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COVID Again


Gregory Matthews
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When Can I Travel After Testing Positive for COVID-19?

With preflight COVID-19 tests required to visit many destinations (and to return to the United States), there’s a chance you could get a positive result before your next flight. If that happens, the first question on your mind will be, “When can I travel after testing positive for COVID?”

https://www.smartertravel.com/when-can-i-travel-after-testing-positive-for-covid-19/?

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 11, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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A vaccine site in Los Angeles offered its services to children over 5 in March.Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

Closer to a vaccine for young kids

June is shaping up to be a big month for vaccines for young children.

That’s when the F.D.A. is expected to rule on the use of Moderna’s vaccine for children of all ages — including those as young as 6 months. The agency is also expected next month to review Pfizer’s data for its proposed three-dose vaccine for children younger than 5.

Currently there is no vaccine available for children younger than 5, forcing parents to rely on flimsier protective measures.

As we wait, we’re getting new data about how well Moderna’s vaccine works in young children. A new study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the company’s vaccine elicited a strong immune response in young children — at least against the Delta variant, my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reports.

In the clinical trial, which included only children 6 to 11 years old, Moderna gave half the adult dose — 50 micrograms — or a placebo, to 4,000 children.

To understand how well the vaccine worked, the researchers measured the children’s antibody levels after they were vaccinated. Those who received the vaccine produced antibody levels that were slightly higher than those seen in young adults, a promising sign.

The children experienced only minor side effects — including pain at the injection site, headache and fatigue — and less often than adults. But the trial was not large enough to detect rarer side effects, like the heart problems observed in other age groups, nor was it large enough to assess the vaccine’s ability to forestall severe disease or death.

But based on small numbers of infections with the Delta variant among the participants, the researchers estimated that the vaccine had an efficacy of 88 percent against infection.

While Moderna’s trial measured the vaccine’s power against the Delta variant, the company is still assessing its performance against Omicron. Independent teams have reported that the Moderna vaccine elicits a strong immune response in children 7 to 11 years as well as adolescents against Omicron, but the antibodies appear to wane over time, as they do in adults.

Still, as we approach another pandemic summer, millions of American parents are entering yet another season uncertain whether a vaccine will soon be made available for their young children. The process has been particularly confusing and unfair for these parents, who still do not have a vaccine more than two years into the pandemic, Dr. Sallie Permar, an expert in pediatric vaccines at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, said.

“We really can’t do it this way in the future — we can’t leave children to the very last,” Dr. Permar said.

 
 
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The rate of gun-related homicides in the U.S. soared as the virus spread in 2020.Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

A spike in gun deaths

Gun deaths in the U.S. reached the highest number ever recorded during the first year of the pandemic, the C.D.C. reported.

More than 45,000 Americans died in gun-related incidents in 2020 in the U.S., and gun-related homicides surged by 35 percent, the highest gun homicide rate reported since 1994.

The new numbers also revealed widened disparities. The largest increases in homicides involving guns were in poor communities and exacted a disproportionate toll on younger Black men in particular. Deaths of Black women, though smaller in number, also increased significantly.

The rise in gun violence has afflicted cities of every size, in both blue and red states, leaving law enforcement scrambling for answers. The C.D.C. report was confirmation of something that many Americans had already sensed: Amid the stress and upheaval, citizens turned to guns in numbers rarely seen.

“Something has happened to the American people during this two years that has taken violence to a new level,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that studies law enforcement policy. “We don’t know what it is, but if you talk to police chiefs they will tell you that what used to be some small altercation now becomes a shooting and a homicide.”

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

I am an artist and I am almost 80. I have been working toward a gallery exhibition for 3 to 4 years and it will most likely be my last solo show. As the reports of the next surge of Omicron work their way onto the public radar, I see my opportunity slowly eroding. I have thrown all my energy, time and money into this exhibition. I thought surely we would have rounded the corner on this viral scourge by now. But there is increasing chatter about going virtual as the hoped-for finish line keeps receding into the future. We’re all sick of living life virtually. I selfishly want and need this final opportunity to happen. I’m on a slippery slope and sorrier than I can say.

— Mary Lapos, Danville, Pa.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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North Korea confirms 1st COVID outbreak, Kim orders lockdown

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak after holding for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-pandemics-south-korea-north-0e0cb1be7a3878a771124dcdcbdba06c?

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N. Korea reports 6 deaths after admitting COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Six people have died and 350,000 have been treated for a fever that has spread “explosively” across North Korea, state media said Friday, a day after the country acknowledged a COVID-19 outbreak for the first time in the pandemic.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-south-korea-north-545c208da2802a79d2187b853d0622ee?

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 13, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times
 
 
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Children playing in the water at the World War II Memorial in Washington in May 2021.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Advice for summer travel

The summer travel season is about to start — and this year things look radically different.

Restrictions in tourist hot spots are loosening, mask rules on flights are changing, and more people are making travel plans — even as cases start to tick up again in the U.S.

For advice, I turned to Seth Kugel, who just started writing The Times’s Tripped Up column, where he answers readers’ travel questions and tries to resolve their disasters.

How should we approach travel this summer?

Many people have been revving up to travel for the first time in a few years, and their expectations for how life-changing and perfect their trip is going to be are probably way too high.

There’s an Instagram and TikTok trend in which a person is in an airport or at home, and they put their hand or foot in front of the camera, remove it, and they’re suddenly relaxing on the beach or at the Eiffel Tower. And I just want to take that trend and rip it out of that Instagram algorithm because it ignores the hard part of travel. You don’t just snap your fingers and end up on the beach.

If you’ve been traveling throughout the pandemic, you’re used to an alternate universe of travel where flights are empty, prices are cheap, and everybody is doing everything they can to get your tourist dollars. That world is definitely over.

People need to remember that vacations are tiring, weather is unpredictable, and lines can be long. During the summer, everyone is back out traveling, and there’s just no way your trip is going to be exactly as you fantasized. So be ready for that.

What specific advice do you have?

I recently got an interesting letter from a reader who said that there were literally no car rentals available in Halifax in Canada in August. We’re back to “normal” in a lot of ways, but things are still a little wacky out there. Keep in mind that the industry and supply and demand are still in flux.

It’s also always important to figure out what kind of health insurance you need when you travel. Obviously, now it’s even more important since you might get Covid. Private insurers usually provide emergency coverage, whereas Medicare usually does not. If you are covered, you should know what documentation you’ll need if you have to go to the hospital, and you should also have a credit card that you can hand over, as you’ll most likely have to pay up front.

Any other tips?

Everyone at Expedia will read this and curse, but that doesn’t stop it from being true: Book direct with the hotel and book direct with the airline — it’s potentially much easier to make changes that way, if you need to. If you find a great deal through another site and can’t replicate that directly, it’s OK to book it, but be aware that you’re adding a little bit of risk to your vacation.

People also try to fit too much into their day. If you’re planning a seven-day trip, think of it as a five-day trip, because you’re bound to experience delays. Make a list of things you’d ideally like to do, but be ready to change plans if something better comes along.

What about masking on planes?

I still recommend an N95 mask for travel. But you should also keep in mind that things are changing. I just took a flight from St. Louis to New York, and the pilot said something like, “Federal regulations no longer require you to use a mask. Please respect your fellow travelers’ choices.”

Everyone who has been pro-mask has been snidely commenting on the people who don’t wear masks for a long time, and vice versa. This pilot was saying: That’s over now.

There are fewer and fewer people who are masked on flights, and that’s just going to be the price of travel. People around you are going to be eating. They may be coughing, and you just can’t get mad at them. It’s no longer fair to do that, and it could ruin your own trip. Don’t travel if you are going to go crazy when other people don’t wear masks.

Everyone has to respect other people’s decisions for now. That’s good practice for travel anyway. When you travel, you can’t be as judgmental.

If you have travel questions that you’d like Seth to answer in his column, you can send them to trippedup@nytimes.com.

 
 
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Is this in your future?Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Your summer plans

We asked readers what travel this summer meant to them, and how they were approaching it. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.

“The building excitement toward the first day of June is the same giddiness I felt when I was a child during summer vacation. Summer 2022 to me is exploration, having fun, smiles and laughter, and it’s letting out this deep breath I’ve been holding in for the past two years.” — Julian Lak, New York, N.Y.

“I am cautiously setting the date of July 2 for my unmasking. I will be leaving for summer camp for a month that day, and I don’t want to wear a mask at camp. Since I just got Covid (two days ago), I’m confident that my immunity plus the vaccine and a booster will be enough to keep away Covid for a while, at least for camp, if not for the foreseeable unmasked future.” — Atticus Howard-Recht, age 14, Brooklyn, N.Y.

“More of the same: masking indoors, avoiding crowds, only doing small outdoor gatherings. My almost 2-year-old (born during the pandemic) still can’t be vaccinated, and given all the ups and downs of both Covid and the under-5 vaccines, I’m not holding my breath that this summer will be much different.” — Erica, Alexandria, Va.

“Last week, finally, I began to date again! I feel more alive, ready for the enjoyment of in-person, real conversations, sharing a hike or walk, a meal or movie. As a senior, I take Covid very seriously. With a positive attitude and my N95 mask, I will venture to new horizons and hope the special one comes along!” — Lori Roth, Arizona

“Covid figures are rising, not falling. Hospital figures are going up in Britain as I write. I will not be celebrating the advent of summer by having barbecues with friends, where you get relatively up close and personal. No, I shall still be donning my mask and social distancing. No garden parties on the lawn for me. The end is not yet in sight.” — Lynn Reid, Edinburgh.

“This sums it up: Beaches, barbecues, and boosters. We will keep summer activities local or regional. This is not the time of year we would seek out international travel, anyway.” — Jill Ronda, northern N.J.

“Who’s waiting for summer? I leave tomorrow for three weeks in Wales, southeastern England and Umbria. I’ve packed masks and tests, and will mask obsessively in airports and similar spaces. But, at 81, getting back to walking and hiking just has to happen.” — Katherine Mawdsley, Davis, Calif.

 
 

What else we’re following

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

 
 
Hiroko Masuike compiled photos for this briefing.
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A million empty spaces: Chronicling COVID's cruel US toll

On the deadliest day of a horrific week in April 2020, COVID took the lives of 816 people in New York City alone. Lost in the blizzard of pandemic data that’s been swirling ever since is the fact that 43-year-old Fernando Morales was one of them.

https://apnews.com/article/one-million-dead-US-COVID-ea745d462d47a65029a8c507c94e679e?

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Kim blasts pandemic response as North Korean outbreak surges

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials over slow medicine deliveries and mobilized the military to respond to a surge in suspected COVID-19 infections, as his nation struggled to contain a fever that has reportedly killed dozens and sickened nearly a million others in a span of three days.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-pandemics-south-korea-north-67e0b5093d66125242ddb3f00f44b690?

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 16, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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American flags have been lowered to half-staff though sunset tonight to commemorate the coming milestone of one million Covid deaths in the U.S.Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

One million deaths

The United States is poised to reach a previously unthinkable milestone: one million deaths from the coronavirus.

The magnitude of loss is nearly impossible to grasp. More Americans have died from Covid-19 than in two decades of car crashes or on battlefields in all of the country’s wars combined. The U.S. toll is higher than that of any other country in the world.

But the virus did not claim lives evenly, or randomly. The New York Times analyzed 25 months of data on deaths during the pandemic and found that some groups were far more vulnerable than others.

Three-quarters of those who have died of Covid have been 65 or older — 1 percent of all people in this age group. And the pandemic has been especially deadly for the oldest. Covid has killed more than 3 percent of the entire U.S. population 85 and older.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times

Black and Hispanic people in every age group have died at higher rates than white people. Health experts said that the disparity stems in part because a disproportionate share of essential workers are people of color and because communities of color had lower vaccination rates in the first months of the rollout.

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The New York Times

About 60 percent of all deaths at the beginning of the pandemic happened in the Northeast, as the virus tore through cities and suburbs on the Eastern Seaboard. New York City alone saw 20 percent of the nation’s deaths in the first wave, despite making up just 3 percent of the U.S. population.

But the South has experienced the highest overall death rates of any region. More than 378,000 people in the region have died, many of them younger.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times

The South is home to some of the lowest vaccination rates. Epidemiologists also point to less stringent virus responses, like shorter lockdowns and loose masking restrictions.

More than 429,000 people have died of Covid since all adults in the United States became eligible for vaccination in April 2021.

A majority of them were unvaccinated, but as the virus has continued to spread, it has killed thousands of vaccinated people, too.

“It’s just sobering that in a country with remarkable resources like ours that we are seeing deaths like this,” said Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. “And we’re seeing a lack of benefit from therapy that we know is accessible.”

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times

The shocking death toll is the result of many factors, including elected officials who downplayed the threat of the virus and resisted safety measures; a decentralized, overburdened health care system that struggled with testing, tracing and treatment; and lower vaccination and booster rates than in other rich countries.

What these failures left behind are families robbed of time with loved ones and millions of Americans who carry a grief that at times feels lonely, permanent and agonizingly removed from the country’s shared journey.

My colleague Julie Bosman, the Chicago bureau chief, spent months interviewing Americans who have lost someone to Covid. Many feel retraumatized on a regular basis as Covid continues to claim lives.

“I was really struck by how many people said that when they tell someone that they lost a relative to Covid, the first question is always, ‘Oh, did she have pre-existing conditions?’” Julie told me. “It’s a revealing question because to me it says, ‘I’m trying to reassure myself that I’m OK and that I’m not going to die.’ And also, ‘I’m justifying the death of your loved one.’”

Many families feel as if their pain is being written off as the country tries to collectively move on from the pandemic. For now, there is no enduring national memorial to the people who have died, no communal place to gather and mourn.

“For us, the pandemic isn’t just this blip in our history,” said Erin Reiner, whose mother, Gwen Wilson, a champion bowler and quilter in Kansas, died from Covid at the age of 72. “People talk about it like it’s such an inconvenience — we don’t get to do this, we don’t get to have this celebration. I only wish that’s all it was for us, for me, for the countless other families.”

Hear them speak. The Daily recently talked to those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

 
 

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Remembering loved ones

The Times Opinion section recently asked readers to share memories of their loved ones who died from Covid as a way to memorialize them and give other readers a better sense of what it’s like to lose someone during the pandemic. We gathered some of those notes here. Thank you to everyone who shared their memories.

“Aunt Joan was a nurse who dedicated her life to the service of others, and today she died in the hospital she dedicated her life to. I will miss my Aunt Joan’s wit, her grace, her optimism and her closing down of after parties with my mother and Darlene after the heartiest had their fill. She attended every 99-seat theater show of mine in New York — all of questionable quality and content — and always had me sign the playbill just to make me feel special. It was a running joke we were both in on, and it was our silent hug. I’ll miss those never-to-be moments more than anything.” — Jeremy Kehoe

“My brother David C. Heininger died on Dec. 18, 2021, at 63. David was passionate about so many things — but oh boy, first and foremost — FOOD. He was a chef. He and Kathryn had recently retired from owning an award-winning goat dairy. Kathryn raised the goats, he made amazing goat cheese and fine artisan chocolates. I miss David’s laugh. I miss making him laugh. I miss him picking up the phone when I call with “It’s my SISTER!” in this big joyful voice. I miss everything.” — Cynthia F. Heininger

“Bob Read, a veteran broadcast journalist who served as senior producer of Inside Edition’s investigative unit, spent much of his last year of life reporting on Covid-19. Bob was a mentor and role model to many, and his dedication to helping others was incomparable. In that spirit, Bob recorded a daily journal of his fight with Covid hoping to protect, educate and save lives. Mostly though, Bob was an extraordinary man, wonderful friend, loving husband and simply the best dad ever.” — Michele Riordan Read

“My brother was born with Down syndrome and couldn’t speak; however, he loved his family and friends and often gave us strong hugs and big smiles. A former teacher told us a story how he helped his classmate and friend, who was wheelchair-bound. My brother would always push his wheelchair and even set up his lunch every day. John John was also a teaser, he absolutely loved blowing out our birthday candles on our birthdays, it became a tradition for him to help. He was our candle bandit, and without him birthdays are not the same.” — Jeneffer Estampador Haynes

“Jimmy Robinson died on Jan. 17, 2021. I’ll miss his Thanksgiving dinners, his devotion to Black baseball stars, his willingness to check out a new-to-him jazz recording, his love of gossip and most of all his abiding and unrelenting use of the word “mother—” in seemingly every sentence and utterance! He could cook any and everything well and collard greens and black-eyed peas exceptionally so. He was the neighborhood watchman, barbershop raconteur and family touchstone for all things good, bad or indiscreet. I spoke with him almost every day of my adult life. The void left with his passing is unfathomable.” — David Robinson

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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N. Korea’s Kim faces ‘huge dilemma’ on aid as virus surges

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — During more than a decade as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un has made “self-reliance” his governing lynchpin, shunning international help and striving instead for domestic strategies to fix his battered economy.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-government-and-politics-seoul-south-korea-1b9087337475c3a9b5eb83df05e2a966?

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North Korea boasts recovery as WHO worries over missing data

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday added hundreds of thousands of infections to its growing pandemic caseload but also said that a million people have already recovered from suspected COVID-19 just a week after disclosing an outbreak, a public health crisis it appears to be trying to manage in isolation as global experts express deep concern about dire consequences.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-government-and-politics-south-korea-north-07e3aa5c1b6bce2323c8621c05a61ea4?

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 18, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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A long Covid patient in Illinois received physical therapy for some of her symptoms.Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times

New insights into long Covid

A major new study released today has yielded some striking findings about long Covid and its serious impact.

Researchers analyzed the largest database of private health insurance claims in the U.S. The study found that 78,252 patients were diagnosed with the medical diagnostic code for long Covid from October 2021 through January 2022.

One expert said that the number was huge, given that the study covered only the first four months after the diagnostic code — U09.9 — was introduced. The research was conducted by FAIR Health, a nonprofit organization that focuses on health care costs and insurance issues. The study also did not include people covered by government health programs like Medicaid or Medicare.

  • The study found that for 76 percent of the long Covid patients, the initial infection did not make them sick enough to require hospitalization.
  • While two-thirds of the patients had pre-existing health conditions in their medical records, nearly a third did not, a much larger percentage than some experts expected.
  • Nearly 35 percent of the patients were between the ages of 36 and 50, while nearly one-third were ages 51 to 64, and 17 percent were ages 23 to 35. (Six percent of the patients were 65 and older, a proportion that most likely reflects the fact that patients covered by the regular Medicare program weren’t included in the study.)
  • Children were also diagnosed: Nearly 4 percent of the long Covid patients were 12 or younger, while nearly 7 percent were between ages 13 and 22.
  • On average, patients were still experiencing long Covid symptoms that qualified for the diagnosis — including breathing problems, coughing, fatigue and hypertension — four and a half months after their infection.

The study, which captured only a privately insured population, almost certainly understates the scope and burden of long Covid, especially since low-income communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus and often have less access to health care.

 
 

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A Covid testing site in San Diego last year.Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

How often can I be infected?

Early on in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from vaccination or previous infection would forestall most reinfections. The Omicron variant dashed those hopes. Some scientists now fear that the future of Covid may include infections two, maybe three times a year, my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli reports.

The central problem is that the virus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first Omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the U.S., or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers told Apoorva.

“The virus is going to keep evolving,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. “And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many reinfections throughout their lives.”

 
 
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A photo provided by North Korea’s government shows its leader, Kim Jong-un, attending a meeting on antivirus strategies in Pyongyang last week.Korean Central News Agency, via Associated Press

North Korea’s scary surge

North Korea is experiencing what it has described as its first outbreak of the pandemic. State media has reported 1.7 million people with fevers, without saying how many of them had tested positive for the coronavirus.

To understand what’s happening in the reclusive nation, I spoke to my colleague Choe Sang-Hun, our Seoul bureau chief, who covers the country.

How did this start?

North Korea didn’t announce how the outbreak began. But the common belief among North Korea watchers is that the virus began spreading from a huge military parade the country held late last month where tens of thousands of people were mobilized, none of them wearing masks. May is also rice planting season, and there’s a huge mobilization inside the country where students and workers in cities travel to the countryside to help farmers plant the rice. We believe that also helped to spread the virus.

What’s the government doing?

Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, called the situation a “maximum emergency” health crisis, and he has ordered his country to lock down all cities and counties. But interestingly, he said that people should continue to work in locked-down areas. Kim Jong-un has suggested that North Korea should learn from China’s experience and copy China’s model for fighting Covid. The big difference is that China has a huge economy, a massive vaccine campaign and has resources, drugs and food. North Korea has none of that. So the country cannot apply the kinds of forceful restrictions as China has on major cities. If North Korea locks people down in their homes, they might die because they don’t have food supplies, and the state cannot provide them.

What’s going to happen to the people?

We don’t know. The big question is: What if the actions taken so far don’t stop the outbreak? It looks as if North Korea received three cargo planes of supplies from China a few days ago, but so far, North Korea hasn’t really asked for international humanitarian aid.

One expert estimated that 160,000 people could die if the worst-case scenario happens in North Korea. But remember, this is a regime that didn’t collapse when an estimated 2 million people in the country died during the famine in the 1990s. So some analysts say that if the regime didn’t really care about the deaths of 2 million people, they’re not going to care when a much smaller number die. They say the regime will likely stick with its policies.

 
 

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What you’re doing

As the U.S. approaches one million deaths from the virus, we’re continuing to remember those we’ve lost. Today’s remembrance comes from Angie Macon, who wrote about her colleague and friend Katie Trocheck Abel, who passed away on Feb. 9. She was 39.

Katie had this boundless energy that she devoted to her family and friends. She was very active in the Free Fridge Movement in Atlanta and other nonprofits related to food insecurity. She was a professional events planner — she could literally create a great event with a cup of water and some sand. I miss her ability to bring people together over common interest — and suddenly, your circle of friends grew exponentially. I miss her funny anecdotes about raising her children — she was just so real about being a mom.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 20, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times
 
 
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Outdoor seating at the Buvette restaurant in Manhattan on Monday.Amir Hamja for The New York Times

New York’s fifth wave

New York City is often a bellwether for the nation when it comes to the virus, and the warning lights are flashing: Earlier this week, rising case counts and hospitalizations triggered a “high Covid alert,” indicating “high community spread” and “substantial pressure” on health care services.

This latest wave, which is New York City’s fifth, started in mid-March. At first it was driven by the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, but now most cases are caused by newer versions — primarily BA.2.12.1, which is more transmissible than its predecessor and made up roughly 73 percent of new cases across New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico as of mid-May, according to the C.D.C.

For the latest on the city, I spoke with my colleague Joseph Goldstein, who covers health care in New York.

What’s the current situation?

The rise this time has been building much more gradually compared with the first Omicron wave a few months back. But there’s a lot of virus circulating right now and the numbers keep climbing. Currently we’re seeing more than 4,000 confirmed cases a day, but those official numbers dramatically undercount how many people are sick because they don’t incorporate at-home tests.

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New daily reported cases in New York City, seven-day average.The New York Times

Here’s another metric: A company called Kinsa, which distributes internet-connected thermometers, said that just over 4 percent of its users in New York City reported fevers in recent days. That’s a very high number. In non-Covid years it might be below 1.5 percent. You have to go back to the days of Omicron in December and January to see numbers that high.

What about hospitalizations?

New Covid hospitalizations are at about 150 a day. For comparison, in early January, there were a couple of days when it was over a thousand. So while we’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations, we aren’t seeing a dizzying rise as in January, when some emergency rooms were so packed you had to pick your path through gurneys.

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The New York Times

Why is that?

C.D.C. research suggests that nearly a third of the city was probably infected during the Omicron wave in January and December. So presumably a lot of New Yorkers have more protection now against severe forms of the disease. Also, more people have received their booster shots. And the antiviral pill Paxlovid is making a difference, too.

How is the city approaching this wave?

Mayor Eric Adams has been very clear that he’s not interested in introducing new restrictions unless the hospital system is in danger of being overwhelmed, and experts say that’s not likely here. Epidemiologists are not predicting a precipitous rise in hospitalizations as we saw during the first Omicron wave back in December and January.

Most Covid restrictions have been dropped in New York City. But there is also still a substantial health apparatus built up around Covid here. Testing is widely available. There’s an organized system for distributing antivirals. In New York, there are also still a lot more people wearing masks than in other parts of the country, but it’s largely not a place where the government is requiring you to do it anymore.

What’s the atmosphere like?

You walk around New York City these days, and it’s extraordinary how many people are coughing. But this is also around the time when tree pollen tends to peak here. It seems as if everybody has either been sick with Covid recently or knows a bunch of people — colleagues and friends — who just had it.

That said, I think a lot of people are going about their lives, though others are still avoiding unmasked, public indoor settings, like crowded bars and restaurants. Everyone makes their own risk assessment.

 
 

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An electron microscopy image of mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right.C.D.C., via Associated Press

A U.S. case of monkeypox

A Massachusetts man who had traveled to Canada has been diagnosed with the monkeypox virus, a rare and potentially fatal disease, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported this week. Another possible case is under investigation in New York City.

Monkeypox is a more benign version of the smallpox virus and can be treated with an antiviral drug developed for smallpox. Unlike measles, Covid or influenza, it does not typically cause large outbreaks.

Infection begins with fever and body aches. Its most recognizable feature is a characteristic rash that starts with flat red marks, then becomes raised and filled with pus.

While the U.S. has recorded cases in the past — Texas and Maryland each had one case last year — this is the first report this year and follows a series of unusual clusters in other countries. In the past few weeks, Britain has identified nine monkeypox cases, Spain has 23 suspected cases, and Canada is investigating at least 15 possible cases in Montreal.

In Britain, only one patient had recently traveled — to Nigeria, where a strain of the monkeypox virus has been commonly seen — while the remaining patients may have acquired the infection through community transmission.

The virus can spread via body fluids, contaminated objects or respiratory droplets expelled by an infected person. The cases in Britain and Canada were mostly spread among sexual partners.

Monkeypox is typically spread through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals — not, despite its name, from monkeys. Risk factors also include contact with animals through hunting or consumption of wild game or bush meat.

My colleague Apoorva Mandavilli said that for the vast majority of people, the chances of contracting the virus were very low. “We know of only a few dozen cases worldwide so far,” she said.

While the news is alarming, you probably shouldn’t be overly concerned with monkeypox at the moment, argued Ed Yong in The Atlantic.

“When it comes to epidemics, people tend to fight the last war,” he wrote. “Because the U.S. catastrophically underestimated Covid, many Americans are panicking about monkeypox and reflexively distrusting any reassuring official statements.”

 
 

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What you’re doing

As the U.S. surpasses one million deaths from the virus, we’re continuing to remember those we’ve lost. Today’s remembrance comes from Isabel Galbo, who wrote about her grandmother Betty, who died in February 2021.

My grandma wasn’t like other grandparents, never spoiled us, and could put her foot down when she needed to. She was a foodie at heart and grocery store runs with her could take the whole day as she would intricately read every nutrition label on food packages. She had a horrible habit of being late to everything. I have inherited the same tendency, and my parents now say I have “grandma disease.” I shrug it off, but it makes me happy knowing I am like her, even in the smallest way. I am a senior in high school this year and plan to attend San Diego State in the fall. It pains me to know the next four years of my life will be spent in a beautiful city that would’ve been 15 minutes away from her. So many visits that could’ve been, but will never be.

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Tea and infomercials: N. Korea fights COVID with few tools

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — On a recent nighttime visit to a drugstore, a double-masked Kim Jong Un lamented the slow delivery of medicine. Separately, the North Korean leader’s lieutenants have quarantined hundreds of thousands of suspected COVID-19 patients and urged people with mild symptoms to take willow leaf or honeysuckle tea.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-south-korea-north-government-and-politics-4f4641bd167d728318fcafcf2bcc008b?

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 23, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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Administering a Pfizer vaccine shot at a pediatric clinic for children ages 5 to 11 in Santa Ana, Calif., last fall.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Another possible vaccine for kids

Pfizer had good news today for parents with young children: Its vaccine worked well in children younger than 5 years old, the company said.

The preliminary findings from a clinical trial showed that the company’s regimen produced an immune response strong enough to meet the criteria for regulatory authorization. The company said its vaccine had been 80 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infection in children ages 6 months to 4 years.

No supporting data was disclosed and the company only released a subset of its clinical trial data. A spokeswoman for Pfizer said comprehensive results from the trial would be disclosed next month.

The road to a pediatric vaccine in the U.S. has been bumpy, and parents’ expectations for when their children might have doses have been repeatedly dashed. The Biden administration had hoped to offer shots to those under 5 as early as February. But earlier this year, Pfizer said its two-dose regimen for children failed to offer enough protection from the Omicron variant.

Today, however, the company said that three doses, with the third given at least two months after the second, offered strong protection — with no safety concerns. Researchers said the immune response of the subset of children in the clinical trial compared favorably to that of people 16 to 25 who received two doses.

The new findings heat up a competition between Moderna and Pfizer over which company will produce the best vaccine for the youngest Americans.

Last month, Moderna sought emergency authorization of its two-dose pediatric vaccine after interim results showed that clinical trial participants had a similar immune response to young adults when given a dose one-fourth as strong. Moderna has said its vaccine appears to be 51 percent effective against symptomatic infection among children younger than 2, and 37 percent effective among those 2 to 5. But it has not yet submitted any data on that to the government.

If Pfizer’s results are borne out, its efficacy would be better than Moderna’s. The F.D.A. said today that its outside experts would meet on June 15 to discuss both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines.

About 18 million children under the age of 5 are the only Americans not yet eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus. An outstanding question is whether parents will get their young children vaccinated when a shot is authorized. (The Times Reader Center is interested in your perspective.)

Many are reluctant. Only about one in five parents with children under 5 said they would vaccinate their children right away, down from about a third in January, according to the latest monthly polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 
 

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Mink were collected for culling because of coronavirus fears on a farm in Naestved, Denmark, in November 2020.Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Lessons from an outbreak among mink

In late September 2020, there was a coronavirus outbreak at a captive mink farm in Michigan. Two thousand animals died.

Last month, the C.D.C. confirmed that four Michigan residents, including two farm employees, had been infected with the same unique coronavirus variant that was found in the mink. It was the first, and so far only, known instance of possible animal-to-human transmission in the U.S.

The outbreak, and the investigation that followed, exposed blind spots in our ability to track the virus and variants that might be moving from animals to humans, my colleague Emily Anthes reports.

While other countries that have had outbreaks on mink farms have required farmers to report respiratory symptoms in mink and regularly submit carcasses for examination, there is no national screening program in the U.S. and federal officials rely upon farm owners to self-report outbreaks.

Emily told me that mink farms don’t necessarily pose an enormous threat — “It’s that without robust testing and surveillance, it’s impossible to say what kind of risks they pose,” she said.

 
 

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What you’re doing

This summer I can be with my friends again and not constantly worrying about Covid. Yes it’s still here, but I’ve put it on the back burner for now. Summer 2020 was very difficult because all our parents wanted us to be outside and 6 feet apart. This year, everyone is going to be 15 or 16 so we’ve definitely grown up. My plans are to find a job and make a lot of money, chill out with my friends, and spend as much time as possible on Fire Island.

— Cora Davis, New York, N.Y.

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 25, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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A memorial to lives lost during the Covid-19 pandemic in Boston.M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

Where deaths rose during the pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. has had outsize access to lifesaving supplies like vaccines, antiviral treatments, face masks and testing kits. The country has also spent trillions of dollars in pandemic stimulus funds and enacted a raft of policies at the local and national level to combat the coronavirus.

And yet, despite its distinct advantage, the U.S. has had more deaths above normal levels during the pandemic than most other wealthy countries, according to data released by the World Health Organization this month.

The W.H.O. found that, overall, U.S. deaths were 15 percent above normal — a number surpassed by only four other large countries in the same income group: Chile, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

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Deaths in the U.S. rose even higher than in several countries with far fewer resources, including Argentina and the Philippines.

Globally, some of the countries with the largest increase in death rates during the first two years of the pandemic were those in the upper- and middle-income groups, including Ecuador, Mexico and Peru, where inequality and graft thwarted its pandemic response.

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Poor and developing countries generally fared worse than the wealthiest ones. But many of the lowest-income countries — including most African countries — were not included in the charts because their data is less reliable.

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The excess mortality figures measured the difference between the number of people who died in 2020 and 2021 and the number of people who would have been expected to die during that time if the pandemic had not happened. These latest estimates by the W.H.O. are what many scientists say are the most reliable indication of the total impact of the pandemic so far, and they include deaths from other preventable illnesses when hospitals were overwhelmed with patients.

The W.H.O. figures also showed how much some countries struggled to count pandemic-related deaths accurately. India, for example, recorded 481,000 deaths in 2020 and 2021. The W.H.O. estimated that the country had 4.7 million excess deaths during the same period. India has rejected the W.H.O.’s findings.

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The global toll — around 15 million — is more than twice the number of Covid-19 deaths reported in official government calculations, according to the health agency. Across the world, about 13 percent more people died in the first two years of the pandemic than what would’ve been expected in normal times.

 
 

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How safe is the gym?

A small, new study about respiration and exercise provides some rather startling answers.

The research, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the number of aerosol particles exhaled by 16 people at rest and during workouts. These tiny bits of airborne matter can transmit the coronavirus if someone is infected.

At rest, the participants breathed out about 500 particles per minute, the study found. But when they exercised, that total soared to more than 76,000 particles per minute, on average, during the most strenuous exertion. These findings help explain why several notable Covid superspreader events have occurred at indoor gym classes.

But these risks can be mitigated, my colleague Gretchen Reynolds reports. Ask your gym to open the windows and make sure its air-conditioning units draw air from outside to replace air filled with aerosol emissions. Maintain distance from others — at least eight to 10 feet during strenuous workouts — and wear an N95 mask, and check the rate of Covid cases in your community.

But keep moving. This study “is more incentive to ensure great ventilation and no crowding in gyms,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne transmission of viruses. It’s not a reason to skip workouts. “There are so many benefits to exercise,” she added, “that I’ll keep doing it in my well-ventilated, uncrowded gym.”

 
 

Updates from China

 
 

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What you’re doing

I just came back from college, and my parents are both positive for Covid. After spending my year learning biology and working in a hospital, I am very wary of the disease. However, my family is making fun of me for wanting to wear a mask around the house and quarantining in my room. It makes me really sad that my family won’t respect my wishes to stay safe. I saw too many horror stories at the hospital involving Covid. I want to get back to normal, but this doesn’t feel that normal to me.

— Adira Altman, Providence, R.I.

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Coronavirus Briefing

May 27, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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Checking back in

When we first launched this newsletter in March 2020, we asked readers to send us their stories about how they were coping with the virus. Since then, more than 20,000 of you have written in to share your pandemic experiences.

We’ve published many of those responses in this newsletter, and we have often received notes from other readers telling us about similar experiences, offering help, taking issue with what’s written or sending their condolences. Many of you have asked us what happened next — so we endeavored to find out.

Today, we’re starting an occasional series where we check back in on some of the readers whose stories have resonated with many of you. (If there’s a particular person that you’d like us to follow up with, send us an email to briefing@nytimes.com.)

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Danielle Lehtinen at her home in Pennsylvania.Daniel Krieger for The New York Times

Making up, and moving on

In December 2020, we published this note from Danielle Lehtinen, from Scranton, Pa.

My husband of 27 years and I got our final divorce paper a month ago. After traveling for two years in Europe, I was grounded by the pandemic and moved to a rental 20 minutes away from our small Pennsylvania house. Even though the ex and I found that we can’t live under the same roof together, we admitted that we’re both lonely in this pandemic and started making local fitness dates with each other: soccer, walking, or swimming as a “family bubble” at the Y in one lane. We then decided to enjoy Friday pizza evenings together and Sunday supper at the house. I love to see the cats, use the fireplace, and realized my ex can use a little help running the house. Even though we still annoy each other in the same ways, we found that this strange new situation gave us a way to grow a new friendship. And we no longer feel lonely.

In the past year and a half, “Things have been kind of up and down,” Lehtinen, 66, told me in a recent phone conversation. “First of all, we got our vaccinations together.”

Before getting vaccinated, Lehtinen saw a public service announcement on television explaining the best way to dress for the occasion — with clothing that allowed easy access to the upper arm.

“So I dressed in a pretty little black dress,” she said. Her ex-husband dressed up as well, and they took photos and received compliments from the nurses about how snazzy they looked.

“Getting vaccinated was huge,” Lehtinen said. “It made all the difference in our relationship, but not necessarily for the better. Because we were kind of back to normal, we didn’t really have to depend on each other so much anymore.”

During quarantine, “We were both very lonely,” Lehtinen told me. “And under extraordinary circumstances, I think an extraordinary thing happened: We were able to coexist in a peaceful way. But once that danger kind of went away, we both, I think, realized that we’re better off separately.”

Since then, Lehtinen has been working on her art and renovating her house, and she recently had a small group of fellow artists over to her place for the first time since the pandemic. She still exchanges texts with her ex-husband and they are still friends, she said, but she’s also glad she has found her own space.

“I really learned to appreciate solitude, as opposed to calling it loneliness,” Lehtinen said. “It was wonderful that we were able to rise to the occasion and befriend each other in spite of all the stuff that happened before. But I also found that, ultimately, I emerged from the pandemic being able to much better exist with myself and face whatever the crises might be.”

Resuming a transition

In May of 2021, Lief sent us this note from Philadelphia.

I came out as trans to my parents over the pandemic. It’s been like pulling teeth to get medical attention. I have been on several waiting lists to have my first trans health appointment for almost a year. I lost my primary care physician back in October. I know I’m not the only one struggling to have my non-Covid health care needs met. It’s difficult for everyone right now. But I feel frustrated. Like becoming myself has been put on hold.

“Back then, I was at the point where I was already starting to socially transition, so my boss and my co-workers knew,” Lief, 25, told me this week. “But when you’re trans, and you say that you’re trans in your pre-transition, you feel like people think you’re a crazy person. It’s like they get it intellectually, but they don’t actually view you that way.”

After we ran Lief’s story, a number of health care providers reached out to me offering their help, so I passed them on to Lief. One of those providers put him in touch with “a really fantastic gynecologist,” Lief said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re trans or not, going to a gynecologist is not a fun activity,” he said. This doctor, however, was “genuinely one of the most thoughtful doctors that I’ve ever interacted with,” he added. Soon thereafter, Lief went on hormones.

“In terms of my transition, thing are going a lot better,” he said. “My voice has dropped. I’m starting to get facial hair. And I’m starting to get to the point where I am starting to pass in certain places, depending on how I dress and how I style myself.” He said he might even start dating again soon.

Lief, who does advertising and documentary work for a health care system in New Jersey, has had a unique perspective on how the pandemic has disrupted health care in the U.S.

“In general, I’ve also learned how messed up our health care system is,” he said. “You have to know people. It’s helpful to have money. It’s helpful to have insurance. And the doctors I’ve spoken to, some of them are so done. They’re so overtaxed. They’re so tired and jaded.”

Recently, Lief used his health care connections to help a friend get access to a special type of surgery. While he was happy to help, the experience left him frustrated — similar to what he felt when he had to put his transition on pause.

“You shouldn’t have to be working on doing the advertising for a health care center to be able to get good health care,” he said.

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Sadie McGraw with her dog Thea near her home in Boalsburg, Pa.Kristian Thacker for The New York Times

Starting high school in the pandemic

In April 2021, Sadie McGraw, in Boston, sent us this note:

Point of view: You’re a teen during 2020-2021. Your school has transformed into a tiny computer screen that only sometimes works. Your grades are as low as they have ever been. You’re not exactly depressed, but also you find yourself crying at the smallest things. Your group texts have been silent for so long and you don’t even know how your friendships will survive this. You’re angry when you see other people hanging out, but also envious of them. You can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day. You just feel numb.

“When I wrote that, I had a lot of anxiety,” McGraw, 15, told me this week. “A lot of people in power and adults and teachers were just like, ‘This is new and unprecedented, and we don’t really know what to do.’ And that kind of scared me.”

In March of last year, McGraw, who was in eight grade at the time, went back to in-person learning, under a hybrid model, which she said felt inconsistent. “I couldn’t really get used to either at-home learning or at-school learning,” she said. The vibe of hybrid schooling was also strange: In one class of more than 20 students, only 3 were in person.

“All of the media we were consuming was like Covid, Covid, Covid, so among students, we wouldn’t talk about it,” she said.

Last fall, McGraw began her freshman year of high school, where classes were offered in-person full time — and most of the students returned for in-person learning, she said.

“A lot of people had changed — honestly, like, a lot,” she said. “Over quarantine, I feel like people had a lot of time to themselves, so that turned into a lot of self-reflection. They were figuring out their identity and ways to express their identity. So back-to-school this year was a new learning experience, because I had to relearn some of the people that I already knew, as different people.”

McGraw said she did a lot of reflection, too, but not always in a constructive way. “Instead of thinking, ‘What do I like about myself?’ it was more, ‘What can I change about myself and what do I not like about myself.’ And I know a lot of other people who went through that, and that’s taken a lot of work to undo,” she said.

Overall, however, things are better now, McGraw said. She has a new friend group and spends more time reading, making art and shooting short videos in which she sometimes employs her friends as actors. “There are a lot less periods of numbness,” she said. “I’ll still go through mood swings, but I don’t know if this is just, like, normal teenageness, or if it’s worse because of Covid.”

Ultimately, she’s glad to be back in school.

“Yeah, I had a lot of anxiety, but I think sometimes you just have to do it scared,” she said. “And that’s what I did.”

 
 

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Children and long Covid

In many ways, long Covid is still a mystery. Scientists are working to demystify the condition. But while a great deal of research is focused on adult sufferers, less research has been done on children.

For an upcoming edition of the Coronavirus newsletter, we’re exploring long Covid in children — and we could use your help.

We’re looking for parents with children who have had long Covid to share their stories. If you’d like to participate, you can fill out this form here.

 
 

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Shanghai lockdown: Residents demand release, and some get it

BEIJING (AP) — On a balmy Sunday night, residents of an upscale Shanghai compound took to the streets to decry lockdown restrictions imposed by their community. By the following morning, they were free to leave.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-china-shanghai-14dfea8660192cf6ec30ab4025e438ae?

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 1, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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Residents embraced the end of China’s eight-week lockdown on the Bund in Shanghai today.Aly Song/Reuters

Shanghai reopens

Shanghai today began easing one of the world’s longest, toughest lockdowns since the pandemic began. Many of its 25 million residents basked in their newfound ability to move around freely.

As the rules took effect overnight, residents honked horns and set off fireworks. As the sun rose, they strolled and cycled through their city like dazed tourists. During the day, people — all wearing masks — reveled in the novelty of previously mundane pleasures like meeting friends and relatives, walking in parks, and driving through streets that had been largely empty for weeks.

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Cyclists on a bridge in Shanghai.Aly Song/Reuters

The stringent two-month lockdown sparked public anger over shortages of food and medicine. Some residents with chronic illnesses were denied entry to hospitals, sometimes with deadly consequences.

“But those problems came to be resolved, and now everyone is feeling good that the restrictions are lifting,” said Tang Xianchun, a Shanghai resident. “I’m more eager to catch up with family and friends, chat and meet face to face. That’s what I missed most.”

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Workers removing barricades that had kept residents from leaving their compounds during Shanghai’s lockdown.Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A mental shift

In early April, Shanghai ordered residents to stay home and businesses to shut to try to stifle the spread of the Omicron variant. City leaders had initially said they could contain the outbreak with limited restrictions, but China’s leader, Xi Jinping, ordered tougher measures as infections climbed to more than 20,000 each day. New daily infections have now fallen to low double digits.

Though the lockdown is over, it has brought changes in the relationship between the Chinese government and its people that will not disappear overnight, my colleague Chris Buckley told me.

“Some people whose family members have fallen ill or died, who have experienced business closures, whose children have been locked in homes for a long time, whose travel plans have been frustrated, are thinking, ‘Is this the life I want — where the government can do these things when it chooses without really heeding law or accountability?’” Chris said.

The Shanghai lockdown set off small-scale protests that unsettled Communist Party officials. Whether such frustration will linger is hard to say, Chris said. He was in Wuhan when the pandemic began, which also angered many people.

“They were saying that officials had to be held to account and that there had to be some sort of reckoning with the mistakes in the city,” Chris said. “Not all of that anger dissipated, but I think among a lot of people, after the lockdown ended, there was this other sense that took hold that was ‘We just want to move on with our lives.’”

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Getting tested for Covid in Shanghai is now a part of daily life. Residents need to show negative test results to get on subways and enter public places.Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

The road ahead

Even as the broader lockdown eases, some major restrictions remain, such as checkpoints for entering housing compounds. Hundreds of thousands of residents are also still locked in their housing compounds because of recent infections in their areas. Under China’s stringent rules, being in the vicinity of a confirmed infection is enough to land someone in a quarantine facility.

And it is not yet clear whether the government’s harsh response was a success.

“I’m sure the government believes that it was necessary and painful, but ultimately successful,” Chris said. “I’m also sure that a good number of Chinese people, especially people outside of Shanghai, believe that as well.”

That said, there are now 25 million people in Shanghai — China’s wealthiest city — who have seen firsthand the drawbacks of the country’s harsh Covid strategy. “So there are now Chinese business executives, economists, lawyers, generally well-placed people, becoming more vocal about what they see as the downsides of the policy,” Chris said.

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Lining up for vegetables at a market after the lockdown was lifted in Shanghai today.Aly Song/Reuters

China’s economy also slowed sharply in April and May, in large part because of Shanghai’s lockdown.

There’s a general desire in the government to avoid anything like this happening again, Chris said. But despite the economic and social pain, the authorities have reiterated time and again that they are sticking to a strategy of trying to eliminate virtually all Covid cases.

“With the Omicron variant, it has become very difficult for these lockdowns to snap into place quick enough for cities to avoid painful lockdowns that last weeks, or even as we saw in Shanghai, for months,” Chris said. “And the question facing Beijing is, what are the options? Going forward those options will depend on how effectively the government can roll out more vaccines — along with more effective vaccines — and boosters as well.”

 
 

Omicron’s heavy toll on older people

This winter’s wave of deaths in older people belied the Omicron variant’s apparent mildness. Despite high levels of vaccination among older people, Covid killed them at vastly higher rates during this winter’s wave than it did last year.

Almost as many Americans 65 and older died in four months of the Omicron surge as did in six months of the Delta wave.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times

Take a closer look at the deadly Omicron wave.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

I got Covid from my 3-year-old. I felt so sick that I wasn’t able to care for her in isolation, but Paxlovid helped a lot. Now I am testing positive again with a symptom-free case of post-Paxlovid Covid rebound and back in isolation, once again unable to have a normal routine or hug my husband or my 6-year-old daughter. It was brutal to not be able to hug her the morning after the massacre in Uvalde. I’m really looking forward to all of us being together as a family again, unmasked at home, after nearly a month of this.

— Molly Farrell, Columbus, Ohio

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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School COVID cases up 176%

Volusia, Flagler release 2021-22 figures

Nikki Ross

Daytona Beach News-Journal USA TODAY NETWORK

Schools in Volusia and Flagler counties reported 176% more COVID-19 cases this school year than in the 2020-21 school year, according to data provided by the school districts and local health departments.

The Volusia County School District ended the year with 6,186 COVID-19-positive students and employees, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard. Last school year, the district reported 2,467 cases.

In Flagler County, this school year ended with 2,156 COVID-19-positive employees and students, according to data provided by the school district and Florida Department of Health-Flagler. Last school year, the district reported 552 cases.

Combined, that's 8,342 COVID-19 cases across both districts for the 2021-22 school year. For the 2020-21 school year, districts reported a combined 3,019 cases.

What caused such a drastic uptick in cases this school year?

The 2020-21 school year included widespread virtual learning in both districts, as well as mask mandates, social distancing requirements and strict cleaning protocols. Protective measures were also in place countywide and statewide.

At the beginning of 2021, the COVID- 19 vaccine became available to the general public. As the vaccine rolled out among different age groups over the first few months of 2021, Florida shifted toward reopening businesses, returning to work and school in-person, and

See COVID-19, Page 4A

Continued from Page 1A

participating in group activities again. Physical barriers were removed from between students' desks, Florida law prohibited mask mandates, and virtual learning began to fade into the background.

And COVID-19 itself evolved from 2020 to 2021. As school resumed in August, the delta variant surge was in full swing statewide. The delta variant has so far been the most deadly variant of COVID-19.

“Like all school districts across the state, Flagler Schools was able to keep the doors open to all our campuses throughout this past school year,” said Jason Wheeler, spokesman for the Flagler County School District. “We leaned on guidance from our local and state health officials and the CDC when it came to holding classes in a safe and healthy manner.”

Nancy Gonzalez, community information specialist for the Volusia County School District, said the process for keeping track of student and employee COVID-19 cases was smoother this school year.

When a student tests positive for COVID- 19, they miss school, which puts them behind in classes.

“Anytime a student is absent from class it is a hardship to keep up,” Gonzalez said. “Students have time to make up the work and are given resources and support to help them get back on track. Teachers also have office hours, tutoring time and schoolwide study programs to help all students close the learning gap. If students take advantage of all the support offered, they can catch up and can even excel in the coursework.”

Wheeler said the Flagler County School District worked with students, their families and teachers to keep students engaged when they were out of class.

“Teachers and administrators did all they could to ensure students were able to complete any assignments they may have missed due to a 'stay at home' directive,” Wheeler said.

Nikki Ross covers K-12 education, health and COVID-19 for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. She can be reached at nikki.ross@news-jrnl.com or follow her on Twitter @nikkiinreallife.

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Refusing the shot

Most Floridians who succumbed to COVID-19 over the past 12 months had chosen not to get vaccinated

Chris Persaud

Palm Beach Post USA TODAY NETWORK

It didn't have to be this way.

Though COVID vaccines have been available across Florida for more than a year, the majority of the more than 74,000 people who have died statewide of the disease succumbed in the past 12 months. Most chose not to get the free shots.

More than half of Florida fatalities came after June 1, 2021, months after adults ages 18 or older could get the shots, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Nationwide, it was just the opposite. The majority of the 1 million-plus deaths across the country came before March 1, 2021, when shots were in shorter supply.

At least 29,000 deaths in the state might have been prevented if everyone who could have gotten the shots, did, a Brown University analysis published May 13 shows. Florida had twice as many vaccine-preventable deaths as California, the most populous state, and the second most in the nation, after Texas, university researchers said.

Ever since inoculations began in December 2020, doctors, scientists and most public health officials have urged people to get vaccinated, emphasizing that immunization protects against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

Not everyone heeded the messages. A number of the dead, unvaccinated Floridians whose family members spoke to The Palm Beach Post had ridiculed vaccine recipients and scientists while praising GOP figures such as Gov. Ron DeSantis or former President Donald Trump. Others distrusted the shots for nonpolitical reasons, or they simply never got around to getting them.

Whatever their reasons, they left

See VACCINE, Page 8A

Continued from Page 1A

behind spouses, children, family and friends frustrated that they hadn't gotten vaccinated. And DeSantis has no apparent plans to combat immunization misinformation or boost inoculations as the nation grapples with new waves of infection.

Kristy Losapio's 50-year-old sister, Kari Simonson Pitcher, contracted COVID last year and died Sept. 10. She was unvaccinated. Losapio , a nurse in Brevard County, blamed her sister's husband, Michael Pitcher.

“He was a very rabid anti-vaxxer,” Losapio said. “I feel like pretty much that's why she didn't get vaccinated, because of him. … She was scared of him. I think she wanted to, but she just didn't. She was like, 'Well, you know Michael's really against it, and he feels like we're all being manipulated.'” On March 23, 2020, as quarantine and stay-at-home measures had begun to kick in, Michael Pitcher shared a picture of a Twitter post from then-President Trump that read, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

Pitcher, 50, described Trump in 2019 as “my president” in a Facebook post in which he said it was “mildly irritating” to lose connections in part due to his support for Trump.

“I don't know why these people (who oppose inoculation) are massive Trump fans,” Losapio said. “Like hello, Trump was vaccinated.” The former president has touted his administration's Operation Warp Speed, which helped expedite development and distribution of COVID vaccines.

Michael Pitcher caught COVID himself in August. “Need prayers Covid has me,” he wrote Aug. 2 on Facebook. He died Sept. 27 — 17 days after his wife.

Kari Simonson left behind her 17-year-old daughter, Mia, whom Losapio takes care of.

“She is struggling,” Losapio said. “Her senior year of high school is next year. When we think about how many milestones occur in your life, it's one after the other. Her mom is missing all of it. … Mia wants to be a nurse just like her mother. The fact that Kari won't ever get to see that happen when she's the one who inspired it is just awful.”

Kristy Losapio's family is far from the only one in Florida to say they lost loved ones under the influence of GOP opposition to the vaccines and a torrent of misinformation.

Their concerns are reflected in political maps. A disproportionate share of COVID deaths since June 1, 2021, came from Florida counties DeSantis won in 2018. About 49% of fatalities were among those counties' residents, when just 40% of the state's population live in those places.

Just 63% of Floridians living in De-Santis-won counties have gotten at least one vaccine dose, compared with 75% in counties that went Democratic in 2018. About 70% of Florida residents are at least partially vaccinated, state Health Department figures show.

About 62% of deaths since June 1 were logged in counties where vaccination rates are below the statewide average.

More than 70% of COVID-positive patients in Palm Beach County hospitals during the delta variant wave last summer were unvaccinated, according to statistics county commissioners required hospitals to report from August to October. The figure was similar in Miami- Dade County during the omicron wave.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which collects data about whether people who died in hospitals were vaccinated, chooses not to report those numbers. Nor does the federal government.

The unvaccinated accounted for 81.5% of COVID deaths nationwide between June 2021 and March, data that Florida and other states send to the CDC shows.

Lauren Hafner, 52, an unvaccinated nurse from Riviera Beach, succumbed to the virus Sept. 2, leaving behind a son. She praised DeSantis on her Facebook page for opposing President Joe Biden after he announced requirements for hospitals and big businesses to vaccinate employees.

“Even the fully vaccinated are dying,” she wrote July 26. She shared a post Aug. 4 equating Nazism with a New York City policy requiring proof of inoculation for entry into businesses.

The fully vaccinated do die, but they tend to have underlying conditions or to be elderly.

Tamara Drock, 47, an unvaccinated elementary school teacher from Loxahatchee, died Nov. 12 from COVID complications. Her husband, Ryan Drock, 51, sued the hospital to force medical staff to treat her with ivermectin. The lawsuit stalled after the judge ordered the husband and the hospital to work out an agreement. Before that could happen, Tamara died.

That anti-parasitic drug, typically used on farm animals, has not been shown to be effective against coronavirus infections. Even so, some unvaccinated Republicans who caught COVID began taking Ivermectin last year, often to no use.

Before he became DeSantis' handpicked surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo praised the drug in a Nov. 24, 2020, Wall Street Journal column titled “Too Much Caution Is Killing Covid Patients.”

Lloyd C. Campbell Jr., 73, was an unvaccinated pastor from Stuart. In the months leading to his death Jan. 31, he shared posts on Facebook from popular conservative figures such as a video from former Fox News host Andrew Napolitano titled “Can you sue vaccine manufacturers?”, or memes such as one insinuating the Biden administration is immunizing “all the illegals.”

The obituary Campbell's family took out in the TCPalm newspaper did not include his COVID diagnosis, but one family member wrote on Facebook Jan. 11 that he was hospitalized with the disease.

Rebecca Simonson, 55, of North Port in Sarasota County, shared anti-vaccine messages on Facebook such as “After 16 months of the most intense psychological warfare ever, big shout out if you're UNJABBED & UNMASKED & still hug & kiss, & smile in the street like a normal non-mutant human.” The unvaccinated Republican also praised DeSantis last May as “THE BEST” for “KEEPING THE STATE OPEN.” She died of COVID Sept. 16 .

Two unvaccinated brothers in Jacksonville, Aaron Jaggi, 41, and Free Xaver Jaggi, 35, caught the virus last year and died within 12 hours of each other, Aug. 12 and 13, 2021, respectively.

“No one thinks the corona virus (sic) is a hoax,” Free Xaver Jaggi wrote Aug. 16, 2020, on Facebook. “The hoax is treating a virus with a 99.7% survival rate as if it was Ebola and claiming that everyone living their life is a murderer.”

The brothers' vaccinated mother, Lisa Brandon, suffered only a mild COVID infection, which she credited to the shots. “I think they would be alive today if they would have gotten their shot,” she told News4Jax last August.

Cheryl Secunda, 67, of Port Orange in Volusia County, wrote last year on Facebook “double no I am not taking the vaccine.”

She shared a video Nov. 4 of nurses dancing, writing, “They are dancing the happy dance because they weren't forced by a dictator in the White House to take a non researched vaccine.”

The unvaccinated mother of three caught the disease this year and died March 1.

Dennis Ahola, 72, of Lehigh Acres in Lee County, was a Vietnam War veteran who spent more than a year railing against anti-COVID measures and the vaccines before the disease caught him.

On May 8, 2020, he wrote on Facebook that liberals “are not worry about TB (tuberculosis) or other's flu before.. Have you ever ask yourself.. Why are they Now so concerned. lets see. Could they wanta Control the Election. yes that's it..”

On Sept. 20, 2021, he wrote, “Did you know that if someone got the vaccine Shot, and you Kiss, share a drink, straw or Swap Saliva you are transferring the virus to them!!”

He died in October. The last photo he uploaded to Facebook was one he took of himself laying in a Gulf Coast Hospital bed, wearing a ventilator, asking for prayers.

Jim Wheeles, 70, of Milton in Santa Rosa County, badmouthed the vaccines long before they were rolled out. “Remember if they can make it mandatory to wear a mask, they can make it mandatory to get the deadly vaccine, this is what it's all about folks,” read a message he shared July 5, 2020, on Facebook.

On Sept. 14, 2021, Wheeles wrote “I love my governor” in a post where he shared an article titled “DeSantis Blasts Biden's Hypocrisy, Exempting Congress from Vaccine Mandate” from Breitbart.com, a website once run by Steve Bannon before he became Trump's chief strategist.

Wheeles died Feb. 8 after contracting COVID.

Trump is the driving force behind why many Republicans remain unvaccinated, experts say.

“It all comes down to Trump,” said University of Miami political science professor Joseph Uscinski, author of “American Conspiracy Theories.”

Trump described the coronavirus in February 2020 as the Democrats' “new hoax,” Uscinski pointed out. “With COVID, the disease itself and the vaccine for it became partisan because President Trump started out saying the disease itself isn't real. ... The people who listen to him will act as if it's a hoax to this day.”

That's consistent with findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on health-care policy. Republicans are 30 to 40 percentage points less likely than Democrats to say they're worried about getting sick, the foundation's polling director, Liz Hamel, said.

“They are much more likely to say the news media is exaggerating the seriousness of the pandemic,” Hamel said. “We find it is more likely among Republicans who are unvaccinated to say, 'I just don't want to get it' or 'I don't think I need it.'” At least 60% of unvaccinated Americans the foundation has polled identify as Republicans, it reported in November.

“Trump framed this early on as lives vs. livelihood. He sowed that distrust,” said Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, which teamed up last March with GOP pollster Frank Lutz to host a virtual focus group with 19 Republican voters about the vaccine, trying to find ways to persuade vaccine skeptics.

Castrucci described Trump's earlypandemic message as “Don't listen, don't comply” with anti-COVID measures such as quarantining, masking or social distancing. “When he was sick (in October 2020), he never came out with how sick he was. If you are sowing the seeds of mistrust, you must reap what you sow.”

DeSantis has shown no interest in fighting misinformation spread to and among his supporters.

“'Misinformation' and 'disinformation' are vague terms that are often politicized and, unfortunately, weaponized to silence dissent,” DeSantis aide Bryan Griffin said in an email May 20. “Falsehoods being spread online are best combatted not by censorship, but by an open and free exchange of ideas.”

But DeSantis has shown an appetite for forcing social media platforms to his will. He signed a bill into law last year allowing Florida residents to sue Big Tech companies if they are “treated unfairly” by them, a news release from his office said. A federal appeals court struck down the law Monday for violating the First Amendment.

When vaccines were rolled out in Florida began in December 2020, De-Santis decreed that the elderly must be inoculated before almost everyone else. They comprise the vast majority of COVID deaths, which is why he wanted to inoculate “seniors first,” he said.

By April, as the supply of shots became more steady, DeSantis opened up immunization to all Florida adults.

But by then, DeSantis had turned his attention to the state's economy and his concern that local measures to contain the spread of the virus were impeding business and individual freedoms.

He ramped up his attacks on local anti- COVID measures. He signed executive orders the previous month nullifying fines that cities and counties levied against people and establishments who broke local masking or social distancing laws. He also asked state lawmakers to send him a bill allowing him to overturn local mask laws.

As spring break 2021 brought crowds of revelers to the state, COVID infections spiked in places such as Miami Beach and Daytona Beach. Mayors said the governor's orders worsened outbreaks in their cities.

“For whatever reason this governor seems to think that it's not our job to try and control the spread,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, said at the time. “He doesn't talk about wearing masks or social distancing. He tells people everything's open. He really projects out to the world that the disease is not an issue.”

By summer, the virus' delta mutation was killing more people in Florida than anywhere else nationwide. Despite that, the DeSantis administration fought efforts to vaccinate people or incentivize inoculation. With the governor's blessing, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued the CDC over its requirement that cruise ship passengers and staff present proof of vaccination. The state also sued the Biden Administration over its orders requiring hospitals and businesses with at least 100 employees to vaccinate their workers.

Last May, DeSantis signed a bill banning businesses from asking visitors for proof of vaccination. The state Health Department said in October that it had been investigating more than 100 businesses, organizations and events, including a Harry Styles concert in Orlando, cruise lines and the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

The state fined Leon County, home to Tallahassee, $3.5 million in October, saying it broke the law when it fired 14 government employees who refused to show proof they were vaccinated. The state pulled the fine in December after the county agreed to rehire them.

DeSantis decreed last July that schools cannot require students to wear masks. He threatened to withhold pay for school district officials who defied him. After a judge tossed DeSantis's order in August, the governor signed legislation in November banning school mask requirements. He also approved laws that month banning businesses and organizations from ordering employees to get vaccinated.

DeSantis received a dose of the single- shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April 2021, off-camera. He has not said whether he has gotten a booster. “He will share it when, and if, he wants to do so,” DeSantis aide Griffin said. Scientific studies have shown the J& J formula offers less protection than Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines against omicron.

The governor badmouthed the vaccines during a Jan. 3 news conference while pushing treatments that laboratory tests had shown to be ineffective against omicron infection. “With omicron, you know, the vaccines are not preventing infection,” he said.

His surgeon general, Ladapo, has said “healthy” children ages 5 to 17 should not get immunized against COVID.

Some of the unvaccinated who died weren't supporters of Trump.

David Kelsey, a 50-year-old decorated Army veteran who lived in Winter Haven, opposed Trump, his longtime girlfriend, Luisa Moore, said. But still, she said he died because of an “extremist” group he joined through social media.

Moore had gotten vaccinated as soon as she could, she said, in April 2021. She urged Kelsey to do same, but he refused.

“He became a member of a group on Facebook that was extremist,” said Moore, 59. “They thought there was going to be a civil war in the United States if Biden won. They didn't believe in the vaccine because there wasn't enough studies.”

Before he joined that group, Moore remembered Kelsey as the proud military man she met in 2007 at a Starbucks in Kissimmee through a newspaper personal ad. He showed her a photo album of himself in Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1990.

Then, last August, COVID came for Kelsey. As he lay in Winter Haven Hospital's intensive care unit, he realized he needed the vaccine, and texted Moore his regrets. “He said, 'As soon as I get out of the hospital, I'm going to get the vaccine,'” she told The Lakeland Ledger.

But it was too late. Kelsey died Sept. 13.

“I blame the (Facebook) group that put some ideologies (in his head) that are wrong because he wasn't like that,” Moore said. “He changed completely.”

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Continued from Page 8A

COVID killed fully vaccinated Floridians far less often over the past year. One of those who died was Vincent Konidare, 58, a former Palm Beach Post employee.

He had proudly gotten the J& J shot in March 2021, but he tested positive for COVID in August. The North Palm Beach father of two had to be hospitalized. After weeks of struggle, he died Sept. 19. He seemed “perfectly healthy,” his daughter Valerie Konidare had said.

More often, the disease just sickens inoculated people. Jimmy and Tobi Pomerance, of Palm Beach County, had gotten their shots and visited Utah last July. When they returned, they said they both tested positive. They experienced headaches, fatigue, and Tobi temporarily lost her sense of taste and smell. But, they said, their condition would have been much worse had they skipped vaccination.

For some families, the cost was very high.

In the western Palm Beach County town of Belle Glade, the wife of Mayor Steve Wilson lost her grandmother, two uncles and three cousins — all unvaccinated — to COVID in late August. Lisa Wilson had gone door-to-door in the rural farming city of 20,000 trying to persuade residents to get the shots. She had also been working on her family.

“I was in their ears almost every day. 'You've just got to do this,'” Wilson, an aide to County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, said during a commission meeting Sept. 14.

Just 58% of vaccine-eligible residents ages 5 and older in ZIP code 33430, which covers Belle Glade, have gotten at least one shot, state Health Department data show. The county rate is 76%.

Belle Glade CIty Commissioner Mary Wilkerson has been trying to get more people in her city vaccinated, but it's been tough. One of those she tried unsuccessfully to sway was one of Wilson's uncles, Tyrone Moreland, 48.

“He said, 'My doctor said I'm in good health.' He was just lying.” Years ago, when Moreland was working for Solid Waste Management, two garbage trucks backed into him, pinning him, Wilkerson said. “'With your health issues, Tyrone,' I said, 'you should be the first in line to get the shot.'” Wilkerson has heard all sorts of excuses, she said. Recently she heard residents say they fear the vaccine contains a microchip to track them.

“Some people tell you any excuse and hope you believe it,” Wilkerson said. “I think it's just laziness.” Plus, she added, a lot of boys and men fear needles. “They'll tell you, 'I don't want no one stickin' me.'” And then when unvaccinated people catch the disease and have to go to the hospital, WIlkerson said, “they want people to wait on them hand and feet to save them but they didn't do enough to save themselves.”

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 6, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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Covid-19 hospitalizations have fallen by 10 percent over the past two weeks in New York State.Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The summer outlook

As summer ramps up, the latest U.S. Covid wave seems to be spreading west, even as it starts to recede in the Northeast.

In Vermont, for example, hospitalization numbers have dropped by more than 40 percent in the past two weeks.

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Covid patients in hospitals and I.C.U.s in Vermont.The New York Times

Hospitalizations have also declined over 20 percent in Massachusetts and roughly 10 percent in Maine, Connecticut and New York. Case numbers in the region have also declined significantly.

Every other U.S. region is seeing a rise in hospitalizations, particularly the southern states of Alabama and Louisiana, where hospitalizations have risen by at least 70 percent.

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Covid patients in hospitals and I.C.U.s in Alabama.The New York Times

So what do these numbers tell us about the outlook for the summer? Unfortunately, interpreting Covid data has become much more complex than it was in previous waves, when more cases usually led to more hospitalizations and deaths.

The shift to more widespread home testing means that many cases are no longer being logged by health officials (here’s how you can help). Only a few state health departments, like those in Colorado and Washington, collect data from home tests. The result is that official case counts are becoming an increasingly unreliable measure of the virus’s true toll.

Hospitalization data, while better, is also not perfect. More than 29,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, an increase of 16 percent over the past two weeks. But that figure includes patients who are in the hospital because they are very ill with Covid-19, as well as those admitted for other reasons, who test positive on arrival.

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Covid patients in hospitals and I.C.U.s in the U.S.The New York Times

A better metric might be the number of Covid patients in intensive care units. Currently, there are 3,000 patients in intensive care with Covid, which is about 11 percent of all hospitalized patients with Covid.

That is the lowest rate since September 2020, and it has held steady since early May, even as hospitalizations have increased overall. That’s a good sign and could reflect several factors: Doctors have become better at fighting the disease, Pfizer’s Covid pills may be having an effect and Americans may be slightly better protected against the disease. The U.S. also saw a modest bump in people receiving boosters during the latest surge.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
The New York Times

As for what lies ahead, the overall situation will most likely improve into the summer, said Dr. Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But that trend could also be temporary.

“Things are likely to be somewhat worse, especially in the fall and winter,” he said.

 
 

C.E.O.s versus the culture shift

If some corporate leaders get their way, there will be a new test for workplace devotion — and anyone who opts for remote work will get a failing grade. But can C.E.O.s really claw their way back to 2019?

This past week, Elon Musk issued an ultimatum to Tesla and SpaceX employees: Return to the office for at least 40 hours per week — or lose your job. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan, said last month that working from home wasn’t for people who wanted “to hustle.” And Mayor Eric Adams of New York City recently announced a strict policy of in-person work for city employees as he aimed to revive the city’s tax base.

But for all of the power wielded by Musk, Dimon and Adams, they may be fighting a culture shift that is larger than any single company or city, my colleague Vivian Giang wrote in the DealBook newsletter.

There are signs that the work-from-home trend is actually accelerating. One recent survey published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that employers said they would allow employees to work from home an average of 2.3 days per week — up from 1.5 days in the summer of 2020.

At its core, the battle over remote work is a test of corporate America’s definition of an ideal worker. For decades or even longer, that has been a person who prioritizes the job above all else and has no outside commitments.

“For many C.E.O.s and managers, that’s how they worked. That’s how they succeeded and that’s the only way they know,” said Brigid Schulte, the director of the Better Life Lab program at the think tank New America. “All of this was completely false; it was totally a fake story we’ve been telling ourselves.”

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

My family has moved on as if there is no pandemic. I, on the other hand, have remained diligent. I have asthma and am considered high-risk so I wear an N95 everywhere I go. No indoor dining for me, and I have not gone on any trips. I work from home and I have saved $60,000 since 2020. While others are planning vacations and catching Covid, I am planning my retirement in 12 years, reaping the benefits and remaining Covid free!

— Kimberly Mitchell, Michigan

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 8, 2022

 

An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

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The New York Times
 
 
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A laboratory of the biotech company Bavarian Nordic, which produces a smallpox vaccine that is also effective against monkeypox.Lukas Barth/Reuters

Understanding monkeypox

Today we’re taking a break from the coronavirus pandemic to explore the other viral threat that’s grabbing headlines: monkeypox.

Since May 13, when the first case in the outbreak was reported, more than a thousand people in 32 countries have been infected. At least another 1,300 cases are being investigated. As of yesterday, the U.S. had recorded 40 cases in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

For more on the outbreak, I turned to my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli, who covers infectious diseases.

What’s the latest?

The thing to know about monkeypox for now is that it looks like it’s been circulating for quite a while, and that it will continue to do so for quite a while longer. The big question is what ‘quite a while longer’ means, and whether monkeypox will find a permanent home in animals in the U.S. It’s endemic in about 10 countries in Africa because it’s in the wild animals there. So if monkeypox becomes endemic in animals in North America or Europe, we’re looking at a similar situation where we will probably have ongoing small outbreaks and cases every year — forever.

Why is it spreading now?

It’s a combination of multiple factors. There’s really low population immunity in most places by this point to any of the orthopoxviruses — the family that includes smallpox and monkeypox — because we haven’t been vaccinating for smallpox for decades. The virus has probably been circulating at a low level for a while, but then it found hooks into the broader population through these big parties that happened in Europe.

What big parties?

We think that many of the cases possibly originated in these big parties, where a lot of men who have sex with men gathered and had many different partners. Monkeypox is not usually very efficient at spreading, but these gatherings may have offered intimate contact among large numbers of people and given the virus some room to jump around.

That said, it’s really important that we not make the mistakes we made with H.I.V., which is to think, “Oh, this is a gay disease and it’s not going to affect anybody else.” We stigmatized the gay community at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. That slowed down our response to the virus in general because people made the wrong assumption that it wouldn’t spread to the general population.

During this latest outbreak, how deadly has monkeypox been?

In West Africa, in the past, they’ve had a mortality rate of about 3 to 4 percent, and the version that has circulated in the Democratic Republic of Congo has a mortality of about 10 percent. But fortunately, during this outbreak in Europe and in all these other countries, we’ve not seen a single death so far.

Why is that?

We’re not exactly sure. The symptoms that doctors are seeing seem to be milder than monkeypox has been associated with in the past. That could be because the countries affected now have better health care. People in general may be in better health. The deaths that have happened in African countries have also been primarily in very young children or in immunocompromised people, whereas most of the cases right now have been in men between the ages of 20 and 50. Because of all those factors, we shouldn’t make assumptions about whether the virus has changed in some significant way.

What are the vaccination and treatment options?

There are a few different vaccines and drugs available, but most of them are not great options, and most of them have only been tested in animals. The best vaccine option is a safer, gentler version of the smallpox vaccine than the one used to eradicate the disease. But in most parts of the world, people only have access to the old smallpox vaccine, which carries a lot of very harsh side effects and can even be deadly for some people.

In terms of treatments, there are two main options. One is so toxic that it has what the F.D.A. calls a “black box warning” — the most stringent warning that the F.D.A. uses for drugs — and also doesn’t seem to be all that effective. But the other one, which is called TPOXX, does seem to be fairly safe and effective.

You recently wrote a story about how the monkeypox virus can be airborne and tweeted that it was déjà vu all over again. What did you mean?

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The New York Times

The déjà vu I felt was less about how the virus spreads and more about the C.D.C.’s response to it. It looks like in some circumstances, monkeypox can spread through the air — not as efficiently as the coronavirus or measles or other viruses that we think of as airborne, but enough that public health authorities should be discussing it openly. They haven’t really done that yet. That to me was very reminiscent of what happened in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

But I want to be very clear: Monkeypox is not Covid. The coronavirus mainly spreads through the air, and it looks like with monkeypox it’s the opposite — that it sometimes spreads through the air, and most of the time it’s through close contact.

What do we not know about the virus?

Almost everything we know about monkeypox is because of smallpox, and we still know very little about smallpox. And because monkeypox has circulated mainly in African countries, there’s been little to no study of it. We don’t know whether people can spread the monkeypox virus without being symptomatic. We don’t know exactly how much airborne transmission contributes versus tactile contact. And we don’t know if it is sexually transmitted.

How should I think about my risk?

The number of cases is almost certainly a huge underestimate because what’s clear now is that the virus has been circulating undetected for quite a while.

However, for most people this is not something to panic about or even be alarmed about. It’s something to be aware of so that if you do have symptoms, you immediately seek medical care. You should also know about it if you are around someone who might be infected with monkeypox, or if you’re traveling to countries where monkeypox is known to be circulating. Overall, I’d say inform yourself and be cautious — but don’t panic.

 
 
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Vials of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An Omicron booster?

Moderna released preliminary results today on an updated coronavirus vaccine targeting the Omicron variant, calling it “our lead candidate” to serve as a U.S. booster shot in the fall.

The firm tested a booster dose combining the original vaccine with one targeted specifically against Omicron. They found that the combination produced 1.75 times the level of neutralizing antibodies against Omicron as the existing vaccine alone.

But Omicron has been spawning subvariants for months, and some vaccine experts say what matters now is how well a new booster formulation would protect against the latest subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5, which now account for 13 percent of new cases in the U.S. — not Omicron itself. By some estimates, within a month they could outcompete the now-dominant Omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1.

The problem with targeting the newest versions of the virus is that Moderna and Pfizer do not have enough time to run more human clinical trials and still manufacture shots before the fall, when the Biden administration is hoping to be able to offer an updated vaccine for a potential winter surge. That might force regulators to choose updated vaccines based on data from laboratory tests and trials involving mice or other animals.

 
 

Your best and worst pandemic dining experiences

Dining during 2022 is a mixed bag. While it feels less fraught compared to earlier stages in the pandemic, a meal can still be a crapshoot.

And there are still plenty of ups and downs. The highs might include a first meal back at a restaurant or outdoors during a sunny spring afternoon. But the lows can be disheartening: sparse get-togethers after a string of surprise infections, or your favorite restaurant reopening only to close down again.

For an upcoming newsletter on the current state of restaurants and dining out, we’re asking readers for their best — or worst — dining experiences from 2022 so far. Tell us what was so special, or terrible, about this meal and we may include your story. To participate, you can fill out this form here.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

We are two couples, friends and travelers for many years. We are in our 70s and know that life is short. We are vaccinated, double-boosted and planning on a third booster before we head, masked, to France in July. We’ll visit Normandy — especially the invasion beaches — and Brittany. We’ll stay in B & Bs, hotels and Airbnbs, eat exceedingly well, laugh as often as possible, and get negative Covid tests before we return to the U.S. We know we are fortunate and remind ourselves of that every single day.

— Rosalind Andrews, Knoxville, Tenn.

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New vaccine may be option for troops with religious concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — A COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal authorization may offer a boost for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused other coronavirus vaccines for religious reasons.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-government-and-politics-business-religion-b8608af5a14ec95e98cf4b60e62a2b17?

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