President-elect Joe Biden’s battle against the coronavirus officially began today.

Mr. Biden’s pandemic response plan had been held up by the Trump administration’s refusal to authorize the transition of presidential power. But that changed yesterday when the federal government finally signed off on the start of the transition, unlocking funds, equipment and government data to the incoming president.

So what happens now?

One of the first things that Mr. Biden will do to confront the pandemic is dispatch what are known as “landing teams” to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. The teams will be given enormous briefing books that detail nearly everything the agencies have been working on for the past four years. (And they can expect a friendly reception at the agencies, particularly among scientists whom Mr. Trump has criticized for years, write my colleagues Sheila Kaplan and Ron DePasquale.)

At the F.D.A., the landing team will need to get up to speed on a planned vaccine rollout, as well as promising vaccine candidates and therapeutics on the horizon.

When the landing teams arrive at the C.D.C., one of the most pressing issues will be taking over a public education campaign, now in development, to persuade the public to trust — and to take — the vaccine once it becomes widely available.

The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in China in January, before it quickly spread throughout Europe and New York and eventually took over much of the world, edging out other variants of the virus.

For months, many scientists argued that the mutation might have simply been lucky, appearing by chance in large epidemics, like in Northern Italy, that seeded outbreaks elsewhere. But a host of new research supports the idea that the virus evolved the ability to infect people more easily than the original variant detected in Wuhan, China.

The original virus would have spread around the world regardless, researchers say. But this mutation may have supercharged it.

“When all is said and done, it could be that this mutation is what made the pandemic,” said David Engelthaler, a geneticist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona.

There is no evidence that the mutation causes more severe symptoms, or kills more people, or complicates the development of vaccines. And although some politicians have blamed the fast-spreading variant for outbreaks, researchers disagree, saying improper containment measures are to blame. Places that locked down quickly, even when the variant was spreading locally, fared far better than those that did not, scientists say.


Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.



My husband, four adult children and four grandchildren have chosen not to celebrate Thanksgiving together for the first time in years. My husband and I made the decision to go to our youngest son’s grave site, where we will set up a table and eat our Thanksgiving meal with him. We will invite our son’s only child, our 17-year-old grandson, to join us. Thanksgiving was our deceased son’s favorite holiday, so we thought what better way to spend Thanksgiving than with him.

— Cathie Bradshaw, North Carolina

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