Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

More states are opening up vaccine eligibility to include all adults.

Jonathan WolfeAmelia Nierenberg


Credit…The New York Times

With the vaccine supply set to increase substantially, more states are opening up vaccine eligibility to all adults.

This week, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas will allow all adult residents to sign up. New York will begin vaccinating people 30 and older on Tuesday and all residents 16 and over will become eligible on April 6.

Universal eligibility, it seems, is on the horizon.

We’re also learning more about the real-world performance of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — and the results are heartening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked nearly 4,000 people at high risk for infection for three months after they were vaccinated. The researchers found that a two-dose regimen of the vaccines prevented 90 percent of infections two weeks after the second shot, and one dose prevented 80 percent of infections after two weeks.

The report also suggested that because it was rare for vaccinated people become infected, it was likely rare for them to transmit the virus. It also demonstrated that the vaccines offered powerful protection against the variants.

But it’s not all good news in the U.S. New coronavirus cases are up after plateauing since late February. The seven-day average of new virus cases is 63,000, up from 54,000 a day two weeks ago. In nine states over the past two weeks, virus cases have risen more than 40 percent. Michigan led the way with a 133 percent increase.

President Biden today called on governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask-wearing orders, saying the virus was again spreading fast because of “reckless behavior.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C., said that similar upticks in the past over the summer and winter led to major surges, warning that she feels a sense of “impending doom.”

Deaths in Brazil are at their peak and the country is reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. On Wednesday, the country surpassed 300,000 Covid-19 deaths, with roughly 125 Brazilians succumbing every hour.

Intensive care units face dire shortages and essential medicines are only available at an exponential markup. “We have never seen a failure of the health system of this magnitude,” said Ana de Lemos, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in Brazil.

President Jair Bolsonaro has promoted ineffective drugs, played down the threat of the virus and fueled fears about vaccines. Many of his hard-core supporters believe his instincts are sound. “There was one solution: to listen to the president,” said Geraldo Testa Monteiro, who lives in Porto Alegre.

Mr. Bolsonaro and other politicians have also resisted lockdowns, which epidemiologists say could have been avoided if the government had promoted masks and social distancing, and more aggressively pursued vaccines.

The coronavirus most likely emerged in bats before spreading to humans through another animal, according to a World Health Organization report obtained by The New York Times in advance of its release.

The report was prepared by a team of international scientists who recently led a fact-finding mission to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. In the report they outlined several theories that might explain how the virus first spread to humans, but dismissed the idea that the virus might have leaked accidentally from a Chinese laboratory as “extremely unlikely.”

Critics have assailed the inquiry by the W.H.O. team as insufficient, saying the global health agency has been too deferential to Beijing as it has attempted to reshape the narrative about the outbreak in Wuhan. China also delayed the visit for months, an apparent tactic to avoid scrutiny of its early mistakes in handling the pandemic.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

Amelia Nierenberg, a writer on the briefings team, wrote about gathering with vaccinated family members and friends for Passover.

On Saturday night, my family gathered around our dining room table to celebrate the first night of Passover. Before the pandemic, we’d have 30 people, cooking for days. Last year, we met on video chat, just days after my father recovered from coronavirus. “Next year in person,” we said, a spin on the traditional way to end the meal.

Miraculously, this year, eight vaccinated people broke matzo together. (I was the ninth, and the only one unvaccinated, which the C.D.C. has approved.) As Jewish families have done for thousands of years, we shared the story of the Exodus. As all families have done since the beginning of time, we argued about politics. And for the first time since she died in June, we mourned my grandmother with our family and friends.

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Jonathan Wolfe and Amelia Nierenberg