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Employees at food processing facilities, which had some of the country’s largest known coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic, are now eligible for vaccines in at least 26 states, a New York Times survey found.
The expansion of vaccines to food processing workers comes amid rapid widening of eligibility, especially for essential workers at greater risk of contracting the virus. Almost every state is vaccinating some subset of frontline workers, but the list of eligible professions varies widely. In at least six states, food processing workers are eligible in certain counties but not in others.
Meat and poultry processing facilities have largely remained open even as large outbreaks infected thousands of workers and killed dozens in the first months of the pandemic. The virus started to spread rapidly in meatpacking facilities as assembly-line workers stood side by side in tight quarters.
A JBS USA pork production plant in Worthington, Minn., with more than 700 recorded coronavirus cases held a mass vaccination event on Friday. JBS USA, a subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest meat-processing firm, has offered employees who receive the vaccine $100 incentives.
“There was a lot of skepticism among members, for a lot of different reasons,” said Matt Utecht, who represents the Worthington workers as president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 union. He said union representatives went to the facility repeatedly in recent months to share information about the vaccine, and signed up about 1,500 of the union’s roughly 1,850 members.
“It’s been a daily grind of educating, talking, communicating,” he said.
The production and distribution of vaccines has been steadily ramping up in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that about 79.4 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 43 million people who have been fully vaccinated. About 2.25 million doses are given each day on average, up from less than a million two months ago.
With demand for vaccines still outpacing supply, states have faced competing interests in deciding which groups to prioritize. Eligibility opened to many food processing workers in early March across much of the Midwest, where meatpacking and food production are a major part of the economy and often a source of employment for recent immigrants.
In Kansas, where food processing workers are now eligible for the vaccine, nearly 4,000 reported cases have been tied to outbreaks in meatpacking plants, more than in any other setting except long-term care centers and correctional facilities.
“This is a livelihood that supports a number of immigrant populations,” said Marci Nielsen, the Kansas governor’s chief adviser on Covid-19. “And it was very important for the governor to send out a signal that she wants to keep those families safe and to keep these industries open.”
Bonnie G. Wong and
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 while causing no serious side effects, according to results announced on Monday.
The findings, announced in a news release from AstraZeneca, may help shore up global confidence in the vaccine, which was shaken this month when more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended the use of the shot 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 vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well-represented in earlier studies.
But the fresh data may not make much difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and may not be needed.
If AstraZeneca wins authorization for emergency use in the United States based on the new results, the vaccine is unlikely to become available before May, when federal officials predict that three manufacturers that already have authorization will be producing enough doses for all the nation’s adults.
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. It already has approval in more than 70 countries, but clearance from American regulators, if the company can secure it, would bolster the vaccine’s reputation globally.
The interim results announced on Monday were based on 141 Covid-19 cases that had turned up in volunteers. 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 as well as the United States.
None of the volunteers who got the vaccine developed severe symptoms or had to be hospitalized, a major selling point for the shot. However, AstraZeneca did not disclose how many volunteers had developed severe Covid-19 or had to be hospitalized after receiving the placebo, making it difficult to know how statistically powerful those findings are.
With Ramadan less than a month away, some Muslim organizations in the United States have begun addressing a critical question: whether the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast prohibits Muslims from receiving vaccine injections during daylight hours.
The executive director of the Islamic Society of North America, Basharat Saleem, said that numerous scholars of Islamic law had been consulted on the matter.
“The answer is no,” he said. “It does not break the fast.”
The group joined with dozens of others last year in organizing a National Muslim Task Force on Covid-19, which has taken advisement from Muslim jurists. They were in general agreement, Mr. Saleem said, that getting a Covid-19 vaccine was acceptable during Ramadan or at any other time. A shot “will not invalidate the fast because it has no nutritional value and it is injected into the muscle,” the task force announced, a ruling that in the past has covered flu shots and other vaccinations.
Whether vaccinations are permitted during Ramadan is not only a concern among Muslims, and perhaps not even the chief one; there have been questions around the world as well about the presence of forbidden ingredients, such as pork products, in the vaccines. Some have also expressed misgivings about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine similar to those of some Catholic leaders, given that cells used in its development and production had a remote connection to abortion.
Muslim health care workers, even those who have been publicly urging people to get vaccinated, have acknowledged the ethical difficulties.
“These decisions are a matter of personal conscience,” said Dr. Hasan Shanawani, the president of American Muslim Health Professionals and a practicing pulmonologist in Michigan. But the preservation of life is one of the highest principles in Islam, he said, and given the current scarcity of vaccines in many places, the ethics, to him, were straightforward.
Declining a vaccine means “potentially putting all of us at risk,” said Dr. Shanawani, who has treated hundreds of Covid-19 patients over the past year. “Take the vaccine that’s available to you. God is the most forgiving.” When the present emergency has passed, he added, then a person can be more discriminating about which vaccine to take.
Haaris Ahmad, the president of a large and diverse mosque in the Detroit suburbs, said he had heard all of these concerns. He has assured members of the mosque that scholars are in broad agreement that a vaccination would not break the Ramadan fast, and he has also told people that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only readily available option, they should take it.
But he also acknowledged that people would rather not have to think about these things, especially during the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. So his mosque is hosting a vaccine clinic next Monday night, which would allow people to get in two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine just before Ramadan begins in mid-April. And while the event was initially advertised with general language about vaccines, Mr. Ahmad said, the latest flier includes more explicit guidance about what will not be on offer at the clinic: “NOTE,” it reads, “Not J&J.”
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.
“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.
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.
The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90 percent of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years.
A growing chorus of health officials and advocacy groups worldwide are calling for Western governments to use aggressive powers — most of them rarely or never used before — to force companies to publish vaccine recipes, share their know-how and ramp up manufacturing.
The prospect of billions of people waiting years to be vaccinated poses a health threat to even the richest countries. One example: In Britain, where the vaccine rollout has been strong, health officials are tracking a virus variant that emerged in South Africa, where vaccine coverage is weak. That variant may be able to blunt the effect of vaccines, meaning even vaccinated people might get sick.
But on March 30, a U.S. patent is expected to be issued on a five-year-old invention in a National Institutes of Health lab that swaps a pair of amino acids in the coronavirus spike protein. This feat of molecular engineering is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines, and the United States government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographs streamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.
For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as are the Colosseum or the Pantheon.
That may explain the media frenzy last week over the return of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being repaved — even though there was not much traffic to direct, because of the widespread lockdown that began last week in hopes of containing a surge in coronavirus cases.
“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.
In rain or sleet, or sweltering through Rome’s sultry summers, officers have directed traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal near the mouth of the Via del Corso, one of Rome’s main streets, for as long as anyone can remember. And the gestures they make with their white-gloved hands are things that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with the palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light.)
“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” Mr. Grillo said.
Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the tangle at the hub.
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.
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.
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.
To many Canadians, it seemed decidedly unneighborly. Canada’s initial coronavirus vaccination program moved at a stately pace over the winter, while inoculations in the United States raced ahead. But Washington was unwilling to share any of its stockpile of tens of millions of doses of a vaccine it had yet to approve for use by Americans.
Last week, that shifted. After weeks of suggesting that any vaccine diplomacy was well into the future, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that the United States was planning to share 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and 2.5 million doses with Mexico.
The White House announcement seemed to catch Ottawa officials off guard. Hours passed before Anita Anand, the cabinet minister responsible for buying vaccines, issued a statement that read more like an insurance policy than a note of thanks.
“After numerous discussions with the Biden administration, Canada is in the process of finalizing an exchange agreement,” it read in part.
Ms. Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little more to add on Friday afternoon, saying only that the talks were still underway and that the details would come later.
From Ms. Psaki’s remarks, it appears that the United States will officially just be lending Canada and Mexico the vaccines. It is unclear whether they will ultimately have to be replaced in kind or if the loan will be of the forgivable nature. She also said that the United States might soon share surpluses of other vaccines.
Melanie Allen, a high school English teacher, was in a bind. She works in one state and lives in another. And both denied her a Covid-19 vaccine.
Ms. Allen, who lives in Chatham, N.H., but works in Maine, said she was told that she was not eligible for a vaccine by officials in both states. Although teachers are now eligible for vaccination in every state, her New Hampshire residency blocked her from receiving the vaccine in Maine, she said.
And in New Hampshire, she was told she is not eligible because she does not teach in the state and, at 45, does not meet the age requirement.
And so, she waited.
On Friday, Ms. Allen finally got her first shot after a health center in Maine decided to vaccinate teachers no matter where they lived.
“Even though the states haven’t officially changed their tune,” she said, “it was heartening to see that the local community was stepping in to make sure the right thing happened.”
About half of the states have residency requirements for vaccinations, though most allow out-of-state workers to receive a shot if they meet other eligibility conditions, said Jennifer Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues.
Connecticut, for example, allows workers who live in other states to receive the vaccine if they can prove that they work in an approved industry.
States including Florida and New Hampshire limited the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to residents in hopes of stemming complaints of “vaccine tourism,” where a person could drive across a state line for a shot that they would not be eligible for back home.
Although most states allow nonresident workers to be inoculated, Ms. Kates said people living in one state and working in another might run into snags as they navigate the scheduling process.
“When you have such a patchwork of requirements,” Ms. Kates said, “it’s like a puzzle, and people who really want to get vaccinated are trying to figure how they can get that last piece of the puzzle.”
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 SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
In the year since the pandemic began, people learned to be together while apart and navigated the pain of feeling apart while together. Screens — small and large — became crucial links to the rest of the world.
Activities and routines that commanded crowds — visiting museums, attending concerts, working out, learning, traveling, partying — ceased or found a new life online. Holidays usually celebrated by family gatherings became fraught with consequences.
Memories of a prepandemic world, where people could stand shoulder to shoulder with faces bare, began to feel like dreams — as did moments of unexpected connection.
Couples in quarantine learned a lot about their significant others. In some instances, these revelations were not happy ones: Lawyers and mediators saw an increase in clients looking to divorce as soon as courts reopened.
In other cases, being confined together made couples stronger. Engagements and pregnancy announcements seemed to pop up constantly on social media. And there were plenty of weddings.
For many of those who were single, dating felt impossible in the early months of the pandemic. Sex toy sales increased. Eventually, emotional and physical needs began to weigh heavy, and people across the country found ways to meet and hook up within the confines of their comfort.
In search of safety, stability and support, adult children moved in with parents and parental figures, sometimes without a fixed departure date. In doing so, they rediscovered one another, and experienced the joys of bonding and the suffocation of constant proximity.
Though some Americans were able to hole up at home, their kitchen tables and couches converted into makeshift offices, others continued to work in public spaces. Delivery drivers dealt with health risks, theft and assault. Airline workers who weren’t furloughed had to confront passengers who refused to wear masks.
But things have opened up, slowly, over the past few months, as cases have fallen and people have become inoculated. Last week, President Biden promised that there would be enough vaccine doses for every American adult by May, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people can begin gathering indoors again — a sign that people will soon be finding their way back to one another.
In the hustle to score an elusive vaccine appointment, the leftover dose has become the stuff of pandemic lore.
Extra shots — which must be used within hours once taken out of cold storage — have been doled out to drugstore customers buying midnight snacks, people who are friends with nurses and those who show up at closing time at certain grocery stores and pharmacies. At some larger vaccination sites, the race to use every dose sets off a flurry of end-of-the-day phone calls.
In every case, if the leftover dose does not find an available arm, it must go into the trash.
Now, a New York-based start-up is aiming to add some order to the hunt for leftover doses. Dr. B, as the company is known, is matching vaccine providers who find themselves with extra vaccines to people who are willing to get one at a moment’s notice.
Since the service began last month, more than 500,000 people have submitted a host of personal information to sign up for the service, which is free to join and is also free to providers. Two vaccine sites have begun testing the program, and the company said about 200 other providers had applied to participate.
Dr. B is just one attempt at coordinating the chaotic patchwork of public and private websites that allow eligible people to find vaccine appointments. And while it does not solve the broader structural issues around vaccine distribution, if it scales up the way some hope that it will, it could serve as a model for a better, more equitable way of scheduling vaccinations.
“Ultimately, patients need this vaccine, and there’s providers who need help getting it to the people of priority,” Cyrus Massoumi, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Dr. B, said in an interview. “That’s my motivation.”
Mr. Massoumi said he was financing the project out of his own pocket and had no plans to collect revenue. The company is named after his grandfather, who was nicknamed Dr. Bubba and became a doctor during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
The service suffers, however, from some of the same barriers that have marred vaccination efforts so far. Although signing up is simple, doing so requires an internet connection as well as ready access to a cellphone. Because of the last-minute nature of leftover doses, participants must have flexible schedules and access to transportation.
“It’s still heavily internet dependent, so it will depend on who hears about it,” said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “It seems he’s trying to solve a problem and do some good, but I’m sad that governments — counties, cities, national organizations — didn’t prepare for this and then didn’t react more quickly to give advice and guidance.”