Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

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Fueled by the Delta variant, daily coronavirus case counts in New York City have climbed in recent days, even as the city seems determined to turn the page on the pandemic.

Just a few weeks ago, there were only 200 new cases a day across the city on average, the lowest level since the early days of the pandemic. But in the past week, the city had a stretch of several days of 400 or more cases. And the test positivity rate has doubled: from below 0.6 percent on average to about 1.3 percent.

Those numbers are still low, but the increase has been swift, surprising some epidemiologists and public health officials who had not expected to see cases jump so quickly after remaining level through June.

With some 64 percent of adults in the city fully vaccinated, epidemiologists say it remains unlikely that the Delta variant will create conditions as devastating as the past two waves of Covid-19. Still, Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, calls the recent uptick “concerning.”

The Delta variant is far more contagious than the original form of the virus that swept across the city in March 2020. It was detected in a few cases in New York City in February during the second wave, but it really made inroads over the past two months. By the end of May, it accounted for about 8 percent of the cases sequenced by the city, and by mid-June, more than 40 percent.

Countries around the world — and many U.S. states — are experiencing a surge as a result of the spread of the Delta variant. In Britain, where vaccinations surpass the U.S. rate, cases have soared but hospitalizations have risen more slowly.

“The metrics to keep a close eye on are hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Those numbers have remained stable in New York City. The seven-day average number of daily hospitalizations this week has stayed under 20. The city has recently seen four or five Covid-related deaths a day on average.

Other U.S. cities areas have seen similar surges in infections. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County recorded its fifth day in a row with more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, with health officials attributing the rise to the Delta variant’s spread among the unvaccinated.

Health officials in New York City have tended to focus on Staten Island, where vaccination rates are below the city average, wearing masks is unpopular and positivity rates tend to exceed the city average. Four ZIP codes in Staten Island have had more than 100 cases combined in the past week.

But case counts have climbed significantly in every borough. In Brooklyn, average daily case counts nearly doubled in recent weeks from under 60 to more than 100. On Tuesday, the ZIP code that had the highest average positive test rate in the city was in Harlem.

Health officials have said that the vast majority of those testing positive have not been fully vaccinated.

So far, the Delta variant has not led the city to drastically change its public health guidance or virus-related restrictions. Nor has it affected the plans of many large companies to get workers back to their desks in Manhattan, according to Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a leading business association.

A London Underground exit this month. Most riders on the subway and buses wear masks, but some public health officials worry that behavior could change quickly if the masks were no longer compulsory.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Face masks will continue to be mandatory on London’s subways and buses even after the government lifts the legal requirement to wear them on July 19, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said on Wednesday.

Mr. Khan’s announcement puts the London rules at odds with those announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is pushing ahead with a plan to lift almost all Covid restrictions in England, even as coronavirus infections surge and hospital admissions begin to mount.

Adding to the messaging confusion, Mr. Johnson has encouraged people to continue wearing masks in crowded and confined places even though, under the relaxed rules he announced, it will no longer be a legal requirement.

Mr. Khan, who is in the opposition Labour Party, said that wearing a face mask would be a condition of using London’s sprawling public transportation system, which includes the Tube, buses, overground trains, and light rail networks. Passengers who refuse to put one on will be ordered to leave the system.

“The wearing of face coverings helps reduce the spread of Covid, and crucially gives Londoners confidence to travel — vital to our economic recovery,” Mr. Khan said on Twitter. “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”

Mr. Khan said that masks would also remain mandatory in taxis and ride-hailing services.

Mr. Khan expressed optimism in television interviews that people would abide by the rules. Most riders on the subway and buses wear masks, but some public-health officials worry that behavior could change quickly if they were no longer compulsory.

Officials in other cities have expressed fears that the government’s relaxed rules will contribute to a further surge in infection rates. In Manchester, the city’s Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, is also weighing a legal requirement to continue wearing masks on the public transportation system.

Mr. Johnson has argued that, with vaccines widely deployed in the adult population, England must stick with plans to reopen its economy fully and shift the emphasis from legal restrictions to personal responsibility.

Nonetheless, the British health minister, Sajid Javid, acknowledged that infections could soar to more than 100,000 a day later in the summer. On Tuesday, Britain reported 36,660 new cases, a 27 percent increase over the same day last week.

A kindergarten in Los Angeles in April. California will require students to wear masks for the coming academic year, while leaving enforcement up to individual schools.
Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new school guidance last week, calling for a full return to classrooms in the fall and recommending that masks be optional for fully vaccinated students and staff.

But the guidance left a lot of details up to state and local governments, advising districts to use local coronavirus data to guide decisions about when to tighten or relax prevention measures like masking and physical distancing. It also recommended that unvaccinated students and staff members keep wearing masks.

In New York City, the nation’s largest public school district, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that masks would still be required for everyone in the coming school year, though he added that officials would continue to evaluate the decision.

For now, assume we’re wearing masks, but that could change as we get closer,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “But we’ll be driven by the data we see and the science as always.”

California also announced that it would continue requiring masks in public schools, a policy that has been in place since February and was reiterated in new guidance released on Monday for K-12 public schools.

Also on Monday, California officials said that schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face mask and refuse to wear one provided by the school.

The announcement created confusion about whether it marked a change in how mask rules would be enforced in schools and what the state’s role might be in that enforcement, the state’s health and human services secretary, Mark Ghaly, said in an interview.

Within hours, that language was removed and updated guidelines were released, omitting the reference that schools “must exclude” students who refuse to wear masks.

Mr. Ghaly said that masks would continue to be required in school settings, but how that mandate will be enforced will be up to schools’ own discretion, a continuation of a policy from the previous academic year.

“I think the most important thing to say is that California is starting the school year with all of our students masked,” Mr. Ghaly added.

Health officials will continue to monitor data and to assess whether to ease or maintain the mask mandate in schools no later than Nov. 1, he said.

The topic of school closures and reopenings has been particularly contentious since the onset of the pandemic, and advising districts has been a pervasive challenge for the C.D.C.

On Friday, the agency issued guidance urging schools to fully reopen in the fall and called on local districts to use local coronavirus data as guidance for public health measures.

The agency recommends three feet of social distancing in classrooms, but in a departure from previous guidance, it says that schools can also combine other strategies, like indoor masking, testing and enhanced ventilation, if such spacing would prevent schools from fully reopening.

In another shift, masks are not mandatory for those who are fully vaccinated, according to the new guidelines. The C.D.C. continues to recommend masks for those who are not vaccinated, mirroring guidance for the general public.

Administering a vaccine during a home visit in Selangor State, Malaysia, on Tuesday. The state and other parts of Malaysia have been under lockdown for months.
Credit…Vincent Thian/Associated Press

A Covid vaccination center in Malaysia was closed on Tuesday after nearly half of its health workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The center is in the western state of Selangor, north of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister of science, technology and innovation, said on Tuesday that 204 of the clinic’s 453 workers had tested positive after taking tests over the weekend, according to the Singaporean news outlet Channel News Asia. He said that 400 of the workers had been vaccinated.

The center was scheduled to reopen on Wednesday after closing for a day of deep cleaning, and its regular staff members were isolating, The Associated Press reported. Local news reports did not say whether any of the workers who tested positive had displayed symptoms or needed to be hospitalized.

The government’s Covid-19 immunization program said in a Twitter thread on Tuesday that it was difficult to tell whether the infections had occurred at the center and noted that the risk of the workers infecting others was low based on the viral loads of their test samples.

Even though vaccines are good at preventing serious disease and death from Covid-19, it is less clear how well they prevent vaccinated people from transmitting the virus to others.

Malaysia is reporting about 9,000 coronavirus cases per day, and its per capita rate of new infections — 28 people per 100,000 — was the highest in Southeast Asia as of Wednesday. It is one of several countries in the Asia-Pacific region where the pace of vaccination has been too slow to contain outbreaks driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Selangor and other parts of Malaysia have been under punishing lockdowns for months, and the restrictions were tightened further across several regions in early July.

Malaysia has approved several Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use, and more than 400,000 doses were administered on Tuesday. Yet only about a quarter of the country’s nearly 33 million people had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker, and only 12 percent have been fully vaccinated.

global roundup

Amsterdam in February. New daily cases in the Netherlands increased from 500 on June 25, a day before restrictions were dropped, to over 10,000 on Saturday.
Credit…Peter Dejong/Associated Press

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands skyrocketed by more than 500 percent last week, according to the health authorities, a surge in cases that forced the country’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, to publicly apologize on Monday for having lifted restrictions too hastily.

As new daily cases increased from 500 on June 25, a day before restrictions were dropped, to over 10,000 on Saturday, Mr. Rutte’s government reimposed several measures, including ordering clubs and bars to close at midnight and reinstating a policy to serve only seated and spaced customers.

On Monday, Mr. Rutte said he was sorry about the previous lifting of the measures. “We thought it was possible, but it wasn’t,” he said.

Mr. Rutte’s government had reopened most of the country’s economy on June 26, pushing forward a projected date for easing restrictions by three weeks. Clubs, bars and restaurants reopened under a government-sponsored testing plan that in many cases failed to work because some bouncers and other staff members had not been properly trained. Mask mandates were also lifted except on public transport, in high schools and airports.

In the weeks that followed, the health authorities reported more than 100 superspreader events, including in clubs, on party boats and in student societies. More than 1,000 people were infected at a festival that gathered 20,000 people in the city of Utrecht this month.

As of Wednesday, around 65 percent of the population in the Netherlands has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 39 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times tracker.

In other news from around the world:

  • In Australia, the authorities in Sydney said that the city’s strict lockdown would be extended until at least the end of the month after another 97 infections were reported on Wednesday. The restrictions had been scheduled to end on Friday, but an outbreak driven by the Delta variant has yet to subside, leading to an extension of stay-at-home orders and remote schooling for the city of five million people and nearby areas. Gladys Berejiklian, the top official for the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, said that at least 24 of the 97 cases were infectious and still circulating in the community. Until that number gets close to zero, she said, the restrictions would have to remain in place.

  • A cruise ship returned to Singapore on Wednesday after a 40-year-old passenger tested positive for the virus, The Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, reported. Nearly 3,000 passengers and crew members were isolating in their cabins as the health authorities conducted contact tracing. The infected passenger, who was fully vaccinated, was identified as a close contact of a coronavirus case in Singapore and tested positive during the four-day “cruise to nowhere,” which had departed on Sunday, the newspaper reported.

Immigrants arriving at the border in May. Fewer than 20 percent of detainees passing through ICE facilities have received at least one dose of vaccine while in custody.
Credit…Ringo Chiu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In an effort to increase vaccination rates at detention centers, the Department of Homeland Security has begun administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines to people being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement lockups.

The department said it had received 10,000 doses of the Covid vaccine, with more expected in the future.

Homeland Security “remains committed to a public health-guided, evidence-based approach to vaccine education that ensures those in our care and custody can make an informed choice during this global pandemic,” the agency said in a statement.

The new push to scale up vaccine distribution comes after the agency drew criticism for its previous efforts. As of May, according to ICE’s latest available data, only about 20 percent of detainees passing through its facilities had received at least one dose of vaccine while in custody.

Since testing for the virus began at ICE facilities in 2020, more than 19,000 detainees have tested positive, according to the agency.

On July 11, there were 906 detained immigrants at ICE facilities who had tested positive for the coronavirus and were being monitored or under isolation. Those positive cases were out of about 27,000 detainees, according to ICE.

Lagging vaccination rates have been an issue not only at ICE facilities, but also at prisons, jails and detention centers across the United States, which have seen some of the worst outbreaks in the country.

Throughout the pandemic, prison inmates have been more than three times as likely as other Americans to become infected, according to a New York Times database, which indicates that the virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, calling for detained immigrants to have access to Covid vaccines.

“ICE’s failure to ensure a coordinated strategy for vaccination continues to endanger people in detention nationwide,” the A.C.L.U. said in its letter.

Rachael Sunshine’s pandemic-inspired tattoo.
Credit…Rachael Sunshine

While the pandemic may be a time many people want to forget, others are doing the opposite and getting tattoos to commemorate their experiences.

Some are marking where they spent the year or a lesson they learned from the turmoil. Some Covid-19 survivors are getting tattoos that remind them they are alive and have strength. Others are getting tattoos to memorialize those they have lost.

Jonathan Valena, a tattoo artist known as JonBoy who works out of the Moxy Times Square hotel in New York City, said he had seen a surge in requests for Covid-related designs in the aftermath of the pandemic.

When these clients come into Mr. Valena’s studio, they are ready to talk. “They tell me their stories, and I am there to listen,” he said. “I have that time with them when they can unload, and it’s pretty special.”

Rachael Sunshine, 44, who lives in Coxsackie, N.Y., has a degenerative nerve disease, which put her at a high risk for getting a serious case of the virus.

Against the odds, she survived Covid-19 not once but twice, she said. The virus damaged her heart, and she then survived heart surgery as well.

On May 26, her birthday, she went to Cape Cod, Mass., to celebrate surviving and got a tattoo of a heart surrounded by coronavirus spike proteins, which is the logo of Survivor Corps, a group that connects Covid-19 survivors.

“People are like, ‘Why do you want this constant reminder of what you went through?’” she said. “I tell them I already have constant reminders. I have scars from getting heart surgery. I have to take medicine. I still can’t walk down the street normally. I am still battling it, so this is my warrior badge. When people 10 years from now talk about Covid, I am going to say, ‘I beat it.’”

After such a heavy year, some people are opting for more lighthearted tattoo options.

Katie Tompkins, 28, works for a medical lab in Warren, Mich., and saw firsthand how serious and costly this pandemic was.

But instead of focusing on the negative, she decided to try to bring some humor to the situation and get a tattoo of toilet paper on the inside of her left elbow. “I have such memories walking into the store and there being bare shelves everywhere because everyone was stockpiling toilet paper,” she said. “It was just insane.”

People wait in line to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Springfield, Mo.
Credit…Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader, via Associated Press

A rise in the coronavirus cases has prompted the city of Springfield, Mo., to cancel this year’s Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, which features musical acts, car shows and other exhibitions.

The two-day festival, which was scheduled for Aug. 13-14, drew 65,000 attendees in 2019 and was expected to draw more than 75,000 this year, said Cora Scott, the city of Springfield’s director of public information and civic engagement.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed. After having to cancel the 2020 festival, we were so looking forward to 2021,” Ms. Scott said in a statement. “With our region’s low vaccination rate against Covid-19, the resulting surge of infections are overwhelming our hospitals and making our community sick. We feel it is just not safe to bring tens of thousands of people from all over the world to this community for any reason.”

The cancellation of the festival comes after Mercy Hospital in Springfield ran out of ventilators earlier this month as a rise in cases drove an increase in hospitalizations.

About 46 percent of Missourians have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, and 40 percent are fully inoculated, according to New York Times data. The state’s vaccination rates lag behind the national average of 56 percent of Americans who have received at least one shot, and 48 percent who are fully vaccinated.

In some parts of Missouri, vaccination rates are even further behind. In Greene County, which includes Springfield, only about 35 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated.

The cancellation of the festival is a blow to Springfield, which like other Missouri cities counts on tourism dollars.

Cases are also up in other tourist cities such as Branson, Mo., which is home to attractions such as Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show and the Titanic Museum Attraction.

Infections also appeared to be rising in the counties around the Lake of the Ozarks area, a popular vacation destination. Over Memorial Day weekend 2020, videos of large crowds in the lake region spead on social media and drew sharp criticism from state officials, who urged people who had been in the area to get tested for the virus or quarantine for two weeks.

Low vaccination rates and the spread of the Delta variant have helped fuel the rise in cases and hospitalizations in Missouri. The raised cases prompted the federal government to send a “surge response team” to the state earlier this month.

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