Washington Grapples With Coronavirus Surge

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington urged residents to be vigilant against the coronavirus on Monday, and announced that any resident 65 or older could make an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Even in these tumultuous days, our experience with Covid, we remain concerned, as the rest of the country remains concerned, about increase in cases. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior cancel any and all public gathering permits in the District of Columbia and deny any applications for public gathering during the period Jan. 11 through Jan. 24. In addition to heeding our call only to participate in inauguration events virtually, I am also asking D.C. residents to sign up for special Inauguration Day alerts. Our Department of Health has worked through our phasing criteria for the vaccine, and today we move into yet another phase of vaccine eligibility. Beginning today, D.C. residents 65 years old and older can make an appointment to get the Covid vaccine through the portal.

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Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington urged residents to be vigilant against the coronavirus on Monday, and announced that any resident 65 or older could make an appointment to receive the vaccine.CreditCredit…Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

While Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, D.C., was grappling with the riot that tore through the Capitol last week, another crisis was slowly unfolding: a surge of coronavirus in the district.

Washington averaged 290 new coronavirus cases a day in the seven-day period that ended Sunday, the most the city has seen during any week of the pandemic. The surge is part of a broader upward tide throughout the nation’s Mid-Atlantic region: Virginia, Maryland and Delaware also set weekly case records on Sunday.

On Monday, Ms. Bowser urged vigilance against the virus, noting that the district’s hospitals were strained by coronavirus patients and the rate of positive test results was high.

“We remain concerned — as the rest of the country remains concerned — about the increase in cases,” she said.

Public health experts warned that the district could be headed for an alarming wave of infections in the next few weeks, after the riot in the Capitol, when lawmakers and staff members huddled in small rooms to hide from attackers.

“The district is operating under a double whammy,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

The district has the challenges of any large urban center, she noted, including concentrated poverty and large numbers of vulnerable residents, making fighting the virus very difficult.

“On top of that, the district has this unique risk factor, which is exposure to thousands of people who poured into town, maskless, packed into very concentrated areas, and simply ignoring every public health safety precaution,” Ms. Rosenbaum said.

“We won’t know for the next couple of days whether we have a further skyrocketing of cases, but it had all the attributes of what we have all come to understand is a superspreader event — which is huge numbers of people packed together indoors, screaming.”

Washington’s latest surge predates last week’s riot, and not enough time has elapsed for the scale of infections that occurred that day to show up in the district’s data. The full impact may never be known: Infections are generally counted where a person lives, so out-of-town residents who caught the virus during the unrest would not be included in Washington’s case count.

After enduring a spring surge, Washington kept its case numbers relatively low through the summer and into the fall. On Oct. 1, the district, with about 700,000 residents, was averaging fewer than 40 new cases a day.

The outlook has worsened since then. Case numbers rose steeply for two months and peaked in early December. They ebbed a bit in the days before Christmas, but that progress was undone in the first days of 2021.

Around the city, the streets continue to bustle with traffic, but everything else is eerily quiet. Museums and theaters are closed, restaurants are limited to outdoor diners and takeout, and downtown sidewalks are all but empty. More than half the city’s residents have taken a Covid-19 test. Depending on the time of day, the lines of people waiting for free tests at firehouses and community centers can stretch for blocks, and hours.

One bright spot: The city’s vaccination program is gaining steam. On Monday, it began scheduling shots for anyone 65 or older.

Relatives mourned Gilberto Arreguin, 58, who died from complications of Covid-19 in Whittier, Calif., last month.
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Whatever else the dawn of 2021 has brought, it has not slowed the relentless mounting of the pandemic’s toll in the United States. The nation’s seven-day average of coronavirus-related deaths has broken past 3,000 a day, reaching 3,249 on Sunday. And the cumulative total of virus deaths surpassed 375,000 on Monday, according to a New York Times database.

California alone reported more than 3,300 virus deaths in the week ended Sunday. No state except New York has recorded more than that in a single week.

The dire statistics follow a surge in new cases and hospitalizations that has extended to every part of the country. On average, 254,866 new cases a day have been reported over the past week, 38 percent more than two weeks earlier. As of Monday morning, a total of more than 22.4 million people in the United States have tested positive.

Health care facilities that have been scrambling to treat patients are also struggling to vaccinate people, amid widespread frustration and confusion across the country. With states and counties left largely to sort out the logistics by themselves, the vaccination program has gone anything but smoothly.

As of Monday, nearly nine million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, far short of the federal goal of 20 million people or more by Dec. 31.

The federal government said Friday that it had delivered more than 22.1 million vaccine doses to states, territories and federal agencies. The same day, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he would release nearly all available doses of the vaccine to states as soon as he is inaugurated. Federal officials have been holding back millions of vials to ensure that second doses will be available to those who received the first.

States have also begun broadening access to the shots faster than planned, amid tremendous public demand. Some states, including New York, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, have already expanded who is eligible to get a vaccine now, even though many people in the first priority group recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — have yet to receive a shot.

Mr. Biden received his own second injection on Monday. His team said he would invoke the Defense Production Act if necessary to ensure that second doses can be given on schedule.

“My No. 1 priority is getting vaccine into people’s arms,” Mr. Biden said after taking a quick needle jab. The president-elect said he and his advisers were finalizing a plan to accelerate mass vaccinations nationwide that he would release on Thursday.

“Three to four thousand people dying a day is just beyond the pale,” he said.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey at a hearing on Capitol Hill in 2019.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Two Democratic lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, saying they believe their infections are linked to the time they spent in a secure location with colleagues who refused to wear masks during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey announced her positive test result on Monday, followed early Tuesday by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington.

“It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”

Ms. Jayapal said on Twitter that she had tested positive “after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

On Sunday, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, who was also in protective isolation at the Capitol, announced that he had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to his roommate, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, also a Republican.

Mr. Fleischmann told the local news station WRCB that he was notified Wednesday that Mr. Bilirakis had tested positive, but did not receive the notification because he was locked down in a secure location amid the riot. He said he did not know with how many other lawmakers he had come in contact.

Mr. Fleischmann and another Republican lawmaker who tested positive, Representative Jake LaTurner of Kansas, both were at the Capitol on Wednesday to object to the certification of the electoral vote.

It was not immediately clear whether Ms. Watson Coleman and Ms. Jayapal were sequestered with the Republicans who are now known to have been infected.

Ms. Jayapal, who said she had begun quarantining immediately after the siege on the Capitol last week, said she was isolating but would “continue to work to the best of my ability.” She said any member of Congress who refused to wear a mask should be removed from the floor by the sergeant-at-arms and fined.

“This is not a joke,” she said in a statement. “Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

Since 2017, Ms. Jayapal has represented Washington’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle.

Ms. Watson Coleman said she and her husband, William Coleman, took a rapid antigen test on Monday. Her husband tested negative for the virus, she said. Ms. Watson Coleman is now isolating and awaiting the results of a more accurate laboratory P.C.R. test. She began to feel symptomatic within the past 24 hours, and is experiencing “mild, cold-like symptoms,” including a cough and a raspy sore throat.

Ms. Watson Coleman, a lung cancer survivor who will turn 76 next month, has represented the 12th Congressional District, a district north of Trenton that cuts across four central New Jersey counties, since 2015. She had gotten one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 29.

“I want people to know that this is very serious and that our exposure is because of people who don’t care about anybody else and are ignoring science and acting out of an abundance of stupidity,” she said.

Illnesses identified before someone has completed their full Covid-19 vaccination schedule should not cause concern, experts said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized as a two-dose vaccine, with the second shot administered about three weeks after the first. While some protection appears to kick in after the first injection, it takes the body at least a week or two to develop a measurable immune response to the virus after its first exposure to the vaccine. The second shot clinches the protective process.

If Ms. Watson Coleman was indeed exposed to the virus just a week after her first injection, she was likely about as vulnerable to it as she was before the shot.

On Sunday, Congress’s Office of the Attending Physician said that House lawmakers may have been exposed to someone who was infected with the coronavirus while they were sheltering in a secure location as a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol last week.

In an email sent to lawmakers, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician, said that while “the time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others,” during that period, “individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.” He told lawmakers to obtain a P.C.R. test as a precaution and continue taking preventive steps against the spread of the virus.

The line at a Curative coronavirus testing site in Lincoln Park in Los Angeles on Monday. 
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

In earlier stages of the pandemic, the states with the most coronavirus cases often bordered one another. Major outbreaks were concentrated in geographic regions of the United States: the Northeast in the spring, the Sun Belt over the summer and the country’s midsection in the fall.

Now, the five worst-hit states are scattered around the country: Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina are averaging the most daily new cases per person, according to a New York Times database.

One threat they have in common is the post-holiday surge of the virus that has thrust the United States into its darkest days of the pandemic, with cases rising in nearly every state. The country reported 300,594 new cases on Friday and more than 4,100 deaths on Thursday, both single-day records. In total, more than 376,000 have died from Covid-19 in the United States.

The emergence of more contagious variants has added urgency to the country’s vaccine rollout, which has gotten off to a slow start.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Pandemic Update: The Variant and the Vaccine

With the coronavirus at a peak in the United States, we look at the latest in the fight against the disease.






Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Pandemic Update: The Variant and the Vaccine

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Luke Vander Ploeg, Daniel Guillemette, Rachel Quester and Austin Mitchell; edited by Paige Cowett, M.J. Davis Lin and Larissa Anderson; and engineered by Chris Wood.

With the coronavirus at a peak in the United States, we look at the latest in the fight against the disease.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

The House is preparing an article of impeachment against President Trump as rioters are being arrested across the country for their role in last week’s storming of the Capitol. But lost in that story is the reality that the coronavirus is at an all-time peak, with 300,000 Americans infected on a single day last week and as the U.S. death rate surpassed 4,000 a day. Today: a two-part update on the pandemic with my colleagues, Carl Zimmer and Abby Goodnough.

It’s Monday, January 11.

archived recording (boris johnson)

Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining the latest coronavirus press conference. It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus.

archived recording 1

Cases in London and the Southeast of England are skyrocketing.

archived recording 2

The new variant is out of control. And we need to bring it under control.

archived recording 3

And it’s been detected in at least 17 other countries.

archived recording 4

Unfortunately, we now know this U.K. variant is in Colorado. It’s in California.

archived recording

A man in the state of New York has now tested positive for COVID-19 with that same U.K. variant.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

The U.K. strain could be a game changer.

michael barbaro

Carl, where does the story of this British variant of the coronavirus start?

carl zimmer

The story starts around the beginning of December and actually in South Africa. There, scientists noticed that there’s a variant of the coronavirus that is spreading around very quickly. And it has them very worried. And so scientists in the United Kingdom take a look at those mutations in the virus and they say hmm, I wonder if any of our viruses have any of those mutations. And lo and behold, they find one lineage of viruses that has some of these mutations and a bunch of others. And they get really worried about it, because the more they look at it, the more they realize this variant is spreading like crazy throughout England. And once they make that announcement, scientists in other countries say, hey, oh, what if we have that, too? And so by the end of December in the United States, scientists are starting to find rare cases of this variant in states across the country, from California now all the way to New York. So it’s been here for a while. We don’t know how long. But our country has already been seeded with this variant.

michael barbaro

And what exactly is the mutation? What makes it different from the coronavirus that we have all come to know?

carl zimmer

Well, scientists right now only have some ideas. Right now, there are actually experiments going on in laboratories testing out this variant to see what it is that makes it biologically special. So we don’t know for sure. But there’s an idea that when you breathe in these viruses, they are stickier. So the coronavirus is covered with these flower-like proteins called spike. And when it’s floating around in your airway, these spike proteins can latch on to certain proteins on the surface of our own cells. And if they can get a tight grip, then they can basically pull themselves inside of our cells. And there they can replicate. So if you want to be successful as a coronavirus, you want to have a good spike protein that gets you into the cells of your host. Now, scientists suspect that maybe some of these mutations are giving it that improvement. In other words, the spike protein is grabbing on tighter onto our cells and giving that virus a better shot at making copies of itself.

michael barbaro

So just how much more effective is this mutated variant coronavirus at infecting people? Is it measurable?

carl zimmer

It is measurable, and the difference is big.

The way that epidemiologists talk about this is something called R0, or the reproductive number. And what that means, basically, is in a given situation, on average, how many people does an infected person infect? So if you have an R0 of 1, that means each person who’s infected on average just infects one more person. Now, scientists in England took a look at how this new variant did during a November lockdown compared to the other variants. With the other variants, the lockdown was fairly effective. They estimate that the R0 was 0.95. So it’s under 1, which is good. But the new variant under the same conditions had an R0 of 1.45.

michael barbaro

Oh wow.

carl zimmer

Yeah, that’s a lot higher. And that can make a big difference in terms of fueling an explosive growth in your outbreak, which, unfortunately, is exactly what is happening in the United Kingdom right now. And this new variant now has, in the past few months, essentially taken over the country.

michael barbaro

So doing a little bit of math here, 0.9 to 1.4, that’s about a 50 percent increase, which is very significant.

carl zimmer

Yeah, it’s about 50 percent better at getting from one person to another.

michael barbaro

And just how scary is that for those of us who don’t think about R0s and the math of transmission? Wouldn’t that seem to suggest that going about our lives the way we currently are, even with a mask on, having the kind of interactions that we are currently having, that might be 50 percent riskier?

carl zimmer

Yes, that’s right.

michael barbaro

So given that, I’m curious how behaviors are now supposed to change. Does six feet apart change to 10 feet apart, 12 feet apart, or what?

carl zimmer

I think maybe six feet apart changes to just stay at home, because anything you do that puts you at risk of an infection has now got a bigger risk. So if you go to the grocery store and maybe there was a 10 percent risk you had of breathing in a virus from an infected person in the line behind you, now that’s a 15 percent risk. If you just repeat that over and over and over again from person to person to person, you start to have a huge difference. And ordinary measures that we’re taking that we think are really effective lockdown measures may not be enough. We may have to look for more drastic measures to slow this thing down.

michael barbaro

And, Carl, drastic as in what?

carl zimmer

Well, for example, every American could be supplied with a high-quality mask and then be required to wear it outside. We could have massive testing, for example, at-home tests that people take every single day. We could do these sorts of things and really be much more aggressive at stopping this virus. And we’re going to need to be more aggressive because this virus is just better at getting around.

michael barbaro

Mhm. Carl, in our conversations with colleagues, including Donald G. McNeil Jr., we have been told that mutations in the coronavirus tend to make it less dangerous over time, not more dangerous — less lethal, not more lethal. Is that the case here?

carl zimmer

That does happen sometimes with some viruses. It doesn’t happen with all of them. And it certainly doesn’t happen right away. And in this case, there’s no evidence that this variant is any safer to get. Now, what we also are finding is that it’s not any more dangerous if you get this than if you get another variant of Covid. You still have the same kind of risk of ending up in the hospital. The problem is that because this seems to be so contagious, it means that overall, a lot more people are going to go into the hospital. And it also means a lot more people are going to die. We’re already seeing in the United Kingdom hospitals are being overwhelmed with Covid patients, many of whom have this new variant. So this may not be some terrible super killer variant. But it’s one that we have to take incredibly seriously.

michael barbaro

So Carl, at this point, just how widespread is the British variant within the United States?

carl zimmer

We don’t really know. We have found it in eight states. There have been 62 cases so far. But we’re not actually doing the kinds of tests that you need to do to really get a good look at what’s going on. We’re just sort of stumbling across the variant here and there. The United States is really basically flying blind.

michael barbaro

And why is that, Carl? Why are we not doing the testing required to tell us how widespread the variant is? That feels like something we all definitely want to know.

carl zimmer

It is something we want to know. And it’s something we need to know. But the United States has not invested in the kind of organization we need to do it. We can look to the United Kingdom as an example of how to do it right. In March, they set up a whole program to actually collect viruses on a massive scale and actually look at all of their genetic material, looking at what are called genomes of hundreds of thousands of viruses. We’re looking at a tiny, tiny fraction of that in a very disorganized fashion. Some states are doing a pretty good job. Some states haven’t sequenced any genomes at all. It’s disorganized. There is very little national leadership at this point. And this is what we’re left with.

michael barbaro

So Carl, given all of that, especially the depressing news of just how blindly we are flying, I think this naturally brings us to vaccines. Are the vaccines that have been approved in both the United Kingdom and the United States so far — from Pfizer, from Moderna — are they as effective against this new variant of the virus as the original version of it?

carl zimmer

Well, to get a definitive answer to that, you have to do experiments. And there has actually been one experiment so far that’s been released. And it turns out that the vaccine made by Pfizer is definitely effective against one of the key mutations in this new variant, one that people have been really worried about. And it seems fine. Now, there are other mutations that scientists are going to have to look at as well before we can really feel like we’re totally out of the woods. But I do think that we can be confident in these vaccines from what we know so far. And so what’s really important is that we get this vaccine as quickly as possible into as many people as possible.

michael barbaro

Right. This would seem to add extraordinary urgency to the rollout of the vaccine.

carl zimmer

Yeah, we’ve got to get people vaccinated. We have to still keep up these social distancing measures. We’ve got to get ahead of this thing, because otherwise, it’s going to really do us a lot of damage.

michael barbaro

Well, Carl, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

carl zimmer

Thank you.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Abby, we just spoke to our colleague, Carl Zimmer, about the dangers of the British variant of the coronavirus and the pressure it is putting on everyone to vaccinate as quickly as possible. And you have been tracking vaccinations in the U.S. And I recall that the U.S. government said that it wanted to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of December. But that did not happen. It is well into January. And the U.S. has distributed about 22 million doses. And of those 22 million doses, about 8 million have actually been injected into people’s arms, so fewer than half of the doses. So how do you account for that really significant gap, that failure to meet these goals and what feels like a pretty sluggish start to U.S. vaccinations?

abby goodnough

Well, there’s a million different reasons you could cite here. And every state has its own reasons. But there are some snow storms, some bad weather, including a big snowstorm in the Northeast that bogged things down. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have pointed to the holiday weeks really slowing things down. Staff was low. A lot of people were on vacation. That seems to be a big thing. And we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks if, in fact, things speed up and we can say yes, the holidays were a big factor. You know, there’s been some hesitancy, and sometimes a lot of hesitancy among health care workers to get the vaccine, depending on where you are in the country.

michael barbaro

So medical workers themselves are reluctant in some cases to take the vaccine.

abby goodnough

Yes. Now, what I hear in talking to hospital people is generally doctors are taking the vaccine. And lots of nurses are taking the vaccine, super eager. But there’s also a number of nurses who have not taken it and a number of support workers in hospitals also refusing it. Nursing home staff refusing it, sometimes in large numbers. The governor of Ohio said the other day that something like 60 percent of nursing home staff in his state who have been offered the vaccine so far have turned it down. So that kind of number really stops you and makes you wonder just how much this hesitancy is factoring into the sluggishness. But then we have other states, like Massachusetts, where the governor said maybe 10 percent of nursing home staff have turned it down, which is perhaps more along the lines of what we’d expect. So I think there’s real variation depending on what part of the country we’re in.

michael barbaro

Gotcha. So the main takeaway when we think about why this has been slow is that there are more reasons than we can really keep track of at this point in the process.

abby goodnough

There’s a lot of reasons that are really hard to quantify. But one thing I’m noticing that’s really interesting is this question that’s emerging about how the C.D.C. guidelines are affecting the speed of the rollout in different states.

michael barbaro

Huh. So describe this question, this debate.

abby goodnough

So the C.D.C. put out these guidelines last month on who should get vaccinated first. You probably heard about them. It starts with health care workers and nursing home residents and the staff who works in the nursing homes. And they’re not requirements. They’re not hard-and-fast rules that the states have to follow. And so some people think following these guidelines really strictly is creating a bottleneck in the system, especially when, for whatever reason, many reasons, you don’t have enough health care workers or nursing home residents to vaccinate on a given day or in a given week and you get a lot of vaccines sitting around in the freezer. And the other camp says that those guidelines are there for a reason. When you do have very limited amount of vaccine, they’re really good advice on who needs it most. And also, when you start allowing multiple groups to have access to the vaccine at once, it just creates a lot of chaos.

michael barbaro

Mhm. And I have to imagine that different states are choosing to handle these federal guidelines very differently.

abby goodnough

Right. It’s up to each state how they distribute their supply of vaccine. And it’s definitely all over the map. And probably the two states that have represented the extremes of these two arguments are New York and Florida.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

Good Monday morning.

michael barbaro

And tell me about New York first. How is it handling these guidelines?

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

These vaccines are a valuable commodity.

abby goodnough

So initially, Governor Cuomo was sticking really strictly to the guidelines.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

You’re going to have some people who don’t want to receive the vaccine. I understand that. But you’re going to have a lot of people who want the vaccine desperately.

abby goodnough

He talked about fining hospitals who gave shots to anyone who wasn’t a frontline health care worker.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

If there is fraudulent vaccination, that is very serious. That provider will lose their license, period.

abby goodnough

He was really using strong language to warn against anyone daring to flout the state rules.

archived recording (andrew cuomo)

I don’t care if you’re a doctor, you’re a nurse. It’s a crime in my opinion.

abby goodnough

And as a result, there were a lot of older people in New York who were really frustrated, really ruminating and anxious about when the vaccine was going to be available to them.

michael barbaro

Mhm. OK, so what is the situation in Florida, by contrast?

abby goodnough

In Florida, Governor DeSantis decided he was going to do things a little differently. He is prioritizing health care workers and nursing home residents. But he’s also putting in that immediate first group senior citizens. Everybody over the age of 65 is now in the group that’s allowed to get a vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.

michael barbaro

Huh. And what is Governor DeSantis’s explanation, his rationale for breaking with the C.D.C. guidelines?

archived recording (ron desantis)

Well, good morning. It’s great to be in Palm Beach County. I want to thank the county mayor.

abby goodnough

So Governor DeSantis has talked about this a bit —

archived recording (ron desantis)

You have people who fought in World War II, survived the Holocaust.

abby goodnough

— and said just how important it is to reach the people who he calls “The Greatest Generation.”

archived recording (ron desantis)

And we have a responsibility to stand by those folks who’ve done so much to make our state and country what it is today.

abby goodnough

And this is also his political base. So lots of people over 65 are Republicans in Florida. So that’s a factor. But it’s not the only factor.

michael barbaro

And how are Floridians responding to DeSantis’s approach here?

abby goodnough

Well there’s huge, huge demand in Florida, as you might imagine, with the huge senior citizen population down there. And it’s a big mess. Some people have heard about vaccination events and shown up and waited in huge, long lines, even overnight, hoping they’ll get a vaccine — sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Others have spent hours, a whole day online trying to score an appointment through these very new registration sites for vaccination events. Again, some succeed. Many do not. A lot of these sites are crashing from overuse in just the first few hours. So no matter how persistent and eager you are, there’s still a good chance you’re not going to get an appointment for a vaccination just yet. And that’s super frustrating to people down there.

michael barbaro

So clearly we have a very significant division here in strategy: strict adherence to the C.D.C. guidelines in New York, and a much looser — or I guess you could call it flexible — approach in Florida. And since we are talking here about the sluggish pace of the vaccine rollout in the United States, which is working better? Which is seeming more efficient?

abby goodnough

Well, if you look at the data, and we know that the data lags and is not entirely accurate, but the data we have now from the C.D.C says these two states are basically tied in the amount of vaccine they have administered and the number of shots they’ve gotten into arms so far.

michael barbaro

And are either state’s numbers considered impressive in the grand scheme of the 50 states or not?

abby goodnough

You know what? I’m really cautious to say what’s impressive and not at this point, given the extremely limited data we have. And we’re still in such early days. But just after the holidays, neither Florida nor New York were doing an especially great job of giving out the doses they had. But what’s interesting is last week, the Trump administration came out and started to suggest the Florida way was the way to go and that everyone else should follow their lead.

archived recording

We have U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. He joins us now this morning. Dr. Adams, thank you for talking with us this morning.

abby goodnough

We heard Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, come out and say, you know what —

archived recording (dr. jerome adams)

If the demand isn’t there in 1A, go to 1B and continue on down. And if the demand isn’t there in one location, move those vaccines to another location.

abby goodnough

— go to the next priority group and continue on down the line to the next and the next.

archived recording (dr. jerome adams)

— priority group. So your headline today really should be, “surgeon general tell states and governors to move quickly to other priority groups.”

michael barbaro

Hmm, so how do you explain that? Because from what you just said, letting people jump the line, violating the C.D.C. guidelines, that was not speeding things up. But here, the federal government was saying you should break from the guidelines.

abby goodnough

Well, I think part of it is political. And there’s just so much pent-up demand for this vaccine, so much anxiety and angst and anger about wanting it now that the administration is really feeling some pressure about that. In fact, Governor Cuomo in New York got pressured into a similar strategy this past Friday after lots of people around the state had concluded he was being too slow. It was partly due to news coming out that at least some clinics were ending up throwing away unused vaccine because they were afraid to flout his rules and give it to people who weren’t in the health care group.

michael barbaro

Right, and that’s just about everyone’s nightmare in this moment — vaccines being tossed out and not used.

abby goodnough

Right, once the vials are opened, there is only a pretty finite amount of time you can keep them around before you have to throw them away. So it’s use it or lose it. And there’s also just a lot of vaccine sitting in freezers still untapped. So there was this growing disbelief and upset about that fact. And people really leaned hard on Cuomo to ease up on his restrictions. And he did just that. So at this point, Cuomo has gotten much closer to the Florida strategy. Florida has opened it to everybody 65 and up. Cuomo is sticking for now to people 75 and older. And he’s also opened it up to certain essential workers. But it’s basically taking a page from the Florida playbook.

michael barbaro

So despite these original guidelines, which a lot of experts saw as important and worth adhering to, it sounds like lots of government officials, federal officials, state officials seem to be coming around to the idea that what’s most needed in this moment is flexibility and just getting as many doses in as many arms as possible.

abby goodnough

Yes. And, in fact, President-elect Biden is thinking about a whole different kind of flexibility right now. His team said Friday he’s going to go to an approach of releasing all the vaccine supply the country has on hand once he gets into office, rather than keeping half of it in reserve to make sure people get their booster doses. That, of course, comes with its own potential problems, such as potentially not having enough on hand for people to get that absolutely required second dose. But it’s going to push more vaccine into the system more quickly.

michael barbaro

But Abby, what Biden is proposing, wouldn’t that potentially just overburden an inefficient system that is, as you have described here, already struggling to administer the doses it has?

abby goodnough

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a huge risk, just from what we’re seeing in a place like Florida so far, which cannot begin to keep up with the enormous demand. And I expect we’re going to see the same thing in New York starting this week. We have to make sure the infrastructure is in place to accommodate all these people getting their vaccines en masse. And I don’t think most of the states are there yet. And it’s just begun. The fine tuning is in process.

michael barbaro

So Abby, I wonder what you think will get the United States back on track with its goal, which, as we said, has already been widely missed. 20 million doses in December — that didn’t happen. Millions of doses sitting on shelves not being administered at this moment. This British variant of the coronavirus is moving invisibly without enough U.S. testing around the country. What’s your sense of what’s going to be necessary to really pick up the pace of vaccinations in the U.S.?

abby goodnough

Well, one good thing that’s happening that’s really promising is that the states forever were saying we’re not getting any money from the federal government for planning and preparation for the vaccination campaign — the biggest vaccination campaign in our country’s history by far. Now through the most recent stimulus package, they’ve gotten $8 billion for that purpose. It’s the amount that they had asked for, that they said was necessary. So that’s one thing that is promising on the horizon. I think also states and hospitals and health departments are right now in the process of figuring out what is a good idea and what just is not working. They really are building the plane as they fly it.

michael barbaro

We’re going to get better at this is what you’re saying.

abby goodnough

We’re absolutely going to get better at this.

I think the next few weeks will be really important to watch. And if we still see as much lagging as we saw in the last few weeks, that’s going to suggest trouble moving forward. I’m hopeful that there’s a real pick-up in the next week or two or three and everybody gets a lot better at this quickly.

michael barbaro

Well, Abby, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

abby goodnough

Thanks so much.

michael barbaro

As of Sunday night, more than 22 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus. Around 131,000 are hospitalized because of it. And more than 373,000 have died from it. We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. Democrats in the House of Representatives say they may vote as soon as the middle of the week on an article of impeachment that would charge President Trump with inciting a violent mob that attacked the Capitol. The House will first pass a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and take power from the president, something Pence is not expected to do. The House will then turn to impeachment. But the number three Democrat in the House, Representative James Clyburn, said Democrats are considering holding off on immediately sending the impeachment charge to the Senate, which must hold a trial, to prevent a trial from consuming the opening days of the Biden administration.

archived recording (james clyburn)

Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running. And maybe we’ll send the articles some time after that.

michael barbaro

Over the weekend, two Republicans in the Senate called on Trump to resign, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who argued that there is not enough time for an impeachment.

archived recording (chuck todd)

In your view, what is the most appropriate way for Donald Trump to exit office?

archived recording (pat toomey)

Well, I think the best way for our country, Chuck, is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible. I acknowledge that may not be likely. But I think that would be best.

michael barbaro

And a major crackdown on President Trump’s social media accounts based on his incitements has left him with few ways to communicate with his supporters online. The suspension of Trump’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat prompted many of his supporters to flock to Parler, a social network that has attracted millions of far-right conservatives and where many of the president’s supporters have gathered before the storming of the Capitol. Then, over the weekend, both Apple and Google said they would remove Parler from their app stores. And Amazon said it would kick Parler off its web hosting service, essentially taking the platform offline unless it finds a new hosting service.

kara swisher

Going into the Capitol building to do this, if it was organized on your site, what should happen on your site?

michael barbaro

In explaining their decision, both Apple and Amazon cited an interview that Parler’s C.E.O., John Matze, gave to my colleague Kara Swisher on her podcast “Sway” — an interview conducted during the attack.

john matze

Look, if it was illegally organized and against the law on what they were doing, they would have gotten it taken down. But I don’t feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we’re a neutral town square that just adheres to the law. So if people are organizing something, that’s more of a problem of people are upset.

michael barbaro

Today’s episode was produced by Luke Vander Ploeg, Daniel Guillemette, Rachel Quester and Austin Mitchell. It was edited by Paige Cowett, M.J. Davis Lin and Larissa Anderson, and engineered by Chris Wood.

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

In November, most of the worst-affected states were in the Upper Midwest and Mountain West. Wisconsin had been a focus for its startling positivity rates — over 30 percent at one point — and its field hospitals reopening. As soon as those cases started to decline, states like Indiana, Kansas and Rhode Island had surges.

“It never really dropped,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We transferred risk from one area to another.”

He believes people restrict their socializing habits when they experience an outbreak and then relax them when the numbers go down, leading to new surges.

Here’s a snapshot of how the five worst-off states are grappling with the virus:

  • Arizona, for the second time, is shattering its records and reporting more new cases each day per capita than any other state. Nearly 5,000 Arizonans were hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday — more than in July, the state’s previous peak. Vaccines are being administered at among the lowest rates in the country.

  • California’s devastating surge is concentrated in the southern part of the state, where emergency rooms have had to shut their doors to ambulances for hours at a time. Nearly one in 10 people have tested positive for the virus in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous. The surge of hospitalizations has caused problems for the oxygen delivery and supply system used by medical facilities.

  • In Oklahoma, daily caseloads have increased 40 percent in the past two weeks. Overstretched hospitals have put patients in hallways and converted conference rooms into treatment areas, The Tulsa World reported. The state’s online vaccine portal, to avoid crashing, took up to 48 hours to send emails confirming registrations, causing confusion for many.

  • Rhode Island, which aggressively handled its spring surge, has the worst outbreak of any Northeastern state. After the start of the school year in early September, case numbers began climbing steadily and have not slowed. It had a seven-day average of 130 cases per 100,000 people, the highest per capita rate in the country. One factor, experts say, is the state’s population, which is poorer, older and more densely packed than its neighbors’.

  • South Carolina has more than doubled its average cases over the past two weeks. More than 30 percent of coronavirus tests given over the past week were positive, according to state data, and five counties reported their hospitals’ acute care beds were full, The Post and Courier reported. The state ranks among the nation’s lowest in its vaccine administration rate, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data compiled by The State, with many health care workers hesitant to get inoculated.







Newsom Broadens Who Can Administer Vaccines

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California described an “all-hands-on-deck approach” that will allow a wider range of health care workers, including pharmacists and dentists, to administer the coronavirus vaccine.

We are sending an urgent call across the spectrum, our health care partners, our legislative partners, as well as labor and business partners up and down the state, this notion of an all-hands-on-deck approach to accelerate the equitable and safe distribution of vaccines. Again, we’re not losing sight of the issue of equity. We’re not losing sight of the imperative to prioritize the most vulnerable and the most essential. So that’s why we talk about our special efforts to vaccinate the vaccinators as part of an all hands on deck — the slide that represents the number of categories of individuals and groups that can currently vaccinate. And you can see the myriad of different registered nurses, physician assistants and the like. But we recognize more folks need to have that ability. And that’s why you recall a week or so ago, we talked about our efforts on pharmacists and pharm techs. We’re seeing more and more paramedics partnering with the counties. Local health officers are encouraging this and we are very supportive of EMTs as this local option for additional vaccinators to help administer these vaccines faster.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom of California described an “all-hands-on-deck approach” that will allow a wider range of health care workers, including pharmacists and dentists, to administer the coronavirus vaccine.CreditCredit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

California officials on Monday described widespread efforts to speed up vaccinations as the state continues to struggle with a tsunami of new Covid-19 cases that have stretched hospitals to their limits.

The state has loosened what leaders have described for weeks as a carefully drafted, strict vaccine prioritization and is moving into what Gov. Gavin Newsom called an “all-hands-on-deck approach.”

That includes transforming Dodger Stadium from one of the nation’s biggest and most visible Covid-19 testing sites into a mass vaccination center; the San Diego Padres’ stadium and the state fairgrounds in Sacramento were also being set up as vaccination sites, the governor said.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors said Monday that the county’s first of five planned “super” vaccination sites would open this week at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, which has been closed for much of the pandemic. Vaccinations will be available by appointment to everyone in “Phase 1a,” which includes frontline health care workers, paramedics, dentists and pharmacists.

Mr. Newsom said that as of Sunday, the state had received almost 2.5 million doses of the vaccines, and that 783,476 had been administered.

The state’s vaccine plan laid out phases and tiers to ensure that millions of health care workers and people living in nursing homes — the top priority groups — would be vaccinated first, followed by vulnerable groups, including those 75 and older, and teachers.

But as The Los Angeles Times recently reported, surprisingly large numbers of health care workers in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties were declining to be inoculated. And relatively few people in the state have gotten vaccine doses, compared with other states and territories, according to a New York Times tracker.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, said in the Monday news conference that the state is working with counties and other local public health leaders to distribute vaccines to those who both need them and want them — without allowing wealthy people to cut the line.

Mr. Newsom said the state has allowed a broader range of workers to administer vaccines, including pharmacists and dentists, and is rolling out a public awareness campaign in 18 languages.

“People have said, ‘Well, what about sending in the National Guard?’” he said. “Well, we have the National Guard out there,” administering vaccines; Mr. Newsom also said that there are urgent efforts to “vaccinate the vaccinators.”

While public health leaders in California said on Monday there were signs that the surge may be plateauing, they also cautioned that the state is far from out of the woods.

The daily average of Covid-19 deaths in California over the last seven days is 480, according to a New York Times database. Intensive care units in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are still full, Mr. Newsom said, and in the Bay Area, a stay-at-home order was likely to be extended, because of low intensive care unit capacity in the region. Mr. Newsom said that in the next week, 1,000 more contract health care workers were set to help California’s exhausted doctors, nurses and more.

The governor also announced the positive tests of two San Diego Zoo gorillas on Monday, saying that the state was concerned about “our beloved gorillas.” “As I often say to you, what tends to resonate in my house I also want to make public,” Mr. Newsom said, referring to his wife and four young children.

Teachers set up their computers and materials for virtual classes outside Chicago’s Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School on Monday in solidarity with pre-K educators ordered back into the building. 
Credit…Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press

Students returned to public school buildings in Chicago on Monday for the first time since March, even as the city’s teachers union continued to attack the reopening plan as reckless and demand that it be halted.

About 6,000 prekindergarten and special education students were expected for in-person instruction, but it was unclear how many showed up.

In an early morning news conference outside the Nathan S. Davis Elementary School, union members said that 10 to 20 prekindergarten students had signed up for in-person instruction but that all of them had pulled out last week, when, perhaps not coincidentally, the union mounted a full-court press to convince parents that the reopening plan was unsafe.

Some parents “quite frankly were pretty upset to see teachers being forced into the buildings and not having all the proper equipment,” said Kate O’Rourke, a prekindergarten special education teacher.

Only prekindergarten and some special education students were eligible to return to schools this week. The rest of kindergarten through eighth grade students are eligible to return on Feb. 1. The district, the nation’s third largest, has not set a date for high school students to return.

Janice K. Jackson, the district’s chief executive, said that a majority of teachers had shown up to schools on Monday as required, but declined to be more specific. On Friday, less than 60 percent of the teachers who had been called back to prepare for the students’ return showed up. Dr. Jackson had warned the teachers on Friday that any who stayed home without permission would not be paid.

“The purpose right now and the focus for me today is not on any resistance but making sure we can educate our kids,” Dr. Jackson said, “and we started school today successfully.”

On Monday, Boston Public Schools announced that it had reached an agreement with its teachers union that would allow the city to begin having more students back to classrooms.

Under a tentative timeline, the district would welcome back some especially vulnerable younger students — including some students with disabilities and limited English — the week of Feb. 1, followed by students in the rest of kindergarten through third grade the week of March 1.

Fourth graders through high school students would phase in over the following four weeks. Currently, almost all of the district’s approximately 52,000 students learn remotely.







‘We Have Work to Do’: More New Yorkers Receive Vaccine

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced on Monday that the city has begun administering coronavirus vaccines to residents aged 75 and older as well as a wider range of essential workers.

We fought hard for the freedom to vaccinate. Now we have it. Starting today, we can reach New Yorkers over 75 years old, the most vulnerable people, our seniors, our elders, we can reach them today. And we can reach so many of the people who serve us — our first responders, our essential workers. It’s a very exciting moment, a very important moment. A lot of work to do now. We’ve gotten the freedom. Now we have work to do to reach each and every person ready to get vaccinated. We have more and more sites opening up, including our 24/7 sites. And this is very exciting because there’s a lot of people ready to get the vaccine, literally all hours of the day, and we’ll be able to accommodate them in all five boroughs. For the week starting today, the goal is 175,000 New Yorkers — 175,000 doses given this week. We feel very good about that goal. We feel very good about our goal to vaccinate a million people in the course of the month of January.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced on Monday that the city has begun administering coronavirus vaccines to residents aged 75 and older as well as a wider range of essential workers.CreditCredit…David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters

New York on Monday began giving vaccines to residents 75 and older as well as a wider range of essential workers, as state health officials expanded the group of people eligible to receive the vaccine.

The updated inoculation guidelines came last week after days of pressure from Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City and an outcry over medical providers having to throw out vaccine doses because of challenges finding patients who precisely matched the state’s strict vaccination guidelines.

“We fought hard for the freedom to vaccinate,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference on Monday. “Now we have it.”

Among the essential workers now permitted to receive the vaccine statewide are police officers, firefighters, teachers and school administrators, public transit workers, public-facing grocery store workers and people living or working in homeless shelters who sleep or eat alongside others outside their household.

Mr. de Blasio said that 55,000 people had already scheduled appointments to be vaccinated at city-run sites. Overnight appointments between midnight and 4 a.m. were fully booked, he added.

In a television interview, the city’s police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said that 400 police officers received a dose of the vaccine in the first hour of the department’s vaccination efforts.

City health officials planned to push particularly hard to inoculate older New Yorkers, who are at higher risk of severe illness from the virus. To assist in this effort, the city set up a new website and phone system (1-877-VAX4-NYC) to help connect people with appointments. But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has warned that the eligibility expansion will move slowly and that it could take until mid-April to fully vaccinate the current groups, which total about five million New Yorkers statewide.

The city has also pushed in recent days to accelerate the pace of vaccinations. Mr. de Blasio said 101,799 doses were given last week, higher than the goal of 100,000 he had previously set.

This week, city health officials aimed to see 175,000 doses of the vaccine administered. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said the city had 230,000 doses on hand and expected another 100,000 to be delivered this week.

On Saturday, state health officials abruptly loosened guidelines, allowing medical providers to administer the vaccine to any employees who interact with the public if there are extra doses in a vial and no one from “the priority population can come in before the doses expire,” the new guidelines read. A pharmacy’s “store clerks, cashiers, stock workers and delivery staff” could qualify, the guidelines said.

The new, more forgiving guidelines highlight the difficulties the state has had in balancing the need to vaccinate vulnerable populations quickly with the imperative to prevent fraud and favoritism in the distribution process.

On Monday, Mr. Cuomo said during his annual State of the State address that vaccinating the majority of New Yorkers would be one of the state’s priorities this year.

To help do so, the state will recruit 1,000 fellows for a New York State Public Health Corps that will facilitate vaccination efforts. Mr. Cuomo also announced a program to train 100,000 New Yorkers as health care emergency volunteers and vowed to provide incentives for the manufacturing of medical supplies in New York to diminish the reliance on China.

In New York, 605,677 doses of the vaccine have been administered as of midafternoon on Monday, including 94,308 in long-term care facilities, Mr. Cuomo said on Twitter.

A medical worker preparing a dose of the Sputnik V vaccine in Moscow last month.
Credit…Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Russian vaccine scientists on Monday began a study to determine whether they can hasten the country’s campaign of coronavirus inoculations by providing only a single dose of its normally two-dose vaccine.

The idea, also under consideration in Britain and other countries, is that a single dose could provide more than half of the protection offered by a two-dose vaccine. While each vaccinated person would be less protected than if they had undergone the full inoculation cycle, the approach could potentially save more lives in the population as a whole.

Russia’s vaccine, called Sputnik V, uses two types of genetically modified human adenoviruses, which are common cold viruses. The new approach would administer only a single type of the cold virus in one shot, the group that developed the vaccine, the Gamaleya Research Institute, said on Monday.

The institute, part of the Russian Ministry of Health, will study the single-dose approach, called Sputnik Light, in 150 volunteers in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was not clear when it hoped for results or when Russia might decide whether to switch tack to a single-dose strategy.

The institute’s director, Aleksandr Gintsburg, said in December that the single shot was likely to prove about 85 percent effective but would vary for different categories of patients. The two-shot regime showed an efficacy rate of 91.4 in clinical trials. President Vladimir V. Putin suggested the new tactic in December.

In the United States, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to end the practice of reserving the second shots of two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for those who have received a first shot. His administration would instead distribute nearly all available vials immediately.

But Biden officials do not intend to forgo the second shot; vaccine production, they have said, is expected to ramp up to meet demand for second shots. The Food and Drug Administration has recommended against tweaking the dosage schedules, which have been carefully studied in clinical trials.


A medical worker filling a syringe with the Sputnik V vaccine at a clinic in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, last month.
Credit…Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

The Palestinian Authority has given emergency authorization to Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, Health Minister Mai al-Kaila announced on Monday.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed Sputnik V, said that a first batch of doses was expected to be delivered to the Palestinians in February. The organization did not say how many doses would be sent.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have not received any significant shipment of vaccines yet. In her statement, Ms. al-Kaila said that health workers would be inoculated first when the vaccine arrives.

It was not clear whether a major Sputnik V shipment would be the first to reach the territories. Ali Abed Rabbo, a senior Health Ministry official, said last week that the Palestinians hoped to receive two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in February. Health officials now say they expect those doses to arrive in March.

The Palestinian Authority asked Israel in late December to provide it with up to 10,000 doses of vaccine to inoculate frontline medical workers, but the Israelis turned down the request, according to Hussein al-Sheikh, the top Palestinian official in charge of coordinating with Israel.

Israeli officials have said that vaccinating Palestinians was not their obligation or responsibility. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry and human rights groups argue that international law obligates Israel to give doses to Palestinians living under occupation. Israeli officials have signaled that they may send doses to the Palestinian Authority once their own vaccination campaign is complete.

Israel has administered enough vaccines for 20 percent of its population so far, the highest proportion of any country, according to the research site Our World in Data, which is based at the University of Oxford.

In other developments around the world:

  • The health care system in Britain is facing “the worst weeks of this pandemic,” the government’s chief medical officer, Prof. Chris Witty, said on Monday, adding that hospitalizations in England had already far surpassed the spring’s peak. “This is an appalling situation,” Professor Witty told the BBC, warning that the impact of the vaccines would not be felt for several weeks. Seven new vaccination centers are set to open across England this week, with the government hoping to offer a vaccine to every adult by the fall.

  • The president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said in a statement on Monday. He is asymptomatic, the statement said, and will continue working while in quarantine.

  • Primary schools and kindergartens in Greece reopened on Monday after a two-month closure, as the authorities moved to partially lift a lockdown that has been in place since Nov. 7. The country’s secondary schools and universities remained closed, with lessons being conducted remotely.

  • The authorities in Lebanon tightened a nationwide lockdown Monday, including an 11-day, 24-hour curfew, The Associated Press reported. The move comes amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections and growing criticism of uncoordinated policies many blame for the spread of the virus. News of the restrictions to be implemented starting Thursday morning set off panicked grocery buying as people lined up outside supermarkets to stock up, raising fears the crowds could further spread the virus.

  • The city of Brisbane, Australia, will lift a strict three-day lockdown enforced last week after a case of the new variant of the coronavirus was recorded. The lockdown will end Monday evening, though masks will remain mandatory in crowded spaces in the city for 10 more days.

  • An annual ice and snow festival in China is going ahead as planned in the northeastern city of Harbin. The festival, which shut down early last year amid the coronavirus outbreak, opened last month. Visitors are required to show a “health code” on a contact-tracing app and have their temperatures checked before entering.

  • Indonesia authorized on Monday the emergency use of a Covid-19 vaccine made by Sinovac, a private Chinese company, after late-stage clinical data reaffirmed that the shot is effective. Inoculations are set to begin in the coming weeks with health workers, soldiers and police officers.

The second dose of coronavirus vaccine was given to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. three weeks after the first.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. received his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, completing his inoculation against Covid-19.

Mr. Biden took his first dose of the vaccine on Dec. 21. At least 151,000 people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, as of Jan. 8, according to a New York Times survey of all 50 states.

“My No. 1 priority is getting vaccine into people’s arms,” Mr. Biden said after taking a quick needle jab. The president-elect said he and his advisers are finalizing a plan to accelerate mass vaccinations nationwide that he will release on Thursday.

“Three to four thousand people dying a day is just beyond the pale,” he said.

Mr. Biden lamented that mask-wearing continues to be a politically divisive issue, and said he was “appalled” to hear that, during last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol, some Republican House members refused pleas from a Democratic colleague to don masks while they were crowded together in a secure protective location.

The United States reported 300,594 new cases on Friday and more than 4,100 deaths on Thursday, both single-day records, according to a Times database. In total, more than 376,000 have died from issues related to the virus in the United States.

The emergence of more contagious variants has added urgency to the country’s vaccine rollout, which has gotten off to a slow start.

Inside the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday. Following league protocol, the game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was postponed.
Credit…Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The N.B.A. postponed a game on Sunday between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics when the Heat did not have enough available players because of the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols. It was the second game of the season postponed after the protocols left a team short-handed.

“Because of ongoing contact tracing with the Heat, the team does not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with tonight’s game against the Celtics,” the league said in a statement.

The Celtics were also missing a significant portion of their roster on Sunday, including their stars. Less than a month in, the season is trending in the wrong direction, with a growing number of players missing games after testing positive for, or potentially being exposed to, the virus.

“We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned this season accordingly,” Mike Bass, a league spokesman, told The New York Times. “There are no plans to pause the season. We will continue to be guided by our medical experts and our health and safety protocols.”

Along with the Celtics and the Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls listed at least three players on their injury reports over the weekend in connection with the league’s virus protocols. Multiple other teams also had at least one player listed, a marked contrast from the N.B.A.’s conclusion to the 2019-20 season at the Walt Disney World campus in Florida over the summer. No games were postponed then, and no players were said to have tested positive.

The league’s injury reports do not say whether a player is out because he has tested positive or was just potentially exposed. A player who tests positive could be isolated for at least 10 days, and one who is exposed could be in quarantine for several days. Each week, the N.B.A. announces how many new players have tested positive. In its most recent report on Wednesday, four players had tested positive, up from zero the week before and two in the first week of play.

“We’re all dealing with a vast set of circumstances, so we’ve got to remain calm, and we’ve always got to have a plan for adversity,” Coach Rick Carlisle said before the Mavericks’ game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday, when Dallas was missing three players because of virus protocols. “We’ve been expecting that this sort of thing was certainly a realistic possibility, and now we’re dealing with it.”

Stephanie Ackerman, an independent college consultant in New Jersey, applied for support through the Paycheck Protection Program for her company, Tomorrow Today College Consulting, and received a $13 loan.
Credit…Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline for millions of small businesses brutalized by the pandemic. Over a four-month span, the government program distributed $523 billion in forgivable loans to more than five million companies. The average recipient got just over $100,000.

And then there were the roughly 300 business that received loans of $99 or less.

Judith Less, who runs a thrift shop in New Jersey, got $27. Nikki Smith, a baker and caterer in Oregon, collected $96. A.J. Burton, the founder of a record label in Arkansas, got $78. And Susana Dommar, a chiropractor in Texas, received a loan for just $1.

Stephanie Ackerman, a self-employed college admissions consultant, was shocked when her loan deposit, for $13, showed up in her bank account.

“That’s supposed to help my business? It was a joke,” said Ms. Ackerman, whose company, Tomorrow Today College Consulting in Red Bank, N.J., lost months of sales last spring as the coronavirus crisis took hold.

The tiny sums were equally frustrating for the banks and other lenders that made the government-backed loans. For each, they were paid 5 percent of the value — meaning they collected just pennies on the smallest loans, far less than they cost to make. Ms. Ackerman’s loan netted her lender, Bank of America, a fee of 65 cents, paid by the government.

The profusion of minuscule loans is yet another illustration of how the relief program’s hastily constructed rules sometimes led to absurd outcomes. And they’re poised to be repeated: In last month’s stimulus package, Congress allocated $284 billion to restart the loan program, which ended in August, and give a second round of loans to the hardest-hit businesses. Lending is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Orignially published in NYT.

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