India has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
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In the U.S., nearly one in five people have been fully vaccinated, and one in three have received at least one shot.
France said people under 55 who got a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should follow up with a different vaccine.
Europe’s drug regulator is investigating some cases of blood clots after Johnson & Johnson shots, but no link has been established.
India has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, reporting a record of 131,968 new cases in the last 24 hours as the virus spins out of control. Deaths are rising, hospitals are quickly filling up and the country’s vaccination campaign is perilously behind schedule.
The surge in cases is a sharp U-turn for the country, which initially enacted one of the world’s strictest lockdowns when the virus arrived last year and had managed to keep per capita cases relatively low. Public health experts even wondered whether India might have some innate resistance to the virus, perhaps related to its warmer climate or younger population.
Experts say complacency and government missteps are to blame for the recent surge.
After cases dropped in December, many Indians shed masks and resumed normal life. Leaders also began acting as if the problem were solved, allowing large Hindu religious festivals and political rallies.
The variants of the virus may have also played a role, but the country doesn’t do enough genetic sequencing to know for sure. India’s sluggish vaccination drive has also been dogged by complacency and public skepticism. If inoculations don’t quicken, experts say it will take India more than two years to inoculate 70 percent of its population.
The surge in India is a troubling development for the broader pandemic. The sheer number of new infections creates a breeding ground for possible new variants that could be resistant to vaccines, or better able to reinfect people who have already had the virus. India is also a large producer of vaccines, and the Serum Institute of India has said that practically all of its daily production of about two million doses will over the next two months go to the government, delaying commitments to other countries.
“India’s size is going to dominate the global numbers — how the world performs on Covid is going to be very dependent on how India performs on Covid,” said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington. “If it is not over in India, it is not really over in the world.”
Michigan’s scary slide
The outbreak in Michigan is bad and getting worse. Hospitalizations have more than tripled in the last month, and cases continue to spike. About 7,200 new cases are being reported each day, a sevenfold increase since late February.
The state is home to 16 of the 20 U.S. metro areas with the highest per capita new infections.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called today for high schools to voluntarily move classes online for two weeks and suggested, but did not require, that residents avoid eating inside restaurants for two weeks. She also called on President Biden to send more Covid-19 vaccines to her state.
“I made the case for a surge strategy. At this point that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up,” Ms. Whitmer said, describing a Thursday evening call with the president. “Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest. Tomorrow it could be another section of our country.”
Ms. Whitmer said a rapid influx of shots, particularly the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, would be essential to tamping down case numbers. But the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply is already constrained, and the company will send 86 percent fewer doses across the U.S. next week because of a catastrophic manufacturing mishap in Baltimore.
Jeff Zients, the White House Covid coordinator, said that the administration did not plan to shift additional vaccine doses to hard-hit states like Michigan.
“The virus is unpredictable,” he said. “We don’t know where the next increase in cases could occur.”
Pfizer and BioNTech requested the Food and Drug Administration’s approval to use their vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.
Covax, a global initiative dedicated to distributing coronavirus vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, has delivered just 38 million doses so far, falling short of the 100 million doses it had expected to distribute by now.
In Mississippi, there is a growing availability of vaccine appointments, which public health experts say shows the large number of people who are reluctant to be inoculated.
Hong Kong will delay a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines scheduled to arrive later this year because the government said it had sufficient supplies and did not want to waste doses.
What else we’re following
Germany’s government plans to ask lawmakers to grant it stronger powers to institute a nationwide lockdown amid the third wave of the coronavirus.
Trump administration health advisers celebrated their efforts last year to alter reports written by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to newly released emails.
Iraq reported a record-high number of coronavirus cases this week, a situation that the authorities attributed to “the negligence of most citizens, government institutions and the private sector.”
England may allow vacations abroad next month.
Yosemite National Park in California will limit the number of visitors this summer to reduce the risk of Covid-19 exposure.
The Times asked epidemiologists how they’re planning vacations with their unvaccinated kids this summer.
What you’re doing
I’m a recent college graduate, and I have been effectively quarantining in my house for a year. The most frustrating part about the pandemic has been the belief that the virus won’t affect my age group. My peers have told me I’m crazy for taking these precautions, and I was even cited as a bad friend for not attending parties. To cope with all of this, I binge watch the most lighthearted TV available (think “New Girl,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Friends” any and all Sohla El-Waylly videos on YouTube). There won’t be any documentaries on my TV about serial killers, Tr*mp, or the death of our oceans! I cannot take any more negativity at this point, and I’m OK with that.
— Selin Ekici, Atlanta
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