Preparing to take a first step in what could prove to be one of the most daunting logistical challenges undertaken during peacetime, hospitals across Britain readied for the start of the largest mass vaccination effort in the nation’s history, part of a global campaign without precedent.
An army of health care workers — assisted by tens of thousands of volunteers and the military — will begin rolling out inoculations of a Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning, aiming to vaccinate more than 20 million citizens in just a few months time.
With virtually the whole world still at grave risk from the pandemic, other nations will watch closely as the U.K. becomes the first Western nation to begin its mass vaccination campaign.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration could approve the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech — one of three that have shown success in large-scale clinical trials — by the end of the week. And the Trump administration’s top health officials outlined an ambitious timetable on Sunday for distributing the first coronavirus vaccinations to as many as 24 million people by mid-January.
Regulatory approval in the European Union is also likely in coming days and nations across the Continent are also planning their own wide scale vaccinations programs.
Russia, where the government has come under criticism for making a dash for a vaccine without taking proper precautions, began its national vaccination campaign over the weekend. Even though the vaccine, Sputnik V, has yet to be proven fully safe and effective, health care workers have started to inoculate thousands of people.
Russia made its vaccine available for free to teachers, medical workers and social-service employees younger than 61 in Moscow. But distrust of the vaccine — 59 percent of Russians say they have no intention of getting a shot — looms large as the country races to roll out the vaccine while facing the fiercest onslaught of the pandemic yet, with some 500 deaths per day.
The complexities of the undertaking in the United Kingdom are further complicated by the special challenges presented by the vaccine itself, since the first stages of the campaign will rely on batches produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, which need to be stored at very low temperatures.
But officials said that the plan is to move distribution beyond hospitals relatively quickly.
The entire effort will fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s health professionals and under the umbrella of the National Health Service.
Widely respected in Britain, the N.H.S. offers health care free of charge with only a few exceptions.
Family doctors will carry much of the burden, calling on their experience of giving at least 15 million flu shots each year.
And temporary vaccination clinics are also being prepared, including drive through sites, sports stadiums or public buildings.
Retired health workers are being drafted as volunteers and charitable organizations are expected to support the effort. One charity, the St John Ambulance, aims to help train up to 30,000 first aid workers and others to help out at vaccination centers.
But much of the planning has been shrouded in secrecy, in part because of security concerns.
Europol has warned that organized crime groups might target transit containing vaccines for hijacking and theft, and last week Interpol warned against an “onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the Covid-19 vaccine,” which it has described as “liquid gold.”
Amid a worrisome increase in the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus across New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced new criteria for rolling back the state’s reopening and reintroducing shutdown restrictions by region.
Under Mr. Cuomo’s new plan, the state health department will use hospitalization rates as thresholds for a shutdown and for restricting indoor dining, which he said could be barred in New York City as soon as Monday, though it was not certain.
“If you’re going to overwhelm the hospital system, then we have no choice but to go to close down,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference in Manhattan.
For weeks, Mr. Cuomo has warned of rising cases, hospitalizations and rates of positive test results in every part of the state. On Monday, he announced that 4,602 people were hospitalized across the state.
In an attempt to avoid restrictions, the state’s health department will order hospitals statewide to increase their capacity by 25 percent, a strategy it used in the spring as hospitals in and around New York City began to fill.
Mr. Cuomo also warned that the state would move to restrict indoor dining in areas where the hospitalization rate continued to increase. His announcement followed new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said eating inside at restaurants was a high-risk scenario.
“If after five days, we haven’t seen a stabilization in a region’s hospitalization rate, we’re going to clamp down on indoor dining,” he said Monday.
The governor did not provide details on what numbers would represent “stabilization.” But he said that under his plan, restaurants in New York City could lose indoor dining as early as Monday, though it was not guaranteed. In other regions of the state, restaurants’ maximum indoor capacity would move from a 50 percent limit to 25 percent, he said.
Under his new plan, regions of the state will be forced to shut down if they appeared to be on track to hit a “critical” level of hospitalizations, which Mr. Cuomo said was 90 percent of their total capacity.
The state will look at the seven-day average rate of increase in a region’s hospitalization rate. If projections show that a region will hit 90 percent within three weeks, restrictions will be implemented that include the closing of non-essential businesses, limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery, and prohibiting nearly all gatherings.
None of the regions of the state had yet approached the threshold for a shutdown, Mr. Cuomo said.
“We don’t have a capacity criticality at this point,” he said.
In contrast with Mr. Cuomo’s approach, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said on Monday that the state was not ready to suggest indoor dining should shut down.
“If we saw explicit waves of transmission coming out of the indoor dining experience, obviously we would have a different approach,” he said.
But Mr. Murphy also said that 74 percent of people contacted by contact tracers were not cooperating.
Even as the average rate of positive test results and the number of cases in New York has risen in recent weeks, Mr. Cuomo had been resisting imposing the kind of widespread shutdowns that he implemented in March.
Instead, the state has since October imposed targeted restrictions on smaller areas, known as “micro-clusters,” where positive test rates had been relatively higher. These included parts of New York City and its suburbs, as well as major population hubs upstate.
Last week, Mr. Cuomo announced the state would focus on hospitalizations and warned of a “nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals.” The governor has also warned repeatedly that the spread of the virus could accelerate during the holiday season and into 2021, as New Yorkers celebrate at small gatherings.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, joined Mr. Cuomo’s news conference virtually on Monday and echoed the governor’s warnings.
“The middle of January can be a really dark time for us,” Dr. Fauci said.
As the holidays approached Mr. Cuomo stressed the risk of small family gatherings, limiting such affairs to 10 people or fewer.
“Ten may even be a bit too much,” Dr. Fauci said. “It’s not only the number, governor, but it’s the people who might be coming in from out of town.”
Mr. Cuomo also said the state would call on retired doctors and nurses to return to work to help fill anticipated staffing shortages, with Mr. Cuomo saying their registrations would be renewed without cost.
And as some of New York City’s public schools reopened in a reflection of changing public health thinking around the importance of keeping schools operating for younger students, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a change on Monday to the data the city would use to measure the spread of the virus.
“Our indicators need to be retooled to reflect what we’re seeing now, and to make sure we’re giving people the fullest picture of what we’re facing,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.
Mr. de Blasio said that the city would no longer report a daily rate of positive test results, since the seven-day average rate is more accurate. He said that the seven-day average rate citywide was 4.98 percent.
The city will also report probable cases as well as confirmed cases, and will add the number of positive antigen test results to the number of probable cases it reports. Before Monday’s announcement the city had reported only molecular tests, which are more accurate but can take days to process, without including the results of antigen test results. Though antigen tests are generally faster, they are less likely to detect the infection in people with a low viral load.
Mr. de Blasio said Monday that the city had recorded a seven-day average of 2,180 confirmed cases and 616 probable cases.
And the city will now track the seven-day average number of people hospitalized per 100,000 city residents, which he reported on Monday was at 2.28 people, and which the mayor said he hoped would dip below 2.
“This gives us a more comprehensive picture, but also one that allows us to discern trends over time in a more stable and consistent way,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner.
New York City is reopening some of its public schools Monday in the teeth of a worsening coronavirus outbreak.
The decision to do so reflects changing public health thinking around the importance of keeping schools operating, particularly for young students, and the real-world experience of over two months of in-person classes in the city’s school system, the nation’s largest.
Schools around the country have had to make the difficult decision of when to close and what metrics to follow, with some staying open amid local positivity rates in the teens and others using low single-digit thresholds.
Of the nation’s 75 largest public school districts, 18 have gone back to remote learning in the past month, according to data compiled by the Council of the Great City Schools and reported in The Wall Street Journal.
In California, many of the biggest school districts were already closed before new restrictions took effect on Sunday in three regions of the state. The new restrictions include stay-at-home orders, but do not require schools that had reopened to close again (an earlier version of this item incorrectly said they do). In the last week, California has reported more than 150,000 new cases, a record for all states.
Decisions to shutter schools have often been made on the local level and in inconsistent ways. Some schools have “paused” for short periods of time — as was the case in dozens of Central Texas districts or recently in Delaware, at the governor’s suggestion. Others have opted for blended learning with some days in school and some days remote.
Many have endured jarring periods of closing, opening and closing again. All of the solutions seem to be leading to burnout, instability and turmoil. New York City students, parents and teachers have felt their own whiplash, from a full shutdown before Thanksgiving to a partial reopening less than three weeks later.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed himself to keeping schools open, his aides say, and has started with elementary schools and those for students with severe disabilities. (About 190,000 children in the grades and schools the city is reopening this week would be eligible.)
Three of the country’s largest districts — in Birmingham, Ala., Tulsa, Okla., and Wichita, Kan. — made the opposite decision and closed over the past week. In Birmingham, the superintendent said the pandemic was “drastically impacting our community and our schools.” In Tulsa, two public school employees died recently after testing positive for the virus. And several of Wichita’s public schools had so many staff members quarantined that they could hardly cover vacancies by the time the district decided to close, the superintendent said.
The United States has diverged from other countries around the world in closing schools but leaving indoor dining and bars open. Many parents have criticized that situation, saying that risks of infection are higher in restaurants and bars and that it prioritizes the economy over education. Across Europe and Asia, students, especially very young ones, have largely continued going to school while other parts of daily life have shut down.
While Mr. de Blasio’s decision was applauded by many parents, there is no guarantee that the pattern of chaos that they have faced will abate as the fall turns to winter. New York City’s rules for handling positive cases all but guarantee frequent and sudden closures of individual classrooms and school buildings.
And it remains unclear whether the city will be able to reopen its middle and high schools to in-person learning any time soon.
One thing that could hamper the city’s efforts, officials cautioned, is a truly rampant second wave in New York.
The test positivity rate has only increased since the city closed schools, and the seven-day rolling average rate exceeded 5 percent last week. Hospitalizations have quickly mounted. Still, Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that “the schools in this city are among the safest places to be.” He noted that later this week the city planned to reopen some schools on Staten Island, even though the borough has seen positive infection test rates surge recently.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and President Trump’s personal and campaign lawyer, has tested positive for the coronavirus, Mr. Trump announced on Twitter on Sunday.
Mr. Giuliani has been admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center, according to a person who was aware of his condition but not authorized to speak publicly. Mr. Giuliani, at age 76, is in the high-risk category for the virus. Later Sunday, he wrote on Twitter: “Thank you to all my friends and followers for all the prayers and kind wishes. I’m getting great care and feeling good. Recovering quickly and keeping up with everything.”
His son, Andrew H. Giuliani, a White House adviser, said on Nov. 20 he had tested positive for the virus. He had appeared at a news conference with his father the day before.
Mr. Giuliani has been acting as the lead lawyer for Mr. Trump’s efforts to overthrow the results of the election. He has repeatedly claimed he has evidence of widespread fraud, but he has declined to submit that evidence in legal cases he has filed.
“@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus. Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. It was unclear why Mr. Trump was the one announcing it.
Mr. Giuliani recently traveled to three battleground states that Mr. Biden won to make his case. On Thursday he attended a hearing at the Georgia Capitol, where he didn’t wear a mask. He also went maskless on Wednesday at a legislative session in Michigan, where he lobbied Republicans to overturn the results of the election there and appoint a slate of electors for Trump.
“Mayor Giuliani tested negative twice immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia,” the Trump campaign said. “The Mayor did not experience any symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 until more than 48 hours after his return.”
However, a person in contact with the former mayor said he began feeling ill late this past week.
Mr. Giuliani has repeatedly been exposed to the virus through contact with infected people, including during Mr. Trump’s preparation for his first debate against President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in September, just before the president tested positive.
His infection is the latest in a string of outbreaks among those in the president’s orbit. Boris Epshteyn, a member of the Trump campaign legal team, tested positive late last month. The same day, Mr. Giuliani attended a meeting of Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania about allegations of voting irregularities. One of the lawmakers at that meeting was notified shortly after, while at the White House, that he had tested positive.
Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, and at least eight others in the White House and Mr. Trump’s circle, tested positive in the days before and after Election Day.
Mr. Trump was hospitalized on Oct. 2 after contracting the coronavirus. Kayleigh McEnany, the president’s press secretary, Corey Lewandowski, a campaign adviser, and Ben Carson, the housing secretary, are among those in the president’s circle who have tested positive this fall.
Mr. Giuliani appeared on Fox News earlier on Sunday. Speaking with the host Maria Bartiromo via satellite, Mr. Giuliani repeated baseless claims about fraud in Georgia and Wisconsin on “Sunday Morning Futures.” When asked if he believed Mr. Trump still had a path to victory, he said, “We do.”
Melina Delkic and Bryan Pietsch contributed reporting.
Every Monday night in the northern Italian town that had perhaps the highest coronavirus death rate in all of Europe, a psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress leads group therapy sessions in the local church.
“She has treated survivors of war,” the Rev. Matteo Cella, the parish priest of the town, Nembro, in Bergamo province, said of the psychologist. “She says the dynamic is the same.”
First the virus exploded in Bergamo. Then came the shell shock. The province that first gave the West a preview of the horrors to come now serves as a disturbing postcard from the post-traumatic aftermath.
In small towns where many know one another, there is apprehension about other people, but also survivor’s guilt, anger, second thoughts about fateful decisions and nightmares about dying wishes unfulfilled. There is a pervasive anxiety that, with the virus surging anew, Bergamo’s enormous sacrifice will soon recede into history, that its towns will be forgotten battlefields from the great first wave.
And most of all there is a collective grappling to understand how the virus has changed people. Not just their antibodies, but their selves.
Bergamo, like everywhere, now confronts a second wave of the virus. But its sacrifice has left it better prepared than most places, as the widespread infection rate of the first wave has conferred a measure of immunity for many, doctors say. And its medical staff, by now drilled in the virus’s awful protocols, are taking in patients from outside the province to alleviate the burdens on overwhelmed hospitals nearby.
But the wounds of the first wave gnaw at them from within.
Talking about these things does not come easily to people in Italy’s industrial heartland, jammed with metal-mechanic and textile factories, paper mills, billowing smokestacks and gaping warehouses. They prefer to talk about how much they work. Almost apologetically they reveal that they are hurting.
More than one in four workers in the West Farms neighborhood of the Bronx are out of work.
They were store clerks, hotel housekeepers, waitresses, cooks, for-hire drivers, security officers and maintenance workers before the coronavirus snatched away their livelihoods. Even before the outbreak, most were barely getting by on meager paychecks and scant savings.
Now their hopes for better lives are slipping away as they fall behind on rent, ration food and rack up credit card debt. Unemployment in this poor and largely Latino enclave of 19,000 was in double digits before the outbreak.
It has gotten far worse.
With an unemployment rate of 26 percent in September, West Farms has become a center of New York’s economic crisis, one of the hardest-hit urban communities in the country and emblematic of the pandemic’s uneven toll.
Though no corner of the city has escaped the fallout, the mass job losses have been concentrated in mostly Black and Latino pockets outside Manhattan that have long lagged economically behind the rest of the city. Communities like West Farms have also suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus itself, with higher rates of people becoming ill.
New York City’s economic crisis is among the worst in the nation, with unemployment at 13.2 percent in October, nearly double the national rate. But within the city, the pain varies vastly. Manhattan’s unemployment rate is 10.3 percent, but in the Bronx, the city’s poorest borough, it is 17.5 percent — the highest in the state.
In contrast, some of the city’s most affluent and largely white neighborhoods in Manhattan have fared far better. The unemployment rate on the Upper East Side was 5 percent in September, up from 1 percent in February. On the Upper West Side, it was 6 percent, up from 2 percent.
Poor workers, including many Black and Latino people, have been hurt much worse during the pandemic than by past recessions, including the 2008 financial crisis, said James Parrott, an economist with the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.
He said the pandemic had triggered many more layoffs among lower-paid workers, while far fewer higher-paid workers — including those in finance, technology and professional services, who tend to be mostly white — have lost jobs or benefits.
As a government regulator sidled into a car, the Chinese pharmaceutical executive handed over a paper bag stuffed with cash.
The executive, Du Weimin, was eager to get his company’s vaccines approved, and he needed help. The official took the money and vowed to try his best.
Several months later, Mr. Du got the greenlight to begin clinical trials for two vaccines. They were ultimately approved, generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
The government official was jailed in 2016 for taking bribes from Mr. Du and several other vaccine makers. Mr. Du was never charged.
His company, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, produces about one-quarter of the world’s supply of vaccines. And Mr. Du, who has been called the “king of vaccines,” is one of the richest men in China.
Capitalizing on that success, Mr. Du and his company are at the forefront of the race to produce a coronavirus vaccine, a national priority for China’s ruling Communist Party. Kangtai will be the exclusive manufacturer in mainland China for the vaccine made by AstraZeneca, and the companies could work together on deals for other countries. Kangtai is also in early trials for its own candidate.
Drug companies, eager to get their products into the hands of consumers, have used financial incentives to sway poorly compensated government workers for regulatory approvals. Hundreds of Chinese officials have been accused of taking bribes in cases involving vaccine companies.
Oversight has been weak, contributing to scandals over substandard vaccines. While the government after each incident has vowed to do more to clean up the industry, regulators have rarely provided much information about what went wrong. Companies have been allowed to continue operating.
Dr. Ray Yip, a former head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in China, said he considers Kangtai to be among the top tiers of the country’s vaccine companies, adding that he “has no problem” with the manufacturing and technology standards of most players.
“The problem for many of them is their business practice,” Dr. Yip said. “They all want to sell to the local governments, so they have to do kickbacks, they have to bribe.”
Kangtai did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In a statement, AstraZeneca said it “conducts appropriate and thorough due diligence prior to entering an agreement with any entity.”
The lack of transparency, compounded by dubious business practices, has rattled public confidence in Chinese-made vaccines, even though they have been proved safe. Many well-off parents shun them, preferring their Western counterparts.
As a deadly wave of coronavirus cases extends across Europe, several countries are planning to loosen restrictions over the holidays to allow families and friends to gather.
In a four-day period beginning Dec. 23, people across Britain can form a Christmas bubble, which will allow members of up to three households to spend time together in private homes or to attend places of worship.
In Germany, officials have agreed to extend a partial lockdown to Jan. 10, but loosen restrictions from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, allowing private gatherings of as many as 10 people from any number of households. Spanish officials have decided to allow travel between regions to see relatives and close friends, but said that social gatherings around Christmas and New Year’s Day must be limited to 10 people if not from the same household.
In France, residents will be under a nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. beginning Dec. 15, when a national lockdown ends. However, the curfew will not apply from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve, officials said.
“We will be able to travel without authorization, including between regions, and spend Christmas with our families,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said.
Norway, one of the few European countries to keep a second wave at bay, currently limits private gatherings to five guests. But around the Christmas period, the country will allow residents to double their guests over any two days. However, people must continue to socially distance.
While some countries are becoming more permissive, Italy will tighten its restrictions on Christmas Day, Dec. 26 and New Year’s Day, when residents will be prohibited from leaving their hometowns. Travel will be banned between regions in Italy from Dec. 21 through Jan. 6, and an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be implemented.
Delicate attempts at balancing a typically social time of year and easing the burden on hospitals arrived after nearly 105,000 people died of Covid-19 in November in 31 countries monitored closely by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Health experts have cautioned that holiday travel could drive new spikes in cases.
The past few weeks have been busy for the Bearded Fishermen, a mental health charity in England. With the country just emerging from a second lockdown, the group has seen a measurable uptick in calls for support and an increasing need for its crisis services as the community grapples with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The cold and wet weather, long nights, it does affect a lot of people,” said Mick Leyland, a founder. “And being on lockdown as well, it’s even worse.” In one recent week alone, they had responded to a number of crisis calls, including some from people threatening to take their own lives.
With the pandemic devastating Britain and two national lockdowns leaving many feeling isolated, experts say there are rising concerns about the mental health and well-being of people across the country. Research has shown a rise in reports of loneliness, a particular concern for young people, difficulties for those with pre-existing mental health issues and an increase in reports of suicidal ideation.
Though there is no recorded uptick in the national suicide rate yet, the risk of suicide among middle-age men remains concerning in Britain, where for decades the group has made up the highest number of suicide deaths.
The impact of the pandemic and its knock-on effects — lockdowns, an economic downturn and social isolation — on mental health have been well documented around the world. And in Britain, which is simultaneously grappling with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Europe and a deep recession, health experts worry that the impact could be felt for years to come.
Australian states on Monday celebrated “Freedom Day,” as coronavirus restrictions eased in the lead up to Christmas and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
In New South Wales and Victoria, more people will be allowed in bars, restaurants, shops and places of worship, and dance halls will be reopened in a limited capacity.
“From Monday, life will be very different,” said Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales.
In Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, up to 50 people will be allowed on dance floors at weddings, and attendance at funerals will be unlimited. Up to 5,000 people will be permitted at seated outdoor events, and from next week, workers are being encouraged to return to the office.
In Victoria, where an outbreak in July sent the city of Melbourne into one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, people can now have 30 people over at their homes and gather in groups of 100 outside. Masks, previously mandated, have to be worn only on public transport, in indoor shopping centers and crowded places.
Melbourne welcomed its first international visitors since June on Monday, when a jet carrying 253 passengers arrived from Sri Lanka. The travelers will quarantine for 14 days in hotels under strict conditions.
Last month, Victoria achieved effective elimination of the virus, and has now gone 38 days without a new case. But as people celebrated across the country, Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, warned that even with the eased restrictions, there was a need to remain vigilant.
“This thing is not done,” Mr. Andrews told reporters on Sunday. “It is not over, it can come back.”
In other developments across the world:
In Germany, Markus Söder, Bavaria’s premier, announced a state of emergency on Sunday as daily infections in the country have not significantly decreased despite a nationwide partial lockdown. Mr. Söder’s announcement prohibits people from leaving their homes in areas where there are more than 200 infections per 100,0000 in a week. The governors of Saxony and Thuringia announced that new lockdown measures in their states would be discussed this week.
The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis would visit Iraq in March, his first international trip in 15 months. Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesman, said in a statement that plans for the trip “will take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency.” Francis plans to visit Baghdad, Erbil, Mosul, Qaraqosh and the plains of Ur and Nineveh during the four-day visit, scheduled for March 5 to 8. The Vatican’s online news website said that Francis had “long expressed his desire to visit Iraq,” and had planned on visiting in 2020.
Greece is extending its lockdown until Jan. 7, with schools, courts, bars, restaurants, gymnasiums and ski resorts remaining closed, said Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman. Travel between regions is to remain prohibited while a nighttime curfew will also stay in place.
On Monday, Denmark expanded lockdown measures until Jan. 3 in 38 of 98 municipalities, including Copenhagen, officials said. Beginning Dec. 9, restaurants, museums, movie theaters and other similar cultural establishments must close. Select grade school students and students at universities will be sent home.
Organizers of the biennial Paris Air Show canceled the 2021 show on Monday because of the pandemic and its devastating effect on the aerospace industries, the Associated Press reported. The show, which attracts exhibitors and officials from around the world, had been scheduled for June. Organizers said they hoped the next one in June 2023 would celebrate a global rebound from the crisis.
A Michigan pastor is under fire for telling his congregation to catch the coronavirus and “get it over with.”
He made the remarks during a sermon on Nov. 15, as a sort of aside while he preached about other issues. “Several people have had Covid — none have died yet. It’s OK,” said Bart Spencer, a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Holland, Mich., referring to some in his congregation. “Get it, get it over with, press on,” he advised.
The video was shared on Facebook about two weeks later and made waves across the country as another symbol of the divide between those who want pandemic restrictions scrapped now, regardless of rising infections, and those who urge continued caution.
In comments posted underneath the video, some voiced support of the pastor and others called his sermon reckless.
Mr. Spencer’s remarks echoed a push among some conservatives for a herd immunity approach — allowing the virus to rage unchecked until so many people have antibodies to the virus that it can no longer spread readily. Some, like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, have claimed that surviving an infection confers superior protection compared with a vaccine.
But the course of any one patient’s infection is nearly impossible to predict, and the immunity it eventually confers is believed to vary greatly.
The Lighthouse Baptist Church did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday, but Mr. Spencer told a TV station in Grand Rapids, WXMI, that he stood by his statements. “I would never tell them to go get sick, but you don’t know how you’re going to get it,” he said.
Mr. Spencer said in an interview with The Holland Sentinel that he and members of his family had contracted the virus and had recovered.
Holland, in Ottawa County, has been hit hard lately. Over the last week, the county has averaged about 86 new cases a day for every 100,000 people, well above Michigan’s average of 69, according to a New York Times database.
In all, the county has reported 15,326 coronavirus cases through Saturday, about 5.3 percent of the population. Most experts estimate that achieving herd immunity would require at least 10 times that number.