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Thousands are signing up to be deliberately exposed to the virus

As most of us obsess with avoiding Covid-19 at all costs, a rapidly growing group of people around the world say they are prepared to deliberately take on the virus.



a couple of people posing for the camera: Alastair Fraser-Urquhart and Estefania Hidalgo


© CNN
Alastair Fraser-Urquhart and Estefania Hidalgo

Tens of thousands of people have signed up to a campaign by a group called 1 Day Sooner to take an experimental vaccine candidate and then face coronavirus in a controlled setting.

Among them is Estefania Hidalgo, 32, a photography student in Bristol, England, who works at a gas station to pay the bills.

“I do night shifts there, and it can be very lonely,” she recalled on a sunny day near her home. Passing those long lockdown hours with just podcasts to keep her company, she describes discovering the challenge trial movement — and hearing volunteers’ motivations — as a revelatory moment.

“I was shaken,” she said. “No one should be left behind. Old people, poor people, people of color. Everyone just deserves to be healthy.”



a group of people sitting at a table: Andrew Fraser-Urquhart (right) says that human challenge trials are "something slightly different," and so it's no surprise that his son was interested.


© Cristiana Moisescu/CNN
Andrew Fraser-Urquhart (right) says that human challenge trials are “something slightly different,” and so it’s no surprise that his son was interested.

“This was a way for me to take back control of the situation, to feel like I was in a less hopeless place, and a less hopeless world, and be like, OK, I can do this. To make it better, I chose not to be in fear.”



a man standing in front of a window: Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, has deferred starting university for a year to volunteer for the challenge trial.


© Cristiana Moisescu/CNN
Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, has deferred starting university for a year to volunteer for the challenge trial.

So-called human challenge trials, while sometimes controversial, are nothing new. They have been used for cholera, typhoid, malaria, and even the common cold. But unlike for those diseases, we do not yet have a completely effective treatment for Covid-19, should the experimental vaccine fail.

Volunteers in challenge trials are typically compensated for their time and participation, experts say, but organizers must be careful not to pay an amount that could edge on coercive.

Critics also say that challenge trials have limited use because the young, healthy people who take part don’t represent the broader population.

As of last month, however, the UK government said that it is in active conversations to collaborate on such a trial, which would be the first in the world for coronavirus.

Already, several big vaccine developers — among them AstraZeneca, Sanofi and BioNTech — have said that they have no interest in participating. Eleven vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials, in which tens of thousands of people are given a vaccine candidate, released to live their everyday lives, and then monitored to see whether they contract Covid-19.



a woman and a dog sitting in the grass: Estefania Hidalgo, 32, near her home in Bristol, UK.


© Mick Krever/CNN
Estefania Hidalgo, 32, near her home in Bristol, UK.

“It’s not clear that necessarily the first vaccines to be evaluated are going to be the best vaccines,” said Peter Smith of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “I think there’s a very strong case for exploring challenge trials to evaluate vaccines for a large number of

Thousands of farmed minks have died from COVID-19 in Utah

Nearly 10,000 minks have died across several farms in Utah due to COVID-19 in a matter of weeks, a state official said.

State veterinarian Dean Taylor told NBC News that the deaths have been spread across nine mink farms in Utah over just two weeks.

While the official noted “research indicates there hasn’t been a spread from minks to humans,” he said that the minks suffered from respiratory issues, which have also been reported among humans. 

“Minks show open mouth breathing, discharge from their eyes and nose, and are not sick for several days before they pass away. They typically die within the next day,” he told the network.

He also said that older animals have proven to be more vulnerable to the disease.

Taylor told NBC News that the illness has been “wiping out 50 percent of the breeding colonies.”

He said the country first started seeing minks return positive results for the coronavirus back in August. The discovery, Taylor said, came after several workers were diagnosed with the virus.

Taylor told the network that the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other federal agencies, are working to mitigate the outbreak.

“Once final testing is done, we’re going to create a state plan to stop this virus from spreading to more farms,” he said. 

“It’s far easier to prevent it from happening, then stopping it from happening all at once,” he added.

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Thousands of minks die from Covid-19 in Utah farms

Thousands of farmed minks in Utah have died of Covid-19, forcing affected sites to quarantine as the state veterinarian investigates the outbreak.

Nearly 10,000 minks — creatures known for their luxurious, silky pelts — have died in the past two weeks at nine fur farms in Utah, as of Friday morning, Dean Taylor, state veterinarian, told NBC News.

The virus was discovered among the animals in the U.S. earlier in August, shortly after ranch workers tested positive, he said.

Taylor said that while research suggests people with Covid-19 can infect animals, transmission the other way around is “considered low.”

“All of the research indicates there hasn’t been a spread from minks to humans,” Taylor said.

Like humans with Covid-19, the most common symptom for infected minks has been respiratory distress, he said.

“Minks show open mouth breathing, discharge from their eyes and nose, and are not sick for several days before they pass away,” Taylor said. “They typically die within the next day.”

Taylor added that the virus has predominantly targeted older minks, “wiping out 50 percent of the breeding colonies,” while leaving the younger ones unscathed.

Minks join a list of more than 50 animals, including cats, dogs, tigers, and lions, who have contracted Covid-19 in the U.S., according to Department of Agriculture data.

The creatures were discovered to have been susceptible to the new coronavirus after outbreaks were detected in the Netherlands, according to the USDA.

The initial discovery was followed by outbreaks from Spain and Denmark, leading the countries to kill more than 1 million farmed minks as a precaution, The Associated Press reported.

No animals have been put down because of the outbreak, Taylor said.

He said he was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA, and Wildlife Services to provide more protective equipment and adequate training to mink farmworkers to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Once final testing is done, we’re going to create a state plan to stop this virus from spreading to more farms,” Taylor said. “It’s far easier to prevent it from happening, then stopping it from happening all at once.”

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