
About a dozen different experimental vaccines are in early stages of human testing or poised to start around the world, with dozens more in earlier stages of development.
Chinese researchers also published a study on their experimental coronavirus vaccine — made with the human cold virus — in the Lancet on Monday, using a similar technique as the Oxford scientists. The vaccine developed by CanSino
Biologics Inc. and China’s military research unit studied about 500 people, detecting an immune response in those who received a shot.
WATCH | WHO officials optimistic about vaccines, but concerned about distribution:
The results from the mid-stage study, published in the medical journal Lancet, supports the testing of the vaccine candidate in a large trial, the study authors said.
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) in May announced a collaboration with CanSino Biologics Inc. to advance the clinical development in Canada of this candidate vaccine, which is referred to as Ad5-nCoV. It continues a partnership between China and Canada developed in 2013 while working on Ebola virus vaccines.
In an accompanying Lancet editorial, Naor Bar-Zeev and William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health called both the Oxford and Chinese results “encouraging,” but said further judgment should wait until the vaccine is tested on much bigger populations.
Bar-Zeev and Moss also called for any effective COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed equitably around the world.
Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies at the World Health Organization, expressed the same concern and warned “there’s a long way to go” in the vaccine trials.
“We now need to move into larger-scale real-world trials,” Ryan told reporters at a news conference in Geneva. “But it is good to see more data and more products moving into this very important phase of vaccine discovery.”
In the United States, more than 3.6 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. and 140,000 have died. Daily growth in cases has tripled to more than 70,000 since mid-May, and the seven-day moving average of deaths, after falling steadily from April to July, has turned higher.
WATCH | Trump, Chris Wallace spar over COVID-19 mortality rate:
Without a successful federal strategy coming from the White House, Republican lawmakers are trying to draft one. This would be the fifth virus aid package, after the $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, the largest U.S. intervention of its kind.
The political stakes are high for all sides before the November election, but even more so for the nation, which has registered more coronavirus infections and a higher death count than any other country.
Just as the pandemic’s ferocious cycle is starting again, the first round of aid is running out. A federal $600-a-week boost to regular unemployment benefits expires at the end of the month, as does a federal ban on evictions on millions of rental units.
With 17 straight weeks of unemployment claims topping one million, many households were facing a cash crunch and losing employer-backed health insurance coverage.
The latest package was expected to include $75 billion US to help schools reopen, reduced unemployment benefits alongside a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans, and a sweeping five-year liability shield against coronavirus lawsuits.
But as the White House weighed in, the administration was panning some $25 billion in proposed new funds for testing and tracing, said one Republican familiar with the discussions. The administration’s objections were first reported by The Washington Post.
The new push from the White House put the administration at odds with Republican allies in Congress, a disconnect that threatened to upend an already difficult legislative process as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already passed Democrats’ vast $3 trillion proposal.
Meanwhile, school districts around the U.S. are facing a dilemma. With the number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths still rising, districts must grapple with whether to bring students back to classrooms, and how to keep pupils and teachers safe if they do.
WATCH | How to avoid putting students, teachers in vulnerable situations:
Administrators in the Parkway school district in suburban St. Louis spent the summer break crafting a flexible reopening plan, with options that include full-time classroom learning, full-time online instruction and a hybrid system.
“If you had asked me even two weeks ago, ‘Do you think we would be able to come back?’ I would have said, ‘Yeah,”‘ assistant superintendent Kevin Beckner said. “Today my answer is, ‘I’m not sure,’ just because of how the situation has changed so quickly.”
The Parkway district on Monday is scheduled to announce its plans for the fall, but it will stay ready to pivot quickly if the spread worsens or the outlook improves, Beckner said.
Signs will encourage physical distancing, and desks will be spaced farther apart. Face coverings will be required for all students, instructors and staff. Some teachers will wear masks with clear coverings so students who are deaf or hard of hearing can follow what they are saying.
Times will be scheduled for handwashing and using hand sanitizer. Plexiglas will separate librarians, office staff and teachers interacting one-on-one with students.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest public school system behind New York City, announced last week that all classes will be conducted virtually when they resume next month.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of noon ET on Monday, Canada had 110,626 coronavirus infections. Provinces and territories listed 97,298 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,884.
The House of Commons is in session to debate legislation on extending the emergency wage subsidy and providing one-time payments to Canadians with disabilities struggling during the pandemic.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has proposed changes to the federal emergency wage subsidy that would see the program extended until the end of the year and expand eligibility for more businesses.
WATCH | House of Commons in session:
Under his proposal, businesses would no longer need to show that their revenues had dropped by at least 30 per cent in order to qualify — and would receive a subsidy that varies based on how much revenue they lost.
The Opposition Conservatives plan to push back, arguing the government’s scheme needs to be simplified.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
In Europe, where infections are far below their peak but local outbreaks are causing concern, signs emerged that leaders of northern European Union countries were willing to compromise on a 1.8 trillion euro ($2.8 trillion Cdn) coronavirus stimulus plan on Monday as talks in Brussels extended to a fourth day.
Countries such as the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark have preferred more funds be allocated through loans than through grants.
“An agreement is a necessity,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told French BFM TV on Monday, as weary diplomats slept or prepared for another day in what could be the longest-ever EU summit.
France, which has reported more than 30,000 COVID-19-related deaths, widened the number of places masks are required.
Effective Monday, masks are now required in France’s supermarkets, shopping malls, banks, stores and indoor markets. Masks were already required in museums, on public transport, in cinemas, places of worship and other enclosed spaces open to the public.
A fine of 135 euros ($210 Cdn) can be levied against those who don’t comply.
A surge in coronavirus cases in the second-biggest city in Australia could take weeks to subside despite a lockdown and orders to wear masks, the country’s acting chief medical officer said on Monday.
Authorities in the state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is in partial lockdown amid a new outbreak, reported 275 new cases on Monday, down from a daily record of 438 three days earlier.
WATCH | Stress, denial influencing mask decisions:
Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 123, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries, but quarantine lapses in Victoria triggered a flare-up in infections in June.
Victoria’s government has ordered about five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks and told residents around Melbourne to cover their faces if they have to leave their homes.
India reported more than 40,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, a record high for the country. The 40,425 new cases raised India’s total to 1,118,043, including 27,497 deaths.
The health ministry said late Sunday that India’s coronavirus fatality rate — currently at 2.49 per cent — is “progressively falling” due to an effective containment strategy and aggressive testing.
Hong Kong reported 73 new coronavirus cases on Monday, including 66 that were locally transmitted, as new restrictions took effect and authorities warned there was no indication that the situation was coming under control.
The global financial hub reported more than 100 cases on Sunday, a record number as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that non-essential civil servants must work from home.
South Korea on Monday reported its smallest daily jump in local coronavirus transmissions in two months, as health authorities expressed cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday still reported 26 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 22 that were tied to international arrivals and four that were local transmissions.