Covid-19 and Delta Variant Information: Reside Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Brandon Wade/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

The summer began with the promise that vaccinated Americans could largely go maskless, and travel swelled over the Fourth of July weekend to prepandemic levels. But the celebrations have turned out to be short-lived as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges across the United States and momentum gains for mandating Covid-19 vaccines and, once again, masks.

The United States is averaging more than 124,000 new virus cases each day, more than double the levels of two weeks ago and the highest rate since early February, according to a New York Times database. Hospitals in hot spots around the country are approaching capacity.

With all of this at play, President Biden has urged the private sector and state and local governments to ramp up pressure on the nearly one-third of eligible people in the country who remain unvaccinated. He has also ordered all civilian federal employees to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing and other restrictions.

And on Monday, the Pentagon said that it would require the country’s 1.3 million active-duty military troops to be vaccinated “no later” than next month. About 64 percent of active-duty service members are fully vaccinated — a rate that is low enough to have national security implications, because it could make it difficult to deploy troops to countries with strict requirements.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a memo that he would seek to speed up the mandate if the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to the Pfizer vaccine before mid-September, which the agency aims to do. More mandates in the private sector are also expected after the F.D.A. approval.

New requirements are also being brought in at the state and local level.

In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee said that most state employees and all health care workers must be fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 18 or risk losing their jobs.

More than two million health care workers in California also have to get vaccinated, largely without the option to submit to regular coronavirus testing. State employees who do not work in health care will still have the option to be tested if they are not vaccinated.

State and county employees in Hawaii will be required to provide their vaccination status by Aug. 16 or face regular testing, the governor said recently.

And even as several Republican-led states have barred businesses from requiring consumers to provide proof of vaccination, about a quarter of all U.S. hospitals are requiring staff members to be vaccinated, a spokesman for the American Hospital Association told CNN. Hospitalizations are soaring in areas with low vaccination rates.

Inoculations have picked up again in the country, but public health experts note that it takes weeks for the vaccines’ full effect to kick in. They say that more immediate measures, like mask mandates, are needed.

Ethan Hauser and

A park in Madrid last month. Spain has moved in recent weeks to reopen to tourists from outside the European Union, including from the United States.Credit…Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

In June, as the United States made headway in its vaccination campaign, European Union leaders recommended that member countries reopen their borders to Americans, a gesture meant to signal what they hoped would be the beginning of the pandemic’s end. They expected to be repaid in kind.

But nearly two months later, even as Europe has overtaken the United States in vaccinations, the United States’ borders remain closed to most European travelers, even those who are vaccinated.

Likewise, when Canada said last month that it would welcome back fully vaccinated U.S. residents beginning on Monday, U.S. officials made clear that they would not immediately reciprocate.

That the United States remains largely closed has dismayed people in the European Union and frustrated their leaders.

“We insist comparable rules be applied to arrivals in both directions,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said last week at a news conference. Officials with the bloc have even suggested reimposing travel restrictions against U.S. travelers.

For some families, the continued ban has compounded one of the deepest sorrows of the pandemic — separation — as loved ones become ill across closed borders and family elders fear that they may never see their loved ones again.

Unmarried partners with different passports have struggled to keep relationships afloat, giving rise to the popular Twitter hashtag #loveisnottourism. And people offered jobs in the United States don’t know whether to accept them.

The White House has offered little explanation on why the restrictions remain, even though some countries with higher infection and lower vaccination rates don’t face a similar ban. At a news conference last week, Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman, cited the advice of medical experts and continued concerns about the Delta variant.

Yet if that posture has frustrated Canadians, they have not said so, at least publicly.

“Every country gets to set its own rules about how it will keep its citizens safe,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser for the Covid Response Team, in May.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In March, Andy Slavitt, then a top pandemic adviser for President Biden, called Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, and delivered an ominous warning.

For many weeks, Mr. Slavitt and other White House officials had been meeting with Facebook to urge the company to stop the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.

Many Americans who declined to get vaccinated were citing false articles that they had read on Facebook, including theories that the shots could lead to infertility, stillborn babies and autism.

“In eight weeks’ time,” Mr. Slavitt told Mr. Clegg, “Facebook will be the No. 1 story of the pandemic.”

Mr. Slavitt’s prediction was not far off. Roughly three months later, with cases from the Delta variant surging, Mr. Biden said Facebook was “killing people.”

Mr. Biden’s comment, which he later walked back slightly, was the culmination of increasingly combative meetings with the company about the spread of misinformation.

The meetings have involved the top ranks on both sides. In March, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, called Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, and discussed health misinformation. The White House grew so frustrated by Facebook’s answers in the internal meetings that at one point it demanded to hear from the data scientists at the company instead of lobbyists.

Talks between the White House and Facebook continue. But the rift has complicated an already tumultuous relationship just as Mr. Biden faces a setback on tackling the virus. The White House missed its goal of having 70 percent of American adults with at least one vaccination shot by July 4, and the highly contagious Delta variant has fueled a rise in cases since then.

Facebook has pushed back strongly against the White House’s criticism, accusing the administration in public of scapegoating the company for the administration’s failure to reach its vaccination goals. Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, said the White House hadn’t given the company enough credit for promoting the vaccines.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has threatened to withhold the salaries of school superintendents and school board members who impose mask mandates.Credit…Joe Skipper/Reuters

The recent rise in U.S. coronavirus cases has led local leaders to defy Republican governors who have banned mask mandates in states like Florida and Texas, where the virus is surging.

Starting on Tuesday, the Dallas public school district will require everyone on school property, including students, employees and visitors, to wear masks. The rule comes as Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas remains one of the most strident opponents of mask mandates: His office said in a statement on Monday that he “has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates.”

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold the salaries of local superintendents and school board members who enact them, even though just half of people in the state are vaccinated, and the Delta variant is driving a surge that has made the state one of the worst-hit in the nation. Forty-three percent of the state’s adult intensive-care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr. DeSantis signed an executive order last month that blocked local officials from enacting mask mandates. But several local officials and community leaders are preparing to defy him.

Schools in Leon County, Alachua County and Duval County have decided in recent weeks to require masks for students, although some schools are allowing students to opt out or are mandating them only for certain grades.

The Broward County School District, one of the largest in Florida, also voted last month to require its students to wear masks, although in light of the governor’s recent executive order, the district said in a statement that it was “awaiting further guidance before rendering a decision on the mask mandate for the upcoming school year.”

Other opponents of the bans are turning to the courts.

Lawsuits have been filed against Mr. DeSantis’s order in Florida. In Texas, the top elected official in Dallas County sued Mr. Abbott on Monday evening, arguing that his ban on mask mandates violates state law.

Twitter said this was Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s fourth “strike.”Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Twitter on Tuesday suspended Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, from its service for seven days after she posted that the Food and Drug Administration should not approve the coronavirus vaccines and that the vaccines were “failing.”

The company said that this was Ms. Greene’s fourth “strike,” which means that under the company’s rules she could be permanently barred if she violated Twitter’s coronavirus misinformation policy again. The company issued Ms. Greene’s third strike less than a month ago.

On Monday evening, Ms. Greene said on Twitter, “The FDA should not approve the covid vaccines.” She said there were too many reports of infection and spread of the coronavirus among vaccinated people, and added that the vaccines were “failing” and “do not reduce the spread of the virus & neither do masks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current guidance states, “Covid-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick.”

In late July, the agency also revised its indoor mask policy, advising that people wear a mask in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is surging to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading the coronavirus. A recent report by two Duke University researchers who reviewed data from March to June in 100 school districts and 14 charter schools in North Carolina concluded that wearing masks was an effective measure against preventing the transmission of the virus, even without six feet of physical distancing.

Ms. Greene’s tweet was “labeled in line with our Covid-19 misleading information policy,” Trenton Kennedy, a Twitter spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “The account will be in read-only mode for a week due to repeated violations of the Twitter Rules.”

A representative for Ms. Greene did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter has picked up enforcement against accounts posting coronavirus misinformation as cases have risen across the United States because of the highly contagious Delta variant. In Ms. Greene’s home state, new cases have increased by 171 percent in the past two weeks, while 39 percent of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus.

A mass vaccination site last week in Monterrey, Mexico.Credit…Daniel Becerril/Reuters

MEXICO CITY — As lines for coronavirus testing again stretch for blocks and hospitals fill with patients, Mexico is experiencing another wave of the virus, with six states and the capital entering a “red” alert level on Monday — the highest on the country’s virus traffic light warning system.

The Mexican health ministry said on Sunday that the country had registered its first drop in weekly cases after nine straight weeks of rising cases, although the dip was only 1 percent. To date, Mexico has recorded nearly three million cases of the coronavirus.

On Sunday the country reported another 7,573 new cases and 172 deaths. The authorities estimate that total deaths have now surpassed 250,000, among the highest death tolls in the world, although limited testing means that the true figure could be far higher.

With the more contagious Delta variant now dominant in parts of the country, and vaccinations still sluggish — only about 21 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated — health experts warn that conditions could get even worse.

“The situation is very serious,” said Laurie Ann Ximénez-Fyvie, the head of the molecular genetics laboratory at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a vocal government critic. “Infections are out of control, hospitals are overwhelmed, people are dying.”

Still, despite the worrying trends, the government has continued to paint a rosy picture and has refused to implement significant restrictions or mask mandates, even in states where infections are surging. Mexico also has no meaningful travel restrictions, which could hurt the important tourism industry.

Instead, the government is betting heavily on vaccination.

“We have the guarantee, which we didn’t have before, that now because of the vaccine, there are fewer hospitalizations,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a news conference on Friday. “The most important thing of all, what gives us the most calm, is that there are fewer deaths.”

Mr. López Obrador held a call with Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday afternoon, in which he said they discussed immigration, mutual cooperation to confront the pandemic and potentially reopening the U.S. land border, where the Mexican government has been concentrating vaccination efforts.

But with less than a quarter of Mexico’s population fully vaccinated, compared to more than 50 percent in the United States, vaccines are unlikely to halt the spiraling spread of the virus south of the border any time soon, which could lead to new and more dangerous variants, health experts said.

Global Roundup

A government worker assisted people waiting to get coronavirus vaccines in Manila, Philippines on Monday.Credit…Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

Thousands of people flocked to inoculation sites in Manila, the Philippine capital, on Tuesday as reports emerged that unvaccinated people would miss out on welfare payments from the government.

People were also afraid of being barred from leaving their homes if they remained unvaccinated.

President Rodrigo Duterte, famous for his brash, autocratic style of leadership, had earlier ordered police and village enforcers to ensure that unvaccinated people quarantine at home as part of efforts to prevent the spread the Delta variant.

On Monday night, he said the government would begin giving cash payments to low-income people across Manila — aside from in one area, as a punishment for overcrowding and disorder at vaccination sites.

Referring to one part of the city, he said: “I saw on TV the disorder and the chaos prevailing.”

On Tuesday, long lines of people withstood a heavy downpour as they waited to be inoculated at a university in southern Manila that had been designated as a vaccination site.

Other news from around the world:

  • ​​Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, reported its biggest daily rise in case numbers in the pandemic on Tuesday, and a Delta variant outbreak shows no signs of slowing. The city, which is in its seventh week of lockdown, recorded 356 new coronavirus cases and three deaths. The state’s leader, Gladys Berejiklian, rejected the idea of imposing tougher measures to restrict movement, saying that it would not deter a “small handful of people” who are not complying with health orders. The Instagram-famous coastal town Byron Bay was also plunged into a one-week lockdown on Monday after an infected man traveled there from Sydney.

Patients covered with mosquito nets being treated for dengue at the Islami Bank Central Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last month.Credit…Monirul Alam/EPA, via Shutterstock

The latest wave of coronavirus infections in several South Asian nations has been complicated by a surge in dengue, a mosquito-transmitted virus that spreads during monsoon season.

The rise in cases of dengue — which can have symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus, such as fever, headaches and body aches — is adding to the load of hospitals that are already overwhelmed.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are experiencing some of the worst surges in dengue. Sri Lanka has reported more than 17,000 cases this year, including nearly 3,300 in July. Bangladesh has recorded about 4,500 cases of hospitalization for dengue this year, nearly half of them in July.

“The health system is already overburdened by Covid-19 patients,” said Dr. Himali Herath, a consultant physician at Sri Lanka’s National Dengue Control Unit. “Caring for dengue patients is labor-intensive. Therefore it will be very difficult.”

The World Health Organization estimates that there are hundreds of millions of dengue infections every year, and nearly two-thirds occur in Asia. There is no specific treatment for the virus, and severe cases can lead to death if not detected early and if patients do not receive adequate medical care.

“Due to the heavy stream of Covid-19 patients, we are turning dengue patients to other hospitals,” said Brig. Gen. Nazmul Haque, the director of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital in Bangladesh. “We are only treating the patients who are infected with both coronavirus and dengue.”

Dengue outbreaks also remain endemic in India, Nepal and Pakistan. In Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, officials said the main hospital that treated dengue patients in previous years had been turned into a Covid hospital amid the country’s second wave of infections.

The government laboratory where all suspected dengue cases would usually be referred to for testing has also been overwhelmed with coronavirus tests, they said.

Aanya Wipulasena and

Some judges are requiring people on probation to get vaccinated as part of the terms of their release.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

As the number of reported coronavirus cases in Ohio rises, some judges have attached a condition for people being released on probation: Get vaccinated or face possible prison time.

When Brandon Rutherford was convicted on drug offenses last week, Judge Christopher A. Wagner of the Court of Common Pleas in Hamilton County told him that as part of his probation he had to get vaccinated against Covid within 60 days.

“I’m just a judge, not a doctor, but I think the vaccine’s a lot safer than fentanyl, which is what you had in your pocket,” the judge told Mr. Rutherford, 21, according to a transcript provided by the judge’s office.

And when Sylvaun Latham pleaded guilty to drugs and firearms offenses in June, another Court of Common Pleas judge, Richard A. Frye in Franklin County, gave him 30 days to get vaccinated, according to court records. If Mr. Latham violated that condition and others, he could go to prison for 36 months.

The judges’ decisions underscore how personal freedoms are being examined through the lens of public health in a pandemic.

“Judges do have a lot of leeway in imposing conditions on behavior while on probation,” said David J. Carey, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. “But that leeway is not unlimited. They still need to establish it has a clear connection to a person’s individual case.”

Michael Benza, a senior instructor at Case Western’s School of Law, said he understood that judges in other states were setting similar conditions for probation, but he was not certain that it is a broad practice across the United States.

Mr. Latham agreed to be inoculated, but Mr. Rutherford told WCPO 9 News after his court case that he did not want to be vaccinated.

“I don’t plan on getting it. I don’t want it,” Mr. Rutherford said.

An employee in a manufacturing area of a Moderna facility in Norwood, Mass.Credit…Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald, via Associated Press

Moderna plans to build a facility in Canada to manufacture mRNA vaccines for the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses, the company announced on Tuesday.

The agreement is one of up to 10 such partnerships under discussion in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, including in some low-income countries, Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

With the smooth transfer of technical know-how, any company can learn to manufacture mRNA vaccines, he said. “There is no technology in the world that some people can do somewhere and cannot be done somewhere else.”

The factory in Canada is likely to be operational in a couple of years, Mr. Bancel said. Its primary mission is to help Canada, but in a pandemic, the facility may also produce vaccines to help the rest of the world, he said.

The manufacturing facility could also use Moderna’s mRNA technology to make vaccines for other respiratory viruses, including seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. “The idea is to really be able to provide a vaccine against all respiratory viruses,” Mr. Bancel said.

Global health experts and activists have pushed for vaccine manufacturers to teach companies in low-income countries to make coronavirus vaccines. But some experts have argued that making mRNA vaccines is too complex for most companies to master.

In June, a South African consortium established the first Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, with the aim of training manufacturers from developing countries to produce the vaccines.

Moderna announced last week that the protection afforded by its vaccine holds steady for at least six months after the second dose. But company officials said booster shots might still be necessary this fall because of the Delta variant.

Experts have said that the data available so far do not support rolling out extra doses, except perhaps for some older adults and for people with weakened immune systems who did not produce a robust immune response after the first two doses. But given the dearth of vaccines in much of the world, the World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on boosters for everyone else till the end of September.

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