Analysis & Comment

Vaccine, Biden, Arctic Oil: Your Monday Evening Briefing

Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.

By Victoria Shannon and Judith Levitt

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Moderna said its coronavirus vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, joining Pfizer as a front-runner in the race to help end the pandemic.

Both companies plan to apply within weeks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization to begin vaccinations.

A vaccine widely available to the public is still months away. Officials said the two companies could produce enough vaccine for about 20 million people by sometime in December, with the first doses going to people in high-risk groups like health care workers, emergency medical staff and nursing home residents.

Ten other vaccine makers are also conducting big Phase 3 trials. Here is what you need to know about the Moderna vaccine and our vaccine tracker.

A half-dozen states will seek an extra layer of scrutiny to reassure the public that an F.D.A.-approved vaccine is safe amid doubts about the Trump administration’s virus response.

2. States and cities add virus restrictions as cases surge across the country.

Philadelphia moved to ban indoor gatherings and shift high schools and colleges to remote learning in an attempt to stem rapidly rising case numbers. California reinstated broad restrictions statewide. See our list of state-by-state restrictions. Above, an Albuquerque, N.M., virus testing site. Cases are rising in 48 states.

In other virus developments:

U.S. stocks climbed further into record territory, lifted by the virus vaccine news. American Airlines canceled all but one of its daily flights from the U.S. to London, and the retailers Kroger, Wegmans and Costco added virus restrictions.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, began 14 days of quarantine after meeting with a lawmaker who tested positive for Covid-19. Mr. Johnson was hospitalized with a severe case of the virus in April.

The U.S. military has had only 777 Covid-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, out of 1.3 million active-duty troops, and only nine have died. “It’s not that hard — it’s discipline,” said Nelson Santos, a drill instructor.

And a new forecast projects that a rebound in tourists to New York City could start next year but will take at least four years to return to pre-pandemic totals.

3. “More people may die, if we don’t coordinate.”

Joe Biden, in his first economic address since winning the election, called on President Trump to begin the transition process promptly.

He criticized the president and his advisers for attacking leaders of states that have imposed new restrictions to contain rising case numbers. “What the hell’s the matter with these guys?” Mr. Biden said. “It’s totally irresponsible.”

The president-elect also said he supported a national mask mandate as cases surge during what he described as a “very dark winter” ahead. He called on Congress to provide trillions of dollars in support to workers, businesses and state and local governments. Above, Mr. Biden’s speech in Wilmington, Del., reflected in a mirror.

4. The Trump administration moved to begin the process of selling oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The last-minute push sets up a potential sale of leases in the 19 million acres in Alaska just before Inauguration Day, leaving the new administration, which has opposed drilling in the refuge, to try to stop it after the fact.

The government’s call for nominations — essentially a request to oil companies to specify which tracts of land they would be interested in exploring — is to be officially published tomorrow.

5. About two-thirds of the 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential race have been recounted by hand.

Local election officials reported few issues, and Democrats said that the recount so far had not substantially changed President-elect Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump. In the first round of counting, Mr. Biden outpolled Mr. Trump by more than 14,000 votes. Above, recounting in Marietta, Ga., over the weekend.

Although it was the Trump campaign that had demanded a recount, Mr. Trump disparaged the process over the weekend, writing on Twitter, “Their recount is a scam, means nothing.”

Our graphics show that the counties won by Mr. Biden experienced worse job losses, on average, during the initial wave of pandemic layoffs than the counties where Mr. Trump was strongest in his bid for re-election.

6. The European Union’s budget is on the line.

Hungary and Poland blocked the E.U.’s 750 billion euro — roughly $890 billion — coronavirus stimulus package, a move that threatens to derail the bloc’s long-term budget, putting a total of 1.8 trillion euros on hold. Above, a pedestrian outside a Budapest subway station last week.

The 27 members’ economies desperately need the cash: The E.U. is deep into the worst recession since World War II.

The Hungarian and Polish governments said they were protesting a provision that would withhold funding from member states that violate the bloc’s rule-of-law standards. They maintain that linking their judicial systems to the recovery funds was a violation of national sovereignty.

7. President Trump is expected to order military withdrawals from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia by the time he leaves office in January.

The cuts reflect Mr. Trump’s desire to stop shouldering the cost of long-running military engagements against Islamist insurgencies in Africa and the Middle East.

Under a draft order circulating at the Pentagon, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be halved from the current deployment of 4,500 troops, officials said. Above, American soldiers over Kabul in 2017.

In Iraq, the Pentagon would trim force levels slightly below the 3,000 troops that commanders had previously announced. And in Somalia, virtually all of the more than 700 troops conducting training and counterterrorism missions would leave.

8. A hurricane season for the record books.

Starting with the first storm, which struck two weeks before the official start of the Atlantic season on June 1, this year has now seen 30 named storms — 13 of them hurricanes — breaking a record set in 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to be named.

This is only the second time — after 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — that meteorologists have exhausted the list of storm names in alphabetical order and moved on to the 24-letter Greek alphabet.

The latest, Hurricane Iota, was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane today, the first this year to reach that strength, and was expected to make landfall on the border of Nicaragua and Honduras tonight.

9. Learning lessons from “weed-out” classes.

These college programs are typically hard-core science and math classes designed to separate students who are likely to do well from those who are not.

But a new study adds to evidence that surviving weed-out classes has less to do with innate ability and more to do with students’ frame of mind and connections with their classmates.

A co-author of the study said the result showed that teachers and lecturers should redesign the courses to strengthen social networks, perhaps through more collaboration, cooperation and group work and less competition.

10. And finally, quilts are getting even cozier.

After finding her late mother’s quilt in an antique cedar chest, Cassandra Siegenthaler decided to ask a seamstress to repurpose it into a coat. “I wanted something that felt like a permanent hug from my mom all the time,” she said.

She is one of a number of people upcycling generations-old quilts into cheerful, one-of-a-kind garments, leading indie designers across the U.S. to take quilt commissions or build a home quilt business.

Some caution that it’s important to understand the history and the value of the object before brandishing the shears. “If it is done with love and respect and honor, then I think it’s fabulous,” said one artist.

Have a patchwork evening.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].

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