A Third of U.S. Adults Have Gotten at Least One Vaccine Dose

But New York and Arkansas lag in giving all adults vaccine access. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.,

Last Updated March 28, 2021, 12:50 a.m. ETMarch 28, 2021, 12:50 a.m. ET

State lawmakers across the United States seek to curtail governors’ emergency powers. New York and Arkansas lag in setting a target date for all adults to be eligible. Case numbers in India hit highs not seen in months as festival season begins.

A pharmacist in Little Rock, Ark., administering a dose of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month to Jane Black, while her husband, Thomas Black, waited for his shot.
A pharmacist in Little Rock, Ark., administering a dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month to Jane Black, while her husband, Thomas Black, waited for his shot.Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

The U.S. vaccination campaign is accelerating rapidly, with more than 91 million people — roughly a third of the adult population — having received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccination by Saturday. And nearly every state has announced that it will meet President Biden’s directive to make all adults eligible by May 1.

But as of Saturday afternoon, two states — Arkansas and New York — still had not declared a timeline for their residents, according to a New York Times vaccine rollout tracker.

A third state, Wyoming, has also not said when all adults would be able to get the shot, but eligibility in the state expands on a county-by-county basis, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Health said, and 20 of the state’s 23 counties now allow all adults to get vaccinated. She said she expected full access “quite soon.”

In Arkansas, where a Times database shows that about 13 percent of the population of three million has been fully vaccinated, Gov. Asa Hutchinson this week extended eligibility to military veterans who are at least 18 years old. That decision came soon after appointments opened up for additional essential workers and adults between 16 and 64 who have some health conditions.

The state has moved to Phase 1C of its expansion, making almost one million new people eligible for the vaccine, and the state department of health anticipates opening up eligibility to all adults by early May, “if not sooner,” a spokeswoman said.

“I want to ask everyone, when it’s your turn, get a shot,” Mr. Hutchinson said at a news briefing this week. “Get that shot in your arm, because it helps our entire state to completely move out of this pandemic and so we need everybody to get vaccinated.”

At the news conference, Mr. Hutchinson said there were parts of the state where eligible residents were still unable to book an appointment, particularly in the northwest and several urban areas. Additionally, not all inmates, who are included in the list of those already eligible, have been vaccinated, he said.

“But stay tuned,” Mr. Hutchinson said, adding that he expected the state to expand eligibility to all adults “in the near future.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news briefing this week that other states were setting dates based on allocation projections coming from the federal government. But Mr. Cuomo said he wanted “to make sure that the allocation projections that we’re getting from the feds are right” before setting a specific date for eligibility expansion.

“I would rather get the specific allocation number and then tell the people of the state,” Mr. Cuomo said, “so we don’t have to change advice and we don’t create pandemonium for the scheduling operation.”

Protesters gathered at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, last April. This week, legislators overrode Gov. Mike DeWine's veto on a bill limiting his powers to make emergency declarations and barring cities and counties from issuing their own rules.
Protesters gathered at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, last April. This week, legislators overrode Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto on a bill limiting his powers to make emergency declarations and barring cities and counties from issuing their own rules.Credit…Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

When the pandemic began, the nation’s governors suited up for a new role as state bodyguards, issuing emergency orders to shutter schools, close cinemas and ban indoor dining in an effort to curb a mushrooming threat.

But not everyone likes killjoys, no matter how well-intentioned.

Now, state legislatures — saying the governors have gone too far — are churning out laws aimed at reining in the power of their executives to respond to the pandemic and emergencies like it.

A Kansas bill that became law this week requires Gov. Laura Kelly to suspend all emergency orders and give legislators the option to void any that she reissues. Mask mandates are likely to be among the first to fall. Ohio legislators overrode Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto this week, limiting his powers to make emergency declarations. Utah lawmakers voted for an April 10 end to mask requirements and to rein in powers of the governor and state health officials to deal with crises; the bill became law on Wednesday.

Those are but some of the 300-odd proposals to curb governors’ emergency powers that have won approval or are awaiting action in State House and Senate chambers — although most will, as usual, be winnowed out in committee and never come to a vote.

All but a handful have been written by Republicans, many of whom have regarded restrictions from the start as bad for business and infringements on personal freedom. If that suggests that the issue of emergency power is partisan, however, that’s not entirely true: Legislation takes aim at the powers wielded by governors of both parties.

A list of bills by the National Conference of State Legislators shows that the gamut of the proposals is both broad and inventive. An Arkansas state senator wanted fines for violating coronavirus restrictions refunded to violators. Lawmakers in six states, including Georgia and Oregon, want to stop governors from imposing limits on attendance at church services. A measure in Maine would circumvent restrictions on businesses by declaring all businesses to be essential in any emergency.

Most proposals, however, are more straightforward attempts to give lawmakers a say, often by limiting the duration of emergency declarations and requiring legislative approval to extend them. The nonpartisan Uniform Law Commission is reviewing state emergency statutes to see if they need updating in light of the coronavirus crisis. But the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative pro-business group that has spent years cultivating ties with state legislators, has beaten them to the punch, circulating a so-called model law that is the basis for many state proposals.

Some experts call that a mistake. “The time for legislatures to address emergency declarations isn’t in the middle of an emergency, but before or after one,” said Jill Krueger, the director of the northern region of the Network for Public Health Law, in Edina, Minn.

Indeed, practically every state has at least one measure targeting a governor, either in a legislative committee or in the lawbooks.

The Republican governor of Indiana, Eric J. Holcomb, has backed more lenient coronavirus restrictions than have governors of some neighboring states, giving businesses more generous occupancy limits based on the severity of Covid-19 outbreaks in each county. That did not stop the Republican-controlled legislature from filing 21 bills aimed at loosening his emergency powers, the most of any state surveyed by the Conference of State Legislatures, including a resolution calling for the statewide emergency to be scrapped immediately.

The resolution appeared to be gathering serious momentum until Tuesday, when the governor sought to address critics by lifting a statewide mask mandate and turning business regulations over to local governments.

Both actions go well beyond the easing of restrictions taken in most other states that have relaxed regulations, although local governments retain the right to impose stiffer rules.

“His middle-of-the-road approach has resonated with people,” said Andrew Downs, an associate professor and expert on Indiana politics at Purdue University-Fort Wayne. That said, he added, “people out on the extreme are upset with him, and they recognized the need to recapture some of the power the governor has been using.”

Gail Diberardinis walking in Austin, Texas, on March 10. A mask mandate in the city and surrounding Travis County is under fire by state officials.
Gail Diberardinis walking in Austin, Texas, on March 10. A mask mandate in the city and surrounding Travis County is under fire by state officials.Credit…Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

A district judge in Texas has allowed Austin and the surrounding Travis County to keep requiring masks, weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended the state’s mask mandate.

Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, sued local officials earlier this month for refusing to comply and said that county leaders “must not be thinking clearly.

A state district judge, Lora Livingston, denied the state’s request on Friday to quash a local order allowing officials to keep enforcing mask-wearing in Austin and Travis County. She ruled that the state did not meet “its burden to demonstrate the right to the relief it seeks,” according to a decision letter.

Mr. Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling, which means that officials could be forced to lift the mandate later.

Still, some local officials took the judge’s ruling as a victory, extending the amount of time the county can require customers and employees to wear masks inside businesses.

“Today’s court ruling allowing the Health Authority’s rules to remain in place and keep the mask requirements for businesses puts the health and safety of our public above all else during this pandemic,” the Travis County judge, Andy Brown, said in a statement on Friday.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, lifted the mandate on March 10 and said that all businesses in the state could operate with no capacity limits, even as the state’s vaccinations trailed the national average. The move was met with sharp criticism from President Biden, who called the lifting of statewide mask mandates “a big mistake” that reflected “Neanderthal thinking.”

The ending of the mandate also frustrated some frontline workers in Texas who said they were worried about the risk of being exposed to maskless customers and crowds, as they had not been vaccinated yet.

Reported coronavirus cases and deaths have steadily dropped nationwide after a post-holiday surge at the end of last year, though progress is starting to stall and health officials have warned about the spread of more contagious variants. The United States is still reporting an average of 60,000 new cases daily, according to a New York Times database.

— Madeleine Ngo

A drive-through Covid-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last month.
A drive-through Covid-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last month.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Last May, the city of Los Angeles turned a fabled baseball park into a mass testing site for the coronavirus. At its peak, Dodger Stadium was testing 16,000 people a day for the virus, making it the biggest testing site in the world, said Dr. Clemens Hong, who oversees coronavirus testing in Los Angeles County.

But in January, the city pivoted, converting the stadium into an enormous, drive-through vaccination site. Local demand for coronavirus testing has plummeted, Dr. Hong said. He said that he saw the evidence firsthand recently when he visited a community hospital: “The testing site had three people and the vaccine site had a line around the block.”

Los Angeles is not an anomaly. Across the nation, attention has largely shifted from testing to vaccination. The United States is now conducting an average of 1.3 million coronavirus tests a day, down from a peak of 2 million a day in mid-January, according to data provided by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

In some ways, the decline is good news, and can be attributed, in part, to falling case numbers and the increasing pace of vaccination. But the drop-off also worries many public health experts, who note that the prevalence of Covid-19 remains stubbornly high. More than 50,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths are being tallied every day and just 14 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.

“We are very much worried about resurgence,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Everybody mentally moved on to vaccines. Obviously, vaccines are quite important. But as long as the majority of us are not protected, then testing remains essential.”

— Emily Anthes

Harvard graduates celebrating during their commencement last May.
Harvard graduates celebrating during their commencement last May.Credit…Cassandra Klos for The New York Times

Yale plans to hold a version of in-person graduation for the class of 2021 in May — with no guests allowed. Harvard is not even calling its commencement a “commencement.” It plans to hold virtual degree-granting ceremonies and, for the second year in a row, will postpone traditional festivities.

The universities of South Florida, Southern California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, Rochester and Kentucky, among others, are holding in-person commencements, but with differing rules about guests.

So it goes in this second graduation season of the pandemic. Day by day, another university announces commencement plans, and given the uncertainty created by the coronavirus, the decisions are breaking in opposite ways.

Prairie View A&M in Texas plans to hold live commencements, even as, somewhat surreally, the president of the college, Ruth Simmons, will be delivering the principal address at Harvard’s virtual commencement.

In the United States, reported coronavirus cases and deaths have fallen significantly after a post-holiday surge, according to a New York Times database. Vaccinations have also picked up, averaging about 2.5 million shots a day, as eligibility expands in several states.

Experts warn, however, that dangerous variants could lead to a spike in cases and states that lift restrictions could be acting prematurely.

Many universities are stipulating that in order to participate in graduation, students must have tested negative for the coronavirus before the ceremony and have a good record of adhering to campus policies created to guard against infection.

Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, said in a statement this month that the university would be recognizing graduation by holding in-person gatherings “on or around May 24, if public health conditions permit.” Students studying both on campus and remotely are invited, but not their guests. Mr. Salovey said Yale was excluding families because it seemed unlikely that everybody would be vaccinated by graduation day.

Harvard was one of the first universities to evacuate its campus in mid-March last year, and it is still in caution mode. In an email to students on Feb. 26, its president, Lawrence Bacow, said that postponing live commencement for two years running was “deeply disappointing, but public health and safety must continue to take precedence.”

Like other universities, though, Harvard promised to bring the classes of 2020 and 2021 back to celebrate at some future date.

Some universities plan to hold their commencements in outdoor stadiums. Notre Dame, which was aggressive about bringing students back to campus last fall, is planning to accommodate all 3,000 graduates and a limited number of guests in its 79,000-seat stadium. Health officials have authorized the use of up to 20 percent of the seating.

The University of Southern California will hold in-person ceremonies for the classes of 2021 and 2020 in May. The ceremonies will take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and graduates will be allowed to invite two guests, although they must be California residents.

Northeastern University in Boston will host five commencement ceremonies in Fenway Park in May. Officials are aiming to allow each graduate to invite one guest, though they are still evaluating total capacity with physical distancing.

The University of South Florida in Tampa said this month that its commencement would take place at nearby Tropicana Field, which can hold about 40,000 people. The university set a tentative date of May 7 to 9. Students will be allowed to bring two guests and must register in advance.

Some schools are holding ceremonies without guests, in what will be largely empty stadiums.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will hold in-person ceremonies in its Camp Randall Stadium, which can hold about 80,000 people. The university will hold two ceremonies on May 8, but graduates cannot bring guests.

Princeton plans to hold an outdoor commencement at its stadium for students who have taken part in the testing program and who live on or near campus. It is also considering extending the invitation to students learning virtually.

Princeton is still deciding whether to allow guests at its in-person ceremony, and summed up the uncertainty this way: “Families are encouraged not to make nonrefundable travel arrangements.”

Some universities are moving forward with entirely virtual commencements. Columbia is planning a virtual ceremony, but has held out some hope of smaller outdoor events. New York University and Stanford University have also announced plans to hold virtual celebrations.

Annie Arkwright, near her home in Shropshire, England. She lost her 19-year-old daughter, Lily, to suicide in October. “Lockdown put Lily in physical and emotional situations she would never have in normal times,” Ms. Arkwright said.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

More than 2.7 million people have died from the coronavirus, a tangible count of the pandemic’s cost. But as more people are vaccinated, and communities open up, there is a tally that experts say is harder to track: the psychological toll of months of isolation and global suffering, which for some has proved fatal.

There are some signs indicating a widespread mental health crisis. Japan saw a spike in suicide among women last year, and in Europe, mental health experts have reported a rise in the number of young people expressing suicidal thoughts. In the United States, many emergency rooms have faced surges in admissions of young children and teenagers with mental health issues.

Mental health experts say prolonged symptoms of depression and anxiety may prompt risky behaviors that lead to self-harm, accidents or even death, especially among young people.

Some public figures, like Yuval Noah Harari, a prominent Israeli historian, have asked the authorities to weigh the risks of depression if they impose new virus restrictions. And public health officials in some areas that have seen a surge of adolescent suicides have pushed for schools to reopen, although researchers say it is too early to conclusively link restrictions to suicide rates.

In Europe, with the crippled economy and the aftermath of the restrictions, the psychological fallout of the pandemic could unfold for months, or even years, public health officials say, with young people among the most affected.

Bereaved families of young people who have died during the pandemic are haunted by questions over whether lockdowns — which not only shut stores and restaurants but required people to stay home for months — played a role. They are calling for more resources for mental health and suicide prevention.

Lily Arkwright, a 19-year-old history student at Cardiff University in Wales, was self-confident, outgoing and charismatic in public, her friends and family said, but as she went back to school in September, she began to struggle with the effects of lockdown. She died by suicide in October.

“Lockdown put Lily in physical and emotional situations she would never have in normal times,” said her mother, Annie Arkwright.

“It’s OK for a young child to fall over and let their parents know that their knee hurts,” Ms. Arkwright said. “This same attitude needs to be extended to mental health.”

People waiting to receive shots of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in Buenos Aires in February. Argentina has decided to delay second doses of this and other vaccines to focus on first shots.
People waiting to receive shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in Buenos Aires in February. Argentina has decided to delay second doses of this and other vaccines to focus on first shots.Credit…Matias Baglietto/Reuters

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is delaying the administration of the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines for three months in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible get at least one dose amid a sluggish vaccination drive.

The move “seeks to vaccinate the largest number of people possible with the first dose to maximize the benefits of vaccination and diminish the impact of hospitalizations and mortality,” the government said in announcing the decision on Friday.

The country has been applying Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since its vaccination campaign began in December, Argentina, a country of 45 million people, says it has administered a total of 3.5 million doses of the vaccine, which includes more than half a million people who have received the two doses called for in the protocols for all three vaccines.

Several countries are considering delaying second doses, including Britain, which pursued a plan to separate doses by up to three months. And federal health authorities in the United States have indicated flexibility on expanding the gap between first and second doses to six weeks.

Argentina’s decision to delay second doses comes amid increasing concerns of the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, fueled by new variants that have engulfed several of Argentina’s neighbors, particularly Brazil, but also Chile and Paraguay.

Argentina is canceling all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting on Saturday. It had already blocked flights from Britain and Ireland, and recently required international travelers to take a mandatory coronavirus test on arrival and to quarantine in a hotel if the result came back positive.

People are showered with flower petals as part of Holi celebrations in Mathura, India, on Thursday. As the festival season begins, health care workers are worried about the spread of the virus.
People are showered with flower petals as part of Holi celebrations in Mathura, India, on Thursday. As the festival season begins, health care workers are worried about the spread of the virus.Credit…K.K. Arora/Reuters

India, racing to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, recorded its biggest single-day spike since October — 59,118 cases in the past 24 hours.

The uptick, which was especially high in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, comes as more people ease up on public health measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

Officials say the relaxed attitude could be one factor in the increase. Single-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the country’s seven-day average of new cases, a more reliable gauge, has been rising sharply since early March, surpassing 41,500 for the first time since late November.

The resurgence of the coronavirus, which was once seemingly in retreat, is prompting health officials and law enforcement agencies to review and adopt more stringent measures to try to stem the spread. Health care workers are particularly worried as people gather to celebrate festivals like Holi and crowd at bazaars.

India has directed regional governments to deploy law enforcement officials to ensure that people are wearing masks and maintaining distance. And the country has also curtailed exports of Covid-19 vaccines, inciting a setback for inoculation drives in other countries, especially in poorer ones that do not have the infrastructure to produce their own.

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

The latest surge is crippling life in several regions of Maharashtra, which has recorded the highest number of cases in the country — 2.6 million. The state is home to densely populated Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, where millions live, sometimes in very close quarters. The Dharavi slum was sealed off for nearly two months during the first wave of infections.

Even as cases rose in the city, business continued as usual in some pockets. But entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown, and the government in Maharashtra is imposing a nightly curfew starting Sunday. Malls will also close at 8 p.m.

As of Saturday morning, India had reported at least 11.9 million cases and 161,240 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Sachin Tendulkar, one of India’s cricketing legends, and the Bollywood star Aamir Khan were among those who have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.

A nurse preparing vaccine syringes in Munich last week. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose.
A nurse preparing vaccine syringes in Munich last week. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

The European Union’s stumbling Covid-19 vaccination drive, badly shaken by the recent AstraZeneca safety scare, got a boost Friday from the European Medicines Agency, which approved new AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine production sites.

The agency, an arm of the European Union and Europe’s top drug regulator, approved sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. It also loosened regulations for how long the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultralow temperatures.

The moves could speed up the Continent’s lagging vaccine production and distribution, which have been plagued by delays and setbacks.

Though the European Union is flush with cash, influence and negotiating heft, only about 10 percent of its citizens have received a first dose, compared with 26 percent in the United States and 44 percent in Britain. The bloc of 27 nations was comparatively slow to negotiate contracts with drugmakers, and regulators were cautious and deliberative in approving some vaccines. And it has been stymied by supply disruptions and shortages.

Europe also experienced a scare over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine and distribution in several countries was temporarily halted. Most of those countries have resumed using it, after the E.U. drug agency vouched for its safety. But public confidence in the shot has been severely undermined.

The hitches in Europe’s vaccine rollout come as some countries, like Germany, are facing a spike in new cases. “The next few weeks will decide whether we can get the pandemic under control in the foreseeable future,” Helge Braun, an aide to Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “If the number of infections rises rapidly at the same time as the vaccination, the risk increases that the next virus mutation will become immune to the vaccine.”

The agency said a new warning label would be added to the vaccine so that people in the medical community could watch for rare complications that could lead to blood clots and brain bleeds.

Trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine is essential to fighting the pandemic worldwide. The shot is more easily stored and less expensive than Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, and for now, it is sold without the goal of earning a profit.

The European Union has exported more vaccine doses than it has administered. On Wednesday, it revealed emergency legislation that would curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in its countries for the next six weeks.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, posted on Twitter on Thursday that the European Union had shipped out 77 million doses since early December, that 88 million were expected to be distributed internally by the end of the week and that 62 million shots had been administered within member nations.

Bryan Pietsch contributed reporting.

Credit…Patricia Voulgaris for The New York Times

It’s called smell training, and it is suddenly in big demand.

According to one study, as many as 77 percent of people who have had Covid-19 were estimated to have lost their sense of smell to some degree as a result of their infections.

People who experience a loss of smell may also develop parosmia, a disturbing disorder in which previously normal scents register as unpleasant odors.

Several studies have demonstrated that smell training can help people who have lost some or all of their sense of smell to other viral illnesses like sinus infections. So while there are no robust studies examining the efficacy of the training among Covid survivors, it is still widely considered the best option for them.

Smell training is somewhat akin to physical therapy for your nose. It involves sniffing several potent scents twice a day, sometimes for months, to stimulate and restore the olfactory system — or, at the very least, to help it function better.

“It’s not a quick fix,” said Chrissi Kelly, a member of the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research and the founder of AbScent, a nonprofit group based in England and Wales that offers support and education to people around the world who have smell disorders. “You have to keep up with it.”

If it has been a couple of weeks since you have lost your sense of smell and it hasn’t started to come back, then it makes sense to start smell training. When the sense does begin to return, it might happen gradually rather than all at once. At first, scents might seem distorted or foul.

Scientists are still learning about all of the mechanisms by which the coronavirus affects the olfactory system, but they believe parosmia occurs because the neural pathways from the nose to the brain have been disrupted, “kind of like a telephone operator from the 1950s connecting the wrong party to another line,” said Pamela Dalton, a faculty member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia.

For most people, parosmia is a symptom of recovery, and that’s why experts believe smell training can be beneficial as you continue to heal.

A patient being intubated this week at Hospital Clinicas, a main medical facility in central Porto Alegre, Brazil.
A patient being intubated this week at Hospital Clinicas, a main medical facility in central Porto Alegre, Brazil.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

The patients began arriving at hospitals in Porto Alegre far sicker and younger than before. Funeral homes were experiencing a steady uptick in business, while exhausted doctors and nurses pleaded in February for a lockdown to save lives.

But Sebastiao Melo, Porto Alegre’s mayor, argued there was a greater imperative.

“Put your life on the line so that we can save the economy,” Mr. Melo appealed to his constituents in late February.

Now Porto Alegre, a prosperous city in southern Brazil, is at the heart of a stunning breakdown of the country’s health care system — a crisis foretold.

More than a year into the pandemic, deaths in Brazil are at their peak and highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are sweeping the nation, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. The country, whose leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has played down the threat of the virus, is now reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country in the world.

“We have never seen a failure of the health system of this magnitude,” said Ana de Lemos, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in Brazil. “And we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

On Wednesday, the country surpassed 300,000 Covid-19 deaths, with roughly 125 Brazilians succumbing to the disease every hour. Health officials in public and private hospitals were scrambling to expand critical care units, stock up on dwindling supplies of oxygen and procure scarce intubation sedatives that are being sold at an exponential markup.

Visiting Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Turkey said that it would not require international travelers to be vaccinated this summer and would re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.
Visiting Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Turkey said that it would not require international travelers to be vaccinated this summer and would re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.Credit…Bradley Secker for The New York Times

With the number of people in the United States vaccinated against the coronavirus climbing, Americans are starting to explore their prospects for international travel this summer, a season when Europe is traditionally a big draw.

Most of Europe has been off-limits to most U.S. residents for over a year, and the continent is grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and a surge in more contagious variants, making it unclear when borders will reopen. But some European countries have started to welcome vaccinated travelers, including American tourists, and others are making preparations to ease restrictions in time for the summer season.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against travel. And ultimately the course of the virus will determine what travel looks like across the world. But here’s what we know about how European countries are preparing to resume tourism.

“The current focus is on opening up internal markets within the E.U. and U.K. and then, depending on reciprocity agreements, more third countries will be included,” said Eric Dresin, the secretary general of the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association. “But right now, we are not talking about Americans visiting Europe.”

Travelers coming from the United States do have some options, though: Having brought the virus under control, Iceland is allowing all vaccinated travelers to enter without being subject to Covid-19 testing or quarantine measures.

Greece said it would reopen for all tourists in mid-May, as long as they show proof of vaccination, antibodies or a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling. Turkey said that it would not require international travelers to be vaccinated this summer, and that it would re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.

Spain said it would reopen to international visitors in the spring, once 30 to 40 percent of its adult population is vaccinated. Portugal also hopes to reopen its borders by May, but it is not yet clear whether Americans will be allowed in.

Britain didn’t bar Americans from entering during the pandemic, and they can visit now, but they face strict testing and quarantine requirements.

Each country sets its own rules, but most safety protocols are unlikely to change this summer, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Visitors will be expected to wear masks and keep a safe distance in public spaces. Hotels, restaurants and event spaces will have enhanced cleaning protocols in place, and some may impose capacity restrictions.

Medical staff prepared to administer vaccines at a drive-through site in Cleveland, Miss., on Wednesday. Biden administration officials are anticipating the vaccine supply to outstrip U.S. demand by mid-May.
Medical staff prepared to administer vaccines at a drive-through site in Cleveland, Miss., on Wednesday. Biden administration officials are anticipating the vaccine supply to outstrip U.S. demand by mid-May.Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

Vaccine manufacturers in the United States are set to overproduce Covid-19 vaccines by late spring as much of the world is still in need of doses. Biden administration officials are anticipating the supply to outstrip U.S. demand by mid-May if not sooner, and are grappling with what to do with the surplus when vaccine scarcity turns to glut.

Many countries around the world are having the opposite issue, and deciding the fate of the extra doses is a question with significant implications for the global fight to end the pandemic.

Of the vaccine doses given worldwide, about three-quarters have gone to only 10 countries. At least 30 countries have not yet injected a single person. And as more countries and regions begin limiting their exports, vaccine shortages, especially in poorer countries, threaten to become more acute.

India, a major supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccine, is holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India produces daily to inoculate its own population as coronavirus cases soar. The decision is a setback for vaccination drives in other countries that don’t have the infrastructure to produce their own vaccines.

Covax, the program set up by donor agencies to purchase vaccines for poorer nations, said on Thursday that it had told those countries that the nearly 100 million doses expected in March and April would face delays because of “increased demand for Covid-19 vaccines in India.”

The European Union decided this week to move on emergency legislation that would curb vaccine exports for the next six weeks to address its own vaccine shortfalls. The bloc has exported more doses to Britain than it has delivered to Germany, and it is starting to see another wave of infections in France and Italy.

Here’s what else we learned this week:

  • People who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can still contract the virus, but it’s most likely very rare. “Breakthrough” cases, though quite uncommon, are a sharp reminder that vaccinated people should wear masks while the virus is circulating widely.

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

  • A new study will attempt to determine one of the big unanswered questions about vaccines: Can people immunized against the coronavirus still spread it to others? Researchers said they were recruiting 12,000 students on some 20 U.S. college campuses, about half of whom will be immediately vaccinated and the other half four months later. Participants will swab their noses daily and be tested often, and over time, about 25,000 of their close contacts will also be studied.

Members of the 11-person Mariachi Los Galleros band performing in San Antonio last week.
Members of the 11-person Mariachi Los Galleros band performing in San Antonio last week.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Outside St. Joseph’s Salesian Youth Retreat Center near Los Angeles, the musicians of Mariachi Los Camperos band readied themselves to play to honor a colleague, simultaneously lifting bows to violins, hands to a golden harp and fingers to pluck at guitarrons, their bass guitars.

At a funeral mass in February, they belted out songs to honor a revered band member, expressing their grief and saying their goodbyes to the guittaron player Juan Jimenez, who died of the coronavirus.

“His friends were all there with him, playing for him, thanking him, continuing his legacy,” said Jesus Guzman, a friend of Jimenez since childhood and the music director of the mariachi band they both called their own.

The calendars of mariachi bands nationwide used to be full of dates for weddings, quinceaneras and serenades where the vigorous music of Mexican culture helped enliven some of life’s most joyous moments. With the onset of the pandemic, those opportunities disappeared, leaving behind only the funerals, the mounting number of funerals, including those for their own members, that have kept some mariachis from financial ruin.

To witness the number of sad events that have paid the bills for mariachis is to confront the virus’s harrowing toll on the audiences who once sang along to their music. Latino and Black residents caught in this winter’s fierce coronavirus surge through Los Angeles County died at two or three times the rate of the white population there.

The story is similar in other places with large Latino populations, and studies show Latinos are more vulnerable to becoming ill and dying from the virus. Their communities and households tend to be more crowded and to rely on mass transit, their access to health care is limited, and their jobs are more likely to involve contact with the public.

So as the caskets go into the ground, many mariachi bands in California, Texas, Illinois and elsewhere have turned to playing songs of pain and sorrow to ease the passing. Even for the bands used to playing at funerals before the pandemic, the sweep of death has been overwhelming. Many have lost family and friends and music teachers as well as fellow band members.

To make a living, they sometimes find themselves performing at events attended by crowds of people who are not masked or observing safety protocols or social distancing. “Every time I go to work, I pray that I’m one of the lucky ones to return home,” said Christian Chavez, of Mariachi Tierra Mexicana and the secretary for the Organization of Independent Mariachis of California. Of the nearly 400 active members in the organization, about 80 have died.

Leave a Reply