Vaping Can Increase Coronavirus Hazards, Researchers Say

The Four Percent

Since the start of the pandemic, experts have warned that the coronavirus — a respiratory pathogen — most likely capitalizes on the scarred lungs of smokers and vapers. Doctors and researchers are now starting to pinpoint the ways in which smoking and vaping seem to enhance the virus’s ability to spread from person to person, infiltrate the lungs and spark some of Covid-19’s worst symptoms.

“I have no doubt in saying that smoking and vaping could put people at increased risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19,” said Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, a pediatric pulmonologist at Columbia University. “It is quite clear that smoking and vaping are bad for the lungs, and the predominant symptoms of Covid are respiratory. Those two things are going to be bad in combination.”

But while several studies have found that smoking can more than double a person’s risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, the relationship between vaping and Covid-19 is only beginning to become clear. A team of researchers recently reported that young adults who vape are five times more likely to receive a coronavirus diagnosis.

“If I had caught Covid-19 within the week before I got really ill, I probably would have died,” said Janan Moein, 20, who was hospitalized in early December with a collapsed lung and a diagnosis of vaping-related lung illness.

Texas Christian University said Friday evening that its game against Southern Methodist University, scheduled for Sept. 12, would not happen on time after T.C.U. uncovered “some” coronavirus cases in its football program.

“No one is currently facing serious health issues, and we intend to continue our enforcement of strict standards to protect the program and the community,” Jeremiah Donati, the T.C.U. athletic director, said in a statement. Mr. Donati said T.C.U. would try to reschedule the game, and that it still intended to play Iowa State University on Sept. 26, opening day for Big 12 conference play.

The postponement, at best, of the so-called Iron Skillet rivalry game between S.M.U. and T.C.U., two higher education titans of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, came as college football leaders lurched toward a season. Other games, like North Carolina State University at Virginia Tech and Marshall University at East Carolina University, had already been postponed, and some leading leagues, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12, have said they did not intend to play this fall.

Still, a handful of matchups are scheduled for this weekend — S.M.U. is scheduled to play at Texas State University — after two games on Thursday, and the Atlantic Coast Conference plans to begin games next week. The Southeastern Conference has penciled in Sept. 26 as its start date, and many universities are finishing preparations to welcome tens of thousands of fans into stadiums, where they will find even referees masked and conducting socially distanced coin tosses.

There are significant outbreaks at two of college football’s most dominant schools, the University of Alabama and Clemson University, though neither has indicated its football schedule faces imminent risk.

A group of drug companies competing with one another to be among the first to develop coronavirus vaccines are planning to pledge early next week that they will not release any vaccines that do not follow rigorous efficacy and safety standards, according to representatives of three of the companies.

The statement, which has not yet been finalized, is meant to reassure the public that the companies will not seek a premature approval of vaccines under political pressure from the Trump administration. President Trump has pushed for a vaccine to be available by October — just before the presidential election — and a growing number of scientists, regulators and public health experts have expressed concern over what they see as a pattern of political arm-twisting by the Trump administration in its efforts to combat the virus.

Though the companies’ joint statement was planned for early next week, it may be released earlier since its existence was made public on Friday by The Wall Street Journal. The manufacturers that are said to have signed the letter include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi.

The pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones pushing back. Senior regulators at the Food and Drug Administration have been discussing making their own joint public statement about the need to rely on proven science, according to two senior administration officials, a move that would breach their usual reticence as civil servants.

Scientists have been rushing at record speed to develop a vaccine that could end the pandemic, which has taken nearly 190,000 lives and infected more than six million people in the United States. Three companies — Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca — are testing their candidates in late-stage clinical trials.

Pfizer’s chief executive said this week that the company could see results as early as October, but the others have said only that they plan to release a vaccine by the end of the year.

The fair posted a disclaimer on its website, warning that the coronavirus is a risk in any public place.

Volunteers for vaccine tests in Russia produced a relatively modest amount of antibodies to the coronavirus, scientists there said in their first report on their controversial Covid-19 vaccine.

The report comes weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin announced with great fanfare that the vaccine — called Sputnik V — “works effectively enough” to be approved. He declared to be a “very important step for our country, and generally for the whole world.”

Vaccine developers roundly criticized the announcement, observing that no data had been published on the vaccine. In addition, the Russian scientists had yet to run a large-scale trial to demonstrate that the vaccine was safe and effective.

The Russian vaccine produced mild symptoms in a number of subjects, the most common of which were fevers and headaches, the scientists reported in The Lancet, analogous to similar vaccines. Volunteers who got the full vaccine produced antibodies to the coronavirus as well as immune cells that could respond strongly to it.

In their paper, the researchers noted that the vaccine did not produce as many antibodies as a vaccine by AstraZeneca’s, or a gene-based vaccine made by Moderna.

It is not uncommon for reports on early clinical vaccine trials to pass through peer review and get published in scientific journals after advanced trials get underway. But Mr. Putin’s headline-making announcement raised questions about exactly what evidence had led to the vaccine’s approval.

The trial was relatively small. Only 40 volunteers received the full vaccine, and no one received a placebo for comparison.

Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who was not involved in the study, judged that the vaccine produced “good antibody levels in all volunteers.” But she added that no one yet knows what level of antibodies or immune cells are required to protect people from getting sick. “It is hard to tell whether the vaccine will be efficacious,” she said.

That is true of all Covid-19 vaccines in testing. Determine whether a vaccine is efficacious requires a so-called Phase 3 trial, in which a large number of volunteers get either a vaccine or a placebo. In their paper, the Russian scientists wrote that they got approval last week to run a Phase 3 trial on 40,000 people.

U.S. Roundup

In other news around the U.S.:

“Some law firms are finding that it is more productive for their lawyers to stay at home,” said Kristinia Bellamy, a janitor who was laid off from her job cleaning offices in Midtown Manhattan. “This might be the beginning of the end for these commercial office buildings.”

Shua Mansour Masarwa, the mayor of Taibe, an Arab city in central Israel set for lockdown, said Professor Gamzu had based his calculations on faulty population data. After nearly a dozen predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were also declared lockdown zones, Mayor Moshe Lion of Jerusalem said on Friday that he had still not been officially informed of any measures.

Professor Gamzu stressed that the designations were not meant to embarrass the communities but to offer the intervention and assistance they need.

In other news from around the world:


Restaurants and bars in New Jersey reopened on Friday for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, and movie theaters sold tickets for the first time since March.

At an IHOP in Edison, N.J., three indoor tables were filled at lunchtime. Everyone entered wearing masks and a manager took down diners’ telephone numbers for contact tracing before seating them.

“It felt like we rented out the whole place,” Joshua Naval, 21, said after a lunch of fried steak.

“Space and boundaries,” said his friend, Sayema Bhuiyan, 20. “It was similar to before — just a little more caution.”

Nearby, at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, indoor business was brisk. (The unshaded tables outside were largely empty at midday as the temperature reached 85 degrees.)

Wayne Martiak, of Point Pleasant, N.J., said his first indoor dining experience in six months was “very comfortable.”

“We’ve tried to be very careful,” said Mr. Martiak, who was eating with his daughter and granddaughter. He said he continued to avoid crowds, and places where few people are wearing masks. “If a place isn’t right, we’re not going there,” he said.

At a news conference on Friday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy warned that restaurants that violated the state’s restrictions would be punished. “The limits we have placed on capacities and the public health protocols we have put in place are not kind suggestions,” he said. “They are required.”

The state will also indefinitely extend a ban on smoking inside the state’s casinos during the pandemic, the governor said. When casinos were allowed to reopen for gambling in July, smoking, drinking and dining remained banned over concerns that people would not wear masks indoors.

Earlier this week, public health groups criticized language in an executive order that would have allowed indoor smoking to resume.

“We have looked closely at the science and agree with the experts who have concluded that allowing smoking is too big a risk to take,” Mr. Murphy said.

New Jersey’s casinos, all of which are in Atlantic City, were excluded from a 2006 law that prohibited smoking indoors in public buildings. Local laws restrict smoking to 25 percent of a casino’s gaming floor.

Amid a resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe, the European Union’s executive arm recommended on Friday that the 27 member nations coordinate their approach to travel within the bloc, with the aim of simplifying movement within what used to be a borderless zone.

Although European borders have reopened this summer, travel has become increasingly complicated because of discrepancies between national measures regarding obligatory quarantine and testing, as well as different methods for classifying high-risk areas.

This week, Hungary became the first E.U. member to close its borders completely to all nonresidents, including other European citizens. Belgium, in an abrupt announcement, banned nonessential travel to a number of European regions, and imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on travelers returning from those areas, which include Paris, a one-hour train ride away. Poland, equally suddenly, banned flight connections with 44 countries, including Spain and Romania.

Meanwhile, German health authorities are considering shortening quarantine periods for those who have been in contact with patients testing positive for the coronavirus or those returning from high-risk countries to five days from 14 days currently.

The proposal made by the European Commission, which must be voted on by ministers from member nations, puts forward a coordinated system of color coding for low-, medium- and high-risk areas of the continent. The system is based on information to be provided weekly by national governments on the number of new confirmed infections, the number of tests carried out and percentage that were positive.

The European Commission also called on national governments to adopt a single set of measures for all travelers from high-risk areas, and to communicate new restrictions in advance.

“People deserve to know in which zone they are,” said Ylva Johansson, the E.U.’s home affairs commissioner. “Both citizens and businesses need to have a degree of certainty.”

New York City, home to the nation’s largest school district, remains poised to be the only big city in the country to offer in-person education at the start of its school year. Yet many parents said they were exhausted from a summer of conflicting information and last-minute changes on school reopening, particularly the announcement earlier this week by Mayor Bill de Blasio to delay the start of the school year to Sept. 21, just 10 days before school buildings were scheduled to open.

The mayor has faced resistance from some educators and politicians in his bid to reopen classrooms, but has said he is determined to bring children back into school buildings, even for one to three days a week, to support the city’s overwhelmingly Black, Latino and low-income student body.

Nearly 40 percent of parents have opted to have their children learn virtually through at least the first few months of the school year. That number, which could grow before the start of classes, reflects the deep divide among the city’s families about how to approach in-person learning.

In interviews, some parents said that remote learning in the spring had been a complete failure for their children, and that they were desperate to get them into schools as soon as possible. Others said there were simply too many unknowns about the coronavirus to reassure them that school buildings would be safe. And some said they were still grappling with whether they should send their children back or not.

In Queens, Adriana Aviles has been holding dress rehearsals for the first day of school. Her three children wear face masks at home all day, every other day, to practice for when they return to school buildings in a few weeks.

Ms. Aviles says her children cannot wait to go back to school, and she is frustrated by the recent delay.

“We’ll get some normalcy hopefully, and God willing we’ll be OK,” she said of the return to school. “We practiced what we need to practice.”

German health authorities are considering shortening quarantine periods for those who have been in contact with patients testing positive for Covid-19 or those returning from high-risk countries to five days from 14 days currently.

“I think it is very sensible to limit the quarantine period to five days,” Karl Lauterbach, a lawmaker with the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Die Welt, a daily publication.

From her East Village walk-up, Jessica Fine used to take the subway to her job as a physician assistant on the Upper East Side. When the pandemic began, she switched to Citi Bike for the three-mile commute.

Now she has plans to move, so she can avoid the subway for good.

In the spring, she and her fiancé started hunting for a co-op to buy. “Proximity to work is a big factor for me,” said Ms. Fine, 29. “We are looking in the radius where I can bike or walk to work. I work in a hospital, so I will never be working from home.”

Many New Yorkers cannot avoid a lengthy subway or bus ride because they commute to jobs in Manhattan from other boroughs. But until this year, said Ryan Aussem, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens, most of his buyers were generally content with a 20-minute subway commute.

“Now, it’s: Let’s make that a 15-minute walk,” he said. “You have people who are really focusing on a long-term play in their life, where they are altering their transportation situation so they can have a safer, or what is perceived as safer, way to get to work.”

Reporting was contributed by Geneva Abdul, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Alan Blinder, Emma Bubola, Aurelien Breeden, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Joyce Cohen, Choe Sang-hun, Michael Gold, Rebecca Halleck, Mike Ives, Isabel Kershner, Sharon LaFraniere, Richard C. Paddock, Gaia Pianigiani, Eduardo Porter, Monika Pronczuk, Campbell Robertson, Eliza Shapiro, Christopher F. Schuetze, Katie Thomas, Tracey Tully, Julie Turkewitz, Noah Weiland, Will Wright, Jin Wu, Katherine J. Wu and Carl Zimmer.

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