This is what you need to know:.
A resident of the Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling, Wash. in February. New Biden administration guidelines ease restrictions on nursing home residents….Amr Alfiki/The New York Times
The Biden administration issued revised guidelines Wednesday for visiting nursing homes in the event of a pandemic, allowing visitors to enter freely and see residents regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
The new guidelines, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the first revisions to the federal government’s nursing home guidelines since September. And they came as more than three million doses of the vaccine were administered in nursing homes, the agency said.
The guide was also the latest indication that the pandemic is waning in the United States. The number of Covida 19 cases continues to decline nationally, although the seven-day average remains above 58,000 cases. On Monday, the C.D.C. released a long-awaited guide for fully vaccinated Americans that says it’s possible to meet at home in small groups without masks or social exclusion.
Approximately 62.5 million people received at least one dose of the Covid 19 vaccine, including approximately 32.9 million people who were fully vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine or Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s two-dose series.
In support of the updated recommendations, Dr. Lee Fleischer, chief medical officer of the C.M.S., pointed to the millions of vaccines given to nursing home residents and staff, and the reduction in infections in these facilities.
C.M.S. is aware of the psychological, emotional and physical effects of prolonged isolation and separation from family on nursing home residents and their families, Dr. Fleischer said.
Early in the pandemic, the coronavirus ravaged tens of thousands of long-term care facilities in the United States, killing more than 150,000 residents and staff and causing more than one-third of all deaths due to the virus since late spring. But since the vaccines were introduced, new cases and deaths in nursing homes have dropped sharply, faster than the national decline, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.
The eight-page recommendation, which is not legally binding, is accompanied by proposed restrictions stating that responsible visits should be allowed at all times unless the guest is visiting an unvaccinated resident in a county with a Covid 19 positivity of more than 10 percent and where less than 70 percent of nursing home residents are fully vaccinated. The guidelines also talk about limiting visits when residents have Covid-19 or are in quarantine.
In the new guide, federal officials say outdoor visits are still preferable because of the lower risk of transmission, even if residents and guests are fully vaccinated.
Compassionate care – when a resident’s health has seriously deteriorated – should be allowed regardless of vaccination status or positivity, the guidelines say.
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New Jersey increases domestic capacity by up to 50%
New Jersey state government announced Wednesday that indoor restaurants, casinos, lounges and gyms will be allowed to operate starting in 19… Mars may open at half capacity.
I am pleased to inform you that the capacity of our restaurants, recreation halls, gyms and fitness clubs, hair salons, beauty salons and other personal care outlets will increase by 50% starting next Friday, March 19. In the last five weeks, these offers have been reduced by 35%. In addition, we are announcing a change in meeting boundaries starting next Friday: For gatherings in places other than religious services or ceremonies, political events, weddings, funerals, memorials or speeches, the maximum limit is 25 people. It’s from 10 o’clock. Similarly, outdoor gatherings, except for religious services or ceremonies, political events, weddings, funerals or memorial services will be closed to 25 or more people. Given the data we have seen over the past five weeks since the last domestic reality easing, we are confident in these moves.
New Jersey state government announced Wednesday that indoor restaurants, casinos, lounges and gyms will be allowed to operate from the 19th floor. March could be open at half capacity. CreditCredit…Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Restaurants in New York and New Jersey will be able to offer a new menu starting on the 19th. Mars to increase the number of restaurants operating indoors to 50 percent of capacity, the governors of New York and New Jersey announced Wednesday.
The announcement of the easing of restrictions comes as New York and New Jersey continue to lead the country in new cases of the coronavirus. According to the New York Times database, 37 new cases of the virus are reported every day in the two states per 100,000 people, in an average of seven days.
The change, which takes effect two days after St. Patrick’s Day, a traditionally busy day for restaurants and bars, aligns the two establishments with dietary restrictions in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said his decision to expand restaurants in New York City was made in cooperation with Governor Philip D. Murphy, another Democrat.
We will continue to monitor the science and respond accordingly, Cuomo said in a press release issued by the two governors.
Mr. Cuomo has already announced that as of March 19, the capacity limit for restaurants outside of New York City may be increased from 50% to 75%.
New Jersey’s new half-capacity limit also applies to casinos, lounges and gyms. In addition, the maximum number of persons allowed to attend private meetings in New Jersey is increased from 10 to 25 persons. The outdoor area is open to 50 people, from 25 people.
We believe that by weighing all the factors, we can implement this expansion without unduly burdening our health care system, Murphy said.
New Jersey was one of the last states to allow indoor restaurants to reopen their doors, and Murphy is under pressure to expand capacity limits.
Restaurants in New York City operated at limited capacity for several months, including closures from December to February, when numbers began to rise again. Restaurants now allow 35% customer service, up from 25% a few weeks ago.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance has praised the new guidelines, saying they provide much-needed relief for struggling restaurants.
Even if the city’s restaurants fail to raise their occupancy rates to 75%, as is the case in the rest of the state, Andrew Rigi, the group’s chief executive, said Wednesday that it’s good news for the struggling restaurant industry.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, employees of Pizza Moto, a pizzeria located between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook in Brooklyn, gathered to discuss what this would mean for the restaurant. Pizza Moto was open inside for a few weeks late last year and then closed in December.
Joe Blissen, general manager of the restaurant, said he thought Pizza Moto could safely resume operations in a 50% occupied space, as most employees were employed until the 19th. Mars would have received a second vaccination.
We’re just trying to be careful and make sure everything is nice, clean and safe, said Blissen, who got his second chance this week. For us, it is reassuring to know that at least our employees are safe.
Chris Labropoulos, who works at the Buccaneer Diner in East Elmhurst, Queens, said the increase to 50 percent would have little effect because few people would eat there. He couldn’t remember the last time the restaurant, which opened in 1976, had reached capacity according to state pandemic guidelines.
Many people don’t come in that way, said Labropoulos, who added that most orders are delivered or picked up.
In New Jersey, Mr. Murphy lifted restrictions on indoor dining one last time before the Super Bowl when he raised the limit to 35 percent and abolished the 10 p.m. curfew.
Restaurant staff must continue to wear masks when not at a table, and seating at a bar remains illegal in New Jersey.
Unlike some states that openly place superficial politics above public health – Texas and Mississippi are examples – our shielding mandate remains in place, Murphy said.
The mask requirement in Texas ended Wednesday after an initiative by Mississippi, which repealed its mask requirement a week ago over the objections of federal health officials, who had warned that the measure was premature.
An average of 3,222 new cases of the virus were reported daily in New Jersey and 7,177 in New York over the past week, due in part to the spread of variants of the virus.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study Friday showing that districts that opened a local restaurant – indoors or out – saw an increase in daily infections after about six weeks and an increase in deaths from Covid 19 after about two months.
The study does not prove causation, but the results are consistent with other studies showing that masks prevent infection and that the indoor environment promotes the spread of the virus through aerosols, small airborne particles trapped in the respiratory tract.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland visited a vaccination site in Baltimore in February.Credit…Kenneth C. Lam/The Baltimore Sun, via Associated Press
Across Maryland, mayors, county supervisors, business owners and health officials Wednesday analyzed Larry Hogan’s announcement Tuesday to ease restrictions on Covid statewide.
The ordinance allows bars, restaurants, churches and gyms to open at full capacity starting Friday night, while maintaining certain social distancing rules. This also allows larger halls such as banquet halls, theatres and stadiums to be opened at 50% occupancy. The mandate of the Mask State remains in place.
With vaccination rates rising rapidly and our health indicators steadily improving, lifting these restrictions is a smart and positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery, Hogan said. He was joined by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is now a senior advisor to the governor.
Some business owners hailed the announcement as a sign that they are beginning to put an economically difficult year behind them. Public health experts were less benevolent.
I was shocked, I thought it was a joke, says Dr. Lina Wen, a professor of public health at George Washington University and former public health commissioner in Baltimore.
City and state officials were surprised by the ordinance, but they were particularly concerned about the section that seemed to say that starting Friday, it would negate the ability of local governments to adopt stricter rules than the state – a flexibility they have enjoyed throughout the pandemic.
This wording seems to contradict Hogan’s comments during the announcement, when he said that while he disapproves of the exemptions, state law gives local jurisdictions some authority to take more restrictive measures. A spokesman for the governor said in a tweet that the emergency powers and authorities put in place during the pandemic in the county are not affected.
County and city officials reviewed their local bylaws Wednesday and discussed the situation with their attorneys.
In an emailed statement, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. said Maryland leaders have been meeting with our legal teams, health officials and neighboring jurisdictions to understand how this affects our own executive orders and if and how we can use our own local government to move forward.
According to New York Times data, Maryland is roughly on the average of all states in terms of the percentage of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine and slightly above average in terms of the number of new cases reported recently, relative to its population of 13 per 100,000. All three variants of the virus tracked by the CDC have been detected in this region, but only one in significant numbers: B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK and is more transmissible and potentially deadly than earlier versions of the virus.
In the early days of the pandemic, Governor Hogan received praise from all parties for his aggressive response. He was one of the first governors in the country to order schools closed and has publicly criticized President Trump, another Republican, for not preparing states for a pandemic. I think many of us locally and across the country would give it a very high rating, said Dr. Wen, a former health commissioner in Baltimore.
Since then, their value has dropped significantly. Although she said she was glad Hogan hadn’t revoked his statewide masking order, as Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi did last week, she called an outright repeal of the restrictions a dangerous gamble.
It’s very disappointing, because we’ve come a long way, she said. Why are we not on our guard when we are so close?
Main Street in Daytona Beach, Florida, this week. Some are wary of the super-spreader. linked to credit Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press.
About 300,000 people are expected in Daytona Beach, Florida, this week for the annual motorcycle rally – despite the pandemic and lack of restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Enthusiasm for the event was tempered by some motorcycle enthusiasts in the rally’s Facebook group, who feared it would turn into a large-scale event.
Last August’s motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, drew more than 450,000 bikers, most of whom were not wearing masks and seemed to be adhering to social distancing guidelines. The meeting was later blamed for causing outbreaks in other states.
Daytona Beach Bike Week usually draws nearly half a million people, although with this year’s pandemic, the number is estimated to be closer to 300,000, said Janet Kersey, executive vice president and director of operations for the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.
We know there will be fewer because of Covid’s ongoing concerns and the loss of revenue many have experienced over the past year, Kersey said. Good weather and higher vaccination rates could boost attendance, she added.
According to the New York Times database, at least 125 new deaths from the coronavirus and 4,426 new cases were reported in Florida on Tuesday. The state averaged 4,948 cases per day last week, down 16 percent from two weeks ago.
A more contagious and potentially deadly variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.1.7, which first surfaced in the United Kingdom, is spreading percentage-wise more in Florida than in any other state, according to an analysis of data from the laboratory testing company Helix.
Officials urged Bike Week participants to exercise caution.
While our community works diligently to follow the C.D.C.’s safety guidelines, Kersey said, the support of visitors and participants is very important, both to this effort and to the safety of all.
Bike Week events include races, motorcycle shows, concerts and giveaways in and around Daytona Beach. Kersey said officials had considered canceling the meeting, but the Daytona Beach City Council decided to proceed with great caution.
The masks were removed at Bill Smith’s Cafe in McKinney, Texas, after Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted restrictions to prevent coronavirus. Credit…Shelby Tauber/Reuters
Houston – The plexiglass has fallen out. In the bars and restaurants the tables were again overflowing. The masks have come off.
In Texas, people are strongly opposed to masks, although many are now beginning to wear them sparingly. But now it’s official: The state no longer requires people to cover their faces.
This is just one of the rules that have been relaxed by government officials who want to declare the pandemic ended, even though the numbers of cases say otherwise.
It’s time to open up Texas 100 percent, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced the changes last week. Signs were posted Wednesday to remind people of the mask mandate. This also applies to barriers designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On South Padre Island, spring breakers drank and danced like they did in the pre-pandemic days at an oceanfront bar. And the Texas Rangers have announced that when baseball season begins next month, they will fill the stadium – 40,518 seats.
Not everyone was celebrating.
At Barflys in San Antonio, the Mandatory Masks sign at the entrance may be gone, but Britt Harashmish’s mask stayed in place as she attended to customers at the patio bar.
Many people have been vaccinated – Governor Abbott has been vaccinated, said Harasmish, 24. But that’s not the case for many of us on the front lines.
Texas hasn’t quite turned the schedule around.
Companies may still require employees and customers to cover their faces and limit what they can do. Cities may choose to maintain limits for municipal facilities, and masks remain mandatory for federal facilities.
Hours before the statewide restrictions were lifted, Austin city officials announced that they would ignore the governor’s new orders and impose a citywide ban on masks. That puts the Democrat-led city on a new potential collision course with the Republican-led legislature after years of disagreement over a range of issues.
Councilman Greg Kasar said city officials believe their position is legal and proper.
If the state decides to sue us, it is essentially damaging the health of Texas, he said. I hope they focus on releasing vaccines instead of messing with Austin and putting more lives at risk.
Others applauded the new rules.
In the smoke-filled backyard of the Barfly, Sophie Bojorquez, 47, sat at a table with friends. She’s a vaccinated nurse and a self-proclaimed anti-masher.
I am pleased with the Governor’s decision. The masks prevented the herd from possessing the necessary immunity. Now they want to grow up so fast, she said, shaking her head.
The decision to open up Texas is met with fierce resistance.
The governor’s medical advisers said they were not involved in the decision. Federal health officials and some experts fear that these measures, particularly the lifting of the ban on masking, could encourage the spread of the virus through vaccination.
Texas, which averages about 5,500 new cases a day, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Lina Hidalgo, a district judge in Harris County, which includes Houston, argued that repealing the mask mandate saddles workers in stores and restaurants with the burden of enforcing the rules.
We know we shouldn’t be wary just because one level of government picked an arbitrary date to make things clear, said Ms. Hidalgo, a Democrat and persistent critic of Mr. Hidalgo. Abbott, in a column that appeared in Time magazine this week. I promise to make the people in my district understand that we can save ourselves unnecessary death and suffering by hanging on a little longer.
– Rick Rojas, James Dobbins and Dave Montgomery…
Applications for 100 million shares of Johnson & Johnson Vaccines
1President Biden announced Wednesday that the government will receive 100 million additional doses of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson and announced a co-production agreement between the company and pharmaceutical giant Merck.
Today we see two healthcare companies, competitors with over 130 years of experience each, joining forces to write a more promising chapter in our fight against Covid-19. During World War II, one of the country’s slogans was: We’re all in this together. We’re all in this together. And companies have taken this slogan to heart. For example, a car manufacturer did not have the capacity to build enough Jeeps. The competitors came to the rescue. So we are on track to have enough vaccine for every adult American by the end of May, several months ahead of schedule. And today I’m ordering Jeff and my H.H.S. team to produce 100 million additional doses and purchase 100 million additional doses of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. On Saturday we set the record in America of 2.9 million vaccinations in one day. And there are stories behind the numbers. The father says he is no longer afraid of his daughter when she starts working at the hospital. Children can now hug their grandparents. Vaccines bring hope and healing in many ways. There is light at the end of yesterday’s dark tunnel, but we must not now slacken or assume that victory is inevitable. Together we will overcome this pandemic and pave the way for a healthier and happier future.
President Biden announced Wednesday that the government will receive 100 million additional doses of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson and announced a joint manufacturing agreement between the company and pharmaceutical giant Merck.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times….
President Biden said Wednesday that he is asking the federal government to provide 100 million additional doses of Johnson and Johnson’s unique Covid-19 vaccine. According to the White House, this could help the country vaccinate children and administer additional doses if necessary or reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants of the virus.
Biden made the announcement this afternoon at an event at the White House with executives from Johnson & Johnson and pharmaceutical giant Merck, where he congratulated them on their partnership to expand Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine production, a deal that came about thanks to White House mediation.
During World War II, one of the country’s slogans was: We’re all in this together, Biden said. And companies have taken this slogan to heart.
In announcing the deal between Merck and Johnson & Johnson last week, Biden said enough vaccine would be available by the end of May to immunize all American adults, or about 260 million people. But White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the government is trying to prepare for unforeseen challenges, from the emergence of dangerous variants of the virus to manufacturing disruptions that could disrupt vaccine production.
We still don’t know which vaccine will work best for children, she said at the daily White House briefing. We don’t yet know the impact of the variants and whether recalls will be necessary. These doses can also be used for booster shots. The decision to buy the surplus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was driven by a desire for maximum flexibility, she said.
It is a single-use vaccine, she said. It can be kept in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. It is very effective, as are others against hospitalization and death.
Biden said Wednesday that he is leading the White House and Department of Health and Human Services’ pandemic response team to complete the stockpile increase.
The White House had originally scheduled Wednesday’s meeting at the Baltimore facility of Emergent BioSolutions, another company working with Johnson & Johnson to produce the coronavirus vaccine. But Biden canceled his trip after The New York Times published a study on how Emergent used his connections in Washington to gain undue influence over the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency supply of drugs and medical supplies.
Ms. Psaki has since said the government will conduct a full review of the inventory.
Emergency services officials were not present at Wednesday’s meeting. Explaining the change in plans, Ms Psaki said the government believes the White House is a more appropriate venue for the meeting, which is being heralded as a celebration of what Mr Biden has called the historic partnership between Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
Johnson & Johnson signed an agreement with the government in August to supply 100 million doses of the coronavirus, and in an emailed statement Wednesday, the company said it was on track to meet that commitment. The government has the option to purchase additional cans through a subsequent agreement.
According to the government, the partnership with Merck will increase production of the vaccine itself and improve Johnson & Johnson’s packaging capabilities, which is known in the vaccine industry as pre-packaging – two major bottlenecks in production that have caused the company to fall behind.
Wednesday’s announcement is part of Biden’s aggressive effort to get as many vaccines as possible as quickly as possible. Before taking office, Biden promised to remain in office until his 100th birthday. On the day he took office, he promised to put 100 million bullets into the hands of the American people, a program that seemed aggressive at the time but has been very timid lately. Since then, he has tried to speed up the process.
At the time, two vaccines, one manufactured by Moderna and the other by Pfizer-BioNTech, had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in emergencies. In January, Biden said the government would have enough vaccines to vaccinate every American by the end of the summer. Last month, the president announced that his administration had received enough doses from the two companies to have enough for every American by the end of July.
The recent addition of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which received approval for emergency vaccination in late February, has paved the way for the administration to further accelerate the schedule. But Johnson & Johnson and its other partners, including Emergent, fell behind, leading the government to turn to Merck.
Noah Weiland and Annie Carney contributed to this report.
Covid-19 information pamphlets with mask and decontamination kit handed out in San Jose, Calif. Ulysses Ortega for The New York Times.
Black and Latino communities are facing vaccine conspiracy theories, rumors and misleading posts on social media.
The misinformation includes false claims that vaccines can alter DNA or don’t work, and government efforts to reach blacks and Latinos have become the basis for new false narratives.
What at first glance looks like doctors favoring people of color, some people read online as Oh, these doctors want us to be the first guinea pigs, says Colina Coltay, a University of Washington researcher who studies conspiracy theories online.
The study, conducted in mid-February by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, showed a striking difference between the racial groups that received the vaccine in the 34 states that provided data.
Rates in the states vary widely. In Texas, where 42 percent of the population is Hispanic, only 20 percent of the vaccines were administered to this group. In Mississippi, blacks received 22% of vaccinations, while they made up 38% of the population. According to a New York Times analysis, the vaccination rate of black Americans is less than half that of whites, and the gap is even greater among Latinos.
According to Koltay, the belief that doctors have a vested interest in experimentation in certain communities is deeply rooted in some groups. Opponents of vaccination have cited historical examples, including Nazi doctors conducting experiments in concentration camps and a Baltimore hospital where cancer cells were removed from a black mother of five children without her consent 70 years ago.
The experiment, conducted in the 1930s (not 1943, as in an earlier version of this article) on nearly 400 blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama, is one of the best-documented examples of medical abuse of the black population. For more than 40 years, scientists followed men who they knew were infected with syphilis, but who were not treated, to study the progression of the disease.
Disinformation investigators have been monitoring mentions of Tuskegee on social media for the past year. In the last week of November, when pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer announced promising results in the latest safety studies of their Covid-19 vaccines, Tuskegee’s number of mentions rose to 7,000 a week.
Students wait to be enrolled in PS 189 bilingual elementary school in Brooklyn last December. Credit…Victor J. Blau for The New York Times.
According to a major new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, New York City public schools had surprisingly low transfer rates compared to the national rate of positive test results in the months after the country’s largest school system reopened to thousands of students.
Of the more than 200,000 people tested in the city’s school buildings between October and December, only 0.4% tested positive for the coronavirus. This was at a time when there was a surge of viral diseases in the community.
And even when cases were detected, relatively few close school contacts tested positive for the virus during the same period: 0.5% of quarantined school contacts became infected.
Full-time teaching in New York City public schools was not associated with an increase in the prevalence or overall incidence of Covid 19 infection compared with the general population, the study authors write. The study was led by Dr. Jay Varma, senior health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
However, testing in schools was random and therefore usually yielded asymptomatic cases, while many New Yorkers who were tested outside the schools did show symptoms or had been exposed to the virus.
Mr. de Blasio reopened classes in many other major areas, including the Northeast and West Coast, last September, a few months earlier. The city closed schools in November due to the increase in cases of the virus, before gradually reopening them in the winter and spring. Nevertheless, the vast majority of urban schoolchildren, about 700,000, chose to study at home for the rest of the school year.
The mayor has faced heavy criticism for urging the schools to reopen, and families and teachers fear it is still not safe to return to the school buildings. But the city’s strict security measures, including mandatory masking, social distancing between students and teachers and weekly spot checks, appear to have helped keep the percentage of positives in schools extremely low, the study found.
We have said that our public school buildings are among the safest places in New York City – and we have the numbers to prove it, de Blasio said Wednesday in a statement.
Chris Hemsworth is set to star in the Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder, whose production began in Australia. linked to credit Rob Grabowski/Invision, via Associated Press.
The Hollywood team traveled to Australia, the country that actually suppressed the coronavirus.
Thanks to the virtual absence of the virus and subsidies from the Australian government, the country’s film industry has been running at an enviable pace for months.
More than 20 international shoots are underway or preparing to begin next year, including Thor: Love and Thunder, a Marvel film starring Chris Hemsworth that also features Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Taika Waititi; Three Thousand Years of Longing, a fantasy romance starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton; and Joe Exotic, a podcast sequel based on the popular Netflix series King of Tigers, starring Kate McKinnon as Carol Baskin, who falls in love with big cats.
Ron Howard will direct Thirteen Lives, a film about the 2018 rescue of a soccer team from a cave in Thailand. This film was shot in Queensland, on the northeast coast of Australia (Queensland). And later that year, Julia Roberts and George Clooney came to the same state to film the romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise.
A spokesman said the Australian government has helped 22 international manufacturers invest hundreds of millions in the local economy.
The stars will probably keep appearing. They were seen camping, eating and partying (just like in 1989). Mr Damon said in January that Australia was definitely a happy country.
Residents of a nursing home near Paris wait under observation after being given the vaccine last month. linked to credit Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times.
Last month, the European Union exported 25 million doses of homemade vaccine to 31 countries around the world, with Britain and Canada the main destinations, while the EU sharply reduced its own shipments by pharmaceutical companies, slowing vaccination efforts and creating a major political crisis at home.
The European Union, home to 450 million people in 27 countries, came under fire last week when Italy used an export control mechanism to block a small shipment of vaccine to Australia. The decision has been criticised as protectionist and is in stark contrast to the EU mantra of free markets and global solidarity in the event of a coronavirus pandemic.
The issue of vaccine production and export has also led to a bitter dispute between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which recently left the bloc, leading to accusations that Brussels wants to deprive London of doses, in part because the United Kingdom is doing much better.
Tensions culminated in a diplomatic row on Wednesday after a senior US official accused the US and Britain of imposing an export ban – accusations the British government strongly denied.
In practice, ban or not, the UK does not export vaccines licensed for domestic use. The country has said it would be willing to donate excess vaccine to neighboring Ireland, but only after its own vaccination efforts have done so.
The United States also accumulates tin, in part through a war-related mechanism, the Defense Production Act, which allows the federal government to increase its control over industrial production. Last week, President Biden promised that every adult American would be offered at least one dose of the vaccine by May.
But the information, made public for the first time and recorded in detailed internal documents seen by the New York Times, shows that far from being protectionist, the European Union is in fact an importer-exporter.
Of the approximately 25 million vaccines produced in the EU between 1 January and 31 December 2006, only one was used. In March, about a third, or more than eight million boxes, went to the UK.
And while the United States keeps doses to itself, the European Union sent 651,000 vaccines to the country last month and produced vaccines for other countries across the Atlantic: Canada came in second, with more than three million doses received last month, while Mexico received nearly 2.5 million doses.
Chaos in the streets: Violent demonstrations in Athens
About 6,000 people gathered in Athens on Tuesday night to protest police brutality and the tactic of detaining officers. Police said 10 officers were injured and 16 people were arrested.
About 6,000 people gathered in Athens on Tuesday night to protest police brutality and officers’ tactics to stop the coronavirus. Police said 10 officers were injured and 16 people were arrested. Credit… Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Tuesday night’s protest in Greece ran into a storm, with anger rising over police tactics that imposed restrictions to stop the coronavirus.
The clashes occurred on the same day Greece said it would open its doors to holidaymakers in mid-May. Later in the day, 3,215 new infections were recorded, the highest daily figure since mid-November.
Tuesday’s protests followed a video released two days earlier showing a police officer beating a man with a baton in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni. This man was apparently one of the many people who objected to officers fining people in the square. The officer has since been suspended, police said Wednesday.
About 6,000 people gathered in a usually quiet suburb Tuesday night to protest police brutality. The protest began peacefully, but turned violent after about 500 people showed up and shot at police officers. According to police, ten officers were injured, one of them seriously, after he was dragged off his motorcycle and sent on his way. Sixteen people were arrested and were due to appear before prosecutors Wednesday to face charges of attempted murder, possession of explosives and arson.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke on television Tuesday night, calling for calm and restraint. The violent events have sparked a debate in the Greek media about the tactics used by the police to enforce the lockdown.
Greece’s ombudsman said Tuesday that the number of reports of police violence has increased by 75 percent in the past year. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing opposition Syriza party, spoke Monday of a crescendo of police violence under the guise of health measures. In response, Mr Mitsotakis called Mr Tsipras’ support for large rallies at the height of the pandemic the height of irresponsibility.
Mitsotakis’ conservative government is urging Greeks to be patient in its efforts to gradually open up the country’s devastated economy without causing another outbreak of infections. Public tolerance seems to be waning, however, as officials have been accused of violating restrictions for which thousands of ordinary Greeks have had to pay.
Mr Mitsotakis himself came under fire last month for ignoring his own government’s restrictions for the second time in two months, violating restrictions on public gatherings and attending a dinner at the home of a politician on an island in the Aegean Sea.
In other world news:
- Mauritius declared a two-week national lockdown on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported. This is the second time the Indian Ocean island nation has imposed such a restriction since the pandemic began. We had no choice but to completely contain the virus to stop its spread and protect the people, Chief Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said in a televised address Tuesday night. As of Wednesday, only essential services, including hospitals and emergency rooms, will be operational. Supermarkets, bakeries, gas stations and pharmacies will have limited availability from Thursday. In this country of about 1.4 million people, 641 cases of the virus and 10 deaths have been reported.
- Kenya and Morocco have approved the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF reported, according to Reuters. The foundation, which promotes the vaccine worldwide, reports that 48 countries have now approved Sputnik V.
Robbie Fairchild, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, lost his health insurance during the pandemic. He is now in the flower business to help with finances. credit linked Amr Alfiki/The New York Times.
Across the United States, thousands of actors, musicians, dancers and other entertainment workers lose their health insurance or face increased costs in the event of a pandemic. Last year, some people just couldn’t work enough hours to qualify for insurance. Others had plans that made it difficult to access coverage.
Insurance problems arose when artists faced record unemployment. Several provisions of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to combat the coronavirus, approved by the Senate on Saturday and expected to be passed by the House on Wednesday, promise relief. It will be much cheaper for people to take advantage of a federal government program known as COBRA, which allows people to continue buying the health care they have lost. The other would lower the cost of buying coverage in the state markets.
Of the more than two dozen artists interviewed by The New York Times, many said they felt abandoned for much of the year, both by their unions and by what many call the failing American health care system.
You never think you will be, said Robbie Fairchild, a former New York City Ballet dancer who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2015 for his groundbreaking role in American in Paris on Broadway and later featured in the film version of Cats.
Unlike other employees who simply sign up for health insurance when they start a new job, professionals in the film, television and theater industries often work on multiple shows for many different employers and make as many hours, days and earnings as possible until they reach the threshold that qualifies them for health insurance. Although work has been scarce over the past year, several plans have raised this threshold.
Musicians are in trouble too. Officials from Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, the country’s largest musicians’ union, estimate that when the changes to their plan take effect this month, about one in three musicians will lose coverage.
Insurance plan employees say they have no choice but to make painful changes to ensure the survival of their funds as health care costs rise at a rate that exceeds premiums.
Delivery to New York in January. Employees are often targeted with their electric bikes, which can cost thousands of dollars. related credit Hiroko Masuike / New York Times
Delivering restaurant orders and other goods has become an integral part of daily life in the United States since the pandemic forced millions of people into the house. And in New York City, where the disease has claimed nearly 30,000 lives, workers have become a lifeline for people working from home and vulnerable residents warned to stay off the streets.
Every day, thousands of men and a growing number of women ride their worn-out bicycles through the city streets, carrying food, groceries and medicine in plastic bags.
But their visibility has also made them a target for criminals looking to make a quick buck through theft. Unemployment has reached double digits and economic desperation is spreading in the city’s less affluent neighborhoods, which have already been hit by the pandemic.
Stolen e-bikes can easily be sold on the street for cash or taken apart for parts, police and employees say. Bicycles can cost thousands of dollars and are an essential tool for workers who often make less than $60 a day. Many of them use the bicycle, despite the high price, because it allows speeds of up to 30 km per hour, which allows workers to go further and make more trips to improve their results.
According to police data obtained by The New York Times, the number of e-bike thefts doubled in the first year of the pandemic to 328 in 2020 from 166 the year before.
According to researchers, burglars often use fake credit cards to place fake orders and lure delivery drivers to remote locations. This leaves delivery drivers with two terrible options: get rid of the expensive bikes they need to stay on the job, or risk injury or death.
Ligia Gualpa, director of the Justice for Workers Project, a nonprofit that represents low-wage immigrants, said many couriers do not report robberies and assaults. A large percentage of them are in the country legally without papers and do not speak English fluently. Many fear that reporting them to the police will lead to their deportation.
Covaxin vaccine is in the fridge. linked to Atul Lock credit for The New York Times.
The Indian-made Covid-19 vaccine, which was released as part of an ambitious vaccination campaign before a number of questions about it had been fully answered, appears to be safe for use, according to a leading British medical journal.
As the researchers write in The Lancet, the Covaxin vaccine did not cause any serious side effects during the study.
But the researchers said they cannot yet say whether the vaccine is effective.
Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech and was approved for use by Indian drug authorities in January. This was before it was widely known whether the vaccine was safe or effective, leading many people in India, including some frontline health workers, to raise concerns.
Bharat Biotech said last week that initial results from clinical trials showed that the vaccine was both safe and effective, but many public health officials prefer to rely on independent studies like the one published in the Lancet rather than the company’s own announcements.
At about the same time, the Indian government approved the use of Oxford-Astra-Zeneca’s vaccine, known and produced in India under the name Covishield.
India has launched one of the most ambitious and challenging national public health campaigns in its history: vaccinating 1.3 billion people against the coronavirus. It is also heavily dependent on its growing pharmaceutical industry, which produces drugs and vaccines for export around the world and for domestic use.
Thevariants account for about half of the virus cases in New York, officials say.
New York City health officials said genetic analysis has shown that 51% of coronavirus cases in the city are now caused by the two new variants, but stressed that vaccines remain effective.
Unfortunately, we see that new variants of Covid-19 are spreading. And when you combine the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first reported in the UK, with the new B.220.127.116.11 variant, which was first reported here in New York, these new variants together account for 51% of all the cases we have in the city right now. Thus, our preliminary analysis of the B.18.104.22.168. variant first reported here in New York suggests that it is likely to be more infectious than older strains of the virus. You know, what I called the Covid Classic last week. It is possible that it has a similar infectivity to B.1.1.7, the UK strain, but we do not know for sure yet. We need to understand it and study it further. Very important: Our preliminary analysis does not indicate that this new strain, B.22.214.171.124, causes more severe disease or reduces vaccine efficacy. In particular, variant B.126.96.36.199. is becoming increasingly common in New York City. This is about 39% of all samples that the laboratory sequenced with complete data in response to the pandemic last week, compared to 31% the week before. The B.1.1.7 strain, also known as the British variant, which spreads more easily, reached 12% of samples tested last week, up from 8% the week before. We know that the virus is a formidable foe, but we also know what has helped to limit its spread. And the same goes for the new options. This is Safe 6: Mask, distance yourself, wash hands, test, stay home if you feel sick and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
New York City health officials said a genetic analysis has shown that 51 percent of coronavirus cases in the city are now caused by the two new variants, but stressed that vaccines remain effective.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
A genetic analysis shows that about half of the coronavirus cases in New York City are now caused by two new forms of the pathogen, city officials said Wednesday.
One of these variants, first discovered in the city, now accounts for nearly 40% of all cases tested in local laboratories. The increase in the B.1,526 variant was so striking that officials said they believed it was more contagious than the original form of the coronavirus.
Another more infectious variant, B.1.1.7, first detected in the UK, is also spreading steadily in the city and accounted for 12% of cases tested in the last week of February, up from 8% the week before. B.1.1.7 may be more deadly than earlier versions of the virus.
Instead of sounding the alarm, officials stated that they believed current medical practices, from masking to vaccinations, were sufficient to combat the virus. Vaccines are still effective against these variants, as they were against the original coronavirus.
So far, the number of deaths and serious hospitalizations in the city has continued to decline, officials said. So far, thank goodness, we’ve been able to determine that the options are not causing the worst problems we feared, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday at a news conference.
Dr. David Chokshi, the city’s public health commissioner, said the B.1,526 variant was found in samples throughout the city, not just in one community. The variant first surfaced in samples in November, including samples from Washington Heights in Manhattan, and was first described in academic papers published in late February.
The variant was found in about a quarter of the samples analyzed in mid-February by two university groups, one led by a group from Caltech and the other by researchers at Columbia University.
But the city’s own analysis showed that the prevalence of the B.1.526 variant was even higher – 31 per cent in the third week of February and 39 per cent at the end of the month, Dr Chokshi said.
Dr. Anthony West, a computational biologist at Caltech, said in an interview Wednesday that his recent research has also shown that the B.1.526 variant is increasing at a significant rate in New York, but remains fairly localized in the region.
He and his colleagues found two subtypes of the B.1.526 variant: one with the E484K mutation observed in South Africa and Brazil that would help the virus partially evade vaccines, and the other with a mutation called S477N that could affect the degree to which the virus attaches to human cells.
Epidemiologists have expressed concern about the variant, but city officials said that despite the E484K mutation, they have no evidence yet that the B.1.526 variant partially bypasses vaccine protection. Our preliminary analysis does not indicate that this new strain causes more serious disease or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, said Dr. Jay Varma, an adviser to Mr. de Blasio.
Earlier this year, experts said the city’s genetic analysis capacity was insufficient to understand the dynamics of the epidemic in New York. The ability to track options is much less developed in the United States than in the United Kingdom, and federal health officials have expressed serious concern that options could spread undetected here. New York has increased the number of samples being tested in recent weeks.
At the national level, epidemiologists are sounding the alarm about the B.1.1.7 strain, which is expected to be the dominant form of the virus in the country by the end of March. It is believed that this variant contributed to a dramatic increase in cases and hospital admissions in the UK and elsewhere.
What we’ve seen in Europe is that when we reach the 50 percent mark, we’re going to see a spike in incidence, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. He urged the public not to forgo health measures and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Dr. Dennis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York, said Wednesday that while he is concerned about the new variants, there are more questions than answers about their impact on the spread of the virus in New York.
Every assumption given to the vaccine, the competition between variants and everything we are trying to do to reduce the virus, he said.
We still have the same options to mitigate the effects of the virus, he added, calling for continued vigilance and precautions. If the exposure bypasses these protections, it will likely be lighter or last longer. But if we continue to do everything we’ve done to prevent proliferation, we should be able to manage those options.
Apoorva Mandavilli contributed to this report.
A resident of a nursing home near Barcelona received a second dose of the vaccine last month. linked to credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times.
Some of Spain’s largest regions are urging the central government to speed up implementation of the Covid 19 vaccination programme, including by improving access to the vaccine for the elderly developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
When the vaccine was first licensed in Europe in February, some countries, including Spain, set an age limit for its use because there was relatively little evidence at the time that the vaccine was safe in the elderly. In Spain, the maximum age is 55.
Those restrictions have since been relaxed in countries like Germany and France, and on Wednesday neighboring Portugal announced it would allow vaccinations for people over 65. Oxford and AstraZeneca.
This has increased the pressure on the Spanish government to do the same.
The health minister of Catalonia, the northeastern region that includes Barcelona, issued an ultimatum on Wednesday. He said that if the national authorities do not soon follow Portugal’s example, Catalonia will do so unilaterally.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso, chairwoman of the Spanish metropolitan region, has also asked the central government to raise the age limit to at least 65.
Spain’s vaccination epidemic has also provoked criticism from members of the main medical association, who have complained that bureaucracy is slowing down the process and that people such as teachers and police officers are starting to get vaccinated while some health workers have not yet had the chance.
About 3.4 million people in Spain, or about 7 percent of the population, had received at least one dose of the vaccine at the beginning of the week, the health ministry said. The Spanish government has pledged to vaccinate 70% of the population before the end of the summer.