Covid-19 Global Live Updates: AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

Here’s what you need to know:





Fauci warns that new viral mutations are a “red flag.”

On Friday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci warned that new variants of the virus should be a warning of the continued risk of a pandemic, despite the global spread of the vaccine.

We all know the propagation that we knew was dominant – B.1.1.7 in the UK, B.1.351 in South Africa and other variants such as P.1 in Brazil. When these variants were first identified, it became clear that we needed to investigate in vitro whether antibodies induced by existing vaccines would actually neutralize these new mutants. Antigenic variations, mutations that lead to different genera, have clinical implications because, you see, even though the long-term effect in terms of severe disease is still pretty well controlled by vaccines, it is an alarming signal to all of us that if the virus uses its tools to escape pressure, particularly immunological pressure, we will continue to see mutants continue to develop. That means that we, as a government, as a business, all of us together have to be prepared to adapt easily to make versions of the vaccine that actually target the mutation that is prevalent at any given time.

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On Friday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci warned that new variants of the virus, despite the global spread of the vaccine, should be a wake-up call about the continuing dangers of a pandemic.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci warned Friday that the results of a new Johnson & Johnson clinical trial showing that its vaccine is less effective against a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus circulating in South Africa are a “red flag.” He said the virus will continue to mutate and vaccine manufacturers “need to be able to adapt quickly” to reformulate vaccines if necessary.

Dr. Fauci’s warning during the White House briefing on the virus comes at a time of growing concern about new, more contagious variants of the virus emerging abroad and popping up in the United States. This week, officials in South Carolina reported that they have discovered two cases of the variant circulating in South Africa, and officials in Minnesota announced that they have discovered a case of the variant first detected in Brazil.

Dr. Rochelle Walenski, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who also attended the briefing, said another variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has now been confirmed in 379 cases in 29 states. She said officials remain concerned about these variants and are “rapidly stepping up surveillance and sequencing activities” to keep a close eye on them. Unlike the UK, little genomic sequencing is done in the US to track the spread of these variants.

Dr. Walenski also urged Americans to continue to wear masks, maintain social distance and avoid travel. Earlier this month, the C.D.C. warned that the variant circulating in Britain could become the dominant source of infection in the United States, likely leading to increased morbidity and mortality that could overwhelm hospitals. And given the rate at which this variant has spread in that country, it is conceivable that it could cause the majority of infections in the United States by April.

“Until someone has no symptoms, gets tested, is found positive and has consistent results, our ability to monitor actual cases and track contacts largely disappears,” she said, “we have to treat each case as if it were an option at this time during this pandemic.

Friday’s briefing, the second of what the Biden White House promised would be a three-week update on the pandemic, came just hours after Johnson & Johnson announced that while its vaccine was 72 percent effective in the United States, it was only 57 percent effective in South Africa, where the variant has spread.

Health officials, including Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walenski, say the emergence of these options increases the urgency of vaccination. Dr. Fauci also said Friday that children under 16 who are not currently eligible for vaccination will likely be vaccinated “in late spring or early summer,” when small clinical trials show it is safe and effective.

He pointed out that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is 85% effective against serious diseases and described the results as “very encouraging,” even though the vaccine is not as effective as those of Pfizer and Moderna, which have received urgent approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Johnson & Johnson will now apply for its own emergency approval.

“This tells us that we now have a candidate for an additional vaccine,” he said.

But Dr. Walenski made a much more sobering observation. Although the daily number of new cases of the virus is declining, the numbers are still much higher than last summer, and the number of deaths is still worrying at this time.

According to the New York Times, the number of new cases of the virus has risen in recent days to an average of 160,000 per day, up from about 40,000 new cases per day in early September. On Thursday, the seven-day average of new deaths was more than 3,200 per day, which is still close to the peak. The number of daily deaths in the United States has already exceeded 4,000 six times, including twice this week.

At a Wednesday briefing of Biden’s virus team, Jeffrey D. Zients, coordinator of Biden’s response to coronaviruses, said the United States was far behind other countries in sequencing new variant genomes, a delay he called “completely unacceptable.” Dr. Walenski said she was working to change that.

“We’ve expanded surveillance significantly in the last 10 days, really, but our plans are more than we’ve done so far,” Dr. Walenski said, adding that the CDC now requires each state to track alarming variability and consistency in at least 750 patient samples each week. In addition, she added, the agency is working with universities in seven areas to expand the monitoring to thousands of samples per week.

United States of America United States. January 28. 14 day invoice
New business 165,264 –34%  
New deaths 3,868 –2%  
The World January 28. 14 day invoice
New business 603,392 –22%  
New deaths 16,817 +4%  

American Vaccinations

Where states are reporting vaccines given





The EU plans to suspend vaccine exports pending the conclusion of supply contracts.

The European Union has announced a plan that will effectively prevent AstraZeneca from shipping doses of the bulk-produced vaccine Covid-19 to other countries until EU supply contracts are met.

The Commission has approved a strictly targeted measure aimed at collecting accurate information on the production of vaccines and on where manufacturers intend to deliver them. This measure is time-limited and applies specifically to Covid 19 vaccines agreed under interim purchase contracts. It is expected that the measure will be in effect by the end of March. The goal is to immediately give us the full transparency that is lacking and that Europeans expect. And, if necessary, it will also give us a tool to ensure the supply of vaccines.

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The European Union has announced a plan that would effectively prevent AstraZeneca from supplying doses of Covid-19 vaccine from the block to other countries until U.S. supply contracts are honored ….s Dinuka Liyanawatt/Reuters

BRUSSELS – The European Union announced Friday that it intends to halt all attempts by AstraZeneca to transfer doses of vaccines produced in the Union to other countries if AstraZeneca does not first fulfill its supply obligations to the 27 members of the Union.

The decision, the latest escalation in a dispute between the bloc and a pharmaceutical company over reduced supplies, comes after the European Union’s medicines regulator allowed the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in all member states.

AstraZeneca said this month that it would reduce its promise to supply syringes to the European Union starting in mid-February. This pitted the bloc against Britain, a former member that has received a steady stream of vaccine doses from AstraZeneca since its approval in early December, long before the EU.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was developed in collaboration with Britain’s Oxford University. The European Union has accused the pharmaceutical company of using the promised doses to serve Britain, even though it paid the company about $400 million in October to help it expand its capacity to produce the doses before they are approved.

The policy, announced by the European Commission on Friday and presented as a “transparency tool,” will require all pharmaceutical companies producing coronavirus vaccines at plants in the bloc – currently Pfizer and AstraZeneca – to submit documents to notify European authorities of any intention to transfer their products to third countries. It will apply until the end of March and will not cover exports to the poorest countries.

The Commission stated that it reserves the right to block these exports if it finds that pharmaceutical companies are not fulfilling their contractual obligations with the EU.

In theory, the measure could also affect Pfizer’s customers, but the Commission said it was satisfied with the way the company had handled supply disruptions at its Belgian plant that were hampering supplies. The company extended this pain to its customers, which included the EU, the UK and Canada.

It said that AstraZeneca’s decision to maintain supplies to the UK and reduce supplies to the EU due to the problem at the Belgian plant was in bad faith and a breach of the company’s contractual obligations.

The company’s CEO replied that he regretted the situation, but that his company had not committed to a specific timetable, but had promised to “make every effort.”

The Commission rejected the request and published a heavily redacted version of the contract with AstraZeneca. The contract provides the company with many standard guarantees in the event of a supply failure, but contains certain clauses that could be seen as supporting the EU’s position that AstraZeneca is obliged to look to other plants, including those in the UK, to meet its supply promises.

The issue is further complicated by regulatory issues: the European Medicines Association, Europe’s medicines regulator, received AstraZeneca’s application for a marketing authorization on January 12, nearly two weeks after the company received an emergency authorization in the UK. The EU authority was expected to announce approval of the vaccine later on Friday.

The dispute with AstraZeneca comes at a time when vaccine centers across Europe are facing an acute shortage of vaccine doses. The French and German regions report that they are near exhaustion, and the Spanish region of Madrid has suspended operations for at least two weeks until new supplies arrive.

The European regulator has not imposed an age restriction on the use of the vaccine, despite concerns about insufficient data on its efficacy in people older than 65.





A dinner at N.Y.C. at the reopening for Valentine’s Day.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that indoor restaurants in New York City will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent starting on Valentine’s Day.

In New York City, on our current itinerary, we can open 25% more restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants need some time to inform employees. They can prepare an internal dinner, order supplies, etc. So these are internal dinners. 25% on Valentine’s Day. We are very excited to open test restaurants again in the future. The restaurants will be open on Valentine’s Day. You can make reservations now or host a Valentine’s dinner and propose on Valentine’s Day. And then you can host a wedding reception on March 15 for up to 150 people. People will really come to your wedding because you can tell them through testing that it will be safe. Everyone will be tested and everyone will be safe.

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The Andrew M. Cuomo administration announced Friday that restaurants in New York City will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent starting on Valentine’s Day. CreditCredit … Clay Williams for the New York Times.

Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that restaurants in New York City will reopen with limited capacity next month, more than a month after he banned them to combat the second wave of the coronavirus.

As of Feb. 14, he said, restaurants in the city will be able to accommodate customers inside at 25 percent of their maximum capacity.

The announcement brought hope to the restaurant industry, a key driver of the city’s economy that has been disrupted by evolving virus-related restrictions that have put many restaurants and bars out of business and put thousands of workers out of work.

After closing the restaurants in March, Mr. Cuomo authorized the reopening of the city’s restaurants in late September. In mid-December, he banned them again because vacation travel threatened to increase transfers and flood hospitals.

Restaurants and bars struggling to keep their heads above water rely on takeout and deliveries, as well as outdoor dining, which is becoming increasingly unacceptable as the winter chill approaches.

Starting March 15, wedding receptions with up to 150 people will be allowed in the state, the governor said, as long as the capacity of wedding venues does not exceed 50%. Wedding receptions must be approved in advance by the local health department and all attendees must be screened.

“We want to use testing as the key to a restart,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s decisions come at an incredibly dangerous time in the state’s fight against a virus that has killed more than 42,500 people in New York State, the center of a one-time pandemic.

Yankee Stadium will be opened as a mass vaccination site, Cuomo said, referring to the high rates of HIV infection in the Bronx. He did not give a timeline.

Participating in a Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial at the Desmond Tutu H.I.V. Foundation Youth Center near Cape Town last month.

Participants in a Johnson & Johnson vaccination trial at the Desmond Tutu H.I.V. Foundation Youth Centre near Cape Town last month. The credit … Joao Silva/The New York Times

Johnson & Johnson said Friday that its coronavirus vaccine provides strong protection against Covid-19 in a single dose, giving the United States a third powerful tool in the race against the global increase in viral mutations.

But there was a catch: the vaccine’s efficacy dropped from 72% in the United States to 57% in South Africa, where the highly infectious variant is most common. Studies show that this variant also reduces the efficacy of the Covid vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax.

This variant has spread to at least 31 countries, including two cases documented in the United States this week.

Johnson & Johnson said it plans to submit an emergency license application for its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration as early as next week, which could allow it to obtain the license later in February.

“This is a pandemic vaccine that can make a difference with just one dose,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, the company’s scientific director.

The company announced that the Biden administration is pressing to speed up the vaccination of Americans as vaccine supplies run out. White House officials are counting on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to ease the shortage. But according to federal health officials familiar with its production, the company may receive only seven million doses of the vaccine, and no more than 32 million by early April.

A variant from South Africa, known as B.1.351, could make the vaccine more resistant. Given the rapid spread of this variant in the country, it is conceivable that by April it could cause a significant proportion of infections in the United States, undermining the effectiveness of existing vaccines.

Two U.S. government-approved vaccines have proven less effective in clinical trials against variant B.1.351, a development that has infuriated federal officials and immunization experts.

Many researchers talk about the need to vaccinate people as early as possible. By lowering the infection rate, the more infectious variants can be neutralized while they are still rare.

“If there was a reason to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible with the vaccine that we have now, this is the time,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, government infectious disease director. “Because the fewer people who become infected, the less likely it is that this mutation will spread.”

A pregnant woman being vaccinated in Tel Aviv. 

A pregnant woman is vaccinated in Tel Aviv. Credit…Jack Gez/ Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

On Friday, the World Health Organization changed its guidelines for pregnant women considering vaccination against Covid 19, dropping the objections to vaccination for most pregnant women unless they are in a high-risk group.

This change follows a reference to the W.H.O.’s previous position, which stated that the organization “does not recommend vaccinating pregnant women” with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

On Thursday, several experts expressed disappointment with the W.H.O.’s earlier position, saying it conflicted with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and would be confusing to pregnant women looking for clear advice.

While Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines have not been tested on pregnant women, they have shown no adverse effects in animal studies. And the technology used in the vaccines is known to be safe, according to experts.

The new W.M.H. rate reflects this information:

“Based on what we know about this type of vaccine, we have no particular reason to believe that there are specific risks that outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.” The recommendation is now closely aligned with the CDC’s position.

Experts welcomed this change and were pleased that the world’s leading health organizations agree on this important issue.

“I was very pleased to see that WHO has changed its guidelines to offer the Covid 19 vaccine to pregnant women,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, an obstetrician at Emory University and member of the Covid Expert Group of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The association is one of several women’s health organizations that have called on Pfizer and Moderna to accelerate vaccine testing in pregnant women.

“WHO’s more lenient language offers pregnant women an important opportunity to get vaccinated and protect themselves from the serious risks of Covid-19,” Dr. Jamieson said. “This impressive and swift review by WHO is good news for pregnant women and their babies.”

Pregnant women have traditionally been excluded from clinical trials, so there is a lack of scientific evidence about the safety of drugs and vaccines for women and their unborn children. Vaccines are generally considered safe, and since the 1960s pregnant women have been strongly advised to be vaccinated against influenza and other diseases, even though there are no rigorous clinical trials to test them.

Pfizer will test its vaccine on pregnant women in the coming months, a company spokesman said. And Moderna plans to set up a registry to monitor adverse reactions in women vaccinated with its vaccine.

Border police at the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

Border police at Frankfurt International Airport, Germany.Credit…Thomas Lones/Getty Images

Germany on Friday announced plans to restrict the entry of several countries, including Britain and Ireland, to combat the spread of infectious variants of the coronavirus, going beyond the measures recommended by the European Union.

“The goal is to prevent the entry of a highly contagious virus,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Thursday, a day before the federal government approved the restrictions.

Under the new entry ban – which also applies to travelers from Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) – German citizens can return home, but non-Germans living in the affected areas will be denied entry even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Although several known infectious variants have already been discovered in Germany, including variant B.1.1.7 in a Berlin hospital, which had to be closed as a result, health authorities believe they can still prevent the spread and proliferation of new infections.

The change takes effect next weekend and will be in effect at least until February 17. It follows a temporary travel ban on all passengers from the UK and South Africa, which was lifted a few days after it took effect. All secondary travel remains prohibited.

After more than six weeks of strict closures – during which restaurants, bars, non-essential stores and most schools were closed – daytime education in Germany is beginning to pick up. Health authorities reported 14,022 infections in 24 hours on Thursday, almost 4,000 fewer than the previous week.





Canadian airlines suspend flights to the Caribbean and Mexico

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that major airlines have agreed to suspend flights to sunny vacation destinations because of new quarantine measures for the coronavirus.

The government and Canada’s major airlines have agreed to immediately suspend flights to certain destinations. Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat are canceling their flights to all Caribbean and Mexican destinations from this Sunday through April 30. Starting next week, all international passenger flights may only land at the following four airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. In addition to the testing we already require prior to boarding, we will be introducing mandatory P.C.R. testing at the airport for people returning to Canada in the coming weeks. Travelers will then have to wait up to three days at an approved hotel to receive test results at their own expense, which are expected to cost more than $2,000. In addition, in the coming weeks we will require non-Canadian travelers to submit a negative test result before entering the land border with the United States, and we are working to enforce additional testing requirements for overland travel.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that major airlines have agreed to suspend flights to sunny vacation destinations because of new quarantine measures for the coronavirus … CreditCredit…Blair Gable/Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that flights between the country and several sunny vacation destinations will be suspended as new tests and quarantines are imposed on most air travelers entering Canada.

After previously requiring air travelers arriving in Canada for non-essential reasons to demonstrate a negative test for the coronavirus within 72 hours before being allowed to fly, Mr. Trudeau said they will now also be tested upon landing on their return trip to Canada. Under the new measures, travelers must wait three days at their own expense for the results of this second test at a government hotel.

“This is not the time to get on a plane,” Trudeau said at a press conference outside. “By taking these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan this vacation.”

During most of the pandemic, international flights to and from Canada were limited to four airports. The flights canceled under the new order were primarily flights to vacation destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. According to Trudeau, airlines are making arrangements to repatriate Canadians already in these areas.

In December, Canada temporarily suspended air traffic to and from the United Kingdom due to the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus.

Mr. Trudeau estimated that a mandatory three-day stay would cost travelers about 2,000 Canadian dollars, or about $1,570. Travelers who test negative would then have to spend another 11 days in home quarantine. Those who test positive will be sent to public facilities.

According to Mr. Trudeau, travelers entering Canada for non-essential travel will soon be screened at land border crossings. They have had to spend two weeks in quarantine.

The premiers of Ontario and Quebec, two of the country’s most populous provinces, are pressuring Mr. Trudeau to introduce arrival tests at airports and additional flight restrictions. Several Canadian politicians and officials have also been severely criticized, and in some cases resigned, for vacationing outside the country.

Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that the percentage of Covid 19 cases in Canada involving foreign travel is “extremely low.” But he said the new restrictions should reduce the risk of new variants of the virus.

“These variations present a real challenge,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Columbia University has mostly offered online instruction during the pandemic, and allowed only a sliver of students to live on campus or attend in-person classes. 

During the pandemic, Columbia University offered courses primarily online, allowing only a small number of students to live on campus or take courses face-to-face. The credit… Mark Lennihan/Press Officer

More than 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia have agreed to suspend their tuition for the spring semester in order to receive a discount for what they consider a lost spring semester.

While some universities have brought students back to campus, Columbia has primarily offered online learning for students and allowed only some students to live on campus or take face-to-face classes.

In response, students are asking the university to reduce its total costs – including tuition, housing and board – by at least 10 percent, following the example of several schools, including Georgetown University, Princeton University and Williams College. Columbia College, the university’s undergraduate school, can cost more than $80,000 a year for students who do not receive financial aid.

The strike organizers informed that undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the strike; the university has more than 31,000 students.

“It’s a reasonable request,” said Matthew Gamero, 19, a second-year student and one of the strike organizers. “This is a university that offers education that is worthwhile, and that education online is definitely not something we are paying for.”

“This is a natural time to actively reconsider the status quo, and we expect no less from our students,” the university said in a statement. “Their voices will be heard by Columbia’s leadership, and their views on strengthening the university are welcome.

A reduction in tuition is just one of the strikers’ demands. They also called on the university to reduce funding for campus police, improve working conditions for graduate students, and provide assistance to the nearby community of West Harlem.

The tuition strike was officially announced after the bill for the spring semester was submitted last Friday. The university can charge students a $150 fine and prevent them from taking summer or fall courses. The university may also sanction graduates by withholding their degrees until the balance is paid.

People walk near the Eiffel Tower in Paris the day after Christmas. France will shut its borders to nonessential travel from countries outside the European Union on Sunday.  

People walk in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Boxing Day. On Sunday, France closes its borders to non-essential travel from non-EU countries. The credit… Michel Euler/Presse Associée…

On Friday, France said it would close its borders with non-EU countries as the number of cases increases and the government tries to prevent another blockade.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that as of Sunday, all travel between France and non-EU countries will be prohibited, except in emergencies. All travelers from EU countries, except border residents, will have to test negative for the coronavirus to be allowed into the country, Castex added.

Speculation about new restrictions in France increased last week due to a flood of conflicting and often confusing information from officials. Many expect President Emmanuel Macron to replace the current 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew with a new one.

At the end of a special cabinet meeting in Paris, Mr. Castex acknowledged that France faces a “serious risk of accelerating the epidemic” due to the more contagious British and South African variants of the virus, and said the debate over a new national lockdown was “legitimate.”

“But we all know how much it affects the French, in all respects,” he said of the lockdown. “Tonight we think we still have a chance to prevent it, given the figures of the last few days.”

Variants that occurred in the UK and South Africa were discovered in France, and that country’s vaccination campaign was delayed by supply chain disruptions in the US. The number of new cases in France has continued to rise in recent weeks. Nearly 23,000 new cases were reported on Friday, although the number has not risen as much as in some of France’s neighboring countries.

In the face of a record number of cases and deaths, Britain on Wednesday tightened travel restrictions and required that British citizens entering the country from 22 high-risk countries be quarantined in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense. Britain entered the final freeze period in early January.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, on Monday recommended restricting non-essential travel to avoid a complete closure of the borders, which could hamper trade and the free movement of border workers.

“We must stay safe and discourage non-essential travel,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter, referring to the danger of new traffic opportunities.

Mr. Castex also announced the closure of the country’s largest shopping malls from Sunday, where no food will be sold, and the tightening of police checks for curfew violations and for establishments such as restaurants that are open illegally. Businesses will also be encouraged in the future to allow their employees to work from home, he said.

“Our goal is to do everything possible to prevent further isolation, and the next few days will be crucial,” Mr. Castex said.

A woman walks past a sorority house on the University of Michigan campus, where more than a dozen cases of a coronavirus variant were found.

A woman walks past a fraternity house on the University of Michigan campus where more than a dozen cases of the variant coronavirus have been found. The credit… Shannon Stapleton/Reuters.

Fourteen University of Michigan students have contracted a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus, prompting health authorities to recommend that students on and off campus stay home.

Students were advised not to leave their homes before February 7 except to attend classes, consult a doctor or run errands.

According to Susan Ringler-Kerniglia, spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County Health Department, the appearance of this variant, first discovered in the UK and known as B.1.1.7, appears to have started with a student who came to the UK during the winter vacations.

The first case on the university campus was discovered on January 16 after a student tested positive and informed authorities that he had traveled to an area where the variant was widespread. According to Ringler-Kerniglia, this triggered another sequence that led to the student’s infection with the variant.

Since then, 13 more students have been identified and found positive for the same option. One of them had visited a local mall and grocery store before testing positive, prompting authorities to issue a public service announcement to those visiting the premises urging them to get tested.

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the university, said all infected students with mild symptoms have been isolated.

The recommendation for family visits, announced this week by the Washtenaw County Health Department, applies to the Ann Arbor campus but not to the broader community.

“Stricter, mandatory measures may be imposed if this epidemic continues to spread and additional clusters of variants are identified,” a memo to university officials said Wednesday.

Michigan Athletics also imposed a two-week suspension from competition and practice, citing the existence of an option. Five of these cases involved individuals involved in the athletic program.

This variant is considered 50% more transmissible than the standard form of the virus, but is not more dangerous, and vaccines currently on the market appear to be effective against it.

The university has identified a total of 175 cases of coronavirus since the start of Michigan’s winter session on January 19, including 14 cases of variant.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan blessed the crowds from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan after Easter Mass in 2016.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan blesses the crowd on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan after the 2016 Easter Mass. credit…Katie Willens/Associated Press

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, was quarantined Friday after speaking last week with a man who later tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesman said.

In a statement, the archbishop said the cardinal “has not tested positive, is feeling well and has no symptoms.” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the cardinal is tested regularly, that the test was negative after an interaction, and that he will be tested again “in a few days.” He did not specify exactly what tests were used or when the cardinal will be tested after the interaction.

Tests performed too early after infection can produce false-negative results because the virus has not yet had time to accumulate to detectable levels. People are assumed to be the most likely carriers of the virus when they have symptoms, if at all.

Cardinal’s quarantine had not been previously announced by the archdiocese. Zwilling said Cardinal had been in quarantine since Wednesday, but that this had not been announced because the infected man had not received the results of his coronavirus test until Thursday.

“He has not had any public events and all of his meetings have been through Zoom, etc.,” Zwilling said in an email, referring to the cardinal. “We are announcing this today because the revelation has been confirmed and the first public events – Mass tomorrow night and Sunday morning – are approaching, and he will obviously not be participating in those events.”

Mr. Cardinal “will continue to follow the health and safety protocols prescribed by health experts, as well as his other employees who have also been in close contact with this individual,” the statement said.

Cardinal Dolan is one of the most influential figures in American Catholicism, and the Archdiocese of New York is the second most populous in the United States, with more than 2.8 adherents in an area stretching from Staten Island to the Hudson Valley.

Patrick’s Cathedral and interacted with other priests and parish staff, all of whom were wearing masks at the time, according to an online video of the service.

Global meeting





W.H.O. reports on a visit to China.

The World Health Organization on Friday outlined the details of its investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China and what it hopes to learn from the visit.

There is a very long list of planned site visits and personal meetings underway. The visits include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, other laboratories and markets in Wuhan. Wuhan, early intervention centers, hospitals where the first clusters of cases occurred. We remain hopeful that all the data and meetings they need will take place. And just to confirm that all hypotheses are on the table and that we hope for a successful mission. Success in the case of research on the human-animal interface is not necessarily measured by the discovery of an absolute source on the first mission. It is a complex undertaking. What we need to do is gather all the data and information, synthesize all these discussions, and come up with an assessment of what else we know about the origin of the disease and what additional research, if any, is needed for its spread.

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The World Health Organization on Friday outlined the details of its investigation into the origin of the coronavirus in China and what it hopes to learn from it.CreditCredit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

After months of delay, a team of World Health Organization (WHO) scientists began fieldwork Friday in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first discovered.

The W.M.H. said its 15-member team of experts plans to visit hospitals, laboratories and the live animal market in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the virus was discovered in late 2019, in the coming weeks.

“When members begin their field trips on Friday, they should have the support, access and data they need,” the W.M.H. said on Twitter. “All hypotheses are on the table as the team follows the science to understand the origin of the #COVID19 virus.”

The Chinese government has made several attempts to delay the investigation, apparently fearing that experts will draw attention to the government’s failure to control the epidemic. But it has relented under mounting global pressure.

The O.H.V. experts were first invited to undergo a 14-day quarantine in Wuhan, which ended Thursday.

They plan to talk to some of the first patients who showed symptoms of Covid-19, as well as Chinese doctors and scientists, the World Health Organization said. Their fieldwork also includes a visit to a wholesale seafood market in Huangani, where some of the first cases were discovered.

They will also visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the laboratory of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The question of the origin of the pandemic has caused friction between China and the United States, with officials in both countries sometimes blaming each other for the spread of the virus around the world.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the United States hopes for a “serious and clear” international investigation.

In a response, Chinese officials defended the country’s leading role in the investigation.

“We hope the United States will cooperate with China, be responsible and respect the facts, science and good work of World Health Organization experts,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.

  • Chinese authorities said Friday that several passengers from the United States who traveled to China falsified test results for the coronavirus to enter the country. The Chinese consulate in San Francisco said the passengers “changed the test results from positive to negative” and that other passengers lied about the test results. The consulate did not provide details about the passengers or the penalties they risked. China has strict border control regulations that, among other things, require passengers to submit results of antibody and nucleic acid tests before boarding a plane. The consulate said the passengers had violated health regulations. “The way they put others at risk is appalling,” the statement said.
  • Nine more cases of the coronavirus were reported in Vietnam on Friday, including one in the capital, Hanoi, as a new outbreak spreads beyond the two northern provinces where infections were first detected a day earlier. Officials estimated the number of cases from the latest outbreak Friday afternoon at 93, but said it could be as many as 30,000, nearly 20 times the number of cases Vietnam had identified in the first year of the pandemic. Vietnam has been one of the most successful countries in containing the virus, thanks to strict border controls, wearing masks, tracing contacts and isolating infected people. The latest outbreak occurred during a meeting of the ruling Communist Party leadership to elect the country’s new leaders, an event that takes place every five years.
  • The Hungarian health authority has approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm. “This means that we can count on Sinopharm alongside Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik and AstraZeneca,” said Dr. Cecilia Müller, Medical Director of the country. “We expect that these vaccines will be available in greater quantities and that the vaccination process can be completed in greater numbers and in less time.” The country’s foreign minister then announced that he had purchased five million doses of the vaccine. As for options, Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday expressed enthusiasm for the Chinese vaccine. “I will wait for the Chinese vaccine,” he said. “I have full confidence in it.”
  • The first Spanish case of the South African variant of Covida-19 was discovered in the port city of Vigo, in northwestern Galicia. Health officials in Galicia said a 30-year-old man who worked in shipping returned from a recent work trip to South Africa earlier this month and tested positive for the variant. He had mild symptoms and was not hospitalized, they said.

Registered nurses demonstrated against unsafe staffing practices at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif., in December. 

Registered nurses demonstrated against unsafe hiring practices at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, California, in December. Credit… Sarabeth Maney of the New York Times…

During an ongoing pandemic, unions representing health care workers have become an increasingly powerful voice.

With more than 100,000 Americans hospitalized, many of whom are infected, nurses and other healthcare workers remain on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus and continue to turn to unions for help.

Nurses from various unions across the country participated in dozens of strikes and demonstrations. National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses union, held a “day of action” Wednesday with protests in more than a dozen states and in Washington, D.C., as it begins negotiations with hospitals belonging to major systems such as HCA, Sutter Health and CommonSpirit Health.

“It’s so disturbing. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Erin McIntosh, a nurse at Riverside Community Hospital in Southern California, the part of the country hardest hit by the floods. “Every day, I die and I die at my waist.”

Hospitals say unions are playing politics during a public health emergency, saying they have no choice but to reach out to their employees.

But health workers have been bitterly disappointed with the response of their employers and government agencies to the pandemic. Severe staff shortages, an inadequate and constant supply of protective equipment, limited testing for the virus and pressure on workers to work even when they are sick have led many workers to turn to unions as their only ally. According to one count, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 3,300 health workers across the country.

A patient came to the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago in March. The credit… Joshua Lott/Reuters.

“We wouldn’t be alive today if we didn’t have a union,” said Elizabeth Lalash, a nurse at Chicago Public Hospital and a steward for the National United Nurses.

Despite decades of declining unionization and the low number of unionized nurses, union representatives took advantage of the pandemic to organize new units and continue contract negotiations to improve conditions and benefits. National Nurses organized seven new bargaining units last year and four in 2019. The Service Employees International Union, which represents McIntosh, also says interest has increased.

Tyler Perry in 2019.

Tyler Perry in 2019. credit…Frederick J. Brown/ Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

As the pandemic has exposed racial disparities in the United States – blacks were nearly three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – health officials are working to promote immunization in black communities and combat doubt.

So Atlanta doctors turned to Tyler Perry – a popular and prolific actor, director and studio boss – to tell black viewers that the vaccine is harmless. He agreed to interview experts and turned it into a special that aired Thursday night on BET. During the show, he answered questions from doctors at the Grady Health System about the vaccine’s safety, development, testing and effectiveness.

At the end of the interview, with his sleeve up, Perry took a picture while the cameras were rolling.

Perry is one of the most influential people in the entertainment industry. He made his fortune playing the role of Madea, a bitter and irreverent matriarch, on stage and screen before retiring in 2019 to pursue other projects, including running his 330-acre studio in Georgia.

Black skepticism about the Covid 19 vaccine is a major concern for health officials. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in three blacks were skeptical of the vaccine. A recent analysis by CNN found that blacks and Latinos are much less likely to be vaccinated than whites, which is partially attributed to the fact that many blacks lack access to health care and harbor a deep-seated distrust of the medical profession.

In the BET special, Perry discussed historical episodes that have led to distrust of the medical profession and the government, including the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which doctors allowed syphilis to spread in black men by refusing treatment, and the case of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 and whose cells were used for research without her knowledge and consent.

“We blacks have a healthy hesitation about vaccinations and other things,” he said.

Perry said he doesn’t want people to get vaccinated just because he did. “What I want to do is give you information and facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”





New York has set an “ambitious goal” of 5 million vaccinations by June.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city plans to vaccinate 5 million New Yorkers against Covid-19 by June. He also announced that city employees will be back in office in May and that schools will reopen to all students in September.

We are working toward an ambitious goal of vaccinating 5 million New Yorkers by June. I am convinced that we can do this as long as we have the vaccine. And I’m increasingly convinced that the actions of the Biden administration, as the Johnson vaccine arrives, are more and more convinced that we have what we need. I’m going to lobby the federal government to get all the American drug companies on board, because they’re not. The federal government needs to make sure that they are forced to produce the vaccine, whether they are vaccine manufacturers or not. As long as we can afford it, we can reach five million New Yorkers in June to achieve public immunity. And we will get our urban work force back in May and beyond, because clearly many of them are being deployed right now. But the people who work in our offices and do such important work, we want them back. We want to send a message to the whole city. We’re moving forward. We want the private sector to bring the workers back. That’s going to change a lot in early spring. By late spring, I’m sure you’ll see something very different. And it’s a great group of people, our graft for all the cores, that will show us the way. Today, many different things are important, and one of the things that is most important to us today, to our parents, to our families, to our future, to tomorrow, is our schools, one of the things that says most clearly that we are back, is our schools. And that’s why our schools will be back in full force in September. Our goal is to help kids close the achievement gap at Covid. Our success plan for 2021 is focused on the academic aspect, but also on the emotional aspect, on the mental health of our children after everything they’ve been through.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city plans to vaccinate 5 million New Yorkers against Covid-19 by June. He also announced that city staff would return to work in May and that schools would reopen to all students in September. Credit… James Estrin/The New York Times

In his latest State of the City, Mayor Bill de Blasio provided a comprehensive vision of how New York will recover from a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands and devastated the city’s economy.

The mayor promised to accelerate the city’s vaccination efforts and set a goal of vaccinating five million New Yorkers by June.

“We are aiming high,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference Friday morning, adding, “I am absolutely convinced that as long as we have the vaccine, we can do it.”

Mr. de Blasio said Friday that with enough vaccine, the city could vaccinate half a million people a week and that he plans to reopen closed vaccination centers when more vaccine becomes available.

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its vaccine is highly effective in preventing the virus, but that its effectiveness against a more infectious variant in South Africa has been significantly reduced. White House officials were counting on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to help reduce the vaccine shortage. Unlike the government-approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is effective only after a single dose. But according to federal health officials familiar with production, the company will have only seven million doses ready when the F.D.A. decides whether or not to license it, and about 30 million doses by early April.

De Blasio also noted Friday that the city’s seven-day average of positive results was 8.63 percent, with city data showing more than 10 percent in more than 30 zip codes in the city.

In his “State of the City” address, the mayor also said that in May he will begin the return to office of thousands of city employees who have been working remotely, and that in September he will reopen schools to all students in safe conditions.

“New York City’s vaccination efforts are the foundation for all of our recovery,” the mayor’s 18-page recovery plan states. “With each vaccination, New York City gets closer and closer to opening up our economy, restoring lost jobs and restoring equality.

If the federal government gives the city enough stimulus money, de Blasio said, it will create a city cleaning corps of 10,000 temporary workers to focus on beautifying the city, an idea he shared with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

Mr. de Blasio also proposed two plans to help small businesses: a $50 million recovery program for tax credits for businesses in trouble since the pandemic and a $100 million recovery program to help businesses stay open. Under the mayor’s plan, the city would provide low-interest loans of up to $100,000 to about 2,000 small businesses.

But de Blasio also warned that the city faces severe budget cuts and layoffs. He recently announced that the city’s property tax revenues are expected to fall by $2.5 billion next year due to a decline in the value of office buildings and hotels that were vacant during the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that New York City restaurants facing pandemic restrictions will be allowed to reopen for indoor dining at 25 percent of their capacity starting Feb. 14. Mr. Cuomo closed them last month as the number of viruses increased.

Both de Blasio and Cuomo expressed optimism that President Biden, along with the Democrat-led Congress, would provide significant assistance to the city. In his speech, de Blasio also called for higher taxes on wealthy New Yorkers, a policy he has pursued for years but which Cuomo opposed.

Noting that during the pandemic more than 100 billionaires in the state saw their net worth increase by billions of dollars, Mr. de Blasio again called for a redistribution of wealth.

“There is clearly enough money in New York to invest in a fair and swift recovery – but it’s not in these hands,” he said.

A protest outside the Denver office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year after hundreds of workers at a Colorado meatpacking plant developed Covid-19, six fatally.

A protest outside the Denver office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year after hundreds of workers at a Colorado meat processing plant fell ill from Covid-19, six of them fatally…Credit…David Zalubovsky/Associated Press

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday issued new guidance for employers to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, just over a week after President Biden signed an executive order to that effect.

The initiative by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is part of the Department of Labor, contains only recommendations, not requirements. But the agency said it was considering a rule that would impose certain protections.

The agency refused to adopt such a rule, known as the temporary emergency standard, during the Trump administration. But Mr. Biden indicated his support for the standard during the campaign.

The new guidelines differ less from the Trump administration’s version, which is based on the risk exposure of different workers. “Everyone should be protected, not someone who is protected more than others,” Ann Rosenthal, senior adviser to the agency, told reporters via video link.

The document released Friday also uses less ambiguous language than under President Donald J. Trump. For example, it states that the most effective prevention programs “ensure that absence policies are not punitive. ” During the Trump administration, the agency advised employers to “ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidelines.

Meat processing and packaging is a particular concern and accounts for a significant portion of Covida-19 infections nationwide.

In late December, a California state judge issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against workers at a local poultry plant, requiring various safety protocols, such as providing masks and requiring workers to wear them, as well as face shields when social distance is impossible.

The court announced Friday that it would issue an injunction for the same result, giving workers a permanent way to enforce compliance if the company refuses to establish protocols. It cited evidence presented by the plaintiffs that “regulators are overwhelmed by the problems created by the Covid 19 pandemic and are unable to conduct inspections with the same regularity as they did before the pandemic began.”

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