Covid-19 Dwell Updates – The New York Instances
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The persistently rapid spread of the coronavirus in Texas, the second most populous state in the U.S., is threatening the gradual progress the country has been making toward flattening the curve of new cases.
Counties along the Mexican border in particular have seen steep spikes. The city of Laredo sent residents an emergency cellphone alert over the weekend — the second in three days — warning that local hospitals were near capacity.
“Our medical professionals and hospitals are overwhelmed with the surge in Covid-19 cases,” the message read. “The current situation is at its most critical level, and lives are at stake. We are asking you to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary.”
New cases in Texas were averaging more than 20,000 a day on Monday. The state has seen a steady increase in new cases since October, when there were approximately 4,000 a day on average, according to a New York Times database.
Since the start of the pandemic, Texas has reported more than 2.1 million cases, the second highest total in the country after California, which in recent weeks has been in the throes of a devastating flood of cases that has pushed hospitals to the brink.
Federal health officials have acknowledged that the vaccine rollout has had a slower-than-expected start. In the United States, about 14.3 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and about 2.2 million people had been fully vaccinated, according to data reported on Wednesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal officials had set a goal of giving at least 20 million people their first dose by the end of 2020.
The United States as a whole has been averaging more than 200,000 new virus cases a day since Jan. 2, with California and Texas fueling that surge. Arizona, Oklahoma and South Carolina have been swept by high numbers of cases for days, and New York now has the country’s fourth worst outbreak, though deaths per day in the state have not come close to the tragic levels seen in the spring.
On Monday, Texas reported 111 deaths, bringing the total number of people lost to the virus in the state to more than 32,000 — a sizable portion of the more than 400,000 total deaths reported in the United States.
For more than a month, Laredo has had 35 to 40 percent of its hospital beds filled with Covid-19 patients, a higher ratio than anywhere else in the state, a city spokeswoman said. On Tuesday, she added, the figure was nearing 50 percent.
In Del Rio, another border town, Dr. Laura Palau of the Val Verde County Health Authority said officials were still seeing cases emerge from maskless family gatherings and parties over the holidays. An alarming 30 percent of coronavirus tests performed in the city are coming back positive, she said. The sheriff’s office is issuing quarantine orders to people who test positive.
Dr. Palau said she was worried about the way deaths are rising.
“The people that were hospitalized in December or early January are starting to expire,” she said.
Texas has received more than 1.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and administered 1.3 million, Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday. More than 800,000 more doses were expected this week, he said.
But Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in Dallas County, warned that a new, more transmissible variant of the virus, which is circulating in the United States after forcing Britain to lock down again, could make any progress in taming the pandemic fleeting.
“January and February will be our toughest months here in North Texas,” he said. “Right now, we just need everyone to avoid crowds, wear their mask, forgo get-togethers. Really think about ways to make patriotic sacrifices to protect the community.”
David Montgomery contributed reporting.
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Where cases per capita are
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As cases of the coronavirus surged across the United States, officials organizing Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential inauguration were forced to favor smaller audiences and virtual celebrations — and, in some cases, to cancel events altogether.
In an ordinary inauguration year, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies would distribute some 200,000 tickets to official events at the Capitol, while public attendance in Washington might easily outstrip one million. The day would feature luncheons and parades, and conclude with balls and galas, held indoors.
But this inauguration was a far more sober affair, with extremely limited attendance.
While plans for some events continued almost as normal, including Mr. Biden’s address from the West Front of the Capitol, others were reimagined or axed entirely. A luncheon honoring the incoming president, held since the 1950s in the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol, was canceled in December over health and safety concerns, according to a Bloomberg report.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee asked the public not to gather for the ceremony. For 90 minutes on Monday, a section of the National Mall was flooded with 56 “pillars of light” and close to 200,000 flags in an art display representing those who had been unable to attend.
Tickets went only to certain high-ranking officials and members of Congress, who were each allowed to bring one guest, for a live audience of about 1,000, according to the committee.
Many lawmakers and high-profile guests were in attendance, including three former presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton; the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the top two Democrats in Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat who is likely to be the deciding vote on many of the new administration’s priorities; and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, two of Mr. Biden’s rivals for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
It appeared that everyone at the event — from the former residents of the White House to the Supreme Court justices, the lawmakers, guards and guests — wore masks, except when at the lectern. After taking his oath, Mr. Biden beseeched Americans to work with him to find a way out of the pandemic, and he explicitly acknowledged the devastating toll of the coronavirus in a way his predecessor never did.
“We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” Mr. Biden said. “We will get through this together.”
The new president then led a moment of silent prayer to remember the more than 400,000 Americans who have died after contracting the virus.
After the swearing-in, the Bidens set out for Arlington National Cemetery, where they planned to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery with the Bushes, the Clintons and the Obamas. The Bidens will then be escorted to the White House.
A musical prime-time television event will follow at 8:30 p.m., hosted by Tom Hanks.
The traditional scramble to move the president-elect and his family into the White House was also complicated by health and safety measures, with additional deep-cleaning precautions.
Early Wednesday morning, President Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, left the White House after previously declining to attend the inauguration. Neither was seen to wear a mask as they boarded a helicopter on the White House lawn, or during a farewell event the president held at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, or after they flew to Florida on Air Force One.
In Mr. Trump’s remarks at the base, he claimed that virus cases were “skyrocketing downward.” According to a New York Times database, over the past week the nation has averaged 201,117 newly reported cases a day, about 11 percent fewer than the average two weeks earlier.
Still, the United States continues to lead the world in confirmed virus cases and deaths, surpassing 24 million total cases on Monday, and 400,000 total virus deaths on Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that a highly contagious variant of the virus, first identified in Britain, may soon accelerate the spread of the virus in the United States.
Mr. Biden is expected to sign a flurry of executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon, including several measures aimed at tackling the virus.
They will include an executive order making Jeff Zients the government’s official Covid-19 response coordinator, reporting to the president. The order will also restore the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council, a group that Mr. Trump had disbanded.
Mr. Biden will also sign an executive order that Mr. Trump had steadfastly refused to issue during his tenure — imposing a national mandate requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands and by all federal employees, officials said.
And he will terminate Mr. Trump’s efforts to leave the World Health Organization, sending Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, to participate in the group’s annual executive board meeting on Thursday.
Credit…Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press
Leaders of a doctors’ union in Peru went on a hunger strike Tuesday to protest what they called the national authorities’ “shameless lack of preparation” for a second wave of coronavirus infections that has quickly overwhelmed the country’s hospitals, with reports of patients dying for lack of available ventilators.
The union, made up of 12,000 doctors in the state-run EsSalud health care network, said that public hospitals are once again having to face a surge in Covid-19 patients without sufficient personal protective equipment, medical supplies or support staff, as they did early in the pandemic last year.
The union called for the chief executive of EsSalud, Fiorella Molinelli, who is under investigation for corruption, to be replaced.
Teodoro Quiñones, the secretary general of the union, said that instead of hiring more medical workers during the relative calm after the first wave of infections, EsSalud dismissed Covid specialists, and failed to hire them back when case counts started climbing in December. Now, he said, many hospitals lack both the ventilators that patients need and the staff to intubate the patients.
“We’re working with a deficit of 6,000 specialist doctors, at least 1,500 intensive-care physicians, and 6,000 to 8,000 intensive-care nurses,” Dr. Quiñones said.
Dr. Quiñones began the hunger strike along with a half-dozen other union leaders at a demonstration on Tuesday outside the labor ministry in Lima, the capital. The strikers said they would refuse to eat until their demands were met.
EsSalud did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many doctors in Peru say the second wave of infections appears to be hitting the country as hard or harder than the first wave, when the country recorded one of the highest death tolls in the world relative to its population. Hospitals are overflowing, and intensive-care beds are scarce.
“In my hospital, for example, we have 20 patients on a waiting list and only have 11 I.C.U. beds,” said Dr. Manuel Vásquez, an EsSalud doctor from the Ica region who joined the protest in Lima. “You hear of the same phenomena in every hospital.”
The country’s interim president, Francisco Sagasti, acknowledged the new wave last week, but he said he would not impose a new lockdown except as “an extreme option,” because of the impact on employment.
Peru lags far behind its peers in securing vaccines for its population of 32 million. It announced a deal for one million doses from the Chinese company Sinopharm, but it does not yet have a delivery date.
Some officials expressed hope that antibodies carried by the large number of people who were infected in the first wave — nearly 40 percent of the population in Lima and up to 70 percent in some other cities, according to the government — might help contain a second surge. But the virus is spreading fast now, Dr. Vasquez said, and the patients needing hospitalization tend to be younger and in worse condition than before. “And this is just the beginning,” he said.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs and international trade, Sibusiso Busi Moyo, has died, the office of the president said on Wednesday. The cause was complications related to Covid-19. Mr. Moyo became the fourth high-ranking official in Zimbabwe to succumb to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
“The late minister succumbed to Covid-19 at a local hospital,” read a short statement from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, giving no further detail.
Mr. Moyo, 58, became famous as the face of the military coup that ended former President Robert Mugabe’s nearly-four decade rule in 2017. He was at the time a major general in the Zimbabwean armed forces.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government,” Mr. Moyo said on state television, reading a statement after the military commandeered the national broadcaster. “What the Zimbabwean Defense Force is doing is to pacify a degenerating a political, social and economic situation.”
After the election of Mr. Mnangagwa in 2018, Mr. Moyo swapped military fatigues for a suit and a scarf in the colors of the Zimbabwean flag, retiring as a lieutenant general and joining Mr. Mnangagwa’s cabinet alongside other military leaders.
In this new role, much of his work centered on reviving Zimbabwe’s battered international image. Mr. Moyo often criticized sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe’s new elite by the international community. In one of his last tweets, Mr. Moyo took aim at the United States after the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill, which he described as “unprecedented scenes of chaos and politically-motivated violence in Washington’s ‘citadel of democracy.’”
“Perhaps the moralizing and prescriptive tone towards others might now change somewhat,” he tweeted on Jan. 9.
Within the ruling Zanu-PF, Mr. Moyo represented the influential military faction who cemented their political power in the new dispensation.
Mr. Moyo was born in 1961 in Mberengwa, a rural district in central Zimbabwe. He is survived by his wife, Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo, a judge on the High Court in Zimbabwe and the chair of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, and their two children. (An ealier version of this article misstated the year of Mr. Moyo’s birth.)
Last week, Ellen Gwaradzimba, the minister of state for the country’s Manicaland Province, died from complications linked to Covid-19. In the same week, Morton Malianga, a member of the ruling party’s highest decision-making body and former deputy finance minister, also succumbed to Covid-19. In July, the minister of agriculture, Perrance Shiri, also died from Covid-19.
The southern African nation has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths since the start of this year, with the Health Ministry on Tuesday recording 52 deaths and 783 new infections in 24 hours, forcing officials to impose a new lockdown, shuttering businesses and imposing a curfew. Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 28,675 cases and 825 deaths and since the start of the pandemic.
Jeffrey Moyo reported from Harare and Lynsey Chutel from Johannesburg.
Jeffrey Moyo and
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
The airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will conduct mandatory coronavirus screenings for all outbound passengers starting on Monday, one of the first airports in the country to take advantage of a decision to allow such evaluations by the Federal Aviation Administration last month.
Under the new “Travel Well” program, the Eastern Iowa Airport will ask a handful of short screening questions and take the temperature of each departing passenger. Travelers who show no signs of having the coronavirus and have no exposure to it will be sent on to the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.
“The Travel Well program will provide an efficient approach to screening passengers and employees,” Marty Lenss, the airport’s director, said in a statement.
Travelers who might be infected with or exposed to the virus will receive a private second screening. The ultimate decision on whether individuals may board their flight will rest with individual airlines. Eastern Iowa Airport offers nonstop service to 14 destinations on flights operated by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others.
It is not clear how useful the screenings will be. The value of screening passengers has diminished as the virus has become widespread throughout the country. A passenger who shows no symptoms on the day of travel could still infect others on their journey or at their destination.
The airport had first talked about its screening plan, which it developed with Mercy Medical Center and MercyCare Business Health Solutions, in July. But the plan’s implementation was put on hold pending approval by the F.A.A., which regulates airport spending. Earlier last year, the agency had said that airports could spend money to screen employees, but not passengers. In December, the agency approved passenger screening, too.
India said on Wednesday that it was starting to supply its locally manufactured version of the AstraZeneca vaccine to nearby countries, even as the government continues its mammoth effort to inoculate hundreds of millions of people at home.
The first doses were expected to be delivered to Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and the Seychelles beginning on Wednesday, India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The vaccine, known as Covishield in India, has been approved for emergency use there. It was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and is manufactured domestically by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
India’s Foreign Ministry said that the doses sent on Wednesday were being donated. Some of the countries receiving the vaccine also have separate commercial vaccine arrangements, or are in talks, with the Serum Institute.
Bangladesh said that it expected to receive a shipment of two million doses of Covishield on Thursday as “a gift of India,” in addition to 30 million doses that it has ordered from the Serum Institute. Bhutan is expected to receive about 150,000 doses in its initial shipment, and the Maldives 100,000.
India’s other domestically produced vaccine, Covaxin, has faced criticism for being approved for emergency use in the country even before final trials have concluded.
India’s capacity for mass vaccine production will be central to efforts to curb the coronavirus in poor countries. The Serum Institute aims to distribute a billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2021.
In other news from around the world:
In China, the authorities in Beijing ordered all kindergartens closed from Thursday and high schools closed from the end of the week, officials said on Wednesday. The capital reported seven new cases on Tuesday and imposed passenger limits on public transportation, the state-run news media reported. Two local cases were of the more transmissible variant found in Britain. New rules also require overseas arrivals in the Chinese capital to quarantine for three weeks, instead of two, and impose testing and quarantine requirements on anyone visiting rural regions of China.
Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to hosting the Games this summer, a day after the former deputy chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, Keith Mills, told the BBC that the event was “unlikely” to take place because of the pandemic. Seiko Hashimoto, a Japanese cabinet minister for the Olympics, also said in Parliament on Wednesday that the government would “decide by spring the number of spectators, or foreign spectators, based on the situations both inside and outside of Japan.”
The Vatican vaccinated some two dozen homeless people on Wednesday. “Further groups are to follow in the coming days,” said a Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni. The shots were part of the Vatican City State vaccination program, and reflect a significant ramping up of the Vatican’s facilities for the homeless under Pope Francis and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the head of the Office of Papal Charities, who was himself hospitalized with the virus last month. Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI got their first vaccine doses last week.
The St. Patrick’s Day street parade in Dublin has been canceled for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers confirmed on Wednesday, promising a virtual event as a replacement. Festivities to mark St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 in Ireland, Boston and Manhattan were among the first major events to be canceled last year as the coronavirus spread. More than 2,700 people have died from Covid-19 in Ireland, and the country is one of many to have returned to a national lockdown.
New York City postponed 23,000 vaccination appointments that were scheduled for Thursday and Friday because of a shipping delay, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, a day after warning that the city was expected to soon exhaust its vaccine supply.
“We already were feeling the stress of a shortage of vaccine,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters at a news conference. “Now the situation has been made even worse.”
More than 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine that the city had expected to receive on Tuesday are now arriving on Wednesday and Thursday, Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said at the news conference.
The appointments being postponed by the delay are all for people receiving the first of the vaccine’s two required doses, and will be rescheduled for next week, Dr. Chokshi said.
The city government would concentrate on the hardest-hit communities, the mayor said, announcing a goal to inoculate 50,000 residents of public housing who are over 65 in the next few weeks, assuming the city can get more vaccine doses from the federal government.
Mr. de Blasio said he had faith that the Biden administration would step up vaccine production enough to make second doses available for the expanded pool of people eligible to be vaccinated. The two companies whose vaccines are authorized for use in the U.S., Moderna and Pfizer, are running flat out, and it is not clear whether the Biden administration could significantly expand the overall supply any time soon.
Though Mr. Biden has indicated that his administration would release more vaccine doses as they became available and keep fewer in reserve for shortages or delays, he said on Friday that he would not change the recommended timing for second doses: 21 days after the first dose for Pfizer’s vaccine, and 28 days for Moderna’s.
“We believe it’s critical that everyone should get two doses within the F.D.A.-recommended time frame,” Mr. Biden said while discussing his vaccine distribution plans.
New York City expects to have 140,000 first doses and 250,000 second doses on hand for use this week, Dr. Chokshi said on Wednesday. “We are going to very rapidly work through that supply.”
Despite the delivery delay, Mr. de Blasio said on Wednesday that New York City expected to have administered 500,000 doses by the end of the day.
Credit…Michael Dantas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
GENEVA — The global death toll from Covid-19 hit a record in the last week at the same time as the number of new cases declined, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday.
The United Nations health agency said 93,000 people died in the week ending Jan. 17, a record and a 9 percent rise over the previous week, bringing the total global death toll from the pandemic to more than 2 million people.
Deaths rose in all of the W.H.O.’s six regional groups, it said in its latest weekly bulletin, but the Americas fared the worst, with a 15 percent rise in deaths in the past week. Led by the United States, where over 400,000 people have died, and Brazil, with more than 200,000 deaths, the Americas account for close to half the total number of people lost to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Yet the number of new cases dropped slightly in the Americas in the last week and by 6 percent globally. The W.H.O. explained the diverging trends, noting that a high number of cases leads, after a short time lag, to increased hospitalizations and deaths.
Most of the decline in cases occurred in Europe, which registered a drop of 15 percent in the past week, according to the W.H.O. data. New cases dropped last week by 11 percent in the United States and 19 percent in Britain, two of the world’s worst affected countries. Britain is in lockdown, while the United States has a patchwork of state rules.
The decline occurred despite the emergence of new, more contagious variants of the virus. The W.H.O. said new variants had spread to 10 more countries in the past week, bringing the total affected countries to 60 across all regions.
Credit…Ramon Van Flymen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Netherlands will bar flights from Britain, South Africa and almost all countries in South America starting from Jan. 23 and will implement a nationwide curfew in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday.
“These are dark weeks — we have to get past this time,” Hugo de Jonge, the minister of health, said during a news conference.
The curfew, which would be the first imposed across the Netherlands since World War II, requires approval from Parliament in a vote scheduled for Thursday. It would last from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. nightly until Feb. 10.
The country is already under a lockdown that closed restaurants, gyms and pools, places of entertainment and most shops, as well as halting most in-person schooling.
Under the new rules, the number of guests that people can entertain at home will be reduced to one and travelers to the Netherlands via plane and boat will have to take a rapid coronavirus test in the hours before they board, as well as show a negative result from a PCR test taken within the past 72 hours. These new measures come despite the fact that cases have been slowly declining.
The country will also delay second doses of the Pfizer vaccinations to six weeks from three, after a decision to lower the number kept in stock, Mr. de Jonge announced. “This way we can protect more people sooner, this is also important because of the spread of the British mutation,” he said.
Health experts in the Netherlands say they fear that without these new measures the more transmissible variant will be dominant in the country by March.
The Dutch Outbreak Management Team, the expert group advising the government on its policies to prevent the spread of the virus, warned on Wednesday that a third wave of the virus was inevitable because of the spread of mutations.
Since March, the Netherlands has struggled repeatedly in its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, laying bare what many say are systemic problems in how the country is governed.
Credit…Angelo Carconi/EPA, via Shutterstock
Italy plans to take legal action against the American drugmaker Pfizer for delays in the delivery of coronavirus vaccines, Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the pandemic, said in a statement on Tuesday night.
On Friday, Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, said they would deliver fewer doses than expected to European Union countries this week because they were changing the production process to increase future supply. They said deliveries would return to the original schedule next week.
Italian officials discussed the situation with company officials on Tuesday.
“The result of today’s dialogue with Pfizer did not have the effect we were hoping for,” Mr. Arcuri wrote, announcing that Italy would press charges, both “civil and criminal, where possible” in coming days.
Mr. Arcuri said that Pfizer would not make up the shortfall in next week’s delivery, which would instead be smaller than previously expected. Italian officials worried that a shortage of doses could dangerously slow the country’s vaccination program, which has reached more than 1.2 million people so far, starting with health care workers and nursing-home residents.
Some regional governors announced that they would pause new vaccinations because of the shortage, and focus on distributing the second dose of the vaccine to people who had already received the first. But they warned that if the delays continued even the distribution of the booster doses would be at risk.
“The health care of Italian citizens is not a negotiable issue,” Mr. Arcuri said in the statement. “The vaccination campaign cannot be slowed down, especially for giving the second doses to the many Italians who already received the first.”
Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.