Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

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Desperate for vaccines in India, regional leaders are struggling to stretch supplies.

Oregon and other states are linking reopening measures to vaccine targets.

A variant is thought to be fueling an alarming outbreak in Thai prisons.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

U.S. relaxes mask rules

The masks are coming off.

In a watershed moment in the pandemic, federal health officials said today that vaccinated Americans may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings — regardless of size.

In justifying the move, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed to several recent studies showing that vaccines are more than 90 percent effective at preventing mild and severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid in real-world settings.

There are caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when:

visiting doctors’ offices, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

traveling by bus, plane, train or other modes of public transportation.

going to transportation hubs like airports and bus stations.

visiting prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

The C.D.C. added that vaccinated Americans must continue to abide by state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and follow local rules for businesses and workplaces.

Read more about the new masking guidelines.

Will vaccines for teens open schools?

Across the country, 12- to 15-year-olds are lining up to get their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. That means roughly 17 million more people in the U.S. are eligible for vaccination, bringing the country closer to herd immunity.

“I told my wife, ‘I’ve got to take her to get vaccinated — immediately,’” said Eduardo Torres of Chicago, referring to his 14-year-old daughter, Raquel.

It also brings schools closer to reopening. Currently, about half of U.S. schools are not fully open. Many still plan to offer remote learning this fall. Some families remain uncertain about when they will have the option for a more traditional schedule.

In a speech today, the president of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, called for a full reopening this fall.

Randi Weingarten, the union president, said: “Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week.” .

Vaccinating children will bring new challenges. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many parents — even some who eagerly got their own coronavirus shots — were reluctant to vaccinate their pubescent children.

Weingarten pledged to commit $5 million for a campaign in which teachers would host open houses and go door to door to build families’ confidence in returning to school. She also called for more mental health counselors and individualized student support.

Latest Updates

It is an open question whether the A.F.T.’s 3,000 local affiliates will adopt Weingarten’s proposal. This winter, she repeatedly said it could be safe for teachers to return to classrooms before vaccination, a position that was a nonstarter for unions in cities including Chicago and Los Angeles.

Regulating indoor air

A group of 39 scientists are calling for public health reforms for indoor air quality, similar to how the government enacted regulations for clean water, food safety and to ban lead-based paint.

The manifesto of sorts, published today in the journal Science, called for a “paradigm shift” as virus cases fall and Americans slowly return to a host of indoor spaces.

The authors point to extensive research showing that the coronavirus can linger in the air indoors, floating far beyond the recommended six feet of distance. That puts the onus on policymakers and building engineers to provide clean air in public buildings and minimize risk of respiratory infections, they wrote.

Class Disrupted

Updated May 5, 2021

The latest on how the pandemic is reshaping education.

    • Without home internet, an 11-year-old boy had trouble staying connected to remote classes. Like him, a disproportionate number of disengaged students are lower-income Black, Latino or Native American.
    • Here’s how a Miami private school became a beacon for anti-vaxxers during the pandemic.
    • Many colleges are planning in-person commencements, sowing frustration on campuses sticking to online ones.
    • After this pandemic year, school superintendent across the country are leaving their jobs.

    The fixes, they argue, can be simple: adding filters to existing ventilation systems, using portable air cleaners and ultraviolet lights, or even just opening the windows where possible.

    President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Association to issue emergency temporary guidelines for Covid-19 by March 15, but OSHA missed the deadline. A draft of the regulations is reportedly being reviewed by the White House’s regulatory office.

    Early in the pandemic aerosol scientists believed Covid was airborne, but it took months for that to become conventional wisdom because of a 60-year-old scientific error, Wired explains.

    Vaccine rollout

    A study suggests that coronavirus vaccines protect pregnant and lactating women, and may benefit fetuses and infants.

    Latino adults in the U.S. have the lowest vaccination rates, but they are the demographic group most willing to receive the shots, a survey shows.

    The European Medicines Agency said that the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna appear to be effective against the new variant first discovered in India, Euronews reports.

    Ohio will give five people $1 million each in return for having been vaccinated as part of a weekly lottery program.

    “Hamilton” will require all its employees to get vaccines, the producer said, the first Broadway show to do so in advance of the coming reopening.

    See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

    What else we’re following

    El País reports that weekly Covid deaths in Spain have dropped 90 percent since the start of the country’s vaccination campaign.

    Countries bordering India are bracing for the worst.

    Guilt is just another lingering effect of the pandemic. Here are tips to stop the spiral.

    People in the U.S. may continue to mask up whenever they’re feeling sniffly, just as people do in East Asia.

    The poultry giant Tyson Foods in Arkansas reported nearly a third of Covid cases among workers in the state over a roughly 11-month period, The Associated Press reports.

    What you’re doing

    Last March I lost all my work as an event producer in New York City and the ability to see my overseas partner. Since then, I found a way to move to Finland to be with my partner, but I can’t work, leave Finland or receive unemployment benefits while I wait for a visa. I’ve gotten a lingering concussion; lost a family member in the States and grieved on my own; watched my new niece grow over video chat; learned Finnish; lost innumerable hours of sleep to anxiety and stress; and somehow built community in a new country. Some days I am furious, frustrated, exhausted — a shell of myself. Other days I flip off the sky and say, “Try me.”

    — Clare Nauman, Tampere

    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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