Covid-19 and Vaccine News: Live Updates




Fauci Addresses the Safety of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci on Monday discussed the U.S. clinical trial that ruled the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca effective against Covid-19.

The vaccine hesitancy surrounding AZ related to reports from the European group that there was a greater incidence of thromboembolic events associated with the vaccine — during this trial here, there was no indication at all. When you look at the occurrence of what could appear to be an adverse event, that you essentially compare that and to what the background of that type of event would be anyway in society, and the European Medicines Agency, the E.M.A., indicated in their examination that they did not see an increased risk of these types of events. The F.D.A. is going to very, very carefully go over all of these data. There will be an application for an EUA. And I can tell you, you can rest assured, that the F.D.A. will put a great deal of scrutiny in every aspect of these data.

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci on Monday discussed the U.S. clinical trial that ruled the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca effective against Covid-19.CreditCredit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford provided strong protection against Covid-19 in a large clinical trial in the United States, completely preventing the worst outcomes from the disease, according to results announced on Monday.

Although no clinical trial is large enough to rule out extremely rare side effects, AstraZeneca reported that its study turned up no serious safety issues. Government officials and public health experts expressed hope that the results would improve global confidence in the vaccine, which was shaken this month when more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended the shot’s use over concerns about possible rare side effects.

The trial, involving more than 32,000 participants, was the largest test of its kind for the shot. The AstraZeneca vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials, the company announced in a news release. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well represented in earlier studies.

The fresh data may have arrived too late to make much difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and unlikely to become available before May. By then, federal officials predict, there will be enough vaccine doses for all of the nation’s adults from the three vaccines that have already been authorized.

Even so, the better-than-expected results are a heartening turn for AstraZeneca’s shot, whose low cost and simple storage requirements have made it a vital piece of the drive to vaccinate the world.

The results could also help ease concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe. In an effort to boost waning public confidence, many European political leaders have gotten the injections in recent days.

Regulators in Europe initiated a safety review of AstraZeneca’s vaccine earlier this month after a small number of people who had recently been inoculated developed blood clots and abnormal bleeding. The trial did not turn up any sign of such problems, although some safety issues can only be detected in the real world, once a drug or vaccine has been given to millions of people.

AstraZeneca said on Monday that it would continue to analyze the new data and prepare to apply in the coming weeks for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine has already been approved in more than 70 countries, but clearance from American regulators would bolster its global reputation.

Because the United States already has ample supple of vaccines from the three other manufacturers, however, F.D.A. regulators are unlikely to move on the accelerated timeline that they did with other vaccines.

Last November, Oxford and AstraZeneca reported that the vaccine was 70 percent effective across studies in Britain and Brazil. But those results were hard to interpret. The findings looked much different in participants who received the first dose of the vaccine at a strength that was not initially planned and then got their second dose many weeks later than originally intended. There were also relatively few older people in those trials. As a result, some public health experts and U.S. health officials viewed those studies as insufficient to tell how well the vaccine worked.

“This was a very big, well-powered study that I think confirms now that this vaccine is a good vaccine,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. He added that it is premature to say what the vaccine’s role will be in the United States.

AstraZeneca has said it will release 30 million doses to the U.S. as soon as it receives authorization. Tens of millions of those doses are already ready to be shipped or close to it. U.S. officials have agreed to lend 4 million of the doses to Canada and Mexico.

The results announced on Monday were based on 141 Covid-19 cases that had turned up among the volunteers in the clinical trial. Two-thirds of participants were given the vaccine, with doses spaced four weeks apart, and the rest received a saline placebo. Volunteers were recruited from Chile and Peru in addition to the United States.

None of the volunteers who got the vaccine developed severe symptoms or had to be hospitalized. Five participants who were given the placebo developed severe Covid-19 by the time the interim data were analyzed, and more cases have since turned up in that group, Menelas Pangalos, an AstraZeneca executive, said at a news conference on Monday.

Participants who received the vaccine in the trial had no increased risk of blood clots or related illnesses. And a specific search turned up no cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis — blood clots in the brain that can result in dangerous bleeding — that raised some of the most serious concerns in Europe.

A vaccination site in Brooklyn earlier this month.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

New York will again lower its age requirements for Covid-19 vaccine eligibility, allowing anyone 50 and older to be inoculated beginning on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday.

The change moves the state closer to meeting a call from President Biden for all U.S. states to open vaccinations to all eligible adults by May 1.

West Virginia on Monday became the latest state to open Covid-19 vaccination to all adults, joining Alaska and Mississippi. Though an increasing number of states and Washington, D.C., have announced plans to do so by Mr. Biden’s deadline, if not earlier.

“Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Gov. Bill Lee said on Monday, as he announced that all residents 16 years and older will be able to get a vaccine beginning on April 5. Mr. Lee also said that all residents 55 years and older as well as Tennesseans who work in a critical infrastructure industry can start making vaccine appointments immediately.

The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, said the state’s senior population would continue to be prioritized for vaccines, but he encouraged all residents 16 years and older to get in line. The state has had a successful vaccination program from the start, and as of Sunday, at least 26 percent of the total population had received at least one shot, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, about 25 percent of the total population have received at least one shot.

Mr. Cuomo has not set a timeline for broadening vaccine eligibility to all adults, but New York has been gradually expanding as more vaccine supply has become available. As of Sunday, 25.6 percent of New York State’s total population had received at least one shot of a vaccine, while 12.4 percent had been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. According to New York City’s health data, 27 percent of the city’s adult residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 13 percent have been fully vaccinated.

The state currently allows everyone 60 or older to get vaccinated, as well as a number of essential workers and people with certain health conditions that make them more susceptible to serious illness from the virus.

Last week, the state also began to allow public-facing government employees, nonprofit workers and essential building service workers to receive inoculations.

New York has also in recent weeks relaxed restrictions that allowed certain health care providers to only vaccinate specific segments of the population.

On Sunday, Mr. Cuomo announced that pharmacies would be able to vaccinate adults with certain underlying health conditions; they were previously limited to inoculating older adults and teachers.

Other states have also broadened eligibility at specific vaccination sites. Arizona on Monday announced that beginning Wednesday, all residents 16 years and older can get vaccinated at state-operated locations in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties.




N.Y.C. Mayor Announces New Opt-In Period for In-Person Learning

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that all New York City students in the public school system, who’ve been learning remotely this year, would have another opportunity to sign up for in-person learning between March 24 and April 7.

Very important new development from the C.D.C., the new guidelines related to school reopening and the new opt in. So opt in for all grades. And I’m going to explain this carefully. We’re going to do an opt in for all grades, even though only some of them will be ready to open in the near term. We want to ask parents and kids across all grade levels if they want to come back when the opportunity arises. So the opt-in process will begin this Wednesday, March 24, and it will go through Wednesday, April 7. Based on everything we know now, we intend to have the opt-in period, and then honor those who want to opt back in, bring those kids back during the month of April, by the end of April, for a three-day pre-K elementary school and District 75 special ed up through the elementary level. Very exciting, I know so many parents. I know the chancellor will speak to this. I’ve heard from parents. She’s heard from parents, so many parents who want the opportunity to send their kids back. That opportunity has now arrived.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that all New York City students in the public school system, who’ve been learning remotely this year, would have another opportunity to sign up for in-person learning between March 24 and April 7.CreditCredit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

New York City parents whose children have been learning remotely this year in the city’s public schools system will have another opportunity to sign up for in-person learning, starting this Wednesday until April 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

While all parents can indicate interest, the city only has plans for now to bring more elementary school students into school buildings in April. Mr. de Blasio said last week that younger grades will switch from six feet of distancing in classrooms to three feet, a change prompted by recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing in schools. The city has not yet determined whether it will shift the distancing rules for middle and high school students.

New York City high schools also opened for in-person classes on Monday for the first time since November. The mayor said that about half of high schools will be able to offer full-time instruction for students. But some parents have expressed frustration that their children are returning to high school classrooms where they will log onto remote school along with their peers learning from home, rather than getting typical classroom instruction.

Mr. de Blasio announced Monday that over 800 city schools have lost enrollment during the pandemic but will not lose funding as a result. Federal stimulus money has allowed the city to return roughly $130 million to schools that saw budget cuts earlier this school year, the mayor said.




Police Break Up Spring Break Crowds in Miami Beach

The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.

[yelling; sirens]

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The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.CreditCredit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to control overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officials in Miami Beach decided on Sunday to extend an emergency curfew for up to three weeks.

Officials went so far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive for four nights a week until April 12, including to pedestrians, during the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses are exempt.

The strip, frequented by celebrities and tourists alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night in which police officers used pepper balls to disperse a large crowd of sometimes unruly and mostly unmasked revelers just hours after the curfew had been introduced.

The restrictions were a stunning concession to the city’s inability to control unwieldy crowds. The city and the state of Florida have aggressively courted visitors.


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“I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said on Sunday. “And our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”

In an emergency meeting, the commission approved maintaining the curfew in the city’s South Beach entertainment district from Thursday through Sunday for three more weeks, which is when spring break typically ends. Bridges along several causeways that connect Miami Beach with the mainland will also continue to be shut during the curfew.

Law enforcement officials said many people had been drawn to the city for spring break this year because it has relatively few virus restrictions, mirroring the state at large. And hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.


A crowded market in Mumbai, India, on Friday. The surrounding state of Maharashtra is at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak.
Credit…Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat in India, is again rippling across the country. On Monday, the government reported almost 47,000 new cases, the highest number in more than four months. It also reported 212 new deaths from the virus, the most since early January.

The outbreak is centered in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub. Entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found there is more virulent, like variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials are under pressure to aggressively ramp up testing and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions like the dramatic nationwide lockdown last year, which resulted in a recession.

But less than 3 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion has received a jab, including about half of health care workers.

The campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.

The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though most have since reversed course and scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the patients’ conditions.

In other developments around the world:

  • The leading opposition candidate for president in the Republic of Congo died while being transferred to France for treatment for Covid-19, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a spokesman. The candidate, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had been hospitalized in the capital, Brazzaville, after becoming ill in the final days of the campaign. In a video that circulated on social media over the weekend, he warned supporters that he was “fighting death” but asked them to “stand up and vote for change.” The election was on Sunday, and the incumbent, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, is expected to extend his 36 years in power.

  • Taiwan, one of the few places in the world to successfully contain the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic, kicked off its vaccination drive on Monday. Premier Su Tseng-chang and Chen Shih-chung, the health minister, were among the first to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only one authorized so far. The vaccinations were widely televised in Taiwan, part of an effort to increase confidence in the vaccine. Taiwan has been relatively slow to start inoculating, in part because it has had so few reported cases: As of Monday, the all-time total was 1,006, with 10 deaths, on an island of 24 million people.

  • The Chinese company CanSino Biologics said on Monday that Hungary had authorized its Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, the first European country to do so. The vaccine, known as Convidecia, is a single-dose product developed with the Chinese military, and the company said that authorization had been granted based on the interim results of Phase 3 clinical trials. Hungary is also using another Chinese-made vaccine, from Sinovac, and Russia’s Sputnik V, as well as the Western ones approved elsewhere in the European Union.

  • Norway reported on Sunday that two more people had died after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the country’s total number of such deaths to four. The Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a statement that it “cannot rule out that these cases may be related to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” although the European Medicines Agency, the continent’s top drug regulator, said last week that it considered the vaccine safe. Denmark reported over the weekend that two people had experienced brain hemorrhages after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of whom died.

  • France’s labor minister, Élisabeth Borne, has been hospitalized with Covid-19, the authorities announced on Monday, a first for a top French official. “Her health is improving,” according to a statement from her ministry. President Emmanuel Macron had the virus in December, and several other ministers have announced positive test results, including the culture minister two days ago.

  • The Philippines reported record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus infections over the weekend, leading the government to place metropolitan Manila and four surrounding provinces under the second-highest level of lockdown for the next two weeks. On Saturday, officials reported 7,999 cases, the most the country has had in a single day. President Rodrigo Duterte approved restrictions including a ban on all mass gatherings and a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Nonessential travel to or from the area is banned. The restrictions will disrupt in-person religious services for Holy Week, a popular travel period, for the second year in a row.

  • Health officials in South Africa say the country has sold its unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 14 other states in the African Union, Reuters reported on Sunday. It paused the use of the vaccine last month after a small trial showed it offered only minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local variant of the virus. At the time, South Africa had received one million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, with 500,000 more pending.

  • With cases rising sharply in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are expected on Monday to extend the country’s lockdown. The new rules, which are likely to be in effect until at least April 18, would reverse steps toward reopening that the leaders had approved just weeks ago.

  • Australia and New Zealand are moving closer to opening a travel bubble, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand saying on Monday that she would announce a date for the start of quarantine-free travel on April 6. Both countries have all but eliminated the coronavirus. Though Australia has lifted its quarantine requirement for passengers arriving from New Zealand, New Zealand has yet to reciprocate, despite pressure from opposition parties and the country’s tourism sector. On Sunday, Australia also amended its travel ban legislation to exclude New Zealand visitors from a requirement to seek government permission before leaving.

The stimulus package signed by President Biden includes billions to ramp up coronavirus vaccinations.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Biden administration, with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend to end the Covid-19 crisis, has set aggressive benchmarks to determine whether the economy has fully recovered, including returning to historically low unemployment and helping more than a million Black and Hispanic women return to work within a year.

But restoring economic activity, which was central to President Biden’s pitch for his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, faces logistical and epidemiological challenges unlike any previous recovery. New variants of the virus are spreading. Strained supply chains are holding up the distribution of rapid coronavirus tests, which could be critical to safely reopen schools, workplaces, restaurants, theaters and concert venues.

Then there are questions of whether the money can reach schools and child care providers quickly enough to make a difference for parents who were forced to quit their jobs to care for their children.

Economic optimism is rising as the pace of vaccinations steadily increases. Unemployment has already fallen from its pandemic peak of 14.8 percent last April to 6.2 percent in February. Federal Reserve officials now expect the unemployment rate to slip below 4 percent by next year and for the economy to grow faster this year than in any year since the Reagan administration.

But risks remain. For the economy to fully bounce back, Americans need to feel confident in returning to shopping, traveling, entertainment and work. No matter how much cash the administration pumps into the economy, recovery could be stalled by the emergence of new variants, the reluctance of some Americans to get vaccinated and, in the coming weeks, spotty compliance with social distancing guidelines and other public health measures.

Vice President Kamala Harris at the Jacksonville Community Service Center, where vaccines were being prepared for distribution by the members of the U.S. Navy.
Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled on Monday to Jacksonville, Fla., to tour a vaccination center and host an event at a food pantry, two stops designed to promote the Biden administration’s pandemic stimulus package to Americans in a state where officials are fearing another coronavirus surge.

Ms. Harris was scheduled to tour one of the federally supported vaccination centers that have administered tens of thousands of shots in recent days. She is arriving at the site, at the Gateway Town Center shopping complex, at a time marked by tensions over how best to contain the virus within the state.

Florida has logged more than two million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times database. An influx of spring breakers to South Florida, and Miami Beach in particular, has caused officials to institute mandatory curfews over concerns that the virus will continue to spread.

Answering questions from reporters traveling with her, Ms. Harris did not offer any specifics from the administration on how local officials, who have largely opened the state for business, should get the virus under control.

“I’m here to emphasize the importance of vaccinations and getting the vaccine,” Ms. Harris said. “One thing is for sure, if you get vaccinated when it’s your turn, you are much more likely to avoid contracting Covid.”

Later on Monday, Ms. Harris will host an event at Feeding Northeast Florida, a food pantry, to emphasize one of the $1.9 trillion relief package’s biggest selling points: The plan aims to reduce child poverty through a generous tax credit.

Ms. Harris also fielded questions on whether she would visit the U.S.-Mexico border — “not today,” she replied — and said the Biden administration had been left with “a very challenging situation,” a reference to the zero-tolerance immigration policies under the Trump administration.

“We’ve got to treat this issue in a way that is reflective of our values as Americans, and do it in a way that is fair and is humane,” she said.

At the Union Turnpike station in Queens. Ridership on the New York subway is at about one third of its pre-pandemic levels.
Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

A year ago the pandemic drained the New York City subway of nearly all its riders, sickened thousands of transit workers and plunged North America’s largest public transit agency into its worst financial emergency ever.

Today ridership on the subway has crept back up to about one third of its usual levels, from an all-time low of 7 percent last spring. An infusion of billions of dollars in federal aid has kept the Metropolitan Transportation Authority afloat. And the agency, which operates the subway, buses and two commuter rail lines, was further lifted by another $6 billion in President Biden’s rescue plan.

But the M.T.A.’s long-term survival depends on the return of its largest funding source: riders. Fares provide early 40 percent of the agency’s operating revenue, a higher percentage than almost any other major American transit system.

Now, as more people are vaccinated and urban life slowly rebounds, public transit officials are confronting a sobering reality: a growing consensus that ridership may never return entirely to its prepandemic levels.

Though public health experts generally agree that riding trains and buses is not a major risk factor for exposure to the virus, transit experts say some commuters with the means to do so are still likely to stay with the alternatives — like using cars or bikes — that they turned to during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel takes personal credit for the country’s vaccination campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million.
Credit…Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — Vaccinated Israelis are working out in gyms and dining in restaurants. They’re partying at nightclubs and cheering at soccer matches by the thousands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking credit for bringing Israel “back to life,” as he calls it, and banking on the country’s giddy, post-pandemic mood of liberation to put him over the top in a close election on Tuesday.

But nothing is quite that simple in Israeli politics.

Even as most Israelis appreciate the government’s world-leading vaccination campaign, many worry that the grand social and economic reopening may prove premature and suspect that the timing is political.

Instead of a transparent reopening process led by public health professionals, “decisions are made at the last minute, at night, by the cabinet,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health in Jerusalem. “The timing, right before the election, is intended to declare mission accomplished.”

The parliamentary election on Tuesday will be the country’s fourth in two years. Mr. Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges and analysts say his best chance of avoiding conviction lies in heading a new right-wing government. He has staked everything on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

He takes personal credit for the country’s inoculation campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million — outpacing the rest of the world — and he has declared victory over the virus.

“Israel is the world champion in vaccinations, the first country in the world to exit from the health corona and the economic corona,” he said at a pre-election conference last week.

The vaccination campaign has been powered by early delivery of several million doses from Pfizer, and Mr. Netanyahu has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off that deal, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, has great affinity for Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from “South Park,” the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.

But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.

A seating area in the main atrium of a remodeled Microsoft office in Redmond, Washington in 2017.
Credit…Stuart Isett for The New York Times

Microsoft has joined other corporate giants in assessing the best way to bring their work force back to the offices, a year after the pandemic sent home employees, who had to learn how to be productive on video conference calls while juggling interruptions from families, pets and the doorbell.

The tech giant announced Monday that it would begin allowing more workers back into its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., starting on March 29, while also acknowledging that work life may never be the same.

In this stage of reopening, which Microsoft described as Step 4 in a six-step “dial,” the Redmond campus will give some 57,000 nonessential employees the choice to work from the office, home or a combination of both. Microsoft will also continue to require employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Microsoft plans to open its office without restrictions only once the virus acts “more like an endemic virus such as the seasonal flu,” Kurt DelBene, an executive vice president at the company, wrote on the company blog. But even then, office life for Microsoft’s 160,000 employees is not likely to look like what it did before the pandemic.

“Once we reach a point where Covid-19 no longer presents a significant burden on our communities, and as our sites move to the open stage of the dial, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50 percent) as standard for most roles,” Mr. DelBene wrote.

President Biden has said he is hoping for a return to normalcy by July 4 — but there are still uncertainties, like new variants, localized surges and whether the work force is ready.

How to balance these challenges with desire to return to the office has varied in large part by industry.

Some, like finance, have been more aggressive with bringing workers back to the office, premised on the belief that in-person working is best suited for the networking and training the profession demands. JPMorgan Chase is planning to bring its interns into its Manhattan office, as it did last summer, and it is continuing to build its palatial new headquarters on Park Avenue.

Others have been more open to more substantial changes. Google has said it is testing a “flexible workweek.” Target is cutting about a third of its space in its Twin Cities headquarters as it plans for remote work to be a permanent part of office life.

The retailer R.E.I. sold its new headquarters in Bellevue Wash. during the pandemic, before it even had a chance to move in. “We decided to do that because that kind of gave us a clean slate, so we could just look at all the opportunities ahead of us,” Christine Putur, executive vice president of the company’s technology and operations, said in an interview.

R.E.I. is in the process of identifying a handful of satellite locations around the Puget Sound area, which it hopes will serve as hubs for its employees to congregate. Ms. Putur said R.E.I. saw benefits in working remotely that the company wants to retain.

“We saw teams coming together in a different way — really focused on the outcomes,” she said. “And they weren’t worried about finding a conference room, they weren’t worried about who could be where at different point in time. They were focused on what problem do we need to solve, who needed to be there. And they would just gather virtually, and made incredible progress.”

The country’s largest private employer, Walmart, is proceeding with plans to expand its new headquarters in Northwest Arkansas, though expects to make virtual work permanent for its global technology team. It told U.S. employees in a memo this month that the company was continuing to work toward “a plan to bring more campus associates into offices in the future,” according to a copy of the memo, which was obtained by The New York Times.

“For most Walmart associates, the physical workplace will continue to drive culture, speed and innovation, and our associates have told us they’re looking forward to in-person collaboration through surveys and other feedback,” said Jami Lamontagne, a Walmart spokeswoman. She added that associates’ feedback would “help design our work space of the future and how we use it in the future.”

As for Microsoft, it sought to put numbers behind its decision, with the results of a survey of more than 30,000 full-time and self-employed workers. Nearly three-quarters said they wanted flexible remote work options to continue, and 46 percent said they were planning to move this year now that they could work remotely. Self-assessed productivity remained high, but 54 percent of respondents feel overworked.

“There are some companies that think, ‘We’re just going to go back to how it was,’” said Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president for Microsoft 365. “However, the data does seem to indicate that they don’t understand what has happened over the last 12 months.”

People receiving the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in Dubai last month.
Credit…Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

The distributor of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in the United Arab Emirates says it has started offering a “very small number” of people a third shot after these recipients reported insufficient levels of antibodies following a two-dose regimen.

The distributor, G42 Healthcare, has found that some people were “not really responsive” to the Sinopharm vaccine, Walid Zaher, the company’s chief researcher, told Dubai Eye Radio on Sunday.

Dr. Zaher’s disclosure could add to questions about the overall efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine, which has been rolled out to at least six countries. The state-owned company has not reported detailed Phase 3 clinical data for scientists to independently assess the strength of its vaccines. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear which of Sinopharm’s two vaccines Dr. Zaher was referring to. One was developed in conjunction with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, and the other with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. In December, the Emirates became the first government to approve the vaccine that was made with the Beijing Institute.

Dr. Zaher said that G42 Healthcare had approached people to be part of a study in which they were given a third shot.

“No one vaccine will be working for everyone,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said last month that they planned to test a third booster shot in response to concerns over coronavirus variants. Similarly, Moderna said it had shipped doses of a newly adjusted vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for testing that would address the variant first detected in South Africa, known as B.1.351.

Dr. Farida al-Hosani, a spokeswoman for the Emirates’ health sector, has also said that residents and Emiratis inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine can get a third dose if they do not develop sufficient antibodies, telling the National newspaper this month that only a small number of people would be affected.

Dr. Zaher said he did not know the exact number of people who would require a third shot “because obviously we did not measure everyone, but it’s a very small number.” He said anyone who was concerned about their antibody levels after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine could approach their doctor about getting a third shot.

Sinopharm has said the vaccine made with the Beijing Institute has an efficacy rate of 79 percent, while the one made with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has an efficacy rate of 72.5 percent. Both are above the 50 percent threshold that the World Health Organization has said would make a vaccine effective for general use.

In addition to Sinopharm, the Emirates, which is inoculating its population faster than any country except Israel and the Seychelles, is also using the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines. The government is donating some of the Sinopharm doses it purchased to countries where it has strategic or commercial interests, including the Seychelles and Egypt.

But some doctors in Egypt have been reluctant to receive the shots, citing a lack of trust in the data released by Sinopharm and the Emirates, where some of the trials were held. Malaysia, one of the Emirates’ biggest trading partners, also declined an offer of 500,000 doses, saying that regulators would have to independently approve the Sinopharm vaccine.

Scientists say that in addition to altering dietary patterns, pandemic lockdowns have curtailed the physical activity of daily living.
Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

Soon after the pandemic started a year ago, Americans started joking about the dreaded “quarantine 15,” worried they might gain weight while stuck at home with stockpiles of food, glued to computer screens and binge-watching Netflix.

The concern is real, but assessing the problem’s scope has been a challenge. Surveys that simply ask people about their weight are notoriously unreliable, and many medical visits have been virtual.

Now a very small study using objective measures — weight measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales — suggests that adults under shelter-in-place orders gained more than half a pound every 10 days.

That translates to nearly two pounds a month, said Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, senior author of the research letter, published on Monday in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open. Americans who kept up their lockdown habits could easily have gained 20 pounds over the course of a year, he added.

“We know that weight gain is a public health problem in the U.S. already, so anything making it worse is definitely concerning, and shelter-in-place orders are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected by this makes it extremely relevant,” said Dr. Marcus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

The new study analyzed data obtained from 269 U.S. participants who were involved in an ongoing cardiology study, the Health eHeart Study. They volunteered to report weight measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales and weighed themselves regularly; the researchers gathered 7,444 weight measurements over a four-month period, an average of 28 weight measurements from each participant.

The group was not nationally representative, by any means, so the results are not generalizable: About three-quarters were white, and just 3.5 percent identified as Black or African-American; about 3 percent identified as Asian-American. The average age was 51, and they were split almost evenly among men and women.

The lockdowns have certainly had an effect on dietary patterns, on what people eat and how often they eat. But the restrictions also curtailed the humdrum physical activity that is part and parcel of daily living, the researchers said.

“If you think about people commuting, even running to the subway or bus stop, or stepping in at the post office to mail a letter, or stopping at the store — we burn a lot of calories in non-exercise activities of daily living,” said Leanne Redman, a professor of clinical physiology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of Louisiana State University.

Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died on Thursday.
Credit…Ron Bath/Texas Roadhouse

Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died by suicide on Thursday after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, the company and his family said in a statement. He was 65.

“After a battle with post-Covid-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” the statement said.

His body was found in a field on his property near Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky State Police told The Louisville Courier Journal. The State Police and the Oldham County coroner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Mr. Taylor, who was also the chairman of the company’s board of directors, founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He sought to create an “affordable, Texas-style” restaurant but was turned down more than 80 times as he tried to find investors, according to a biography provided by the company.

Eventually, he raised $300,000 from three doctors from Elizabethtown, Ky., and sketched out the design for the first Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin for the investors.

The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993. Three of the chain’s first five restaurants failed, but it went on to open 611 locations in 49 states, and 28 international locations in 10 countries.

Until his death, Mr. Taylor had been active in Texas Roadhouse’s operations, the company said. He oversaw decisions about the menu, selected the murals for the restaurants and picked songs for the jukeboxes.

Greg Moore, the lead director of the company’s board, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor gave up his compensation package during the coronavirus pandemic to support frontline workers in the company.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Monday during a videoconference on vaccine production that he would soon be inoculated himself.  
Credit…Pool photo by Alexey Druzhinin

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Monday that he would receive one of Russia’s coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday, ending a lengthy, unexplained delay in getting inoculated.

The announcement came seven months after Russian national regulators approved a domestically developed vaccine for emergency use, an unusually long time for a head of state to wait before setting a public example for people who are hesitant about vaccination.

Russian regulators approved the Sputnik V vaccine in August, before large-scale clinical trials to determine its safety and efficacy were complete; the trials did not wrap up until December. The early approval was criticized by many Western experts as premature and potentially risky. Even so, Russia began limited vaccinations in August.

Under Russia’s vaccination rules, people Mr. Putin’s age (he is 68) became eligible in December. But he was in no hurry, and months passed without any word from the Kremlin of his having been immunized. In February he said he would wait until the autumn and receive the vaccine along with his annual flu shot.

In the meantime, he took extraordinary precautions against infection, holding meetings by video conference rather than in person.

Mr. Putin announced his decision to go ahead and get the shot now during a video conference on Monday with vaccine makers, who assured him that Russia was now on track to produce enough doses for most of the country’s adult population by late summer. Russia has also exported Sputnik V doses to a number of countries and licensed a few to produce their own supplies.

Despite the early start, Russia has fallen far behind most European Union nations and the United States in vaccinating its population. Some 3.9 percent of the Russian population has received at least one dose so far, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

In addition to Sputnik V, Russia has approved for emergency use two more domestically developed vaccines, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac, that have yet to complete their clinical trials.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman did not clarify which vaccine the president would receive.

After a mild case of Covid-19, Ivan Agerton was seized by a kind of psychosis that turned life into a nightmare.
Credit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times

Ivan Agerton pulled his wife, Emily, into their bedroom closet, telling her not to bring her cellphone.

“I believe people are following me,” he said, his eyes flaring with fear.

He described the paranoid delusions haunting him: that people in cars driving into their suburban Seattle cul-de-sac were spying on him, that a SWAT officer was crouching in a bush in their yard.

It was a drastic change for the 49-year-old Mr. Agerton, a usually unflappable former marine and risk-taking documentary photographer whose most recent adventure involved exploring the Red Sea for two months in a submarine. But in mid-December, after a mild case of Covid-19, he was seized by a kind of psychosis that turned life into a nightmare. He couldn’t sleep, worried he had somehow done something wrong, suspected ordinary people of sinister motives and eventually was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward twice.

“Like a light switch — it happened this fast — this intense paranoia hit me,” Mr. Agerton said in interviews over two months. “It was really single-handedly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Mr. Agerton’s experience reflects a phenomenon doctors are increasingly reporting: psychotic symptoms emerging weeks after coronavirus infection in some people with no previous mental illness.

Doctors say such symptoms may be one manifestation of brain-related aftereffects of Covid-19. Along with more common issues like brain fog, memory loss and neurological problems, “new onset” psychosis may result from an immune response, vascular issues or inflammation from the disease process, experts hypothesize.

Much about the condition remains mysterious. Some patients feel urges to harm others or themselves. Others, like Mr. Agerton, have no violent impulses but become almost obsessively paranoid. Some need weeks of hospitalization with doctors trying different medications, while others improve faster. Some patients relapse.

Mr. Agerton spent about a week in a psychiatric ward in December, missing Christmas with his wife and three children. By mid-January, he seemed to have recovered and his doctor planned to taper his antipsychotic medication. In February, however, “the paranoia came screaming back,” Mr. Agerton said in an interview a day before being hospitalized a second time.

Recently, Mr. Agerton said he felt considerably better, with 90 percent of the paranoia gone. His sense of smell is beginning to return. He hopes that signals lasting improvement.

It’s unclear how long he will need medication and when he will be able to resume his adventurous work.

“There’s this fear of how long is this going to happen,” he said. “How long am I going to live with this?”

Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas addressing his supporters in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, in 2016.
Credit…Marco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The leading opposition figure in the Republic of Congo died hours after polls closed in the presidential election he was contesting on Sunday. He had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The candidate, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, was trying to unseat President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power for 36 years. But on Friday, Mr. Kolélas fell very ill.

As voters went to the polls on Sunday, he was evacuated by air to France for treatment. But he died on the plane on his way there, his campaign director said Monday morning at a meeting of Mr. Kolélas’s political party in Brazzaville, the Congolese capital.

Few observers expected Mr. Kolélas to win the election. But his death is nevertheless a blow for a Central African country mired in an economic crisis. The country has reported 9,564 coronavirus cases so far, and has been averaging about 34 new cases a day lately, according to a New York Times database.

A number of prominent African politicians have died in the past year. Some, like the Nigerian president’s right-hand man, Abba Kyari, and the South African cabinet minister Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu, are known to have died of Covid-19 complications. Official announcements for some others, like President John Magufuli of Tanzania and President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, have said they died of heart problems, though rumors have swirled that the coronavirus played a role in their deaths.

Mr. Kolélas recorded a video on Friday from his hospital bed, telling Congolese voters that they owed it to their children to cast a ballot in the election.

“My dear compatriots, I am having trouble,” he said in the video in a weak voice, after removing an oxygen mask from his face. “I am fighting death. But I ask you to stand up and vote for change. Fight. I will not have fought in vain.”

“Rise up as one people,” he added. “Make me happy. I’m fighting on my deathbed. You, too, fight for your change.”

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