Candidates Appeal to Seniors, Covid-19 Vaccine Latest, France Imposes Curfews : Up First President Trump and Vice President Joe Biden appeal to seniors for their votes. Pfizer says it won't have data showing its COVID-19 vaccine is safe until late November, weeks after Election Day. France imposes new restrictions in hopes of curbing the pandemic and avoiding another national shutdown.
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Candidates Appeal to Seniors, Covid-19 Vaccine Latest, France Imposes Curfews

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Candidates Appeal to Seniors, Covid-19 Vaccine Latest, France Imposes Curfews

Candidates Appeal to Seniors, Covid-19 Vaccine Latest, France Imposes Curfews

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump and Vice President Biden back on the campaign trail and asking for the senior vote.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Both men are, of course, in their 70s, so they know their audience. But they do have very different messages. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

SIMON: I'm Scott Simon. And this is UP FIRST from NPR News.

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SIMON: Trump tried to connect with the crowd.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I happen to be a senior. I will protect you. I will defend you. And I will fight for you with every ounce of energy and conviction that I have.

(APPLAUSE)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: While Biden spoke to those who feel the pain of these divisive times.

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JOE BIDEN: Instead of healing, we're being ripped apart. I refuse to let that happen.

SIMON: America waits for a vaccine, but who will take it?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So stay with us. We'll have the news you need to start your weekend.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump and Joe Biden are making last-minute pitches to seniors. Trump campaigned yesterday in Florida and Georgia. Biden was in Michigan. Nearly 1 in 4 voters are over 65 this election. And that makes them pretty crucial to the candidates.

SIMON: For the president, that means trying to show a more empathetic side when he talks about the pandemic. He's earned poor marks for how he's handled it. But after recovering from COVID-19 himself and with time limited until Election Day, he's trying out a new approach. White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe joins us. Thanks for being with us, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: With some questions about the president's own health still in the air, he was in Florida with a group of seniors. And, of course, we will note, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are 65 and older account for 8 out of 10 COVID deaths in the United States. So this age group has been hit especially hard. What did you notice in the president's message yesterday, Ayesha?

RASCOE: You know, he's been reluctant to talk about people being hurt by the pandemic. For all these months, Trump's tried to deliver what he calls a more optimistic message to be this cheerleader for the country. But on Friday, he had prepared remarks, and he actually stuck to them where he spoke directly or mostly stuck to them, where he spoke directly to seniors, saying they've been hurt the most and isolated the most.

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TRUMP: My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one. I feel their anguish, and I mourn their loss. I feel their pain. I know that the terrible pain that they have gone through when you lose someone - and there's nothing to describe what you have to bear. There's nothing to describe it.

RASCOE: This is the more disciplined and empathetic message that we have not heard from Trump consistently. You know, everyone remembers that Axios interview where he said it is what it is about COVID deaths. He was still putting a happy face on everything about treatments and vaccines, but it was a definite shift with a group that his campaign is struggling to win over. He's struggling to win over seniors. He's basically tied with Joe Biden in Florida, and he will have a hard time winning the state and the election unless he makes this case.

SIMON: And the president did two rallies after that somber speech. Did he did he stay with that tone and that message?

RASCOE: No. He was back to, you know, regularly scheduled programming. You know, he's bragging that things are turning around soon, that he recovered, that his teenage son, Barron, had the coronavirus and was barely affected. You know, he even brought up his aide Hope Hicks on stage. She was one of, you know, the many people at the White House who became sick earlier this month with the coronavirus. He was kind of showing off that they had both recovered. And this is the message that really drowns out the earlier message that he was giving and leaves an opening for Biden, who has made Trump's response to the coronavirus the centerpiece of his argument, you know, to vote him out. Here's Biden yesterday in Michigan.

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BIDEN: Americans don't panic. Donald Trump panicked. That's who panicked.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And as a consequence of his overwhelming lying, negligence and irresponsible action, how many empty chairs around the kitchen table this morning, the dining room table last night? How many?

RASCOE: Biden really hammered this point across at his events yesterday. And this is what he's been saying when he's, you know, talking to voters.

SIMON: Ayesha, Election Day just over two weeks away - where are the campaigns focusing their energy?

RASCOE: Trump is on this jam-packed schedule. He's back, you know, to crowded rallies with, you know, some in the audience wearing masks, still many without. He'll do rallies today in Michigan and Wisconsin, then fly to Nevada. He'll do rallies in Nevada on Sunday and Arizona on Monday. Then it's back to Pennsylvania and North Carolina. You know, these are all states that could help him find what may be a narrow path to victory.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is going to get some help on the trail next week from former President Obama. Biden will campaign in Pennsylvania next week. He's been keeping his rallies smaller and more socially distant. Yesterday's rally was a car rally. And then the two candidates will meet in Nashville on Thursday for the final debate.

SIMON: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, thanks very much for being with us.

RASCOE: Thank you.

SIMON: And for more on the presidential campaign, where Trump and Biden are going, what they're promising to do, you can subscribe to the NPR Politics Podcast.

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SIMON: As part of President Trump's appeal to seniors, yesterday he announced a plan to get a future coronavirus vaccine to nursing home residents for free.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Biden had earlier called for a vaccine to be distributed for free to all Americans. But let's be clear - no vaccine has yet received approval, though a few are in the final stages of their clinical trials. Several setbacks this week could delay approval until late November. That's after the election. For more, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris joins us now. Welcome.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as we heard there, the candidates are making their cases to seniors. Yesterday, President Trump went so far as to say seniors would be the first to get a vaccine. How does that track with what we know about eventual distribution?

HARRIS: Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is waiting until a vaccine is actually in hand to decide who gets it first because the different products in the works may actually work differently in different populations. But they have a set of principles that they're working from, and there is no principle about appealing to voters. If they follow the advice from the National Academies, the first vaccines will go to high-risk health workers first and first responders, then to people with serious underlying conditions and then people in risky housing, like nursing homes. Healthy older adults come in the next phase under the Academies' rubric.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, so what is the latest on when we might have a vaccine, which is just something everyone's waiting for?

HARRIS: Right. And that's hard to say. The events of this past week underscore that manufacturers and regulators are taking steps to assure the public that they aren't cutting corners on safety or cutting time to get to those. We saw that on Monday when Johnson & Johnson said it was pausing enrollment in a study after one participant came down with an unexplained illness. Now, this is not uncommon in studies of this nature. And, in fact, we don't even know if the person who got sick actually received the vaccine or was in the placebo group. And sorting out safety questions is critical for a product that could be given to hundreds of millions of healthy people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And one vaccine maker, Pfizer, has been saying it might have results of its study in October. Is that still on track?

HARRIS: Well, yes and no. Pfizer says it still might know before the end of the month whether the vaccine it's developing can effectively prevent COVID-19. But Friday, the company announced that it won't have the safety data before the third week in November, and it needs that data before it can apply to the FDA for emergency use authorization. Now, this was the apparent front-runner for a vaccine, so that helps flesh out what a timeline could be. Of course, we don't know how long it will take the FDA to review all of the data it receives, but that probably pushes the first approval into December or beyond, assuming, of course, that the vaccines that are now under development appear to be safe and effective.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So NPR and others have run polls which find that about half of the U.S. population says they might not get the COVID vaccine. So what good is a vaccine if it's not widely used?

HARRIS: Well, you need a lot of people to take a vaccine, especially if the vaccine itself is only partially effective, which seems likely in this case. But this is a really big issue, Lulu, and it's one reason both the vaccine makers and public health officials are doing what they can to reassure the public that the process that they're in right now is driven by science, not politics. Now that it appears nothing can happen before the election, that could take off some of the political pressure. And I expect, you know, we'll see more of this public reassurance next week 'cause the Food and Drug Administration is holding an advisory committee meeting to talk about vaccine testing and development. One of the big messages here is that the FDA is setting up the rules in advance and letting the public know exactly what they are so we can judge for ourselves when they take an action whether they're following those preestablished rules.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, finally, there was news this week about the experimental drug remdesivir that President Trump has given.

HARRIS: Right. The big news came on Thursday evening when the World Health Organization announced that it had completed a very large study and found no evidence that remdesivir works. Now, that drug is one of the few medications in use. A study in the U.S. previously concluded that it does shorten hospital stays for some patients, though it hasn't been shown in any study that I know of to save lives. So this set up a conflict between the drug company Gilead Sciences and the WHO over whose study should be believed.

Now, the drug is currently available in the United States, and the FDA will eventually have to weigh in on this new data and decide whether to change that stance. But I don't expect we'll hear about that right away.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR science correspondent Richard Harris breaking it down. Thanks so much.

HARRIS: Happy to be with you.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: And staying with the pandemic, tonight, the French capital, Paris, will be under curfew, along with eight other cities in France.

SIMON: It's part of the government's attempts to try to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus there while trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown and its damaging effect on the economy. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley joins us from Paris. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It's good to be with you guys.

SIMON: And tell us about this curfew. People just simply are forbidden from leaving their homes?

BEARDSLEY: That's correct. Starting tonight at 9 p.m., you've got to be home until 6 a.m. the next day. Twenty million people will be affected by these curfews. They're also in other big towns like Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse for four and possibly six more weeks. You know, authorities are desperate to stop the spread of this virus. And they say it's been happening mostly at night, when people let their guard down, so they're targeting young partiers. It seems extreme, but it's to avoid a more extreme method that would be a nationwide lockdown.

SIMON: And remind us of the circumstances the government was looking at that led them to mandate this.

BEARDSLEY: Well, Scott, the spread of the virus - it's exploding. We had 30,000 cases in the last 24 hours. That's double from two weeks ago. The rate is now 278 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It's tripled in the age 65 and over group. And the head of Paris' hospital system says intensive care units are going to be full of COVID patients by next week.

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, Eleanor, people in Paris don't like to be cooped up. How are the French people receiving this?

BEARDSLEY: Well, actually, two-thirds of the French support these measures. And they are drastic, but people support it. I was out last night talking to some young women at a cafe - maybe one of their last times out having drinks. And Alexandrine Vigae (ph) and Lauren Galloudec (ph) told me how they feel about it. Here they are.

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ALEXANDRINE VIGAE: I'm 23. I'm about to be 24. And I feel like it's happening at a time when I have to get my life together.

BEARDSLEY: Very forcefully.

VIGAE: But very forcefully. So it's really interesting because I feel like I would have to gradually do this process anyway. But now it's, like, really, really fast. So it's kind of sad. But I guess it's OK. I would do it because it's a pandemic. So I guess we have to.

LAUREN GALLOUDEC: I think it's just frustrating because it's lasting a very long time. But I realize that it's necessary, and we all need to make an effort to make a difference.

SIMON: And, Eleanor, tell us what's happening in the rest of Europe, please.

BEARDSLEY: Well, in Britain, the virus is also spreading very rapidly. And the highest rates, again, are among older teenagers and young adults. Starting today, households in London can no longer mix. And in Northern Ireland, they're shutting pubs and restaurants for the next four weeks.

In Spain, the capital of Madrid is under a state of emergency and confinement, along with nine other municipalities. And in Germany, it's rising fast, though it is slower than elsewhere. Still, Angela Merkel, chancellor, is worried, and she's gotten Germany's 16 governors to agree to tighter measures if it does reach a certain point.

SIMON: Eleanor, how does Europe feel today as opposed to just a few weeks ago?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Scott, I can tell you, from this summer, it's like night and day. This summer, you know, Europeans had taken their precautions. They wore their masks. They did their confining. And people were on vacation while, you know, the U.S. was still a mess. Everything has changed now. It feels like this vice is tightening its grip. And everything feels confining and, I have to say, quite grim.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thanks so much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's UP FIRST for Saturday, October 17. I am Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

SIMON: I'm Scott Simon. UP FIRST is back Monday with news to start your week. In the meantime, you can follow us on social media. We're @UpFirst on Twitter. Keep an ear on this feed for occasional special episodes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We've got more on the presidential race and the latest on vaccines on the air. But we're also on the trail of the elusive murder hornets and some not-so-scary movies for Halloween, all on Weekend Edition.

SIMON: That's right - every Saturday and every Sunday morning. Find your NPR station at stations.npr.org.

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