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Aug 5

Biden calls Delta Variant a Largely Preventable Tragedy That Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better. – The New York Times

Heres what you need to know:A Covid-19 testing site in Palmetto, Fla., on Monday. President Biden singled out Florida and Texas, where cases have risen sharply.Credit...Octavio Jones/Reuters

President Biden, seeking to reiterate that the rise of the highly contagious variant in the United States is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, voiced his frustration with leaders who have been slow to provide coronavirus relief or get shots in arms.

Mr. Biden singled out Florida and Texas, where cases have risen sharply, criticizing the pandemic response by the governors in those states.

We need leadership from everyone, he said. Some governors arent willing to do the right things to make this happen. I say to these governors, please, if you arent going to help, at least get out of the way for people who are doing the right thing.



I want to be crystal clear about whats happening in the country today. We have a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Now I know theres a lot of misinformation out there, so here are the facts. If youre vaccinated, you are highly unlikely to get Covid-19. And even if you do, the chances are you wont show any symptoms. And if you do, theyll most likely be very mild. As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who cannot get vaccinated. Some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be masked or vaccinated. And the most extreme of those measures is like the one in Texas that say state universities or community colleges could be fined if it allows a teacher to ask her unvaccinated students to wear a mask. What are we doing? The escalation of cases is particularly concentrated in states with low vaccination rates. Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new Covid-19 cases in the entire country, just two states. Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors arent willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors, Please help. But you arent going to help at least get out of the way, of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.

Mr. Biden has been under pressure to redirect the American publics focus after days of policy whiplash, shifting directives on mask usage, and roiling debates about requiring workers to receive the vaccine.

Mr. Bidens speech reflected in blunt terms what his top advisers have been saying, with varying degrees of success, for days: that the people who get sickest from the Delta variant are unvaccinated, and that his administration is working to make vaccines available to every person who needs one. Fully vaccinated people are protected against the worst outcomes of Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden was plainspoken and direct in his remarks, calling the rise of the Delta variant a largely preventable tragedy that will get worse before it gets better. He also tackled a criticism directed at his White House in recent days: that his administration had not done enough to synthesize information in a way that Americans could understand.

I know theres a lot of misinformation out there, so here are the facts, Mr. Biden said. If you are vaccinated, you are highly unlikely to get Covid-19. and even if you do, the chances are you wont show any symptoms. And if you do, theyll most likely be very mild. Vaccinated people are almost never hospitalized.

Mr. Biden reiterated his earlier mandate that all federal workers must be vaccinated or subject to strict requirements.

If you want to do business with the federal government, he said, get your workers vaccinated.

He added that the private sector, including companies like Wal-Mart, Google and Tyson Foods, were taking similar steps. Even Fox has vaccination requirements, he quipped.

Mr. Biden had said earlier this year that he wanted to see 70 percent of eligible Americans at least partly vaccinated by July 4. The country hit that goal on Monday, about a month late and only after the Delta variant began disrupting the progress touted by the president and public health officials.

There was no celebration of reaching the delayed milestone. Instead, the Biden administration has been in a race to encourage vaccine-reluctant and vaccine-refusing Americans to receive shots as caseloads rise in states with high unvaccinated populations.

The vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease, and certainly, preventing your death, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nations top disease expert, told reporters.

The White House has also struggled to put into context the threat of the Delta variant to those who are vaccinated. Experts say that infections in vaccinated people so called breakthrough infections are still relatively uncommon, and that even in those cases, the vaccines appear to protect against severe illness and death.

Nationally, new cases have reached an average of about 86,000 a day as of Monday, a dramatic jump from about 13,000 daily cases a month ago but still far fewer than in January. Hospitalizations have risen as well, but hospitalizations and deaths remain a fraction of their devastating winter peaks.

Mr. Bidens pledge to donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses is by far the largest yet by a single country, but it would fully inoculate only about 3 percent of the worlds population. The United States will pay $3.5 billion for the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, about $7 apiece, which Pfizer described as a not for profit price much less than the $20 it has paid for domestic use.

In a fact sheet released on Tuesday, the administration said that it would work with programs focused on the equitable distribution of vaccines, including Covax, to ensure that the doses arrive in the countries that are in the most need. But health officials in countries that have received some of the doses have already warned that additional funding is needed to train people to administer the shots and fuel vehicles that transport the vaccines to clinics in remote areas.

Mr. Biden also announced during a speech at the White House on Tuesday that the United States has donated more than 110 million vaccine doses globally, a down payment on a pledge he made to send half a billion doses of vaccine to poorer countries over the next year.

Mr. Biden, who for months was under pressure to share doses of the vaccine, is now seeking to position his administration as a global leader in inoculating the rest of the world amid the spread of highly contagious variants of the virus.

The virus knows no boundaries, Mr. Biden said. Theres no wall high enough or ocean wide enough to keep us safe from the virus in other countries.

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

Although most children with Covid-19 recover within a week, a small percentage experience long-term symptoms, according to a new study of more than 1,700 British children. The researchers found that 4.4 percent of children have symptoms that last four weeks or longer, while 1.8 percent have symptoms that last for eight weeks or longer.

The findings suggest that what has sometimes been called long Covid may be less common in children than adults. In a previous study, some of the same researchers found that 13.3 percent of adults with Covid-19 had symptoms that lasted at least four weeks and 4.5 percent had symptoms that lasted at least eight weeks.

It is reassuring that the number of children experiencing long-lasting symptoms of Covid-19, is low, Dr. Emma Duncan, an endocrinologist at Kings College London and lead author of the study, said in a statement. Nevertheless, a small number of children do experience long illness with Covid-19, and our study validates the experiences of these children and their families.

The study, published on Tuesday in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, is based on an analysis of data collected by the Covid Symptom Study smartphone app. The paper focuses on 1,734 children between the ages of 5 and 17 who tested positive for the virus and developed symptoms between Sept. 1 and Jan. 24. Parents or caregivers reported the childrens symptoms in the app.

In most cases, the illness was mild and short. Children were sick for six days, on average, and experienced an average of three symptoms. The most common symptoms were headache and fatigue.

But a small subset of children experienced lingering symptoms, including fatigue, headache and a loss of smell. Children between 12 and 17 were sicker for longer than younger children and more likely to experience symptoms that lasted at least four weeks.

We hope our results will be useful and timely for doctors, parents and schools caring for these children and of course the affected children themselves, Dr. Duncan said.

The researchers also compared children who tested positive for the coronavirus with those who reported symptoms in the app but tested negative for the virus. Children who tested negative and may have had other illnesses, such as colds or the flu recovered more quickly and were less likely to have lingering symptoms than those with Covid. They were ill for three days, on average, and just 0.9 percent of children had symptoms that lasted at least four weeks.

Recently, a 28-year-old patient died of Covid-19 at CoxHealth Medical Center in Springfield, Mo. Last week, a 21-year-old college student was admitted to intensive care.

Many of the patients with Covid-19 now arriving at the hospital are not just unvaccinated they are much younger than 50, a stark departure from the frail, older patients seen when the pandemic first surged last year.

In Baton Rouge, La., young adults with none of the usual risk factors for severe forms of the disease such as obesity or diabetes are also arriving in E.R.s, desperately ill. It isnt clear why they are so sick.

Physicians working in Covid hot spots across the nation say that the patients in their hospitals are not like the patients they saw last year. Almost always unvaccinated, the new arrivals tend to be younger, many in their 20s or 30s. And they seem sicker than younger patients were last year, deteriorating more rapidly.

Doctors have coined a new phrase to describe them: younger, sicker, quicker. Many physicians treating them suspect that the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections nationwide, is playing a role.

Studies done in a handful of other countries suggest that the variant may cause more severe disease, but there is no definitive data showing that the new variant is somehow worse for young adults.

Some experts believe the shift in patient demographics is strictly a result of lower vaccination rates in this group.

As of Sunday, more than 80 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 were fully vaccinated, compared with fewer than half of those ages 18 to 39, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccines are powerfully effective against severe illness and death after infection with any variant of the virus, including Delta. A vast majority of hospitalized patients nationwide roughly 97 percent are unvaccinated.

I dont think theres good evidence yet about whether it causes more severe disease, Dr. Adam Ratner, associate professor of pediatrics and microbiology at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, said of the Delta variant.

With a new surge of Covid-19 infections ripping through much of the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has accelerated its timetable to fully approve Pfizer-BioNTechs coronavirus vaccine, aiming to complete the process by the start of next month, people familiar with the effort said.

President Biden said last week that he expected a fully approved vaccine in early fall. But the F.D.A.s unofficial deadline is Labor Day or sooner, according to multiple people familiar with the plan. The agency said in a statement that its leaders recognized that approval might inspire more public confidence and had taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to the work.

Giving final approval to the Pfizer vaccine rather than relying on the emergency authorization granted late last year by the F.D.A. could help increase inoculation rates at a moment when the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is sharply driving up the number of new cases.

A number of universities and hospitals, the Defense Department and at least one major city, San Francisco, are expected to mandate inoculation once a vaccine is fully approved. Final approval could also help mute misinformation about the safety of vaccines and clarify legal issues about mandates.

Federal regulators have been under growing public pressure to fully approve Pfizers vaccine ever since the company filed its application on May 7. I just have not sensed a sense of urgency from the F.D.A. on full approval, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in an interview on Tuesday. And I find it baffling, given where we are as a country in terms of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Although 192 million Americans 58 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the nations adults have received at least one vaccine shot, many remain vulnerable to the ultracontagious, dominant Delta variant. The country is averaging nearly 86,000 new infections a day, an increase of 142 percent in just two weeks, according to a New York Times database.

Recent polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking public attitudes during the pandemic, have found that three of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get a shot with a fully approved vaccine. But the pollsters warned that many respondents did not understand the regulatory process and might have been looking for a proxy justification not to get a shot.

The upcoming school year in Idaho may not be conducted entirely in-person, as planned, unless more people in the state get vaccinated, Gov. Brad Little said on Tuesday.

Simply put, we need more Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine, Mr. Little said, adding that the vaccinations are needed if schoolchildren are going to have a chance at a normal school year, one that is entirely in person without outbreaks and quarantine.

Speaking on a call with reporters, he added, If you are among the folks waiting to see about the vaccine, please consider talking to a doctor about it. Not only for your sake, but to ensure our kids are safe and back in school.

A telephone message left at the governors office on Tuesday night was not immediately returned.

In March 2020, as the pandemic was raging across the country, schools in Idaho closed their doors to in-person learning. According to Mr. Littles comments, the plan to conduct the upcoming school year in person could be in jeopardy.

In Idaho, 37 percent of all people are fully vaccinated, far below the national average of nearly 50 percent, according to data collected by The New York Times. As of Tuesday, the seven-day average of new cases in Idaho is 290, the highest it has been since April, according to The Timess data.

The effort to vaccinate more people has grown increasingly polarized in recent months. On Tuesday, President Biden, a Democrat, singled out governors in Texas and Florida, where cases are rising. If you arent going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing, he said.

Unlike those governors, Mr. Little, a conservative Republican in his first term, has taken a relatively moderate approach to the pandemic.

He resisted enacting a mask mandate for the state, but in May he repealed an executive order issued by his lieutenant governor while he was out of state on business, barring localities from issuing them, KTVB 7 reported.

Earlier this year, he signed an executive order preventing state agencies, but not private companies, from requiring vaccines, Idaho News 6 reported.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, let a statewide mask mandate expire in March. Now, coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant have skyrocketed in Arkansas, and Mr. Hutchinson is trying to partly reverse course. He is urging state lawmakers to allow schools to require students to wear masks.

Richard Fausset contributed reporting.



So today, I announce a new approach, which were calling the Key to N.Y.C. Pass, the key to New York City. When you hear those words, I want you to imagine the notion that because someones vaccinated, they can do all the amazing things that are available in this city. This is a miraculous place, literally full of wonders. And if youre vaccinated, all thats going to open up to you. Youll have the key. You can open the door. But if youre unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things. Thats the point were trying to get across. The Key to N.Y.C. Pass will be a first-in-the-nation approach. It will require vaccination for workers and customers in indoor dining and indoor fitness facilities, indoor entertainment facilities. This is going to be a requirement. The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if youre vaccinated at least one dose. The same for folks in terms of work, theyll need at least one dose. This new policy will be phased in over the coming weeks. So weve been working with the business community, getting input. Were going to do more over the next few weeks. The final details of the policy will be announced and implemented in the week of Aug. 16.

New York City will become the first U.S. city to require proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine for a variety of activities for workers and customers indoor dining, gyms and performances to put pressure on people to get vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday morning.

The program, similar to mandates issued in France and Italy last month, will start on Aug. 16, and after a transition period, enforcement will begin on Sept. 13, when schools are expected to reopen and more workers could return to offices in Manhattan. Mr. de Blasio has been moving aggressively to get more New Yorkers vaccinated to curtail a third wave of coronavirus cases amid concern about the spread of the Delta variant. He is also requiring city workers to get vaccinated or to face weekly testing, and he has offered a $100 incentive for the public.

If you want to participate in our society fully, youve got to get vaccinated, he said at a news conference. Its time.

This is going to be a requirement, he added. The only way to patronize these establishments is if you are vaccinated, at least one dose. The same for folks in terms of work, they will need at least one dose, he said, holding up a single finger.

On Monday Mr. de Blasio stopped short of reinstating an indoor mask mandate even as large urban areas, including Los Angeles County, San Francisco and Washington, and at least one state did so. He said he wanted to focus on increasing vaccination rates, and was concerned that requiring everyone to wear masks would remove an incentive for those who are considering getting vaccinated now.

Nationally, new cases have reached an average of about 86,000 a day as of Monday, a dramatic jump from about 13,000 daily cases a month ago but still far fewer than in January. Hospitalizations have risen as well, but hospitalizations and deaths remain a fraction of their devastating winter peaks.

About 66 percent of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, according to city data, although pockets of the city have lower rates. The federal government has authorized three vaccines for emergency use in the United States: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both take two doses while Johnson & Johnson uses a single dose. Individuals are not considered to be fully vaccinated until two weeks after their final dose.

Fully vaccinated people are protected against the worst outcomes of Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant, but theres a sharp drop in the efficacy if an individual has only had one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

The new program, dubbed Key to NYC Pass, is not a particular document, but rather the strategy of requiring proof of vaccination for workers and customers at indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performances, including Broadway, the mayor said.

Indoor movies and concerts will also require people to show proof of vaccination to enter. People will be able to continue to dine outdoors without showing proof of vaccination.

To enter indoor venues, patrons must use the citys new app, the states Excelsior app or a paper card to show proof of vaccination. The mayor did not say how the city will handle vaccinations like AstraZeneca or Sinovac that may be common among international tourists.

Children younger than age 12 will not be excluded from venues because they are not eligible to be vaccinated, he said. But the details of those plans remain to be worked out. We have to figure out how to do things in a safe manner, the mayor said.

The city will issue a health commissioners order and a mayoral executive order to put the vaccine mandate in place. The six weeks before enforcement begins on Sept. 13 will be spent educating businesses and doing outreach, he said.

The mayor said the city consulted with the U.S. Department of Justice and got a very clear message that it was legal to move forward with these mandates, even without full F.D.A. approval.

Only people fully vaccinated in the state of New York can get an Excelsior pass, which confirms vaccination against city and state records. Everyone, however, can use the citys new app, NYC Covid Safe, because it is simply a digital photo album that stores a picture that a person takes of their own vaccination card and does not double check it against any registry. A paper card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must always be accepted, too.

Reactions were largely supportive of vaccine restrictions imposed Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, the most stringent steps announced recently in any major U.S. city, though some health experts suggested they might not go far enough. Workers and customers in New York will soon have to provide proof that they have received at least one vaccine dose before engaging in activities like indoor dining, exercising in gyms and seeing performances, Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday.

The new requirements could have been rolled out sooner, some health experts said, and vaccination and mask requirements could be further expanded.

Still, the new restrictions got a positive response from one important trade group, the N.Y.C. Hospitality Alliance, which represents restaurants and bars, a sector still recovering from months of limited capacity and other restrictions.

Andrew Rigie, the trade groups executive director, said that the new restrictions could avert another broad lockdown. The rules may prove an essential move to protecting public health and ensuring that New York City does not revert to restrictions and shut down orders, he said in a statement.

At the White House, the press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration supported local efforts to control the virus.

Different communities and states are going to take steps to protect the people living in their states, and also incentivize, whether its through carrots and sticks, more people getting vaccinated, Ms. Psaki said at a news conference. The federal government, she said, has no plans to issue similar guidance on a national level.

Later in the afternoon, President Biden reiterated the point, saying he thought that more cities and states should announce rules like New York Citys.

Mr. de Blasio said the program will start on Aug. 16, and that enforcement will begin on Sept. 13, when schools are expected to open and more workers could return to the office.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University, said that she wished the mayor had imposed the restrictions earlier and that she did not see the point in further delaying them.

Once vaccination was widely available to people, which was weeks ago, I think requiring vaccination for access to such venues would have been appropriate, Dr. El-Sadr said.

The citys vaccination program has slowed in recent months, despite efforts like a $100 payment to people who get vaccinated and inoculating people at home.

Fully vaccinated people are protected against the worst outcomes of Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant, but theres a sharp drop in the efficacy if an individual has only had one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

Dr. Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at New York Universitys Grossman School of Medicine and an adviser to city officials, also recommended that city officials expand their message about the importance of masking and testing, even for vaccinated people, noting that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

About a week ago, the federal government updated its health guidance, recommending that people wear masks indoors in virus hot spots even if they are vaccinated.

Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that he strongly recommended that people wear masks indoors, but that he would not immediately impose a requirement in the city, as many municipalities have.

Wuhan, the city in central China where the pandemic first emerged, is planning to test all of its 11 million residents for the coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, as they announced the first local transmission there since last spring.

The city, the first to show the world the damage the virus could wreak, had not recorded any local cases since May of last year, after a harsh two-and-a-half month lockdown helped eradicate the virus there. But city officials said they had detected three symptomatic local cases in the previous 24 hours, as well as five asymptomatic ones.

Wuhan had some of Chinas strictest measures to stop the spread of the virus, and many residents continued to wear masks even as people elsewhere relaxed as the country brought the outbreak under control. But China is battling several new flare-ups as the Delta variant makes inroads, including in the cities of Nanjing and Zhangjiajie, and several more in the countrys south. The authorities in Zhangjiajie also barred residents and tourists from leaving the city, imposing a de facto lockdown.

Wuhan had previously tested all its residents in two weeks last spring, mobilizing the Chinese Communist Partys vast network of local officials in a feat unprecedented at the time. Since then, the country has carried out several mass testing campaigns.

Officials said that Wuhan was a major transportation hub and that it was crucial to cut off any further transmission there. Liu Dongru, a provincial health official, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the authorities would firmly protect the hard-won results against the epidemic.

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Biden calls Delta Variant a Largely Preventable Tragedy That Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better. - The New York Times

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