The New York Times - USA (2020-10-16)

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THE NEW YORK TIMES, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2020 Y A


Tracking an OutbreakHigh-Profile Patients


Chris Christie, the former New
Jersey governor who was re-
cently battling a coronavirus in-
fection, said on Thursday that he
was “wrong” not to wear a mask
at an event honoring Judge Amy
Coney Barrett and in his debate
preparation sessions with Presi-
dent Trump, and that people
should take the threat of the virus
seriously.
In an interview with The New
York Times and in a written state-
ment, Mr. Christie said that he had
believed he was in a “safe zone” at
the White House while he was
there. He urged people to follow
best practices, like mask wearing
and social distancing, but argued
there’s a middle ground between
extensive, large-scale shutdowns
and reopening cities and states
without taking proper precau-
tions.
Mr. Christie said he had spent
days in the intensive care unit of
the Morristown Medical Center in
New Jersey, after taking himself
there on Oct. 3 at the insistence of
his doctor. Mr. Christie, who was
at high risk for negative effects of
the coronavirus because of his
weight and because he is an asth-
matic, was one of several people
around Mr. Trump, who on Oct. 2
announced that he had tested pos-
itive, to contract the virus.
Mr. Christie had led Mr. Trump’s
debate preparation sessions, and
attended the Sept. 26 event hon-
oring Ms. Barrett, the president’s
nominee for the Supreme Court, in
the Rose Garden. White House of-
ficials are looking at that event as
a cause of the spread of the virus
to more than a dozen people.
“I believed when I entered the
White House grounds, that I had
entered a safe zone, due to the
testing that I and many others un-
derwent every day,” Mr. Christie
said in the statement. “I was
wrong. I was wrong not to wear a
mask at the Amy Coney Barrett
announcement and I was wrong
not to wear a mask at my multiple
debate prep sessions with the
president and the rest of the
team.”
“I hope that my experience
shows my fellow citizens that you
should follow C.D.C. guidelines in
public no matter where you are
and wear a mask to protect your-
self and others,” he said.
Unlike Mr. Trump, who has pos-
ited that he feels like “Superman”


and left the hospital as quickly as
possible, Mr. Christie said the vi-
rus is “something to take very se-
riously. The ramifications are
wildly random and potentially
deadly.”
Mr. Christie was released from
the hospital on Oct. 10, and has
now been cleared to have regular
contact with others, he said. He
was treated with a combination of
blood thinners, the Ebola drug
remdesivir and an experimental
antibody cocktail produced by Eli
Lilly. That drug trial was recently

paused over safety concerns.
He said that he still suffers from
fatigue, but nowhere near the lev-
els he did when he was first sick.
In the interview, Mr. Christie
did not directly fault Mr. Trump,
who has been dismissive about
mask wearing and said catching
the virus was “a blessing from
God” after being released from
Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center. Mr. Christie did
say he had a false sense of safety
by the fact that everyone around
the president was required to be
tested each day, including every-
one in the debate sessions.
“I don’t know who infected me
and I don’t know how frequently
he was tested,” he said of Mr.

Trump. While aides have left the
impression publicly that Mr.
Trump was tested daily, the presi-
dent himself has acknowledged he
was not.
Mr. Christie said that even at
the event for Ms. Barrett on Sept.
26, “I was put in the third row, and
what they told us was that every-
body in the first three rows had
been tested that day and tested
negative.”
“I shouldn’t have relied on that,”
he said.
Local health officials where Mr.
Christie lives in New Jersey called
him for contact-tracing purposes,
but he said he has never heard
from the White House for such a
thing.
Extensive shutdowns in the
early weeks of the virus made
sense, Mr. Christie said. But he ar-
gued that a lot has been learned
since then, and that what comes
next requires leveling with the
public about concerns while al-
lowing reopenings as long as
measures like mask wearing, so-
cial distancing and hand washing
are followed.
“I believe we have not treated
Americans as adults, who under-
stand truth, sacrifice and respon-
sibility that I know them to be,” he
said in the statement, suggesting
there’s a path forward. He de-
scribed the responses to the virus
as “governed by our two dominant
political and media extremes:
those who believe there is nothing
to this virus and those alarmists
who would continue to close down
our country and not trust the com-
mon sense of the American peo-
ple. Both are wrong.”

URGING CAUTION


Christie Says He Should Have Worn


Masks During Visits to White House


By MAGGIE HABERMAN

Chris Christie said he had believed he was in a “safe zone” while
helping President Trump prepare for the debate held last month.

AL DRAGO FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

‘I was wrong,’ he said.


‘I don’t know who


infected me.’


After receiving a heavy infusion
of monoclonal antibodies to treat
his bout of Covid-19, President
Trump has declared that he is im-
mune to the virus that causes it
and talked privately about wear-
ing a Superman T-shirt under his
dress shirt when he left the hospi-
tal.
Even as the president has ex-
ulted in his supposed impervious-
ness to the coronavirus that is re-
surging across parts of the coun-
try, he has delighted in portraying
former Vice President Joseph R.
Biden Jr. as vulnerable and clois-
tered, wearing masks “every time
you see him.”
But even if the president were
now immune to the coronavirus,
he may not remain so, scientists
warn. The president’s unique
treatment may have prevented
his body from making the antibod-
ies necessary for long-term pro-
tection.
The monoclonal antibodies he
received were produced by the
drug company Regeneron and
will wane in a matter of weeks, as
the synthetic molecules are
known to do. Without replenish-
ment, this decline may leave Mr.
Trump even more susceptible to
the virus than most patients who
have recovered from Covid-19,
several experts warned.
Moreover, the steroid treatment
the president received early in the
course of his illness suppresses
the body’s natural immune re-
sponse, including its propensity to
make antibodies of its own.
“He may be not protected the
second time around, especially
because he didn’t develop his own
antibodies,” said Akiko Iwasaki,
an immunologist at Yale Univer-
sity.
Most people who are infected
with the coronavirus produce
antibodies to the virus that should
protect them from a second infec-
tion. It’s unclear how long this im-
munity lasts; based on research
into other coronaviruses, immuni-
ty may persist for up to a year, ex-
perts have said.
But Mr. Trump’s case is unique.
He announced his diagnosis
early on Oct. 2, and a test did not
pick up any antibodies in his
blood, according to a report re-
leased by his physician, Dr. Sean
Conley.


The lack of antibodies that early
in the course of illness is not un-
usual. It can take from 10 days to
three weeks for powerful antibod-
ies to surface.
“If he had tested positive, then
we would know for sure that he
has his own antibodies,” said Dr.
Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center
in Boston.
“Since he was antibody-nega-
tive, it is less likely but not ruled
out,” he added. “He could have
been in the early stage of generat-
ing his own antibodies.” (Dr.
Barouch is an investigator for Re-
generon’s trial of the cocktail for

preventing coronavirus infec-
tions.)
On Oct. 2, Mr. Trump received
eight grams of a cocktail of two
monoclonal antibodies made by
Regeneron. These antibodies are
infused into people — like those of
Mr. Trump’s age, sex and weight
— who may struggle to produce
an immune response of their own.
A test on Oct. 5 confirmed the
presence of the antibodies, ac-
cording to Dr. Conley.
But Dr. Barouch noted that “the
antibodies detected in the blood-
stream are not his antibodies.
They’re antibodies that were ad-
ministered. Those antibodies will
wane over time.”
The monoclonal antibodies may
have quickly suppressed the level
of virus in Mr. Trump’s body.
While this may have protected the
president from severe symptoms,
it may also have prevented his im-
mune system from making its
own antibodies.

“If you get the antibodies early
on, and you either prevent or rap-
idly treat infections,” Dr. Barouch
said, “then you probably will actu-
ally inhibit the generation of your
own body’s antibodies.”
Mr. Trump was also treated
with dexamethasone, a steroid
that is known to suppress the im-
mune system. And he received it
much earlier in the course of his
illness than usual.
That also may suppress a pa-
tient’s antibody response, said
Kartik Chandran, a virologist at
Albert Einstein College of Medi-
cine in the Bronx.
“Older people and men are al-
ready less likely to generate it,” he
added, referring to antibodies.
“You add dexamethasone to the
mix and God knows.”
Mr. Trump received a huge dose
of the antibodies, but blood levels
are expected to fall by half be-
tween 21 to 25 days from infusion.
Values in this range “are sufficient
to support monthly dosing,” ac-
cording to information provided
by Regeneron.
The White House did not re-
spond to questions about whether
Mr. Trump intends to take
monthly doses of the cocktail.
Regeneron has said that it has
50,000 doses of the cocktail in
hand, and that it would need to be-
gin rationing the therapy if the
drug were to be widely distribut-
ed.
In a clinical trial, the drug
maker is evaluating whether peo-
ple given the cocktail make their
own antibodies, but has not yet
completed the analysis, according
to a spokeswoman.
Monoclonal antibodies are gen-
erally considered to be safe and ef-
fective, but Regeneron’s cocktail
has not yet been rigorously tested
in clinical trials. A trial of a mono-
clonal antibody made by Eli Lilly
was paused on Tuesday because
of a “safety concern.”
Mr. Trump has endorsed both
treatments and repeatedly de-
clared his immunity to the corona-
virus.
“I’m immune — I could come
down and start kissing every-
body,” he said at a rally on Tues-
day in Jonesboro, Pa. “I’ll kiss ev-
ery guy. Man and woman. Look at
that guy, how handsome he is. I’ll
kiss him. Not with a lot of enjoy-
ment, but that’s OK.”

ANTIBODY PROTECTION


Trump May Be Immune, but Briefly


By APOORVA MANDAVILLI

The president has boasted of
his immunity to the virus, but
experts are wondering how
long the protection may last.

DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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