LONDON — Pubs opened for drinks indoors, lights went on in theaters and airports buzzed with a steady stream of travelers on Monday, but the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England was accompanied by growing fears that a variant of the virus could delay a full return to normality.
The lifting of a wide range of coronavirus rules Monday coincided with a small but worrying spike in cases of a variant, first identified in India, that threatens a lockdown-lifting road map frequently described by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “cautious but irreversible.”
Already, the second part of that pledge is sounding less secure than it once seemed. In recent days the authorities have scrambled to ramp up testing and inoculation in parts of the country seeing a sharp rise in cases of the more transmissible variant. More than 6,200 people were vaccinated over the weekend in Bolton, a badly hit town near Manchester in the northwest of England.
The opposition Labour Party has accused Mr. Johnson of bringing on the trouble by delaying a decision to close borders to flights from India last month, while government scientific advisers have expressed their concerns about moving too fast to remove curbs.
Even Mr. Johnson, who is normally only too keen to ridicule pessimists as “doomsters and gloomsters,” urged Britons to be cautious in the face of the threat from the new variant, saying that there was a risk of “significant disruption” to plans for easing rules.
Nor did Mr. Johnson plan to visit a pub or restaurant on Monday to celebrate in front of the TV cameras, his office said.
In recent weeks Mr. Johnson has been able to claim credit for a highly successful vaccine program that, combined with lockdown restrictions, has cut cases and death rates to a fraction of their peak numbers. That has enabled England to start easing the burden on many of the parts of the economy that were worst affected by a lockdown in January.
Under the changes that came into force on Monday, pubs and restaurants can serve indoors as well as outside, people can hug each other and mix inside their homes in limited numbers.
Museums, theaters and movie theaters, sports stadiums, hotels and indoor playgrounds opened their doors again in England, though Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have slightly different timetables and conditions for relaxing rules.
A legal ban on all but essential foreign travel ended too, though travelers to any other than a small number of destinations will have to quarantine on their return.
Altogether, that represents the first real breath of freedom for many in England since the third national lockdown was declared in early January. Though restaurants and pubs have been able to serve food and drink outdoors for several weeks, the weather has been unseasonably cold and often rainy, leaving many diners and drinkers shivering in damp beer gardens.
While the government will fight hard not to have to reverse the changes introduced on Monday, there are growing doubts about whether it can proceed with the next stage of the road map.That change, scheduled to take place on June 21,would scrap almost all remaining restrictions.
But with a surge of cases in some communities, including Bolton, the government is refusing to rule out any measures, possibly including the imposition of new restrictions on specific Covid-19 hot spots.
“We must be humble in the face of this virus,” the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told Parliament on Monday, adding that there were now 86 areas with five or more cases of the variant whose higher transmission rate “poses a real risk.” While the overall case numbers, at 2,323, remain low, they have been multiplying rapidly.
Mr. Johnson continues to hear criticism for failing to clamp down fast enough on travel from India, even sparing it for some weeks after placing restrictions on travel from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Under Britain’s travel system those arriving from “red list” countries that are deemed high risk are required to quarantine in hotels.
“Our borders have been as secure as a sieve,” said Jonathan Ashworth, who speaks for the opposition Labour Party on health issues. “The delay in adding India to the red list surely now stands as a catastrophic misstep.”
Pakistan and Bangladesh were red listed on April 9 but India was not added until April 23, and Mr. Johnson’s critics have suggested he was reluctant to upset India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, with whom he is trying to strike a trade deal.
Mr. Hancock rejected that claim and said that significantly more people arriving from Bangladesh and Pakistan tested positive for Covid-19 than those arriving from India. In Parliament on Monday he accused the Labour Party of selective hindsight, saying that last month the Indian variant had not been identified as one of concern.
But some experts believe that the government should have reacted faster to the emergence of the variant. “Many of us in the U.K., we’re appalled at the huge delay in classifying it as a variant of concern,” said PeterEnglish, a retired consultant in communicable disease control.
“You can’t stop diseases from crossing boundaries — they inevitably will,” he said, adding: “But you can slow the spread, and while that’s happening, you can learn more about it.”
Mr. English said that there was not yet enough data available to determine how effectivevaccines are in combating the variant, but added that more financial support should be given to those on low incomes who need to self-isolate.
In general, Britons are being offered vaccination based on their age, with those oldest treated first. Appointments are to be extended this week to 37-year-olds, Mr. Hancock said.
However, in areas affected by the Indian variant, health chiefs appear to be offering vaccines to some younger people, using the flexibility in guidelines that, for example, suggest the vaccination of those living in a multigenerational household.
On Monday, Mr. Hancock also said that of 19 cases in Bolton hospitals, most of the patients were eligible for vaccination but had not had one. That prompted a debate in and beyond Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party about whether the lifting of lockdown restrictions should be reversed to protect people who refuse a vaccine.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer and theater impresario, told the BBC that vaccine hesitancy was not only foolish but selfish. He added that he could not reopen his shows without an assurance that all restrictions would be eased as planned from June 21, allowing for full seating without distancing.
“I just feel so strongly at the moment, particularly the people who are not getting vaccinated and everything, just how selfish it is because so many people depend on this June 21 date, they really depend on it,” he said.
spikes in coronavirus infections earlier this year, are reporting significant drops in cases and hospitalizations.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have all reported many fewer cases in recent weeks as more people receive vaccinations. New York and New Jersey have also seen steady declines in cases after struggling to contain the virus earlier this spring.
Reported cases across the United States reached a high in January, and then, as vaccinations accelerated, fell through February and most of March. A much smaller overall surge peaked in mid-April, but has dropped about 32 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations and deaths are also ticking down, even as the pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks.
In Rhode Island, confirmed cases have dropped 48 percent and hospitalizations have dropped 23 percent in the past two weeks. State officials attribute the fall in cases to increased vaccinations.
“It’s the vaccinations,” Gov. Daniel McKee of Rhode Island said, adding that “the vaccinations are really our focus right now.”
The state announced on Friday that it would adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines eliminating most mask requirements for fully vaccinated people starting on Tuesday. Although Mr. McKee expressed concerns that unvaccinated people might stop wearing masks too, he said he hoped the C.D.C.’s new guidance would encourage more people to get vaccinated and that it was “not a pass for people who have not been vaccinated.”
State officials are still worried about the threat of more contagious variants of the virus, he said. And even though Rhode Island’s vaccination campaign is ahead of most states’, Mr. McKee said that convincing people who were hesitant was still a challenge. About 57 percent of Rhode Island’s population has received at least one dose, and 46 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker.
In Pennsylvania, reported cases have dropped 44 percent and hospitalizations have dropped 28 percent in the past two weeks. Cases in the state started to rise in mid-March and continued to climb for weeks before reversing course in late April.
Alison Beam, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of health, said the state’s vaccination effort had “made great strides,” which had led to the decreases. About 55 percent of the state’s population has received at least one shot, and 39 percent have been fully inoculated.
“One of our greatest hesitancy strategies is making it really convenient for folks and we’ve been able to do that by spreading out the vaccine to more of our provider networks more recently because the supply has increased as well,” Ms. Beam said.
With the pace of vaccinations falling, the Biden administration has been focused on door-to-door and person-by-person efforts. The Department of Health and Human Services recently started a “Covid-19 community corps,” a loose group of volunteers, corporations, advocacy groups and local organizations working to vaccinate Americans who may prefer to get their shots by or around people they know.
Ms. Beam cautioned, however, that coronavirus testing had also decreased in the state and she urged people to continue getting tested if they showed symptoms.
Although reported cases are continuing to drop nationwide, public health experts warn that the United States will have to continue aggressively vaccinating its population over the next few months. It is possible that the virus could surge again more widely in fall and winter, when viruses like the flu are typically dominant.
“That would be a terrible shame because that will include serious cases and deaths, and that’s preventable,” said Dr. Sten Vermund, the dean of the Yale School of Public Health.
— Madeleine Ngo
In Britain, normality seemed much closer on Monday, with indoor dining and socializing and visits to cinemas becoming options again in England, along with some international travel, and rules also easing in much of Scotland.
The English reopenings are the third step in a cautious plan by the British government to ease all restrictions by the summer. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson sounded a note of caution on Monday.
“All the data shows we’re making great progress against this virus,” Mr. Johnson said in address to the public. “But to ensure our progress is irreversible we must follow the rules.”
In England as of Monday, outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people and indoor gatherings for up to six people or two households will be permitted. Hostels and hotels will reopen for overnight stays and some nonessential travel abroad will return for countries with low caseloads.
Mr. Johnson urged people to accept vaccines if offered and said though people could now make their own choices about close contact with loved ones, such as hugging, social distancing should remain in public places.
It comes as Britain has given more than half its population a vaccine dose and deaths from the virus have dropped to their lowest since last summer.
Still, officials said it was no time for complacency, announcing that they would speed up the delivery of second doses of a vaccine to people over 50 after a coronavirus variant first seen in India was detected in Britain. Cases have clustered in Bolton, a town of nearly 200,000 that has one of the country’s highest rates of infection.
Separate rules operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland also eased several restrictions on Monday, though retaining them in Glasgow and Moray, which have reported relatively high case numbers.
Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, said on Monday that it would move the experimental Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with GlaxoSmithKline into a late-stage trial after the shot produced strong immune responses in volunteers in a mid-stage study.
The findings are encouraging for a vaccine that has fallen behind in development and has so far disappointed those expecting that it would be crucial in combating the pandemic. If the vaccine can become available in the last three months of this year, as its developers hope, it could still play a central role as a booster shot as well as an initial inoculation in the developing world, where the pace of vaccination is lagging.
The vaccine hit a major setback in December, when its developers announced that it did not appear to work well in older adults and that they would have to delay plans to test it in a Phase 3 trial, the crucial test that will assess the vaccine’s effectiveness.
But the companies modified the vaccine and in February began testing it in a Phase 2 study that included more than 700 volunteers in the United States and Honduras between 18 and 95 years old. Sanofi said the vaccine did not raise any safety concerns and produced a strong immune response across age groups, a finding suggesting it has been successfully tweaked.
Sanofi announced the findings in a statement and said it plans to soon publish the results in a medical journal.
Sanofi and GSK are much more experienced in vaccine development than a number of their rivals that have already won authorization. The two companies used a more established approach than those deployed in other, more swiftly developed Covid vaccines. Their shot is based on viral proteins produced with engineered viruses that grow inside insect cells. GSK is supplying the Sanofi vaccine with an adjuvant, an ingredient used in many vaccines meant to boost the immune response.
Sanofi and GSK’s vaccine was one of six selected for funding from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to accelerate vaccine development. Last summer, the federal government agreed to give the companies $2.1 billion to develop and manufacture the vaccine, in exchange for 100 million doses once the shot was ready.
Sanofi also has supply deals with the European Union and Canada. It has also agreed to supply 200 million doses to Covax, the program to deliver vaccines to middle- and lower-income countries that has been struggling with a shortfall in expected doses. Sanofi has also announced plans to help manufacture the authorized vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Sanofi said its Phase 3 trial of its vaccine would begin in the coming weeks and enroll more than 35,000 adult volunteers around the world. It will test two formulations of the vaccine, one aimed at preventing the original strain of the virus and the other aimed at the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa that some vaccines appear to be less effective against.
Su-Peing Ng, Sanofi’s global head of medical for vaccines, told journalists on Monday that the company expected it to be “operationally quite challenging” to enroll unvaccinated participants in the Phase 3 trial as vaccination coverage increases in many nations. Still, she said, vaccine doses were still scarce in many parts of the world, pointing to Latin America and Asia as places where the company may look to enroll volunteers.
The company said that soon after starting the Phase 3 trial it planned to assess whether its vaccine could boost immune responses in people who had been vaccinated months before with authorized vaccines. Those booster studies are expected to enroll volunteers in well-vaccinated parts of the world, including the United States and Europe.
Sanofi and GSK said last year they were preparing to be able to make 1 billion doses annually. Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi’s global head of vaccines, said on Monday that the company’s production this year, if its vaccine were shown to work, would depend on the world’s needs.
The vaccine, he said, has “potential to be a booster of choice for many nations and many different platforms.”
A powerful cyclone that is heading up India’s western coast has forced many regional governments, which were already dealing with a virulent wave of the coronavirus, to divert resources to evacuating people and trying to minimize storm damage.
The storm, Cyclone Tauktae, which is traveling north, is likely to make a landfall on Monday evening in Gujarat, a state struggling with a devastating second coronavirus wave. The storm swept through three southern states on Sunday, wiping out hundreds of homes, uprooting power transmission infrastructure and drenching low-lying areas, officials said on Monday.
India’s National Disaster Response Force said it had deployed more than 100 teams across six coastal states to help with evacuations, relief and rescue measures. At least seven Indian states have issued warnings to residents in low-lying areas, warning them of large-scale destruction and encouraging them to leave for higher ground.
So far at least 12 deaths have been reported across coastal districts of four states: Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.
“This is another piece of bad news,” said Dr. Abhijeet Patel, a resident doctor at a public hospital in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. “The cyclone will not only impact vaccination drives, but it will also wreak havoc with the already exhausted health care infrastructure.”
A coronavirus second wave has devastated India’s medical system in its biggest cities, and over the past few weeks the virus has spread more widely, hitting states and rural areas with many fewer resources.
Positivity rates have been soaring in some coastal areas in the last few days, and some of the worst affected states are now in the south, where the storm hit over the weekend. In Karnataka State, six people died after the storm hit on Sunday.
India recorded 281,386 new Covid-19 cases on Monday and 4,106 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Monday. One bright spot: New cases have fallen below the 300,000 mark for the first time in 25 days.
Officials said they had evacuated tens of thousands of people from at least six Indian states, most of them severally affected by the rising Covid-19 cases in recent days as the severe cyclone barreled toward Gujarat.
The authorities in Maharashtra State, which includes Mumbai, India’s financial capital, said they had shifted hundreds of sick patients from the makeshift Covid care facilities as a precautionary measure and halted vaccination for four days, including on Monday. The storm was moving through the area on Monday. Miles of roads washed away in southern state of Karnataka as the storm brushed past the state.
Indian meteorological department said that by Monday evening, when the cyclone is expected to hit Gujarat, the wind speed is likely to increase to 99 miles per hour, from 93, gusting up to 108 miles per hour.
Officials there said on Monday that they were shifting Covid-19 patients from the areas likely to be most affected by the cyclone. Hospitals were sealing windows and doors, and more than 170 mobile intensive care unit vans were being deployed, according to local media.
In other developments around the globe:
Taiwan, which is facing its worst outbreak of the pandemic, added 333 locally transmitted cases on Monday, mostly in Taipei, the capital, and the adjoining New Taipei City, health officials said. It also added two imported cases. The authorities announced a series of measures to restrict travel and curb the spread. Transit passengers will be barred from the island’s airports for the next month and foreigners without residence cards cannot enter beginning Wednesday, officials from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said.
Hong Kong said that it was tightening quarantine restrictions for residents traveling from Taiwan and denying entry from there to nonresidents. The Hong Kong government also announced another deferral of a quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore, where the number of new cases without a known source has been climbing. Plans for a travel bubble were suspended previously in November because of a high caseload in Hong Kong.
For the first time since last October, Italy has reported fewer than 100 daily coronavirus deaths. For a country that was the first in Europe to be hit by the pandemic and then endured a brutal second and a third wave, the new low on Sunday of 93 daily deaths comes as a much-awaited glimmer of hope as the vaccination campaign speeds up. “The worst should be behind our back,” a senior health official, Pierpaolo Sileri, said on Italian television on Sunday. “Things are going well.”
Four nations’ delegations for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest missed the opening ceremony on Sunday after positive tests for Covid-19. Two virus cases were identified this weekend among the Icelandic and Polish entrants, forcing them to miss the event, and the contestants for Malta and Romania also skipped the ceremony as a precaution because they are staying at the same hotel. Eurovision was canceled last year because of the pandemic and the competition has been brought back with virus safety guidelines. The final will take place on Saturday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in front of a live audience of around 3,500 and all the contestants have made backup recordings in case they are unable to compete.
Emma Bubola Tiffany May, Austin Ramzy, and Anna Schaverien contributed reporting.
The first signs of the tourism season creeping back to life were visible at Greece’s ports and airports on Saturday as the country officially opened its doors to international visitors.
After lifting quarantine requirements for dozens of countries last month, the Greek authorities expanded the eligibility to more nations on Friday and relaxed some restrictions. Travelers must present a certificate of vaccination, proof of recovery from Covid or a negative PCR test.
The first flights arriving at Athens International Airport came from France, Germany, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Switzerland, with most visitors heading for the Greek islands. Hundreds lined up for ferries at the country’s main port of Piraeus, near the capital, joining Greeks taking advantage of the ending of a ban on travel between the country’s regions.
Heraklion Airport on Crete was buzzing for the first time in months, with Germans, French and Israelis among the first arrivals, and the authorities said they expected 10,000 arrivals on the island over the next three days. Mykonos and Santorini, two of the country’s most popular summer destinations, welcomed just a handful of flights, as hotel occupancy remains set at around 30 percent for May. But hopes are high for the summer, with bookings for July close to 90 percent.
Two fire engines sprayed celebratory jets of water over aircraft arriving from Qatar on Friday while sounding their sirens. Boats similarly greeted the arrival of cruise ships to Crete.
The mood was upbeat on many islands, where a vaccination drive has been ramped up with the aim of inoculating hundreds of thousands of permanent residents by the end of June, in time for peak tourism season.
The country, having suffered heavy economic losses last year because of the pandemic, is determined to save its summer tourist season. Last month, when some restrictions were lifted, a third wave of coronavirus infections was in full force, and hospitals were facing high pressure.
About 14 percent of people in the country have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. The virus has sickened more than 373,000 people in Greece, and more than 11,300 have died.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finally catching up to the science.
For months, research about Covid-19 has pointed to two encouraging patterns. First, the underlying virus that causes Covid rarely spreads outdoors. Second — and even more important — fully vaccinated people are at virtually no risk of serious disease and only a minuscule risk of spreading the virus to others.
But the C.D.C., which has long been a cautious agency, has been unwilling to highlight these facts. It has instead focused on tiny risks — risks that are smaller than those from, say, taking a car trip. The C.D.C.’s intricate list of recommended Covid behavior has baffled many Americans and frightened others, making the guidance less helpful than it might have been.
Yesterday, the agency effectively acknowledged it had fallen behind the scientific evidence: Even though that evidence has not changed in months, the C.D.C. overhauled its guidelines. It said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, including crowded indoor gatherings.
The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society.
long accepted without upending our lives, like riding in a car, taking a swim or exposing ourselves to the common cold.
‘Evidence-based’ and ‘bold’
The announcement also sends a message to the unvaccinated (who, the C.D.C. emphasized, should continue wearing masks in most settings): Life is starting to return to normal, and a vaccine shot is your best protection against a deadly virus. It is also the best way to protect your community and the rest of the world. And the long vaccine waits and difficult sign-up procedures are disappearing in most places.
Some experts praised the announcement. “Good move for the C.D.C. and our country,” Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale School of Medicine professor and former Senate staff member, wrote on Twitter. “They must stop making perfect the enemy of very good. And this is a step in that direction.”
Dr. Uché Blackstock, the C.E.O. of Advancing Health Equity, wrote: “I’m ecstatic about this news! It’s evidence-based and it’s bold. I hope that the updated guidelines incentivize more people to get vaccinated.”
Other experts worried that encouraging vaccinated people not to wear masks might cause unvaccinated people to shed them too — the so-called slippery-slope argument. It is a common concern whenever health authorities lift behavior restrictions. But history suggests it is often overblown. An absolutist message often fails, Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School has noted, especially when it urges people to take steps that do not actually protect them.
criticized the C.D.C. during a hearing this week for not hewing to the data — and she argued that the change would lead to safer behavior. “This really matters because if people don’t have confidence in the C.D.C. guidance, if they believe it is driven more by politics than science, then they are likely to disregard the C.D.C. guidelines that we should be following,” Collins said.
will not fall to zero, and it is important to remember that. But zero is not a realistic goal, and the freezing of normal life has brought big costs of its own: children who are not learning; parents who cannot return to the work force; businesses that cannot rehire their workers; and millions of people who miss everyday forms of human companionship.
When Covid was raging out of control, these costs were nonetheless smaller than the alternative. With vaccines widely available, that’s no longer the case.
The C.D.C. has not fully shed its caution. It has not withdrawn its exaggeration of outdoor risks for the unvaccinated. And yesterday’s guidance continues to direct vaccinated people to wear masks and remain physically distant in some circumstances.
Some of those exceptions — like nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons — probably make sense. Many people in these settings are vulnerable, and masks can continue to provide protection, from both small Covid risks and other contagious diseases.
The rationale for other exceptions — like airplanes and public transportation, as well as airports and other travel hubs — is less clear, and the C.D.C. did not offer a public explanation for why vaccinated people need a mask on a bus but not in a bar.
in spreading the virus, a little extra caution is not beyond comprehension. It will not last forever, either. Yesterday’s about-face showed that while the C.D.C. may be slow, officials there take their mission seriously and do not enjoy being out of step with science.
“This is a watershed moment in the pandemic,” Dr. Lucy McBride, an internist, wrote on Twitter. “Next up: unmasking kids outdoors. Please, C.D.C.??”
“After a year of hard work and so much sacrifice, the rule is very simple: Get vaccinated, or wear a mask until you do,” President Biden said.
Biden and Republican senators meeting at the White House removed their masks. “Get vaccinated!” said Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, on a visit to his home state with Jill Biden. “We feel free.”
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SINGAPORE — Singapore said on Friday that it would ban dining in restaurants and gatherings of more than two people to try to stem a rise in coronavirus cases, becoming the latest Asian nation to reintroduce restrictions after keeping the illness mostly in check for months.
The new measures came after the city-state recorded 34 new cases on Thursday, a small number by global standards, but part of a rise in infections traced to vaccinated workers at Singapore Changi Airport.
The airport outbreak began with an 88-year-old member of the airport cleaning crew who was fully vaccinated but who tested positive for the virus on May 5. Co-workers who then became infected later visited an airport food court, where they transmitted the virus to other customers, officials said.
None of the cases linked to the airport outbreak are believed to have resulted in critical illness or death, according to officials.
might be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus.
Singapore health officials said that of 28 airport workers who became infected, 19 were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the only two approved for use in Singapore.
“Unfortunately, this mutant virus, very virulent, broke through the layers of defense,” Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told a virtual news conference on Friday.
migrant workers living in dormitories, but a two-month lockdown and extensive testing and contact tracing contained the outbreak. Although Singapore has kept much of its economy open, its vaccination effort has not moved as quickly as many expected: less than one-quarter of the population has been fully inoculated.
Changi Airport, which served more than 68 million passengers in 2019, is operating at 3 percent of capacity as Singapore has paused nearly all incoming commercial traffic. Employees there work under strict controls, wearing protective gear and submitting to regular coronavirus tests.
Singapore joins Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries that have struggled to contain new outbreaks fueled in part by variants. But Paul Ananth Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said that the rise in cases was not overly worrying.
“The reason for my optimism is that we now have effective vaccines, better diagnostics, proven treatments and even potential prophylactic agents,” he said. “If these are employed in a targeted approach, it is unlikely that we will end up with the same problems we had last year.”
HOUSTON — Panicked drivers scrambled to fuel their vehicles across the Southeast on Tuesday, leaving thousands of stations without gasoline as a vital fuel pipeline remained largely shut down after a ransomware attack.
The disruption to the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, also left airlines vulnerable, with several saying they would send jet fuel to the region by air to ensure that service would not be disrupted.
Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 3 to 10 cents a gallon on Tuesday, a jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt refinery and pipeline operations along the Gulf Coast.
The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 2 cents on Tuesday, with higher prices reported in the Southeast, according to the AAA motor club. The average increase was nearly 7 cents in South Carolina, 6 cents in North Carolina and 3 cents in Virginia.
Gas Buddy, a service that tracks gas prices, reported.
“There’s no gas, and people are getting frustrated,” said Ariyana Ward, a 19-year-old college student in Virginia Beach who waited 45 minutes to fill up. With some motorists taking time to fill cans as well as cars, she said, “people are getting into shouting matches.”
State leaders responded with measures intended to keep the flow of fuel steady and stabilize prices.
suspend some fuel transport rules. Governor DeSantis also activated the National Guard to cope with the emergency.
South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, announced that he was ready to invoke the state’s price-gouging law, making excessive overcharging a criminal offense. “I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” Mr. Wilson said.
At the White House, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm told reporters, “We know we have gasoline; we just need to get it to the right places.” But she made no promises about when the pipeline, which was shut down to prevent the cyberattack from spreading, would resume operations, saying the company will decide on Wednesday whether it is ready to do so.
She said she expected gas station operators to act “responsibly,” adding, “We have no tolerance for price gouging.”
The administration considered other steps that might alleviate shortages, including moving gasoline, diesel and jet fuel by train, or issuing a waiver for a 1920 law known as the Jones Act, which requires that maritime shipments be on vessels owned and staffed by Americans. But it was unclear if the right kind of either rail cars or foreign-registered ships were available.
“There are no easy solutions,’’ Ms. Granholm said.
The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Michael Regan, issued an emergency waiver for fuel air emissions on Tuesday to help alleviate fuel shortages in places affected by the pipeline shutdown, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The waiver will continue through next Tuesday.
Colonial Pipeline, the company that operates the pipeline, has said it hopes to restore most operations by the end of the week. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation said had been carried out by an organized-crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system. The pipeline provides the Eastern United States with nearly half its transportation fuel.
Colonial has remained largely silent, answering no questions about the kind of protections it had in place on both its computer networks and the industrial controls that run the pipeline.
In a statement late in the day on Tuesday, Colonial said it had manually started one part of the pipeline and delivered about 41 million gallons of fuel to various locations on its system, from Atlanta, through the Carolinas and to Linden, N.J.
But the company said nothing about what factors will play into its decision on when to restart the pipeline. And it has not explained whether it found any evidence that the malware placed in its data systems could migrate to the operations of the pipeline.
Several experts noted that while the two networks are described as separate entities, they have considerable crossover. For example, one of the systems the ransomware group tied up tracks how much fuel each customer uses. Without that running, Colonial would not know how much fuel any of its customers were receiving — or how to get paid for it.
Industry analysts said the impact of the hacking would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon. “With a resolution to the shutdown in sight, the cyberattack is now treated as a small disturbance by the market, and prices are trimming Monday’s panic-gains,” said Louise Dickson, an oil markets analyst for Rystad Energy.
a 2018 report, the group argued that the interstate pipeline system used to supply jet fuel to airports had grown increasingly vulnerable to costly disruptions. And when disruptions occur, airlines have few good options beyond flying in extra fuel, adding stops to flights, or canceling and rerouting flights.
After the disruption last weekend, American Airlines said it had added stops to two daily flights out of Charlotte, N.C. One, to Honolulu, will stop in Dallas, where customers will change planes. The other, to London, will stop in Boston to refuel. The flights are expected to return to their original schedules on Saturday.
Southwest Airlines said it was flying in supplemental fuel to Nashville, and United Airlines said it was flying extra fuel to Baltimore; Nashville; Savannah, Ga.; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. United, Southwest and Delta Air Lines said they had not experienced any disruptions to their operations so far.
President Biden said on Monday that the United States would “disrupt and prosecute” a criminal gang of hackers called DarkSide, which the F.B.I. formally blamed for a huge ransomware attack that has disrupted the flow of nearly half of the gasoline and jet fuel supplies to the East Coast.
The F.B.I., clearly concerned that the ransomware effort could spread, issued an emergency alert to electric utilities, gas suppliers and other pipeline operators to be on the lookout for code like the kind that locked up Colonial Pipelines, a private firm that controls the major pipeline carrying gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the Texas Gulf Coast to New York Harbor.
The pipeline remained offline for a fourth day on Monday as a pre-emptive measure to keep the malware that infected the company’s computer networks from spreading to the control systems that run the pipeline. So far, the effects on gasoline and other energy supplies seem minimal, and Colonial said it hoped to have the pipeline running again by the end of this week.
The attack prompted emergency meetings at the White House all through the weekend, as officials tried to understand whether the episode was purely a criminal act — intended to lock up Colonial’s computer networks unless it paid a large ransom — or was the work of Russia or another state that was using the criminal group covertly.
the Washington, D.C., Police Department, have also been hit.
The explosion of ransomware cases has been fueled by the rise of cyberinsurance — which has made many companies and governments ripe targets for criminal gangs that believe their targets will pay — and of cryptocurrencies, which make extortion payments harder to trace.
In this case, the ransomware was not directed at the control systems of the pipeline, federal officials and private investigators said, but rather the back-office operations of Colonial Pipeline. Nonetheless, the fear of greater damage forced the company to shut down the system, a move that drove home the huge vulnerabilities in the patched-together network that keeps gas stations, truck stops and airports running.
A preliminary investigation showed poor security practices at Colonial Pipeline, according to federal and private officials familiar with the inquiry. The lapses, they said, most likely made the act of breaking into and locking up the company’s systems fairly easy.
executive order in the coming days to strengthen America’s cyberdefenses, said there was no evidence that the Russian government was behind the attack. But he said he planned to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia soon — the two men are expected to hold their first summit next month — and he suggested Moscow bore some responsibility because DarkSide is believed to have roots in Russia and the country provides a haven for cybercriminals.
“There are governments that turn a blind eye or affirmatively encourage these groups, and Russia is one of those countries,” said Christopher Painter, the United States’ former top cyberdiplomat. “Putting pressure on safe havens for these criminals has to be a part of any solution.”
Colonial’s pipelines feed large storage tanks up and down the East Coast, and supplies seem plentiful, in part because of reduced traffic during the pandemic. Colonial issued a statement on Monday saying its goal was to “substantially” resume service by the end of the week, but the company cautioned that the process would take time.
mounted a not-so-secret effort to put malware in the Russian grid as a warning.
But in the many simulations run by government agencies and electric utilities of what a strike against the American energy sector would look like, the effort was usually envisioned as some kind of terrorist strike — a mix of cyber and physical attacks — or a blitz by Iran, China or Russia in the opening moments of a larger military conflict.
But this case was different: a criminal actor who, in trying to extort money from a company, ended up bringing down the system. One senior Biden administration official called it “the ultimate blended threat” because it was a criminal act, the kind the United States would normally respond to with arrests or indictments, that resulted in a major threat to the nation’s energy supply chain.
By threatening to “disrupt” the ransomware group, Mr. Biden may have been signaling that the administration was moving to take action against these groups beyond merely indicting them. That is what United States Cyber Command did last year, ahead of the presidential election in November, when its military hackers broke into the systems of another ransomware group, called Trickbot, and manipulated its command-and-control computer servers so that it could not lock up new victims with ransomware. The fear at that time was that the ransomware group might sell its skills to governments, including Russia, that sought to freeze up election tabulations.
On Monday, DarkSide argued it was not operating on behalf of a nation-state, perhaps in an effort to distance itself from Russia.
“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” it said in a statement posted on its website. “Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.”
The group seemed somewhat surprised that its actions resulted in closing a major pipeline and suggested that perhaps it would avoid such targets in the future.
“From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future,” the group said, though it was unclear how it defined “moderation.”
DarkSide is a relative newcomer to the ransomware scene, what Ms. Neuberger called “a criminal actor” that hires out its services to the highest bidder, then shares “the proceeds with ransomware developers.” It is essentially a business model in which some of the ill-gotten gains are poured into research and development on more effective forms of ransomware.
The group often portrays itself as a sort of digital Robin Hood, stealing from companies and giving to others. DarkSide says it avoids hacking hospitals, funeral homes and nonprofits, but it takes aim at large corporations, at times donating its proceeds to charities. Most charities have turned down its offers of gifts.
One clue to DarkSide’s origins lies in its code. Private researchers note DarkSide’s ransomware asks victims’ computers for their default language setting, and if it is Russian, the group moves along to other victims. It also seems to avoid victims that speak Ukrainian, Georgian and Belarusian.
Its code bears striking similarities to that used by REvil, a ransomware group that was among the first to offer “ransomware as a service” — essentially hackers for hire — to hold systems hostage with ransomware.
“It appears this was an offshoot that wanted to go into business for themselves,” said Jon DiMaggio, a former intelligence community analyst who is now the chief security strategist of Analyst1. “To get access to REvil’s code, you’d have to have it or steal it because it’s not publicly available.”
DarkSide makes smaller ransom demands than the eight-figure sums that REvil is known for — somewhere from $200,000 to $2 million. It puts a unique key in each ransom note, Mr. DiMaggio said, which suggests that DarkSide tailors attacks to each victim.
“They’re very selective compared to most ransomware groups,” he said.
HOUSTON — The operator of a vital fuel pipeline stretching from Texas to New Jersey, shut down for days after a ransomware attack, said Monday that it hoped to restore most operations by the end of the week.
Federal investigators said the attackers aimed at poorly protected corporate data rather than directly taking control of the pipeline, which carries nearly one-half of the motor and aviation fuels consumed in the Northeast and much of the South.
The operator, Colonial Pipeline, stopped shipments apparently as a precaution to prevent the hackers from doing anything further, like turning off or damaging the system itself in the event they had stolen highly sensitive information from corporate computers.
Colonial said it was reviving service of segments of the pipeline “in a stepwise fashion” in consultation with the Energy Department. It said the goal of its plan was “substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.” The company cautioned, however, that “this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation said was carried out by an organized crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system.
Part of that vulnerability reflects Texas’ increased role in meeting domestic demand for oil and gas over the last decade and a half, leading the Northeast to rely on an aging pipeline system to bring in fuel rather than refining imported fuel locally.
Since the pipeline shutdown, there have been no long lines at gasoline stations, and because many traders expected the interruption to be brief, the market reaction was muted. Nationwide, the price of regular gasoline climbed by only half a cent to $2.97 on Monday from Sunday, even though the company could not set a timetable for restarting the pipeline. New York State prices remained stable at $3 a gallon, according to the AAA motor club.
“Potentially it will be inconvenient,” said Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston. “But it’s not a big deal because there is storage in the Northeast and all the big oil and gas companies can redirect seaborne cargoes of refined product when it is required.”
What is the Colonial Pipeline?
The Colonial Pipeline is based in Alpharetta, Ga., and is one of the largest in the United States. It can carry roughly three million gallons of fuel a day over 5,500 miles from Houston to New York. It serves most of the Southern states, and branches from the Atlantic Coast to Tennessee.
Some of the biggest oil companies, including Phillips Petroleum, Sinclair Pipeline and Continental Oil, joined to begin construction of the pipeline in 1961. It was a time of rapid growth in highway driving and long-distance air travel. Today Colonial Pipeline, which is private, is owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Koch Industries and several foreign and domestic investment firms.
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It is particularly vital to the functioning of many Eastern U.S. airports, which typically hold inventories sufficient for only three to five days of operations.
Why is the Atlantic Coast so dependent on one pipeline?
There are many reasons, including regulatory restrictions on pipeline construction that go back nearly a century. There are also restrictions on the use of foreign vessels to move products between American ports, as well as on road transport of fuels.
But the main reason comes closer to home. Over the last two decades, at least six refineries have gone out of business in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, reducing the amount of the crude oil processed into fuels in the region by more than half, from 1,549,000 to 715,000 barrels weekly.
“Those refineries just couldn’t make money,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service.
The reason for their decline is the “energy independence” that has been a White House goal since the Nixon administration. As shale exploration and production boomed beginning around 2005, refineries on the Gulf Coast had easy access to natural gas and oil produced in Texas.
That gave them an enormous competitive advantage over the East Coast refineries that imported oil from the Northeast or by rail from North Dakota once the shale boom there took off. As the local refineries shut their doors, the Colonial Pipeline became increasingly important as a conduit from Texas and Louisiana refineries.
The Midwest has its own pipelines from the Gulf Coast, but while the East Coast closed refineries, the Midwest has opened a few new plants and expanded others to process Canadian oil, much from the Alberta oil sands, over the last 20 years. California and the Pacific Northwest have sufficient refineries to process crude produced in California and Alaska, as well as South America.
How serious is the immediate problem?
Not very. The Northeast supply system is flexible and resilient.
Many hurricanes have damaged pipelines and refineries on the Gulf Coast in the past, and the East Coast was able to manage. The federal government stores millions of gallons of crude oil and refined products for emergencies. Refineries can import oil from Europe, Canada and South America, although trans-Atlantic cargo can take as much as two weeks to arrive.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, damaging refineries, Colonial Pipeline shipments to the Northeast were suspended for nearly two weeks. Gasoline prices at New York Harbor quickly climbed more than 25 percent, and the added costs were passed on to motorists. Prices took over a month to return to previous levels.
What is the larger threat?
The hacking of a major pipeline, while not a major problem for motorists, is a sign of the times. Criminal groups and even nations can threaten power lines, personal information and even banks.
The group responsible for the pipeline attack, DarkSide, typically locks up its victims’ data using encryption, and threatens to release the data unless a ransom is paid. Colonial Pipeline has not said whether it has paid or intends to pay a ransom.
“The unfortunate truth is that infrastructure today is so vulnerable that just about anyone who wants to get in can get in,” said Dan Schiappa, chief product officer of Sophos, a British security software and hardware company. “Infrastructure is an easy — and lucrative — target for attackers.”
An oil and gas pipeline system that was forced to shut down on Friday after a ransomware attack is not expected to be “substantially” restored until the end of the week, its operator, Colonial Pipeline, said on Monday.
“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a statement posted on its website. “This plan is based on a number of factors with safety and compliance driving our operational decisions, and the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.”
The company said it was monitoring its customers’ supplies and was working with shippers to move fuel. Oil and gas prices came well off their highs of the day after Colonial’s statement.
The sudden shut down of 5,500 miles of pipeline, which the company says carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, has been a troubling sign of vulnerabilities in the nation’s energy infrastructure.And the shutdown had raised concerns about fuel supplies to large portions of the country. Prices on gasoline futures had soared on Monday as a result, and analysts had said a prolonged shutdown could drive them even higher — potentially affecting prices consumers pay for gas at the pump.Experts said several airports that depend on the pipeline for jet fuel, including those in Nashville, Baltimore-Washington and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., could have a hard time later in the week. Airports generally store enough jet fuel for three to five days of operations.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
petroleum pipeline in the United States was shut down over the weekend because of a cyberattack. The pipeline’s operator, Colonial Pipeline, hasn’t said when it will reopen, raising concerns about the infrastructure that carries nearly half of the fuel supplies for the East Coast.
By 7:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, futures of gasoline for June delivery were up 1.7 percent but still at the highest level since late 2018. The instability is contained to prices that traders pay for gasoline, but may affect prices at the pump in the coming weeks.
“Should the pipeline be brought online at the start of the week, the impact on prices should be limited,” Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Global Wealth Management, wrote in a note. “However, a prolonged shutdown (5 days or longer) is likely to send gasoline prices higher, which already trade close to a 7-year high.”
Oil prices also rose. Futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, were up 0.6 percent to $65.29 a barrel, after climbing as much as 1.3 percent.
The increase in the price of gasoline and oil has added to what was already a boom in commodity prices. As economies from the United States to China have shown signs of strength, demand for raw materials to power industrial growth has risen. On Monday, iron ore futures rose as much as 10 percent and copper prices extended their record high.
A Bloomberg commodities index, which tracks the prices of 23 commodities from gold and oil to wheat and sugar, was at its highest level since mid-2015. Freeport-McMoRan, an American mining company, and United States Steel both rose more than 3 percent in premarket trading.
U.S. stocks were set to open slightly lower on Monday, futures indicated, pulling the S&P 500 back from a record high.
The benchmark stock index had risen on Friday after an unexpectedly weak jobs report tempered expectations about how soon the Federal Reserve would consider withdrawing some monetary stimulus.
The Stoxx Europe 600 was flat while the CAC 40 in France and DAX in Germany both fell 0.2 percent.
British local elections
The British pound rose 0.8 percent against the U.S. dollar and 0.9 percent against the euro after the results of Thursday’s local elections were confirmed. The Scottish National Party, which is pushing for a second independence referendum, fell one seat short of gaining an outright majority in its Parliament. But it will still govern with the support of another pro-independence party.
The pound’s gains on Monday were as much about the weak dollar as the election results, Kit Juckes, a strategist at Société Générale, wrote in a note. “I don’t know anyone who thinks the risk of a second Scottish referendum has gone away.” The pound can rise against the dollar because the U.S. currency “remains under pressure from global economic optimism,” he added.
The pound was at $1.41, the highest since February.
The operator of the largest petroleum pipeline between Texas and New York, shut down after a ransomware attack, declined on Sunday to say when it would reopen.
While the shutdown has so far had little impact on supplies of gasoline, diesel or jet fuel, some energy analysts warned that a prolonged suspension could raise prices at the pump along the East Coast and leave some smaller airports scrambling for jet fuel, Clifford Krauss reports for The New York Times.
Colonial Pipeline, the pipeline operator, said on Sunday afternoon that it was developing “a system restart plan” and would restore service to some small lines between terminals and delivery points but “will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so.”
The company, which shut down the pipeline on Friday, has acknowledged that it was the victim of a ransomware attack by a criminal group, meaning that the hacker may hold the company’s data hostage until it pays a ransom. Colonial Pipeline, which is privately held, would not say whether it had paid a ransom. By failing to state a timeline for reopening on Sunday, the company renewed questions about whether the operations of the pipeline could still be in jeopardy.
The shutdown of the 5,500-mile pipeline was a troubling sign that the nation’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattacks from criminal groups or nations.
Energy experts predicted that traders would view the company’s announcement on Sunday as a sign that the pipeline would remain shut at least for a few days.
Experts said several airports that depend on the pipeline for jet fuel, including Nashville, Tenn.; Baltimore-Washington; and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., could have a hard time later in the week. Airports generally store enough jet fuel for three to five days of operations.
White House officials held emergency meetings on the pipeline attack over the weekend. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a tweet that they are looking for ways to “mitigate potential disruptions to supply.”
Is Elon Musk really taking Dogecoin to the moon? That’s what the Tesla chief executive has been pledging to do with the jokey cryptocurrency, mostly in terms of cheering on its skyrocketing price. But on Sunday, he tweeted that one of his other companies, SpaceX, is launching a satellite called Doge-1 on a mission paid for with Dogecoin, the DealBook newsletter reports.
SpaceX launching satellite Doge-1 to the moon next year
– Mission paid for in Doge – 1st crypto in space – 1st meme in space
To the mooooonnn!!https://t.co/xXfjGZVeUW
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2021
The announcement came the morning after Mr. Musk dropped a few Dogecoin references as host of “Saturday Night Live,” at one point calling the token “a hustle.” Dogecoin, which is based on an internet meme about a Shiba Inu, fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show. It was such an eventful night for the cryptocurrency that the Robinhood trading app couldn’t keep up. The crypto token is still up more than 10,000 percent in price this year.
SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation, a Canadian technology firm, are teaming up to carry a 90-pound satellite on a Falcon 9 moon mission, according to a statement on Sunday. “Having officially transacted with DOGE for a deal of this magnitude, Geometric Energy Corporation and SpaceX have solidified DOGE as a unit of account for lunar business,” said G.E.C.’s chief executive, Samuel Reid. (A company representative confirmed to DealBook that the project was not a joke but declined to explain further.)
Away from the memes and manias, the cryptocurrency industry is maturing, as shown by its growing contingent of lobbyists in Washington and a recent hiring spree of former regulators. This month, the House passed a bill backed by crypto lobbyists to create a working group to examine frameworks for regulating digital assets.
The bill, said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, was a chance “to act proactively toward financial innovation rather than to address gaps in our regulatory framework after the fact.”
The bill is now with the Senate Banking Committee. “Financial regulators have been slow when it comes to protecting consumers from private-sector digital assets that add more risks to our financial system,” Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee chair, told DealBook in a statement. He declined to provide a timeline for advancing the legislation.
As companies make plans to fully reopen their offices across the United States, they face a delicate decision. Many would like all employees to be vaccinated when they return, but in the face of legal and P.R. risks, few employers have gone so far as to require it.
Instead, they are hoping that encouragement and incentives will suffice, Gillian Friedman and Lauren Hirsch report for The New York Times.
Legally, companies seem largely in the clear.The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance in December stating that employers are permitted to require employees to be vaccinated. But employers are still worried about litigation, in part because several states have proposed laws that would limit their ability to require vaccines.
“It would seem to me that employers are going to find themselves in a fairly strong position legally,” said Eric Feldman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to get sued.”
So, companies are resorting to carrots over sticks.Darden offers hourly employees two hours of pay for each dose they receive. Target offers a $5 coupon to all customers and employees who receive their vaccination at a CVS at Target location. And many companies are hosting on-site clinics to make it easier to get vaccinated.
Others are experimenting with return-to-office policies that aren’t all or nothing. Salesforce will allow up to 100 fully vaccinated employees to volunteer to work together on designated floors of certain U.S. offices. Some companies are mandating the shots only for new hires.
Last week, the DealBook newsletter wrote about one of the most vexing issues facing boardrooms: Should companies mandate that employees get vaccinated before returning to the workplace? Many readers shared opinions, personal experiences and suggestions for handling this complex issue. Here is a small selection, edited for clarity:
“The way we’re doing it at our company is, if you submit a reason from your doctor or you have a religious belief or some other valid reason not to get the vaccination yet, you are required to be tested weekly and submit the results to H.R.” — Patricia Ripley, New York City
“We don’t know the long-term dangers of these vaccines. They may be bad or good. No one knows. Our employers should not be able to simply ignore any of our worries and concerns.” — Brandon Atchison, Verbena, Ala.
“I strongly support employer mandates. A few well-publicized firings will end the ‘hesitancy,’ but the firings must be backed up by classifying them as ‘for cause.’ That means no severance for executives and no unemployment for staff who refuse.” — Paul Levy, Carolina Beach, N.C.
“Individual rights are the cornerstone of American democracy — trampling them for the vaccine rollout is a dangerous precedent. People seem to forget that these ‘temporary changes’ end up as permanent, with the result that your employer can now compel greater access to your personal decision-making.” — Anonymous
“An unvaccinated person exposes everyone in the office, including visiting customers and clients, to the virus. Why should everyone else be jeopardized because of one person? Simply let unvaccinated people continue to work at home and suffer any consequences to their career paths that may result.” — Joseph Carlucci, White Plains, N.Y.
Norwegian Cruise Line is threatening to keep its ships out of Florida ports after the state enacted legislation that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination against the coronavirus in exchange for services. The company, which plans to have its first cruises available to the Caribbean and Europe this summer and fall, will offer trips with limited capacity and require all guests and crew members to be vaccinated on bookings through at least the end of October.
The operator of the largest petroleum pipeline between Texas and New York, which was shut down on Friday after a ransomware attack, would not give a timeline on Sunday on when it would reopen the pipeline. Colonial Pipeline, the pipeline operator, said on Sunday afternoon that it was developing “a system restart plan” and would restore service to some small lines between terminals and delivery points but “will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so.”
The South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California on Friday adopted a rule that would force about 3,000 of the largest warehouses in the area to slash emissions from the trucks that serve the site or take other measures to improve air quality, The New York Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi reports.
Southern California is home to the nation’s largest concentration of warehouses — a hub of thousands of mammoth structures, served by belching diesel trucks, that help feed America’s booming appetite for online shopping and also contribute to the worst air pollution in the country.
The rule sets a precedent for regulating the exploding e-commerce industry, which has grown even more during the pandemic and has led to a spectacular increase in warehouse construction.
The changes could also help spur a more rapid electrification of freight tucks, a significant step toward reducing emissions from transportation, the country’s biggest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The emissions are a major contributor to smog-causing nitrogen oxides and diesel particulate matter pollution, which are linked to health problems including respiratory conditions.
Before the pandemic, the trains of New Jersey Transit could be cattle-car crowded, with strangers pressed so closely against you that you could deduce their last meal. That level of forced intimacy now seems unimaginable.
After the outbreak, ridership on New Jersey trains, which in normal times averaged 95,000 weekday passengers, plummeted to 3,500 before stabilizing at about 17,500. A similar pattern held for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road lines: in February 2020, nearly 600,000 riders; two months later, fewer than 30,000.
For many months, the commuter parking lots were empty, the train stations closed, the coffee vendor gone. At night, the trains cutting through Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester or Wyandanch on Long Island or in Maplewood, N.J., were like passing ghost ships, their interior lights illuminating absence.
But in recent weeks, as more people have become vaccinated, New Jersey Transit and the M.T.A. have seen a slight uptick, to about a quarter of their normal ridership.
Perhaps this signals a gradual return to how things had been; or, perhaps, it is a harbinger of how things will be, given that many people now feel that they can work just as efficiently from home.
A man in California who received more than $5 million in Payment Protection Program loans intended to help struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic was arrested on Friday on federal bank fraud and other charges after he used the money to buy a Lamborghini and other luxury cars, federal prosecutors said.
The man, Mustafa Qadiri, 38, of Irvine, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of bank fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and six counts of money laundering, the U.S. attorney in the Central District of California announced.
Federal prosecutors said Mr. Qadiri’s efforts to obtain federal loans started in late May 2020 and netted him nearly $5.1 million by early June. Mr. Qadiri is accused of using that money to go on a spending spree that included buying a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a Bentley and paying for “lavish vacations,” all of which are prohibited under the Payment Protection Program, prosecutors said.
Online court records did not identify a lawyer for Mr. Qadiri, and efforts to reach him by telephone and email on Sunday evening were not successful.
The 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia can sell for more than $100,000, according to Cars.com, which says in a review that the vehicle “can perform as well as strain gawkers’ necks.”
Numerous people have been arrested and charged with misusing pandemic relief funds. Mr. Qadiri is at least the third person to face charges specifying the purchase of a Lamborghini.
Four people are facing nearly $70,000 in civil fines for clashing with airline crews over mask requirements and other safety instructions on recent flights, part of what the Federal Aviation Administration called a “disturbing increase” in the number of unruly passengers who have returned to the skies with the easing of pandemic restrictions.
The latest round of proposed fines, which passengers have 30 days to contest, came just days after the F.A.A. said that it had received more than 1,300 unruly-passenger reports from airlines since February. In the previous decade, the agency said, it took enforcement actions against 1,300 passengers total.
“We will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties,” Stephen Dickson, the administrator of the F.A.A., said on Twitter on May 3. “Period.”
None of the passengers now facing fines were identified by the F.A.A., which this year imposed a zero-tolerance policy for interfering with or assaulting flight attendants that carries a fine of up to $35,000 and possible jail time.
So far, the F.A.A. has identified potential violations in about 260 of the 1,300 cases referred by airlines, a spokesman for the agency said in an email on Sunday. Officials have begun enforcement actions in 20 of the cases and are preparing a number of additional enforcement actions, the spokesman said.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, there were 142 enforcement actions that stemmed from unruly passengers, according to the F.A.A. There were 159 in 2018, and 91 in 2017.