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

An empty Montmartre district in Paris last April. The European Union hopes to restore the summer tourism market this year.
Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

The European Union on Wednesday proposed a Covid-19 certificate that would allow people to travel more freely, a move aimed at saving the summer tourist season for member states that depend on it economically.

The proposed document, known as a Digital Green Certificate, would allow residents of the bloc to travel at will within the border-free Schengen area if they have proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test result or a documented recovery from the coronavirus.

The certificates would be free and would be available in digital or paper format.

“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition to free movement, and it will not discriminate in any way,” said Didier Reynders, the bloc’s top official for justice, adding that the aim was to “gradually restore free movement within the E.U. and avoid fragmentation.”

Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the bloc, but travel restrictions are traditionally under the purview of national governments. The commission’s plan is a bid to coordinate what has become a patchwork of national measures that are hindering travel within the previously borderless zone.

Under the proposed rules, national governments could decide which travel restrictions, such as obligatory quarantine, would be lifted for certificate holders.

The proposals, which require approval by the European Parliament and the majority of member states, come as many European countries are experiencing a third wave of infections and an inoculation effort that has been slowed by doubts over AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Several countries have suspended use of the vaccine at least temporarily, confusing citizens and possibly increasing resistance to vaccinations.

The hope is to make the certificates operational by mid-June in order to salvage the summer season.

Just under 10 percent of European Union residents have been vaccinated, leaving the bloc far behind Britain and the United States.


United States › United StatesOn March 16 14-day change
New cases 54,440 –16%
New deaths 1,245 –35%

World › WorldOn March 16 14-day change
New cases 456,093 +15%
New deaths 9,988 –5%

U.S. vaccinations ›

Where states are reporting vaccines given

Waiting at a drive-through vaccination site at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., on Tuesday.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

Not long ago, Covid-19 vaccines were available only to the most vulnerable Americans and some essential workers. That is quickly changing as vaccine production and distribution ramp up and more states begin to heed a call from President Biden to expand access to all adults by May.

States are also racing to stay ahead of the growing number of virus variants, some of which are more contagious and possibly even more deadly. At least three states — Maine, Virginia and Wisconsin — and Washington, D.C., have said that they will expand eligibility to their general population by May 1, the deadline that Mr. Biden set last week. At least six other states — including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Montana and Utah — hope to do so this month or next.

In Mississippi and Alaska, everyone age 16 or older is eligible, and Arizona and Michigan have made the vaccines available to all adults in some counties.

Mr. Biden said last week that he was directing the federal government to secure an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. With three vaccines now in use, Mr. Biden has said that the United States will have secured enough doses by the end of May for shots to be available for all adults.


Eligible only in some counties


Eligible only in some counties


Eligible only in some counties

Several states have already been expanding eligibility for vaccinations. In Ohio, vaccines will open to anyone 40 and up as of Friday, and to more residents with certain medical conditions. Indiana extended access to people 45 and older, effective immediately.

Coloradans age 50 and up will be eligible for a shot on Friday, along with anyone 16 years and older with certain medical conditions. Wisconsin said on Tuesday that residents 16 years and up with certain medical conditions would be eligible a week earlier than initially planned.

On Monday, Texans age 50 and older and Georgians over 55 became eligible for vaccines.

In New York State, residents 60 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine, and more frontline workers will become eligible on Wednesday, including government employees, building services workers and employees of nonprofit groups. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to announce how or when the state will open eligibility to all adults.

Since vaccinations began in December, the federal government has delivered nearly 143 million vaccine doses to states and territories, and more than 77 percent have been administered, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country is averaging about 2.4 million shots a day, compared with well under one million a day in January.

As of Tuesday, 65 percent of the country’s older population had received at least one vaccine dose, according to C.D.C. data, with 37 percent fully vaccinated.

Serbia’s largest vaccination center this month at the Belgrade Fair, a sprawling exhibition complex in the Serbian capital.
Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

Stained for years by its brutal role in the horrific Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Serbia is now basking in the glow of success in a good campaign: the quest to get its people vaccinated.

Serbia has raced ahead of the far richer and usually better-organized countries in Europe to offer all adult citizens not only free inoculations, but also a smorgasbord of five vaccines to choose from.

The country’s unusual surfeit of vaccines has been a public relations triumph for the increasingly authoritarian government of President Aleksandar Vucic. It has burnished his own and his country’s image, weakened his already beleaguered opponents and added a new twist to the complex geopolitics of vaccines.

Serbia, with a population under seven million, placed bets across the board, sealing initial deals for more than 11 million doses with Russia and China, whose products have not been approved by European regulators, as well as with Western drug companies.

It reached its first vaccine deal, covering 2.2 million doses, with Pfizer in August and quickly followed up with contracts for millions more from Russia and China.

As a result, Serbia has become the best vaccinator in Europe after Britain, data collected by OurWorldInData shows. It had administered 29.5 doses for every 100 people as of last week compared with just 10.5 in Germany, a country long viewed as a model of efficiency and good governance, and 10.7 in France.

Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, attributed her country’s success to its decision to “treat this as a health issue, not a political issue. We negotiated with all, regardless of whether East or West.”

Serbia’s readiness to embrace non-Western vaccines so far shunned by the European Union could backfire if they turn out to be duds. Sinopharm, unlike Western vaccine makers, has not published detailed data from Phase 3 trials. Data it has released suggest that its product is less effective than Western coronavirus vaccines.

Many Serbians, apparently reassured by the vaccination drive, have also lowered their guard against the risk of infection. The daily number of new cases has more than doubled since early February, prompting the government to order all businesses other than food stores and pharmacies to close last weekend.

More than 150 million students and educators are using Google Classroom app.
Credit…Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock

After a tough year of toggling between remote and in-person schooling, many students, teachers and their families feel burned out from pandemic learning. But companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a windfall.

Venture and equity financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, surging to $12.6 billion worldwide last year from $4.8 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups and venture capital.

Yet as more districts reopen for in-person instruction, the billions of dollars that schools and venture capitalists have sunk into education technology are about to get tested.

“There’s definitely going to be a shakeout over the next year,” said Matthew Gross, the chief executive of Newsela, a popular reading lesson app for schools.

A number of ed-tech start-ups reporting record growth had sizable school audiences before the pandemic. Then last spring, as school districts switched to remote learning, many education apps hit on a common pandemic growth strategy: They temporarily made their premium services free to teachers for the rest of the school year.

“What unfolded from there was massive adoption,” said Tory Patterson, a managing director at Owl Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in education start-ups like Newsela. Once the school year ended, he said, ed-tech start-ups began trying to convert school districts into paying customers, and “we saw pretty broad-based uptake of those offers.”

Some consumer tech giants that provided free services to schools also reaped benefits, gaining audience share and getting millions of students accustomed to using their product.

The worldwide audience for Google Classroom, Google’s free class assignment and grading app, has skyrocketed to more than 150 million students and educators, up from 40 million early last year. And Zoom Video Communications says it has provided free services during the pandemic to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries.

Whether tools that teachers have come to rely on for remote learning can maintain their popularity will now hinge on how useful the apps are in the classroom.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Casting a ballot at a polling station in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Credit…Sem Van Der Wal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Dutch voters go to the polls for parliamentary elections this week, the pandemic has changed the usual dynamic.

To help maintain social distancing, the voting process was spread over three days, ending on Wednesday. Voters over 70 were encouraged to vote by mail. And campaigning mainly took place on television, making it hard for voters to spontaneously confront politicians as is typical practice.

Coronavirus cases are again surging in the Netherlands, prompting the authorities to warn of a third wave. Last year, it took the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte until November to get the country’s testing capabilities in order, and the vaccination process is also going slowly.

Yet during the campaigning, more localized issues managed to overshadow the government’s handling of the coronavirus.

The prime minister and his cabinet resigned in January over a scandal involving the tax authorities’ hunting down people, mostly poor, who had made administrative mistakes in their child benefits requests. Many were brought to financial ruin as a result.

Broader policies put forward by Mr. Rutte, who has been in power since 2010, were also a focus on the campaign trail. While his party is ahead in the polls, it has lost some support in recent weeks.

Neighboring Germany is also entering a packed election season, with national and state votes coming in a year that will bring to an end the 16-year chancellorship of Angela Merkel.

In other developments around the world:

  • Australia will send 8,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea in an attempt to curb a rapidly growing outbreak in the country, which is Australia’s closest neighbor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. Australia will also ask AstraZeneca to divert to the small island nation a million vaccine doses that were bound for Australia. And it is suspending all charter flights from Papua New Guinea, where about half of the nation’s total reported 2,351 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the past two weeks.

Andrea Maikovich-Fong, a psychologist in Denver, said she worried about how some clients would adjust as the world begins to reopen.
Credit…Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

When the pandemic narrowed the world, Jonathan Hirshon stopped traveling, eating out, going to cocktail parties and commuting to the office.

What a relief.

Mr. Hirshon experiences severe social anxiety. Even as he grieved the pandemic’s toll, he found lockdown life to be a respite.

Now, with public life about to resume, he finds himself with decidedly mixed feelings — “anticipation, dread and hope.”

Mr. Hirshon, a 54-year-old public relations consultant, is one of numerous people who find the everyday grind not only wearing, but also emotionally unsettling. That includes people with clinical diagnoses of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, and also some run-of-the-mill introverts.

A new survey from the American Psychological Association found that while 47 percent of people have seen their stress rise over the pandemic, about 43 percent reported no change in stress and 7 percent said they felt less stress.

Mental health experts said that this portion of the population found lockdown measures protective, a sort of permission to glide into more predictable spaces, schedules, routines and relationships. And experts say that while the lockdown periods have blessed the “avoidance” of social situations, the circumstances are poised to change.

“I am very worried about many of my socially anxious patients,” said Andrea Maikovich-Fong, a psychologist in Denver. That anxiety, she said, “is going to come back with a vengeance when the world opens up.”

A protest over masks and Covid vaccines outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta on Saturday.
Credit…Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Former President Donald J. Trump recommended in a nationally televised interview on Tuesday evening that Americans who are reluctant to be vaccinated against the coronavirus should go ahead with inoculations.

Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, were vaccinated in January. And vaccine proponents have called on him to speak out in favor of the shots to his supporters — many of whom remain reluctant, polls show.

Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on “Fox News Primetime,” Mr. Trump said, “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it — and a lot of those people voted for me frankly.”

He added: “It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works.”

While there are degrees of opposition to coronavirus vaccination among a number of groups, polling suggests that the opinions break 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.

Mr. Trump encouraged attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., late last month to get vaccinated.

Still, Mr. Trump — whose tenure during the pandemic was often marked by railing against recommendations from medical experts — said on Tuesday that “we have our freedoms and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also.”

With President Biden’s administration readying television and internet advertising and other efforts to promote vaccination, the challenge for the White House is complicated by perceptions of Mr. Trump’s stance on the vaccine.

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.”

Grace Sundstrom, a senior in Des Moines, wrote her college essay about correspondence she had with Alden, a nursing home resident.
Credit…via Grace Sundstrom

This year perhaps more than ever, the college essay has served as a canvas for high school seniors to reflect on a turbulent and, for many, sorrowful year. It has been a psychiatrist’s couch, a road map to a more hopeful future, a chance to pour out intimate feelings about loneliness and injustice.

In response to a request from The New York Times, more than 900 seniors submitted the personal essays they wrote for their college applications. Reading them is like a taking a trip through two of the biggest news events of recent decades: the devastation wrought by the coronavirus, and the rise of a new civil rights movement.

In the wake of the high-profile deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, students shared how they had wrestled with racism in their own lives. Many dipped their feet into the politics of protest.

And in the midst of the most far-reaching pandemic in a century, they described the isolation and loss that have pervaded every aspect of their lives since schools suddenly shut down a year ago. They sought to articulate how they have managed while cut off from friends and activities.

The coronavirus was the most common theme in the essays submitted to The Times, appearing in 393 essays, more than 40 percent. Next was the value of family, coming up in 351 essays, but often in the context of other issues, like the pandemic and race. Racial justice and protest figured in 342 essays.

Family was not the only eternal verity to appear. Love came up in 286 essays; science in 128; art in 110; music in 109; and honor in 32. Personal tragedy also loomed large, with 30 essays about cancer alone.

Some students resisted the lure of current events and wrote quirky essays about captaining a fishing boat on Cape Cod or hosting dinner parties. A few wrote poetry. Perhaps surprisingly, politics and the 2020 election were not of great interest.

After his wife died from Covid-19 complications, John Lancos joined social media groups that offered support for people who had lost loved ones in the pandemic.
Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Pamela Addison is, in her own words, “one of the shyest people in this world.” Certainly not the sort of person who would submit an opinion essay to a newspaper, start a support group for strangers or ask a U.S. senator to vote for $1.9 trillion legislation.

But in the past five months, she has done all of those things.

Her husband, Martin Addison, a 44-year-old health care worker in New Jersey, died from the coronavirus in April after a month of illness. The last time she saw him was when he was loaded into an ambulance. At 37, Ms. Addison was left to care for a 2-year-old daughter and an infant son, and to make ends meet on her own.

“Seeing the impact my story has had on people — it has been very therapeutic and healing for me,” she said. “And knowing that I’m doing it to honor my husband gives me the greatest joy, because I’m doing it for him.”

With the United States’ coronavirus death toll — over 530,000 people — come thousands of stories like hers. Many people who have lost loved ones, or whose lives have been upended by long-haul symptoms, have turned to political action.

There are Marjorie Roberts, who got sick while managing a hospital gift shop in Atlanta and now has lung scarring; Mary Wilson-Snipes, still on oxygen more than two months after coming home from the hospital; and John Lancos, who lost his wife of 41 years on April 23.

In January, they and dozens of others participated in an advocacy training session over Zoom, run by a group called Covid Survivors for Change. This month, the group organized virtual meetings with the offices of 16 senators, and more than 50 group members lobbied for the coronavirus relief package.

The immediate purpose of the training session was to teach people how to do things like lobby a senator. The longer-term purpose was to confront the problem of numbers.

Numbers are dehumanizing, as activists like to say. In sufficient quantities — 535,227, for instance — they are also numbing. This is why converting numbers into people is so often the job of activists seeking policy change after tragedy.