Covid-19: California and Florida Prepare to Open Vaccine Access to All Adults

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Governors across the United States are speeding up eligibility for coronavirus vaccines as the number of new cases nationally plateaus, adding more urgency to vaccination efforts.

California will open up vaccine eligibility on April 1 to any resident who is 50 or older, and will expand that to residents 16 or older on April 15, state officials announced on Thursday, saying they could do so because of increasing supplies of vaccine from the federal government. And Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced that any state resident who is 40 or older would be eligible starting on Monday, and that the minimum age would drop to 18 on April 5.

In Connecticut, which is among the most-vaccinated states in the country, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that all residents 16 and above would be eligible beginning April 1. New Hampshire will make shots available to all residents 16 and older starting April 2, and North Carolina on April 7. In Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee said the state was on track to make vaccines available to all residents over 16 by April 19.

Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said the state would open vaccinations to those 40 and older starting Monday, adding that a mask mandate would stay in place for at least another 30 days. And in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce on Friday that all residents over the age of 16 will be eligible starting March 30.

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia are the only states where all adults are now eligible to receive shots, but many more have announced plans to expand eligibility on or before May 1, a goal set by President Biden. Some local jurisdictions have also begun vaccinating all adults.

The nation is averaging about 2.5 million doses of vaccine a day. At that pace, about half of the nation’s population would be at least partially vaccinated by mid-May.

California will also allow health care providers to use their discretion to vaccinate family members of eligible people right away, even if the family members would not yet otherwise be eligible, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

State officials said they expected California to start receiving 2.5 million doses a week in the first part of April, and more than three million by the second half of the month, a major increase from the current pace of about 1.8 million doses a week.

Mr. Newsom has been under intense pressure for weeks to speed up the state’s vaccination efforts. Experts say his ability to fend off a recall campaign may hinge on vaccinating millions of residents and lifting remaining restrictions, so that the state will be closer to normal when voters are asked to decide his fate.

The governor has repeatedly said that short and unpredictable supplies have been to blame for what has been criticized as a confusing and chaotic vaccination process that has left many poorer communities to lag behind.

State officials abruptly announced earlier this month that 40 percent of the state’s new vaccine doses would go to vulnerable communities, but the move frustrated local officials in the Bay Area, which had almost none of the prioritized communities.

Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, the Santa Clara County executive, recently described the program as “a fake equity plan.” Mayor Vicente Sarmiento of Santa Ana, the seat of Orange County and home to many lower-income Latinos, praised the plan.

Florida, more than most states, has emphasized age, rather than occupation or other risk factors, in its approach to vaccine eligibility. The state began by concentrating on people 65 and over, and then lowered the age threshold to 50. As of Wednesday, 24 percent of Florida’s total population has received at least one shot, and 14 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of new virus cases reported in Florida has been hovering around 4,600 a day in recent weeks, a level that health officials say is still too high, even though it has fallen significantly from a peak earlier this year.

The state’s efforts to reopen its tourism industry has not been without problems. In Miami Beach, local officials have been overwhelmed with spring break revelers who have ignored safety precautions like mask wearing and social distancing. It got so bad that the city imposed a curfew and sent police officers in riot gear to disperse crowds.

Eligible only in some counties

Eligible only in some counties

Eligible only in some counties

United States ›United StatesOn March 2414-day change
New cases79,513Flat
New deaths1,591–31%

World ›WorldOn March 2414-day change
New cases624,216+23%
New deaths10,205+6%

U.S. vaccinations ›

Where states are reporting vaccines given

AstraZeneca reiterated on Wednesday that its Covid-19 vaccine was very effective at preventing the disease, based on more recent data than was included when the company announced the interim results of its U.S. clinical trial on Monday.

The company said in a news release that its vaccine was 76 percent effective at preventing Covid-19, which is slightly lower than the 79 percent effectiveness the company announced on Monday.

The new results strengthen the scientific case for the embattled vaccine. But they may not repair the damage to AstraZeneca’s credibility after U.S. health officials and independent monitors issued an extraordinary rebuke of the company for not counting some Covid-19 cases when it announced its initial findings earlier this week.

The company’s vaccine was already under intense scrutiny in Europe after a safety scare prompted more than a dozen countries to temporarily stop using it. Most of the countries have resumed using the vaccine, but Denmark, on Thursday, said it was extending its suspension.

AstraZeneca on Wednesday said complete results from its 32,000-person study showed that its vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease and 85 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 in people over age 65.

When it unveiled its interim results on Monday, asserting that the vaccine was 79 percent effective, the company ignored dozens of recently confirmed Covid-19 cases that had cropped up in trial volunteers before mid-February.

In a letter to the company and federal officials, the independent monitoring board that was helping oversee the clinical trial issued an unusual reprimand of AstraZeneca for appearing to cherry-pick data to make its vaccine appear more effective.

“Decisions like this are what erode public trust in the scientific process,” the letter said. The members of the monitoring board wrote that their statistical modeling had found that the vaccine might have a lower efficacy rate — between 69 and 74 percent — if the Covid-19 cases in question were included in the analysis.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The State of Vaccinations

A look at the rapid expansion of shots, the people who are still holding out, and the rules of the road for those who are inoculated.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases later disclosed the panel’s concerns via a public statement.

It was not clear why the monitoring board’s projection turned out to be lower than the figure in AstraZeneca’s complete results. The latest results could still change because there are still 14 possible Covid-19 cases that AstraZeneca representatives have not yet classified as actual cases.

Until they received the monitoring board’s letter, AstraZeneca executives weren’t aware that the panel expected them to include those cases in the results disclosed in their news release, according to a person familiar with the executives’ thinking.

Vaccine experts said the brushback from federal officials appeared to reflect high levels of distrust between American regulators and AstraZeneca. Some worried that the episode could damage public confidence not only in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, but in all coronavirus vaccines.

“This vaccine is so important for global health and the disputes do not promote global health,” Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

Regulators in Europe said last week that a review had found the shot to be safe after a small number of people who had recently been inoculated developed blood clots and abnormal bleeding. On Thursday, regulators announced the formation of a group of experts to look at the blood clot issues and the potential risk. The group will convene at the end of the month and release its findings in early April.

Health officials in Denmark said they will continue to investigate safety concern until April 15. Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, on March 11. It has reported two deaths from brain hemorrhages among people who had received the shot.

The U.S. trial did not turn up any signs of such safety problems.

In other developments around the world:

  • Schools in Romania will close for four weeks starting next month as the Eastern European country fights to curb its latest wave of Covid-19 cases. Most schools will close from April 2 to May 4, Sorin Cimpeanu, Romania’s education minister, said on Thursday, extending the usual break for Orthodox and Catholic Easter.

  • Travelers flying to Germany will need to show proof they tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding flights starting on Sunday, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday. Germans rushed to book flights and hotels in Portugal and Spain for Easter and Holy Week holidays after the government took those nations off its “at risk” list that require people to quarantine upon return to Germany.

Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, testified remotely on Thursday before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, along with his fellow Big Tech executives Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill pressed the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday over their companies’ roles in the spread of potentially harmful disinformation across the internet. The lines of inquiry were broad, and included how Big Tech could be impeding the fight against the coronavirus by allowing vaccine misinformation to proliferate.

Democratic and Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee grilled Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey for more than five hours, and the question of whether Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were doing enough to stem harmful misinformation around vaccination came up repeatedly.

“You can fix this,” said Representative Mike Doyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “But you choose not to.” He said that Facebook “had the means” to stem the tide of misinformation, “but time after time you are picking engagement and profit over the health and safety” of Facebook’s users.

Tackling misinformation and its effects on users has been a top-of-mind issue for the tech platforms for the past four years, reaching a peak regarding politics after the 2016 presidential election. At the same time, false and misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines and their availability to the general public have proliferated across digital platforms.

Just this week, a dozen state attorneys general called on Facebook and Twitter to crack down further on anti-vaccination content that appears on their sites, pointing to a number of “anti-vaxxer superspreader” accounts across the services, which they claimed were responsible for much of the vaccine misinformation flowing through the platforms.

“Your unwillingness to unambiguously commit to enforcing your own policies and remove the 12 most egregious spreaders of vaccine disinformation from your platforms gets right to what I’m concerned about,” Representative Jerry McNerny, Democrat of California, said at the hearing.

For their part, the tech executives said that they had stepped up efforts to crack down on vaccine misinformation in line with their company policies. Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said that the company had instituted new rules around the coronavirus and vaccine misinformation, and had been acting swiftly to take down instances of such content when discovered by the company’s systems. Facebook has taken down more than 12 million false or misleading posts regarding Covid-19 or vaccines over the past few months, the company said.

Mr. Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, echoed that with regard to the Google subsidiary YouTube, and Mr. Dorsey also stressed that his company, Twitter, was cracking down on false or misleading vaccine-related tweets.

But the executives cautioned that some content fell into “gray areas,” especially when concerning points that were not provably or demonstrably false, and that it was difficult for each company to police all of the content all of the time at the scales at which they operate. And the executives all discouraged any move toward a future in which their platforms became so-called “arbiters of truth” in public discourse. They stressed that they preferred to err on the side of intervening in content only in circumstances outlined clearly in their company policies.

“I don’t think anyone wants a world where you can only say things that private companies judge to be true,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “But we also don’t want misinformation to spread that undermines confidence in vaccines, stops people from voting, or causes other harms.”

Dr. George Yancopoulos, the president of Regeneron, at the company’s campus in Tarrytown, N.Y. last September. 
Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The president of a pharmaceutical company with longstanding ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo received special access to coronavirus testing last year as the first wave of the pandemic tore through New York, a time when tests were severely limited.

The company, Regeneron, requested tests from the state for its president, Dr. George Yancopoulos, and his family after a “member of his household became infected with Covid-19,” a company spokeswoman said. State officials granted the request and tested the family at home in March.

By then, New York had become the epicenter of the pandemic, its frightened populace suddenly confronted with a widespread shutdown in the face of a virus that little was known about.

The following month, Governor Cuomo announced that Regeneron would create 500,000 kits for testing samples and provide them free of charge to New York State.

The company, which eventually became a critical player in the efforts to lower the risk of hospitalization and death among high-risk Covid-19 patients, said Dr. Yancopoulos had not been involved in the donation of the kits.

The unusual and preferential treatment granted to Dr. Yancopoulos was also extended to Mr. Cuomo’s relatives, including his mother, Matilda Cuomo, and brother, the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and at least one of his sisters, as well as other well-connected people, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort.

Revelations about the special access they got to state-run coronavirus tests early in the pandemic have drawn the interest of investigators in the New York State Assembly.

The judiciary committee of the New York State Assembly has already been looking into several allegations of sexual harassment made in recent weeks against Mr. Cuomo, as well as the manipulation by his senior staff of data related to nursing home deaths.

On Thursday, the chair of the committee, Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine, said the preferential access for Mr. Cuomo’s family would also become part of the inquiry.

The Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, N.J., closed last fall.
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Taking note of President Biden’s vow to make every adult eligible for a vaccine by early summer, Rutgers University, in New Jersey, announced Thursday that all students would need to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before they would be allowed to return to campus in the fall.

“Adding COVID-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students,” said Jonathan Holloway, the president of Rutgers University, in a statement. The university, one of the largest in the country, is thought to be among the first to require students to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

That requirement will apply to Rutgers’ three main campuses, in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. Beginning in the fall, students will have to show “proof of vaccination” before moving into their dorm or attending in-person classes.

According to the university, students may file for an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Those attending fully online or off-campus programs will also be exempt. The university has more than 70,000 students, 81 percent of whom are New Jersey residents.

Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would have enough vaccine supply “for almost everyone” by May. He has set a goal of insuring that 70 percent of the state’s adult population is inoculated in the next six months.

Rutgers plans to open a vaccine center once more doses become available. Dory Devlin, a university spokeswoman, said the college was still developing plans for how vaccinated and non-vaccinated students will interact.

Even with the new requirement, students on the Rutgers campuses will be required to practice social distancing and use face coverings, the university said. All faculty, staff and students on campus will be required to participate in the university’s testing program. And the university anticipates continuing to offer some hybrid courses to prevent crowding in classrooms next school year, Ms. Devlin said.

So far, university leaders have not made it mandatory for faculty and staff to be vaccinated but “strongly urge” its employees to do so before the fall.

Coronavirus vaccines were administered at a drive-through site in Cleveland, Miss., on Wednesday.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

President Biden, who said when he was inaugurated that he would have “100 million shots in the arms” of Americans by his 100th day in office, announced Thursday at his news conference that he is doubling that goal.

The moving target is in keeping with the president’s pattern: aim low, and when it is clear the initial target will be exceeded, adjust upward to another attainable goal.

The nation is on track to meet the 200 million figure already. As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a total of 130 million shots had been administered, and that 14 percent of the American population is fully vaccinated.

The White House is counting shots administered since January 20, when Mr. Biden took office; the nation hit that milestone last week, on his 58th day in office, the president said Thursday.

“We will by my 100th day in office have administered 200 million shots in people’s arms,” Mr. Biden said, announcing his new goal at the outset of his news conference. “That’s right — 200 million shots in 100 days. I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal but no other country in the world has even come close.”

Vaccine makers are also hitting their stride. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have promised enough doses to inoculate all the nation’s roughly 260 million adults by the end of May, as Mr. Biden promised. In June, the first vaccine producers, Pfizer and Moderna, are expected to deliver another 100 million doses — enough to cover another 50 million people.

The United States has been averaging about 2.5 million doses a day during the last week. If that pace continues, the nation would surpass the 200 million shots goal before Mr. Biden’s 100th day, April 30. The new goal was reported earlier by MSNBC and CNN.

Officials say the nation will soon reach a point where the supply of vaccine outpaces demand; when that happens, the chief concern will not be a shortage of vaccine, but convincing those who are skeptical of the vaccine to get the shots and deciding what to do with a growing stockpile. Vaccine hesitancy is particularly prominent among minorities, and also Republicans, who spent months last year listening to former President Donald J. Trump suggest that the risk of the virus was being exaggerated.

Earlier Thursday, White House officials said the administration would spend $10 billion of congressionally appropriated money to expand access to Covid-19 vaccines and build vaccine confidence in the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The C.D.C. also announced Thursday that dialysis clinics would now offer vaccines to chronic kidney disease patients at dialysis centers, and the centers’ health care personnel, as part of a federal partnership.

Pope Francis at a meeting of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on Wednesday. Pope Francis has ordered across-the-board pay cuts for the cardinals and other higher-ranking clerics working in the Vatican.
Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

ROME — In an effort to contain costs and save jobs amid a slump in tourist dollars and donations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis has ordered across-the-board pay cuts for the cardinals and other higher-ranking clerics working in the Vatican.

Cardinals will see their income trimmed by 10 percent, according to a decree published Wednesday. The superiors of Vatican departments will have their salaries reduced by 8 percent, while 3 percent cuts will be applied to upper-level priests and nuns. A two-year salary freeze has been imposed on other employees at higher pay grades.

The pope himself does not receive a salary.

The pandemic has “negatively influenced all sources of income for the Holy See and Vatican City State,” Francis wrote in an apostolic letter. “A sustainable economic future requires today, among other decisions, adopting measures that also concern employee salaries.”

The cuts, which go into effect on April 1, affect only the employees of the Holy See, Vatican City and associated institutions, including the Vicariate of Rome. They will not apply to Vatican personnel who can prove that they cannot sustain the costs of personal medical care or that of close family members.

Of the roughly 5,000 people employed in the Roman Curia, the administrative institutions of the Holy See, and in Vatican City State, cardinals have the highest monthly salaries, varying between 4,000 to 5,000 euros, or about $4,700 to $5,900, according to Mimmo Muolo, the author of the 2019 book “The Church’s Money.” The Vatican does not make the salaries of officials public.

The 2021 budget approved by Francis projected a deficit of 49.7 million euros, even though operating costs had been slashed by 24 million euros as compared with 2019, the year before the pandemic. Personnel accounts for about half of the budget.

The Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, the Vatican’s top economic official, said this month that revenue was expected to be about 213 million euros in 2021, a 30 percent reduction from 2019.

The Holy See’s income comes from real estate management, investments and donations. Vatican City State has a separate budget and gets part of its revenue from the Vatican Museums. The museums were open on and off last year because of the pandemic.

Essential workers in Chennai, India, waiting to get inoculated against Covid-19 last Saturday. The government has sharply curtailed exports of vaccine doses to speed up efforts at home. 
Credit…Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

India has severely curtailed exports of Covid-19 vaccines, triggering setbacks for vaccination drives in many other countries, as the nation fends focuses on a surge of cases at home.

The government of India is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses of the vaccine produced daily by the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest makers of the AstraZeneca shot.

India is desperate for all the doses it can get. Infections are soaring, topping 50,000 per day, more than double the number less than two weeks ago. And the Indian vaccine drive has been sluggish, with less than 4 percent of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people getting a jab, far behind the rates of the United States, Britain and most European countries.

Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was using that to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. More than 70 countries, from Djibouti to Britain, received vaccines made in India, with a total of more than 60 million doses. From mid January into March, not more than a few days passed between major vaccine shipments leaving India.

But the size of its shipments abroad has greatly diminished in the past two weeks, according to data from India’s foreign ministry. And Covax, the program set up by donor agencies to purchase vaccines for poorer nations, said on Thursday that it had told those countries that nearly 100 million doses expected in March and April would face delays because of “increased demand for Covid-19 vaccines in India.”

The Indian government has not publicly commented on what’s happening, and would not when reached by The New York Times for this article. But health experts say the explanation is obvious: India is drawing up its gates as a second wave of infections hits home, holding tight to a vaccine that it didn’t develop but that is being produced in huge quantities on its soil.

Three more regions of France will be under tighter restrictions beginning Friday night, including the city of Lyon and the area around it. 
Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

A week after several regions, including Paris, went under lockdown, the French authorities on Thursday announced that new regions would follow suit, as France tries to fight back a rise in infections.

“The epidemic situation is not good,” the French health minister, Olivier Véran, said at a news conference Thursday. He said the pressure on the hospital system, which is already high, would continue to increase “in the coming days.”

Mr. Véran said that three additional departments — the country’s administrative regions — would be put under “reinforced braking measures” for four weeks, beginning Friday night. They include the region where the city of Lyon is located, as well as areas in the eastern part of the country.

The measures to be put in place are similar to those imposed last week around Paris, as well as in a large part of the north and in the southeastern tip of the country.

Most stores considered nonessential will have to close, and people’s movements will be limited to within a six-mile radius of their homes. Leaving the regions will be banned. The new restrictions come on top of a nightly curfew that was already in place in the three departments.

Mr. Véran tried to put the new rules in the least onerous light.

“This is not a lockdown,” he said, “but 50 shades of measures that take into account the epidemic situation and what we know about the virus.”

Asked about the possible closure of schools, he said it would be a “solution of last resort” because of its “very heavy consequences” on children and their families.

Unlike some of its neighbors, France has resisted a new national lockdown, even in the face the new virus variants, opting instead for regional measures.

Mr. Véran said more than seven million people in the country had received a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, almost 11 percent of the total population. More than 2.5 million have had two injections, he said.

Mr. Véran also announced an expansion of vaccine eligibility this Saturday to anyone over age 70. The goal is to get a first shot to 10 million people by mid-April.

“This summer could be one of a progressive return to normal, and then there would probably not be additional waves to come,” Mr. Véran told reporters. “We have to hold on for a few more weeks and we will make it. We are going to defeat this third wave.”

France registered more than 45,000 new cases on Thursday, a number reminiscent of figures seen during the second wave of the pandemic in the fall. The death toll rose by 225 over the past 24 hours to 93,378, the eighth-highest in the world.

The body of a person who died with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at a municipal hospital in Duque de Caxias, Brazil, on Wednesday. 
Credit…Felipe Dana/Associated Press

Brazil registered a record 100,158 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, underlining the scale of a snowballing outbreak that is becoming a major political crisis for President Jair Bolsonaro.

The record caseload, along with 2,777 more Covid-19 deaths, comes a day after Brazil surpassed 300,000 fatalities from the pandemic, the world’s worst death toll after the United States.

Brazil has suffered from a patchy vaccine rollout, a lack of national coordination and an infectious new variant. Critics, including senior lawmakers with ties to the president, are increasingly blaming Mr. Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic. He has drawn sharp criticism for his efforts to block lockdowns, scorn masks and sow doubts over vaccines.

Mr. Bolsonaro also faces growing calls to replace Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo over failures in the country’s pandemic response. The Senate president, Rodrigo Pacheco, said on Thursday that Brazil’s foreign policy must improve, adding that it was up to Mr. Bolsonaro to decide if he would replace Mr. Araujo.

A close ideological ally of the president, Mr. Araujo has faced criticism for his barbs against China, which doles out vaccines to allies, while he has struggled to secure doses from the U.S. stockpile.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who had questioned the “rush” to buy vaccines last year, has pledged to ramp up the country’s inoculation drive, targeting 1 million daily doses, compared with about 350,000 per day over the past week.

On Thursday, the economy minister, Paulo Guedes, suggested that the private sector could help speed up immunizations by buying supplies and donating them to the government. It was unclear whether the idea was viable in such a tight global market for vaccines.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment buried unclaimed remains on Hart Island in April 2020.
Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

As many as one-tenth of the people who have died from the coronavirus in New York City may go unclaimed and be buried on Hart Island, the city’s potter’s field, according to an analysis of city data.

The analysis, a collaboration between Columbia Journalism School’s Stabile Center of Investigative Journalism and a nonprofit news website, The City, found a huge increase in burials on Hart Island in 2020 — 2,334 adults were buried there, up from 846 in 2019. The reporters, citing public health officials, attributed the increase largely to the pandemic: people killed by the coronavirus or by other medical issues that went unaddressed because of the crisis.

(There was a similar, though smaller, surge in Hart Island burials in the late 1980s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.)

In addition to the burials, the city medical examiner’s office is storing the unclaimed bodies of more than 700 people who died at the height of the pandemic, according to Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the office. She said the exact causes of death for many of them may not be clear.

If those bodies are buried on Hart Island as well, and all are counted as pandemic deaths, the total would exceed 3,000 — about one-tenth of the 30,793 coronavirus deaths recorded in the city as of Wednesday, according to a New York Times database.

About a million people are estimated to have been buried on Hart Island since it became a public cemetery in the 19th century, The City said.

City officials recently considered ending burials on the island and shipping bodies out of the city instead. But during the pandemic, when funeral homes were overwhelmed, Hart Island became a last resort, preferable to having bodies languish indefinitely in refrigerated trucks.

Melinda Hunt, the founder of the Hart Island Project, a nonprofit group that has pushed for greater awareness and access to the island, said in January that she hoped that the exigencies of the pandemic would help lawmakers and the public regard burials on Hart Island differently.

“It’s not some Dickensian thing,” Ms. Hunt said. “It’s an orderly and secure system of burials that works, especially when you have deaths on the scale of an epidemic.”

Alejandra Gerardo, 9, looks up to her mom, Dr. Susanna Naggie, as she gets the first of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines during a clinical trial for children at Duke Health.
Credit…Shawn Rocco/Duke Health

Pfizer has begun testing its Covid-19 vaccine in children under 12, a significant step in turning back the pandemic. The trial’s first two participants, 9-year-old twin girls, were immunized at Duke University in North Carolina on Wednesday.

Results from the trial are expected in the second half of the year, and the company hopes to begin vaccinating younger children widely early in 2022, according to Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the company.

Moderna also is beginning a trial of its vaccine in children six months to 12 years of age. Both companies have been testing their vaccines in children 12 and older, and expect those results in the next few weeks.

AstraZeneca began testing its vaccine last month in children six months and older, and Johnson & Johnson has said it planned to extend trials of its vaccine to young children after assessing its performance in older children.

Immunizing children will help schools reopen, said Dr. Emily Erbelding, an infectious diseases physician at the National Institutes of Health who oversees testing of Covid-19 vaccines in special populations.

An estimated 80 percent of the population may need to be vaccinated for the United States to reach what scientists call herd immunity, when the virus would stop spreading because anyone with an active infection would be unlikely to encounter many people who could catch it from them. Still, some adults may refuse to be vaccinated, and others may not produce a robust immune response.

Children under 18 make up about 23 percent of the population in the United States, so even if a vast majority of adults opt for vaccines, “herd immunity might be hard to achieve without children being vaccinated,” Dr. Erbelding said.




New York Plans to Open Vaccination Site for Broadway Theater Workers

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on Thursday that the city plans to open a Covid-19 vaccination site on Broadway, as well as a mobile vaccination unit and pop-up sites specifically for theater industry workers.

It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back. So the next four weeks, we’ll be setting up dedicated vaccination sites, specifically for the theater community, the theater industry. It will be staffed by workers from the theater industry. We’re going to make sure it’s right where people are used to going, right in the heart of the theater district. We’re also going to have a mobile unit that will serve off-Broadway theaters. It’s so important to make sure that people are getting vaccinated, now as we look forward to the fall, also to make sure that testing is available on an ongoing basis. So there will be pop-up testing sites at and near theaters on Broadway and off Broadway. Now, we’re working with the Broadway community now to develop the plans to make the reopening go smoothly. One of the things we need is a crowd management plan. The city will be actively engaged in helping theaters to manage crowds before and after shows. We’re going to have an active presence working with the theater community to make sure that goes smoothly as well. So, we’ll — the city of New York — we’ll do the vaccinations, we’ll do the testing, we’ll help with the crowd management, working with the theaters, we’ll do everything in our power to bring Broadway and off-Broadway back strong. But we need some help. We need some help from the state of New York. So I’m calling upon the state to please quickly issue clear guidance for theater workers in terms of mask usage, in terms of how we use proof of vaccination or proof of negative testing to help ensure that everyone can work, and that crowds can come back in the fall.

Video player loading
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on Thursday that the city plans to open a Covid-19 vaccination site on Broadway, as well as a mobile vaccination unit and pop-up sites specifically for theater industry workers.CreditCredit…Jeenah Moon/Reuters

New York City plans to create a coronavirus vaccination site on Broadway just for people who work in the theater industry, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, as the city hopes to reopen shows by the fall.

In addition to the Broadway vaccination site, there would be a mobile vaccination unit for theater workers in other parts of the city, the mayor said at a news conference. The sites will be staffed by theater workers, many of whom have been relying on unemployment insurance since Broadway shut down more than a year ago.

“This is going to be a year to turn things around,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back.”

The city’s plans will not change the state’s rules around vaccinations, which currently limit eligibility to people 50 and older, plus those in certain job categories or with certain health conditions. Mr. de Blasio said that the sites would be set up over the next four weeks or so, and that vaccination eligibility is expected to expand by then.

There are also plans for pop-up coronavirus testing sites outside or near Broadway and Off Broadway theaters, to make sure that there is ample testing available as the industry tries to get back on its feet. And the city will assist theaters in developing plans to safely manage crowds entering and leaving theaters.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced this month that arts, entertainment and events venues could reopen April 2 at 33 percent of capacity, with a ceiling of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors, and higher limits if patrons are required to show that they have recently tested negative. But Broadway producers say it is not economically feasible to run commercial productions at reduced capacity. Although there may be some special events inside theaters in the spring and summer, full-scale plays and musicals are not likely to open until after Labor Day.

  • The city of Berlin is testing a program that would allow people to attend live performances at its opera houses and theaters. The audience would be required to wear masks, maintain social distance and test negative for Covid-19; the test would be included in the price of admission. The first 350 tickets to a show at the venerable Berliner Ensemble theater sold out in four minutes.

Registering for a vaccination in Milan this week.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

The European Union, where coronavirus vaccinations are moving at a maddeningly slow pace compared with those in United States and Britain, made clear this week that it is willing to flex its muscles to get more doses for its citizens, going so far as to curb exports of vaccine from the bloc.

But the E.U.’s trouble inoculating its population does not result from an inadequate vaccine supply alone.

Bureaucratic inertia, strategic errors, a diffusion of responsibility and logistical problems in booking appointments have all helped seriously undercut vaccination efforts.

Consider the northern Italian town of Cremona, an early victim during the pandemic’s initial explosion in Europe.

Over the weekend, the mayor got a call that the local vaccination center was empty. The region’s booking system had failed to contact and set up appointments with older residents — and more than 500 doses of vaccine were at risk of going to waste.

“There was staff, there were also vaccines, but there were no people,” said the mayor, Gianluca Galimberti.

Similar scenarios are playing out throughout the country, as the authorities struggle to get vaccines to older and vulnerable Italians who most need them.

But the problems getting people vaccinated are hardly limited to Italy.

The temporary suspension last week by multiple countries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one that the European Union has bet on, was just one indication of how Europe’s rollouts have been plagued by an overabundance of caution, bad deals and flouted obligations by pharmaceutical companies.

The situation remains so dire that the bloc unveiled emergency restrictions to curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines for six weeks. And the Italian government, acting on a request from the European Commission, the E.U. executive arm, sent the police to inspect 29 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in a facility outside Rome, amid suspicions of possible exports out of the bloc.

Italy is paying an especially heavy price for the vaccination campaign problems.

A full year after the country became the first Western nation to confront the virus, it now has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of daily deaths from Covid-19 among Europe’s major powers.

And the missteps have especially affected Italy’s most vulnerable population: the elderly. Fewer than one in five people over 80 have received both doses of a vaccine, and less than 5 percent of septuagenarians have received their first shot.

When it comes to distributing vaccines, Italy is on par with France and Germany and a little behind Spain, but its difficulties in vaccinating older citizens are far more consequential, given that it is the country with the oldest population in Europe.

“Every time the phone rings, I hope it’s them,” said Ester Bucco, an 84-year-old resident of the Lombardy region, who registered two months ago to get vaccinated.

She has yet to get an appointment.

California plans to allow relatives to resume visiting prisoners next month. The state has had major coronavirus outbreaks at several of its prisons, including San Quentin.
Credit…Eric Risberg/Associated Press

State prison systems across the United States have begun allowing visitors for the first time since the pandemic started, presenting challenges for facilities that want to balance much-needed contact between inmates and their families with the need to limit the spread of Covid-19 in one of the nation’s hardest-hit populations.

California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Delaware and Louisiana have either resumed allowing visits in the past few days or plan to restart them in the next few weeks.

Even when most were closed to visitors, the nation’s correctional institutions suffered many major coronavirus outbreaks, with almost 660,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths in all, according to a New York Times database.

The facilities are preparing for the resumption of visits with extra safety protocols, including social distancing and temperature screenings. There will also probably be a good deal of awkwardness and long, silent gazes, prisoners, relatives and experts said.

Family visits are what keeps prisoners “motivated, not to mention sane,” said Craig Haney, a psychology professor and expert on prison isolation at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“There will be socially awkward interactions, and even more than a little initial social anxiety,” Dr. Haney said about the resumption of visits. “And some relationships will have changed. Children are one year older, and have grown up without the limited face-to-face contact they were once afforded with their incarcerated parent. The relationships will have to be re-established on a somewhat different footing.”

After California resumes allowing in-person visits on April 10, Michelle Tran plans to visit her husband, Thai Tran, at Avenal State Prison for the first time since March 8, 2020.

“I’m going to be there,” Ms. Tran said she told her husband. “I need to see that you’re still real — you know, I know that sounds crazy, to see you’re not virtual, you’re real. I need to see your face. And that’s what I need. I need to see my husband.”

Lamont Heard, 43, who is incarcerated at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Michigan, said he has struggled with his mental health because he hasn’t seen his family.

“I’m not evolving,” Mr. Heard wrote in an email. “Having the feelings of being ignored, rejected, left out and cut off. It makes me feel like I’m by myself, and I go into a deep depression. But a visit takes all of that away.”

Global Roundup

Vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a facility in Copenhagen last month.
Credit…Ritzau Scanpix/Liselotte Sabroe, via REUTERS

Denmark will extend its suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine until April 15, the Danish Health Authority announced on Thursday, as other European countries are restarting use of the vaccine.

Officials in Denmark want to further investigate whether AstraZeneca vaccine is the cause of an unusual disease picture involving low blood platelets, bleeding and blood clots in unexpected places in the body, the head of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, said.

The European Medical Agency, the continent’s top drug regulator, said last week that it had found no sign of the vaccine causing such rare but dangerous problems, and strong evidence that its lifesaving benefits “outweigh the risk of the side effects.”

The agency announced on Thursday that it was convening a group of external medical experts to help assess the safety of the vaccine.

Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, on March 11. It has reported two deaths from brain hemorrhages among people who had received the shot.

Officials acknowledged that continuing the suspension would lead to delays in the vaccination process.

“We are very conscious that a continued hold on vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca delays the Danish vaccination program,” Mr. Brostrom said. “However, the vaccines are already in the refrigerator. If we decide to recommence vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, we can quickly distribute and use the vaccines.”

The health authorities in Sweden, which last week suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said on Thursday that the country would resume its use for people over 65.

In other developments around the world:

  • Schools in Romania will close for four weeks starting next month as the Eastern European country fights to curb its latest wave of Covid-19 cases. Most schools will close from April 2 to May 4, Sorin Cimpeanu, Romania’s education minister, said on Thursday, extending the usual break for Orthodox and Catholic Easter.

  • Travelers flying to Germany will need to show proof they tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding flights starting on Sunday, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday. Germans rushed to book flights and hotels in Portugal and Spain for Easter and Holy Week holidays after the government took those nations off its “at risk” list that require people to quarantine upon return to Germany.


Har Mar Superstar Apologizes for Past Misconduct