Covid-19 and Vaccine News: Live Updates
President Biden is expected to outline his administration’s efforts to get more Americans and people around the world vaccinated during a speech at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, an appearance that attempts to redirect the public’s focus after days of policy whiplash caused by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
In recent days, the president and his advisers have been trying to combat confusion and misinformation as the public grapples with shifting mask mandates, and questions over how far the government will go to require Americans to be vaccinated in the workplace.
Mr. Biden’s speech is likely to reflect what his top advisers have been saying, with varying degrees of success, for days: that the people who get sickest from the Delta variant are unvaccinated, and that his administration is working to make vaccines available to every person who needs one.
“This remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Monday afternoon. “While vaccinated people can spread the virus if they get a breakthrough infection, the odds of them getting sick in the first place are far lower than those who are unvaccinated.”
Mr. Biden had said earlier this year that he wanted to see 70 percent of eligible Americans at least partly vaccinated by July 4. The country hit that goal on Monday, about a month late and only after the Delta variant began disrupting the progress touted by the president and public health officials.
There was no celebration of reaching the delayed milestone. Instead, the Biden administration has been in a race to encourage vaccine-reluctant and vaccine-refusing Americans to receive shots as caseloads rise in states with high unvaccinated populations.
“The vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease, and certainly, preventing your death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top disease expert, told reporters.
The White House has also struggled to put into context the threat of the Delta variant to those who are vaccinated. Experts say that infections in vaccinated people — so called breakthrough infections — are still relatively uncommon, and that even in those cases, the vaccines appear to protect against severe illness and death.
As Japan strains to control its galloping coronavirus outbreak, and to keep an Olympic bubble from bursting in the final days of the Games, the government is trying a new tactic: Public shaming.
On Monday, Japan’s health ministry released the names of three people who broke Covid-19 rules after returning from overseas. An official statement said that the three people — two Japanese nationals in their 20s who returned from South Korea, and a third who returned from Hawaii — had clearly acted to avoid contact with the authorities.
All tested negative for the virus at the airport but subsequently failed to report their health condition and did not respond to location-monitoring apps or video calls from the health authorities, as required under Japan’s Covid-19 protocols.
The Japanese government had said in May that about 100 people a day were flouting the border control rules, and signaled that it would soon begin to disclose the names of violators.
Japanese authorities are struggling to adapt their Covid-19 response as caseloads surge to their highest levels of the pandemic and vaccinations continue to lag behind other wealthy nations — and as many members of the Japanese public appear to have tired of the on-and-off emergency measures the government has imposed in Tokyo and other cities since early 2020.
Even as infections rose during an earlier wave this year, and as more infectious variants spread, Japan’s government failed to speed up its vaccination campaign. It has maintained that hosting the Olympics inside a tightly controlled bubble — few spectators, no contact between athletes and the public — did not risk worsening the outbreak.
Although there have been relatively few infections inside the Games — about 300, as of Tuesday — some Japanese people say that seeing the Olympics held in Tokyo has encouraged them to relax against the virus.
Yet the outbreak has gotten worse. On Tuesday, officials said they had recorded more than 8,300 daily cases nationwide, a slight dip from the weekend’s records of more than 10,000. Tokyo reported 3,709 cases, also slightly lower than previous days.
In a sign that the health system is growing overwhelmed, the government said on Monday that it would hospitalize only those with severe cases of Covid-19, to avoid increasing the strain on hospitals.
“We will secure the necessary beds for severely ill patients and those at risk of becoming so,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday evening after a government task force meeting.
The health minister, Norihisa Tamura, told reporters on Tuesday that the change would give the health system “leeway” to ensure that beds were available for people who faced severe illness or death.
“Problems arise when the infection speed is fast,” he said. “We need to respond to provide assistance quickly.”
People infected with the coronavirus who experience mild symptoms would be monitored at home by local doctors, officials said.
The demand for hospital beds was acute: according to official statistics, Tokyo had 3,231 Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals, with 8,270 on the waiting list. Of those in hospitals, 114 patients were in serious condition, officials said.
Yukio Edano, a leader of the largest opposition party, said that the government’s announcement amounts to an acknowledgment that the health system could not care for the majority of patients.
“I have strong anger again that the government’s crisis management is not efficient at all,” Mr. Edano said. “‘Treating at home’ is just a phrase, but it really means ‘abandoning at home.’”
Wuhan, the city in central China where the pandemic first emerged, is planning to test all of its 11 million residents for the coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, as they announced the first local transmission there since last spring.
The city, the first to show the world the damage the virus could wreak, had not recorded any local cases since May of last year, after a harsh two-and-a-half month lockdown helped eradicate the virus there. But city officials said they had detected three symptomatic local cases in the previous 24 hours, as well as five asymptomatic ones.
Wuhan had some of China’s strictest measures to stop the spread of the virus, and many residents continued to wear masks even as people elsewhere relaxed as the country brought the outbreak under control. But China is battling several new flare-ups as the Delta variant makes inroads, including in the cities of Nanjing and Zhangjiajie, and several more in the country’s south. The authorities in Zhangjiajie also barred residents and tourists from leaving the city, imposing a de facto lockdown.
Wuhan had previously tested all its residents in two weeks last spring, mobilizing the Chinese Communist Party’s vast network of local officials in a feat unprecedented at the time. Since then, the country has carried out several mass testing campaigns.
Officials said that Wuhan was a major transportation hub and that it was crucial to cut off any further transmission there. Liu Dongru, a provincial health official, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the authorities would “firmly protect the hard-won results against the epidemic.”
Officials also announced on Tuesday that large-scale gatherings would be prohibited. They encouraged residents not to leave Wuhan and suspended offline classes.
Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.
In the United States, the White House is teaming up with TikTok influencers to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines. But in France, President Emmanuel Macron has decided to do the influencing himself.
“Many of you still have questions, are afraid; many hear about false information, false rumors — sometimes complete nonsense, let’s be honest,” Mr. Macron said in a video published on Instagram and TikTok this week that eschewed the gilded trappings of French officialdom.
Instead, in a rare display of casualness for a French president, Mr. Macron wore a simple black T-shirt and spoke directly into a camera held at arm’s length, YouTuber-style.
Looking slightly tanned, he spoke from the Fort of Brégançon, the French presidency’s summertime residence on the Mediterranean Coast — although only a flag and logo behind him hinted at anything official.
“I’ve decided to directly answer your questions,” Mr. Macron said, in an address that seemed mostly targeted toward young people. “Go ahead, ask them and I’ll try to be as direct and clear as possible.”
Mr. Macron’s social media Q. and A., with several videos posted so far, comes at a crucial time for France’s struggle against the Covid-19 epidemic.
Infections have surged in France’s overseas territories like Martinique and Guadeloupe, both islands in the Caribbean that are now back under lockdown. Mr. Macron’s health pass policy — barring access to many indoor venues to those without proof of vaccination or a recent negative test — has fueled growing protests around the country.
Some demonstrators are not opposed to vaccination but say the health pass is heavy-handed and infringes on civil liberties, and several political opponents say Mr. Macron should be trying to convince people to get vaccinated, not coercing them. Other demonstrators are opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines themselves.
In the videos, Mr. Macron tried to dispel worries and counter falsehoods about the vaccines, although it was unclear whether he was answering questions submitted by actual social media users.
“If you don’t do it merely for yourself, do it for those close to you,” he said in one video addressed to young people who argue the vaccine is superfluous for them because they aren’t high-risk patients. “The vaccine saves lives, the virus kills,” he said in another.
In the latest clip, published on Tuesday, he reminded viewers that vaccines had helped humanity eradicate diseases like smallpox and polio and that, since 2018, 11 different vaccines are already mandatory for children in France.
On mRNA vaccines, the innovative technology used in Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid shots, Mr. Macron pointed out that scientific research into the technology goes back decades, and argued the rapid development of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic was something to be celebrated, not looked at suspiciously.
“That’s the reality of things and the truth,” he concluded.
Mr. Macron’s videos have already been seen millions of times, but it is unclear whether his influencing efforts will be enough to convince vaccine skeptics, many of whom are very distrustful of the French government and harbor intense animosity toward Mr. Macron himself and his top-down style of governing.
Some commenters on Mr. Macron’s videos asked questions about vaccines, others supported his efforts or even complimented his physical appearance, while detractors accused him of spouting propaganda and ignoring citizens’ concerns.
“The president’s T-shirt isn’t going to make him more approachable, younger or more convincing,” Julien Odoul, a spokesman for the far-right National Rally party, told Franceinfo on Tuesday.
With Bangladesh under a nationwide lockdown to fight a third wave of the coronavirus, hospitals in the capital, Dhaka, are reaching capacity and demand for oxygen is exceeding supply.
But on Sunday, the government granted an exemption allowing the country’s critical ready-made garments industry to keep operating, prompting fears among experts that the health crisis could worsen as thousands of employees from outlying areas return to the capital to work.
Dhaka’s three main hospitals have run out of intensive-care beds, forcing administrators to turn patients away, Robed Amin, a government health department spokesman, said in an interview. The government has been trying to expand the health system’s capacity but its facilities are becoming overwhelmed, he said.
“If we have 100 hospitals and all the beds are occupied, what can we do?” he said.
A.K.M. Nasiruddin, director of the Dhaka North City Corporation hospital, a dedicated Covid-19 facility, said that all 500 of the hospital’s oxygen-equipped beds were filled with patients. Hospital administrators were rushing to convert the remaining beds so that they could treat intensive-care patients, he said.
Bangladesh, a densely populated country of 160 million, experienced relatively few infections and deaths in its first two waves of the virus compared with other countries in South Asia. Unlike neighboring India, Bangladesh did not run out of oxygen supplies or hospital beds during a second wave this spring, with case numbers tapering off after an April peak.
But last month, Bangladesh recorded more than 5,600 deaths attributed to Covid-19 — more than a quarter of the country’s total since the pandemic began.
After beginning a mass vaccination drive in early July, far later than many other Asian nations, around 4.3 million people were fully vaccinated by Aug. 1, according to government statistics. That is about 4 percent of Bangladesh’s adult population.
Before the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha last month, the government eased lockdown restrictions, ignoring health experts’ warnings that increased travel could fuel an outbreak. Asim Kumar Nath, director of Mugda Medical College Hospital in Dhaka, said the Eid decision “made the situation worse for Bangladesh.”
As the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus rips through the unvaccinated population in the United States, Florida is heading toward its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
The state is still about one month away from its peak, according to an epidemiologist who has been tracking the virus’s reach there.
“Short term and long term, the cases are going to explode,” Edwin Michael, a professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, said in an interview on Monday. “We are predicting that the cases will be peaking the first week of September.”
Dr. Michael models predictions of the coronavirus statewide and in each Florida county, and his team’s work is used by officials and hospitals to support plans and responses to the pandemic.
“Our simulations show that if we don’t slow the hospitalizations, if we don’t prevent the wave of coming infections, we might exceed Florida’s bed capacity in early September,” he said.
In the last week, hospitals around the state are reporting an average of 1,525 adult hospitalizations and 35 pediatric hospitalizations a day, and cases have risen to levels not seen since January.
“We need a two-pronged approach,” Dr. Michael said. “Get as many people vaccinated as possible, especially the pediatric population. But to prevent the coming waves, we need to couple it with social-distancing measures and face-mask mandates.”
He lamented that it was too late for vaccinations — which take five weeks from the first dose to full protection — to prevent the coming peak, and he insisted that the only way to have a quick impact on the Labor Day wave was to have the extra protective measures.
“The next four weeks are going to be so crucial,” he said. “Schools and universities are reopening in Florida. This is going to be a dangerous period coming.”
The pace of vaccination has plunged since April. That, coupled with a collapse in people taking precautions, allowed Delta to flourish. “Barely 5 percent are practicing social measures,” he said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has opposed mask mandates and vaccine requirements and has restricted local officials’ ability to put steps in place that, scientists say, would stem the rising tide of cases.
On Friday, Mr. DeSantis barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes begin next week, leaving it to parents to decide whether their children wear masks in school.
“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns,” Mr. DeSantis said. “There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates.”
The largest city in the state of Odisha in eastern India reached a milestone over the weekend: Officials said the city had fully inoculated its entire eligible population.
It was a significant accomplishment for Bhubaneswar, a city of over 1.1 million that experienced a deadly wave of coronavirus infections earlier this year that overwhelmed its health care system and left many people unable to be hospitalized.
Ansuman Rath, a top official in Bhubaneswar, said on Monday that all adults — about 900,000 people — had received the first of the two required shots by mid-June, a milestone that had “pushed up our morale.”
“When we achieved that, we thought we must quickly give the second doses too, as case load was high at that time,” Mr. Rath said.
He said local authorities campaigned in the city’s slums to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and set up a dozen walk-in centers across the city so people without access to mobile phones or the internet — and in some cases, without proper identification — could get vaccinated with the assistance of officials.
The vaccination drive began in January in Bhubaneswar but got off to a slow start because the Covishield vaccine, a locally manufactured version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, was in short supply. Instead, the local administration relied mainly on another Indian-made vaccine, Covaxin.
When one of the world’s most devastating outbreaks swept through India in the spring, Bhubaneswar was hit hard, recording more than 1,200 new cases and 30 to 40 deaths a day during March and April. The city is now reporting fewer than 200 new cases and 10 deaths a day.
India reported 30,549 new cases on Tuesday, and the daily positivity rate has remained below 5 percent.
Delhi, which faced one of the worst outbreaks of the virus in the spring but has since reopened crowded market places, reported zero deaths on Monday. The southern state of Kerala has been seeing a steady rise in new cases past week, accounting for nearly half of India’s new cases.
According to a New York Times tracker, cases have decreased by 5 percent from the average two weeks ago and deaths have decreased by 8 percent. According to the Indian government’s database, more than 27 percent of India’s population of 1.4 billion people have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 7.4 percent have been fully vaccinated.
With the number of migrants crossing the southern border surging and the pandemic proving to be far from over, the Biden administration has decided to leave in place for now the public health rule that has allowed it to turn away hundreds of thousands of migrants, officials said.
The decision, confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, amounted to a shift by the administration, which had been working on plans to begin lifting the rule this summer, more than a year after it was imposed by the Trump administration.
The C.D.C. said allowing noncitizens to come over the border from either Mexico or Canada “creates a serious danger” of further spread of the coronavirus.
President Biden has come under intense pressure for months from some Democrats and supporters of more liberal immigration policies to lift the rule, which critics say has been used less to protect public health than as a politically defensible way to limit immigration.
The recent spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant has bolstered the argument that the public health rule, known as Title 42, remains necessary. And the virus’s quickening spread comes as border officials are so overwhelmed with the persistent pace of illegal migration that they say that allowing more migrants into the country by lifting the rule poses the threat of a humanitarian crisis.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would move forward with a lawsuit seeking to force the administration to lift the public health order for migrant families after months of negotiations with the “ultimate goal” of ending the policy.
With the rapid spread of the Delta variant fueling a rise in infections across the United States, Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland, Calif.,-based health care giant, announced on Monday that it would require all its employees and physicians to be fully vaccinated.
“Making vaccination mandatory is the most effective way we can protect our people, our patients and our communities,” Greg A. Adams, chair and chief executive officer of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc., said in a statement.
The announcement came as infections from the Delta variant have rapidly spread in areas with low vaccination rates, and as 70 percent of eligible U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose.
Kaiser’s health care network includes 39 hospitals, more than 700 medical offices and a work force of more than 23,000 physicians, 63,000 nurses and 200,000 other employees.
As of July 30, more than 95 percent of Kaiser’s physicians were vaccinated, along with nearly 78 percent of its employees, according to Mr. Adams. The statement did not indicate how many nurses were vaccinated.
The company’s target date for having its entire work force fully vaccinated is Sept. 30.
“We encourage all health systems and business and industry leaders across the country to play a role in ending the pandemic by doing the same,” Mr. Adams said.
Last week, in what was intended to be an internal document, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the highly contagious Delta variant had redrawn the battle lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came just as the first U.S. school districts were preparing to reopen; children in Atlanta and some of its suburbs head back to the classroom this week.
Over the past year, there has been contentious debate over how much schools contribute to the spread of the virus and whether, and when, they should close. For some parents, teachers and officials, keeping schools open when a new, poorly understood virus was circulating seemed like an unacceptable risk.
For others, however, it was school closures that posed the bigger danger — of learning loss, widening educational disparities and worsening mental health, not to mention the hardships for parents.
As the new school year begins, however, the C.D.C., the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other experts agree that reopening schools should be a priority.
Just a few months ago, with vaccinations for those 12 and older proceeding at a steady clip and new cases declining, the stage seemed set for at least a partial return to normal.
Delta has thrown that into question. Much remains unknown about the variant, including whether it affects children more seriously than earlier forms of the virus.
And with vaccination rates highly uneven, and most decision-making left up to local officials, the variant adds new uncertainty to the coming school year — and makes it even more critical for schools to take safety precautions as they reopen, scientists said.
“Delta, because it’s so contagious, has raised the ante,” said Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University. “It makes all these details all the more important.”
Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, has said it will temporarily lay off 2,500 employees as travel plunges in response to the ballooning coronavirus outbreak in Sydney.
A city of five million people, Sydney has been under strict lockdown orders for weeks as cases of the more virulent Delta strain of the coronavirus surge. On Tuesday, the authorities reported 199 new cases, and some infectious disease experts have predicted the outbreak will last months.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Alan Joyce, the chief executive of the Qantas Group, said that the difficult decision was indicative of looming challenges for businesses across the state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital.
The company has said it will continue to pay staff members who are temporarily laid off until mid-August, and does not expect the job losses to be permanent.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people,” he said, adding that he expected Sydney’s borders to remain closed for at least the next two months.
Mr. Joyce said that while the company expected domestic travel to pick up once Australia improved on its sluggish vaccination rollout, the “challenge around opening international borders remains,” with stringent restrictions in place.
Just 15 percent of Australia’s 26 million people are fully vaccinated, according to New York Times data, a figure that lags far behind most wealthy nations.
In other news around the world:
Two cases of the Delta Plus variant have been detected in South Korea, the country’s authorities said on Tuesday. The Delta Plus variant is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant that has been detected in several Indian states and around a dozen other countries, including the United States and Britain.
The U.S. Navy is considering reinstating a quarantine for visitors to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after the discovery that two vaccinated journalists who visited the remote base last week returned to the United States infected with the coronavirus.
The journalists were among about 80 people who traveled from the Washington, D.C., area on July 26 for a hearing in a military commissions case. The group returned to the mainland three days later, and two of the reporters discovered over the weekend that they had Covid-19. Other travelers were being tested on Monday.
About 6,000 people live at the base and more than a third of the adults there have declined vaccination, according to base health officials. Guantánamo has yet to receive vaccines for the several hundred residents under the age of 18. Most are the children of sailors who serve on longer-term assignments there.
Guantánamo, which has consistently refused to disclose its Covid infection rate throughout the pandemic, has managed to avoid a widespread outbreak through isolation of new arrivals and testing.
The Navy base lifted the quarantine requirement on vaccinated visitors about two months ago, but continued to require visitors and returning residents who are unvaccinated to spend two weeks in self-isolation, in case they were asymptomatic carriers.
Quarantining those who are vaccinated — for seven days instead of 14 — would allow base health officials to monitor the new arrivals for symptoms.
Vaccinated travelers who arrived starting Tuesday were to be tested upon arrival.
Guantánamo had eased its masking and social distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals in recent weeks. Three weeks ago, spectators at a court hearing for an Iraqi prisoner sat six feet apart.
Then last week, the military permitted spectators to sit three feet apart, wearing no masks, to observe a pre-sentencing hearing of a Pakistani man who has admitted serving as a courier for Al Qaeda.
Inside the courtroom, Army guards providing security wore masks, while the Air Force judge in the case and some lawyers did not.
All the journalists who observed the proceedings were required to be vaccinated and present a negative P.C.R. test within 72 hours of flight time.
Separately Monday, lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the prisoner who is accused of plotting the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asked the chief judge of military commissions to postpone a hearing in the case scheduled to begin on Sept. 6.
Mr. Mohammed’s lawyers cited a resurgence of Covid infections, the vaccination refusal rate and the lack of a full-time trial judge to evaluate the situation as their reasons for delay.
The last hearing in the case against Mr. Mohammed and four other men who are accused of being his accomplices took place at Guantánamo in February 2020, just before the declaration of the pandemic.
#Covid19 #Vaccine #News #Live #Updates