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Covid-19 and Boosters Live Updates: Vaccines, Global Cases and the Latest

MADRID, Spain — The government will reimburse hundreds of thousands of residents who were fined for violating the rules of last year’s Covid-19 lockdown amid a surge of infections.

The measure, announced Friday by the ministry of territorial affairs, is set to benefit those who paid about 1.1 million fines in the spring of 2020. At the time, Spain found itself on the front line of the pandemic and imposed one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns, including on children, who were kept inside, unable to exercise or even go on errands with their parents.

The decision comes after Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled in July that the government had overstepped its powers and violated the rights of citizens to freedom of movement when it decreed a state of emergency in March 2020.

Although not all those who were penalized paid the fines, the government estimated in July that it had collected about 115 million euros during Spain’s initial state of emergency, which lasted three months.

In its ruling, the court’s panel did not condemn the government for forcing people to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but the judges struck down the government’s interpretation of its right to decree a state of emergency as well as some specific measures, including stopping people from leaving their official residences to spend the lockdown in a second home.

The ruling followed a complaint filed by Spain’s far-right opposition party, Vox. Spain’s constitutional court must still issue a final ruling over the legality of the country’s second state of emergency, which was intended to contain another spike in Covid-19 cases and ran from November 2020 to May 2021.

The United States has suffered through five waves of the coronavirus pandemic now, depending on how one counts. Experts say what comes next is hard to predict, but looking back at the outbreak so far can provide some clues about how the virus may spread in the future.

“Each of these waves has a different complexity and pattern,” said Alessandro Vespignani, the director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University in Boston.

During the first wave, for instance, strict stay-at-home measures and drastic changes in behavior may have stalled the virus for a time. Last fall, with those measures and behavior comparatively relaxed, record-breaking surges in the Midwest rippled outward to the South and both coasts. By the time the highly contagious Delta variant fueled a wave across the country this summer, vaccines were widely available, shifting the pattern once again.

“Vaccines have clearly changed which places have been hit and how much they’ve been hit,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.

The most recent wave, this time fueled by the Delta variant, began in June when states lifted virtually all virus restrictions and people relaxed their behavior in celebration. Missouri saw the first big surge, then that moved across Arkansas, then Louisiana, both states with low vaccination rates.

Some experts say that the vaccination campaign and much of the country having already experienced several waves of outbreaks — which have conferred some immunity to those who were infected and recovered — have made them cautiously optimistic for the winter. Few experts are forecasting a substantial winter peak.

“We might see a little bump in cases, and of course people could radically change behavior or we could see a variant,” said Justin Lessler, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina.

Lydia Melo, 7, getting a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during a trial at Duke University in Durham, N.C., in September.Credit…Shawn Rocco/Duke University, via Reuters

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators evaluated for the first time on Friday the safety and efficacy of a coronavirus vaccine for children 5 to 11, saying that the benefits of staving off Covid-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generally outweighed the risks of the most worrisome possible side effects in that age group.

The analysis came on the same day that the Food and Drug Administration posted data from Pfizer showing that the vaccine had a 90.7 percent efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds.

The findings could add momentum for F.D.A. authorization of the pediatric dose on an emergency basis, perhaps as early as next week, opening up a long-awaited new phase of the nation’s vaccination campaign. The agency’s independent vaccine expert committee is set to vote Tuesday on whether to recommend authorization.

In a briefing document posted on the F.D.A. website, the agency said it had balanced the dangers of hospitalization, death or other serious consequences from Covid-19 against the risk of side effects. That included myocarditis, a rare condition involving inflammation of the heart muscle that has been linked to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, especially among young men.

“The overall analysis predicted that the numbers of clinically significant Covid-19-related outcomes prevented would clearly outweigh the numbers of vaccine-associated excess myocarditis cases,” regulators wrote.

As is customary, the regulators took no stance on whether the new use of a vaccine should be authorized.

If the F.D.A. rules in favor of authorization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its own panel of vaccine experts agree, the 28 million children in that age group could become eligible for shots in the first week of November.

“There’s a lot of data to be encouraged by,” said Dr. Kathryn M. Edwards, a professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She said the results exceeded the protection offered by the best flu vaccine and could eventually lead to the easing of restrictions intended to prevent elementary school children from contracting the virus.

The approval of the mix-and-match approach for coronavirus vaccine booster shots left Americans with many questions.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that Americans could choose a booster dose of a vaccine different from the one they had initially received — the so-called mix-and-match strategy.

Preliminary evidence strongly suggests that mixing two Covid vaccine types produces a stronger immune response than matching the booster to the initial vaccine.

Booster doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) seem to raise antibody levels higher than a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A pop-up vaccination clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla., in August. Vaccines remain highly protective against severe illness and death in the vast majority of people.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Among Americans initially immunized with an mRNA vaccine, the following groups should receive a single booster dose six months or more after their second dose, the C.D.C. decided:

Adults ages 18 to 49 with certain medical conditions and those whose jobs regularly expose them to the virus may choose to get a booster. And recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive a booster shot at least two months after the first dose.

People who have received two mRNA vaccine doses or a single Johnson & Johnson dose should still consider themselves fully vaccinated.

Research indicates that, with the exception of adults over 65, the vaccines remain highly protective against severe illness and death in the vast majority of people.

There is not much information available on the safety of the boosters, but they may have some of the same side effects experienced with the initial doses.

It’s unclear how long protection from a booster shot might last, and whether people who receive them will need another booster in the future.

People in Washington reacting to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.Credit…George Tames/The New York Times

The pandemic has created backlogs for multiple federal agencies, resulting in pileups of visa applications, unprocessed Social Security benefits and backlogs in F.D.A. inspections.

On Friday, the White House announced another administrative casualty: a delay in the release of a trove of records related to the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.

The White House statement, signed by President Biden, did not make clear exactly how the coronavirus had delayed the release of the records, which must be released to comply with a 1992 congressional act, but said that the national archivist had reported that the pandemic had had a “significant impact on the agencies” that need to be consulted on redactions.

The archivist of the United States directs the National Archives and Records Administration, the repository of public governmental records. The position has been held since 2009 by David S. Ferriero, a former librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University and the New York Public Library. He is the 10th person in the role since the National Archives were established in 1934.

The White House statement said that the National Archives required additional time to conduct research and work with the agencies, which include the Defense, Justice and State departments.

The assassination of the 35th president, on Nov. 22, 1963, still holds a grip on the public imagination. It has also been the subject of an endless stream of conspiracy theories.

Despite an exhaustive, yearlong inquiry into the murder led by Chief Justice Earl Warren that concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, surveys over the years have consistently found that most Americans believe others were involved.

The United Press International bulletin alerting the news media that the president had been shot, “perhaps seriously.”Credit…Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

The 1992 law required the government to make public the last of the Kennedy assassination documents by Oct. 26, 2017, unless the sitting president opted to withhold any for national security reasons. The Trump administration did release a trove of J.F.K. assassination records in the fall of that year. While the documents have been intriguing to researchers and conspiracy theorists alike, they have not conclusively changed the previous understanding of the assassination.

Mr. Trump, who himself has dabbled in an assassination conspiracy, claiming that the father of onetime rival Ted Cruz was somehow involved in Kennedy’s murder, pushed back the release date of some records to 2021.

In the White House statement on Friday, President Biden said he agreed with the archivist’s recommendation that records be withheld from public disclosure until December 2022.

“Temporary continued postponement,” he said, “is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”

The White House also said it wanted to make the J.F.K. documents more accessible. More than 250,000 records — more than 90 percent of the records agency’s collection on the assassination — have been publicly released and “only a small fraction” contain redactions. But many of the records are available only to the public if they travel to the National Archives site in College Park, Md.

The White House statement also ordered the archivist to create a plan to digitize and make available online the records agency’s entire collection of J.F.K. assassination documents.

In a screenshot from a video, Andrew Gilbert, center, with two police officers. Mr. Gilbert said he asked the officers to put on masks per M.T.A. rules.Credit…Victoria Hall

A New York City police officer grabs a male commuter by his jacket and pushes him through an emergency exit door at a subway station in Manhattan, video posted to social media shows. “You’re being disruptive,” the officer tells him.

The man in the 35-second video clip — which has garnered more than three million views and ushered in a fresh wave of criticism of the police — said in an interview that the confrontation erupted when he asked the officer and his partner to put on masks.

Andrew Gilbert, 27, said he had just gotten off the train at the Eighth Street subway station in Manhattan on his way to work at around 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday when he approached two officers who were not wearing masks and asked them to put them on, in accordance with M.T.A. rules.

“The male officer sort of started playing dumb with me, saying, like, ‘I can’t hear what you’re saying through your mask,’” Mr. Gilbert said on Wednesday.

The back-and-forth continued for about a minute, Mr. Gilbert said, before the officer shoved him about 80 feet backward and pushed him out of the exit door.

The flouting of mask mandates by some police officers in New York City has been the subject of criticism throughout the pandemic. Face coverings have remained required on the city’s public transit and at indoor subway stations since April 2020. But many reports on social media and in local news outlets have drawn attention to instances of officers ignoring those rules.

Michael Gold and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.


From our Parenting newsletter:

I have heard from many readers and friends that their kids are struggling to adjust to in-person schooling this year, but I wanted to hear from teachers around the United States, too — about what emotional changes they had observed in their classrooms. While much has been made about pandemic learning loss, social and emotional wellness is also a key part of school that feels under-discussed.

All of the teachers I spoke to have more than a decade of teaching experience, and they teach in a variety of settings: urban, rural and suburban, with varied demographics in their districts. It’s important to first note that everyone said, overall, their students are happy to be back in the classroom, connecting with their friends. While they described a variety of new challenges to this school year, the other consistent response is that many kids in their classrooms are socially and emotionally anywhere from six to 18 months behind where they are in a normal year.

Amanda Marsden, a second grade teacher in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, a town of around 9,000 people outside of Portland, said that her second graders have never had a “normal” school year, since the pandemic hit in the spring of kindergarten for them, so they need to be taught some of the basics of being in a classroom again. “We’re really breaking down the minutiae of the day,” she said. Her students are also much quicker to run to a teacher with a problem than working it out themselves, she added — they got used to having a grown-up around to solve disputes when they were learning at home.

Children also may be acting out in new ways to get that adult attention. “We actually just had a student start a fire in a school bathroom last week. THAT was a first for everyone in my building!” Nicole Hagle, who teaches seventh and eighth grade English in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., a college town in the middle of the state, wrote to me in an email. When I followed up with her on the phone, she said that the fire is just one of the attention-seeking behaviors she’s observed — there’s more yelling, more cursing, more acting out. “We’re having to dial back expectations behaviorally,” she said.

Migrants were lined up and processed by Border Patrol north of the Roma–Ciudad Miguel Aleman International Bridge, which spans the Rio Grande border with Mexico, in Roma, Texas, U.S. October 1, 2021Credit…Jason Garza/Via Reuters

A record 1.7 million migrants from around the world, many of them fleeing pandemic-ravaged countries, were encountered trying to enter the United States illegally in the last 12 months. The tally capped a year of chaos at the southern border, which has emerged as one of the most formidable challenges for the Biden administration.

It was the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960, when the government first began tracking such entries. The number was similarly high for the 2000 fiscal year, when border agents caught 1.6 million people, according to government data.

Single adults represented the largest group of those detained in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, at 1.1 million, or 64 percent of all crossers. There were also large numbers of migrant families — more than 479,000, which is about 48,000 fewer than during the last surge in family crossings in 2019.

But the nearly 147,000 children whom agents encountered without parents or guardians was the largest number since 2008, when the government started tallying unaccompanied minors.

The crossers hailed from around the globe, many of them seeking economic opportunity as the coronavirus pandemic erased hundreds of millions of jobs. Agents caught people from more than 160 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with Mexico accounting for the largest share.

In addition to the pandemic, two hurricanes destroyed livelihoods and homes in Guatemala and Honduras, where extortion and violence from gangs have persisted in many communities, further fueling an exodus.

A public health rule, invoked by President Donald J. Trump at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to seal the border, has remained in place under the Biden administration. Over the last 12 months, the Border Patrol has carried out more than one million expulsions of migrants back to Mexico or to the migrants’ home countries.

President Biden has walked a fine line between trying to control the influx and put in place a more humane approach to border enforcement. Republicans have blamed Mr. Biden’s promises to reverse Trump-era immigration policies for fueling the surge, as word spread that the country’s borders had become easier to breach.

Administering a Pfizer booster shot at a nursing home in Strasbourg, France, in September. A new vaccination campaign aims to prevent Covid and the flu from combining to overwhelm the French medical system.Credit…Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

France on Friday recommended people get shots against Covid-19 and the flu in the same visit to vaccination clinics, spurring one of its biggest winter vaccine drives yet.

The campaign is meant to prevent the continuing Covid pandemic and the onset of influenza cases from potentially combining to overwhelm the country’s medical system, the health ministry said.

While Covid measures kept flu cases and hospitalizations low in 2020, health experts have warned that there could be an upsurge this winter, as immunity has declined after months of social distancing and the easing of Covid restrictions.

Experts have said there is no danger in getting a flu shot and a Covid-19 vaccine at the same time. So those eligible for a Covid booster dose in France can receive it in one arm and a flu shot in the other on the same day. France has offered booster shots to people over age 65, pregnant women, people with certain comorbidities and recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Olivier Véran, the French health minister, went on TV on Friday to advocate getting both vaccines during one appointment.

“Already, 10 million doses are available in pharmacies, prioritized for the most vulnerable people,” he said. “This vaccination can be done at the same time as that against Covid.”

The new effort is expected to bolster the drive for Covid vaccines, in addition to encouraging those at risk to get the booster shots. So far, 68 percent of the people in France are fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Health officials in other countries have also urged people to get vaccinated against both Covid-19 and the flu before winter.

On Friday, the British government started a national advertising campaign on billboards, radio stations, TV channels and social media platform urging people to get both vaccines.

“This is the first winter when Covid-19 and seasonal flu are expected to be circulating together, putting more lives at risk,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, the chief of immunization at the U.K. Health Security Agency, in a statement. “Vaccinations are important to protect against both diseases.”

Britain began offering booster shots against Covid last month to people ages 50 and older, health and social care workers and others with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness.

City and state health departments in the United States have similarly encouraged people to get vaccinated against both viral diseases at the same time. Though some clinics only offer Covid shots, both flu and Covid vaccines are widely available at many pharmacies.

Some local health agencies have specifically promoted getting them in one trip. The city of West Hollywood, for example, held an outdoor clinic on Thursday, offering Covid vaccines and flu shots together. A health center in Grand Rapids, Mich., held a drive-through clinic earlier this month, administering Covid booster and flu shots.

Administering both together makes getting immunized more convenient for patients and eases the burden on clinics, because fewer appointments are needed, officials have said.

News Analysis

President Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington on Thursday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s approval ratings have declined on nearly every issue and among nearly every demographic group in national surveys over the last two months, as the promise of a return to normalcy has given way to rising inflation, a simmering pandemic, gridlock in Washington and chaos on the border and in Afghanistan.

Still, Mr. Biden’s handling of the coronavirus continues to be a relative political bright spot. Polls show that most voters approve of his requirement that employees of large companies either get a vaccine or take a test. But his ratings on the virus have nonetheless declined since the summer, as the Delta variant dashed any hopes of a quick end to the pandemic.

By one measure, the pandemic was now only the eighth most concerning issue to voters, even trailing hot-button cultural issues like the southern border and what’s taught in public schools.

Over all, however, the president’s approval ratings have sunk into the low- to mid-40s, putting him into rather lonely historical company. In the era of modern polling, only Donald J. Trump had a lower approval rating at this early stage of his term.

There’s no evidence the damage to Mr. Biden is irreparable.

Many presidents have won re-election after watching their ratings fall to similar depths during their first two years in office. Voters can have a short memory. And while President Biden’s losses have been pronounced among reliable Democratic constituencies, such as young, Latino and even Black voters, those groups can also be relatively easy for Democrats to win back.

A Covid patient in an intensive care unit at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., in September.Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday took aim at the question of whether the Delta variant of the coronavirus causes more severe disease, finding no significant differences in the course of hospitalized patients’ illnesses during the Delta wave compared to earlier in the pandemic.

But larger and more detailed studies from a number of other countries have found that people with Delta infections were considerably more likely to be hospitalized in the first place — a trend that the C.D.C. study was unable to address because of limitations in its data. The C.D.C. study also said that the proportion of older hospitalized patients needing intensive care or dying had shown some signs of increasing during the Delta wave.

Delta’s higher level of infectiousness has made it a far greater challenge than earlier versions of the virus, but the question of whether it also causes more serious disease has loomed as it swept around the world. The Alpha variant, an earlier version first detected in Britain, appeared to be linked to a higher risk of death, though scientists have also tried to understand whether factors besides the variant were playing a role.

Studies in England, Scotland, Canada and Singapore suggested that the Delta variant was associated with more severe illness, a finding that scientists have said raises the risk that outbreaks of the variant in unvaccinated areas may put a bigger burden on health systems. Unlike the C.D.C. study, those studies drew on genomic sequencing, allowing researchers to distinguish infections with the Delta variant and to track patients from before they enter a hospital.

Without access to sequencing data, the C.D.C. researchers could not determine which variants the patients may have been infected with. It also examined patients already admitted to hospitals, making it impossible to determine whether they were at higher risk of needing hospital care in the first place.

The study, released on Friday, examined roughly 7,600 Covid hospitalizations, comparing July and August — when Delta dominated — to earlier months this year, and found no significant change in hospitalized patients’ outcomes.

The study said that the proportion of hospitalized patients aged 50 and older who died or were admitted to intensive care “generally trended upward in the Delta period,” though the differences were not statistically significant and further work was needed. At the hospitals included in the study, roughly 70 percent of Covid patients were unvaccinated.

The researchers said the findings matched those of other C.D.C. studies using similar methods that showed no significant differences in the outcomes of younger people hospitalized before and during the Delta surge.

Outside scientists questioned the reliability of the study.

Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, ran a larger study that found that people infected with the Delta variant had roughly twice the risk of hospitalization as people infected with variants that had not been labeled a concern. He said that such analyses needed to control for the range of factors that affect the course of Covid patients’ illnesses, and that the availability of vaccines, testing and treatments had all been changing during the pandemic.

“As this is the U.S. C.D.C., I’m really surprised at the small sample sizes for individuals with more detailed clinical information, as well as the use of such rudimentary statistical methods to deal with these data,” he said.

Dr. Fisman’s study, drawing on 200,000 cases and published this month, also showed significantly increased risks of intensive care admission and death among those infected with the Delta variant, after accounting for their age, sex, vaccination status and other factors.

Roughly 70 percent of people with Delta infections in the study were unvaccinated, and 28 percent were partially vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people are heavily protected from Covid.

Similarly, a study in Scotland from June based on 20,000 Covid cases showed that Delta infections were associated with an 85 percent higher risk of hospitalization, though it allowed for a wide degree of uncertainty about the precise figure.

And data from England, drawn from 43,000 cases and published in August, found that people infected with the Delta variant were just over twice as likely to be hospitalized as people with the Alpha variant, though the researchers in that study, too, were unsure of the precise figure.

Roughly three-quarters of the patients in that study were unvaccinated, and most of the rest were only partially vaccinated.




Ardern Announces New Covid Strategy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand stressed the importance of vaccinations as the country moved away from lockdowns, announcing a new, color-coded system of restrictions to be implemented when the country reaches its vaccination target.

We can rightfully be proud of what our world-leading response has achieved. But two things have changed since then. The first is that Delta has made it very hard to maintain our elimination strategy. Its tentacles have reached into our communities and made it hard to shake, even using the best public health measures and the toughest restrictions we had available to us. But right as our long-standing strategy was challenged, we also had a new tool, one that means as Covid has changed, we could change too. And rather than being locked down, we could move forward safely and with confidence. That tool is the vaccine. Basically, if you want to be guaranteed that no matter the setting that we are in, that you can go to bars, restaurants and close-proximity businesses like a hairdresser, you will need to be vaccinated.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand stressed the importance of vaccinations as the country moved away from lockdowns, announcing a new, color-coded system of restrictions to be implemented when the country reaches its vaccination target.CreditCredit…Phil Walter/Getty Images

Rawiri Jansen, a Maori doctor, had an urgent message for the 150 people, mostly patch-wearing members of New Zealand’s plentiful street gangs and their families, who sat before him on a bright Saturday afternoon.

Covid-19 is coming for them, he said. Cases in New Zealand’s hospitals are rising rapidly. Soon, dozens of new infections a day might become hundreds or even a thousand. People will die. And vaccination is the only defense. “When your doctors are scared, you should be scared,” he said.

By the end of the day, after an exhaustive question-and-answer session with other health professionals, roughly a third of those present chose to receive a dose then and there.

Having abandoned its highly successful “Covid-zero” elimination strategy in response to an outbreak of the Delta variant, New Zealand is undergoing a difficult transition to trying to keep coronavirus cases as low as possible. On Friday, the country set a target of getting at least 90 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated — a goal, the highest in the developed world, whose success hinges on persuading people like those who gathered to hear Dr. Jansen.

Already, 86 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose. But the final few percent are the most difficult to reach, and one group of particular concern is the gang community, many of whose members are Maori or Pacific Islanders, who make up about a quarter of the overall population. In the past two months, multiple outbreaks have been reported among gangs, a subset of the population less likely to comply with official vaccination efforts, forcing officials to cooperate with gang leaders to reach their communities.

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