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COVID Again


Gregory Matthews
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Coronavirus Briefing

June 10, 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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Outdoor dining at Casa La Femme in the West Village, in New York City.Clay Williams for The New York Times

Dining out during the latest wave

Summer is on the horizon and the urge to spend lazy evenings dining with friends on a sunny terrace is getting stronger. At the same time, virus cases are ticking up in many areas of the U.S., complicating the restaurant experience.

For an update and some much-needed advice, I turned to a couple of professional eaters: Tejal Rao, The Times’s California food critic and host of “The Veggie” newsletter, and Nikita Richardson, an editor based in New York who writes the “Where to Eat” newsletter.

What’s the restaurant industry in California and New York?

Tejal: This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s been incredibly busy. We’ve had so many new restaurants open in the last few months, including independent places and big, splashy spots with major investment. But it’s also been different for every restaurant. Some places I go are clearly understaffed or there are a lot of empty tables at peak dining times, and I’m reviewing a place in Hollywood right now that had an 1,800 person wait-list on Resy this past Thursday.

Nikita: This is the year of a lot of restaurant openings. Maybe a handful of restaurants opened in 2021, but now we’re getting a few new restaurants a week, which was how it was pre-pandemic. That said, there’s still a big staffing issue. A lot of restaurants I follow are very regularly posting signs: “We’re hiring. We’re hiring. We’re hiring.” Part of that is gearing up for summer, but there’s also still a very significant talent and labor shortage in restaurants. A lot of people decided they didn’t want to do it anymore, and other people are reluctant to return unless they know that they’re going to have better working conditions.

How is the industry dealing with the latest virus wave?

Tejal: If I didn’t know that we were in a wave, I wouldn’t know it from going to restaurants. Most restaurants I go to are not asking you to put on a mask, and they’re not checking your vaccination cards at the host stand, although there are a couple of exceptions. I think people are just so exhausted, and restaurants are being treated as an escape. Inside them can feel like a little bit of a bubble, as if the rules don’t apply there, and I think in some cases restaurants are aiming for that — they know customers are desperate for that feeling.

Nikita: People are calling this the invisible Covid wave because it’s almost like no one is acknowledging it. By March the vaccine mandate was lifted in New York and restaurants wrestled with whether they should continue to check vaccination cards for a few weeks, and then just kind of dropped it. There’s a restaurant called Dame, in Greenwich Village, that had protesters outside every night for like a week because they were still taking vax cards. When it’s the difference between getting customers and not, I don’t think people want to die on that hill.

What’s it like dining out these days?

Nikita: The hot topic in the last few months has been how it seems like it’s impossible to get a reservation. I think going out to restaurants was one of the things that people in New York missed the most, and I think it’s one of the biggest forms of entertainment at the moment. Especially when you add outdoor dining, which gave New York a European flavor that we did not have before. That said, it costs a lot to go out and eat because food costs and supply costs are going through the roof.

Tejal: A dinner out now can feel a bit like time travel, like a night in 2019, with packed bars and tables pushed close together and menus getting fuller again. It’s an illusion of business as usual.

Any advice for people dining this summer?

Nikita: Dine earlier — you’re so much more likely to get a reservation. I’ve been encouraging people to look at the “hot” restaurants that opened in 2019 or 2018 that they forgot about. There are a lot of restaurants on those lists that are still open and have open reservations. Also, keep your reservations. Restaurants live and die by people keeping their reservations. And tip well — 20 or 25 percent. I had an old editor who said, “If you can’t tip well, you can’t afford to go out to eat.”

Tejal: I think you’ll want to consider your boundaries ahead of time, whatever those are, knowing you probably won’t be asked to follow much protocol. But my main piece of advice is to be really nice to the staff, and to try and be patient if things go sideways. Whether you’re going to a food truck with plastic stools on the sidewalk or reserving a table in a nice dining room, the kitchen is likely understaffed and doing a lot with very little, so be nice and tip well!

 
 

Your pandemic dining stories

We asked readers for their best and worst dining experiences. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.

“As a single mom, I was determined to enjoy a special night out for my 52nd birthday. I missed two years in a row due to the pandemic, and yet I navigated the awkward depths of Covid dating. Miraculously, I managed to snag a reservation at the always-booked Rich Table in San Francisco with a man I dated responsibly for months: vaxxed, masked and tested before every date. The meal was incredible! I felt like everyone around us celebrated with me. I rejoiced in being rewarded for good pandemic behavior! Until two days later, Mr. Right tested positive — from that ONE time we didn’t order take out. His recovery dragged on for two months, which ultimately ended our relationship. Once again, I felt cheated by Covid, but damn, at least this time, I finally had the meal of my 2020 dreams!” — Keryn Francisco, Alameda, Calif.

“We were recently in Victoria, B.C., and discovered a small Italian restaurant with live music named Pagliacci’s. While we were waiting in the short line to enter, a couple walked up with a small boy in full Spider Man costume. He was doing what young boys do, jumping and climbing around as though he were the real thing. When he climbed up onto the exterior of the front window, someone in the band must have turned around or perhaps a diner pointed to him. As we were walking in to our table they called to get Spider Man in and started playing the theme song to the movie. The child was in awe as the music played and diners sang. For a few minutes there was no pandemic.” — Hollace, Charleston, S.C.

“My dearest friend, Bill, is in his 70s. He has survived a string of health crises. I just turned 65 and I’m diabetic. I stayed in through most of the pandemic having food and other necessities delivered. I wondered if Bill and I would ever see each other face to face again. When we finally had dinner at Gray Dog, a longtime favorite, my overwhelming emotion was relief. And a sense of vitality, being surrounded by the lively chatter of N.Y.U. students. Life for me and my pal has blessedly continued.” — Hal Lanse, New York, N.Y.

“I am in my 60s and high risk because of some medical conditions. A few days ago, my husband, a relative and I were having an early lunch on a patio of a restaurant in a hip, cool and liberal San Diego neighborhood. While we were eating, a huge crowd of co-workers came in and the patio filled up — too close for comfort. I hurriedly finished my food and whipped a mask on, and it was like a pall fell over the entire patio. Conversation lightened to a hush. I was the only person wearing a mask. Nobody confronted me or said anything about the mask but it was like the party fizzled.” — F. Dunn, San Diego, Calif.

“I went to dinner at a touristy Italian restaurant overlooking the water in Naples, Fla. When we arrived at the restaurant, I went in wearing a mask. This was at the peak of the Omicron surge in early 2022. The maitre d’ greeted us, bluntly asking me, “Where are you from?” I responded with my home state, stunned at his abruptness, lack of warmth and disinterest in my party’s reservation information. He responded, “Well, this is AMERICA and you don’t need to wear a mask here.” My dinner was ruined from that point forward.” — Anya Gage, Minneapolis, Minn.

“My friend Jane and I met for our first breakfast out at the iconic McMenamins in Tacoma’s Elks Temple. Masked and nervous, we were seated adjacent and about 10 feet from a long table of perhaps 15, all in scrubs. They were rowdy, loud, laughing, up and dancing, drinking champagne, celebrating a colleague who was leaving their group. Did the explosion of sound and movement frighten us? No! It was so joyous, so open and fresh — we loved it! What a ‘welcome back!' to dining out!” — Cecilia Hogan, Tacoma, Wash.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

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

June 13, 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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Where are we headed?Zack Wittman for The New York Times

The pandemic outlook

The U.S. is in a peculiar moment in the pandemic.

The nation is still averaging over 100,000 cases a day as the latest virus wave appears to be making its way westward. Yet many Americans seem to be meeting this latest wave with a shrug. Could this be the new normal?

To help us reflect on where we are and where we’re going, I connected with Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist who has written extensively on Covid for The Times’s Opinion section.

As a society, where are we in the pandemic?

I think the official messaging and our policy remain muddled and confusing, and that’s causing a lot of polarization. There are many questions that remain unanswered and a lack of clarity about the future steps. For example, it’s June 2022 and we still don’t have clarity on updating our vaccines for fall or for vaccines for the youngest. We don’t have the kind of research, clarity and steps needed to address long Covid, either.

In response, some people are very anxious, some people are wondering how much to worry and some people have basically tuned out. And I’m not sure I could blame any group because at this moment, navigating the pandemic is kind of like a build-your-own-adventure game.

What do you think the next phase of the pandemic will look like?

There are many possible paths. The worst-case scenario would be that we get a variant that causes significant amounts of severe disease even among the vaccinated or those with prior infections. If this happens, and we haven’t prepared to quickly update our vaccines and administer them widely and globally, it could be a pretty grim scenario.

It’s also possible that we just kind of sputter along: There isn’t a new variant that represents a huge jump, at least in terms of causing acute illness. But in combination with waning vaccine effectiveness, especially among the elderly whose immune systems are weaker, it settles into something like the disease burden of influenza. That’s also terrible. Influenza itself causes an incredible amount of suffering every year, and it would further strain our already strained health care system.

The ideal scenario for vaccines is we update the vaccines, we vaccinate children and we vaccinate globally. But we shouldn’t stop there. We could also do many other things that would benefit everyone. For example, immunocompromised people are especially susceptible to generating variants because they can have very long-term infections. There are now therapeutics that should be used globally and equitably. And a large number of people with H.I.V. remain undertreated around the world, and thus immunocompromised. Extending treatment to them is both morally right and beneficial.

What else is the government not doing that it should?

There’s now a much better understanding of airborne transmission of respiratory diseases. If we got our act together, we could do for indoor air sanitation something similar to what we did to water after discovering waterborne diseases, in terms of regulating it to make it safer with better air cleaning filters, ventilation and other methods. We would see benefits against all the other respiratory viruses that are airborne too. It would be costly at first, but we would recoup that cost because illness is very costly — in terms of the human suffering but also financially.

How do you feel about the moment we are in?

We’re not in a good place, even though we could be. I am very despondent about the dysfunctional global and national response, and lack of clear next steps. We are not able to do things that are within the reach of countries like ours with the amount of science and wealth we have, let alone globally.

When you have a virus or some problem and you don’t have an effective response, that is tragic. But it’s a different kind of tragic when we have so many things we could be doing but we just can’t get our act together. It feels like we’re living a bad chapter in a history book that ends with “aaand that’s why they screwed it up even though they didn’t have to.”

 
 
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Leonardo Santamaria

Reinfection 101

With Omicron and its subvariants causing a surge of cases, it seems as if everyone knows people who have had Covid again after a recent infection. To help us understand what’s going on, The Times’s Well desk recently answered some basic questions about reinfection. Here’s an excerpt.

How long does immunity last?

Before Omicron, reinfections were rare. One study estimated that a bout with Delta or an earlier coronavirus strain was roughly 90 percent effective in preventing a re-infection in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. After Omicron emerged, prior infections provided only about 50 percent protection against reinfection.

You can even get sick with one of the newer Omicron subvariants after getting over a different version of it. In a study published in February that has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists from Denmark found that some people got reinfected with the BA.2 sublineage of Omicron as soon as 20 days after they got infected with the original Omicron BA.1.

Will subsequent infections be more or less severe?

The good news is that your body can call on immune cells, like T cells and B cells, which can take a few days to get activated and start working but tend to remember how to battle the virus. The result is that second or third infections are likely to be shorter and less severe.

What can you do to reduce your risk of reinfection?

Get vaccinated and boosted. The vaccines will bolster your antibody levels, and research shows that they are effective in preventing severe outcomes if you get sick again.

In Opinion, a professor of immunology argues that new tools can make our immunity to the virus even stronger.

 
 

How has RTO been for you?

Many office employees across the U.S. have been called back to the workplace. We want to know how that’s going.

We’re asking readers who have gone back: What has the experience been like so far? And what’s your advice for adjusting to the routines? Let us know by filling out this form. We may use your response in an upcoming newsletter.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

“How are you?” “Fine,” I say. It’s a lie, of course. But it’s not about concealing truths as much as having secrets. Maybe we’re all just floating on the surface. I wish I could tell you this: I’m not fine. I’m not busy. I’m watching hours of TV, sometimes the same sitcom rerun over and over, until I’m visited by their characters in my sleep. I need air. I go for a walk, but after two years of roaming to Chinatown and back, I have no patience. I want a destination. I want to hike up the hill to the pond. I want to see the lilies open on their pads as the sun rises. But I’m also tired of aloneness. Two years and three months have passed. At first, I heard the sparrows’ song and that was almost enough. At 7 p.m. I’d go on my balcony and bang on a pot lid with a spaghetti server and cheer along with the whole neighborhood. That was my community. While thousands were dying, we had hope. But now it’s lost. So if you run into me on the street and I say I’m fine, don’t take my lie personally. Like you, I’m just keeping a secret.

— Linda Schwartz, New York, N.Y.

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

June 15, 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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Vaccines soon for children under 5.Emma H. Tobin/Associated Press

Doses for young children

Finally.

In a move that millions of parents across the country have been anxiously waiting for, outside advisers to the F.D.A. greenlit vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for use in children under 5 — the only age group not yet eligible for the shots. If all goes well, doses for children could be given out as early as next week.

Today, C.D.C. advisers reviewed data from Pfizer’s three-shot vaccine for children 6 months through 4 years old, and Moderna’s two-shot vaccine for children 6 months through 5 years old. After hours of discussion, the advisers voted 21 to 0 to authorize both shots. The F.D.A. has said that clinical trial data from the companies shows that each vaccine meets the criteria for safety and effectiveness in the age group.

“There are so many parents who are absolutely desperate to get this vaccine,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy, a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “And I think we owe it to them to give them the choice.”

From here, things should move quickly.

  • The F.D.A. will now consider the advisory panel’s recommendation. The agency usually follows the advisory panel’s advice, but it is free to make changes or reject the recommendation outright. The agency is poised to clear the recommendation as early as the end of the week.
  • If the F.D.A. authorizes the vaccines, a C.D.C. advisory panel will review that decision and vote on whether to recommend the pediatric vaccines. The C.D.C. panel is scheduled to meet on Friday and Saturday.
  • Already, the Biden administration has taken advance orders from states around the country for 10 million pediatric doses, and it has set a goal for the first shots to be given to children next week.

While the U.S. may soon have near-universal eligibility, some difficult questions remain.

Both pediatric vaccines appear significantly less effective against symptomatic infection than the adult vaccines did when they were first introduced in December 2020. The F.D.A. attributes that to the fact that the Omicron variant is far more adept at evading the vaccines’ defenses than the original version was. (Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will most likely require a booster dose.)

After two doses, Pfizer’s vaccine was only about 28 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infection in children ages 6 months through 4 years. Pfizer suggested the vaccine was 80 percent effective after a third dose, but that finding was based on incomplete data.

Moderna found its vaccine to be 51 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection in children 6 months to 2 years old, and 37 percent effective in children ages 2 to 5. However, immunization continues to offer strong protection against severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.

“The biggest impact is you take away the rare chance of something bad happening,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Experts also do not expect the vaccines to change the overall trajectory of the pandemic. Many children have already been infected with the coronavirus — as many as 75 percent as of February, according to one estimate.

Vaccine uptake among children overall has also been low. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey published last month, just 18 percent of parents with children under the age of 5 said they were eager to vaccinate their children right away.

“It’s not like this is finally going to end the pandemic,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a professor of epidemiology and the inaugural director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health. But the vaccines could offer more flexibility for families, day cares and preschools. “I do think what will be really great is to help these kids go back to having normal lives,” she said.

 
 

The end of the spring wave?

After a surge this spring, new coronavirus cases in the U.S. have leveled off in recent weeks. The country is recording just over 105,000 new cases a day on average, a rate that has more or less held steady over the past month, according to a New York Times database.

That figure is sure to be an undercount, but other indicators are also showing signs of steadying: The number of patients hospitalized with the virus is still growing, but slowly, with the average hovering around 29,000 for most of this week. Deaths have stayed below 400 a day for several weeks.

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

But the current outlook varies from place to place. In Alameda County, Calif., which includes Oakland, officials reinstated a mask order this month, citing growing hospitalizations locally. But in New York City, where cases slowed recently, Mayor Eric Adams, who had previously lifted a mask requirement in schools, announced last week that masks were now optional for toddlers in day care and preschool.

While we seem to be leveling off, experts said it was still unclear whether the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 would lead to another bump. “My best guess is we are not going to see another giant peak until possibly later in the summer for the Southern states, and the fall and winter,” Dr. Nuzzo said.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

This week I contracted Covid for the second time in less than three months. I am one of the several million people in the United States who are immuno-compromised. You know us. Those people who get the obligatory exception note in every article about how you all can now resume a normal post-pandemic life. I am pretty sure how I acquired Covid. I traveled by plane to Texas for just one day for work. As I traveled, I would guess nearly half of the people I saw had their mask pulled down with their nose hanging out. Once in Texas, almost nobody wore a mask. At my business meeting, no one wore a mask, even though the attendees came the day before from four countries and five states, some of which have rising cases. The urgency is gone. The pandemic-focused infrastructure, if it ever existed, has eroded. To my fellow immuno-compromised Americans, if you don’t already know, I guess I should warn you — you’re on your own now.

— Jennifer Haldeman, San Diego

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

June 17, 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
 
 

The return to office revolt

After more than two years of remote work, more and more office workers are being called back to their cubicles. Many are not having it.

My colleague Emma Goldberg recently wrote about the revolt against return-to-office mandates. I caught up with her recently to hear more.

How would you describe the moment we’re in?

Return-to-office conversations feel almost like a game of chicken right now. Employers have delayed R.T.O. dates so many times that they’ve lost their fear factor. So, some workers are now looking at these deadlines as abstract rather than as something hard and fast that’s going to be enforced — which means that as companies have started to say, ‘No, we really do want to see you back in the office,’ workers are kind of looking at them and saying, ‘OK, you and what army?’

How many office workers have returned?

Office occupancy is still under 50 percent of its prepandemic levels across major cities. Back in the beginning of 2021, when executives were asked about the share of their workers who would be back in the office five days a week in the future, they said 50 percent. Now they’re saying 20 percent. So, you’re really seeing a lot of the optimism around return-to-office plans kind of disappearing.

Why is this happening now?

Last summer and fall, there were a lot of companies that set return-to-office days and then had to delay them because of Covid surges. Even this spring, some companies are again reacting to Covid’s spread by delaying return-to-office dates. And, for a lot of workers, the more return-to-office plans get delayed or suspended, the less rigid they seem.

We’re also in a tight labor market, so workers are feeling empowered. At Apple, we saw some workers write an open letter to the company saying that they really didn’t want to go back to the office, and they used strong language: “Stop treating us like school kids” and “Stop trying to control how often you can see us.” Apple recently suspended its requirement that workers return to the office at least three days a week.

Another aspect of this is that the longer people work from home, the more attached they get to the habits they’ve formed — like not having to commute and being able to approach their schedules a little more flexibly.

What does the next phase of return-to-office look like?

We’re entering a choose-your-own-adventure phase. Even some employers that initially planned for more sweeping office reopenings are now embracing flexibility. At Google, about 10 percent of employees have received permission to go fully remote or relocate from the offices where they were hired. Other companies, like Intuit, are allowing managers and teams to set their own expectations.

On the other hand, we have seen, particularly in financial services, companies that are sticking with hybrid rules, like three days in the office and two at home, or even five days in the office.

There was a survey in January from Pew that found that 60 percent of workers whose jobs could be done at home wanted to keep working remotely most or all of the time. So, we’re definitely seeing a clash between executives, managers and some workers who really want to be back, and a lot of other people who are attached to the flexibility that working from home allows. It’s an interesting tension. Maybe we’ll get more answers this summer or in early fall.

More on work culture:

 
 

Your R.T.O. experience

We asked readers how R.T.O. is going for them. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.

“I have detested being back in the office. My work is not team-based at all, and I spend all of my time in the office sitting in my cubicle with headphones on staring straight at my computer screen. I feel like nothing more than a sack of flesh in an Aeron chair, making my organization’s real-estate investment into the office property worth something to them. My advice is to be vocal about your concerns, and speak up when you’re dissatisfied. Someone will hear eventually. If not, know your worth and find work elsewhere.” — Vincent Wong-Crocitto, New York City

“I returned to the office in February for the first time since March 2020 after having two pandemic babies. Not only was I readjusting to office life, I was adjusting to a life as a working mom that now included commuting, dressing professionally and getting called by day care to pick up a sick little one. I found that once I ripped off the Band-Aid, it came back fairly easily. I have actually enjoyed speaking with my colleagues, having child-free time and putting on real clothes in the morning. You might find once you get going that it’s not as scary as you anticipated.” — Grace Smith, Chicago

“I work in higher ed. We’ve been back five days a week since August 2021, staked on the reasoning that since students were coming back to classes, we should be there, too. Now it’s summer, and only a small number of students are around. Requiring our presence feels arbitrary. It’s absurd when you recognize that tenure-track faculty have always had flexibility, often coming in only on teaching days. Junior faculty, staff and admins (disproportionately people of color and women) should have similar latitude.” — Lauren H. New York City

“It’s dystopian. Our office is fully open, but so few people go that the lights won’t stay on because the motion sensors aren’t being triggered. I’ll occasionally glimpse a human, alone in their office or a conference room, door closed, on Zoom.” — Julia Marcus, Boston

“My employer requires staff to come into the office three days a week. During just the first few months commuting on public transportation, I’ve had Covid, the flu and a bad cold within a span of six weeks (and spread it to my family, including a toddler who hasn’t received all her vaccines yet). I was not an effective employee during that time and took a lot of sick days. If you’re commuting on public transportation, always mask up — or double up. Try to travel off peak times.” — Gigi Kau, Nassau County, New York

“My return-to-office experience has been great, mostly in that I am able once again to more clearly delineate between work and life. I close my laptop earlier, I get on the subway and I am able to clear my head from all the workday noise before stepping through the front door of my apartment.” — Alex Stevens, New York City

“On my first day back to the office, my supervisor told me: ‘Don’t drink the water.’ The water in our old office building has been so infrequently used over the pandemic that people are concerned about the water quality. That’s just one of the things that makes it especially frustrating to wake up earlier, forego my morning workout and commute through Atlanta traffic to an office that no one has needed for two-plus years. What’s the point? My advice for adjusting back to the routines of office life: Develop a mindfulness routine. And invest in a gallon-size water bottle.” — Janna, Atlanta

 
 

Kids’ vaccine update

  • A C.D.C. advisory panel is meeting Friday and Saturday to discuss the vaccine for children under 6 years old. No surprises are expected.
 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

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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‘It always wins’: North Korea may declare COVID-19 victory

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — It’s only been a month since North Korea acknowledged having a COVID-19 outbreak, after steadfastly denying any cases for more than two years. But already it may be preparing to declare victory.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-obituaries-north-korea-government-and-politics-06ad05d9a9678a3825da5766323a9a35?

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ND set to administer COVID-19 vaccine to youngest children

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota is receiving its initial order of 5,700 coronavirus vaccine doses for young children now that federal officials have endorsed the shots for youngsters ages 6 months to 5 years.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-public-north-dakota-b1a8ae63a2591d94b1d758bd484c7667

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 22, 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
 
 

When children have long Covid

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A Covid-19 vaccine site for children under 5 near Times Square in New York today.Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Parents across the U.S. are breathing a long sigh of relief this week as the youngest Americans — between 6 months and 5 years old — begin receiving their first round of Covid vaccinations. (This guide can tell you everything you need to know about kids and vaccines, and you can find a vaccination site through this federal website.)

The long-awaited approval should help to address one big parental fear: that a child could contract long Covid — a cluster of lingering symptoms that include fatigue, headaches, brain fog, racing heart and stomach issues.

Experts estimate that long Covid may affect about one in five adults. Studies suggest that long Covid is rarer in children, but they can develop it, too.

Our colleague Pam Belluck reported in August on kids with long Covid, and the constellation of physical, cognitive and mental health symptoms they can experience.

At the time, the U.S. had logged only a few million cases of the coronavirus in people under 21. Today, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number has risen to more than 13 million — almost certainly an undercount. A separate C.D.C. study estimated that by February about 75 percent of U.S. children under 18 had blood antibodies to the coronavirus, suggesting they had been infected.

We went back to Pam to understand what has changed since she wrote the piece about kids with long Covid last summer. She emphasized that there were still more questions than answers, but gave us some optimistic news: “We’re getting a sense it’s significantly less common in kids,” she said. “When I wrote my story, there was one estimate that said 11 to 15 percent of children could be at risk. A recent study I’ve seen put it at 1.5 percent having symptoms after eight weeks.”

In other words, children, especially those under 12, probably face far less risk than adults. Pam added that the jury was still out on whether vaccines lower the risk of long Covid but that there was growing evidence they do. When kids do develop long Covid, Pam said, experts now suggest that some can recover faster than adults.

Do we know anything more about which kids develop long Covid and which don’t?

We know that if adults get very sick from the initial phase of a coronavirus infection — sick enough to need hospitalization — they’re likelier to have long-term symptoms than those whose infections are mild. This is probably true for kids as well. But even people who had mild initial infections can develop long Covid, and since they make up the majority of people who are infected, they also make up a majority of people with long Covid. Studies in adults are suggesting that there may be factors that make people more likely to develop long Covid, including having previous medical issues like diabetes or autoimmune conditions.

What do you do if your child’s symptoms persist after an infection?

Go to a doctor you trust, like your pediatrician or primary care doctor. Ask the doctor to fully assess what could be causing the symptoms. Some symptoms, like headaches or shortness of breath, may be treated with medication. Fatigue is probably the most common feature of long Covid, and that’s a very tricky thing to address. You may want to seek help at a post-Covid clinic for children — there are some clinics that have an interdisciplinary network of specialists and can address issues like fatigue with programs that include physical therapy.

How should parents think about troubling symptoms that last for months?

Kids are going through a lot now, whether or not they have been infected with the coronavirus. Some health issues like anxiety, fatigue and headaches could have multiple causes. So it’s really important not to dismiss those symptoms but to remember that some could be caused or exacerbated by other stressors, too, like school closures, remote learning, lockdowns, not being with friends, having family members get sick or die.

Some parents say that there are long waits to see specialists and that other doctors dismiss their concerns. What do you tell them?

Access is definitely a problem. I think instances when doctors dismiss or gaslight on this issue are a little less common than before, though obviously that varies. Show your doctors the studies we’ve written about, or find a different pediatrician. The important thing is to try to get the symptoms addressed, even if a doctor doesn’t think they are caused by long Covid. We’re going to learn more about this condition, and there will hopefully be more answers available. But in the interim, if a kid is suffering, focus on getting help for the symptoms.

 
 

Your stories about long Covid in kids

Last month, we asked you to tell us about long Covid symptoms in your children. You told us about lively, active kids of all ages who, months after their initial infections, still had headaches, stomach problems, terrible fatigue and other issues. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

“My 15-year-old tested positive in January. She was vaccinated and boosted. Today, she has nausea, diarrhea, joint and muscle pain, shortness of breath, headaches, anxiety, hair loss and more. She loves the arts, singing, acting and playing her instruments, but is struggling to get through the school year. Physical therapy seems to be helping. We saw a gastroenterologist last week. She started new meds and a new diet. We’re praying for a return to a somewhat normal life for her.” — Joy Corbitt, Davidson, N.C.

“My son, now 13, first had Covid in April 2020. He was in bed for 49 days. He resumed normal activities to an extent, until he was reinfected in January and April 2022. He dropped out of school a few months ago. Ryan was healthy, social, athletic and a good student. Now he sleeps 10 to 12 hours every night, has difficulty concentrating and gets sick constantly. He’s given up his passion, soccer. So many of our friends have moved on to live life like they did in 2019, but that’s impossible for us.” — Allison Newman, New York City

“My 15-year-old contracted Covid in September 2020. She’s a shell of the person she was. Ironically, she got it at her gym — she was a competitive gymnast, and I worried if I didn’t send her back she’d lose the opportunity to participate. How wrong I was. She’s had a headache 24/7 since getting Covid and did a weeklong stay at an inpatient specialty clinic, being pumped full of IV drugs. Nothing could break the headache. I have no idea what her future holds.” — Holly Orcutt, St. Charles, Ill.

“My child was 5 and seemed to bounce right back. But we noticed we’d take him to go play at the park, and he’d come back after a few minutes and say his chest hurt really badly. It’s been 18 months. He has chest pain, is tired after Boy Scouts and not able to play like he always did. He sometimes breaks out in hives. Nobody seems to know what this is or if it will go away. A large part of his childhood got taken away.” — Alyssa, Houston

“I’m 18 years old but got Covid just after my 17th birthday. I could not taste a thing. I had a headache and a slight cough but no serious symptoms. My real problem is my nose. It’s been a year and a half now, and the signature ‘altered taste’ still lingers. Things like popcorn and milk chocolate still repulse me. It’s very depressing. I try to smell perfumes but they all smell the same. I’m worried, if my sense of taste and smell have been altered for this long, will it stay the same forever?” — Katherine Beebe, San Antonio, Texas

 
 

What else we’re following

  • New coronavirus infections are surging across much of Europe just as summer travel heats up, The Guardian reported.
  • The chief executive of Pfizer told MSNBC that the company was developing vaccines that specifically target Omicron and other variants.
  • Moderna said an updated version of its vaccine generated a strong immune response to new Omicron variants, and the company hopes it will be approved for a booster shot in the fall, according to Reuters.
  • Social-distancing rules made lemonade stands all but impossible. Now they are back in full force across America.
 
 

What you’re doing

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 24, 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
 
 
mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
An electron microscope image of monkeypox virions.C.D.C., via Associated Press

Monkeypox and the gay community

This weekend marks the end of Pride month, as cities across the country host events to celebrate the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

It is also a fraught moment in public health: A global outbreak of monkeypox is causing concern, with many of the cases clustered around men who have sex with men.

Experts are now trying to strike a delicate balance, warning people who may be at higher risk, without stigmatizing a community that has often been scapegoated for health scares in the past.

For more, I spoke to Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and a global health activist.

Why are many of the monkeypox cases in men who have sex with men?

It’s an epidemiological accident of history. This is not a gay disease; it has been circulating in West and Central Africa for many years. We have viral zoonoses that jump from animals to humans all the time.

What likely happened in this case is that somebody who had monkeypox had a lesion and showed up at a gay rave in Europe, and it spread to those in that social and sexual network. And because the virus prefers close physical contact as a means of transmission, it found a very suitable environment for which to propagate itself.

Is monkeypox sexually transmitted?

Not as far as we know right now, in terms of being transmitted by vaginal or seminal fluid. But sex involves close bodily contact. So it’s hard to pick apart what’s going on until we have more studies of the cases that have emerged so far across the world.

How should I think about my risk?

Monkeypox has found a foothold — not in all gay men — but in a certain subset of gay, bisexual and trans men who have been associated with these parties. That being said, the potential for it to move into other populations within the L.G.B.T.Q. community or further afield is possible.

People should know the facts. [The C.D.C. has a fact sheet about social gatherings and monkeypox.] We have 173 cases nationwide, but that’s likely to be the tip of the iceberg because it’s fairly difficult to get access to monkeypox testing, and we’re likely to have substantial spread among this network of gay men with multiple sexual partners in New York.

So, you know, people should be like, “OK, should I go out tonight to go dancing in a club or go to one of these big L.G.B.T.Q. pride events?” Think about it. If you’re going to go out and have sex, think about how you’re going to do it in what kind of setting, what kind of venue. If you’re going to go to a venue where you might end up having sex with multiple partners in one evening, think about that as well.

And think about your own health. If you have a fever or swollen glands or any sort of the early symptoms of monkeypox, and certainly if you see a lesion, you should go get tested and talk to your clinician. And don’t go to these events if you feel sick.

How is the L.G.B.T.Q. community responding?

This isn’t the L.G.B.T.Q. community’s first time at the rodeo, right? The gay community knows how to manage infectious disease. Remember the Provincetown outbreak of Covid in 2021? The gay community there sprung into action and helped the Massachusetts Department of Health and the C.D.C. do contact tracing, because they knew how to do this. Everybody swung into action and was completely essential to what was happening in that outbreak.

So while the nature of our social and sexual networks might have made us vulnerable to this infection and its spread, our resilience and our persistence against infectious disease threats for 40 years now also makes us a pretty able foe for the virus as well.

mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%
A line of people waiting for monkeypox vaccinations outside the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic in Manhattan on Thursday.Hiram Durán for The New York Times

What should we be doing that we’re not?

We want to contain this outbreak. So it’s not just about educating people about managing your individual risk, it’s dealing with a new outbreak that we could potentially contain and snuff out before it embeds itself long term in the gay community. So this means we need all hands on deck. Public health departments and L.G.B.T.Q. and AIDS organizations should be cooperating and saying, we’re going to send our folks who do prevention outreach into the clubs, into the sex venues and to the Pride events.

We also can’t make the same mistakes we did with Covid testing. As Jay Varma and Jennifer Nuzzo said in The Washington Post the other day, we need to scale this up beyond the laboratory research networks of the C.D.C. so that testing is as easy as for any other lab diagnosis you can get swabbed for in your doctor’s office.

Another lesson from the Covid pandemic: We need to act quickly. Getting vaccines out for this is going to be important, but Jynneos — which is the least problematic of the two major vaccines — is in short supply. Montreal has already started vaccinating men who have sex with men who have two or more sexual partners. New York City recently announced it would vaccinate men who have sex with men, too. But we have yet to do that broadly in the United States, so we’re behind the curve.

Maybe it’ll burn itself out, maybe it won’t. But unless we up our game, we are certainly heading down the path of letting this virus persist in our communities. The point is, there’s no time to lose now.

More on monkeypox:

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

The good news? We’re far past the “How dare they!?!” tension that dominated most of our pandemic lives. The bad news? It’s not because differences were resolved. Rather, those differences slowly eroded certain relationships until a deep canyon grew between them. The further they drift away, those at sea don’t very well care about what’s happening on shore. And so with us. Tension with our local church eroded into a breath of relief at joining a like-minded church elsewhere. Tension with defiant family members eroded into “I wonder if/when we’ll see so-and-so again.” Tension with those in our community who refused to put others first eroded into new friendships with some of the most compassionate people we’ve ever met. The tension is gone but in its place lies a vast and (perhaps) impassable canyon — a haunting, empty reminder of what once was full.

— Alan K., North Carolina

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 27, 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
Author Headshot

By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

 
 

Updated vaccines for the fall?

Tomorrow will be a big day for the future of U.S. coronavirus vaccines: A panel of independent advisers to the F.D.A. will recommend whether to update the existing vaccines to take aim at a version of the virus in the Omicron family.

The advisory panel also will probably split between those who believe a fall booster will be broadly necessary and those who would limit additional shots to high-risk individuals.

The policy may depend on funding and resources. “It’s very clear we’re not going to have enough vaccines for every adult who wants one,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coordinator for the pandemic response.

Either way, cases will most likely rise in the winter. The question is: Would booster shots have an updated formula that targets Omicron — or its subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which now account for more than one-third of the infections in the U.S.? Or will they be the existing vaccines, which continue to provide robust protection against severe disease, but very little against infection?

Rebooted shots are already in the works: Pfizer and Moderna have both started manufacturing doses, betting that the government would pick an Omicron-targeted vaccine to be the fall booster. And clinical trials of a so-called bivalent vaccine — one that combined the existing formulation with one that targeted Omicron — found that it triggered higher levels of antibodies against Omicron than existing vaccines do.

But outside scientists were not impressed by the less-than-twofold increase. One leading virologist described it as “relatively modest.”

And the coronavirus has evolved so quickly that new vaccine formulations may be out of date before trials are even finished. The F.D.A. said that targeting Omicron was “already somewhat outdated.”

“Omicron is clearly in the rearview mirror,” Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert with Baylor College of Medicine, said.

Even if the F.D.A. does push for a bivalent vaccine that targets BA.4 and BA.5, it will still be a race to produce the doses by fall, even with accelerated testing. There is also the chance that the virus will evolve and render the updated vaccine ineffective.

“Do we target BA.4 and 5? They will probably peak somewhere in the next month or two,” said Dr. John Beigel, a clinical research director at the N.I.H. who has conducted multiple coronavirus vaccine studies. “They may be old news by the time the fall comes.”

And neither Pfizer nor Moderna has concentrated on developing such a vaccine, so no one knows for sure how well it would work.

At this late point in the year, using human trials to test such a vaccine, followed by the two months that would be required to manufacture doses, could push the release of any new vaccine well into the next wave of the virus. To make a fall deadline, the companies would have to rely more on laboratory tests and animal trials.

 
 

Where to find vaccines for kids

You may not be able to get your child vaccinated at the same pharmacy where you rolled up your sleeve. That’s because age requirements vary among the larger pharmacy chains.

A majority of big pharmacy chains are giving Covid vaccines starting at age 3, but some are not. Publix and Kroger, for example, are offering shots starting at age 5.

Here are the policies for some major pharmacy chains:

Even if your pharmacy of choice is not offering shots to your eligible child, the pharmacist there can point you in the right direction.

Some parents have also turned to social media groups and grass-roots networks to find shots. One option: A group of volunteers called Vaccinate Under 5 created a national database of pharmacies and providers administering the vaccine to young children.

 
 

What else we’re following

  • Congress passed legislation to extend free meals and other food assistance for U.S. children until the end of the summer.
  • In The Atlantic, Ed Yong writes that the U.S. is in a “figure it out yourself” period of the pandemic: “It still claims the lives of hundreds of Americans daily, killing more than twice as many people as die, on average, in car accidents.”
  • Only one Broadway show, “American Buffalo,” will continue to require masks after Friday.
  • Army National Guard soldiers have until Thursday to get vaccinated, The Associated Press reports. About 13 percent of the force remains unvaccinated.
  • Novak Djokovic will not get a shot, even if it means that he cannot play in the U.S. Open later this summer, The Guardian reports.
  • Ezra Klein talked to Dr. Lekshmi Santhosh, the founder and medical director of U.C.S.F.’s long Covid and post-I.C.U. clinic, about the mysteries of long Covid.
  • Researchers at Imperial College London reported that vaccines saved nearly 20 million lives in the first year, The Associated Press reports.
  • The pandemic enticed more bathers to try “wild swimming” in Beijing’s lakes and waterways.
 
 

What you’re doing

My 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter finally got vaccinated today. Over the last number of months — no wait, years — I have mentally rehearsed what this moment would be like. It was all the sentimental mushy gushy stuff you might expect a pandemic parent to say. But in all honesty, the only sentiment that feels true today: it is about damn time! — Dana Siperstein, East Greenwich, R.I.

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What is COVID-19 ‘rebound’? CDC explains phenomenon affecting Fauci, some Paxlovid users

(NEXSTAR) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that he experienced a recurrence of symptoms after taking the Pfizer’s oral antiviral medication Paxlovid as a treatment for COVID-19.

https://thehill.com/homenews/nexstar_media_wire/3541510-what-is-covid-19-rebound-cdc-explains-phenomenon-affecting-fauci-some-paxlovid-users/

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Coronavirus Briefing

June 29, 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
 
 

Vaccinating against monkeypox

We’re taking another break from our regularly scheduled Covid programming to follow new developments in the monkeypox outbreak. As cases continue to climb, the U.S. is beginning a new vaccination campaign.

Previously, monkeypox immunizations were offered only to people with a known exposure, but now they will be offered to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.

“In other words, don’t wait to seek out a vaccine if you think you may have been around someone who had it,” my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli told me.

Federal officials said that states would receive doses of a safer and newer monkeypox vaccine called Jynneos from the federal stockpile, based on a state’s number of cases and the proportion of its population at risk for severe disease.

The Health and Human Services Department will immediately make available 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine and will provide an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks. Another 750,000 doses are expected to become available over the summer, for a total of 1.6 million doses by the end of this year.

State health authorities may also request supplies of ACAM2000, an older vaccine developed for smallpox that is believed to also protect against monkeypox. That vaccine, however, can have harsh side effects, some of which can be life-threatening for immuno-compromised people, pregnant women and older adults.

As of today, there were 351 monkeypox cases in 27 states and the District of Columbia, up from 156 cases a week earlier. Experts believe those numbers are likely to be underestimates.

The goal now should be to move quickly to contain the virus, but there are a number of roadblocks.

“Vaccinations are essential for preventing more people from getting infected and for controlling this outbreak,” Apoorva said. “But we don’t have enough of them to meet the demand — not by a long shot. So it’s going to take a while for them to be fully effective as a control measure.”

New York City, for example, had only 1,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine on hand. The city’s health department began administering the vaccines at a single clinic last Thursday but quickly announced that it could no longer accommodate walk-ins. As of yesterday, the city was still waiting for more vaccine doses.

Overall, experts said the campaign was too small and too slow to make an impact. The longer it takes to contain the monkeypox outbreak, researchers warned, the greater the chances will be that the virus becomes entrenched in the U.S., particularly among men who have sex with men.

 
 
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“People who hadn’t seen me were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re a completely different person,’” said Tara Chhabra.M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

Reader update

We’re continuing our check-ins with readers whose stories have resonated with many of you. Today we have an update from Tara Chhabra, who wrote this note from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in April 2021. It has been lightly edited.

Now I read about people happily resuming pre-Covid activities, like meeting up with friends and family, socializing or getting excited to attend concerts and dine out. I can’t at all relate. Pandemic isolation and introspection have been my sanctuary and bliss. I relished the relief of masks, of not being judged for my appearance, of getting a break from scrutiny about not smiling enough. I mourn the loss of all of this. I dread having to feign sociability again to be accepted in life and at work, acting my way through reacclimating to the majority’s version of normal.

I recently called Tara to find out how she’s doing. “At the time that I wrote that I was just coming out of remote work and was really kind of stressed by the whole notion of having to return to in-person work after a year of being apart,” she told me.

She was the sole human resources person at her office and was responsible for navigating many of the thorny issues around Covid for more than 100 employees. “I was feeling really burned out by the whole experience,” she said, “and I was not necessarily welcoming a return to face-to-face stuff.”

So she quit.

“I was like, You know what? Life is short and I want to be doing something different,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what, but I know that this is not the way I want to continue. It was terrifying. It was like going through the grieving process in some ways. It was letting go of who I had been.”

Tara took a few months to explore her passions. She wrote more and submitted her work to newspapers. She became braver, she said. She let her hair grow out.

A year later, she now has more empathy toward people who wanted to find some semblance of normalcy in their lives after vaccination, she said. She is getting out more, too, although with some precautions.

“We’ve sort of adapted,” she said. “We’ll go to concerts, but they’re usually smaller venues. We’ll eat out at restaurants, but usually at off hours.” Bottom line: Social events are done on her terms. Life is as well.

“I kind of wish this had happened when I was in my 20s,” Tara said. “I think I would have made a lot of different life choices. I’m wired to be a people-pleaser and an empath, and I think the physical and social separation from others helped to recalibrate things a little bit for me. Not that I’m more selfish, but I’m just more self-aware, and less afraid to ask for what I think I need and want and deserve.”

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

My 3-year-old was vaccinated a few days ago. I had prepared him for what it could feel like, and I worked hard to maintain my calm business-as-usual demeanor while we went in. This sweet little kiddo hopped up on the table, got the shot and didn’t even cry. But me? I totally cried. I think it was the relief, the possibilities of what it could mean to my family to be fully vaccinated as a whole. To all the other pandemic parents of toddlers who have sacrificed so much to keep your families safe: I see you. It’s our time! Let’s do play dates and birthday parties and museums, and make normal toddler-parent friends. I can’t wait to meet you!

— Lacey Ladd, Indianapolis, Ind.

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Coronavirus Briefing

July 1, 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
 
 

Partying in a pandemic

For the past few years, Covid has made it complicated — or outright impossible — to go out on the town in New York.

But with summer in full swing, large-scale nightlife events are becoming more common. That’s a positive development when done safely, says Julia Carmel, who has covered New York City nightlife during the pandemic.

“Some people look at nightlife as a luxury, but it’s so important to the greater culture of a city,” Julia told me. “Nightlife is a place where underground art scenes can find an audience. It’s a place where performers can make ends meet. It offers a lot of ways for people to make a living and to share and to connect and find community.”

I spoke with Julia for more on the city’s nocturnal vibes.

Catch us up. How has New York City nightlife fared during the pandemic?

In March 2020, everything went dark. You could say that about any industry, but in nightlife, it was more desolate than other industries because when it came to fields that were centered on hedonism and pleasure, reopening felt a lot more tumultuous. Nightlife was on the back burner — and rightfully so. At the same time, a lot of people in the industry, from part-time bartenders to people who work sound systems at nightclubs, had a really rough time for basically 15 months.

In the spring of 2021, I was working on this big project about nightlife coming back, but as we were nearing the end, the Delta variant arrived. It started becoming clear that nightlife wasn’t coming back in the way we all thought it was.

Many people were looking at the situation as black and white. There is nightlife or there is no nightlife. It is safe or it is not safe. But once a lot of venues opened, they didn’t want to close again. They rehired people and they reopened, which was a very expensive process. Still, there was a slowdown and venues scaled back. Then, when Omicron came around, it was especially rough because, for many places in New York, it’s hard to adapt events to be outside in the winter.

What is New York City nightlife like now?

At least in New York City, there are plenty of venues that are back to throwing parties every night of the week. Some beloved local spots did close down permanently, but many others have found ways to adapt to different comfort levels.

This spring and summer have felt significantly more relaxed than last summer, but people have acted with less abandon. I haven’t been hearing the things I was hearing last summer like, “this is going to be THE summer,” because I think everyone has kind of learned that this isn’t something that’s going to fully go away. There are also plenty of people who haven’t gone out in over two years, and even for those of us who feel comfortable and safe doing so, I don’t know if we’re ever going to get to a point where people can go to a party and not think even a little bit about their potential risk.

What does going out look like now?

The pandemic has definitely motivated more flexible party setups. So venues may have indoor and outdoor spaces, or hosts may decide to throw an event outside at a park. There’s also a lot more communication. At weddings, for example, some people are clear that they want everyone to be vaccinated or to get a test within 48 hours. And there’s a general heightened empathy to what guests may be comfortable with. People are thinking a lot more about the information that they think people want to know before they arrive, so that they’re not going to be surprised.

There’s also a lot of variety. I could be at a concert, and there would be people there with N-95 masks on. But you can also go to a 1,000-person warehouse party where people are packed like sardines and are making out with complete strangers.

How has the pandemic changed the way we go out?

The past few years have forced many people to think about what they value and what they want to do. Personally, I don’t expect people to come to things out of obligation anymore. And likewise, when I choose to go to something, it really feels like, “no, I’m choosing this.” Like, yes, it is worth it to me to see these people get married. To see my friend celebrate a birthday. To go dance at a bar because it’s Pride weekend. Some events are also more conscious and thoughtful when it comes to accessibility — sometimes that looks like a livestream that people can watch virtually, or an outdoor space. There are also plenty of incredibly valid reasons people don’t feel comfortable going to a party just yet. The care and understanding that many nightlife workers are showing to one another and to their communities has also made reuniting on the dance floor feel even more exciting at times. It’s maybe one of the silver linings of the pandemic.

A goodbye: Julia is leaving for a position at The Los Angeles Times. We wish her the best.

 
 

What else we’re following

 
 

What you’re doing

To tell you the truth, I feel forgotten. I’m 61 and I work in retail at an “essential” business. As a result, I never quarantined and I wore a mask for eight hours a day. I see lots of coverage regarding the effects that quarantine has had on various groups but little has been said about the effects of dealing with working throughout this pandemic. I used to enjoy my work, but my opinion of the general public has suffered a huge hit. I have very little patience for the foolish and ill mannered public. I don’t want to deal with them anymore. Where is society’s concern for someone like me?

— Laura O’Kelly, Yuba City, Calif.

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For now, wary US treads water with transformed COVID-19

The fast-changing coronavirus has kicked off summer in the U.S. with lots of infections but relatively few deaths compared to its prior incarnations.

https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-health-infectious-diseases-fb25f987bab09a11be31a32e832dd9de?

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