Covid-19 Information: Reside Updates – The New York Instances

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The outrage didn’t stop at the Texas border.

If Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas thought he would be universally embraced at home after he suddenly announced that he was lifting a statewide mask requirement and allowing all businesses to operate at full capacity, he was quickly proved wrong.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Ernestine Cain, 52, a home health aide who was picking up a case of bottled water at a distribution site in San Antonio on Wednesday morning. “You still need to give it time. You can’t just cut it like that.”

Texas has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, recording more than 44,000 deaths and nearly 2.7 million cases.

Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, called the governor’s decision “dangerous.” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said it was a “huge mistake.” And Dr. Victor Treviño, the health authority of Laredo, said he feared that the move would “eliminate all the gains that we have achieved.”

Some, of course, were overjoyed.

“I’m proud to be Texan,” said Amber Rodriguez, 32, who owns an air-conditioning company in Houston and declared that “this is the first step to bring Texas back.”

Kendall Czech, 26, a leasing agent who moved to Dallas last summer from California in part because of that state’s strict Covid-19 restrictions, said, “I think that the governor just gained some guts.”

The reviews were less positive on Pennsylvania Avenue, where President Biden had harsh words for both Texas and Mississippi, whose governor also announced on Wednesday that he was lifting the statewide mask mandate and rescinding capacity limits on businesses.

Mr. Biden said that it was critical for officials to follow the guidance of public health experts as the vaccination campaign gains momentum.

“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” the president told reporters at the White House.

Mississippi’s governor, Tate Reeves, a Republican like Mr. Abbott, was unrepentant.

“Mississippians don’t need handlers,” he said. “As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”

Mr. Reeves did, however, encourage his citizens to “do the right thing” and wear a mask.

So did the governor of Texas, where vaccinations considerably trail the national average, more than 7,000 new cases are being reported a day and, in recent weeks, ominous variants of the virus have appeared.

The decision to lift the restrictions was framed as long-awaited relief after an exhausting stretch of isolation and hardship. But many saw it as an attempt to distract Texans from the widespread infrastructure failures that left many without power and water after a brutal winter storm.

“It’s pretty obvious ,” said Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, an El Pasoan now living in Dallas, echoing a commonly heard sentiment across the state.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott defended his decision.

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” he said. “Make no mistake, Covid-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.”

Ms. Urenda-Culpepper, whose mother died from Covid-19 in July, said there was no choice now but to hope that the governor had made a wise decision.

“I don’t want him to be wrong,” she said. “But obviously for the greater good of the people, I’m like, ‘Man, you better be right and not cost us tens of thousands more people.’”

United States › United StatesOn March 3 14-day change
New cases 66,714 –17%
New deaths 2,369 –8%
World › WorldOn March 3 14-day change
New cases 419,698 +1%
New deaths 10,837 –19%

U.S. vaccinations ›

Where states are reporting vaccines given

Administering the Russian vaccine Sputnik V to a patient at Bacs-Kiskun County Training Hospital in Kecskemet, Hungary, in February.Credit…Sandor Ujvari/EPA, via Shutterstock

The European Union drug regulator announced on Thursday that it was beginning a rolling review of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine, after one of the bloc’s members moved unilaterally to use the shots and another is about to do the same.

The announcement by the regulator, the European Medicines Agency, comes amid a slow and frustrating vaccine rollout in the European Union that has been dogged by supply disappointments as well as major logistical problems.

The review is the formal process the agency uses, in which scientists examine data on the shots’ efficacy and side effects — it is the fastest way to examine the vaccine as a whole, with a view to eventually granting it authorization for use in the European Union.

The agency said in a news statement that the Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed the vaccine, had applied for the rolling review through a Germany-based entity named R-Pharm Germany.

Hungary broke with the bloc and ordered its own share of Sputnik V vaccines this year, granting the shots authorization locally through its national regulator. As the supply woes in the European Union began to bite, the Czech Republic this month announced it would follow suit. A deal to acquire the Russian vaccine has also set off a political crisis in Slovakia.

Several other European governments were considering a similar move, despite the fact that Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, recently cast doubt on the Sputnik V vaccine.

“We still wonder why Russia is offering theoretically millions of millions of doses while not sufficiently progressing in vaccinating their own people,” Ms. von der Leyen said during a news conference last month.

“This is also a question I think that should be answered,” she added. “They have to submit the whole set of data, indeed go through the whole scrutiny process like any other vaccine.”

While the announcement of the review is an important step in the formal scientific scrutiny by the European regulator, there is no telling how long the process will take. The agency will require deep access to data underlying the vaccine’s performance, as well as site visits to its production facilities, before granting authorization.

A drive-through vaccination site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last week.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Hoping to hasten its emergence from the coronavirus pandemic, California will begin channeling 40 percent of new vaccine doses to low-income communities pummeled by the coronavirus, officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said late on Wednesday.

The strategy is an effort to make the vaccine rollout more equitable and to reduce the number of counties considered most at risk, as well as to speed California’s ability to reopen, officials said.

Once 400,000 more doses are administered in the target communities, the state will ease restrictions in high-risk counties, officials said, a threshold that could be reached in about two weeks.

The targeted communities are defined using a composite “health equity” index that assesses need based on income, education, transportation and housing availability. State data has indicated that when vaccination efforts are targeted at poorer Californians, wealthier people have gamed the system. Black and Latino residents have been inoculated in smaller numbers than their white neighbors.

California faced a surge in infections in December and January, but cases have fallen 40 percent statewide — to late October levels — in the past two weeks, intensifying calls for the state government to relax restrictions.

Mr. Newsom, whose handling of the pandemic has helped fuel a Republican-led recall campaign against him, has crisscrossed the state, opening vaccination centers and assuring people that immunization is the “light at the end of the tunnel.” But he has also made clear that the virus and its variants remain lethal: At least 287 new coronavirus deaths and 4,316 new cases were reported in California on March 2.

When the governor of Texas announced this week that the state would lift its mask mandate, Mr. Newsom tweeted that the move was “absolutely reckless.”

Administration officials said California would keep in place its mask mandate. The vaccine blitz, they said, was aimed at quashing the further spread of Covid-19 so people could go back to work and businesses could reopen safely.

About 1.6 million vaccine doses have so far been delivered in low-income communities.

Once two million vaccines have been administered in those locations, officials said, the state will adjust its color-coded tier system to make it easier for counties to move into less restrictive categories, which will hasten the reopening of schools. When there are four million doses in the targeted areas, additional tiers will be adjusted to further ease reopenings.

A security officer in Baghdad on Wednesday. The pope’s visit flies in the face of nearly all public health guidelines.Credit…Ahmed Jalil/EPA, via Shutterstock

A surge in coronavirus cases has prompted Iraqi officials to impose lockdowns. Shia authorities have suspended religious pilgrimages. And on Sunday, the Vatican’s ambassador contracted the virus and went into isolation.

For good measure, suicide bombings, rocket attacks and geopolitical tensions have increased, too.

But Pope Francis — to the bewilderment of many — is intent on going anyway.

After more than a year cooped up behind the Vatican walls, Francis is to fly to Baghdad on Friday at one of the most virulent moments of the entire pandemic, sending a message that flies in the face of nearly all public health guidelines.

“The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage,” the pope said on Wednesday in his weekly address. “I ask that you accompany this apostolic trip with prayer so that it can occur in the best way possible, bear the hoped-for fruit. The Iraqi people await us.”

Francis was vaccinated in mid-January, and has called on wealthy countries to give vaccines to poorer ones, calling a refusal to vaccinate “suicidal.”

The pope’s entourage is also vaccinated, but there is anxiety among his supporters that a trip intended largely to bring encouragement to Iraq’s long-suffering Christians has the potential to be a superspreader event. The possibility of the 84-year-old pope’s inadvertently endangering an Iraqi population with practically no access to vaccines is not lost on his allies back in Rome.

“There is this concern that the pope’s visit not put the people’s health at risk, this is evident,” said Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis. “There is an awareness of the problem.”

The Vatican insists the trip will be a safe, socially distanced and sober visit devoid of the usual fanfare and celebrations. And a Vatican spokesman played down the number of cases in Iraq when reporters asked how the pope could possibly justify not delaying a trip that could endanger so many.

Andrea Vicini, a medical doctor, Jesuit priest and professor of moral theology and bioethics at Boston College, said he admired the pope’s willingness to put his own skin in the game for peace when it came to promoting dialogue with Islam and protecting the persecuted and people at the margins.

“He wants to show that he is ready to risk,” Father Vicini said. “The problem is that others will be at risk.”

Col. Mark C. Anarumo, president of Norwich University in Vermont, moved into the dorms to learn about life there and to support the students.Credit…Annie Flanagan for The New York Times

Derek Furtado, a sophomore at Norwich University, had just stepped out of the shower in his dormitory and was shaving, a towel wrapped around his waist, when he looked to his left and saw the figure of a man in military uniform.

“That was when my heart sunk,” recalled Mr. Furtado, a cadet who plans to commission into the Coast Guard. He pulled himself together, stood at attention and said, “Good morning, sir!” The circumstances were not ideal. “He has two stars on his chest,” Mr. Furtado said. “I’m in a towel.”

But he would have to get used to it, because, it turned out, Col. Mark C. Anarumo, the university’s president, was his new hall mate.

Among the surprising outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic was that Dr. Anarumo, newly arrived as president of the private military college in Vermont, decided that the best way to support students who were quarantining in their rooms was to move into the dorm with them.

He had ordered the quarantine, a decision he made with a feeling “between caution and dread,” he said. He knew — because he had lived through it — that isolating students in their rooms put them in another kind of danger.

“So that’s when I decided, I’ve got to move into the dorm,” he said. Dr. Anarumo, 50, who retired from the Air Force in 2020 and has a doctorate in criminal justice, said that he wanted to be treated like any other resident.

The risks of in-room isolation had become clear last spring, when Dr. Anarumo was still teaching at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. Younger cadets had gone home, but nearly 1,000 seniors were isolating on campus for two months until graduation.

Conditions were strict: They were in single rooms, eating takeout and studying remotely. Dr. Anarumo was preparing to leave for his new job, when he learned that there had been a suicide in the dorm. Two days later, there was another.

As some parents lashed out, the administration relaxed the measures, allowing seniors to double up in rooms and leave campus for meals. The Academy’s leaders revisited their earlier decisions, reconsidering the risks of isolation, said Dr. Anarumo, who has a Ph.D. in criminal justice.

“There’s a phrase the military call ‘going inside’; it means getting inside your own head,” he said. “Sometimes, when you’re in isolation, you go inside and you kind of get lost in your own thoughts, without the forced interaction.”

Dr. Anarumo had been through this before; over three decades in the Army and Air Force, he had lost 11 men and women to suicide.

By the time he arrived at Norwich, Dr. Anarumo felt strongly that the benefits of quarantine needed to be weighed carefully against its toll on mental health.

“I am concerned enough about the mental health on campus that I believe we may have a suicide if we do not break the pressure and let people leave, and incentivize their departure,” he told the university’s board.

Mental health researchers are just beginning to gather data on the estimated 26 million college students whose lives have been disrupted by the virus.

“We’re enforcing physical loneliness,” said Dr. Rachel C. Conrad, the director of Young Adult Mental Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “There’s not really anything to compare it to, exactly, from our history.”

The Indian health minister, Harsh Vardhan, and his wife, Nutan Goel, received the Covaxin shots, developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech, at a hospital in New Delhi on Tuesday.Credit…Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

India’s ambitious but troubled campaign to inoculate its vast population against Covid-19 — and, in the process, to burnish its reputation as a manufacturer and innovator — received a major lift after initial trial results showed a homegrown vaccine was safe and effective.

Bharat Biotech, the Indian drug company that developed the shots, said late Wednesday that early findings from clinical trials involving nearly 26,000 subjects showed that the vaccine, Covaxin, had an initial efficacy rate of 81 percent.

The results have yet to be peer reviewed, the company said, and it was unclear how effective Covaxin would prove to be in a final analysis.

Still, the results were met with relief in India. Covaxin was approved by government officials in January and administered to millions of people even though it had not yet been publicly proved. Many in the country, including frontline health care workers, had feared that Covaxin could be ineffective or worse, slowing down the national campaign to inoculate 1.3 billion people.

Officials in Brazil, where the government had bought doses of Covaxin, had recently questioned whether the vaccine worked.

The results this week could alleviate some of those concerns, said Dr. Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India. Still, he said, questions will linger over Covaxin until the research is completed.

“This data will now need to be examined by the regulator in India and could then have an impact on the regulatory decisions with regards to the vaccine,” Dr. Bhan said.

If the results hold, they could also benefit Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who has stressed his intention of making India self-reliant. An effective, Indian-developed vaccine could add credibility to that campaign.

India approved Covaxin for emergency use in early January along with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is known in India as Covishield. When the vaccination drive started less than two weeks later, most people were not allowed to choose which shot they got.

The move to authorize Covaxin’s use came under sharp criticism from pharmaceutical bodies and health experts, who questioned the scientific logic behind approving a vaccine that was still in trials. Indian officials often denounced those doubts without explaining the rush. Instead, they portrayed the endorsement of Covaxin through a lens of nationalism, saying that it showed India’s emergence as a scientific power.

Spain’s former King Juan Carlos, left, and his daughter Princess Elena in 2019. Princess Elena and her sister Princess Cristina received Covid-19 vaccinations while visiting their father  in Abu Dhabi.Credit…Andrea Comas/Associated Press

The sisters of King Felipe VI of Spain received Covid-19 vaccines in the United Arab Emirates last month, even though they are not yet eligible for early shots in their home country.

Princess Elena, 57, and Princess Cristina, 55, justified their vaccination on the grounds that they were visiting their father, the former King Juan Carlos, who has been living in Abu Dhabi. In a statement the sisters sent El Mundo, a newspaper, on Wednesday, they said they hoped to visit their father regularly and that, while visiting him last month, “we were offered the possibility to get vaccinated, which we accepted. If it had not been for this circumstance, we would have got access to vaccination in Spain, whenever it would have been our turn.”

Their justification was denounced by some left-wing politicians, led by Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s deputy prime minister and a co-founder of the Unidas Podemos party. Mr. Iglesias said on Wednesday that Spanish society could not accept that some citizens get privileged access to vaccinations overseas. “There is a debate about the usefulness of the monarchy that is growing every time the royal household offers new scandals that produce huge indignation among an important part of society,” Mr. Iglesias said.

Credit…Enrique Calvo/Reuters

The royal household stressed that King Felipe, his wife and children would wait in line to get vaccinated in Spain, and that the two princesses do not hold any official role within the royal household. But their weeklong trip to Abu Dhabi required security approval, and the government-covered cost of their travel bodyguards amounted to about 33,000 euros, according to La Política Online, a Spanish media outlet.

The former monarch, Juan Carlos, left Spain for Abu Dhabi last summer amid a series of fraud investigations related to his wealth, led by prosecutors in both Switzerland and Spain. The vaccination of his daughters was revealed by the Spanish news media only days after a controversial disclosure regarding a payment of about €4 million in back taxes Juan Carlos made to Spain’s tax agency in connection with transactions made on his behalf by a foundation based in Liechtenstein and headed by one of his cousins, Álvaro de Orleans. In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe.

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