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The share of Americans who would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available today has dropped significantly from a few months ago, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. An overwhelming 78 percent expressed concerns that the approval process will be too hasty, without fully establishing that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Health and science experts say that President Trump’s repeated swipes at government scientists have undermined public trust, and reduced confidence in an eventual vaccine.

Here are some significant developments:
September 18, 2020 at 2:58 AM EDT

CNN’s Biden town hall at the drive-in: This is what a pandemic-era campaign looks like on TV

CNN made television history on Thursday night with a voter forum that perfectly illustrated the logistical creativity that has been necessary when holding a presidential election during a global pandemic.

The network hosted the first drive-in town hall event, with registered Pennsylvania voters posing questions to Joe Biden in a stadium parking lot, only a few feet away from parked vehicles.

“Have you ever been to an event like this?” moderator Anderson Cooper asked the former vice president at the beginning of the event, held at a minor league baseball field in Pennsylvania.

By Jeremy Barr
September 18, 2020 at 2:17 AM EDT

New York City reverses school opening plan. Now most students will start remotely.

NEW YORK — Four days before students were set to arrive at school buildings, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would again delay face-to-face instruction for nearly all students as the school system, which educates more than 1 million youths, scrambled to assuage growing fears among educators and parents.

Under the latest plan, in-person learning would begin for preschoolers and special-education students Monday, with other students joining over the next two weeks.

De Blasio (D) had pledged to provide parents the option to send their children back to school for at least part of the week, allowing for social distancing, and provide virtual instruction the rest of the time. School buildings were set to reopen Monday.

By Moriah Balingit and Valerie Strauss
September 18, 2020 at 12:59 AM EDT

How to still do all your favorite fall activities

If the year’s first yellowing leaves and sudden chilly days have you craving a pumpkin spice latte and apple cider doughnuts, you’re probably ready to map out your fall fun calendar. Fortunately, many of your favorite autumnal activities are finding ways to continue during the pandemic.

“I just went raspberry picking the other day, and I was surprised to see all the covid protocols in place,” says Alvin Tran, an assistant professor of public health in the University of New Haven School of Health Sciences in Connecticut. “From what I’ve seen, there are a lot berry-picking farms and apple-picking farms that do have covid protocols in place. And that is promising.”

We’ll take promising. Here are things to keep in mind as you go about your fall frolicking.

By Natalie Compton
September 18, 2020 at 12:17 AM EDT

Global tally of infections surpasses 30 million

The global count of coronavirus infections surpassed 30 million on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

That number is widely considered an understatement, given that many nations have not performed enough testing to have an accurate picture of the virus’s spread. The number of fatalities worldwide, also understood to be an undercount, was approaching 945,000 by Friday.

The United States still has the largest share of infections — over 6.6 million, representing more than a fifth of all confirmed cases worldwide. But the most dramatic increases in recent weeks have occurred in India, which has repeatedly logged more than 90,000 infections a day and overtaken Brazil as the nation with the second-highest total of coronavirus cases. This week, India became the only country besides the United States that has reported more than 5 million cases.

Brazil has reported nearly 4.5 million infections, including roughly 217,000 in the past week, an increase roughly on par with the United States.

By Antonia Farzan
September 18, 2020 at 12:17 AM EDT

Contact-tracing challenges hurt D.C.’s efforts to control virus’s spread, health officials say

A lack of information from some D.C. residents who test positive for the novel coronavirus is hurting the city’s efforts to corral the virus’s spread, officials said Thursday.

Six months after the first confirmed case in the nation’s capital, the city released new statistics demonstrating challenges in contact tracing and containing the coronavirus. While infections in D.C. are far below their peak, officials say those who become infected are sometimes hesitant to provide details that could prevent future transmissions.

Figures released Thursday indicate the city has reached three-quarters of newly infectious people for interviews about their activities and social exposures, but 58 percent were interviewed within three days of a positive test. Speedy interviews are essential to identify people exposed to the virus before they could spread it, experts say.

By Fenit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins
September 18, 2020 at 12:17 AM EDT

Trump contradicts health advisers on coronavirus vaccine timetable as death toll mounts

President Trump’s public rebuke of a top federal health official who did not parrot White House talking points about a fast-track coronavirus vaccine is the latest example of the president’s effort to enforce an upbeat narrative about the pandemic, even if that does not square with the facts.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the most recent government physician or scientist to run afoul of Trump’s coronavirus message machine. He did so in congressional testimony Wednesday, saying a vaccine greenlighted later this year would probably not be available to most Americans until sometime in 2021 because those most in need would get the first doses. Redfield also rankled Trump by saying masks are “more guaranteed to protect me against covid than when I take a covid vaccine.”

Trump said Redfield “made a mistake” on both counts, although the CDC director’s projection about the timetable for vaccine approval and distribution mirrored those of other top officials, including Operation Warp Speed chief scientist Moncef Slaoui and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

By Anne Gearan and Lena H. Sun