Covid Live Updates: India’s Capital Will Ease Restrictions – The New York Times

A roadside barber giving a shave to a migrant worker outside closed shops during a lockdown in New Delhi on Thursday.
Credit…Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

India’s capital, New Delhi, will ease some coronavirus restrictions on Monday, allowing markets to reopen with limited hours and the metro transit system to operate at 50 percent capacity, the region’s top official said on Saturday, even as he announced preparations for a potential third wave of the virus.

After enduring one of the world’s most ferocious outbreaks in April and May, the broader territory of Delhi has seen reports of new cases drop by 85 percent over the past two weeks, and reports of new deaths have plummeted. However, across the country, gaps in testing and medical treatment leave many infections and deaths unrecorded.

“The corona situation is under control for now,” Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, told a news conference.

Mr. Kejriwal warned that any new wave of infections could be even more severe than the spring surge, during which patients suffered from acute shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen.

He said the region would build new oxygen-production and storage facilities, and expand the capacity of intensive-care units. He also said that two genome tracking facilities would be set up to examine samples of the virus, to identify variants, and that assessing the needs of a expected greater number of child Covid patients was underway.

At the start of this week, Delhi allowed some manufacturing and construction activity to resume for the first time since a lockdown was imposed six weeks earlier. Yet even a gradual reopening carries risks, given that only 3 percent of Indians are fully vaccinated.

Other parts of India are also easing restrictions. In northern Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, Reuters reported that only night curfew restrictions remain for 55 of 75 districts.

In the industrialized western state of Maharashtra, malls, movie theaters, restaurants and offices will be allowed to open regularly as of Monday in districts where the positivity rate has fallen below 5 percent, Reuters also said, and in Gujarat, government and private offices will be allowed to operate fully staffed, and shops in 36 cities will be able to remain open longer.

Inside La Isla restaurant in the South Bronx area of New York City. The restaurant has continued to require customers to wear masks after the state lifted its mask mandate.
Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Long before the pandemic arrived on American shores, there were debates over the politics of mask wearing. More than a dozen states have laws barring people from covering their faces in public, most of them ordinances passed to deter the Klu Klux Klan.

Those laws were suspended, revoked or not enforced as mask wearing in many states became a public health exigency.

But as the pandemic recedes in the U.S. and emergency orders related to the pandemic expire, the question of what to do with the old mask laws is resurfacing.

When Virginia’s coronavirus state of emergency expires on June 30, a mask ban from 1950 will come back into force.

The anti-Klan law, which presciently included an exemption for the declaration of a public health emergency, bars “any person over 16 years of age to, with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer.”

Alena Yarmosky, the press secretary for Gov. Ralph Northam, said in an email that the governor was exploring ways to make sure that the law does not affect people who want to continue wearing masks for health reasons.

“Governor Northam is committed to ensuring that individuals who are not vaccinated and/or not comfortable going without a mask still have the option to wear one,” Ms. Yarmosky said. She did not respond to questions on whether Mr. Northam would pursue a legislative change or executive action.

Anti-mask laws have been invoked over the years in a variety of ways. A federal appeals court ruled in 2004 that the New York Police Department was justified in denying an outdoor rally permit to an organization that called itself the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The permit was denied on the grounds that participants would be violating the state’s anti-mask law. In 2011, N.Y.P.D. officers also arrested some Occupy Wall Street protesters and charged them with wearing masks.

The West Virginia Supreme Court in 1996 upheld the use of that state’s mask ban in a case involving an angry parent who attended a school board meeting in a devil’s mask to protest the school’s devil mascot.

And in 2018 police officers in Alabama invoked an anti-mask law to arrest a man after he led a protest against an officer-involved shooting of an African American man.

An article in the California Law Review published in November listed 18 states that had anti-mask laws predating the pandemic.

New York’s 1845 law, the oldest anti-mask law in the country, was repealed in May 2020. The law, which made an exception for “a masquerade party or like entertainment,” was passed during an armed uprising by cash-strapped wheat farmers who disguised themselves as Native Americans during protests over feudal rent arrangements.

The anti-mask law in Alabama, which dates to 1949 and was spurred by outrage over a dawn raid by three dozen Klansmen on an interracial Girl Scout camp, bars a masked person from loitering in a public place. It makes exceptions for masquerade parties, parades or a religious, educational or historical “presentation.”

Alabama’s attorney general, Steve Marshall, issued an opinion in April 2020 that said the law’s description of “being masked” would not include wearing a medical mask that covers only the nose and mouth.

Rob Kahn, a law professor at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis and an expert on anti-mask laws, believes many of the laws are obsolete. But repealing them might have been easier before the pandemic, he said, before masks became such a political lightning rod.

Mr. Kahn said he did not know of any cases of coronavirus anti-maskers advocating to keep the old anti-mask laws. But he hypothesized that keeping them might be popular with the sizable number of voters who now think of masks as symbols of government overreach.

“I definitely think there will continue to be a difference of opinion, a divergence over masks,” Mr. Kahn said. “But hopefully the conflicts that come up will be resolved peacefully.”

Tyler, left, and Cameron Winklevoss spoke at the Bitcoin Festival in Miami, Fla. on Friday.
Credit…Alfonso Duran for The New York Times

At least 12,000 people flocked to Miami for the largest Bitcoin conference in the world and the first major in-person business conference since the pandemic began.

The exuberance of being in person, indoors, in a crowd for the first time in more than a year was electric. Everyone hugged, no one masked. The money zipped between digital wallets. Conference swag included neon fanny packs, festival bracelets and a Lamborghini. The jargon — stablecoin, peer-to-peer, private key — flowed. So did the liquor.

Some attendees wore business casual. Others looked ready for a music festival. One donned a furry rave bikini.

Even a dramatic plunge in value from a high of $64,000 in April to $36,000 now did not dampen spirits. They’re BTD — buying the dip. Wall Street bankers, institutional investors and Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, all came to Miami.

Miami has fully embraced cyptocurrency, as Bitcoin A.T.M.s sprinkle the city’s Wynwood neighborhood. A cryptocurrency exchange called FTX recently bought the naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena and Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, announced this year that the city would accept tax payments in cryptocurrency, let its employees collect salaries with it and explore holding some on its balance sheet. (The logistics of these announcements were still being studied.)

Speakers at the conference included Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter and the payments company Square, as well as Cameron Winklevoss, a crypto entrepreneur. Panels included one entitled “Wine, Women and Crypto.”

Only 14 percent of American adults have purchased cryptocurrency, according to a survey by The Ascent, a financial services ratings site. Of those who haven’t, 20 percent said they planned to this year.

Property management workers delivered goods to residents at a compound under coronavirus lockdown in Guangzhou, China on Wednesday.
Credit…China Daily, via Reuters

More Covid-19 restrictions have been placed on Guangzhou, an industrial hub in southern China. Districts of Nansha, Huadu and Conghua are ordering residents and those who have traveled through the area to be tested for the virus. Video of a large testing site being set up at a stadium in the city was posted by epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding on Twitter.

This is an expansion of recent lockdown orders, which were put into place in the Liwan District after a 75-year-old woman tested positive for the virus after dining at a dim sum restaurant in the neighborhood.

Restrictions have been placed on restaurants, gyms, pools and other public venues. Restaurants can no longer offer dine-in services, while the other businesses were forced to close. About a dozen subway stops throughout the city were also closed and schools had transitioned to remote learning.

Mainland China has been reporting an average of 38 new cases daily, with more than half of those cases stemming from in and around Guangzhou. The new cases are all thought to be the variant first found in India, now called the Delta variant.

The city has more than 15 million residents and is a major business and manufacturing center close to Hong Kong.

Patrons dined at an outdoor brewery in Phoenix on Thursday. Arizona is among the states that is ending additional federal payments to unemployed workers.
Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

Bre Starr, a 34-year-old pizza delivery driver who has been out of work for more than a year, will be among the first to lose her jobless benefits in the next few weeks. That’s because Ms. Starr lives in Iowa, where the governor has decided to withdraw from all federal pandemic-related jobless assistance on June 12.

Iowa is one of 25 states, all led by Republicans, that have recently decided to halt some or all emergency benefits months ahead of schedule. With a U.S. Labor Department report on Friday showing that job growth fell below expectations for the second month in a row, Republicans stepped up their argument that pandemic jobless relief is hindering the recovery.

The assistance, renewed in March and funded through Sept. 6, doesn’t cost the states anything. But business owners and managers have argued that the income, which enabled people to pay rent and stock refrigerators when much of the economy shut down, is now dissuading them from applying for jobs.

“I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so it’s really important for me to stay safe from getting Covid,” Ms. Starr said, explaining that she was more prone to infection. “I know that for myself and other people who are high risk, we cannot risk going back into the work force until everything is good again.”

Most economists say there is no clear, single explanation yet for the difficulty that some employers are having in hiring. Government relief may play a role in some cases, but so could a lack of child care, continuing fears about infection, paltry wages, difficult working conditions and normal delays associated with reopening a mammoth economy.

The particular complaints that government benefits are sapping the desire to work have, nonetheless, struck a chord among Republican political leaders.

Adquena Faine was a rideshare driver before the pandemic. She entered an I.B.M. apprenticeship program and is now building a career as a cloud storage engineer.
Credit…Dawn Bangi for The New York Times

This recalibration between worker and employer partly reflects a strange moment in the U.S. economy. It’s reopening, but many would-be workers are not ready to return to the job.

An important question for the overall economy is whether employers will be able to create conditions attractive enough to coax back in some of the millions of working-age adults not currently part of the labor force. Some businesses may need to raise prices or retool how they operate; others may be forced to close entirely. The end of expanded pandemic-era jobless benefits might have an effect too.

Whether it’s a bigger paycheck, more manageable hours, or a training opportunity offered to a person with few formal credentials, the benefits of a tight labor market and shifting leverage can take many forms.

“A lot of companies, after the recessions in 2001 and 2008, dismantled their onboarding and training infrastructure and said that’s a cost we can’t afford,” said Byron Auguste, chief executive of Opportunity at Work, an organization devoted to encouraging job opportunities for people from all backgrounds. “But it turns out, you actually do need to develop your own workers and can’t just depend on hiring.”

Students mingled on Petaluma High School’s football field. The California school decided to hold its senior prom outdoors as a precaution against the coronavirus.
Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

The 2021 prom season has shown that American high school rites of passage are durable, flexible, pandemic-proof. Teenage traditions, like teenagers themselves, have a resilience. Somehow, the prom — that timeworn tradition — turned into something vital and emotional.

Yet unlike any other year, there were custom-made masks to match outfits. There were silent discos to encourage social distancing, as revelers donned headphones and danced to the beat, quite literally, of different drummers. Vaccine cards or coronavirus tests were required for entry. In Petaluma, Calif., dinner was prepacked sandwiches eaten picnic-style on the football field before the dancing started on the painted lines.

“For so long, I didn’t take advantage of all the moments I had in high school,” said Michelle Ibarra Simon, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School in the Southern California city of Goleta. “Covid helped me see that I was letting time fly and letting every moment slip through my fingers.” Prom, she added, “was probably one of the best moments of my life.”

Bill Woodard, the principal of Dos Pueblos High School and the parent of a senior there, described the evening as magical. “I don’t use that word lightly,” he added.

Because the students had either been vaccinated or tested, Sienna Barry, a senior at Petaluma High School said, they finally felt comfortable sending Snapchat videos, making TikToks and posting to their Instagram stories with abandon.

People walking along a side walk by the beach in Palm Beach, Fla., last week.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

The Florida Department of Health will no longer update its Covid-19 dashboard and will suspend daily case and vaccine reports, the governor’s office confirmed on Friday. Officials will instead post weekly updates, becoming the first U.S. state to move to such an infrequent publishing schedule.

Officials first announced last week that the state would end daily reports in a news release outlining Florida’s plans to transition into the next phase of its Covid-19 response now that cases in the state are decreasing. Last month, Florida closed its state-run testing sites but gave counties the option of taking them over.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told The News Service of Florida on Friday that there is no need to keep issuing the daily reports.

“Covid-19 cases have significantly decreased over the past year as we have a less than 5 percent positivity rate, and our state is returning to normal, with vaccines widely available throughout Florida,” Pushaw said in an email to reporters.

In the past two weeks, Florida has seen a 43 percent drop in coronavirus cases and deaths, and 50 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, just below the national average of 51 percent, according to a New York Times database.

Florida’s dashboard was created in part by Rebekah D. Jones, a state data scientist who was fired for insubordination in May 2020, a conflict that she said came to a head when she refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to reopen from coronavirus lockdowns. The data in fact showed that the virus was rapidly spreading in a state that was hesitant to mandate broad restrictions and eager to reopen.

Ms. Jones’s firing became a flash point as Mr. DeSantis, a close ally of then-President Donald J. Trump, touted Florida’s early success in battling the virus — a victory lap that turned out to be premature at the time and led to a disastrous summer. State officials insisted that her claims about hiding virus data were false. She was dismissed, they said, because she made unilateral decisions to modify the virus dashboard without approval.

After Ms. Jones was fired, she made her own database using public virus case records from the Florida Department of Health that had been buried deep in PDF files on the state website.

In December, state police agents with guns drawn raided Ms. Jones’s home in Tallahassee to execute a search warrant in a criminal investigation, after police said a breach at the Florida Department of Health was traced to her computer. She denied having anything to do with the breach.

Ms. Jones’s dashboard generally shows a higher number of cases than the number reported by the state. It also includes information from other agencies, such as hospitalization rates from the Agency for Health Care Administration, that are not on the state dashboard.

But after the state announced that it would no longer update its public records, Ms. Jones wrote on her database that she wouldn’t be able to update her dashboard either.

“No more data,” she wrote. “Only summary reports in PDF format. Please be patient as I work to reformat the website to adjust for these changes.”

A year ago, many people ventured no farther than the grocery store. Now there are renewed opportunities to explore, however gingerly.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

In early May, after travel restrictions in the United States had eased and he had been fully vaccinated, the writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon took a commercial flight to visit his daughter in Texas. He writes of the experience:

I ate and drank nothing onboard, and my mask was tightly fixed on my face. Still, there was also a feeling of festive nostalgia attached to reclaiming the skies, a feeling I usually associate with returning to a university where I once studied, or revisiting the scene of childhood summers.

As we broke through the clouds into that stratosphere of private sunshine that is so familiar to jet travelers, I felt the uneasy joy I discovered when I first hugged friends after being vaccinated. The quarantine had given me extra time with my husband and son, days to write, and the comforting patterns of repetition. But breaking out of it was a relief, nonetheless.

At the end of “Paradise Lost,” Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden, and John Milton makes no bones about their anguish at being cast out. But he does not end on that sour note, because banishment from one place meant an opportunity to find another, however tentatively that process was undertaken:

Some natural tears they dropd, but wip’d them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

That will be how we return to the pre-Covid realms of possibility.

Read the full article here.

People walked along the high street in Poole, England, on Sunday. Landlords and officials are hoping that investments in high street revitalization will bring back shoppers.
Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times

Nearly a decade ago, a government-ordered review found that Britain’s so-called high streets — the retail bedrock of the country’s town and city centers, comparable to America’s main streets — had reached a “crisis point.”

Since then things have only gotten worse, as coronavirus lockdowns and a surge in online shopping over the past year have accelerated the downward spiral of brick-and-mortar retailing. A record number of shops closed in 2020.

But now, an unlikely combination of vested interests are coming together to help. Giant asset managers and landlords are taking risks to revive their downtrodden investments. Shoppers and businesses are emerging from the pandemic with renewed interest in their neighborhoods. And town officials are ready to spend heavily to spread confidence.

Enough confidence for people like Hope Dean to bet their livelihoods on the high streets’ revival — with some help.

Her snug plant store, Wild Roots, is operating rent-free for two years, along with several other recently opened businesses in the southwestern town of Poole. They are part of a redevelopment project undertaken by their properties’ owner, the giant London-based asset manager Legal & General Investment Management, a unit of the country’s largest corporate pension manager with more than 1 trillion pounds in assets.

A rescue worker sprayed disinfectant at a home in the Khlong Toey slum in Bangkok after a resident tested positive for the coronavirus.
Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

For all of the mask-wearing rigor and lockdown obedience displayed by many in Thailand, the catalyst for Bangkok’s latest outbreak was the abandon of a privileged few.

Thailand went for months without a single confirmed case of local transmission. But this spring, according to health officials, two luxury nightclubs that cater to powerful and wealthy men in the capital, Bangkok, became the epicenter of what is now the country’s biggest and deadliest coronavirus surge. Scores of people linked to the clubs have tested positive, including an ambassador and a government minister. Police officers and women who worked at the clubs have been infected, too.

The epidemic has radiated from the nightclubs to the slums that hug Bangkok’s highways and railroad tracks, cramped quarters where social distancing is impossible. Infections have also spread to prisons, construction camps and factories.

“The rich people party and the poor people suffer the consequences,” said Sittichat Angkhasittisiri, a neighborhood chairman in Bangkok’s largest slum, Khlong Toey, where the coronavirus has infected hundreds of people.

Restaurant and cafe terraces in France have reopened at 50 percent capacity, but the interiors of the establishments remain closed.
Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

LONDON — While the United States appears to be trying to close the curtain on the pandemic — with restaurants filled, mask mandates discarded and more than 135,000 people jamming the oval at the Indianapolis 500 — it is a different story across the Atlantic.

Some European countries are maintaining limits on gatherings, reimposing curbs on travel and weighing local lockdowns. And parts of Britain have extended lockdown restrictions, while scientists are heatedly debating whether to proceed with a nationwide reopening planned for June 21.

Although vaccinations have helped drive down coronavirus cases on both sides of the pond, on the fundamental question of how to approach an end to pandemic restrictions, America and Europe have diverged.

“The British are worrying more than any other country,” said Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. “We seem to be much more receptive to the doomsday scenarios than they are in the U.S.”

In Britain, the spread of a new, highly contagious variant first detected in India has scrambled calculations. Though scientists are at odds about the severity of the threat from the variant, known as Delta, some argue that the costs of delaying the reopening by a few weeks pale in comparison with the damage that might be wrought by giving the variant extra opportunities to spread while people are still acquiring immunity.

“We’re now looking at a variant where we have less knowledge about its properties,” Theo Sanderson, a researcher at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. “It just means we have less certainty about what things will look like going forward.”

in case you missed it

A Covid-19 patient being assisted at the Intensive Care Unit of El Tunal hospital in Bogota, Colombia, on Thursday.
Credit…Raul Arboleda/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Countries across Latin America are recording rising infections and stagnant vaccination rates, driving new coronavirus waves across the region. Six Latin American nations — Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Costa Rica — rank among the top 10 globally for new cases reported per 100,000 residents.

In Colombia, around 500 people have died of the coronavirus every day for the past three weeks, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. That is the nation’s highest daily death rate yet. Rising cases and deaths have coincided with an explosion of public anger, bringing thousands into the streets to protest poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, among other issues.

Argentina is experiencing its “worst moment since the pandemic began,” according to its president. In-person classes in Buenos Aires province, the country’s most populous, have largely been called off. Argentina bowed out of hosting the Copa América, the region’s premier soccer tournament, deeming it impossible to welcome hundreds of players and their entourages while the virus raged.

When Brazil, which has been averaging more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases each day, agreed to host the Copa, a backlash ensued. Leaders of the congressional panel investigating the government’s pandemic response reacted with incredulity and said they intended to summon the head of Brazil’s soccer federation to testify.

“It’s illogical to hold an international event,” said Senator Omar Aziz, the head of the panel. “We have nothing to celebrate.”

Peru said that its Covid-19 death toll was almost three times as high as it had officially counted, making it one of the hardest-hit nations relative to its population. In a report released on Monday that combined deaths from multiple databases and reclassified fatalities, the government said that 180,764 people had died from Covid-19 through May 22, compared with an official death toll of about 68,000.

Paraguay and Uruguay have the highest reported fatality rates per person in the world. Social networks in Paraguay have become obituaries in motion: “Rest in peace professor,” reads one. “My mother has died,” reads another, “my heart is broken into a million pieces.”

Experts say that the only way to stamp out the virus in these regions — and the world — is to rapidly increase vaccinations, which have raced ahead in the United States and Europe while lagging in many other countries. But the White House’s announcement on Thursday that it would distribute an initial 25 million vaccine doses across a “wide range of countries” was generally regarded as insufficient.

Here’s what else happened this week:

  • The number of hospitalizations related to Covid-19 among adolescents in the United States was about three times greater than hospitalizations linked to influenza over three recent flu seasons, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. The findings run counter to claims that influenza is more threatening to children than Covid-19 is, an argument that has been used in the push to reopen schools, and to question the value of vaccinating adolescents against the coronavirus.

  • After the C.D.C. advised vaccinated Americans last month that they could go maskless in most indoor settings, employers withdrew mask policies. Some frontline workers are now feeling endangered by unvaccinated customers. “We just feel like we’re sitting ducks,” said Janet Wainwright, a meat cutter at the Kroger supermarket in Yorktown, Va.

  • Britain removed Portugal from a list of places that travelers could visit without having to quarantine upon their return, complicating vacation plans for Britons hoping for an easy European getaway this summer. The decision, which came as Portugal saw cases rise by 37 percent in the previous two weeks, dismayed Britain’s travel industry and prompted one tabloid to scream “Brits’ Foreign Holidays Nightmare” in a front-page headline.

  • Britain’s drug regulator endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds, although it could be months before adolescents will have access to the shots as the government gradually expands eligibility. The approval came as Britain reported its highest rate of coronavirus cases since late March.

  • As organizers struggle to persuade a skeptical public that the Tokyo Olympics can be held safely in the midst of the pandemic, the Australian women’s softball team became the first to arrive in Japan to prepare for the Games. The players have become a test case for protocols designed to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

  • Health ministers from the Group of 7 nations met this week and agreed to devise a system of “mutual acceptance” of Covid-19 vaccine certificates, or vaccine passports. The move is expected to hasten a pandemic recovery in the global travel and commerce sectors.

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Covid Live Updates: India’s Capital Will Ease Restrictions – The New York Times

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