Covid-19 Live Updates: C.D.C. Eases Mask Advice for Vaccinated People


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Biden Speaks Following C.D.C. Easing Mask Guidelines

President Biden spoke on Tuesday about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.

Cases and deaths are down, down dramatically from where they were when I took office on Jan. 20, and continuing to fall. This is particularly true for a group of Americans that we were most worried about when it came to the virus, senior citizens. When I took office in January, we were losing literally tens of thousands of our seniors each week, grandparents who were loved so dearly, moms and dads, pillars of every community. We have given 215 million shots. And that — anyone 16 years of age or older is now eligible to get the vaccine now, today, immediately. And because of the extraordinary progress we made in fighting this virus and the progress our scientists have made in learning about how it gets transmitted, earlier today, the C.D.C. made an important announcement: Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors, you need — and not in a big crowd — you no longer need to wear a mask.

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President Biden spoke on Tuesday about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.CreditCredit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

President Biden and federal health officials said Tuesday that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors in most situations except for large gatherings — a step, the president said, toward getting “life in America closer to normal” by his target date of the Fourth of July.

“Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends, in a park, going for a picnic,” Mr. Biden said, addressing reporters outside the White House on what he deemed “a beautiful day” in Washington. “As long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without wearing a mask.”

Just two days before he marks his 100th day in office, after U.S. coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths declined sharply since January, Mr. Biden remarked that Americans have made “stunning progress.” But his comments were tempered with caution — masks are still necessary at outdoor concerts or sporting events, he said — and he appealed to Americans who have not yet done so to roll up their sleeves and get a shot.

A short while earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines saying that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors if they’re walking, running, hiking or biking, either alone or with members of their household, and in small outdoor gatherings.

The risk of the virus spreading outdoors is so low that even unvaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask if they hike, jog, bike or run alone or with a household member, according to the C.D.C.’s updated advice.

People who haven’t gotten their shots can also go without a mask to small gatherings held outside as long as they are with fully vaccinated friends and family.

The guidelines were further relaxed for immunized people: They can take their masks off when they attend small gatherings with people who haven’t gotten their shots, and when they dine at a restaurant outside with people from several households.

The C.D.C. stopped short of telling even fully vaccinated people that they could shed their masks altogether in outdoor settings — citing the worrying risk that remains for transmitting the coronavirus, unknown vaccination levels among people in crowds and the still-high caseloads in some regions of the country.

But with the total number of vaccinations rising and the daily number of cases falling, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C. — who warned several weeks ago that she felt a sense of “impending doom” — said she now feels more “hopeful.”

The United States is averaging around 55,000 new cases a day, roughly a 20 percent drop from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

“I know the quarantine and shutdowns throughout the pandemic have been exhausting,” Dr. Walensky said. “I know we all miss the things we used to do before the pandemic and I know we all want to do the things we love and soon. Today is another day we can take a step back.”

Mr. Biden sought to link the news with the administration’s public campaign to get most American adults vaccinated by summer, and tried to offer reassurances that some semblance of normal life could return, concluding his brief remarks with a public service announcement for the vaccine.

In presenting the new guidelines for wearing masks, public health officials on Tuesday emphasized how people who are inoculated could enjoy mask-free leisure activities, rather than how the guidelines also lifted some restrictions for those who had not gotten their shots. It was a concerted message at a time when vaccination rates have dipped, causing concerns about hesitancy in harder-to-reach populations.

But the C.D.C. is maintaining its advice on other safety measures, saying all adults should continue wearing masks and staying six feet apart in large public spaces like outdoor performance or sports events, indoor shopping malls and movie theaters, where the vaccination and health status of others would be unknown. And they still should avoid medium and large gatherings, crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, officials said.

“I welcome less restrictive guidelines about masking outdoors,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “We know that transmission outdoors is much less likely to occur than indoors, because the virus cannot accumulate in the air outdoors. It’ll become rapidly diluted.”

But the guidelines themselves, which outline different masking recommendations for a variety of scenarios, seem overly complex, she said.

Americans have been whipsawed on the issue of mask-wearing advice since the beginning of the pandemic, when top health officials said people did not need them — in part because of severe shortages of protective gear for health care workers on the front lines.

And mask restrictions since then have been a patchwork from state to state, despite growing evidence of a mask’s protection for individuals and those around them.

But the pace of vaccinations has helped influence some easing of those limits. So far, about 42 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 29 percent have received both doses of the two vaccines requiring double shots.

Credit…Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.

“Scientifically the vaccines are good enough that it’s highly unlikely that someone who’s vaccinated is going to be exposed to enough virus outdoors to have a breakthrough infection,” Dr. Marr said.

Early evidence also suggests that vaccinated people may be significantly less likely to transmit the virus, but the exact risks are not yet known.

Masking and distancing are still generally recommended when gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household or with an unvaccinated person who is at high risk of severe illness from Covid, or who lives with a vulnerable person.

And there are scenarios in which wearing a mask outdoors can still be an important social signal, said Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University. For instance, no vaccine has yet been authorized for children under 16.

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C.D.C. Eases Outdoor Mask Guidelines

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remarked on Tuesday on the agency’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.

Today, C.D.C. is updating our recommendations for fully vaccinated people, and providing guiding principles and sample activities to give people who are fully vaccinated a way to assess their own risk for Covid-19, and determine what situations are safe. If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you than those who are not yet fully vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated, and want to attend a small outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated or dining at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, the science shows if you are vaccinated, you can do so safely unmasked. On the C.D.C. website, we have posted examples of numerous outdoor activities that are safe to do without a mask if you are fully vaccinated. For vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe. However, we continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues, such as packed stadiums and concerts, where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance and where many unvaccinated people may also be present.

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Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remarked on Tuesday on the agency’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.CreditCredit…Rosem Morton for The New York Times

The new guidance on mask-wearing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday says that masks can be shed for some relatively safe outdoor activities, especially by fully vaccinated people, because the virus does not spread readily outdoors.

But there are many circumstances where the new guidance still calls for masks to be worn outdoors, especially by unvaccinated people.

Here are some examples from the C.D.C.’s new guidance:

  • Walking, running, hiking or biking outdoors, alone or with members of the same household.

  • Attending a small outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.

For these kinds of activities, unvaccinated people should still wear masks and maintain social distance, the C.D.C. says.

  • Attending a crowded outdoor event, like a parade, sporting event or live performance.

  • Doing almost anything indoors that involves contact with people who are not members of your household. Examples include dining indoors at a restaurant; going to the movies, an indoor concert or theatrical performance; attending full-capacity worship services; traveling on an airline flight or riding mass transit; singing in a chorus indoors; taking part in an indoor exercise class; visiting a shopping mall or museum; getting a haircut or manicure; or attending an indoor social gathering.

Though most of these activities are much safer for fully vaccinated people than for the unvaccinated, the C.D.C. guidance says that everyone should still wear a mask to protect themselves and others. People are not likely to know the vaccine status of those around them, the guidance says, and it is not yet clear whether fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus while not becoming ill themselves. Unvaccinated people should also maintain social distance, the guidance says.

People wearing masks riding the Pirate Ship at Adventureland in Farmingdale, N.Y., this month.
Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered on Tuesday new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors, people across the United States are living under an often confusing patchwork of limits, one that could continue for some time.

Before the C.D.C.’s changes on Tuesday, 25 states had some form of statewide mask mandate, as did the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to a New York Times tracker of coronavirus restrictions across the country. In 24 other states there was no statewide mask mandate, while in Colorado masks could be required depending upon the number of cases diagnosed in a county.

But even within a state, mask mandates can vary based upon county or city. Kansas has no statewide mask mandates, but a number of cities and counties have their own orders. In Colorado, masks must always be worn in specific indoor locations — like schools, hospitals and government buildings — but in some counties with a high rate of new cases, they must also be worn in all public indoor settings with 10 or more people.

After the C.D.C.’s announcement on Tuesday, a handful of governors said they would relax their outdoor mask mandates. In Massachusetts, masks won’t be required unless it is not possible to social distance. Maine recommends wearing a mask outdoors when it’s difficult to stay distanced, and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Tuesday that “if you’re fully vaccinated, outdoors and not in a large crowd — you do not need to wear a mask.”

Some outdoor mask requirements are even more specific, especially as a number of states have recently loosened orders. Masks are now only required outdoors in Kentucky at events with more than 1,000 people. Delaware recently removed a mask mandate for outdoor low-risk and medium-risk youth sports.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that New York would adopt the C.D.C.’s guidance on outdoor mask wearing. “That is liberating, especially now that the weather is getting warmer,” he said at a news conference.

Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee announced the end of statewide public health orders and issued an executive order that ends the authority of local officials to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department. He also asked larger counties with their own health departments to lift restrictions like mask requirements by Memorial Day. The mayor of Knox County, which includes Knoxville, said Tuesday afternoon he would end a county mask mandate effective at midnight Tuesday.

Louisiana will lift its mask requirement for private businesses like restaurants and bars, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Tuesday, but will keep the mask mandate for schools, universities and public transit. Mr. Edwards said mask requirements by businesses and local governments should still be adhered to.

At a White House news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., stopped short of calling for states to end outdoor mask mandates. “States that have mask requirements outdoors, if people are vaccinated, we no longer feel the vaccinated people require masks outdoors,” she said. She said she continued to worry about protecting unvaccinated people at large outdoor public venues like concerts and sports stadiums.

As more than half of all American adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, mask mandates are often the last widespread public health order still in effect. Stay-at-home orders and forced business closures, measures sometimes used to try and stop the spread of the virus, have mostly been lifted across the country, though they persist in a few states.

Pharmacies in a federal vaccine program will set aside residency requirements to give second doses to those who got first shots elsewhere. A pharmacist in Los Angeles, Todd Gharibian, inoculates Toshiko Sugiyama.
Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Federal health officials said on Tuesday that they were directing nearly all drugstores and grocery-store pharmacies to offer second doses of Covid-19 vaccines to people who received their first shot from a different provider.

Growing numbers of Americans who received a first shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine are not getting their second shots, in part because of challenges with access. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 5 million people, or nearly 8 percent of those who were partially vaccinated, have missed getting their second dose.

Though that is not a high rate compared with those seen for multidose vaccines against other conditions, some states have been taking steps to prevent it from rising.

The new federal directive is aimed especially at encouraging college students who got their first shots on or near campus to get their second doses at home, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House’s senior adviser for Covid-19 response. To accomplish that, he said, pharmacies participating in a federal vaccine distribution program will set aside any residency requirements for vaccine recipients.

College students are a challenging group to get fully vaccinated. Many who became eligible recently got their first shot while still on campus, but will have left for the summer by the time they are due for their second shot.

Other recipients may have been unable to get a second appointment at their original provider or had an appointment that was canceled.

Many pharmacies were already giving out second vaccine doses to people who got first shots elsewhere. CVS stores, in particular, have become a destination for people scrambling to find a second shot, and a spokeswoman for Walgreens said her company was offering second doses without regard to where the first was administered.

New York City officials said on Tuesday that the city has taken a similar approach, allowing people to receive second shots at any city-run site. The problem is less pronounced in the city than it is nationally, with only about 5 percent of city residents missing their second dose, officials said.

People can schedule appointments at city sites in advance, or they can walk in. They need to bring proof of their first dose, like a C.D.C. vaccination card or an electronic record, to ensure that they receive the right vaccine within the recommended time.

“Our goal here is to keep reminding people to get that second dose however works best,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “We’re going to accommodate them and keep this progress moving.”

Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that getting a second dose at a different location than the first should be a last resort. “We want people to keep their second-dose appointments if they’ve already made them,” he said.

People dining outdoors at a restaurant in Manhattan in July. New Yorkers will soon be able to drink at bars and restaurants without the requirement of ordering food.
Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The leaders of the New York State Legislature said Tuesday they would move on the next day to suspend a coronavirus directive that required customers to order food when purchasing alcohol at bars and restaurants.

The food directive was originally imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in July 2020 in an attempt to keep patrons seated at tables and reduce mingling that could lead to large crowded gatherings, fueling the spread of the virus. The repeal of the rule would go into effect after passing both legislative chambers in Albany, which could happen this week.

The rule had been criticized by many, including the restaurant industry and many Republican lawmakers, as arbitrary and an unfair business regulation economically detrimental to bars that weren’t accustomed to serving food.

While some bars and restaurants had begun to eschew the directive in recent months, others came up with creative workarounds to comply with the rule, providing the bare minimum and cheapest option that would count as “food” under the governor’s directive.

For months, New Yorkers were compelled to pair their beer or cocktail order with microwaveable hot dogs, barely cooked grilled cheeses, hastily-prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, of course, “Cuomo chips.”

On Tuesday, many on social media were in a jocular and nostalgic mood as they bade farewell to the restriction and the eclectic food items they had been forced to order to enjoy an alcoholic drink over the past nine months.

“Rest in peace to the Cuomoritos (a $1 bag of Doritos) the place near us has been selling,” wrote one person.

Another user wrote: “I’m gonna miss you, random bag of lays chips.”

The announcement was the latest in a series of restrictions that officials have eased as more people in the state are vaccinated and government officials increasingly turn their attention to New York’s economic recovery.

Last month, Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, expanded indoor dining capacity for New York City restaurants to 50 percent, up from 35 percent. And earlier this month, he extended the curfew for bars and restaurants from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.

The restaurant industry welcomed the announcement, while calling for other restrictions to also be lifted.

“The public health justification for the food rule was always questionable, so this is good news because it is past time to repeal it,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an industry group. “But the state also needs to repeal the rule prohibiting customers from sitting at a bar in New York City, which doesn’t make sense when you can sit at a table six feet away, and they should modify the midnight curfew.”

The move by the legislature comes a few months after it curtailed Mr. Cuomo’s emergency powers, a sharp rebuke to the governor that gave lawmakers additional oversight over the pandemic response.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said on Tuesday that, given the state’s coronavirus data, “lifting this Covid-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days.”

Participants at Burning Man climbed onto an art installation titled “Night of the Climb” in 2018. Organizers said on Tuesday that the annual festival would resume in 2022.
Credit…Andy Barron/The Reno Gazette-Journal, via Associated Press

Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts event that typically draws tens of thousands of people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, has been canceled again this year because of the pandemic, but will return in 2022, organizers announced on Tuesday.

The decision to forgo building the event’s makeshift temporary metropolis, known as Black Rock City, in late August came after months of deliberations among organizers, who sought feedback from past participants on issues like vaccination requirements and racial diversity. With vaccinations mounting across the nation, expectations were high that the festival, which began in San Francisco in 1986 and moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, would resume this year after being called off in 2020.

“But, although here in the United States we may be feeling the weight lifting and the light at the end of the tunnel brightening, we are still in the pandemic, and the uncertainties that need to be resolved are impossible to resolve in the time we have,” organizers said on their website, The Burning Man Journal.

The return of Burning Man — with its towering art installations, all-night dance parties under the stars, and desert-roaming vehicles shaped like Pac Man ghosts and fire-spewing sea creatures — had for many participants become a litmus test in the nation’s collective journey back to some semblance of normalcy.

Some groups of attendees who camped together at the event had already announced that they would not return in 2021 because of concerns about public health and about affordability, given the economic pain the pandemic has inflicted on many people.

But many others were planning to attend, and certain camps were told as recently as Monday by organizers that they would be eligible for specific quantities of tickets, which only added to the sense of disappointment on Tuesday.

Emily Nicolosi, a research assistant professor at the University of Utah who has attended Burning Man, said she had been working for months to build a collection of large sculptures for display at the event this year.

“I’m pretty devastated,” she said on Tuesday, though she noted that organizers have allowed artists to keep the grant money they received for art projects.

Ms. Nicolosi said she did not fault the organizers for making the difficult decision to hold off until 2022. “It’s a hard choice, but I think they did the right thing to wait,” she said.

A state-run mass vaccination site at the Javits Center in New York earlier this month.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

All state-run mass vaccination sites in New York will allow anyone 16 or older to walk in without an appointment and get their first dose, beginning on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

Walk-in vaccinations will be available at state-run sites in New York City, like the Javits Center in Manhattan and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, as well as on Long Island and in upstate cities like Albany and Syracuse, the governor said.

Second doses will still be given by appointment, which will be scheduled after the first dose is administered.

“Just show up, and roll up your sleeve, and the mass vaccination sites have the capacity to handle it,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Other kinds of vaccine providers in the state, like pharmacies and sites run by cities and counties, will have the option to start allowing walk-ins as well, a step the governor encouraged.

New York had already begun allowing some vaccinations without prior appointments. Mr. Cuomo announced last week that people 60 and over could walk in for vaccination at 16 state-run sites. And Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced last week that city-run vaccination sites would let anyone eligible walk in for a shot.

Allowing walk-ins simplifies a process that bedeviled many New Yorkers earlier in the pandemic, when obtaining a vaccine appointment often took hours of online searching and some luck as well. The new policy may also draw out people who are still hesitant to get vaccinated, Mr. Cuomo said.

“This is our way of saying, if you were intimidated by the process of trying to make an appointment, that’s gone,” the governor said.

He said it was feasible to allow more walk-ins because fewer vaccinations were being administered across the state now — about 115,000 doses a day — than a few weeks ago, when the state peaked at about 175,000 doses a day.

“The demand is reducing, fewer people are asking for appointments,” Mr. Cuomo said.

State data show that just under 45 percent of New York residents, or just over 8.9 million people, had received at least one dose of the vaccine by Tuesday morning.

Mr. Cuomo also announced at the news conference that New York would adopt the new C.D.C. guidance that fully vaccinated people can safely engage in most outdoor activities without masks.

Reports of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined in the state, according to a New York Times database, but the risk of infection still remains very high in New York City, where some troublesome variants of the virus appear to be on the rise.

A Sputnik V vaccine production line in Saint Petersburg, Russia in February.
Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s health authority said late Monday that it would not recommend importing Sputnik V, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Russia.

The need for vaccines is urgent in Brazil: The country has been battered by one of the world’s worst outbreaks, driven by the highly contagious P. 1 virus variant.

But the health authority, Anvisa, said that questions remained about the Russian vaccine’s development, safety and manufacturing. All five of Anvisa’s directors voted against importing the vaccine.

Data about Sputnik V’s efficacy was “uncertain,” Gustavo Mendes Lima Santos, Anvisa’s manager of medicine and biological products, said in a lengthy late-night presentation. He noted that “crucial questions” had gone unanswered, including those about potential adverse events.

Russia is using Sputnik V in its own mass vaccination campaign, and the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in dozens of countries. A peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet in February said the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent.

Brazil’s decision prompted a response at the highest level of the Russian government, which has been energetically promoting Sputnik V in Latin America at a time when the United States has limited its vaccine exports to reserve doses for its own citizens.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Tuesday that the Russian government would try to win over the Brazilian regulators’ minds about the vaccine’s safety. “Contacts will continue,” Mr. Peskov said on a conference call with journalists. “If data is missing, it will be provided. There should be no doubt in this.”

The official Sputnik V Twitter account have also pushed back, with a post in Portuguese on Monday saying that the vaccine’s developers had shared “all the necessary information and documentation” with Anvisa. In another tweet, it said Anvisa’s decision “was of a political nature” and had “nothing to do with access to information or science.” It alleged that the United States had persuaded Brazil to deny approval.

Anvisa officials were under immense pressure to deliver a decision on Sputnik V, because Brazilian states had contracts to buy almost 30 million doses. The Supreme Court ordered Anvisa to make a decision.

“The days of yes to the vaccine and to treatments are celebrated,” Alex Machado, an Anvisa director, said. “There will inevitably be days of no.”

Gov. Camilo Santana of Ceará, one of the states with a Sputnik V contract, said on Twitter that he respected Anvisa’s decision but found it strange, given that Sputnik V is being used in other countries. “I will keep fighting for this authorization, in a safe manner, following all the rules,” he said.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, developed the vaccine, also known as Gam-Covid-Vac. The shot has been entangled in politics and propaganda, with President Vladimir V. Putin announcing its approval even before late-stage trials had begun.

Ana Carolina Moreira Marino Araújo, the general manager of the Anvisa department that inspects vaccine development, said at the meeting that Brazilian officials could not perform a full inspection of the Russian facilities.

She said officials who were in Russia last week were denied access to the Gamaleya Institute and inspected only two factories, finding problems in one of them. She also said Russian officials had tried to cancel the agency’s visit.

“At this moment, the inherent risk in manufacturing couldn’t be overcome,” Ms. Araújo concluded.

Global Roundup

Walking near the Acropolis in Athens last month.
Credit…Byron Smith for The New York Times

Greece lifted quarantine requirements on Monday for arrivals from seven more countries, including Russia and Australia, continuing an easing of rules for foreign visitors before a formal reopening to tourists on May 15.

Last week, Greece ended quarantine restrictions for visitors from European Union member states as well as the United States, Britain, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates. The steps were similar to those put in place in March for arrivals from Israel, which has been far ahead of most of the world in vaccinations.

Greece is also stopping restrictions this week for visitors from New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda and Singapore.

Greece had previously required arrivals to quarantine themselves for seven days. It is waiving that rule for passengers from the listed countries as long as they produce a vaccination certificate or the results of a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours of their arrival.

After heavy economic losses in 2020, the Greek authorities are determined to save this year’s summer tourist season despite experiencing a severe third wave of coronavirus infections. Health officials have said the infection rate is stabilizing, though slowly. Greek health officials have reported more than 334,000 infections and more than 10,000 deaths from the virus, according to a New York Times database.

A new concern is the appearance of the coronavirus variant that is believed to be fueling the worsening outbreak in India. On Sunday, health officials recorded the second case of that variant in Greece, found in a 33-year-old foreign woman who had traveled to Dubai in early April.

Greece’s high infection rate remains a worry for some governments. The U.S. State Department has advised against travel to Greece, citing a “very high level” of coronavirus cases. Greek health officials have expanded testing in recent weeks as they gradually lift lockdown restrictions, with bars and restaurants scheduled to reopen on May 3 after a six-month hiatus.

In other updates from around the world:

  • New Zealand said it would allow quarantine-free travel from Western Australia to resume on Wednesday, after a three-day pause prompted by two coronavirus cases in the Australian city of Perth. Travelers who have been identified as contacts of the infected Australians — a man believed to have been infected in hotel quarantine, and a woman he later stayed with — will have to self-isolate and test negative for the virus before departure, according to New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins.

  • The authorities in Portugal said they might lift a state of emergency as early as the end of this month after reporting zero deaths from the virus on Monday. It was the first such day since August. The infection rate in Portugal has recently fallen to one of the lowest levels in Europe. Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is giving a televised address on the subject Tuesday evening.

  • At first, getting the vaccine itself was the prize for older people in Russia seeking protection from the coronavirus. But with vaccinations slowing in Moscow, the city government began a program on Tuesday to encourage turnout with gift certificates. Residents over 60 will receive a voucher for 1,000 rubles, or about $13, redeemable at stores and restaurants. The Russian government has blamed widespread vaccine hesitancy for a slow start to its campaign. A shortage has also slowed the effort, with Russia exporting some of its doses. About 5 percent of Russians are now fully vaccinated; in the United States, it’s 27 percent.

Coronavirus patients in New Delhi waited on the street on Sunday to receive oxygen from a Sikh house of worship.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

As a second wave of the pandemic rages in India, which logged more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday, countries around the world are trying to help. But their efforts to send oxygen and other critical aid are unlikely to plug enough holes in India’s sinking health care system to end its deadly catastrophe.

The Indian health ministry reported more than 320,000 new cases and 2,771 deaths on Tuesday. Both figures represented slight declines from the previous day’s record highs, but experts said this was not a sign that the outbreak was easing. With enormous funeral pyres spilling into parking lots and city parks, there are signs that India’s reported overall toll of nearly 198,000 deaths could be a vast undercount.

Australia and the Philippines said on Tuesday they would pause commercial flights from India, joining Britain, Canada, Singapore and several other nations that have restricted travel from the country. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said his government would donate ventilators and protective equipment to help India contain the outbreak.

The emergency in India, where a worrying virus variant is spreading rapidly, is driving a new global surge in the pandemic. It also carries implications for countries relying on India for the AstraZeneca vaccine, millions of doses of which are manufactured there.

“It’s a desperate situation out there,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, adding that donations would be welcome but might make only a “dent on the problem.”

Scientists fear that part of the problem is the emergence of a virus variant known as the “double mutant,” B.1.617, because it contains genetic mutations found in two other difficult-to-control versions of the coronavirus. One of the mutations is present in the highly contagious variant that ripped through California earlier this year. The other is similar to one found in the variant dominant in South Africa and is believed to make the virus more resistant to vaccines.

Still, scientists caution that it is too early to know with certainty how pernicious the variant emerging in India is.

Earlier this year, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as if the coronavirus battle had been won, holding huge campaign rallies and permitting thousands to gather for a Hindu religious festival.

Now, Mr. Modi is striking a far more sober tone. He said in a nationwide radio address on Sunday that India has been “shaken” by a “storm.” And countries, companies and powerful members of the diaspora have pledged to pitch in.

Patients are suffocating in the capital, New Delhi, and other cities because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out. Frantic relatives have appealed on social media for leads on intensive-care-unit beds and experimental drugs. The government has extended New Delhi’s lockdown by another week.

India’s Supreme Court last week ordered the government to come up with a “national plan” for distributing oxygen supplies.

Mr. Modi appears to be looking to the rest of the world to help India quell the wave. Britain, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have promised oxygen generators or ventilators. The United States has pledged raw material for coronavirus vaccines and intends to share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other nations, so long as the doses clear a safety review conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, officials said Monday. Indian-American businessmen have pledged millions in cash from the companies they lead.

At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, called the situation in India “beyond heartbreaking.” He said the organization had deployed 2,600 staff members to India to provide vaccination help.

The world’s seven-day average of new cases has remained well above 750,000 for the past week, according to a New York Times database, higher than the peak average during the last global surge in January. Despite more than one billion shots having been administered globally, far too small a percentage of the world’s nearly eight billion people has been vaccinated to slow the virus’s spread.

Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arriving at the Government House in Bangkok last month.
Credit…Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

With Thailand struggling to bring its worst coronavirus outbreak under control, Bangkok made it compulsory for residents to wear masks in public beginning on Monday. One of the first to break the new rule?

The country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was seen maskless at a government meeting in a photo published on his official Facebook page.

As a first-time offender, he agreed to pay a fine of about $190. Bangkok’s governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, came around with top police officials on Monday to help collect it.

“I informed the prime minister this was a violation of the rules,” the governor wrote on Facebook. The photograph was removed from the prime minister’s Facebook page.

For Mr. Prayuth, the gaffe is the least of his pandemic problems. His government has struggled to curb transmissions and been slow to obtain vaccines. As infections ticked upward earlier this month, he decided to let Thais continue to travel widely during a major holiday.

“Whatever will be will be,” he said then. “The government will have to try to cope with that later.”

Now, his government is scrambling to procure vaccines from a stretched global supply and rushing to set up field hospitals at sports stadiums and other locations as many hospitals report being near capacity. Only 0.3 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

On Tuesday, the government reported 15 deaths, its highest daily total since the pandemic began, and more than 2,000 new cases for the fifth day in a row. That brings Thailand’s total for the pandemic to nearly 60,000 cases and 163 deaths, according to the government.

The numbers are low by global standards; Thailand was among the world’s leaders in containing the virus last year. Nearly 90 percent of its cases have come since Jan. 1.

Many provinces have imposed their own restrictions, including Bangkok, which has ordered the closure of more than 30 types of businesses, such as fitness centers, cinemas, bars and massage parlors. Restaurants, malls and department stores can continue operating but with restrictions.

Nearly two-thirds of Thailand’s provinces have imposed fines for failing to wear a mask in public. The maximum penalty is about $635.

Health care workers prepared doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in Buffalo, W.Va., last month. Gov. Jim Justice announced a plan to give savings bonds to young people who get vaccinated.
Credit…Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

West Virginia will give $100 savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get a Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice said on Monday.

There are roughly 380,000 West Virginians in that age group, many of whom have already gotten at least one shot, but Mr. Justice said he hoped the money would motivate the rest to get inoculated, as “they’re not taking the vaccines as fast as we’d like them to take them.”

The state will use federal funds from the CARES Act to pay for the bonds, Mr. Justice, a Republican, said at a news conference, adding that he had “vetted this every way that we possibly can” to ensure that the unconventional use of the funds was allowed.

The bonds will be also be available to anyone in that age group who has already been vaccinated, Mr. Justice said.

West Virginia has the 16th highest rate of new coronavirus cases per person among U.S. states and ranks 12th in hospitalizations, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Justice said the state needed to stop the virus “dead in its tracks,” and that if it did, “these masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, the death toll and the body bags start to absolutely become minimal.”

Earlier this year, at the start of the country’s vaccination effort, West Virginia had stood out for its success in vaccinating its residents. At one point, it had administered second doses to more of its population than any other state; it was also behind only Alaska for the percent of its residents that had received a first dose.

But now West Virginia is fallen behind, ahead of only nine states for the portion of its residents that have had a first dose, according to a New York Times database tracking vaccines.

Mr. Justice said that young West Virginians could “always stand an extra dose of patriotism.” He urged them to “accept that wonderful savings bond” — which will allow the recipient to retrieve the $100, plus interest, at a later date — adding, “I hope that you keep it for a long, long, long time.”





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