Vaccine trials: The biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health launched a Phase 3 trial of their jointly-developed coronavirus vaccine on Monday, Denise Grady reports for The New York Times. Half the 30,000 volunteers this summer will receive two shots of the vaccine four weeks apart, and the other half will get a placebo. Scientists will be tracking whether the vaccinated group is less likely to contract Covid-19, and if they do get it, whether symptoms are less severe. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer also began a similarly large trial of a vaccine developed with the German company, BioNTech, which will include 30,000 volunteers from the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the high rates of transmission in parts of the U.S., while unfortunate, would speed up the process of determining whether the vaccine works. It will still be six to eight months before researchers know if the vaccine is viable.
- Also: Globally, there are more than 16.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, and over 655,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. In the U.S., there are more than 4.3 million confirmed cases and over 148,000 deaths.
Bigger in Texas: The death toll from Covid-19 in Texas jumped by more than 600 on Monday as the state began including those for whom the virus was listed as the cause of death on a death certificate, Edgar Walters reports for The Texas Tribune. Before, the state required local and regional public health departments to verify and report the cause of death, even as experts warned that they were undercounting.
- Also: The state of Texas reported Sunday that 1,000 people died from coronavirus in just six days, Alana Rocha reports for The Tribune. Earlier this month 1,000 people died in 10 days.
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In the president’s orbit: President Trump’s national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien is the highest-ranking Trump administration official to test positive for the coronavirus, Anne Gearan and John Wagner report for The Washington Post. The White House announced O’Brien’s test results Monday: “He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,” read the White House statement. “There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.” The president told the press he hadn’t interacted with O’Brien recently.
- Also: President Trump tweeted out a viral video containing false or misleading statements about the coronavirus and the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, The Times reports. Facebook and YouTube removed some versions of the video, although not before one racked up 13 million views, and Twitter deleted the post Trump shared.
Home is where the work is: Google announced that its employees will continue working from home until at least July 2021, the first major U.S. corporation to extend the timetable that far, Rob Copeland and Peter Grant report for The Wall Street Journal. The announcement affects some 200,000 employees, and could spur other tech companies to push back their office reopenings, some of which had been scheduled for as early as January. “I know it hasn’t been easy,” Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, wrote in a note to staff Monday. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”
Take me out of the ball game: Less than a week into the abbreviated Major League Baseball season and it’s already in jeopardy, after more than a dozen players and staff with the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus, The Associated Press reports. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the outbreak could endanger the rest of the season, but it’s too soon to tell. “I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day-by-day basis,” said Fauci, who threw out the first pitch at the season opener of the Washington Nationals last week..
All quiet on all fronts: A team of 76 scientists from more than two dozen countries say that the impacts of the coronavirus lessened human seismic noise by up to 50 percent, William Broad reports in The New York Times. The normal clatter of human activity, including football games, mine explosions, heavy traffic and jackhammers, can be picked up by devices meant to detect earthquakes. The Covid-19 lockdown caused a big decline. “The length and quiescence of this period represents the longest and most coherent global seismic noise reduction in recorded history,” the scientists write in the journal Science. Their report draws on data from 337 seismometers run by citizen scientists and 268 stations run by government, university and corporate geologists.
Drilling setbacks: In the U.S., some 17.6 million people live within one mile of an oil or gas well and there is no federally-mandated minimum distance that extraction companies need to maintain, although that doesn’t mean living near a well is safe, Alexandra Tempus reports for FairWarning. Some states have established setback distances ranging from 150 to 1,000 feet, but there’s growing evidence that these distances aren’t large enough to protect people. There’s a movement to require extraction companies to maintain a half-mile distance between wells and business and residential buildings, but the industry says the regulation would be a de facto ban on drilling.
Heat refugees: Consider these sobering facts: Global temperatures could increase more in the next 50 years than they did in the last 6,000 years; by 2070, inhospitable hot zones like the Sahara, which currently cover less than 1 percent of the Earth’s land surface, could cover nearly a fifth; by 2100, it might be so hot in some places, including parts of India and Eastern China, that just stepping outside for a few hours “will result in death even for the fittest of humans,” per a 2017 study in Science Advances. How will the changing climate impact human migration patterns? ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine teamed up to try to predict just that, based on different climate change scenarios. They found that at the most extreme end of possible climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years, and more than a million of them would be moving because of climate change. If governments achieve even modest emissions reductions, their numbers drop to less than 700,000.
- Also: Experts say it will be harder to achieve the goals of the Paris climate accord if President Trump is re-elected, Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian. Trump announced the U.S. would be withdrawing from the accord in June. The earliest the country can officially leave the pact is November 4, the day after the 2020 election. Candidate Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the accord if he is elected. “The choice of Biden or Trump in the White House is huge, not just for the U.S. but for the world generally to deal with climate change,” said Todd Stern, who was the country’s chief negotiator at the accords in Paris in 2015. “If Biden wins, November 4 is a blip, like a bad dream is over. If Trump wins, he seals the deal. The U.S. becomes a non-player and the goals of Paris become very, very difficult.”
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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