With India preparing to make residents 18 and older eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting Saturday, Dr. Aqsa Shaikh emailed the country’s largest drug manufacturer this week asking for doses for the vaccination center she runs in New Delhi.
The response was not encouraging: The company, the Serum Institute of India, said it was so overwhelmed by demand that it could take five or six months for Dr. Shaikh to get the 3,000 doses per month she requested.
“When I read that email, images of mass burials appeared in front of my eyes,” she said. “We may have to shut down the center now if the government doesn’t chip in.”
Mass vaccinations could be the only way for India to curb its outbreak. The health ministry on Thursday reported more than 375,000 cases and more than 3,600 deaths, and hospitals warned of critical shortages of ventilator beds, medical oxygen, medicines and other lifesaving supplies.
On Wednesday, the U.S. government authorized families of diplomats to leave India and advised other Americans there to leave “as soon as it is safe to do so.”
As grim as India’s coronavirus numbers are — and experts warn that its reported death toll of more than 204,000 could be a significant undercount — its vaccination program was supposed to be a bright spot. Before the pandemic, India ran the world’s largest immunization program, delivering routine vaccinations to 55 million people a year. The Serum Institute aimed to become the vaccine manufacturer for the world, pumping out tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at its factories in the western city of Pune.
But after an initial fast rollout, averaging some three million injections a day, India’s vaccination drive is slowing. The health ministry said on Thursday that it had administered fewer than 2.2 million doses in the last 24 hours.
About 26 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 2 percent of the population, making it unlikely that India will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of vaccinating 300 million people by the summer.
Despite cash infusions from Mr. Modi’s government, India’s major vaccine companies are struggling to increase production. The Serum Institute is producing about 60 million doses a month, and another Indian company, Bharat Biotech, is making about 10 million doses a month of its Covaxin shot. A third company has signed an agreement to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine later this year.
But that is a fraction of what India needs to inoculate every adult, some 940 million people. Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, an epidemiologist, tweeted: “It is like inviting 100 people at your home for lunch. You have resources to cook for 20.”
Already, hospitals say they are running out of vaccines. Many Indians who have received one shot say they are having trouble getting a second.
“You feel like you are being cheated,” said Aditya Kapoor, a New Delhi businessman who said he was turned away from two clinics when he went to get his second dose.
An online portal the government launched on Wednesday to register for shots crashed because of the demand; more than 13 million Indians eventually got appointments.
“We don’t know what to do from Saturday; the shortage is everywhere,” said Balbir Singh Sidhu, the health minister in Punjab State, which is struggling to obtain the three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that it ordered.
The Indian health ministry denied there was a supply shortage and said that it had tried to speed up the rollout by allowing private facilities to purchase directly from manufacturers. But critics say the policy could lead to companies raising prices for private buyers.
In New Delhi, at the vaccination center at Jamia Hamdard, a medical college, Dr. Sheikh said that she would soon be unable to offer even the 150 doses she administers in an average day.
“Just thinking about not being able to help at our vaccination center makes me cry,” she added.
More than 100 colleges across the country have said they will require students to receive coronavirus vaccines in order to attend in-person classes in the fall, according to a New York Times survey.
Those requirements come as Covid-19 cases have continued to climb steadily this spring at colleges and universities across the United States. More than 660,000 cases have been linked to the institutions since the start of the pandemic, with one-third of those since Jan. 1.
Major outbreaks continue on some campuses, even as students have become eligible for vaccines. Salve Regina University in Rhode Island canceled all in-person events for at least a week after more than 30 students tested positive in seven days. Wayne State University in Detroit, a city that has been one of the worst U.S. coronavirus hot spots, suspended in-person classes and on-campus activities in early April.
Schools including DePaul University, Emory University and Wesleyan University are requiring all students to be vaccinated. Others have said they are requiring athletes or those who live on campus to get a shot. Most are allowing medical, religious and other exemptions.
Although private colleges make up the bulk of the schools with vaccine mandates, some public universities have also moved to require the shots.
Students and employees of the University System of Maryland will be required to get vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, said the chancellor, Jay A. Perman. He said he was particularly concerned about the B.1.1.7 variant, which he described in his announcement last week as more contagious.
“That’s what we’re preparing for,” he said, “more infectious, more harmful variants that we think could be circulating on our campuses come fall.”
At least two dozen colleges, including those in the California’s public university system, said that they would require shots after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for the vaccines.
Some colleges with mandates may face challenges. At Manhattanville College in New York, where students will need to provide proof of their shots before returning to campus, one student started a petition to reverse the policy, saying that the decision to get vaccinated was deeply personal. At Stanford University, the College Republicans, a student group, condemned the administration’s plans to require vaccinations for the fall.
Numerous colleges that are not requiring vaccinations are offering incentives to encourage them. Baylor University in Texas and Calvin University in Michigan have both announced that students who have been inoculated can skip mandatory testing.
The University of Wyoming is offering vaccinated students and staff members a chance to participate in a weekly drawing for prizes such as tickets to football or basketball games and Apple products. Employees who are fully vaccinated are eligible for a personal day off.
Cierra S. Queen and
New York City aims to fully reopen on July 1 and allow businesses including restaurants, shops and stadiums to operate at full capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday, offering a tantalizing glimpse of normalcy even as his authority to actually lift restrictions on businesses was somewhat limited.
Mr. de Blasio, who made the remarks on MSNBC, said that gyms, hair salons, arenas, some theaters and museums should all expect to be open fully with no capacity limits. Broadway, he said, was on track to open in September.
“Our plan is to fully reopen New York City on July 1,” he said. “We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters — full strength.”
But so far in the pandemic, Mr. de Blasio has not had the authority to impose or lift capacity limits on such businesses. Those restrictions have been set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state, and on Thursday, a spokesman for the governor maintained that Mr. Cuomo had the power to make those decisions.
Mr. de Blasio said that the city expected vaccinations to drive down new coronavirus cases over the next two months. From a second-wave peak of nearly 8,000 cases in a single day in January, New York City was averaging about 2,000 virus cases per day as of last week. Public health officials say that by July, if the city stays on its current trajectory, that number could drop to below 600 cases a day, perhaps lower.
“We now have the confidence we can pull all these pieces together, and get life back together,” Mr. de Blasio said. “This is going to be the summer of New York City.”
The city and the state have not always agreed on the best path forward.
A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, Bill Neidhardt, called the full reopening of the city on July 1 a “goal that we know New York City can achieve.”
“We laid out a plan, we will back it up with skyrocketing vaccination numbers and declining cases. If someone wants to deny that, let’s have that discussion in public,” Mr. Neidhardt said. “We feel strongly we’d win that debate.”
The state announced the roll back of several restrictions this week. The New York State Legislature on Wednesday suspended an unpopular pandemic directive issued by Mr. Cuomo that required customers to order food when purchasing alcohol at bars and restaurants. And Mr. Cuomo announced that a curfew that forced bars and restaurants to close early would end statewide on May 17 for outdoor dining areas and May 31 for indoor dining.
Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo said that next month the state would raise the capacity limits on offices statewide to 75 percent from 50 percent, and on gyms outside New York City to 50 percent from 33 percent. Last month he raised the maximum capacity for indoor dining at restaurants in New York City to 50 percent, up from 35 percent. Restaurants in the remainder of the state are allowed to serve customers at 75 percent occupancy.
Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.
More than half of U.S. states have seen a significant decline in new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, as federal health officials suggest that the virus’s trajectory is improving. Still, the uneven distribution of vaccinations point to the challenge of persuading reluctant Americans to get vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging over 52,000 new cases a day, a 26 percent decline from two weeks ago, and comparable to the level of cases reported in mid-October before the deadly winter surge, according to a New York Times database. Since peaking in January, cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide have drastically declined.
Over the past two weeks, case numbers have fallen by 15 percent or more in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with drops of 30 percent or more in 14 states. As of Tuesday, Vermont reported a 54 percent decline in the average number of new cases a day, while Michigan, which had one of the nation’s most severe recent outbreaks, is now seeing rapid improvement with cases there down 40 percent.
In New York City, which had seen stubbornly high caseloads for months, the second wave is receding a half-year after it started, the city’s health commissioner said.
Federal health officials have taken note. After expressing a recurring sense of “impending doom” last month, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday that she was seeing signs of progress.
“Cases are starting to come down. We think that this is related to increased vaccination, increased people taking caution, and so I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re turning the corner,” she said on “Good Morning America.”
But she warned that “the virus is an opportunist” and could strike in communities with low vaccination rates. Persistent vaccine hesitancy remains a challenge, and the pace of vaccination will ebb, officials have acknowledged, amid issues of supply and demand.
About 43 percent of people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 30 percent have been fully vaccinated. Providers are administering about 2.7 million doses per day on average, as of Wednesday, about a 21 percent decrease from the peak of 3.4 million two weeks ago.
The C.D.C.’s move to relax mask guidance outdoors this week is a reflection of the rise in the total number of vaccinations.
“It’s another demonstration of what science has been telling us over the last many months, which is that vaccines are effective in preventing the Covid-19 virus from infecting us,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said in an interview on CNN.
As President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening, he set a target date of July 4 for the country “to get life in America closer to normal.” But public health experts emphasized that the experience of the pandemic across the world is not universal. India, for example, is experiencing a catastrophic second wave that could have global implications.
“Pandemics require global cooperation and mutual support,” Dr. Murthy said. “When there’s uncontrolled spread of the virus in any part of the world, that means that variants can arise, variants which may over time become resistant to the protection that we get from vaccines, which could mean a real problem for us here in the United States.”
Hong Kong eased restrictions on Thursday at restaurants and bars where staff and customers have begun receiving coronavirus vaccinations, part of an effort to help businesses hurt by the pandemic while attempting to boost an anemic inoculation drive.
Under a complex set of new rules, establishments that were ordered closed for much of the past year — including bars, nightclubs and karaoke parlors — will be allowed to reopen until 2 a.m. if staff and customers have had their first shot.
Restaurants where all employees have had at least one shot can stay open for dining until midnight with up to six diners at a table. Those where staff have had both shots and customers have had at least one can stay open until 2 a.m., with up to eight people per table.
Any establishment that wants to take advantage of the measures must use the government’s contact tracing app. Under previous regulations, residents could forgo the app and fill out their details on paper, an option that has been popular among people worried about what data the app collects and how it might be used.
Hong Kong has kept coronavirus outbreaks largely under control, recording just 209 deaths in a population of 7.5 million, but its vaccination effort has languished. As of Thursday, slightly more than 13 percent of people in the Chinese territory had received a dose of the Sinovac or Pfizer vaccine, with 7 percent having received both doses.
Hong Kong is also requiring residents who want to go to Singapore under a new quarantine-free travel bubble to be fully vaccinated. Officials have said that such a requirement is likely to be enforced under any subsequent travel bubbles with other destinations.
In other news around the world:
Nepal imposed a two-week lockdown in the capital, Kathmandu, and several other cities amid a rise in coronavirus cases nationwide, including among climbers at Mount Everest Base Camp. The authorities barred nearly all vehicles from the roads and ordered people to stay indoors except for emergencies. Hospitals are filling up in the small Himalayan nation as large numbers of migrant workers return home from India, site of what is currently the world’s worst outbreak, without being tested for the virus. Nepal reported nearly 5,000 new daily cases on Wednesday, the most since last October, after recording fewer than 100 for most of March.
At first, the vaccine itself was the prize for older people in Russia. But as vaccination rates have slowed in Moscow, the city government this week began a program to encourage turnout with gift certificates. Residents of the capital older than 60 will now receive a certificate for 1,000 rubles, or about $13, redeemable at stores or restaurants. The Russian government has blamed widespread vaccine hesitancy for a slow start to its vaccination campaign. A shortage of vaccine has also slowed the rollout, as Russia is exporting doses despite a still low vaccination rate at home. About 5 percent of Russians are now fully vaccinated compared with 29 percent in the United States.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are expected to apply for European Union approval of their vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds. They made a similar application to the F.D.A. in the United States earlier this month. Ugur Sahin, the head of BioNTech, expects some children in Europe to be vaccinated as early as June, according to a report by Der Spiegel. According to the Spiegel report, BioNTech aims for E.U.-wide approval for children younger than 12 by September. As of Thursday, 25 percent of Germans had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
A daughter holding her mother’s hand. A son overcome that his 95-year-old mother had survived the pandemic. A stoic family patriarch, suddenly in tears.
After a year of excruciating lockdowns, these were the scenes at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as they began to open up this spring. Before the arrival of vaccines, one in three coronavirus deaths in the United States had ties to nursing homes or similar facilities.
The New York Times sent photographers across the country to document reunions. For many family members, it was the first time they were able to be together, hold hands and hug in more than a year.
In interviews, which have been edited and condensed for clarity, families recalled a deep fear that they would never see their loved ones again. When the time finally came, they were flooded with a year’s worth of emotion in a single instant: joy, relief, love — and grief for all the time that had been lost.
San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living
Con Yan Muy, 93, has been a resident at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living nursing home since 2019. Anita Li, 24, grew up with her grandmother and previously visited daily. For a year during the pandemic, she saw her grandmother only a handful of times through a window or at a distance. Even now, her visits remain limited, as is the case at many facilities.
ANITA LI: I was hiding in the bathroom when she came in. It was a surprise. She didn’t recognize me initially because I had my mask on. I am going to be honest, I was kind of sad. I am one of the most involved persons in her life, and she couldn’t recognize me. I immediately just started patting her legs and her arms for better blood circulation. I had brought some dumplings and also brought her some sesame balls that she really enjoys. We made a video for the rest of the family for her to say hi.
It’s like a sigh of relief that we could finally be together, but also knowing that this was a one-time thing, and not really sure what the future holds. Am I going to see her every week face to face? Can I eventually take her out on walks where she can get some sun? What is the new normal, and how much can we be involved in her life postquarantine?
Before the pandemic, when suppliers raised the cost of diapers, cereal and other everyday goods, retailers often absorbed the increase because stiff competition forced them to keep prices stable.
Now, with Americans’ shopping habits having shifted rapidly — with people spending more on treadmills and office furniture and less at restaurants and movie theaters — retailers are also adjusting, Gillian Friedman reports for The New York Times.
The Consumer Price Index, the measure of the average change in the prices paid by U.S. shoppers for consumer goods, increased 0.6 percent in March, the largest rise since August 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Procter & Gamble is raising prices on items like Pampers and Tampax in September. General Mills, which makes cereal brands including Cheerios, is facing increased supply-chain and freight costs that could translate into higher retail prices for customers.
At the beginning of the pandemic, companies were focused on fulfilling demand for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, canned food and masks, said Greg Portell, a partner at Kearney, a consulting firm. The government was watching for price-gouging, and customers were wary of being taken advantage of.
Now that the economy is beginning to stabilize, companies are starting to rebalance pricing so that it better fits their profit expectations and takes into account inflation. “This isn’t an opportunistic profit-taking by companies,” Mr. Portell said. “This is a reset of the market.”