Covid-19 and Vaccine News: Live Updates

April 19, 2021


A mass vaccination event for teachers at Carteret High School in Carteret, N.J., this month.
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

All adults in every U.S. state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are now eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, meeting the April 19 deadline that President Biden set two weeks ago.

The United States is administering an average of 3.2 million doses a day, up from roughly 2.5 million a month before. More than 131 million people, or half of all American adults, had received at least one shot as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 84.3 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont were the last states to expand eligibility, opening vaccinations to all adults on Monday.

“It’s truly historic that we have already reached this milestone,” said Dr. Nandita Mani, the associate medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Center.

After a slow start, the pace of vaccinations has risen considerably in recent months. Mr. Biden, who initially said he wanted states to make all adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1, moved the deadline up as vaccinations accelerated. Mr. Biden has also set a goal of administering 200 million doses by his 100th day in office, which the nation is on pace to meet.

The expansion of eligibility comes as medical officials investigate whether Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot Covid-19 vaccine is linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder. All 50 states suspended administration of the vaccine last week, after federal health officials recommended a pause.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on Sunday that federal regulators should come to a decision on Friday about whether to resume Johnson & Johnson vaccinations. Although he said he did not want to get ahead of the C.D.C. and the Food and Drug Administration, he said he expected experts to recommend “some sort of either warning or restriction” on the use of the vaccine.

Even if there is a link between the vaccine and the clotting disorder, the risk is exceedingly low, experts say.

Still, Dr. Mani said the pause was likely to harden the hesitancy of some Americans to get vaccinated.

At the same time, with the virus resurgent, public health experts are warning Americans not to let their guards down. The United States is averaging more than 67,000 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from over 54,000 a month ago, according to a New York Times database.

“Seventy thousand cases a day is not acceptable. We have to get that down,” said Barry Bloom, a research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He said more vaccinations would help, but people must remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing.

At its current pace, the United States will vaccinate 70 percent of its population by mid-June. But vaccine hesitancy could slow progress toward herd immunity, which will also depend on vaccinating children.

Pfizer announced this month that it had applied for an emergency use authorization to make children ages 12 to 15 eligible for its vaccine. Moderna is expected to release results from its trial in young teenagers soon, and vaccinations in this age group could begin before school starts in the fall.

Trials in younger children are underway. Dr. Fauci also said on Sunday that he expected children of all ages to be eligible for vaccination in the first quarter of 2022.

Although vaccinations have picked up in the United States, many countries still face dire vaccine shortages. About 83 percent of Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker.

Dr. Funmi Olopade, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago, said it was crucial for the United States to step up its role in the global vaccination campaign as supply increases. The virus, left to spread around the world, could continue to mutate and threaten the nation’s economic recovery, she said.

It is in everybody’s “self-interest to provide whatever we can in the way of excess vaccines to low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Bloom said.

Emily Anthes and

President Biden at the White House in March. He will appear in a public service announcement as part of a media campaign to persuade more people to get vaccinated.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Biden administration will mount an intense push on Monday to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, an effort timed to coincide with the deadline President Biden set for states to extend vaccine eligibility to all adults age 16 or older.

The one-day campaign — officials are calling it a “blitz” and likening it to a “get out the vote” effort — will roll out on social media, including push notifications from Facebook and Twitter, as well as radio and television programs, according to a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity to preview the plan, first reported by Axios.

The president will appear in a public service announcement, and Vice President Kamala Harris will take to social media to publicize the vaccines. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, will try to reach young people with 15-second videos on Snapchat — an unusual platform for the 80-year-old infectious disease specialist.

While the administration has continuing media campaigns designed to reach people who are hesitant about vaccination, including Black and Latino Americans, Monday’s media push will be widespread, the official said. It will feature top administration officials — including Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services; Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health — who will do more than 30 interviews across the country with local media outlets.

Officials will also appear on outlets targeted to specific audiences, like Telemundo and “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show,” which has a large following among African-Americans.

More than 84 million Americans — roughly one-third of the adult population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as of Sunday more than 209 million shots had been administered. But after months of demand outstripping supply, Biden administration officials expect that before long, vaccine supplies will exceed demand.

Biden administration officials are well aware that if the United States is to reach herd immunity — when the virus can’t spread easily because it will lack hosts — skeptics must be persuaded to take their shots.

Officials are especially concerned about a rise in vaccine hesitancy in the wake of the decision by federal health officials to “pause” the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while regulators examine six cases of rare blood clots among vaccine recipients.

A C.D.C. advisory panel is expected to meet on Friday to discuss the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and make recommendations about its use.

Patients with breathing problems inside an ambulance waiting to enter a Covid-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India, on Monday.
Credit…Amit Dave/Reuters

NEW DELHI — Delhi enacted a weeklong citywide lockdown on Monday, as infections and deaths in India hit new daily records and several local governments, including in the national capital, reported shortages of oxygen, beds and drugs.

India reported more than 272,000 cases and 1,619 deaths on Monday, as a second wave of the coronavirus continued to spread across the country. The worsening situation has caused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain to cancel a planned trip to the country next week, a decision the British and Indian governments announced on Monday.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, announced on Monday a citywide lockdown beginning at 10 p.m. and ending around 5 a.m. on April 26.

“Our health systems have reached its limit,” he said. “We have almost no I.C.U. beds left. We are facing a huge shortage of oxygen.”

Only essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery, will be allowed, he said. Wedding ceremonies will be restricted to 50 people.

“If we don’t place a lockdown now, it could lead to a big tragedy,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

Also on Monday, a court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ordered lockdown-like restrictions in the cities of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur until April 26. Government offices, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and grocery stores with more than three workers will be closed in those cities.

“We can’t shirk away from our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic,” the court said in its decision.

Last week, the state government of Maharashtra, which includes the financial hub Mumbai, banned public gatherings and ordered most businesses to close for the next few weeks after hospitals there started being overwhelmed. Its chief minister appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use the Indian Air Force to airlift oxygen cylinders to meet the state’s demand.

India is also facing a shortage of the experimental drug remdesivir.

On Sunday, Hemant Soren, the chief minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand, asked the central government to allow him to import 50,000 vials of the drug, which the World Health Organization hasn’t recommended, from Bangladesh for emergency use.

“The precariousness of the situation will be evident from the fact that against the total order of 76,640 vials, Jharkhand has received only 8,038 vials,” Mr. Soren wrote in a letter to the central government.

The shortages have resulted in squabbles between opposition-led state governments and Mr. Modi’s government, which controls the supply of badly needed medical oxygen and drugs.

On Sunday, Piyush Goyal, a minister in Mr. Modi’s cabinet, asked states to keep the demand for oxygen “under control” and allow patients to use only “as much oxygen as they need.”

“In many places there is news that oxygen is being given even when it is not needed,” he said. Opposition leaders criticized his remarks.

Mr. Modi and his top lieutenants have also come under pressure for holding political rallies gathering thousands of people, with almost no regard for social distancing, at a time when coronavirus cases in the country are spiraling out of control.

On Saturday, Mr. Modi praised the size of the crowd at a rally in the eastern state of West Bengal, where an election is underway. Yashwant Sinha, a former leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party who is now head of the opposition United Democratic Alliance, said the remarks “could have come only from a person who is completely insensitive.”

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said on Sunday that he was canceling his political rallies in the state.

“I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances,” he said.

Travelers from New Zealand are welcomed at Sydney International Airport on Monday. 
Credit…Jenny Evans/Getty Images

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Airports in Australia and New Zealand were filled with emotional scenes on Monday as thousands of passengers were allowed to travel freely between the two countries for the first time in more than a year.

The travel bubble, among the first of its kind in the world, establishes reciprocal quarantine-free movement between the two Pacific nations, subject to certain conditions. While most Australian states have waived quarantine for travelers from New Zealand since late last year, New Zealand had until Monday been hesitant to extend the same treatment to travelers from Australia.

Many travelers reunited with family members they had not seen in a year or longer: grandchildren (and great-grandchildren); sisters; parents. One 7-year-old girl at the airport in Wellington, New Zealand, was said to be reuniting with her mother for the first time in 15 months. For others, the opening of the bubble allowed them to leave one country for a new life in the other.

The border restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic have been especially jarring for Australians and New Zealanders, who have been able to live and work indefinitely in one another’s countries without a visa since the 1970s. Around 570,000 people born in New Zealand live in Australia, according to government statistics, and more than 60,000 Australian-born people in New Zealand.

“We have genuinely missed our Australian cousins,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand told reporters on Monday afternoon. She added: “And that’s because, in some cases, they are literally our cousins. That’s certainly the case for me.”

In Wellington, the end of the runway was painted in giant letters with the words “Welcome Whanau,” a word that means “family” in Te Reo Maori, the language of New Zealand’s Indigenous people. Travelers emerging into the arrival hall were welcomed by cheers, camera flashes and dancers performing the haka, a Maori tradition.

Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to foreigners in March 2020, as the coronavirus quickly progressed across the world. The bubble is the product of months of setbacks and negotiations, and could be suspended or amended in the event of a new outbreak in either country.

Ms. Ardern has pointed to the bubble as a way to revive New Zealand’s ailing tourism industry, which before the pandemic employed nearly 230,000 of the country’s five million people, according to the country’s tourism board. Australians account for about 40 percent of New Zealand’s international tourism.

The bubble also represents a possible lifeline for airlines based in Australia and New Zealand, which have been forced to lay off thousands of staff members. They celebrated, appropriately, with plenty of bubbles: Air New Zealand ordered 24,000 bottles of Champagne for the occasion, handing out free glasses to passengers on predawn flights.

Australia and New Zealand have all but eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus from their shores, through a combination of stringent lockdowns, closed borders and rigorous two-week quarantines for the few allowed to enter the country. As a result, daily life has a semblance of normalcy.

But neither country is likely to open to the whole world anytime soon, especially with their vaccination drives off to a slow start.

“Australia is in no hurry to open those borders, I assure you,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday. “I will not be putting at risk the way we are living in this country, which is so different to the rest of the world today.”

Airport staff members lining up to collect coronavirus testing kits at Hong Kong International Airport in February.
Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong said it would ban flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for two weeks starting on Tuesday after detecting its first local case involving a variant of the coronavirus.

A man who tested positive on Friday, after returning from Dubai and then completing his mandatory 21 days of quarantine, is the Asian financial hub’s first case outside quarantine found to carry the N501Y spike mutation. This change appears to help the virus bind to cells and occurs in several variants that have spread rapidly around the world, including B.1.1.7, first detected in Britain.

On Sunday, a friend the man had stayed with after quarantine also tested positive for the virus, with a preliminary positive for the N501Y mutation. Though other residents of the building tested negative, the authorities ordered about 80 of them to quarantine at a government facility.

The N501Y mutation has been a focus of the Chinese territory’s efforts to keep out coronavirus variants: The India, Pakistan and Philippines travel bans came under a policy announced last Wednesday blocking flights from any country whose Hong Kong arrivals yielded more than five positive tests for the mutation within seven days. In the neighboring Chinese territory of Macau, the quarantine requirement for arrivals from India, Pakistan and the Philippines was extended on Monday to 28 days from 21.

Hong Kong already requires negative test results before boarding and upon arrival before travelers are allowed to settle into their quarantine hotels. Out of the 175 new coronavirus cases reported in Hong Kong over the past two weeks, 132 of them were classified as imported.

Waiting to be vaccinated outside the Stade de France in the Paris suburbs this month.
Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

PARIS — One of France’s most popular Covid-19 analysts is not a doctor or a government official. Rather, he is an independent 24-year-old data scientist who has created tools used by millions to book vaccine appointments or assess the risks of seeing one’s family during the holidays.

The analyst, Guillaume Rozier, started a website on April 1 that, in less than a minute, scans all available appointments at certified vaccination centers throughout the country and helps users access booking sites. Powered by the work of a dozen volunteers, the search engine, Vite Ma Dose (My Dose Quickly), has drawn 2.5 million unique visitors in just days.

The site does not have the capacity to track the number of appointments it is responsible for. “But we estimate that at least several thousand, if not several tens of thousands, of people are getting a vaccine appointment every day, considering the site’s traffic,” said Mr. Rozier, who also set up a tracking website last year to make the country’s latest coronavirus data accessible to the French public. He said he had received hundreds of thank-you messages from people who found appointments through the new website.

A similar vaccine appointment site created for New York City by Huge Ma, a 31-year-old software engineer, was so popular that he made a campaign appearance with a mayoral candidate.

The French authorities said last week that the vaccine rollout would gather speed, but many say vaccination call centers are overwhelmed. Mr. Rozier also said that many centers and appointment times do not appear on reservation platforms.

France and Britain, among other countries, have used mobile services to help vaccinate people or trace those infected with the virus, but they have not been widely adopted by the public. Last week, Apple and Google blocked a planned update to the National Health Service’s “Test and Trace” app in Britain over privacy concerns.

Almost 19 percent of France’s population has received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, far behind countries like Israel, Britain and the United States. France on Thursday became the third European country to record 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, after Britain and Italy.

While services like Vite Ma Dose will not catch France up on their own, users have praised its efficiency. Corentin Catherine, a 24-year-old pharmacy student, received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in eastern France last week thanks to an appointment being canceled at the last minute.

Mr. Catherine said he felt “grateful” for the app, through which he also booked an appointment for his second dose.

The French authorities have said they aim to inoculate all adults by the end of the summer. But mistrust in the vaccine has soared amid safety concerns over the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and 110,000 doses had been wasted as of last month, according to the government.

Covidliste, a website created by two other data scientists, aims to minimize those losses by connecting people who wish to be inoculated, including those who are not yet eligible, with health workers still in possession of unused doses at the end of the day. More than 25,000 people have been invited to receive a vaccine dose through the app, its founders said.

“It’s typically issues of supply and demand that do not meet,” Martin Daniel, one of the founders, said on French radio. “So I figured maybe we could create a tool to make this process more efficient.”

Construction workers at the Javits Center in New York this month.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

New York has just spent $1.5 billion to entice very large groups of people to gather under the same roof. When will that seem like a good idea again?

Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a major expansion of the city’s main convention hall, the Javits Center. By early summer, it should be ready to once again host trade shows, corporate meetings and public events.

But the pandemic wiped out mass gatherings more than a year ago, and it is not clear when or if most of them will return. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still warning people to “avoid large events and gatherings.”

Several other cities, including Las Vegas, Seattle and San Francisco, have invested billions of dollars in the last several years to make their convention halls bigger and more appealing.

Then the pandemic struck.

A group of Dutch visitors stayed in isolation at a resort hotel in Rhodes, Greece, last week, as part of a trial for the reopening of tourism.
Credit…Louiza Vradi/Reuters

ATHENS — As part of a plan to revive its crucial tourism sector, Greece is lifting quarantine restrictions beginning Monday for arrivals from European Union member states and several other countries including the United States and Britain.

The move effectively opens the country’s borders to travelers from the United States for the first time in more than a year.

Having suffered heavy economic losses last year because of the pandemic, Greece is determined to save its summer tourist season even though a third wave of coronavirus infections is in full force. Pressure on hospitals is high, with around 200,000 active coronavirus infections and a death toll of 9,462 as of Sunday.

Greece had previously required arrivals to quarantine for seven days, but will waive that rule for passengers from the listed countries as long as they have a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours of their arrival.

The rule relaxation will also apply to travelers from Serbia and the United Arab Emirates, and echoes a system put in place last month for passengers from Israel, which has a world-leading inoculation campaign.

Greek government officials have said the aim is for a “gradual” welcoming of tourists before a planned official reopening of the country’s tourism sector on May 14.

A test run was arranged by travel-industry experts last week on the island of Rhodes in the southern Aegean, with a group of 188 Dutch tourists.

The Dutch visitors were given exclusive use of a hotel on the island, to which they were confined for the duration of an eight-day vacation. They were tested for coronavirus before their arrival, during their stay and before their departure on Monday, and will have to self-quarantine for 10 days on their return. The trial is so far seen as successful over all, though eight of the group were obliged to self-isolate within the hotel after inconclusive mid-vacation test results. Follow-up tests were negative.

The authorities have ramped up testing in recent weeks as they gradually lift lockdown restrictions — retail stores were permitted to open this month, on an appointment-only basis, and high schools reopened after a five-month closure. Free weekly self-administered rapid tests are available at Greek pharmacies and their use is compulsory in schools as well as much of the retail sector.





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