Colorado Will Allow Boosters for All Adults

ImageEmployees at a vaccine laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa, last month. Only 4.5 percent of people in low-income countries have received a dose of Covid vaccine, even as some nations’ booster programs ramp up.
Credit…Rodger Bosch/AFP — Getty Images

Six times more booster shots of coronavirus vaccine are being administered around the world daily than primary doses in low-income countries, the director general of the World Health Organization said on Friday, calling the disparity “a scandal that must stop now.”

The official, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and others at the W.H.O. have regularly criticized wealthy nations for hoarding vaccines while lower-income countries do not have enough doses to vaccinate their elderly, frontline health care workers and other high-risk groups. In August, Dr. Tedros called for a global moratorium on boosters that he later extended until the end of the year.

However, nations including Germany, Israel, Canada and the United States have gone ahead with booster programs. The W.H.O. said in an email that 92 countries had confirmed programs to provide added doses and that none of them were low-income.

About 28.5 million Covid vaccine doses are given daily around the world. According to the W.H.O., about a quarter of those are booster or additional doses. (Boosters are meant to bolster protection for those who were earlier fully vaccinated; additional doses are for immunocompromised people whose initial vaccinations failed to sufficiently protect them against the virus.)

W.H.O. officials contrasted the at least 6.9 million added daily doses globally with 1.1 million primary doses being given in low-income countries.

Only 4.5 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, a figure that is dwarfed by rates in wealthier countries.

The United States recently authorized booster shots for certain recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines, and everyone who took Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. This week, Colorado and California announced that they would allow booster shots for all vaccinated adults.

Experts in the United States have been divided over whether boosters are necessary for most healthy Americans, and many say that the original course of vaccination continues to offer strong protection against serious illness and hospitalization. Other experts argue that new data indicate that the boosters counteract waning protection.

Dr. Tedros also warned that access to vaccines was not enough to stop the virus, pointing to a surge of infections and deaths in Europe that has led the Netherlands to plan a partial lockdown, the first recent lockdown in the region affecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

“Covid-19 is surging in countries with lower vaccination rates in Eastern Europe, but also in countries with some of the world’s highest vaccination rates in Western Europe,” Dr. Tedros said. “It’s another reminder, as we have said again and again, that vaccines do not replace the need for other precautions.”

Every country should tailor its response to its situation, he said, but should also use measures like physical distancing and masking to help curb transmission and reduce pressure on health systems.

Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

The drug maker AstraZeneca has been selling its coronavirus vaccine at not-for-profit prices during the pandemic, as part of a promise to rollout the vaccine at cost through the crisis.

But on Friday, the Anglo-Swiss company said in reporting its third-quarter earnings that it would begin pricing its vaccine to make a “modest” profit “as new orders are received.” Countries have been paying around $3 or $4 for each shot of AstraZeneca’s two-dose vaccine under the company’s current pricing model.

To a far greater extent than the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been the workhorse of the effort to vaccinate poorer countries, many of which are facing severe vaccine shortages. About 1.1 billion AstraZeneca doses had reached low- and lower-middle income countries as of around the end of October.

The company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, told analysts on Friday that AstraZeneca would progressively transition “to a for-profit approach” but he added the company “will ensure the vaccine is affordable for low- and middle-income countries.” He gave few details on the new pricing.

Last year, AstraZeneca pledged not to profit on its vaccine during the pandemic period, but the company retained discretion about when to declare the crisis was over. Researchers at the University of Oxford, who led the early development of the vaccine, have said they partnered with AstraZeneca in the spring of last year in part because the company had agreed to their vision of low-cost pricing for their shot.

British health officials provided early funding to the Oxford team. Nick Dearden, director of the British advocacy group Global Justice Now, said in a statement that the company’s decision to start profiting on the vaccine “shows the utter folly of giving away publicly funded science to big pharma.”

AstraZeneca and its production partners around the globe had released more than 1.7 billion doses of the vaccine by the end of October, supplying more than 170 countries, an AstraZeneca spokesman said. The vaccine is not authorized or available in the United States.

The company said its vaccine brought in $2.1 billion in revenue through the end of September. It projected that its revenue from the vaccine in the final three of months of this year would come mostly from existing not-for-profit orders, with a small contribution from new, more profitable orders.

Johnson & Johnson — which, like AstraZeneca, had vowed to sell its vaccine at a not-for-profit price — expects $2.5 billion in revenue from its vaccine this year. Moderna, which has not made such a pledge, expects up to $18 billion from its vaccine. Pfizer, which also has for-profit pricing, expects $36 billion from its vaccine; it is splitting revenue with its development partner, the German company BioNTech.

Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has kept its block in place against a federal mandate that all large employers require their workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing starting in January, declaring that the rule “grossly exceeds” the authority of the occupational safety agency that issued it.

In a 22-page ruling, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, held that a group of challengers to the mandate issued by the Biden administration was likely to succeed in its claim that it was an unlawful overreach and barred the government from moving forward with it.

“From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months,” wrote Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt.

He added: “Of course, the principles at stake when it comes to the mandate are not reducible to dollars and cents. The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions — even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials.”

He was joined by Judges Edith H. Jones and Kyle Duncan. All three are Republican appointees.

The Biden administration is likely to appeal, but a Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Regardless, the ruling by the panel of the Fifth Circuit is unlikely to be the final word. Some challenges to the mandate are in other circuits, and the cases will be consolidated before a randomly chosen one of those jurisdictions. The Supreme Court is expected to eventually decide the matter.

President Biden announced in September that his administration would issue a vaccine mandate as one of several steps to try to increase immunization rates and end the pandemic, which so far has killed about 750,000 Americans. Other mandates applied to federal employees and federal contractors.

Some large employers have already decided on their own to impose vaccine mandates on their workforces, including 3M, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Tyson Foods and the airlines American, Alaska, JetBlue and United. Most workers have complied, though a small number have quit.

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Psaki Returns to White House After Recovering From Covid-19

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that she experienced mild symptoms and quarantined for 10 days.

First, let me say it’s great to be back with all of you, although as a longtime hater of heels, I do miss my slippers which I’m sure some of the women in this room can agree with. I had mild symptoms, primarily fatigue, and I remain incredibly grateful for the vaccine and the impact of the vaccine in keeping me safe and other people in my house safe as well. Our vaccination program for kids ages 5 to 11 hit full strength this week. Vaccines for kids are now available at 20,000 trusted and convenient locations. Our rollout is helping parents turn months of anxiety into action. On Wednesday, we estimated that nearly a million kids have already received their first shot and 700,000 additional appointments are already scheduled through pharmacies alone. That doesn’t obviously track everybody, but that’s still a significant progress, and we anticipate many more will be getting vaccinated in the weeks to come.

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Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that she experienced mild symptoms and quarantined for 10 days.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

In her first appearance back in the White House briefing room after a 10-day quarantine for a coronavirus infection that she described as mild, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, outlined the precautions she had taken and expressed gratitude for Covid vaccines.

Appearing to be at her usual level of vigor, she began on a light note. “First let me say it’s great to be back with all of you, although as a longtime hater of heels, I do miss my slippers,” she said, “which I’m sure some of the women in this room can agree with.”

Her main symptom, she said, had been fatigue.

Ms. Psaki covered a range of topics in the briefing, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the House passed last week and an upcoming tribal nations summit for National Native American Heritage Month. And she offered new details on coronavirus vaccinations among 5- to 11-year-olds, which were authorized at the end of October.

She said that 700,000 newly eligible children had appointments on the books at pharmacies to receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The total number of children with appointments is higher, because pharmacies are not the only places providing shots.

On Wednesday, the White House estimated that nearly a million young children had already received their first dose.

Ms. Psaki also told reporters that 99 percent of U.S. schools were open for in-person learning, and that the Biden administration had directed $650 million this week from the American Rescue Plan — the stimulus package passed earlier this year — to help manufacturers increase production of coronavirus tests.

Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California is opening up eligibility for booster coronavirus vaccine shots to include anyone 18 or over, making it at least the second state to expand official eligibility beyond older adults and people in high-risk circumstances. Colorado took a similar step this week.

California’s vaccination sites should not turn away anyone requesting a booster if they are 18 or older and were fully vaccinated sufficiently earlier, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state’s public health director, said in a letter dated Nov. 9. Boosters can be administered six months after full vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, and two months after Johnson & Johnson’s single shot.

California’s vaccination providers should “allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” he said, including whether their work, location or members of their households put them at higher risk of contracting the virus.

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

That allows greater leeway than the guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s public health agency, which recommends boosters for fully vaccinated adults with underlying medical conditions, those who are 65 and older, and those 18 and over whose work exposure puts them at risk.

However, in practice, boosters are widely available across the United States because many vaccination providers allow individuals to self-affirm their eligibility.

In a news conference on Wednesday, California officials noted that cases were on a troubling ascent in other parts of the country, and that vaccines were the best way to prevent a winter surge. They recalled last year’s terrifying winter months, when California’s hospitals were stretched to their limits and so many Covid patients died that officials were forced to deploy mobile morgues.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said that federal guidelines recognized that there is increasing evidence of waning immunity months after people are fully vaccinated and that people outside the groups specified by the C.D.C. could also get booster shots if they are available.

“If you’re interested in getting a booster, go ahead and get one,” he said.

On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that the Food and Drug Administration expand booster eligibility to anyone 18 and older, but that decision has not yet been made. Only after the F.D.A. makes a determination would the C.D.C. consider altering its own guidance.

Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

For generations, Johnson & Johnson has been synonymous with American health care — and, at times, with American health care scandals.

Now the 135-year-old company is joining a growing roster of iconic American businesses that are splitting up as they seek to please restive shareholders and move past recent controversies.

On Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced plans to spin off its consumer-products division — known for famous but not-very-lucrative brands like Tylenol, Band-Aid and Neutrogena — into a separate company. Johnson & Johnson will keep its more profitable, faster-growing businesses in pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The planned breakup comes after years of tribulations for Johnson & Johnson. The company is juggling lawsuits over its role in the opioid epidemic and over accusations that the talc once used in its baby powder had caused cancer in some customers.

Even the company’s single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, once expected to be widely used around the world, has fallen far short because of production problems and fears about rare side effects.

In recent years, pharmaceutical companies including Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have also shed or reorganized their consumer-products operations to focus on businesses, in particular drugs, that enjoy fatter profit margins.

“We are at the point in the cycle where conglomerates are less popular,” said Erik Gordon, a professor who studies business strategy at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. “The pharma companies in particular are trying to focus on pharma.”

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine is a minor part of its overall business — it is expected to bring in just $2.5 billion in revenue this year — but it presented a high-profile opportunity for the company to salve some of its recent reputational wounds.

The company had hoped to produce a billion shots this year but now expects only about half of that. Its output has been slowed by production problems, most notably those stemming from contamination at a Baltimore plant run by a contract manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions.

Fewer than 16 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s shot, compared to 108 million for Pfizer and 71 million for Moderna.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

New York State said on Friday that it would stop taking most requests from struggling tenants for its pandemic rent relief because an overwhelming number of applicants had left the program nearly out of money. The huge demand for aid underscores the severe economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Since the $2.4 billion program started this summer, the state has received nearly 280,000 applications for help paying overdue rent and utility bills.

As of this week, New York had paid out $1 billion — nearly 85 percent going to New York City renters — and had committed to distribute another $1.1 billion in cases in which more paperwork was needed from landlords.

There were an estimated 100,000 additional applications pending. State officials said that without more money from the federal government, 70,000 to 80,000 of those applicants could remain in limbo.

Officials said the application window would close at 10 p.m. on Sunday across the state except in a few smaller counties, like Dutchess and Oneida, which had not yet exhausted their pool of funds.

The development was a striking reversal from the summer, when the state had been among the slowest in the nation to get its program off the ground and the application process was rife with glitches.

Congress approved $46.5 billion in federal pandemic aid for rental assistance, an enormous infusion of money to help struggling renters, but it has not been enough to cover the needs of the most populous states, especially California, New Jersey and New York.

On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she had asked the federal government for almost $1 billion in additional funding for rent relief.

“While New York accelerated getting rent relief out the door and moved from the back of the pack to the front amongst other states, there are still many individuals in need of assistance,” she said.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — The governor of Oklahoma this week dismissed the state’s highest ranking military official, a vocal backer of Covid vaccinations, replacing him with a general who immediately issued orders that contravene federal vaccine requirements for military personnel.

The governor, Kevin Stitt, is one of a number of Republican state officials across the country who have been fighting against President Biden’s vaccine mandates, which cover federal employees, federal contractors and the military.

The state’s newly appointed adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, released a memo on Thursday that read, in part, “I hereby order that no Oklahoma Guardsmen be required to take the Covid-19 vaccine, notwithstanding any other federal requirement.”

The memo also noted that the state would continue to consider applications for vaccine exemptions, though so far federal military authorities have granted very few. It also said, “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine.”

It remained unclear if General Mancino’s policy would run afoul of the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate. In August, the secretary of defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, said all active-duty military members must immediately get a Covid-19 vaccine. The directive covered members of the armed forces “on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

General Mancino issued the memo a day after Mr. Stitt unexpectedly dismissed Maj. Gen. Michael C. Thompson as adjutant general.

General Thompson, a 38-year military veteran and the Army state guard’s first Black general, said that Mr. Stitt had been pressuring the state’s military officials to counter the federal vaccine requirements and said that his own stance was to instead warn state troops that there “are consequences” for refusing the vaccination order.

He said the governor offered no explanation when he called Wednesday to relieve him of command.

“It’s political,” General Thompson said. “There’s not another reason for it.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

General Thompson said the lack of vaccinations would negatively affect the National Guard’s troop readiness. “I hate to see us not meet the mark when we need to,” he added.

Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, the public affairs officer for the Oklahoma National Guard, said that Mr. Stitt was operating on the principle that he had “complete control” of the force within the state.

However, the officer noted, National Guard members who attend federally funded schools in Oklahoma were still subject to the federal vaccinate mandate.

Credit…Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is perhaps all too easy to bash Aaron Rodgers, the latest star athlete to show he’s suffering from a God complex, hovering above the fray, more than willing to spew medical quackery and virus all over us mere mortals.

Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, is one of the greats when it comes to controlling football games and throwing arcing spirals for highlights-reel touchdowns. But that gridiron genius was undercut when it came out last week that he had not only tested positive for the coronavirus but had also warped the truth about whether he was vaccinated.

“If the vaccine is so great,” Rodgers said in an interview with a radio host who is a friend of his, “how come people are still getting Covid and spreading Covid and unfortunately dying from Covid?”

Apparently, Rodgers missed the memo that while they are not foolproof, the vaccines are close to 90 percent effective and by far the best tools we have to beat back this plague.

Rodgers has been spewing other falsehoods about the virus and its treatments. So maybe he should spend time with Dr. Kyle Martin. He’s the medical director of emergency services at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wis., and he also works at two hospitals in rural parts of the state.

“We’re still very much in a crisis,” Dr. Martin, a self-described N.F.L. superfan, said when we spoke this week. “People are still dying in large numbers. And our health system, it’s stressed to the max.”

Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

President Biden announced on Friday that he would nominate Dr. Robert M. Califf, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to lead the agency again. His decision ends nearly a year of political wrangling as the White House vetted then dropped several candidates after complaints that some were too close to the pharmaceutical industry.

In the end, White House officials might have concluded that they could not find a suitable candidate with no industry ties. Dr. Califf, 70, a respected academic and clinical trial researcher who ran the agency during the last year of the Obama administration, has long been a consultant to drug companies and ran a research center at Duke University that received some funding from the drug industry.

If Dr. Califf is confirmed by the Senate, he will again take the reins of an agency that is responsible for more than $2.8 trillion worth of food, medical products and tobacco. The F.D.A. regulates products accounting for about 20 cents of every dollar spent by consumers in the United States.

The agency has been front and center in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has the authority to approve Covid vaccines, tests and treatments, as well as certain types of protective equipment. It was also widely criticized for allowing manufacturers to flood the market with inaccurate coronavirus tests early in the pandemic and for failing to stand up to President Donald J. Trump, who at times promoted unproven and unsafe treatments.

But the agency is also sorely in need of permanent leadership. Since Margaret Hamburg left in 2015, the F.D.A. has had seven different commissioners — some acting — including Dr. Califf, who served for just 11 months after Dr. Hamburg’s departure. And recently, its reputation for independence has come under attack.

During his previous stint as commissioner, Dr. Califf sought to permit pharmaceutical companies to advertise off-label uses for F.D.A.-approved products, a practice that is not permitted under the strict regulations governing drug advertising. But the proposal, which many public health experts considered dangerous, was blocked by others in the Obama administration, according to a person familiar with it.

A cardiologist who has seen the harmful effects of smoking on the heart, Dr. Califf has been a forceful advocate for tobacco control.

For the past two years, after stepping down as the vice chancellor for clinical and translational health at Duke University, Dr. Califf has worked as the head of clinical policy and strategy for Verily Life Sciences, a health technology firm, and its sister company Google Health.

Dr. Califf, who remains an adjunct professor of medicine at both Duke and Stanford University, is on the corporate board of Cytokinetics, a biopharmaceutical company, according to its website. He has received personal fees for consulting from Merck, Amgen, Biogen, Genentech, Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim, according to his Duke University biography.

Number of People Who Left Their Jobs Voluntarily by Month

Employers are still struggling to fill millions of open jobs — and to hold on to the workers they already have.

More than 4.4 million workers quit their jobs voluntarily in September, the Labor Department said Friday. That was up from 4.3 million in August and was the most in the two decades the government has been keeping track. Nearly a million quit their jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry alone, reflecting the steep competition for workers there as businesses recover from last year’s pandemic-induced shutdowns.

There were 10.4 million job openings in the United States at the end of September. That is down a bit from the record 11.1 million posted in July, before the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus led to a slump in sales in some businesses. But demand for labor remains extraordinarily high by historical standards — before the pandemic, the record for job openings in a month was 7.6 million in November 2018. The Labor Department revised its estimate of job openings in August to 10.6 million.

There were roughly 75 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in September, the lowest ratio on record. Separate data released last week by the Labor Department showed that job growth rebounded in October but that the labor force barely grew.

“You’re essentially seeing demand continuing to increase without an offsetting increase in talent,” said Ryan Sutton, a district director for Robert Half International, a staffing firm. “Until some new talent comes in, until we get employees who are on the sidelines back into the market, it’s very likely this is going to continue.”

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Economists cite a number of reasons for the slow return. The pandemic is still disrupting child care, making it hard for some parents to work; other workers are worried about contracting the virus or spreading it to high-risk family members. Many Americans have also built up their savings during the pandemic, allowing them to be choosier about jobs.

Those factors are likely to ease as the pandemic ebbs and savings dwindle. But other shifts could prove more lasting. In a research note published Friday, economists at Goldman Sachs observed that roughly two-thirds of the people who had left the labor force during the pandemic were over 55; many of them have retired and are unlikely to go back to work.

The labor crunch is giving workers the upper hand in negotiations. Wages have risen sharply in recent months, particularly in service jobs, although in other industries pay is lagging behind the pace of inflation.

The recent rise in the number of workers quitting suggests that many are taking advantage of their leverage to accept better-paying jobs, or to look for them. At the same time, understaffing in many businesses may be putting stress on remaining workers, leading even more people to leave their jobs. Industries that require most employees to work in person, such as manufacturing, retail and health care — as well as leisure and hospitality — report the biggest increases in the rate of workers leaving their jobs.

“We are seeing big pickups in quits in the industries that are having the hardest time hiring right now,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for the job site Indeed.

Kaylie Sweeting worked as a bartender in Millburn, N.J., through most of the pandemic, despite concerns about interacting with unmasked customers and frustration about low wages. But when the restaurant pressured a colleague to come to work sick this summer, Ms. Sweeting quit.

“The job was absolutely no longer worth it,” she said. “I was hurt that a company that I gave my time to did not seem to prioritize me or my safety.”

So Ms. Sweeting, 23, and her partner, a cook, decided to take the money they had saved to buy a house and open their own vegan restaurant instead. They recently signed a lease and are beginning renovations, with plans to open early next year. They are trying to apply the lessons they have learned as employees, promising good wages, paid time off and other basic benefits that restaurant jobs have often failed to provide.

“I genuinely love the industry,” Ms. Sweeting said. “I just don’t love the way it’s managed. I feel like the only way to change it is to implement the change yourself.”

Credit…Matt York/Associated Press

On a recent episode of his podcast, Rick Wiles, a pastor and self-described “citizen reporter,” endorsed a conspiracy theory: that Covid vaccines were the product of a “global coup d’état by the most evil cabal of people in the history of mankind.”

“It’s an egg that hatches into a synthetic parasite and grows inside your body,” Mr. Wiles said on his Oct. 13 episode. “This is like a sci-fi nightmare, and it’s happening in front of us.”

Mr. Wiles belongs to a group of hosts who have made false or misleading statements about Covid-19 and effective treatments for it. Like many of them, he has access to much of his listening audience because his show appears on a platform provided by a large media corporation.

Mr. Wiles’s podcast is available through iHeart Media, an audio company based in San Antonio that says it reaches nine out of 10 Americans each month. Spotify and Apple are other major companies that provide significant audio platforms for hosts who have shared similar views with their listeners about Covid-19 and vaccination efforts, or have had guests on their shows who promoted such notions.

Scientific studies have shown that vaccines will protect people against the coronavirus for long periods and have significantly reduced the spread of Covid-19. As the global death toll related to Covid-19 exceeds five million — and at a time when more than 40 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated — iHeart, Spotify, Apple and many smaller audio companies have done little to rein in what radio hosts and podcasters say about the virus and vaccination efforts.

Credit…China Daily/Via Reuters

China’s top leader has declared that the country has “overcome” the impact of the coronavirus, even as sporadic lockdowns continue in various areas and officials order greater scrutiny of imported frozen food and children’s clothes — both extremely unlikely sources of contagion.

The stringent, if sometimes impractical, restrictions stem from China’s struggle to maintain its “zero Covid” strategy. Other nations have gradually loosened restrictions as they vaccinate more people, allow more gatherings with limits and bolster their health care systems for those who get sick. By contrast, the Chinese Communist Party has staked a big share of credibility on its ability to stamp out the disease entirely.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said this week that the country had “overcome the impact of Covid-19.” In propaganda messaging from a major party meeting, Communist Party leaders touted the successes of their response in saving lives while playing down the huge social and economic cost of those measures.

Government officials have defended their approach, saying that it is “low cost” and has allowed the country to recover from the pandemic faster than others. So far, caseloads remain low. Officials have reported 1,280 in the current outbreak that began in mid-October.

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.

But the limits have costs. In the case of new scrutiny on imports, scientists widely believe that they will do little to keep people from getting infected. Amid a fresh Covid-19 outbreak in the port city of Dalian, Chinese officials this week ordered businesses there that use imported frozen foods to stop their operations.

In a neighboring Hebei Province, officials tested hundreds of packages after several workers at a children’s clothing factory were found to have Covid-19. In Guangxi, a province 1,200 miles to the south of Hebei, officials went even further, testing every person who had touched or even received a package from the factory.

Not a single person outside the factory reported testing positive.

In addition to inspecting imported frozen foods, China has required that packages coming from overseas be sanitized, and has encouraged people to use masks and gloves when receiving deliveries. International health bodies have said there is a minimal chance of transmission on surfaces like cardboard.

Chinese officials have in the past suggested that imports could bring the disease into China. They have been under pressure from the international scientific community and world leaders to disclose more about the source of the outbreak, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan nearly two years ago.

Officials have also continued to enforce lockdowns to address occasional breakouts. Entire cities have been shut down at a moment’s notice. One city in the southwest has been locked down four times in the past year. About 30,000 visitors to Shanghai’s Disneyland had to stay and get tested this month before being allowed to leave.

In Beijing, the authorities closed dozens of pharmacies that had been caught selling cough medicine without requiring customers to register with their name and ID.

The strategy could face a significant challenge as China prepares to host athletes and visitors for the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February.

Organizers have said the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will take place in a bubble in which athletes, broadcasters and journalists will be required to stay. Already, two foreign Olympic athletes who are in the country for related events have tested positive, Reuters reported on Friday.

Credit…Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Netherlands’ government introduced a three-week partial lockdown to quell a fourth wave of coronavirus infections amid a spike in case numbers, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

It is the first recent lockdown affecting all people — whether vaccinated or not — in Western Europe, and it comes as the Netherlands registered 16,364 new cases on Thursday. That figure, a level not seen since early in the pandemic, was a 33 percent rise over the new cases registered a week earlier.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hugo de Jonge, the health minister, announced the measures on Friday evening. They will go into effect on Saturday.

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.

Restaurants, bars and cafes in the Netherlands will have to close at 8 p.m., as will “essential shops” like supermarkets, a government website said. Sporting events will be held without spectators. Residents will not be allowed to invite more than four guests into their homes. Social distancing rules will be reinstated.

Art and cultural performances at cinemas, live theaters and concert venues will not have compulsory closing times.

A crowd of protesters against the lockdown gathered outside the Hague, where Mr. Rutte was speaking, and several of them were detained for setting off fireworks and throwing objects at police, Reuters reported.

De Telegraaf, a Dutch news outlet, published photos and social media video that showed police turning a water cannon on protesters. The outlet wrote that the protest had since broken up and the streets were calm.

Protests against coronavirus mitigation measures have become commonplace in many European countries. In Italy on Friday, police searched the homes of four people in Milan affiliated with a movement that protests coronavirus rules after they were accused of harassing journalists who are reporting on the demonstrations.

Cases and deaths have been rising sharply in Europe as a whole, and other countries have instituted or are considering new restrictions. This week, the World Health Organization reported that Europe accounted for about two-thirds of the world’s 3.1 million new reported cases in the first week of November.

Officials in hard-hit countries are urgently seeking to quell the outbreaks as winter approaches and the threat of flu rises. Austria has seen a burst of interest in vaccinations in the week since it barred unvaccinated people who could not prove that they had recovered from a previous infection from cafes, pubs, restaurants, theaters, gyms and hairdressers. And Germany announced that it will once again offer free tests to all adults in the country.

Mr. Rutte’s cabinet also discussed on Friday whether to introduce longer-term measures that would require people to provide proof of vaccination or past infection to get access to certain services or to participate in certain events.

About 73 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University.

Credit…Reuters

Just last year, Vietnam’s coronavirus controls were lauded by health officials around the world. The country was so successful that it achieved the highest economic growth in Asia in 2020, at 2.9 percent.

But that outlook has dimmed: Workers have fled their factories, managers are struggling to get them back, and economists are forecasting that a full recovery in output won’t come until next year.

And for consumers, the worker shortage is likely to worsen the delays for global manufactured goods caused by a worldwide shipping crisis and monthslong factory shutdowns in Vietnam.

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.

In 2020, Vietnam relied on strict quarantine measures, contact tracing and lockdowns. It assumed that it had time to order vaccines, until infections and deaths surged in the summer with the arrival of the Delta variant.

Officials in Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong told factories that workers had to comply with the “three on site” model, which meant they needed to eat, live and work within the factory’s premises.

Factory managers scrambled to provide tents and toilets for their workers, who were crammed into warehouse buildings or parking lots. Local media reported that hundreds of workers in several factories became infected with the coronavirus. Many businesses felt they could not bear the costs of housing their workers, so they shut down production. Suddenly, thousands of workers found themselves with no income.

Managers have made calls promising higher wages to get the workers to return. On Oct. 22, the Ho Chi Minh City government said it would provide free transportation and accommodations for the first month to workers who were willing to come back.

The measures have had some success. Ninety percent of the work force of Pouyuen Vietnam has returned to Ho Chi Minh City, according to Cu Phat Nghiep, the chairman of the company’s trade union.

Separately, American businesses have pushed the Vietnamese government to speed up its vaccine program, which they say is essential for workers to feel safe. Only 29 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Southeast Asia. Vietnam says it hopes to increase that to 70 percent by the end of the year.

Customers around the world are lamenting airlines’ customer service wait times and the process of rebooking canceled flights. Virtually every airline’s social media account is overflowing with stories of hourslong waits to speak to someone — even on relatively normal days.

“It’s a joke all over,” said Gilles Alexandre Bussutil, a consultant who specializes in helping airlines improve customer experience.

The issues have to do with staffing, according to many airlines, reservation agents and industry analysts, but exactly who or what is to blame depends on whom you ask. Some airlines, including Southwest, have acknowledged that they’ve recently let customers down and need to hire more agents. But others have suggested the exorbitant wait times of early summer are ancient history, something that does not seem to be reflected by customers’ stories.

“Oh sure, it’s been taken care of; it’s under control,” said Omar Martinez, a longtime JetBlue loyalist, who was feeling tempted to give up on the airline. In August, Mr. Martinez spent 275 minutes on a call for a matter that a gate agent told him could only be resolved over the phone. But in talking to friends and looking to social media, he has yet to find an airline without similar issues.

Most airlines plan to hire, but passengers may not see lower wait times any time soon, several industry analysts said, citing a variety of factors, including overall labor shortages, the difficulty of hiring qualified workers at relatively low pay and the airlines’ lack of efficiency in the deployment of staff.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, has described the current status of the pandemic in the country as a “mixed bag” that is leaning more toward the positive than the negative.

But there is still work to do, he said, including dealing with complicated factors such as vaccination rates, contagious variants of the virus and waning immunity to infection.

In a conversation with “The Daily,” Dr. Fauci weighed in on vaccine mandates, booster shots and the end of the pandemic.

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Listen to ‘The Daily’: An Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci

America’s top infectious disease official discusses the state of the virus, booster shots, mandates and the end of the pandemic.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

Across the United States, employers are struggling with how, when and even whether to bring employees back to the office. In conversations with leaders at companies in a broad variety of industries — the people charged with making the ultimate call — the consensus was that there was no consensus.

Chief executives are struggling to balance rapidly shifting expectations with their own impulse to have the final word on how their companies run. They are eager to appear responsive to employees who relish their newfound autonomy, but reluctant to give up too much control. And they are constantly changing policies in response to worker demands, re-examining aspects of their business that they might not have tinkered with otherwise.

“Preferences are changing during this pandemic,” said Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman of PwC, the accounting and consulting firm, which said that it would let its U.S. workers work remotely forever.

“C.E.O.s are now just beginning to realize that if you’re employing thousands and thousands and thousands of people, you need to have multiple options,” he said. “I believe what we announced will be commonplace for the mass employers in a matter of months. It’s just catching up with how fast the world is moving.”

But for Chris Merrill, a co-founder and the chief executive of Harrison Street, a private real estate investment firm, the romanticization of remote work is balderdash.

“It’s very important to get the younger employees in the office, collaborating and working hard,” he said. “Personal interactions are what this is all about.”

Credit…Lisa Leutner/Associated Press

A week ago, Austria announced restrictions on people who are not vaccinated or protected because of prior infections, barring them from cafes, restaurants, pubs, theaters, gyms and hairdressers.

And the lines at vaccination centers have grown.

Last Saturday, the day after Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the changes, nearly 40,000 people received a shot. The week before that, when only a negative rapid test was required to partake in all aspects of society, less than half as many stood in line.

On Thursday, more than 78,000 Austrians got a shot, a number not seen since July.

With just 65 percent of its population fully vaccinated, Austria has one of the weakest vaccination rates in Western Europe. But it is finally seeing a willingness that the authorities could not coax through advertising or positive reinforcement.

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.

Besides the new rules, a spike in infections is contributing to the growing interest in a vaccine that has been available for free for months.

On Thursday, the country reported 3,143 new infections, just below a record set the day before. Two states, Salzburg and Upper Austria, announced partial lockdown measures on unvaccinated adults on Friday, and a nationwide order may be announced on Sunday after a special meeting of Parliament.

On Friday, the German foreign ministry put most of Austria back on a list of high-risk countries, meaning unvaccinated travelers from Austria have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in Germany.

Credit…Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock

Germany will once again offer free coronavirus tests to all adults in the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, a move intended to help catch infections earlier as case numbers continue to reach record highs.

The country had spent billions of dollars offering at least one free antigen test per resident each week since March, but then ended the policy last month in the hope that making people pay for tests would lead them to get vaccinated.

Now, German leaders are scrambling to act as case numbers spiral upward. On Thursday — after a week in which new case numbers had set records four times — health officials recorded 48,640 new infections, a slight drop from Wednesday’s number.

The health minister’s hourlong news conference appeared to be an attempt to show national leadership in what is increasingly seen as a countrywide crisis. Mr. Spahn even suggested that tests could ultimately be required, even for vaccinated people, for entry to certain venues and events.

But not everyone seems concerned about the spike in numbers.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of revelers gathered in Cologne for the start of carnival season. Although the designated party spots were restricted to attendees able to prove that they had been vaccinated or had recovered from Covid, controls were lax and impromptu parties sprung up outside those zones.

A musician playing at the festivities warned partygoers not to kiss strangers this year, a reference to a custom of carnival celebrations.

“Maybe this year just snog your partner! Otherwise we won’t get through the season,” said the musician, Peter Brings. “And next year we can all make out with each other again.”

On Friday morning, the Robert Koch Institute, the German authority that tracks the pandemic, released a new set of guidelines suggesting, among other things, that large gatherings be canceled.

Credit…Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

The Italian police on Friday searched the homes of four people in Milan affiliated with the “No Green Pass” movement, a mixed group that has been protesting for weeks over a nationwide coronavirus health-pass mandate.

The four people, whose names were not immediately released, are being investigated on accusations of harassing journalists who are reporting on the demonstrations. The rallies have become common occurrences in several Italian cities, creating traffic chaos and disrupting daily life.

Alberto Nobili, an antiterrorism prosecutor in Milan who is coordinating the investigation, confirmed that the searches had been carried out.

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.

As in several other countries in Europe, demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions have become commonplace in Italy. This week, the Interior Ministry instructed local officials to consider banning demonstrations in some areas and to take measures to deal with unruly protesters.

“It’s about balancing rights — the right to demonstrate, but also the right to work, to study and to one’s health,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said of the ministry’s instructions, which were outlined in a memorandum made public late Wednesday.

Protesters in several cities — Milan, Padua and Trieste, in particular — have staged frequent demonstrations, often on Saturday afternoons, in which they block traffic and limit access to downtown stores. The protesters object to a government requirement that all workers obtain a certificate known as a Green Pass to show that they have been vaccinated against the virus or have recently tested negative, or face fines and unpaid leave.

Local law enforcement authorities have been asked to identify areas within each city where mass gatherings should not take place as long as Italy’s pandemic state of emergency remains in effect. In many cases, these areas will include busy downtown shopping areas.

The ministry’s memorandum says that mayors and local officials can decide whether to require masks or social distancing at gatherings in their jurisdictions.

Although the memorandum does not ban protests outright, Stefano Puzzer, who led a group of dockworkers that transformed the northeastern port city of Trieste into a protest epicenter, said it had been designed to “repress demonstrations.”

He said the protests in Trieste had been peaceful and authorized by city officials.

“I will always be present at authorized demonstrations,” Mr. Puzzer said. “We have to be the first to uphold the law.”

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