Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial; WHO herd immunity


Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the United States has recorded more than 7.6 million cases of COVID-19 and 213,000 deaths.


A third of U.S. states are reporting higher coronavirus case counts than they’ve ever had before.

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows 16 states set records for new cases in a week. But nearly all the states are surging: 41 states had worse weeks than they did a week earlier. And an analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows that in 36 states, a higher rate of people were testing positive than in the week before.

While the data continue to show the virus’ reach is not letting up, the head of the World Health Organization said achieving herd immunity by allowing the virus to spread is “scientifically and ethically problematic.”

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said Monday, adding that the strategy relies on vaccination.

The quest for a vaccine, however, ran into trouble on Monday when Johnson & Johnson paused its Phase 3 clinical trial because of a participant’s unexplained illness. It’s the second of four large-scale, final-stage vaccine trials to go on hold as Trump pushes for a vaccine by Election Day on Nov. 3.

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.8 million cases and 215,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 37.8 million confirmed cases around the world and 1 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.


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Here’s where cases are surging in the US

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows 16 states set records for new cases in a week and 41 states had worse weeks than they did a week earlier.

On a per-person basis, cases are being led by North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin. North Dakota doubled its case count since Sept. 6, and more people died there from coronavirus in the last month than in the rest of the pandemic.

The 16 states setting records for new cases in the latest week were Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.

– Mike Stucka

Johnson & Johnson temporarily halts vaccine trial after unexplained illness

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a volunteer, meaning two of the four vaccine trials in the United States are now on hold.

The Phase 3 clinical trial was temporarily halted Monday, according to the company. It is not known if the unidentified illness is related to the vaccine, but clinical protocols require a pause while it is investigated.

Johnson & Johnson said Monday it has paused further dosing in its trial while the participant’s illness is reviewed and evaluated by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board as well as the company’s clinical and safety physicians. 

Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ-78436735 vaccine is one of four large-scale, final-stage COVID-19 vaccine trials underway in the U.S. Another trial, run by AstraZeneca, was halted Sept. 8 after a second participant was diagnosed with a neurological condition.

– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub

Trump tested negative on ‘consecutive days,’ WH doc claims

White House physician Sean Conley said Monday that President Donald Trump had tested negative for the virus on “consecutive days” but did not disclose which days.

The news comes as Trump is headed to Pennsylvania for a rally on Tuesday as he returns to the campaign trail following his hospitalization for COVID-19 earlier this month.

There was no social distancing at Trump’s rally in Florida on Monday night, with only a few people wearing face masks. Trump focused on his administration’s handling of the coronavirus.

“Under my leadership, we’re delivering a safe vaccine and a rapid recovery like no one can even believe,” Trump insisted. “If you look at our upward path, no country in the world has recovered the way we have recovered.”

Colleges upend their spring plans for in-person learning, graduation

After a rocky start to the fall, uncertainty over the next few months of the pandemic has pushed universities from coast-to-coast to overhaul in-person learning, spring break and graduation.

Colleges and universities in California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Vermont, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Washington state have already announced changes and more are almost certain to follow.

“This decision (to learn virtually) is the only responsible one available to us at this time,” California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White said in a Sept. 10 news release announcing that the 23 college system would continue virtual instruction into the spring. At the time, Cal State was one of the only universities to require spring virtual instruction.

A growing number of colleges have delayed their start times, either by a week, a month, or in the case of Middlebury College in Vermont, two months. The college plans to start its spring semester Mar. 1.

– Elinor Aspegren

COVID-19 prolongs waiting times at fast-food drive-thrus, study shows

The coronavirus pandemic has led to longer waits at fast-food drive-thrus this summer. According to the 2020 SeeLevel HX Annual Drive-Thru Study, the average drive-thru wait at 10 top fast-food restaurants this summer was 5.95 minutes, about 30 seconds longer than a year ago.

At Wendy’s, Baconator and Frosty fans waited 5.98 minutes on average, a minute longer than last summer, according to SeeLevel HX, an Atlanta-based consumer research firm that has been doing the review for 20 years. 

The fastest chain was KFC, where diners got their orders in 4.72 minutes. On the other end, by a wide margin, was Chick-fil-A, where drivers waited an average of 8.15 minutes, according to SeeLevel HX. 

One simple reason: Chick-fil-A restaurants serve more customers, with testers counting nearly three times as many vehicles in the chain’s lines than the industry average. Both Chick-fil-A and the other chains had more vehicles in line than a year ago, according to SeeLevel HX.

– Jim Weiker, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press


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