UncategorizedCovid-19 Global News: Gov. Abbott Tests Positive for Virus and the Latest

Covid-19 Global News: Gov. Abbott Tests Positive for Virus and the Latest


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tests positive for the coronavirus in the shadow of public criticism over his stance against mask mandates in Texas.
Credit…Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, though he has no symptoms, the governor’s office announced.

An ardent opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has taken his opposition to such requirements all the way to the state Supreme Court. Mr. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, will now be isolated in the Governor’s Mansion while receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which can help Covid-19 patients who are at risk of getting very sick.

“The governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” the statement said. “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government.”

The announcement came less than a day after Mr. Abbott appeared at a crowded indoor political event hosted by a Republican club in Collin County, a hotly contested area of fast-growing suburbs north of Dallas.

In the images and in videos posted by the governor’s campaign, Mr. Abbott could be seen smiling and shaking hands with supporters who were largely unmasked. “Collin County is fired up to keep Texas RED,” the governor’s campaign posted.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Mr. Abbott told those gathered that masks were optional — a stance that he has taken across Texas even as cases have risen sharply and some hospitals are filling to at or near capacity. The governor’s office did not respond to questions on the event.

At least 10 other sitting governors — four Democrats and six Republicans — have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to reports compiled by Ballotpedia; so have four lieutenant governors, all Republicans.

Vaccinations in Texas lag behind those of many other states, and coronavirus deaths are rising, though far more slowly than in prior waves, given that a majority of the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents are now vaccinated. The state has averaged more than 14,700 new cases a day as of Monday, an increase of 53 percent from two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Abbott, 63, has faced withering criticism as coronavirus cases have increased sharply in Texas and available intensive-care beds have dwindled in Austin and other cities. But he maintained his ban on mask mandates, which prohibits local officials from imposing restrictions in their communities.

News of his positive test and images of the governor in a large gathering the day before brought immediate scorn from some Democrats, who said it was an example of why his approach to the virus was problematic. Republicans, on the other hand, pointed to recent images of President Obama at his birthday party in a similarly large unmasked crowd.

“I am of course praying for the governor. I know the governor was vaccinated and I’m hopeful that that will cause this to be a quick occurrence and he will be feeling better,” said Jeff Leach, a Republican member of the State House of Representatives from Collin County. Mr. Leach has.

“I support President Obama’s right to have a birthday party,” said Mr. Leach, who has introduced a bill to prohibit schools from requiring masks, in line with Mr. Abbott’s approach. “And I support Governor Abbott’s right to speak at an event.”

Fear and frustration over the course of the pandemic in Texas, the nation’s second most populous state, come as schools are preparing to reopen, raising worries about further spread of the virus.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in high-risk areas, and that everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Mr. Abbott, though, doubled down in the opposite direction. He issued an executive order that prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, and reaffirmed previous decisions to prohibit local officials from mandating masks.

The governor also affirmed that schools could not impose mask mandates for students; some public health experts warned that the ban could lead to another surge in cases.

A vast majority of counties across the United States are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission, according to the C.D.C.

Late on Friday, after Mr. Abbott’s ban suffered at least three legal setbacks, the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said he was taking the issue to the State Supreme Court. The setbacks were in areas with Democratic leaders, rampant coronavirus cases and rising hospitalizations.

The State Supreme Court then sided with the state on Sunday, granting a request for an emergency stay of an appellate court ruling that would have allowed schools to make face coverings mandatory.

As the virus surged, the Texas Department of State Health Services requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government on Aug. 4 “as a precaution,” Douglas Loveday, a spokesman for the state health department, said in an emailed statement. The mortuary trailers will be kept in San Antonio, though none have been requested by cities or counties as of Tuesday, he said.

The five trailers are scheduled to arrive in Texas beginning on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.

Correction: 

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance said that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks in public indoor settings, not that the fully vaccinated did not need to do so. 

Clinical trials continue to determine if booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine will be necessary in coming months.
Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

More than five million Americans could be eligible for booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine by late September under the Biden administration’s plan to combat the Delta variant of the virus by giving extra doses eight months after initial vaccinations.

But the plan depends on several crucial steps taking place in the coming weeks. Most important, the Food and Drug Administration would need to decide that third shots are safe and effective for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two vaccines that were rolled out first and have been most used.

Pfizer is farther along in submitting data to the F.D.A. that it says supports the use of boosters. Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are still studying whether a half-dose or a full dose would work better for a third shot but expects results soon. Moderna’s chief executive, Stephane Bancel, has said the firm plans to submit its data to the F.D.A. in September.

Administration officials are to announce the strategy at a White House briefing on Wednesday. Nursing home residents, health care workers and emergency workers would probably be first in line, as they were with the initial shots. Other older people would be next, followed by the rest of the general population.

Officials envision giving people the same vaccine they originally received, and using pharmacies as key distribution points.

Administration officials are discouraging people from seeking booster doses on their own, noting that the F.D.A. has yet to rule on their safety and efficacy. They hope to roll out extra shots in an orderly way so people get a booster shot when it is recommended, not simply based on their own fears.

Dr. Danny Avula, the vaccine coordinator for the state of Virginia, said his state has thousands of vaccine providers already in place and can likely manage boosters with much change. “What caused so much of the urgency and frenzy of January through April was the limitations in supply,” he said.

Now, the government has more than 100 million doses stockpiled that could be used for boosters, along with tens of millions more doses that have already been delivered to pharmacies and other locations. Still more supply is scheduled for delivery this fall.

In interviews on Tuesday, hospital officials and doctors were generally supportive of the push for booster shots.

“I think we’re running out of second chances,” said Dr. Matthew Harris, the medical director of the coronavirus vaccination program at Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system. “What keeps me up at night is the inevitability of a variant that is not responsive to the vaccine, so if this is how we stay ahead of it, I fully support it.”

Federal officials envision offering additional shots to recipients of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well as those who got Moderna or Pfizer. But the government only began offering that vaccine in March and only 14 million people have gotten it. By comparison, 155 million people have been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer or Moderna.

Data from a Johnson & Johnson clinical trial in which participants were given two doses is likely to be submitted to the F.D.A. later this month and is expected to guide the government’s recommendation on that vaccine.

At Wednesday’s briefing, administration officials plan to make the case that a booster strategy is essential even if it is must be amended as more data comes in. They are expected to present data showing that vaccine efficacy is declining against Covid infections overall even though unvaccinated people still make up the vast majority of those who become seriously ill or are hospitalized due to Covid.

The administration is worried that without boosters, more vaccinated people could suffer serious Covid disease in the coming months because of a dual trend: the more forceful impact of the Delta variant and waning in the vaccines’ protection.

Data from the Israeli Ministry of Health is being viewed as a warning sign. It suggests protection from coronavirus infection during June and July has dropped in proportion to the length of time since an individual was vaccinated. According to one data set, the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease has fallen to 55 percent for people 65 or older who were vaccinated in January. But the margins for error were wide and experts said other data appeared less worrisome.

A church service at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago in May.
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

The city of Chicago and the state of New Mexico will reimpose an indoor mask mandate for all people older than two beginning on Friday, an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as case rates rise, officials said on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance to recommend that everyone wear masks indoors in areas with high case numbers, regardless of their vaccination status.

A vast majority of counties across the United States are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission, according to the C.D.C.

Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, joins a growing list of metropolises like Los Angeles County, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco that now require masks in public indoor places. Hawaii, Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico have also introduced indoor mask mandates.

And Los Angeles County said Tuesday that it would require masks be worn at large outdoor concerts and sporting events that attract more than 10,000 people.

Though cases have risen eightfold in Cook County, where Chicago is, since early July, when fewer than 100 cases were being reported most days, the outlook remains far better than in much of the rest of the country. On a per-capita basis, Cook County is averaging fewer than half as many new cases as the country as a whole. An average of 17 cases per 100,000 residents are emerging each day in Cook County, compared to 43 cases per 100,000 people nationally and 138 cases per 100,000 people in Florida.

New York City, which began requiring proof of at least one vaccine dose on Tuesday to engage in many indoor activities, has not mandated masks indoors for vaccinated people — only recommended them. The mayor has said the city’s focus is on vaccinating the greatest share of its population possible.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s health commissioner, said at a news conference that she was watching how the vaccine requirements played out, but that the city would have to be at “much higher risk” before she would put one in place. Masks are recommended in some counties in Illinois and mandated in all public schools, and Chicago recently introduced strict vaccine rules for teachers.

Chicago’s new mask mandate applies to all people, regardless of their vaccination status, and covers all indoor public settings, including bars and restaurants, clubs and common areas of residential buildings, according to the city’s department of health. Masks are still required on public transportation, schools, health care, correctional and congregate living settings.

Masks are not required outdoors, though they are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded settings, and can be removed for eating and drinking, and for activities like a facial or shave at a salon or barber shop. They are not required in work places that are not open to the public, if employees’s job do not require them to move aroundand they can maintain at least six feet of separation from others.

The city’s recent rise in cases did not appear tied to any large events, like Lollapalooza, a four-day music festival that drew hundreds of thousands of people earlier this month, Dr. Arwady said. The mandate was put in place because the city’s daily average of new reported cases rose to more than 400 a day, and it will revert to a recommendation when average new cases drop below 400 for an extended period, she said.

“I don’t expect that this will be an indefinite, forever mask requirement,” Dr. Arwady said.

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that masks would be required in all public indoor settings, regardless of a person’s vaccination status, from Friday through at least Sept. 15, announced on Tuesday.

Starting in May 2020, New Mexico required people in public spaces to wear a mask, but dropped it about a year later for people who were fully vaccinated, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

In recent weeks the number of new cases in the state has steadily risen. “This surge is a terrifying indicator of moving absolutely in the wrong direction,” Ms. Lujan Grisham said at a news conference.

Ms. Lujan Grisham also announced that teachers and all workers at public, private and charter schools in the state would have to be vaccinated or face regular testing. This mandate goes into effect on Monday.

The rise in infections has led a large number of Covid-19 patients to be hospitalized, she said. Two weeks ago, there were 180 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in New Mexico; on Tuesday, that figure was 341, and expected to climb, she added.

“We’re in a terrible place for health care services and for protecting our health care workers,” Ms. Lujan Grisham said.

Requiring masks has become a hot-button political issue, and Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have forbidden local governments and school districts in their states from imposing mask mandates.

That has not stopped districts in those states from trying, and legal battles about the requirements are still playing out.

Mitch Smith, Azi Paybarah and Adam Nagourney contributed reporting.

Masks will be required at all large public gatherings in Los Angeles, including events at outdoor arenas such as Dodger Stadium and Hollywood Bowl.
Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times

Los Angeles County, where the coronavirus is surging, said Tuesday that it would require masks to be worn at large outdoor concerts and sporting events that attract more than 10,000 people.

The new regulation, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, means that people attending the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium, as well as outdoor music festivals and what the county describes as “mega events,” will now have to wear masks. The rule will apply to people regardless of their vaccination status.

The order came as cities around the nation have taken steps to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Chicago joined Los Angeles County, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and other areas to require masks in public indoor places. New York City is requiring proof of vaccination for dining and entertainment activities indoors.

The new rules requiring masks at large outdoor events in Los Angeles came as the county reported that cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates have increased markedly. Los Angeles County has been averaging 3,361 new cases a day, an 18 percent increase over its average two weeks ago, according to data collected by The New York Times.

JJ Weeks, 19, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., earlier this month.
Credit…Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

At Pennsylvania State University, the faculty senate passed a resolution expressing “no confidence” in the school’s plan to bring back students without requiring them to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

At Mississippi’s public universities, the pleas of hundreds of professors to require vaccinations have been drowned out by a politically conservative drumbeat against mandates.

And at Clemson University, the faculty plans to stage a protest on Wednesday, the first day of classes, to call for mandatory masks.

As thousands of students begin returning to campuses around the United States for the fall, more than 500 universities have said they will require coronavirus vaccination this year.

But at dozens of universities with less stringent health requirements, from Ohio to Iowa to North Carolina, professors are using protests, petitions and even resignations to press their demands for tighter coronavirus prevention methods. Much of the protest is coming in states where politicians, virtually all Republicans, have fiercely opposed vaccine or mask requirements, leaving universities with few tools to combat the spread of the virus.

A vast majority of counties across the United States are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission rates that call for indoor mask-wearing even among the vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Orientation at Clemson University prompted the faculty protest. The university asked students to protect themselves from the Delta variant by wearing masks, but few students did so at a convocation for freshmen last week, judging by a photo of the event that circulated online.

“When I see hundreds of students packed together, and you can’t find a mask, I thought, ‘we are in trouble,’” said Kim Paul, a biologist at Clemson, a public land-grant university in South Carolina with about 20,000 undergraduates.

“I think the university needs to show real leadership and push back against the governor and say, ‘No, we are an institution of higher learning,’” Dr. Paul said. “We need to follow the science.”

A spokesman for Clemson, Joe Galbraith, said that after seeing unmasked students at the last freshman convocation on Friday, the university placed masks at every seat on Monday during a similar meeting of transfer students. “Participation was quite different,” Mr. Galbraith noted.

Credit…Clemson University

Clemson and other universities had interpreted South Carolina law as banning both vaccine and mask mandates, but a ruling on Tuesday by the South Carolina Supreme Court might change that, at least as it applies to masks.

In a case involving the University of South Carolina, the court ruled that nothing in state law prohibits universities from requiring masks. The University of South Carolina had imposed a mask mandate, then rescinded it, after Alan Wilson, the state’s attorney general, said it was a violation of state budget rules.

The ruling on Tuesday applies to all public colleges in the state, including Clemson, said Dick Harpootlian, a lawyer and Democratic state senator who filed on behalf of a professor at University of South Carolina.

Officials at Clemson were not immediately available to comment on the ruling and whether it would change their posture.

In Mississippi, hundreds of faculty members signed a petition demanding that the university system require vaccination.

The petition was started at Mississippi State University, where classes are set to begin this week. Professors there are also pressing the school to move to remote learning until the pandemic is brought under control.

Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, has encouraged the state’s residents to get vaccinated, but the state has declined to require vaccines on university campuses.

A spokesman for Mississippi State, Sid Salter, said that about 52 percent of the student body has reported being vaccinated, a rate higher than the state population as a whole. The figure, however, is based on responses from a subset of students, just over a third of the student body, who self-reported their vaccine status to the university.

Penn State, with 40,000 undergraduates at its main campus in State College, Pa., decided not to require vaccination, even though Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have banned vaccine requirements. The school has imposed a mask mandate.

In a letter to the Penn State community last week, Eric J. Barron, the university’s president, blamed the decision on “political realities.”

“State funding of our university requires a two-thirds vote of the Pennsylvania legislature, meaning that our funding relies on strong bipartisan support,” Dr. Barron wrote.

As if to reinforce that concern, the president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania State Senate, Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes State College, expressed concern on Monday that state lawmakers might retaliate against the university if it mandated vaccines. Mr. Corman said he would not support funding cuts.

A survey of Penn State undergraduates in State College found that 83 percent were fully vaccinated, a rate the university called “promising.” The university said, however, that only 71 percent of students responded, a fact that raises questions about the results because unvaccinated students may be less likely to respond.

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New Zealand Shuts Down After Coronavirus Case Is Found

New Zealand will participate in a three-day lockdown in parts of the county and a seven-day lockdown in one particular area after the country’s first possible reported case of the Delta variant.

We have a positive case of Covid-19 in the community. We will not be in a position to identify if this is a case of the Delta variant of Covid-19 until genome sequencing is returned tomorrow. I want to assure New Zealand that we have planned for this eventuality, and that we will now be putting in place that plan to contain and stamp out Covid-19, once again. Going hard and early has worked for us before. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it, we only get one chance. That’s why cabinet has met this afternoon and made the decision that New Zealand will move to Alert Level 4 from 11:59 p.m. tonight. Level 4 will be for initial period of three days, except for Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, who we anticipate will likely be at Level 4 for seven days due to them being most closely linked to our current case. We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbors. Just as we successfully stayed home and saved lives last year, I’m asking the team of five million to unite once more to defeat what is likely to be this more dangerous and transmissible variant of the virus.

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New Zealand will participate in a three-day lockdown in parts of the county and a seven-day lockdown in one particular area after the country’s first possible reported case of the Delta variant.CreditCredit…Jason Oxenham/New Zealand Herald, via Associated Press

New Zealand has begun a three-day nationwide lockdown after reporting its first coronavirus case in six months.

The snap lockdown, which started at 11:59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was set off by the discovery of an infection in Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, that was believed to be the country’s first case of the more contagious Delta variant outside its strict quarantine system. Auckland and the nearby Coromandel Peninsula, which the infected person recently visited, entered a longer, seven-day lockdown.

Under the lockdown rules, New Zealand’s toughest, residents must stay at home and all schools, public facilities and nonessential businesses are closed.

Ahead of the lockdown announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealanders flocked to supermarkets to stock up, leaving toilet paper aisles bare, in scenes reminiscent of the earliest days of the pandemic. Roads out of Auckland were packed as people left the city for holiday homes in other parts of the country.

“I want to assure New Zealand that we have planned for this eventuality and that we will now be putting in place that plan to contain and stamp out Covid-19 once again,” Ms. Ardern said at a news conference.

“Going hard and early has worked for us before,” she added.

It is not yet known how the individual who tested positive contracted the virus. He does not have any links to the country’s quarantine facilities at the border.

Ms. Ardern warned that if New Zealand failed to act swiftly, it could end up in the same situation as the Australian state of New South Wales, which is reporting hundreds of new cases each day, more than at any other time during the pandemic. A lockdown now in its eighth week in Sydney, where the Delta-driven outbreak began, was extended to the entire state on Saturday.

“We are one of the last countries in the world to have the Delta variant in our community,” Ms. Ardern said. “This has given us the chance to learn from others.”

The New Zealand government had previously indicated that it would respond to any cases of the Delta variant in the community with stringent lockdowns, in line with the country’s Covid-zero strategy. New Zealand has had among the fewest virus cases in the world, with a total of 2,927 cases and 26 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Fears of a Delta outbreak in New Zealand have been heightened by the country’s relatively low vaccination rate. According to a New York Times database, 29 percent of New Zealand’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 17 percent is fully vaccinated. The person whose infection led to the three-day lockdown was unvaccinated.

The campaign is expected to accelerate in the final months of this year, with officials saying last week that all residents over the age of 16 would be able to book appointments starting Sept. 1.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

The Biden administration has decided that most Americans should get a booster vaccination eight months after they received their second shot, and could begin offering third shots as early as mid-September, according to administration officials familiar with the discussions.

Officials are planning to announce the decision as early as this week. Their goal is to let Americans who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines know now that they will need additional protection against the Delta variant that is causing caseloads to surge across much of the nation. The new policy will depend on the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of additional shots.

Officials said that they expect that recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized as a one-dose regimen, will also need an additional dose. But they are waiting for the results of that firm’s two-dose clinical trial, expected later this month.

The first boosters are likely to go to nursing home residents, health care workers and emergency workers. They would probably be followed by older people who were near the front of the line when vaccinations began late last year and then by the general population. Officials envision giving people the same vaccine they originally received.

The decision comes as the Biden administration is struggling to regain control of a pandemic that it had claimed to have tamed little more than a month ago. Covid-19 patients are again overwhelming hospitals in some states, and federal officials are worried about an increase in the number of children hospitalized just as the school year is set to begin.

The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on booster shots until the end of September, saying available doses should be used to help countries that are far behind in vaccinations. But Israel is already offering third shots to those at least 50 years old. France and Germany have said that they plan to offer additional shots to vulnerable segments of their populations next month. Britain has a plan to do so, but is holding off for now.

The summer surge in cases in the United States, led by the domination of the more contagious Delta variant, is well into its second month, and the number of those hospitalized with Covid-19 has reached heights last seen during the overwhelming winter wave.

The number of those patients who are critically ill, requiring treatment in an intensive care unit, has risen, too. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that the number of hospitals with very full I.C.U.s doubled in recent weeks. Now, one in five I.C.U.s have reached or exceeded 95 percent of beds occupied, a level experts say makes it difficult or impossible for health professionals to maintain standards of care for the very sick.

In many states, hospital workers are seeing admission numbers that resemble what they saw at the height of the pandemic over the winter. Some are struggling to find enough beds, while others have employees working overtime and are relying on contract nurses and emergency medical technicians. Outside some hospitals, officials are erecting large tents to house everyone.

Dr. David De La Zerda, who has spent more than a year treating patients in the I.C.U. at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, thought early this summer that a drop in cases meant the crisis phase of the pandemic was near its end. That feeling lasted just four weeks. According to federal data, there were over 300 patients hospitalized with Covid in the Jackson Memorial Hospital system in the week ending Aug. 12, up from around 70 at the beginning of July.

For health care providers like Dr. De La Zerda, the rise in cases feels like déjà vu — but the emergence of vaccines is worsening the blow.

“This virus is becoming a more preventable disease than before, when this was all new, because now we know that there’s something that we can do,” he said, referring to vaccines, which are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from Covid-19. “There’s this sense of a lack of concern, but we all know this isn’t true because we’re working in the hospitals.”

Grand Central Terminal in New York last month. About 130,000 coronavirus cases are being reported across the United States each day, almost twice as many as last summer’s highest levels.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Americans have entered a new, disheartening phase of the pandemic: the realization that the virus is not disappearing anytime soon.

Even as the highly contagious Delta variant has flooded the nation with a surge of recent infections, mayors, governors and public health officials have treaded lightly when considering whether to reimpose restrictions. With more than twice as many new cases being reported nationally compared with last August, baseball games, music festivals and state fairs have forged ahead, and restaurants, gyms and movie theaters have stayed open.

In many places, people have been largely left to decide for themselves whether to start wearing masks again or change the ways they work, socialize and vacation.

At the beginning of summer, the United States was reporting the lowest case totals since the pandemic’s start. But now, hospitalizations have reached their highest levels since winter. Only about half of Americans are fully vaccinated, and daily vaccination rates have risen only modestly, to about 700,000 doses a day, since the Delta surge began.

The worst surges have so far been concentrated in Southern states with underwhelming vaccination numbers, but reported cases have also been rising in places with far better vaccine uptake. Oregon and Hawaii, both of which have relatively high vaccination rates, have set weekly case records in recent days, and daily case rates have more than doubled in recent weeks in highly vaccinated parts of New England.

Most of the country remains fully open, and aside from Hawaii, where the governor recently imposed restrictions on social gatherings and restaurants, most officials have so far steered away from restricting or closing businesses, leaning instead on mask rules or vaccine requirements or, more commonly, nothing at all. Louisiana and Oregon have reinstated mask mandates. San Francisco will require proof of vaccination to patronize restaurants, bars and gyms. Several school districts and cities have returned to universal masking, while more employers and colleges have announced plans to require vaccines.

But other officials have been hostile to new restrictions or have worried that rules could further politicize the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that some vaccinated Americans wear masks in public again, but has not suggested shutting down businesses.

A bouncer at The Comedy Cellar in the West Village checks vaccine cards before a show in June.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Those who are 12 and older will be required to show proof of having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to participate in New York City’s indoor dining, fitness or entertainment venues starting Tuesday. Enforcement will not start until Sept. 13.

The requirement is intended to spur vaccinations, which have lagged in the city even as the extremely transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus has driven up new cases.

“I am absolutely certain this is going to motivate a lot of people to get vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced that starting Sept. 13 those who are 12 and older will be required to show proof of having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to participate in indoor dining, fitness or entertainment.

Businesses will be required to hang posters describing the mandate near their entrances and those that do not comply will be subject to fines. Customers are allowed to enter the premises for a few minutes to use the bathroom, or for other reasons, without proving that they have been vaccinated.

The city has hired 570 people to go out and canvass small businesses in every ZIP code with information about the vaccination requirement, Mr. de Blasio said. The goal is to canvass all businesses across the city within the next three weeks. A $10 million advertising campaign will also spread the word about the new mandate.

Starting Sept. 13, agencies such as the Department of Health will be able to start issuing fines and other penalties against indoor venues that do not check vaccination status. The sheriff’s office may also get involved if customers use fake vaccine cards, the mayor said.

There are two official apps, NYC Covid Safe and the Excelsior Pass, but showing your paper vaccine card is fine too. For those who were vaccinated outside of the United States, paperwork from abroad showing that people received any of the eight vaccines cleared for emergency use by the World Health Organization is also acceptable.

A market in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday.
Credit…Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

In the state of Maharashtra, one of the first places struck by India’s devastating second wave of Covid-19 this year, scientists are anxiously looking for signs of a third.

New laboratories in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and in the city of Pune are searching for dangerous new variants. They have stepped up testing, to over 3,600 samples per month, from 134 in December last year, as they search for versions of the virus that could make the pandemic even harder to stop.

India is still far short of its goal to increase genome sequencing nationwide. While coronavirus cases and deaths have plunged, according to official numbers, the virus is continuing to spread in some parts of the country. A low vaccination rate and other factors have left India especially vulnerable to variants like Delta, which helped power India’s second wave this spring.

The second wave, which exploded across the country in April and May, exposed both the Delta variant’s increased communicability and India’s inability to cope. Official figures show that about 430,000 people have died since the virus hit early last year, though the numbers are widely considered unreliable and experts say the true toll may be in the millions. The second wave pushed the country’s medical system past its limits and led to anger over the government’s inability to handle the crisis.

Checking health passes at a bar in Bordeaux, France, on Wednesday. Certification is needed to gain access to many public spaces and services in the country, including nonemergency hospital treatment.
Credit…Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A week after France introduced a coronavirus health pass that is required for entry to restaurants and other venues, the police around the country are investigating incidents of fraudulent documentation.

The French health authorities said 46 cases of false certificates are under investigation.

The passes show that the holder is vaccinated against Covid-19, has tested negative within the past 72 hours or has a certificate of recovery. The documents are needed to gain access to many public spaces and services in France, including restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, major shopping centers and even nonemergency hospital treatment.

Last month, a contractor at a vaccination center in a suburb of Paris was sentenced to a year in prison for trafficking 200 false vaccination certificates. Her sentence was later reduced to home detention.

In Bordeaux, two employees of a vaccination center are facing charges of forgery after having been accused of selling false certificates. Using a forged Covid-19 pass is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros, about $53,000.

A similar phenomenon has been observed in the United States, where sellers have offered counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards on Etsy, eBay, Facebook and Twitter.

In France, fraudsters have also tried to create false certificates by hacking doctors’ computer systems. In one case, hackers infiltrated the account that a doctor outside Bordeaux used to register vaccination certificates. In another example, public prosecutors in Marseille are investigating reports that another doctor’s computer was hacked to create 178 fraudulent passes.

Gov. Bill Lee visited McConnell Elementary School in Hixson, Tenn., last week. He signed an executive order on Monday essentially gutting any school district’s effort to require its students to wear masks.
Credit…Troy Stolt/Chattanooga Times Free Press, via Associated Press

As the Delta variant fuels a new coronavirus wave, particularly in areas with underwhelming vaccination rates, Tennessee on Monday became the latest state where a governor has undermined efforts by local school districts to require students to wear masks as the new school year approaches.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed an executive order on Monday essentially gutting any school district’s effort to require its students to wear masks.

According to the order, a student’s parent or guardian “shall have the right to opt out of any order or requirement” that the student “wear a face covering” at school, on school buses or at school functions.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Tennessee has been steadily rising since July, according to a New York Times database. As of Sunday, Tennessee recorded its highest weekly average of coronavirus cases since late January.

Mr. Lee’s executive order comes days after video surfaced last week showing anti-mask protesters threatening doctors who expressed support for requiring face coverings during a local school board meeting in Williamson County.

Tennessee is one of several battlegrounds with a Republican governor who opposes mask mandates and local school officials who want them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone in schools wears masks, regardless of vaccination status, so that schools can more safely resume in-person instruction.

About two weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican and an ardent opponent of public health mandates, signed an executive order directing state officials to ensure that parents have the final say on whether their children wear masks in school this fall.

On Sunday, the chairwoman of the Broward County School Board said the district had no choice but to defy Mr. DeSantis’s ban.

“We’re living out the nightmare of the Covid pandemic, where so many people in our county, including members of our staff and others, are being impacted,” the chairwoman, Rosalind Osgood, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “We believe that we have a constitutional obligation to protect the lives of our students and staff.”

Recently, Mr. DeSantis and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas both blocked local school districts from requiring masks or taking other measures to protect students from the coronavirus in the coming school year.

But several school districts have taken their fight to the courts.

The Texas State Supreme Court ruled on Sunday that the state’s governor could ban mask mandates, at least temporarily. Some districts, though, vowed to maintain the requirements. On Monday, a judge in Bexar County ruled in favor of officials in the county and the city of San Antonio who had already put in place a mask requirement in schools, as well as at county and city facilities, according to a reporter at KENS5 and a spokesman for the county.

The escalating battles come as schools around the country open, or prepare to do so, with tens of millions of children under 12 ineligible for vaccination. Hospitalizations of young people have been increasing as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus has spread.

As of last week, more than half of the nation’s largest 100 school districts are requiring that all students wear masks, according to data collected by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.

Some Republicans have condemned mask rules as an infringement on parental rights, while many Democrats hold that they are a matter of public health.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this item misstated the day when the governor of Tennessee signed an executive order about mask mandates at school. It was signed Monday, not Tuesday.

Steven Means (55), a defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, cheered on his teammates during practice in Atlanta last weekend. The Falcons said that all their players have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Credit…Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The Atlanta Falcons announced on Monday that the team’s players are all vaccinated against the coronavirus, becoming the first N.F.L. team to reach 100 percent. Achieving that threshold means that all players on the roster now enjoy more freedom and are not subject to certain restrictions.

Because all Falcons players are vaccinated, everyone on the team may eat together, work out in the same weight room and not be subjected to daily testing. Close contacts of an individual who tests positive will not need to quarantine. The Falcons said the team’s coaches are all vaccinated as well.

As of Tuesday, 91.7 percent of all N.F.L. players are vaccinated, according to a league spokesman.

In July, the N.F.L. essentially mandated that players receive the vaccine, saying that those who refuse would face steep possible penalties, like loss of paychecks and game forfeitures if it were proven that an unvaccinated person caused an outbreak that forced a game to be rescheduled. The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association have also relaxed virus-related protocols, like wearing masks and maintaining physical distance, for vaccinated individuals.

The news comes as the regular season approaches and more teams mull vaccination requirements for fans who attend their home games. The New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders were the first clubs to require that fans show proof of having received at least one dose of vaccine before entering their stadiums. At Saints games, unvaccinated fans may also enter if they show a recent negative test result.





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