From a New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. The House is preparing an article of impeachment against President Trump as rioters are being arrested across the country for their role in last week's storming of the Capitol. But lost in that story is the reality that the coronavirus is at an all time peak with 300000 Americans infected on a single day last week. And as the U.S. death rate surpassed 4000 a day.
Today, a two part update on the pandemic with my colleagues, Carl Zimmer and Abby Good Knoff.
It's Monday, January 11th. Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining the latest coronavirus press conference. It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus.
Cases in London and the southeast of England are skyrocketing. The new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control.
And it's been detected and at least 17 other countries. Unfortunately, we now know this U.K. variant is in Colorado. It's in California. A man in the state of New York has now tested positive for covid-19. With that same UK variant, the UK strain could be a game changer. Carl, where does the story of this British variant of the coronavirus start?
The story starts around the beginning of December and actually in South Africa, their scientists noticed that there's a variant of the coronavirus that is spreading around very quickly and it has them very worried. And so scientists in the United Kingdom take a look at those mutations in the virus and they say, hmm, I wonder if any of our viruses have any of those mutations. And lo and behold, they find one lineage of viruses that has some of these mutations and a bunch of others.
And they get really worried about it because the more they look at it, the more they realize this variant is spreading like crazy throughout England. And once they make that announcement, scientists and other countries say, hey, oh, what if we have that, too? And so by the end of December in the United States, scientists are starting to find rare cases of this variant in states across the country from California now all the way to New York.
So it's been here for a while. We don't know how long, but our country has already been seeded with this variant. And what exactly is the mutation? What makes it different from the coronavirus that we have all come to know?
Well, scientist right now only have some ideas right now. They're actually experiments going on in laboratories, testing out this variant to see what it is that makes it biologically special. So we don't know for sure. But there's an idea that when you breathe in these viruses, they are stickier.
So the coronavirus is covered with these flower like proteins called Spike.
And when it's floating around in your airway, these spike proteins can latch on to certain proteins on the surface of our own cells. And if they can get a tight grip, then they can basically pull themselves inside of ourselves and there they can replicate.
So if you want to be successful as a coronavirus, you want to have a good spike protein that gets you into the cells of your host.
Mm hmm. Now, scientists suspect that maybe some of these mutations are giving it that improvement. In other words, the spike protein is grabbing on tighter onto ourselves and giving that virus a better shot at making copies of itself.
So just how much more effective is this mutated variant coronavirus at infecting people? Is it measurable? It is measurable and the difference is big.
The way that epidemiologists talk about this is something called are not or the reproductive number, and what that means basically is in a given situation on average, how many people does an infected person, in fact? So if you have an answer not of one, that means each person is infected on average, just infects one more person. OK. Now, scientists in England took a look at how this new variant did during a November lockdown. Compared to the other variants with the other variants, the lockdown was fairly effective.
They estimate that they are not was point nine five. So it's under one, which is good. But the new variant under the same conditions had an arsenal of one point four or five.
Oh, well, yeah, that's a lot higher. And that can make a big difference in terms of fuelling an explosive growth in your outbreak, which unfortunately is exactly what is happening in the United Kingdom right now. And this new variant now has in the past few months, essentially taken over the country. So doing a little math here, point nine to one point four, that's about a 50 percent increase, which is very significant. Yeah, it's about 50 percent better at getting from one person to another.
And just how scary is that for those of us who don't think about Arnotts and the math of transmission? Wouldn't that seem to suggest that going about our lives the way we currently are, even with a mask on, having the kind of interactions that we are currently having, that might be 50 percent riskier? Yes, that's right. So given that, I'm curious how behaviour's. Are now supposed to change, does six feet apart change to 10 feet apart, 12 feet apart or what?
I think maybe six feet apart changes to just stay at home because anything you do that puts you at risk of an infection has now got a bigger risk.
So if you go to the grocery store and maybe there was a 10 percent risk you had breathing in a virus from an infected person in the line behind you, now, that's a 15 percent risk. If you just repeat that over and over and over again, from person to person to person, you start to have a huge difference and ordinary measures that we're taking that we think are really effective. Lockdown measures may not be enough. We may have to look for more drastic measures to slow this thing down and call drastic.
As in what?
Well, for example, every American could be supplied with a high quality mask and then be required to wear it outside. Mm hmm. We could have massive testing, for example, at home tests that people take every single day. We could do these sorts of things and really be much more aggressive at stopping this virus. And we're going to need to be more aggressive because this virus is just better at getting around.
Mm hmm. Carl, in our conversations with colleagues, including Donald McNeil Jr., we have been told that mutations in the coronavirus tend to make it less dangerous over time, not more dangerous, less lethal, not more lethal.
Is that the case here?
That does happen sometimes with some viruses. It doesn't happen with all of them, and it certainly doesn't happen right away. And in this case, there's no evidence that this variant is any safer to get now. Well, we also are finding is that it's not any more dangerous if you get this than if you get another variant of covid. You still have the same kind of risk of ending up in the hospital. The problem is that because this seems to be so contagious, it means that overall a lot more people are going to go into the hospital and it also means a lot more people are going to die.
We're already seeing in the United Kingdom, hospitals are being overwhelmed with covid patients, many of whom have this new variant. So this may not be some terrible super killer variant, but it's one that we have to take incredibly seriously. So, Karl, at this point, just how widespread is the British variant within the United States? We don't really know.
We have found it in eight states that have been 62 cases so far. But we're not actually doing the kinds of tests that you need to do to really get a good look at what's going on. We're just sort of stumbling across the variant here and there. The United States is really basically flying blind. And why is that?
Why are we not doing the testing required to tell us how widespread the variant is? That feels like something we all definitely want to know. It is something we want to know and it's something we need to know. But the United States has not invested in the kind of organization we need to do it. We can look to the United Kingdom as an example of how to do it right. In March, they set up a whole program to actually collect viruses on a massive scale and actually look at all of their genetic material, looking at what are called genomes, hundreds of thousands of viruses.
We're looking at a tiny, tiny fraction of that in a very disorganized fashion. Some states are doing a pretty good job. Some states haven't sequence any genomes at all. It's disorganized. There is very little national leadership at this point. And this is what we're left with.
So called given all of that, especially the depressing news of just how blindly we are flying, I think this naturally brings us to vaccines are the vaccines that have been approved in both the United Kingdom and the United States so far from Pfizer, from a Darina, are they as effective against this new variant of the virus as the original version of it?
Well, to get a definitive answer to that, you have to do experiments. And there has actually been one experiment so far that's been released. And it turns out that the vaccine made by Pfizer is definitely effective against one of the key mutations in this new variant, one that people have been really worried about. And it seems fine now. There are other mutations that scientists are going to have to look at as well before we can really feel like we're totally out of the woods.
But I do think that we can be confident in these vaccines from what we know so far. And so what's really important is that we get this vaccine as quickly as possible into as many people as possible.
Right. This would seem to add extraordinary urgency to the rollout of the vaccine. Yeah, we've got to get people vaccinated. We have to still keep up these social distancing measures. We've got to get ahead of this thing because otherwise it's going to really do us a lot of damage.
Karl, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you. We'll be right back. Support for this podcast and the following message come from E-Trade trading isn't for everyone, but ETrade is whether it's saving for a rainy day or your retirement, E-Trade has you covered. They can help you check your financial goals off your list. And with a team of professionals giving you support when you need it, you can be confident that your money is working hard for you.
Get more than just trading with ETrade to get started today. Visit ETrade Dotcom The Daily for more information. ETrade Securities LLC member Fenris Sipek.
Hi, my name is Paige Kowit. I'm an editor at The Daily and I'm one of the people who stays up very late to make the show ready for you by 6am a.m. So we get questions all the time from daily listeners about how to support the show. And our answer has always been to support The New York Times because that's the engine that powers the daily and that is true. But to me, the main thing that The New York Times does is not just power the daily, but help power a healthy democracy.
It is the best group of reporters on the planet covering every corner of the planet, telling the truth, holding power to account. And that's what you get when you support The New York Times. So if you'd like to support the Times, go to NY Times, Dotcom, subscribe and thank you.
So we just spoke to our colleague, Carl Zimmer, about the dangers of the British variant of the coronavirus and the pressure it is putting on everyone to vaccinate as quickly as possible. And you have been tracking vaccinations in the US. And I recall that the US government said that it wanted to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of December, but that did not happen. It is well into January and the US has distributed about twenty two million doses. And of those twenty two million doses, about eight million have actually been injected into people's arms.
So fewer than half of the doses. So how do you account for that really significant gap, that failure to meet these goals and what feels like a pretty sluggish start to US vaccinations?
Well, there's a million different reasons you could cite here. And every state has its own reasons.
But there are some snow, some bad weather, including a big snowstorm in the northeast that bog things down.
I've talked to a lot of people who have pointed to the holiday weeks, really slowing things down and staff was low.
A lot of people were on vacation. That seems to be a big thing. And we'll find out in the next couple of weeks if, in fact, things speed up and we can say, yes, the holidays were a big factor.
You know, there's been some hesitancy and sometimes a lot of hesitancy among health care workers to get the vaccine depending on where you are in the country.
So medical workers themselves are reluctant in some cases to take the vaccine. Yes.
Well, what I hear in talking to hospital people is generally doctors are are taking the vaccine and lots of nurses are taking the vaccine superego. But there's also a number of nurses who have not taken it and a number of support workers in hospitals also refusing at nursing home staff, refusing it, sometimes in large numbers.
The governor of Ohio said the other day that something like 60 percent of nursing home staff in his state who have been offered the vaccine so far have turned it down. So that kind of number, it really stops you and makes you wonder just how much this hesitancy is factoring in to the sluggishness. But then we have other states like Massachusetts where the governor said maybe 10 percent of nursing home staff have turned it down, which is perhaps more along the lines of what we'd expect.
So I think there's real variation, depending on what part of the country we're in. Gotcha.
So the main takeaway when we think about why this has been slow is that there are more reasons than we can really keep track of at this point in the process.
There's a lot of reasons that are really hard to quantify.
But one thing I'm noticing that's really interesting is this question that's emerging about how the CDC guidelines are affecting the speed of the rollout in different states. Huh?
So describe this question, this debate.
So the CDC put out these guidelines last month on who should get vaccinated first. You probably heard about them. It starts with health care workers and nursing home residents and the staff who works in the nursing homes. And they're not requirements. They're not hard and fast rules that the states have to follow. And so some people think following these guidelines really strictly is creating a bottleneck in the system, especially when, for whatever reason, many reasons, you don't have enough health care workers or nursing home residents to vaccinate on a given day or any given week.
And you get a lot of vaccine sitting around in the freezer.
And, you know, the other camp says that those guidelines are there for a reason. When you do have very limited amount of vaccine, they're really good advice on who needs it most. And also, when you start allowing multiple groups to have access to the vaccine at once, it just creates a lot of chaos.
Mm hmm. And I have to imagine that different states are choosing to handle these federal guidelines very differently. Right.
It's up to each state how they distribute their supply of vaccine. And it's definitely all over the map. And probably the two states that have represented the extremes of these two arguments are New York and Florida.
Good Monday morning.
And tell me about New York first. How is it handling these guidelines?
These vaccines are a valuable commodity. Also, initially, Governor Cuomo was sticking really strictly to the guidelines.
You're going to have some people who don't want to receive the vaccine. I understand that. But you're going to have a lot of people who want the vaccine desperately.
He talked about finding hospitals who gave shots to anyone who wasn't a frontline health care worker.
If there is fraudulent vaccination that is very serious, that provider will lose their license. It was really using strong language to warn against anyone daring to flout the state rules. And if you're if you're a doctor, you're a nurse. It's a crime, in my opinion.
And, you know, as a result, there were a lot of older people in New York who were really frustrated, really ruminating and anxious about when the vaccine was going to be available to them.
OK, so what does the situation in Florida, by contrast, in Florida, which, as we know, has more elderly people than any other state in the country?
Governor de Santos decided he was going to do things a little differently.
He is prioritizing health care workers and nursing home residents, but he's also putting in that immediate first group senior citizens.
Everybody over the age of 65 is now in the group that's allowed to get a vaccine as soon as it's available to them.
And what is Governor Jobcentres explanation, his rationale for breaking with the CDC guidelines?
Well, good morning. It's great to be in Palm Beach County. I want to thank the the county mayor.
So Governor de Santos has talked about this a bit.
You have people who fought in World War Two, survived the Holocaust and said just how important it is to reach the people who he calls the greatest generation.
And we have a responsibility to stand by those folks who've done so much to make our state and country what it is today.
And and this is also his political base to lots of people. Over 65 are Republicans in Florida.
So that's a factor, but it's not the only factor.
And how are Floridians responding to Santos's approach?
Well, there's huge, huge demand in Florida, as you might imagine, with the huge senior citizen population down there. And it's a big mess. Some people have heard about vaccination events and shown up and waited and huge long lines even overnight, hoping they'll get a vaccine. Wow. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.
Others have, you know, spent hours a whole day online trying to score an appointment through these very new registration sites for vaccination events. Again, some succeed, many do not. A lot of these sites are crashing from overuse and, you know, just the first few hours.
So no matter how persistent and eager you are, there's still a good chance you're not going to get an appointment or a vaccination just yet. And that's super frustrating to people down there.
So clearly, we have a very significant division here and strategy, strict adherence to the CDC guidelines in New York and a much looser or I guess you could call it flexible approach in Florida.
And since we are talking here about the sluggish pace of the vaccine rollout in the United States, which is working better, which is seeming more efficient.
Well, if you look at the data and we know that the data lags and is not entirely accurate, but the data we have now from the CDC says these two states are basically tied in the amount of vaccine they have administered, the number of shots they've gotten into arms so far and are either states numbers considered impressive in the grand scheme of the 50 states or not?
You know what? I'm really cautious to say what's impressive then? Not at this point, given the extremely limited data we have and we're still in such early days.
But just after the holidays, neither Florida nor New York were doing an especially great job of giving out the doses they had. But what's interesting is last week the Trump administration came out and started to suggest the Florida way was the way to go and that everyone else should follow their lead.
We have U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. He joins us now this morning. Dr. Adams, thank you for talking with us this morning. We heard Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, come out and say, you know what, the demand isn't there.
And when I go to one B and continue on down and if the demand isn't there in one location, move those vaccines to another location, go to the next priority group and continue on down the line to the next and the next group.
So your headline today really should be surgeon general. Tell states and governors to move quickly to other priority groups to demand it.
So how do you explain that? Because from what you just said, letting people jump the line, violating the CDC guidelines, that was not speeding things up. But here the federal government was saying you should break from the guidelines. Well, I think part of it is political.
And there's just so much pent up demand for this vaccine, so much anxiety and angst and anger about wanting it now that the administration is really feeling some pressure about that.
Mm hmm. In fact, Governor. Cuomo in New York got pressured into a similar strategy this past Friday after lots of people around the state had concluded he was being too slow. It was partly due to news coming out that at least some clinics were ending up throwing away unused vaccine because they were afraid to flout his rules and give it to people who weren't in the health care group.
Right. And that's just about everyone's nightmare in this moment. Vaccines being tossed out and not used. Right.
Once the vials are open, there is only a pretty finite amount of time. You can keep them around before you have to throw them away.
So it's use it or lose it.
And there's also just a lot of vaccine sitting in freezers still untapped. So, you know, there was this growing disbelief and upset about that fact. And people really leaned hard on Cuomo to ease up on his restrictions, and he did just that.
So at this point, Cuomo has gotten much closer to the Florida strategy. You know, Florida has opened it to everybody, 65 and up. Cuomo is sticking for now to people 75 and older. And he's also open it up to certain essential workers. But it's basically taking a page from the Florida playbook.
So despite these original guidelines, which a lot of experts saw as important and worth adhering to, it sounds like lots of government officials, you know, federal officials, state officials seem to be coming around to the idea that what's most needed in this moment is flexibility and just getting as many doses in as many arms as possible.
And in fact, President elect Biden is thinking about a whole different kind of flexibility right now. His team said Friday he's going to go to an approach of releasing all the vaccine supply the country has on hand once he gets into office, rather than keeping half of it in reserve to make sure people get their booster doses.
That, of course, comes with its own potential problems, such as, you know, potentially not having enough on hand for people to get that absolutely required second dose. But it's going to push more vaccine into the system more quickly.
But what Biden is proposing, wouldn't that potentially just overburden an inefficient system that is, as you have described here, already struggling to administer the doses it has?
Yeah, absolutely. That's a huge risk just from what we're seeing in a place like Florida so far, which cannot begin to keep up with the enormous demand. And I expect we're going to see the same thing in New York starting this week. We have to make sure the infrastructure is in place to accommodate all these people getting their vaccines en masse. And I don't think most of the states are there yet. And, you know, it's just begun.
The fine tuning is in process.
So I wonder what you think will get the United States back on track with its goal, which, as we said, has already been widely missed, 20 million doses in December. That didn't happen. Millions of doses sitting on shelves, not being administered at this moment. This British variant of a coronavirus is moving invisibly without enough US testing around the country. What's your sense of what's going to be necessary to really pick up the pace of vaccinations in the U.S.?
Well, one good thing that's happening that's really promising is that the states forever were saying we're not getting any money from the federal government for planning and preparation for the vaccination campaign, the biggest vaccination campaign in our country's history by far.
Now, through the most recent stimulus package, they've gotten eight billion dollars for that purpose.
It's the amount that they had asked for that they said was necessary. So that's one thing that is promising on the horizon. I think also states and hospitals and health departments are right now in the process of figuring out what is a good idea and what just is not working. There really are building the plane as they fly it.
We're going to get better. This is what you're saying. We're absolutely going to get better at this.
I think the next few weeks will be really important to watch. And if we still see as much lagging as we saw the last few weeks, that's going to suggest trouble moving forward. I'm hopeful that there's a real pickup in the next week or two or three and everybody gets a lot better at this quickly. Well, Abbi, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks so much. As of Sunday night, more than 22 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, around 130, 1000 are hospitalized because of it, and more than 300 and 73000 have died from it.
We'll be right back. This New Year, you may be excited about a new device or focused on your New Year's resolutions, make sure your new devices and your resolutions include one thing protection. Norton 360 with LifeLock gives you device security, a VPN for online privacy and LifeLock identity theft protection to help keep you safe. No one can prevent all cybercrime or identity theft, but you can choose to have cyber safe. New Year with Norton 360 with LifeLock saved 25 percent off your first year at Norton dot com slash daily.
Here's what else you need to know today. Democrats in the House of Representatives say they may vote as soon as the middle of the week on an article of impeachment that would charge President Trump with inciting a violent mob that attacked the Capitol. The House will first pass a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and take power from the president, something Pence is not expected to do.
The House will then turn to impeachment, but the number three Democrat in the House, Representative James Clyburn, said Democrats are considering holding off on immediately sending the impeachment charge to the Senate, which must hold a trial to prevent a trial from consuming the opening days of the Biden administration.
Let's the president elect Biden, the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running.
And maybe we'll send the articles that sometimes after that over the weekend to Republicans in the Senate called on Trump to resign.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who argued that there is not enough time for an impeachment.
In your view, what is the most appropriate way for Donald Trump to exit office?
Well, I think the best way for our country, Jack, is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible. I acknowledge that may not be likely, but I think that would be best. And a major crackdown on President Trump's social media accounts based on his incitements has left him with few ways to communicate with his supporters online.
The suspension of Trump's accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat prompted many of his supporters to flock to parler a social network that has attracted millions of far right conservatives and where many of the president's supporters have gathered before the storming of the Capitol. Then over the weekend, both Apple and Google said they would remove parler from their app stores and Amazon said it would kick parler off its Web hosting service, essentially taking the platform offline unless it finds a new hosting service going into the Capitol building to do this if it was organized on your site.
What should happen on your site in explaining their decision? Both Apple and Amazon cited an interview that Parlor's CEO John meIt's gave to my colleague Kara Swisher on her podcast Hsueh, an interview conducted during the attack.
Look, if it was illegally organized and against the law, what they were doing, they would have gotten it taken down. But I don't feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we're a neutral town square that just adheres to the law. So if people are organizing something that's more of a problem, of people are upset, they feel disenfranchised. Today's episode was produced by Luke Vandersloot, Daniel Guimet, Rachel Quester and Austin Mitchell.
It was edited by Page Kowit, MJ Davis Lin and Larissa Anderson and engineered by Chris Wood. That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. Before the email notifications begin to pour in, let's give ourselves a good morning, a good morning is a moment to pause and ease into the day. It's a moment to run and chase the sunrise or to gently settle into your routine. A good morning is a moment to be present, to find clarity and to be grounded for the day ahead.
Good days. Start with good mornings and good morning. Start with yackety yackety teasmade to do more than just taste good.