Covid-19: Mississippi Is Second State to Open Vaccination to All Adults

Tara Gallion prepared a dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, Miss., in January.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

Mississippi will become the second state to open Covid-19 vaccinations to all of its adult residents, following a call from President Biden for all states to do so by May 1.

Alaska opened its vaccination doors last week to anybody 16 or older who lives or works in the state. The change in Mississippi takes effect Tuesday.

“Get your shots, friends,” Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Twitter. “And let’s get back to normal!”

The pace of vaccinations in the United States has steadily increased as production has ramped up, from well under one million shots per day on Jan. 20, when Mr. Biden took office, to about 2.4 million doses per day on average, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Biden’s team has made key decisions that quickened the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines, but now the country faces the challenge of getting all those shots into arms. Mass vaccination sites across the country are opening up or increasing their capacity, in part to respond to the influx of doses from the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But more challenges remain, including improving access in communities of color and convincing Americans wary for a variety of reasons that getting vaccinated is safe and effective.

Although Mississippi lags most states in the share of its population that has been vaccinated, it is doing better than all of its neighbors except Louisiana, according to a New York Times tracker. As of Sunday, about 20 percent of Mississippians have received at least one shot, and 11 percent have been fully vaccinated.

The state had already opened eligibility further than most states, to cover everyone 50 or over. Governor Reeves urged older residents to book appointments as soon as possible.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has said that her state will drop its restrictions on eligibility by April 5, about a month before Mr. Biden’s deadline. Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said his state would as well, tentatively opening vaccine eligibility to all adults on April 5.

“It’s still going to take some time to get the vaccine to everyone who wants it, and I urge patience to the greatest extent possible,” Mr. Lamont said in a news release.

Officials in Washington, D.C., said on Monday that they would do the same by May 1, allowing anyone 16 or older who lives in the city to be inoculated.

In New York, where the minimum age was recently lowered to 60, the state will open three new mass vaccination sites on Long Island at the end of the week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday at an appearance. The sites will be on college campuses in Old Westbury, Brentwood and Southampton.

More categories of public-facing workers will become eligible in New York on Wednesday, including government employees, building services workers and employees of nonprofit groups. Mr. Cuomo has yet to announce how or when the state would open eligibility to all adults.

About 92.6 million vaccine doses have been administered since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, according to data released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current pace, the country will pass 100 million doses under Mr. Biden before the end of the week.

Peter Krage, 54, a gerontological nurse, getting his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Rostock, Germany, last month.
Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

As a third wave of the pandemic crashes over Europe, questions about the safety of one of the continent’s most commonly available vaccines led Germany, France, Italy and Spain to temporarily halt its use on Monday. The suspensions created further chaos in inoculation rollouts even as new coronavirus variants continue to spread.

The decisions followed reports that a handful of people who had received the vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots.

The company has strongly defended its vaccine, saying that there is “no evidence” of increased risk of blood clots or hemorrhages among the more than 17 million people who have received the shot in the European Union and the United Kingdom.

“The safety of all is our first priority,” AstraZeneca said in a statement Monday. “We are working with national health authorities and European officials and look forward to their assessment later this week.”

The timing of the pause in inoculations by some of Europe’s largest countries — which followed a flurry of similar actions by Denmark, Norway and several others — could not have been worse.

Europe’s vaccine rollouts already lag far behind those in Britain and the United States, and there is dawning realization that much of the continent is suffering a third wave of infections. Leading immunologists fretted on Monday that the decision by several of Europe’s leading nations to suspend the use of AstraZeneca would make vaccination efforts even harder by emboldening vaccine skeptics in countries where they are particularly entrenched.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization warned against an exodus from vaccines that would undermine rollout efforts at a pivotal moment.

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Italy began to enter strict regional lockdowns on Monday, as the government moved to halt an increase in coronavirus infections just one year after the country became the first in Europe to impose a national lockdown.CreditCredit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

A year after Italy became the first European country to impose a national lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the nation has fallen eerily quiet once again, with new restrictions imposed on Monday in an effort to stop a third wave of infections that is threatening to wash over Europe and overwhelm its halting mass inoculation program.

As he explained the measures on Friday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned that Italy was facing a “new wave of contagion,” driven by more infectious variants of the coronavirus.

Just as before, Italy was not alone.

“We have clear signs: The third wave in Germany has already begun,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, said during a news conference on Friday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary predicted that this week would be the most difficult since the start of the pandemic in terms of allocating hospital beds and breathing machines, as well as mobilizing nurses and doctors. Hospitalizations in France are at their highest levels since November, prompting the authorities to consider a third national lockdown.

Officials in the United States are watching those developments with wary eyes. At a White House news briefing on Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans not to let their guard down as case numbers have dropped from their peak. She pointed to images of young people crowded onto Florida beaches, though generally people are safer outside than inside, and to European nations as a warning.

“Each of these countries has had nadirs like we are having now, and each took an upward trend after they disregarded no mitigation strategies,” she said. “They simply took their eye off the ball. I’m pleading with you for the sake of our nation’s health. These should be warning signs for all of us.”

The U.S. death rate remains at nearly 1,400 people every day. That number still exceeds the summer peak, when patients filled Sun Belt hospitals and outbreaks in states that reopened early drove record numbers of cases, though daily deaths nationwide remained lower than the first surge last spring. The average number of new reported cases per day remains comparable to the figures reported in mid-October.

Across Europe, cases are spiking. Supply shortages and vaccine skepticism, as well as bureaucracy and logistical obstacles, have slowed the pace of inoculations. Governments are putting exhausted populations under lockdown. Street protests are turning violent. A year after the virus began spreading in Europe, things feel unnervingly the same.

In Rome, the empty streets, closed schools, shuttered restaurants and canceled Easter holidays came as a relief to some residents after months of climbing infections, choked hospitals and deaths.

“It’s a liberation to return to lockdown, because for months, after everything that happened, people of every age were going out acting like there was no problem,” said Annarita Santini, 57, as she rode her bike in front of the Trevi Fountain, a popular site that had no visitors except for three police officers. “At least like this,” she added, “the air can be cleared and people will be scared again.”

For months, Italy had relied on a color-coded system of restrictions that, unlike the blanket lockdown of last year, sought to surgically smother emerging outbreaks in order to keep much of the country open and running. It does not seem to have worked.

“History repeats itself,” Massimo Galli, one of Italy’s top virologists, told the daily Corriere della Sera on Monday. “The third wave started, and the variants are running.”

“Unfortunately we all got the illusion that the arrival of the vaccines would reduce the necessity of more drastic closures,” he said. “But the vaccines did not arrive in sufficient quantities.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg Lauren Leatherby and Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

A conservative group going by the name Olympia Freedom Party gathers outside the capitol building in prayer before rallying on Jan. 10, 2021 in Olympia, Washington. 
Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

As President Biden pushes to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, he faces deep skepticism among many Republicans, a group especially challenging for him to persuade.

While there are degrees of opposition to vaccination for Covid-19 among a number of groups, including African-Americans and antivaccine activists, polling suggests that opinions in this case are breaking substantially along partisan lines.

A third of Republicans said in a CBS News poll that they would not be vaccinated — compared with 10 percent of Democrats — and another 20 percent of Republicans said they were unsure. Other polls have found similar trends.

With the Biden administration readying television and internet advertising and other efforts to promote vaccination, the challenge for the White House is complicated by perceptions of former President Donald J. Trump’s stance on the issue. Although Mr. Trump was vaccinated before he left office and urged conservatives last month to get inoculated, many of his supporters appear reluctant to do so, and he has not played any prominent role in promoting vaccination.

Asked about the issue on Monday at the White House, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump’s help promoting vaccination was less important than getting trusted community figures on board.

“I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s supporters and campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Widespread opposition to vaccination, if not overcome, could slow the United States from reaching the point where the virus can no longer spread easily, setting back efforts to get the economy humming again and people back to a more normal life. While the problem until now has been access to relatively tight supplies of the vaccine, administration officials expect to soon face the possibility of supply exceeding demand if many Americans remain reluctant.

A rally in San Francisco on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule at the city’s public schools.
Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Parents of schoolchildren protested in several cities around the United States over the weekend, frustrated by the off-again-on-again reopening policies in some school districts and blanket closures in others a full year after the pandemic began, despite growing scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely if they follow basic procedures.

Several hundred people rallied in downtown Naperville, Ill., on Sunday to urge officials to give students the option of returning to the classroom five days a week. Wielding signs with messages like “Get our kids back in school” and “Flip the school board,” demonstrators chanted, “Five days a week,” The Naperville Sun reported.

In San Francisco, hundreds of parents and children marched on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule, arguing that a partial reopening falls short, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Similarly, parents demonstrated at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a local news station, saying a tentative agreement with teachers for a partial reopening in April was not enough.

Parents pressing for in-person classes say that remote learning leaves students feeling emotionally and socially drained at home.

They have the Biden administration on their side. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling the country in a campaign aimed at reopening schools. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last month saying it was safe for schools to reopen if they could ensure measures like proper masking, physical distancing and hygiene were taken. The recommendations called for every elementary school to open in some fashion.

In early February, The New York Times surveyed 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — who largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time, in-person instruction. Some said that was true even in communities where coronavirus cases were widespread, with proper safety precautions, including adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities.

Many Facebook and Instagram users are already using the apps to share their vaccination status.
Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Facebook said on Monday that it planned to expand its efforts to help get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The social network said it would roll out a new location-based tool to direct people to the clinics nearest to them that offer vaccinations, which users can find inside Facebook’s main app.

The company will also have an information center for Covid-19-related questions and data inside its Instagram photo-sharing app, building on a similar effort that Facebook introduced last year. And it will keep adding automated chat bots to WhatsApp, which can text users information on where to get vaccinated.

“By working closely with national and global health authorities and using our scale to reach people quickly, we’re doing our part to help people get credible information, get vaccinated and come back together safely,” Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a company blog post.

While Facebook previously allowed anti-vaccination groups on its platform to flourish, last year it pledged to remove Covid-related misinformation from its site. It also labeled posts related to the coronavirus with links to its official information center so it could direct people to sources like the World Health Organization.

But critics have said that false or misleading data about vaccines and the virus continues to be visible in private groups and pages on Facebook.

Anallely Falcon receiving her second dose on in Central Falls, R.I., last month.
Credit…David Degner for The New York Times

Nearly nine in 10 Americans who received the first dose of a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine went on to complete the regimen, and most people who received two doses got them within the recommended time frames, federal health officials reported on Monday.

The analyses, by investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included data on tens of millions of Americans who received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines between mid-December and mid-February.

The percentage of people completing the regimens varied markedly by jurisdiction and between demographic groups, however. Federal health officials urged local vaccinators to take steps to ensure that everyone comes back, including scheduling a return appointment when giving the first shot, sending reminders, and rescheduling missed or canceled appointments.

While the data were “reassuring” over all, C.D.C. researchers said, the first groups receiving the vaccine in the United States — health care workers and long-term care facility residents — had easy access to the second dose, since they were likely to have been vaccinated at their workplace or place of residence.

As vaccines are offered to broader groups of people, the scientists warned, the percentage getting fully vaccinated may drop.

People are not considered fully vaccinated against the coronavirus until two weeks after they receive the second shot of the two-dose regimen (or two weeks after receiving the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson).

C.D.C. researchers looked at some 40.5 million Americans who were vaccinated between Dec. 14, 2020 and Feb. 14, 2021.

In one analysis, they reviewed the records of 12.4 million people who had received the first dose of a two-dose vaccine regimen and had enough time to get the second dose. Some 88 percent had completed the series, while 8.6 percent were still within the allowable interval — 42 days — to receive the second dose. But 3.4 percent had missed that window. (The recommended interval between doses is 21 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 28 days for Moderna).

Americans most likely to have missed the second dose varied by locality. Among vaccine recipients for whom information on race and ethnicity were known, the lowest completion rates were among Native American or Alaska Native individuals.

A second analysis of 14.2 million people who completed the full regimen found that 95.6 percent received the second dose within the recommended period, though again the figures varied by community.

The authors of the study urged providers and public health workers to encourage Americans to come back for second doses and to emphasize the importance of full vaccination. C.D.C. officials also asked that vaccinators work to understand what keeps people from completing the series, and whether access or lack of confidence in the vaccines are playing a role.

Heather Kilpatrick used to work in hospitality before the pandemic, but she now stays home with her 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne. 
Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times

In the year since the pandemic upended the U.S. economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances.

An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned.

These labor-force dropouts are not counted in the most commonly cited unemployment rate, which was 6.2 percent in February, making the group something of a hidden casualty of the pandemic.

Now, as the labor market begins to emerge from the pandemic’s vise, whether those who have left the labor force return to work — and if so, how quickly — is one of the big questions about the shape of the recovery.

There is some reason for optimism. Economists expect that many who have left the labor force in the past year will return to work once health concerns and child care issues are alleviated. And they are optimistic that as the labor market heats up, it will draw in workers who grew disenchanted with the job search.

Moreover, after the last recession, many economists said those who left the labor force were unlikely to come back, whether because of disabilities, the opioid crisis, a loss of skills or other reasons. Yet labor force participation, adjusted for demographic shifts, eventually returned to its previous level.

But the speed with which the pandemic has driven workers from the labor force could leave lasting damage.

At North Dakota State University in October. Several studies have shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of young people.
Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

Young people’s reports of poor well-being during the pandemic have fueled a global crisis that needs immediate attention, according to a nonprofit organization that surveyed nearly 50,000 people in eight countries, providing a comprehensive overview of the pandemic’s impact on mental health.

More than one in four respondents reported facing or being at risk of clinical disorders, a number that rose to nearly one in two for those ages 18 to 24, according to the report, which was released by group, Sapien Labs, a U.S. nonprofit group dedicated to understanding the human mind.

The report, based on data collected from an online, anonymous survey whose findings were published on Monday, focused on Australia, Britain, Canada, India, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the United States. It found that 40 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 reported feeling sadness, distress or hopelessness, as well as unwanted, strange and obsessive thoughts.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated trends that were already there, and made them worse,” said Dr. Tara Thiagarajan, the founder and chief scientist of Sapien Labs. “Particularly, social isolation has had a larger impact on young people, and it’s pushed many of them over the edge.”

Other studies have shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of young people, women and people of color.

Mental health experts have also warned against the long-term effects of the pandemic, which are likely to include an economic recession and the psychological fallout of long-term social isolation.

The report’s authors, Dr. Thiagarajan and Jennifer Newson, urged governments to focus on population-wide policies targeting mental health, instead of individual approaches that are often favored.

“While much of the focus in the mental health arena has been on self-care through apps, therapy and other programs, social and economic policy and institutional culture may have a large role to play in the mitigation of our present mental health crisis and prevention of future crises,” they wrote.

The apparent assault on an Uber driver, Subhakar Khadka, is the latest incident involving confrontations around coronavirus protections.
Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Two arrests have been made after scenes from a viral video that circulated showed passengers taunting and deliberately coughing on an Uber driver.

In the dashcam video, the driver, who had a hand on his head, looked exasperated. A woman in the passenger’s seat uttered an expletive about a mask and then coughed on the driver, while using racial slurs. Another passenger joined in, pulling down her mask and laughing. “And I got corona,” she said.

The driver refused to continue the ride, and the situation escalated. The passenger who had initially coughed on the driver grabbed his phone and tore off his mask, breaking the strap. The women continued screaming profanities.

The San Francisco Police Department said in a statement last Thursday that the driver, identified by KGO-TV as Subhakar Khadka, had picked up three passengers in the early afternoon on March 7, but when he saw that one of the women was not wearing a mask, he told them he would not continue unless they all wore masks.

In a video that was posted on Instagram and has since been removed, one passenger said that the driver was trying to make them exit the car in the middle of the freeway.

Soon, “an altercation ensued,” the police said.

One woman grabbed the driver’s cellphone, which Mr. Khadka eventually retrieved, and another passenger sprayed “what is believed to be pepper spray” into the car through an open window after they exited the vehicle, according to the police.



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The flare-up is the latest high-profile example of mask conflicts, which have sometimes taken violent turns. Last year, prosecutors in Chicago said two sisters attacked a store security guard with a garbage can. One of the women stabbed the guard repeatedly with a small knife after he tried to insist that they wear masks and use the store’s hand sanitizer on entry.

In another case last year, an 80-year-old man in upstate New York was killed after he asked a bar patron to wear a mask; the patron shoved the man to the ground, causing him to hit his head.

Mr. Khadka, an Uber driver from Nepal who came to the United States eight years ago, said in an interview with KPIX that he never said anything “bad” to the women, and that they had refused to leave his car. Mr. Khadka said he believed he was singled out for their ire because he is South Asian. “If I was of another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them,” he said. “The moment I opened my mouth to speak, they realized I’m not among one of them. It’s easy for them to intimidate me.”

One of the passengers was arrested in Las Vegas on Thursday, the Las Vegas Police Department said. The passenger, Malaysia King, 24, was taken into custody on a warrant for assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery, conspiracy and violation of a health and safety code, the police said.

A second passenger, Arna Kimiai, 24, turned herself in on Sunday, the San Francisco Police Department announced. Ms. Kimiai was booked on charges of robbery, assault and battery, conspiracy, and violation of a health and safety code.

“The behavior captured on video in this incident showed a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” said Lt. Tracy McCray, who heads the San Francisco Police Department’s robbery detail.

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Biden: ‘Shots in Arms and Money in Pockets’

President Biden declared on Monday that within 10 days the U.S. would achieve his goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots and delivering 100 million stimulus checks to Americans.

Over the next 10 days, we’ll reach two goals, two giant goals. The first is 100 million shots in people’s arms will have been completed within the next 10 days and 100 million checks in people’s pockets in the next 100 days. Shots in arms and money in pockets. That’s important. The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do, make a difference in people’s everyday lives. And we’re just getting started. By the time all the money is distributed, 85 percent of American households will have gotten their $1,400 rescue checks. I’m pleased to announce and introduce another gifted manager to coordinate our implementation of the American Rescue Plan, Gene Sperling. Gene will be on the phone with mayors and governors, red states, blue states, the source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support, and above all, a source of accountability for all of us to get the job done. And together, we’re going to make sure that the benefits of the American Rescue Plan go out quickly and directly to the American people where they belong. Help is here and hope is here in real and tangible ways. We’re just days away from 100 million shots and millions — in the arms of millions of Americans. That’s the way, that’s the way on the way to get every single American access to the vaccine.

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President Biden declared on Monday that within 10 days the U.S. would achieve his goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots and delivering 100 million stimulus checks to Americans.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden said Monday that his administration was on pace to achieve two key goals by March 25: the distribution of 100 million shots of Covid-19 vaccines since his inauguration and 100 million checks and electronic deposits of stimulus payments under his economic relief bill.

“Shots in arms and money in pockets. That’s important,” Mr. Biden said in a brief address from the White House.

The president also introduced Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic policy aide, as his pick to oversee implementation of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that he signed into law late last week.

“The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do,” Mr. Biden said. “Make a difference in people’s everyday lives.”

The United States has administered 92.6 million vaccine doses since Jan. 20, when Mr. Biden took office, according to data released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current pace of vaccinations, the country will pass 100 million doses under Mr. Biden before the end of the week.

Answering a question from a reporter after the speech, Mr. Biden brushed aside calls for his administration to enlist former President Donald J. Trump’s help in appealing to Republicans who have resisted getting vaccinated.

“I discussed it with my team,” Mr. Biden said, “And they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, the local people in the community would say. So I urge, I urge all local docs, and ministers, and priests, to talk about why — why it’s important to get that vaccine.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks came as his team launched a week of sales pitches for the relief bill. The president and several members of his administration will travel the country to promote the plan that contains direct $1,400-per-person payments to low- and middle-income Americans, new monthly checks for parents and additional relief for the unemployed, among other particulars.

Mr. Biden will visit Delaware County, Pa., on Tuesday and will appear with Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday in Atlanta, which helped deliver Democrats the Senate majority that made the stimulus law possible.

A group of other administration representatives and officials, including the first lady, Jill Biden, and Ms. Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, will also make trips. Ms. Harris and her husband landed in Las Vegas for an event on Monday afternoon, while Dr. Biden finished an event in New Jersey.

The road show is an effort to avoid the messaging mistakes of President Barack Obama’s administration, which Democrats now believe failed to continue vocally building support for his $780 billion stimulus act after it passed in 2009. The challenge will be to highlight less obvious provisions, including the largest federal infusion of aid to the poor in generations, a substantial expansion of the child tax credit and increased subsidies for health insurance.

Mr. Sperling’s challenge with the rescue plan will be different than the one Mr. Biden faced in 2009, because the relief bill differs starkly from Mr. Obama’s signature stimulus plan. The Biden plan is more than twice as large as Mr. Obama’s. It includes money meant to hasten the end of the pandemic, including billions for vaccine deployment and coronavirus testing.

Oversight of the $1.9 trillion relief legislation is currently expected to rely on the Government Accountability Office and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a panel of inspectors general from across the federal government. A Treasury official said that the department would set up a process to monitor the use of funds that are being sent to states to ensure that they are used according to the eligibility requirements in the law.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

With the borders closed, Russian tourists are discovering domestic destinations, like Lake Baikal.
Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Usually, it is foreigners who flock to Lake Baikal in Siberia this time of year to skate, bike, hike, run, drive, hover and ski over a stark expanse of ice and snow, while Russians escape the cold to Turkey or Thailand.

But Russia’s borders are still closed because of the pandemic, and to the surprise of locals, crowds of Russian tourists have traded tropical beaches for the icicle-draped shores of Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. The tour guides are calling it Russian Season.

If you catch a moment of stillness on the crescent-shaped, 400-mile-long, mile-deep lake, the assault on the senses is otherworldly. You stand on three feet of ice so solid it is crossed safely by heavy trucks, but you feel fragile, fleeting and small.

Yet stillness is hard to come by.

Western governments have been discouraging travel during the pandemic, but in Russia, as is so often the case, things are different. The Kremlin has turned coronavirus-related border closures into an opportunity to get Russians — who have spent the last 30 years exploring the world beyond the former Iron Curtain — hooked on vacationing at home.

A state-funded program that began last August offers $270 refunds on domestic leisure trips, including flights and hotel stays. It is one example of how Russia, which had one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls last year, has often prioritized the economy over public health during the pandemic.

“Our people are used to traveling abroad to a significant degree,” President Vladimir V. Putin said in December. “Developing domestic tourism is no less important.”

In other news from around the world:

  • The government of Hong Kong said on Monday that vaccine eligibility would be expanded to include everyone age 30 and older regardless of occupation, as the Chinese territory tries to increase vaccine uptake. About 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents have received a first dose of either the BioNTech or Sinovac vaccines since the inoculation drive began late last month. But the proportion of people who show up for their appointments has fallen amid reports that six people have died after receiving the vaccine developed by Sinovac, a private Chinese company. Officials say that two of the deaths are not directly related to the vaccine and that the others are under investigation. The vaccine announcement came as Hong Kong is trying to contain a cluster of cases that began at a gym and has grown to 122 people, with more than 850 close contacts sent to government quarantine facilities and multiple residential buildings locked down overnight for mandatory testing. Also on Monday, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said it was closing for deep cleaning after two employees tested positive for the virus.

The pandemic became real for Clary Montgomery when she introduced her daughter, Paloma, who was born March 11, 2020, to family members via video.

“When my toddler grandson tried to feed me a blueberry through the cellphone screen.”

That was the answer from Alice Gilgoff, 74, of Rosendale, N.Y., when The New York Times asked readers: When did the coronavirus pandemic become real for you? Nearly 2,000 people responded, and we have compiled many of their thoughts.

Across the United States and around the globe, nearly everyone experienced a moment when the pandemic truly hit home. And one year later, as the pandemic carries on, having claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide, it has been with us long enough to have its own history.

The answers from readers to that question are a journey through time. It has been a year of trauma and resilience. No one has been spared, yet some have borne burdens far more profound than others.

Still, our stories connect us: each of us human, each of us just trying to survive a pandemic that changed us and the world.

Denise Saylor photographed herself as Lara Comstack injected her with  vaccine in January at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Manhattan.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Most people aren’t particularly fond of needles.

For a significant number of people, though, fear of needles goes beyond anxiety into a more dangerous area, and prevents them from seeking out needed medical care.

As the world’s hopes of returning to a post-pandemic normal rest largely on people’s willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine, experts and health care professionals are assuring those people that there are ways to overcome this problem.

“It would be heartbreaking to me if a fear of needles held someone back from getting this vaccine, because there are things we can do to alleviate that,” said Dr. Nipunie S. Rajapakse, an infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

A study from the University of Michigan found that 16 percent of adults in several countries avoided annual flu vaccinations because of a fear of needles, and 20 percent avoided tetanus shots.

Whether fear is keeping you from being vaccinated at all or is causing you distress about doing so, there are some steps that the experts suggest:

  • Seek professional help. A therapist can help people with the most severe fear, especially if the fear is interfering with getting appropriate medical care.

  • Tell the nurse about your fear before getting the shot. There may be techniques the nurse can use, or products may be available, to reduce the pain of the injection or to put you at ease.

  • Distract yourself. It could be a YouTube video or your favorite song playing on your phone. You could practice deep-breathing or meditation techniques, or wiggle your toes, or look around and count all of the blue items you can see in the room.

  • Focus on the benefits. Think about the summer barbecues, family gatherings and economic recovery the vaccines will help usher in, and you might be feeling more optimistic and excited than nervous.

The Italian army set up a drive- through vaccination center on the outskirts of Milan, converting part of the already existing drive through for Covid-19 testing service. The site was administering AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

Millions of people in dozens of countries have received the AstraZeneca vaccine with few reports of ill effects, and its testing in tens of thousands of people found it to be safe.

But recently, blood clots and abnormal bleeding in a small number of recipients in European countries have cast doubt on its safety, although no causative link has been found between the patients’ conditions and the vaccine.

The reports have prompted more than a dozen countries to partly or fully suspend the vaccine’s use while the cases are investigated. Most of the nations said they were doing so as a precaution until health agencies could review the cases.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the United States, although a review of its U.S. trial is expected soon.

What types of problems caused the countries to take precautionary steps?

The decisions to pause the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, mainly by European countries, followed reports of four serious cases in Norway, which were described among health workers under age 50 who received the vaccine. Most developed clots or bleeding abnormalities and had low platelet counts, health authorities there said. Two of them have died from brain hemorrhages, and the other two are hospitalized.

The death of a 60-year-old woman in Denmark and of a 57-year-old man in Italy also fueled quick decisions, although none of the deaths have been fully investigated to determine whether there is any link to the shots they received.

What is a blood clot and what causes them generally?

A blood clot is a thickened, gelatinous blob of blood that can block circulation. Clots form in response to injuries and can also be caused by many illnesses, including cancer and genetic disorders, certain drugs and prolonged sitting or bed rest. Clots that form in the legs sometimes break off and travel to the lungs or brain, where they can be deadly.

Can the vaccine cause blood clots?

Vaccines have not been shown to cause blood clots, said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University.

Blood clots are common in the general population, and health authorities suspect that the cases reported in vaccine recipients are most likely coincidental and not related to the vaccination.

What can existing data on AstraZeneca’s vaccine tell us?

Dr. David Wohl, director of the vaccine clinic at the University of North Carolina, said he had seen no evidence that any of the Covid vaccines had caused blood clots, also called thrombosis, in the large clinical trials that led to their authorization.

But Dr. Wohl also noted, “There are differences between trials and real life.”

The most extensive safety results from the real-world rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine come from Britain, where 9.7 million doses of the vaccine had been given out through February. Britain’s data found that at least some clotting conditions, while extremely rare, were equally prevalent for people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine compared to those who got Pfizer’s product. But abnormally low platelet levels were more common among people who got AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Do vaccines cause other bleeding disorders?

Other vaccines, particularly the one given to children for measles, mumps and rubella, have been linked to temporarily lowered levels of platelets, a blood component essential for clotting.

Lowered platelet levels have been reported in small numbers of patients receiving the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. One recipient, a physician in Florida, died from a brain hemorrhage when his platelet levels could not be restored, and others have been hospitalized. U.S. health officials have said that the cases are being investigated.



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