Covid Live Updates: Call for U.S. Vaccination Push as Colder Months Loom

Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

A surge driven by the Delta variant is receding in the United States, but officials and experts say that increased transmission during the coming colder months remains a threat and that steady rates of vaccination are key to keeping the coronavirus at bay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that about 56 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated. Providers are administering an average of about 949,000 doses per day, including first, second and additional doses, far below the April peak but higher than the recent Sept. 28 low point of about 625,000, according to a New York Times database.

Surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that vaccine support has been rising out of fear of the Delta variant: Almost 40 percent of newly inoculated respondents said they had sought the vaccines because of the rise in cases, and more than a third said they had become alarmed by overcrowding in local hospitals and rising death rates.

The number of people eligible for vaccinations could also soon increase substantially: Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators on Thursday to authorize emergency use of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States.

The companies say they are submitting data supporting the change to the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has promised to move quickly on the request and has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to consider it. An F.D.A. ruling is expected as early as the end of this month.

Rupali Limaye, a behavior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies vaccine hesitancy, said that parents’ getting their children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated would be a “huge game changer” because they represent a large proportion of population.

Vaccine mandates have also been taking effect recently, with federal workers and contractors, teachers, health care providers and others compelled to get immunized or risk losing their jobs. Such a requirement for New York teachers spurred thousands of last-minute vaccinations. Tyson Foods reported a 91 percent vaccination rate ahead of a November deadline, compared with less than half before its mandate was announced in August.

President Biden appealed on Thursday for more companies to mandate Covid vaccinations for employees, asking them to take initiative because an effort that he announced last month to require 80 million American workers to get the shot undergoes a rule-making process and may not go into effect for weeks.

A report released by the White House on Thursday sought to show how vaccine mandates had helped persuade more people to receive their shots: Seventy-eight percent of eligible adults have had at least a first dose.

As the country nears colder temperatures that will push many indoors, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Stanford, said that the next few months would be critical, but that the combination of increased vaccinations and natural immunity from infections could prevent another catastrophic wave like the one that struck last year.

“Most of us don’t think we’re going to see the terrible surge we saw last winter,” she said. “That was horrific. I hope we never have to live through something like that again.”

Credit…Peter Nicholls/Reuters

England has reduced to just seven the number of “red list” countries that it considers the highest coronavirus risk and from which it requires travelers to quarantine in government-designated hotels upon arrival.

The change, announced on Thursday, removes 47 countries and territories from the list, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. Taking effect on Monday at 4 a.m. local time, it lifts a set of restrictions that have separated family members and thwarted business travel and vacations.

Residents and officials in restricted countries have in recent months called for the measures to be lifted as their infection numbers have fallen and vaccinations have risen. One online petition asking that Turkey be removed from the list gained nearly 49,000 signatures.

“We’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite, by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe,” Grant Shapps, Britain’s transportation secretary, said in a statement.

The countries remaining on the list are all in Latin America or the Caribbean: Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Fully vaccinated people arriving from countries not on the red list will no longer be required to take a coronavirus test before traveling to England, although they must still pay for a test on the second day after their arrival.

Unvaccinated people traveling from these destinations will still have to take a pre-departure test, plus tests on their second and eighth days after arriving, and will still be required to isolate for 10 days.

The changes followed an announcement this week that England’s three-tiered traffic light-inspired system was being reduced to a single “red list.” Testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals were also eased.

Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, cited what he called the country’s “phenomenal progress” in vaccination. Seventy-three percent of people in Britain have received a single dose, and 67 percent are fully vaccinated, according to figures collated by Our World in Data.

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ROME — Italy’s government said on Thursday that it would lift one of the country’s last coronavirus restrictions by permitting dancing in nightclubs, bringing relief to a sector of the economy that has lagged behind in Italy’s reopening.

“It’s a new beginning,” said Sergio Maria Ortolani, a publicist for several music venues in Rome, who welcomed the decision. This summer, the police shut down one club for five days after a group of customers danced to techno music. “It was a horror movie,” he said.

Starting on Monday, club owners can take down “Dancing Forbidden” signs, and bouncers will no longer need to rebuke patrons for moving with the music.

About this data

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

The government banned dancing in nightclubs in the summer of 2020 after several coronavirus outbreaks were linked to partying and unmasked teenagers. As Italy gradually lifted its second lockdown this spring, nightclubs, dance halls and theaters were allowed to serve drinks, host concerts and play music, but dancing remained prohibited.

At clubs, Italians nervously nodded to the music and tapped their feet as they sat in front of D.J. booths. Some invented sit-down choreographies in their chairs. Others tried to convince dubious bouncers that they just had a spirited way of walking.

Mr. Ortolani — whose business lost about 95 percent of its income during the pandemic — said he and his partner had glued down tables to clog up the dance floors in their nightclubs. They lowered the music’s tempo to make it less danceable and instructed security guards to “tackle” anyone would dance. When the guards couldn’t keep up, they stopped the music, to the crowd’s jeers.

“We tried to stop them in every way,” he said. “It was a war.”

The government’s announcement on Thursday followed similar decisions by Germany and France to allow fully vaccinated patrons, or those who have recovered from the coronavirus, to dance in nightclubs. In Britain, club patrons are not required to show the country’s Covid passport to enter.

The Italian government will require proof of vaccination, proof of recent recovery from the virus or a negative swab test to enter nightclubs. Indoor venues will be limited to half of their capacity and those that are outdoors to 75 percent. Guests will be required to wear a mask when they are not dancing.

“Without #vaccines and with winter at the door we could have just dreamed of this,” Nino Cartabellotta, a prominent public health researcher, tweeted on Thursday.

Credit…Joe White/Reuters

Tesla will move its headquarters from California to Austin, Texas, the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said on Thursday, a move that makes good on a threat that he issued more than a year ago when he was frustrated by coronavirus lockdown orders that forced Tesla to pause production at its factory in Fremont, Calif.

Mr. Musk was an outspoken early critic of pandemic restrictions, calling them “fascist” and predicting in March 2020 that there would be almost no new cases of virus infections by the end of April. In December, he said he had moved himself to Texas to be near the company’s new factory.

His other company, SpaceX, launches rockets from the state.

“There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area,” Mr. Musk said at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, adding that high housing prices there translated to long commutes for some employees.

The company’s Texas factory, which is near Austin and will manufacture Tesla’s Cybertruck, is minutes from downtown and from an airport, he said.

Tesla is one of several California companies to say they were moving to Texas in recent months. Hewlett Packard Enterprise said in December that it was moving to the Houston area, and Charles Schwab has moved to a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.

Tesla is on track to sell about a million cars this year and is planning a major expansion. In addition to the Austin factory, Tesla is building one near Berlin. Its headquarters have been in Palo Alto for more than a decade.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

San Francisco plans to ease face-mask requirements in limited settings, health officials said on Thursday. The change, set to take effect on Oct. 15, is dependent on coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates remaining stable or declining.

In settings such as offices, gyms, fitness centers, religious gatherings and college classes, people will be permitted to remove their mask if everyone present is vaccinated and their status has been verified. The new rule applies only to gatherings that do not exceed 100 people.

The employer or host is also required to ensure proper ventilation, verify that there have been no recent Covid-19 outbreaks and make sure that no children under 12 are present, among other safety measures.

California is among the states with the lowest number of newly reported coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, according to a New York Times database. In San Francisco County, 74 percent of residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

“I’m excited that we’re once again at a place where we can begin easing the mask requirements, which is the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe,” said Mayor London Breed.

Ms. Breed called the eased restrictions “yet another milestone in our recovery” and said that “the City feels like it is coming alive again” on Twitter.

Indoor mask mandates remain in place for most other public settings, including retail stores and other common areas like building elevators, lobbies and restrooms, and masks continue to be required at bars and restaurants except when patrons are eating or drinking.

Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test has been required to go indoors at bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms and large indoor events in San Francisco since late August.

“Vaccines continue to be our path out of the pandemic, but masks have blunted the Delta-driven surge and protected our vital hospital capacity, while allowing businesses to remain open and children to return to school,” said Dr. Susan Philip, the city and county’s health officer.

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