Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The U.S. political divide is affecting its vaccine rollout.

Jonathan WolfeAmelia Nierenberg

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Credit…The New York Times

As the vaccination campaign gains steam in the United States, the country is beginning to see its first signs of vaccine hesitancy, explained in part by a stark political divide.

In a new CBS News poll, a third of Republicans said they would not get vaccinated — compared with 10 percent of Democrats — and another 20 percent of Republicans said they were unsure. Previous polls have found similar divides.

The resistance to vaccines is a huge challenge for President Biden, who is pressing to inoculate as many Americans as possible, especially with more contagious variants of the virus on the rise.

Partisan perceptions of the coronavirus have complicated Mr. Biden’s task, especially related to former President Donald Trump. Although Mr. Trump was quietly vaccinated during his last days in office, many of his supporters appear reluctant to do so, and he has not played any prominent role in promoting vaccination.

Mr. Biden has been dismissive of the idea of enlisting his predecessor to reach out to conservatives, though Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it would “make all the difference in the world” if Mr. Trump would encourage his supporters to get vaccinated. Instead, Mr. Biden has said he would work toward getting community leaders like local doctors and preachers on board.

As more doses become available in the coming weeks, vaccine skepticism is likely to become more prominent. Some Native American tribes that have already vaccinated large percentages of their members are already seeing it.

The Cherokee Nation, for example, has administered 33,000 doses across its reservation in Oklahoma. After inoculating health care workers, Cherokee-speaking elders and essential workers, the tribe opened appointments to anyone who lives there. But hundreds of available appointments have gone unclaimed.

The reasons for vaccine hesitancy are many, from questions about the efficacy of the shots, side effects and the speed at which they were developed. Republicans often cite distrust of government as a reason not to get vaccinated. Some Native Americans point to the government’s legacy of medical malpractice in their community.

In some cases, persuading reluctant Native Americans to sign up for a shot has required only a small nudge — like additional information or a doctor’s recommendation. But in others, it has required more effort, like getting health workers to knock on doors, often in remote places, and engage in long conversations with plenty of patience.

Similar laborious efforts may have to be scaled up as the country strives for herd immunity, tries to get the economy back on track and seeks a return to a more normal way of life.

Vaccines vs. trypanophobia: For some people, the fear of needles is the biggest obstacle to getting vaccinated. Health care professionals say there are ways to overcome it.

After a miserable year, the restaurant industry might be in for a balmier spring as states relax dining restrictions, temperatures warm and stimulus checks begin to arrive. The businesses that survived the pandemic — or even opened in the midst of it — may carry their adaptations into the After Times.

In the United States, some 85,000 restaurant and food businesses have reopened over the past year, according to a report last week from Yelp.

Our colleague Jack Nicas has followed his neighborhood bar the Hatch in downtown Oakland, Calif. through the pandemic. Over the past 12 months, Jack has spoken to employees as they scrambled to save the business, chronicling overdue bills, missed rent payments, a failing takeout business and cancer diagnoses. In December, the bar’s owner, Louwenda Kachingwe, known as Pancho, said he thought the Hatch might have served its last beer.

But this weekend, the bar was alive, well and bigger than ever. Thanks to forgivable federal loans and donations from Times readers, Mr. Kachingwe opened a flower and wine shop next door, with plans to expand. The bar opened outdoor space and a takeout operation, both of which are here to stay.

“I don’t see things going back to the way they were,” Mr. Kachingwe told Jack.

A deeper listen: Jack spoke to The Daily a couple of times about the Hatch. In October, Jack spoke with staff members struggling after months without pay. In December, Mr. Kachingwe told Jack about his fears moving forward.

The new breed: Pete Wells, a restaurant critic for The Times, looked at restaurants that opened during the pandemic. “Never having operated in normal conditions gives them certain advantages,” Pete writes. “Like start-ups competing with legacy companies, they may have lower overhead costs and the agility to adapt to a shifting environment.”

A scene grows in Brooklyn: In Ditmas Park, the pandemic brought more change to a neighborhood in flux, as locals rallied around their restaurants.

  • Ohio will extend vaccine eligibility to anyone 40 years and older on Friday, as well as for residents with certain medical conditions.

  • Indiana extended its group of eligible residents to people 45 and older, effective immediately.

  • Wisconsin said residents 16 years and older with certain medical conditions would be eligible for vaccinations a week earlier than initially planned.

  • While some countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over safety concerns, Thailand, Australia and India will continue to use it as experts investigate reports of blood clots among a handful of people who received it.

  • Chinese embassies have begun requiring many foreigners entering the country to receive a coronavirus vaccine made in China if they want to avoid extensive visa paperwork requirements.

I spend some time each day scouring YouTube to try to educate those who still deny the truth of the virus, and burn masks, and tell everyone not to get vaccinated. Sometimes I get “likes” from those who see the light. Most of the time, though, it’s abuse and name calling by the deniers.

— Daniel Brian, Ohio

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Jonathan Wolfe and Amelia Nierenberg