State health officials are growing increasingly concerned about whether doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may expire this month, warning they could go to waste if they go unused in the coming weeks or are not sent elsewhere.
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio has pleaded with health providers in his state to use about 200,000 doses of the vaccine that he said on Monday were set to expire on June 23. The state’s health department directed providers to adopt a “first-in, first-out” process for the shot to ensure doses with earlier expiration dates were used first. Arkansas’ state epidemiologist said last week that as many as 60,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson may not be used there in time.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, who represents state health agencies as the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said he believed the expiration risk for Johnson & Johnson was a problem in every state. Over 10 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered to states but not administered, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said on Tuesday at a news conference that the federal government was encouraging governors to consult with the Food and Drug Administration on storage procedures as the agency examines how to possibly extend the shelf life of the vaccine. He said the agency was “looking at opportunities for continued storage.”
An F.D.A. spokeswoman on Tuesday referred questions about the vaccine’s shelf life to Johnson & Johnson.
“We continue to work with the U.S. government and health authorities to support the use of our vaccine, which continues to play an important role, including among those who wish to be fully vaccinated with one shot,” the company said in a statement. “We also continue to conduct stability testing with the goal of extending the amount of time our Covid-19 vaccine can be stored before expiry.”
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for three months, conditions that have allowed states to reach more isolated communities that may find it more difficult to manage the two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have stricter storage requirements. Pfizer’s vaccine expires six months from its manufacture date.
Concerns among state health officials about the Johnson & Johnson doses have dovetailed with a significant drop in vaccination rates across the nation. As of Monday, providers were administering about 1.13 million doses per day on average, a 67 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13. About 64 percent of adults have received at least one shot, according to federal data.
Ohio officials said this week that they were not legally allowed to send the doses to other states or countries. Once vaccines are shipped out to states, federal regulations have prohibited recalling them even if they are not needed domestically.
As the U.S. struggles to use up its supply of vaccines, other countries continue to plead with the U.S. and other wealthier nations to share doses. More than 2.18 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, equal to 28 doses for every 100 people, with some countries yet to report a single dose, according to Our World in Data at the University of Oxford. There are 24 countries that use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the W.H.O., bemoaned at a news conference on Monday what he called a “two-track pandemic,” with wealthy countries using much of the world’s vaccine supply.
“The inequitable distribution of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the chances of a variant emerging that renders vaccines less effective,” Dr. Tedros said, adding that “the biggest barrier to ending the pandemic remains sharing: of doses, of resources, of technology.”
At the White House news conference, Mr. Slavitt said it was unrealistic to expect that the United States could avoid wasting some vaccine doses, adding that any expired Johnson & Johnson doses would not significantly affect the administration’s efforts to help vaccinate other countries.
“There is a very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used,” he said. “These will be fractional amounts and really will not have any significant bearing on our ability to commit to distribute vaccines globally.”
The Biden administration has pledged to send 80 million doses abroad by the end of the month, the first major tranche in what White House officials have said would be a sustained campaign to ship vaccines to needy areas of the world. Many of those doses were produced by AstraZeneca and are currently tied up in an F.D.A. safety review.
Last week, the administration announced it would distribute an initial 25 million doses this month across a “wide range of countries” in Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, as well as the Palestinian territories, war-ravaged Gaza and the West Bank. Three-quarters of the initial batch will be given to the international vaccine effort known as Covax.
Cruise lines are starting to make plans to sail this summer out of Florida, which one company called “the cruise capital of the world.” But the state’s ban on vaccine passports complicates how ships can navigate its ports.
Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, plan to sail with fully vaccinated crews and ensure that guests are also fully vaccinated. But while the federal government says employers can make on-site employees get vaccinated, a Florida state law prohibits businesses from requiring a vaccine passport, or proof of Covid-19 vaccination, in exchange for services.
The law has local officials concerned that their cities lose out if cruise lines decide to skip Florida ports, as Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line, recently threatened to do as a last resort.
On Monday, the company announced that it planned to set sail this summer from New York, Los Angeles and two Florida cities, Port Canaveral and Miami. The cruise line, however, did not specify how it planned to sail out of Florida.
Mr. Del Rio said the company was in contact with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s staff and legal team to “ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world.”
Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean International, might bow to the state’s vaccine passport ban. Announcing its voyage plans out of Miami this summer, the cruise line said that its crews would be fully vaccinated, while guests were “strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible.”
Royal Caribbean guests who are not vaccinated — or unable to prove that they are — will have to be tested for the virus, and could be subject to other protocols to be announced later, the cruise line said.
Last week, the mayors of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood sent a letter to Governor DeSantis urging him to reconsider the state’s position on vaccine passports. They argued that the cruise lines “are ready to set sail” based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but that the ban on vaccine passports prevented them from doing so.
“We are extremely concerned that unless a resolution can be reached, this impasse over the rules will result in the loss of the cruise industry in Broward County and Florida overall,” the mayors wrote.
Coronavirus vaccines may be available in the fall for U.S. children as young as 6 months, drugmakers say. Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines in children under 12 years, and are expected to have results in hand for children aged 5 through 11 by September.
Compared with adults, children are much less likely to develop severe illness following infection with the coronavirus. But nearly four million children in the United States have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Doctors continue to see rare cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition linked to Covid-19 that can affect multiple organs, including the heart. Vaccinating children should further contribute to containment of the virus by decreasing its spread in communities.
Pfizer announced on Tuesday that it was moving to test its vaccine in children aged 5 through 12 years. It will begin testing the vaccine in infants as young as six months in the next few weeks.
The company hopes to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in September for emergency authorization of the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Results for children aged 2 through 5 could be available soon after that, according to Kit Longley, a spokesman for Pfizer.
Data from the trial for children between 6 months old and 2 years old could arrive in October or November, followed by a potential submission to the F.D.A. shortly thereafter, Mr. Longley added.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized last month for use in children 12 through 15.
Based on data from an earlier study that assessed safety, Pfizer will give two doses of 10 micrograms each — a third of the dose given to adolescents and adults — to children ages 5 to 11 years, and two doses of three micrograms each to children 6 months to 5 years.
“We take a deliberate and careful approach to help us understand the safety and how well the vaccine can be tolerated in younger children,” said Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer.
The study will enroll up to 4,500 children at more than 90 clinical sites in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain. Pfizer’s researchers plan to submit the full data from the trials this summer for publication in a peer reviewed journal.
In March, Moderna began testing varying doses of its vaccine in younger children. That trial aimed to enroll 6,750 healthy children in the United States and Canada. Results are not expected till the end of the summer, and the vaccine’s authorization by the F.D.A. will take longer.
“I think it’s going to be early fall, just because we have to go down in age very slowly and carefully,” Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, said on Monday.
The company announced late last month that its vaccine was powerfully effective in 12- to 17-year-olds, and plans to apply to the F.D.A. for authorization in that age group. Last week, Moderna also asked the agency for full approval of its vaccine, rather than the emergency use for which it is currently authorized.
The United States will not be the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine for young children. China has approved Sinovac’s vaccine for children as young as 3 years old, according to the company’s chairman. The approval has not been officially announced.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased travel recommendations to over 100 countries and territories, mainly by reclassifying the intensity of outbreaks in many countries. The new rankings do not necessarily reflect improvements in efforts to contain the virus, but rather changes the agency has made to its criteria for determining the scope of the pandemic in each country.
The changes in effect made it easier to deem a nation to have a lower level of Covid-19; the agency now requires more cases for a country to be classified as having a “very high” level.
As the summer travel season gets underway, the new advisory list lowers barriers to travel to 61 countries and territories that had been said to have the most extensive outbreaks, called Level 4. These countries are now ranked at Level 3, for a “high” level of Covid-19.
The reclassified countries include Japan, which is hosting the Olympics but has banned foreign spectators, as well as France, Germany, Greece, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Italy.
While the C.D.C. urges Americans to avoid travel to Level 4 countries, the agency says fully vaccinated people may travel to countries at Level 3. Americans who are not vaccinated, however, are urged to avoid unnecessary travel to regions at Level 3.
Among the 56 countries deemed to be the safest for travel, because they have the lowest levels of Covid-19 (Level 1), are Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Vietnam, China, Rwanda, Liberia and Laos. The C.D.C. still urges travelers to be fully vaccinated before traveling to these countries.
For travel to countries at Level 2, with “moderate” levels of Covid-19, the agency also says Americans should be fully vaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated are at increased risk for severe illness and should avoid nonessential travel to Level 2 countries.
Sixty-one countries are still deemed to have “very high” levels of disease, and the agency says travel to these parts of the word should be avoided. India and Nepal are on this list, as well as Brazil, Sweden and Slovenia.
The new classifications stem from updates made to the criteria the agency uses to determine the risk of travel, part of an attempt to “better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, Covid-19 spread,” according to the C.D.C. website.
The new classifications are based on the number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the population in the past 28 days. (The agency also looks at population testing rates.)
Under the revised classification system, a country or territory is considered to be at Level 1 if it has had fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the population over the past four weeks. Previously, a country had to have had fewer than five cases per 100,000 people in the population to be considered at a “low” level.
Criteria for the “very high” level of Covid-19 have also been modified. Now, if a country has had more than 500 cases per 100,000 people over the past four weeks, it is considered to be at Level 4, and even fully vaccinated individuals are advised to avoid visiting. Previously, a country was considered to have been at Level 4 if it had seen 100 cases per 100,000 in the population.
A hospital pharmacist who pleaded guilty to trying to spoil more than 500 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison, federal prosecutors in Wisconsin announced.
The pharmacist, Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay nearly $84,000 in restitution to the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., where he worked an overnight shift.
Mr. Brandenburg was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA,” according to the police in Grafton, Wis. In January, he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product in a way that could injure or kill someone, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
During Mr. Brandenburg’s shifts on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, he removed a box of vials of the Moderna vaccine from a refrigerator in the pharmacy for “periods of multiple hours, intending to render that same vaccine inert or ineffective,” according to the plea agreement.
On Dec. 26, vials containing 570 doses of the vaccine were discovered sitting outside their refrigerator. That day, 57 people received doses of the vaccine from the batch Mr. Brandenburg attempted to spoil, according to the plea agreement. Five days after the misplaced vials were discovered, Mr. Brandenburg was arrested.
At the sentencing, Mr. Brandenburg said he felt “great shame” for what he had done and apologized to his co-workers, his family and the people of Grafton, The Associated Press reported.
Jason D. Baltz, a lawyer for Mr. Brandenburg, declined to comment on the sentencing.
The chairman of the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac said China had approved the company’s Covid-19 vaccine for children as young as 3, which would make the country the first in the world to endorse a shot for such young children.
The World Health Organization has cleared both Sinovac’s vaccine and one made by another Chinese company, Sinopharm, for emergency use in adults 18 and older. China has kept the coronavirus largely under control in recent months, and schools there have remained open. But in other countries, the availability of effective vaccines for children and adolescents will be crucial for allowing schools to operate more safely.
The United States has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 12 and older. Pfizer expects to submit its vaccine for authorization for children as young as 2 in September, the company said during an earnings call last month. Moderna said last month that its vaccine was highly effective in 12- to 17-year-olds, though regulators have not yet endorsed the company’s shot for that age group.
In an interview with the state broadcaster China Central Television, Sinovac’s chairman, Yin Weidong, said the company’s clinical trials involving “hundreds” of people had found that its vaccine was just as safe and effective in people ages 3 to 17 as it was in adults.
After Sinovac reported these results to Chinese regulators, they approved the shot for use in the younger age group, Mr. Yin said. He said the government would ultimately decide when vaccines might start being administered to children.
CCTV cited an unnamed government official who confirmed that the authorities had endorsed the use of Covid vaccines in people as young as 3. Regulators have not officially announced the approval, however.
After a year of cancellations and delays, many event planners, venues and caterers have been bracing for a deluge of pent-up demand for celebrations as New York City and the surrounding region reopens, vaccination rates climb, and people are awash with post-lockdown euphoria.
But many would-be celebrants are still cautious about planning large gatherings, event planners say, worried that the virus could still pose a threat.
Some families who could not celebrate quinceañeras and Sweet 16s because of lockdown rules last year are pushing them off until next year.
“It’s funny, I have customers call me and they’re like, ‘It was 16, so now it’s going to be 18,’” said Marcos Ortiz, a D.J. and events planner in Brooklyn. “Now it’s going to be a new trend — the Sweet 18.”
David Zaitschek, who organizes bar mitzvahs and other events for children in New York City and on Long Island, said he was seeing “bigger demand, but people are waiting till October for bigger indoor events.”
In a normal year, he organizes around 150 events, he said, none of which took place last year. He started holding events just a few weeks ago.
“We can’t make up to where we’re supposed to be, but definitely there’s an improvement,” he said. “People are still a little bit unsure. There has been no precedent for this.”
Not everyone is feeling celebratory just yet, because people are still dealing with a public health crisis that has left everyone in a collective daze, said Nicholas Christakis, a sociology professor at Yale University.
“Typically what happens if you look at the history of epidemics is that it’s like a tsunami washing up ashore,” he said. “The waters recede, but now the shore is devastated so it takes us some time to recover socially, economically, psychologically from the shock.”
One area that has seen a surge in demand is weddings, though many couples are holding smaller ceremonies.
The Philippine government said it would expand its Covid-19 vaccination drive this week by opening up shots to millions more essential workers, as officials sought to step up a sluggish effort and lift the economy.
With more doses arriving from China, Russia and the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative, officials said that the Philippines in the coming months would inoculate more than 35 million people who work outside the home, including medical staff, public transport employees, journalists and others. But so far, the government has only a fraction of the doses it needs to do that.
Carlito Galvez Jr., the leader of the government’s coronavirus strategy team, said at a news conference on Monday night that vaccinating these workers was necessary to “drive the economy.”
Because they must work outside the home, these workers “are among the most vulnerable to the disease and must be protected, regardless of the industry they belong to,” Mr. Galvez said.
About six million people have received at least one vaccine dose in the Philippines, where until now only frontline workers, older people and those with certain medical conditions have been eligible for shots. Many Filipinos have expressed doubts about the safety of the vaccines. Experts say that it could take many more months to inoculate enough of the country’s 108 million people to reach herd immunity, if it occurs at all.
The government said that the Philippines has received approximately 9.3 million vaccine doses, and that some shipments had been delayed. Most of the doses are from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac; others in use include the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia and the AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots supplied by Covax.
Mr. Galvez said that more doses were expected to arrive in the coming months, including 15 million more Pfizer doses in the third quarter of the year.
New coronavirus infections in the Philippines have declined from a peak in March and April, but the disease continues to race through the country, especially in outlying provinces. Health officials on Monday reported 71 deaths from the virus, bringing the total death toll to nearly 22,000. The country has recorded more than 1.2 million infections, among the highest totals in Asia.
President Rodrigo Duterte warned that anyone who flouted health protocols could be charged with a criminal offense, noting during a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday that he has seen many people not wearing masks in public. Mr. Duterte, who is known for blustery talk, said that someone who was infected with the coronavirus but did not wear a mask “could be charged with murder.”
“If not,” he added, “you could also be charged with reckless imprudence.”
In other developments around the world:
A two-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, will be eased beginning on Friday after outbreaks of the infectious Delta and Kappa coronavirus variants were contained, officials said. Schools and shops in Australia’s second-largest city will be allowed to reopen, and residents will be permitted to leave their homes for non-essential reasons. But people will still be barred from having visitors at home, and from traveling more than 25 kilometers, or about 16 miles, from where they live, as concerns linger over possible community spread of the virus. Officials reported just one new case on Wednesday, down from a peak earlier this month, when there were 94 active cases.
Spain reopened its borders on Monday to Americans and other vaccinated visitors from countries that the authorities consider to have a low risk of spreading Covid-19, seeking to shore up the summer tourism that is a pillar of its economy. Visitors from countries that Spain lists as presenting a higher risk, like France and Germany, must now produce only a negative antigen test, rather than the more costly PCR test previously required. Cruise ships will also be able to dock again at Spanish ports.
NEW DELHI — Amitesh Prasad, a pilot with Air India, came down with Covid-like symptoms in April this year after he flew from San Francisco to the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. He was among the many pilots who had worked on one of India’s largest humanitarian missions to bring home stranded residents and transport essential pandemic-related supplies.
He died on May 9, one of at least 17 pilots in India who have died of the coronavirus, according to the Indian Pilots’ Guild, a union of about 350 pilots in the country. Almost half of them flew with Air India and the rest with private airlines, including Indigo, Go Air and Vistara, it said.
The Air India pilots had their salaries reduced during the pandemic, their union says, and it points out that many of them came to India’s aid when people and vaccines needed to be transported, even though they were not vaccinated themselves.
Now, the country’s pilots, especially those working for Air India, the debt-ridden airline controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, are asking for better compensation for the families of airline crew members who die of Covid.
On Monday, the Federation of Indian Pilots, a pan-India organization of pilots, filed a public interest lawsuit in the Bombay High Court, seeking better compensation, insurance benefits and vaccination for all airline crew members.
The federation said in its petition that as of February this year, nearly 2,000 Air India staff members had tested positive for Covid-19. More than 500 of them required hospitalization.
“However, there is no scheme for adequate compensation to pilots in case of their demise,” the federation said. It added that “there is no insurance scheme or any other such scheme providing safety net to the pilots.”
In a letter addressed to the chairman and managing director of Air India last month, the Indian Pilots’ Guild said that the country lost three pilots in just a span of five days between April 9 and 14.
It asked the state carrier some pointed questions: “Until how long will our service to the nation be taken for granted considering the pay cut and the lack of recognition of our contribution throughout the pandemic?”
The union said Air India was paying about 500,000 to 1 million rupees ($6,800 to $13,700) as compensation to the family if a pilot died of Covid-19 while performing their duties. The number, it said, was a fraction of what other airlines paid and might be just enough to take care of a deceased colleague’s hospital bills. Indigo, a private airline, was paying 50 million rupees or more than $680,000, the union said in one of its letters.
The union said that it had sent repeated requests to the government asking that flight crews be prioritized for vaccinations. In a letter addressed to India’s health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, on April 16, the union urged the government to recognize crew members as “essential workers.”
“We urge you to vaccinate all aircrew at the earliest,” it said.
Two Air India pilots who requested anonymity fearing reprisals from the government said they were frustrated by the way their calls for better compensation and protesting salary cuts had fallen on deaf ears. They also said they feared being exposed to new variants of the virus circulating in other countries while doing their jobs.
Despite all of that, the pilots said they were being paid salaries that were nearly 40 to 70 percent less than what they received before the pandemic. The pay cuts came into effect in April last year as global travel came to a halt.
Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s civil aviation minister, has said that the country’s Vande Bharat Mission to evacuate Indians was the “world’s largest” repatriation drive, transporting more than 9 million people so far. “India did not cower in the face of this health crisis of the century,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
But neither Mr. Puri nor Air India have responded to their pilots’ requests. The Ministry of Civil Aviation in New Delhi didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In May, the union wrote a letter to Air India, asking company executives to show “a similar kindness” to what it showed when it asked its pilots to show up for duty when it needed to rescue Indians from some of the worst-affected regions in the world, including the United States, China and Italy.
“The need of the hour is to immediately provide a befitting compensation to our colleagues who have already paid the ultimate price,” it said.
Mr. Prasad’s daughter said it was too painful to think of her father and declined an interview request.
Nearly 200 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were suspended for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Their suspensions followed a protest by dozens of workers on Monday night against the policy.
The hospital, Houston Methodist, had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by Monday or face suspension. Last month, 117 Houston Methodist employees filed a lawsuit against their employer over the vaccine policy.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health care workers get a flu shot, and some hospital systems require it, few companies have required Covid-19 shots, despite federal government guidance that says employers can mandate vaccines for on-site workers.
Executives, lawyers and consultants who advise companies say that many of them remain hesitant because of a long list of legal considerations the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says must be followed before mandating vaccinations. Some companies say they are wary of setting mandates until the vaccines have received full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, which so far has granted emergency use authorization.
Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who led the Houston Methodist protest, has cited the lack of full F.D.A. approval for the shots as a reason she won’t get vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy has been high among frontline health care workers: Surveys showed that nearly half remained unvaccinated as of mid-March, despite being among the first to become eligible for the shots in December. A March 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health care workers had concerns about the vaccines’ newness and their possible side effects, both of which are common reasons for waiting to be vaccinated.
By Monday evening, dozens of Houston Methodist employees had gathered outside the hospital system’s location in Baytown, Texas, holding signs that read “VAXX IS VENOM” and “Don’t Lose Sight Of Our Rights.”
“If we don’t stop this now and do some kind of change, everybody’s just going to topple,” Ms. Bridges told local media covering the protest. “It’s going to create a domino effect. Everybody across the nation is going to be forced to get things into their body that they don’t want and that’s not right.”
Those who did not meet the hospital’s vaccination deadline on Monday would be placed on a two-week unpaid suspension. If they still do not meet the hospital’s vaccine requirements by June 21, Houston Methodist will “initiate the employee termination process.”
The workers’ lawsuit accuses the hospital of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Dr. Marc Boom, president and chief executive of Houston Methodist, said 178 employees who did not meet the vaccination deadline on Monday,
“I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first,” Dr. Boom said.
Of the suspended employees, about 27 had received at least one dose, and Dr. Boom said he hoped they will get their second dose soon to meet the vaccine requirement.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law prohibiting businesses or government entities in the state from requiring vaccine passports, or digital proof of vaccination, joining states such as Florida and Arkansas. It’s unclear how or if the new law will affect employer mandates like Houston Methodist’s.
In some industries, including aviation, employers are taking a middle-ground approach. Delta Air Lines, which is distributing vaccines out of its flight museum in Atlanta, said in May that it would strongly encourage current employees to get vaccinated and require it for new hires.
United Airlines, after considering a blanket mandate, said last week that it would require anyone hired in the United States after June 15 to provide proof of vaccination no later than a week after starting. Exceptions may be made for those who have medical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated, the company added.
As part of its strategy to vaccinate more of its population, Washington State will allow adults to claim a free marijuana joint when they receive a Covid-19 vaccination shot.
The state’s liquor and cannabis board announced on Monday that the promotion, called “Joints for Jabs,” was effective immediately and would run through July 12.
The board said it would allow participating marijuana retailers to provide customers who are 21 or older with a prerolled joint at their stores when they received their first or second dose at an active vaccine clinic. The promotion applies only to joints, not to other products like edibles.
So far in Washington, 58 percent of people have received at least one dose, and 49 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
Washington is not the only state to offer a cannabis promotion. An Arizona dispensary recently announced a similar campaign, providing free marijuana joints or gummy edibles to Arizonans 21 and older who receive a vaccination.
Washington’s liquor and cannabis board recently allowed for a free beer, wine or cocktail to residents with proof of vaccination.
Since the U.S. pace of vaccinations began to decline sharply in mid-April, states and cities have started promotions like free beer in New Jersey and a raffle to win full-ride college scholarships in New York and Ohio. Several states have held lotteries awarding cash prizes of $1 million or more.
Andy Slavitt, a White House virus adviser, has said the Biden administration was encouraging states to be creative — including through lotteries or other financial incentives — to get people vaccinated. The federal government is allowing states to use certain federal relief funds to pay for those types of programs.
The New York Times obituary series on people who died in the Covid pandemic ran under the title “Those We’ve Lost.” A lot is packed into those words.
“Those” reflected the individual identities behind the numbers of dead that crashed over us each day. “We” made it clear that we were all in this together, suffering a collective loss and sadness over the millions who died worldwide. And “lost” conveyed the more personal grief felt by so many over the disappearance of yet another treasured human life.
Many people are continuing to die of Covid-19, but the need to chronicle the toll has grown less urgent as the numbers have declined in the United States, as vaccination rates have risen and as large numbers of people have returned to a more normal life. All these factors have been welcome signals that it’s time to end the series. The last group of obituaries in this project appeared in Friday’s newspaper.
The Obituaries desk will most assuredly continue to cover the deaths of notable people from Covid-19, and if our worst fears are realized — another large wave of pandemic death — “Those We’ve Lost” will, regrettably, resume.
The coronavirus might be receding in much of the United States, but health officials worry that the low immunization rates in parts of the country and the spread of highly contagious virus variants may pose a threat to the nation’s remarkable progress since vaccines were introduced.
In Newton County, Mo., for example, where just 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, area hospitals reported they were treating 46 people for Covid-19 as of June 3, a 47 percent rise over the previous two weeks, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Comanche County, Okla., saw a 63 percent jump in Covid hospitalizations, with 10 people being treated; just 32 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated.
Many of the places with the notable recent jumps in hospitalization rates are smaller communities, where new virus cases and hospitalizations may be in the single digits. Nationally, hospitalizations for Covid-19 continue to decline, though eight states have seen upticks. That includes Louisiana, Utah and Oklahoma, which have lagging vaccination rates.
On the other hand, some states with low vaccination rates, including Mississippi and Alabama, have seen fewer people in the hospital in recent weeks, though in Alabama, cases are rising. Hospitalization figures typically lag case counts, because it may take some time for someone who is infected to become severely ill.
Still, experts are concerned that upticks in hospitalization and case numbers could bloom into a surge this summer, as people head indoors to escape the heat, especially across the South in communities where vaccination rates are low.
The recent increase in some communities is not a coincidence, said Dr. Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. People who become ill with Covid-19 now are, “in most age groups, twice as likely to end up hospitalized as people who got the virus earlier in the course of the pandemic,” Dr. Delbridge said.
In Maryland, of those between the ages of 50 and 59 who contracted Covid-19 over the winter, about 8 percent were hospitalized, he said. From the end of April through the beginning of June, the hospitalization rate in that group was 19 percent.
Worrisome virus variants could be playing a role, Dr. Delbridge said. The variant first found in Britain, now known as Alpha, is more contagious and may be deadlier than most others and is now dominant in the United States. Last month, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the variant, also known as B.1.1.7, made up 72 percent of U.S. cases at the time.
But vaccines have proven to be effective against the Alpha variant. A spring surge that scientists had warned of was smaller than had been feared in the United States.
“I think we got lucky, to be honest,” Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at Yale University, told The New York Times last month. “We’re being rescued by the vaccine.”
Through Tuesday, about 172 million Americans had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a Times database. But vaccine distribution across the country has slowed in recent weeks. About 1 million shots are being administered nationwide each day, down from an April peak of 3 million.
In Michigan, one of the few states that saw a surge in cases this spring, Alpha struck younger people who were returning to schools and playing contact sports.
“Because it’s more transmissible, the virus finds cracks in behavior that normally wouldn’t have been as much of a problem,” said Emily Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan.
At a White House news briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief Covid adviser, said the Delta variant, which was originally identified in India, was emerging as the dominant variant in Britain.
“We cannot let that happen in the United States,” Dr. Fauci said, adding that the Delta variant now accounted for 6 percent of sequenced cases in the United States.
Dr. Fauci urged young people to get immunized, citing a study that found that the vaccines appeared to be effective against the Delta variant.
One way of limiting the spread is for those who are vaccinated to wear masks around those who are not, doctors say. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings, at least one state is modifying that a rule in some places: When California reopens next week, fully vaccinated colleagues working in a room together will be allowed to work maskless. But if one person is unvaccinated, everyone in the room will need to wear a mask.
“If I’m in close proximity to other people, and I don’t know their vaccination status, I put a mask on,” Dr. Delbridge said. “It’s just too easy.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article overstated the connection between low vaccination rates and hospitalizations. While the number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 is rising in some counties with low vaccination rates, it is not the case in all such counties. The error was repeated in the headline. The earlier version also misstated the increase in hospitalizations in Smith County, Tenn., and Trousdale County, Tenn., in recent weeks. The 700 percent increase in reported hospitalizations in those two counties is because of an irregularity in how hospitals in the area reported data to the Department of Health and Human Services, not an increase in people actually hospitalized.
Albert Sun contributed reporting.