Bill de Blasio sits down on Newsy Tonight to discuss his political career and what comes next.
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joins Maritsa Georgiou on Newsy Tonight to discuss his recent political career — on dropping out of the race for Congress, on his history in office, and what’s next for him.
Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine was supposed to be one of Africa’s most important weapons against the coronavirus.
The New Jersey-based company agreed to sell enough of its inexpensive single-shot vaccine to eventually inoculate a third of the continent’s residents. And the vaccine would be produced in part by a South African manufacturer, raising hopes that those doses would quickly go to Africans.
That has not happened.
South Africa is still waiting to receive the overwhelming majority of the 31 million vaccine doses it ordered from Johnson & Johnson. It has administered only about two million Johnson & Johnson shots. That is a key reason that fewer than 7 percent of South Africans are fully vaccinated — and that the country was devastated by the Delta variant.
At the same time, Johnson & Johnson has been exporting millions of doses that were bottled and packaged in South Africa for distribution in Europe, according to executives at Johnson & Johnson and the South African manufacturer, Aspen Pharmacare, as well as South African government export records reviewed by The New York Times.
donated by the United States. But about four million of the country’s 60 million residents are fully vaccinated.
That left the population vulnerable when a third wave of cases crested over the country. At times in recent months, scores of Covid-19 patients at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg were waiting in the emergency department for a bed, and the hospital’s infrastructure struggled to sustain the huge volumes of oxygen being piped into patients’ lungs, said Dr. Jeremy Nel, an infectious-disease doctor there.
“The third wave, in terms of the amount of death we saw, was the most heartbreaking, because it was the most avoidable,” Dr. Nel said. “You see people by the dozens dying, all of whom are eligible for a vaccine and would’ve been among the first to get it.”
a United Nations-backed clearinghouse for vaccines that has fallen behind on deliveries. South Africa was slow to enter negotiations with manufacturers for its own doses. In January, a group of vaccine experts warned that the government’s “lack of foresight” could cause “the greatest man-made failure to protect the population since the AIDS pandemic.”
announced in November. Aspen’s facility in Gqeberha, on South Africa’s southern coast, was the first site in Africa to produce Covid vaccines. (Other companies subsequently announced plans to produce vaccines on the continent.)
Understand the State of Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
Vaccine rules . . . and businesses.Private companies are increasingly mandating coronavirus vaccines for employees, with varying approaches. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
Schools. On Aug. 11, California announced that it would require teachers and staff of both public and private schools to be vaccinated or face regular testing, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
New York. On Aug. 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced that proof of vaccination would be required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, becoming the first U.S. city to require vaccines for a broad range of activities. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
South African officials hailed Aspen’s involvement as indispensable.
Aspen “belongs to us as South Africans, and it is making lifesaving vaccines,” South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said during a visit to Aspen’s plant in March. He said he had pushed Johnson & Johnson to prioritize the doses made there for Africans.
“I want them now,” Mr. Ramaphosa added. “I’ve come to fetch our vaccines.”
results of a clinical trial suggested that the vaccine from AstraZeneca offered little protection from mild or moderate infections caused by the Beta variant that was circulating in South Africa.
Weeks later, Johnson & Johnson and the government signed a contract for 11 million doses. South Africa ordered another 20 million doses in April. That would be enough to vaccinate about half the country.
South Africa agreed to pay $10 per dose for the 11 million shots, according to the contract. That was the same price that the United Statespaid and slightly more than the $8.50 that the European Commission agreed to pay.The South African contract prohibited the government from banning exports of the vaccine, citing the need for doses to “move freely across national borders.”
introduced export controls this year to conserve scarce supplies. India halted exports produced by the Serum Institute, which was supposed to be a major vaccine supplier to poor countries. In the United States, officials said they didn’t ban exports, but they didn’t need to. The combination of the extensive vaccine production on American soil and the high prices the U.S. government was willing to pay meant that companies made the delivery of shots for Americans a priority.
Other benefits for Johnson & Johnson were embedded in the South African contract.
While such contracts typically protect companies from lawsuits brought by individuals, this one shielded Johnson & Johnson from suits by a wider range of parties, including the government. It also imposed an unusually high burden on potential litigants to show that any injuries caused by the vaccine were the direct result of company representatives engaging in deliberate misconduct or failing to follow manufacturing best practices.
“The upshot is that you have moved almost all of the risk of something being wrong with the vaccine to the government,” said Sam Halabi, a health law expert at Georgetown University who reviewed sections of the South African contract at the request of The Times.
Mr. Halabi said the contract’s terms appeared more favorable to the pharmaceutical company than other Covid vaccine contracts he had seen. South African officials have said Pfizer, too, sought aggressive legal protections.
The contract said Johnson & Johnson would aim to deliver 2.8 million doses to South Africa by the end of June, another 4.1 million doses by the end of September and another 4.1 million doses by the end of December. (The government expects the 20 million additional doses to be delivered by the end of this year, Mr. Maja said.)
The company has so far fallen far short of those goals. As of the end of June, South Africa had received only about 1.5 million of the doses from its order. The small number of doses that have been delivered to the African Union were on schedule.
The difficulties in procuring doses have revealed the limits of fill-and-finish sites, which leave countries dependent on vaccines from places like the European Union or the United States, said Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, who until March was co-chairman of South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid.
“Ultimately,” he said, “the solution to our problem has to be in making our own vaccines.”
Lynsey Chutel and Choe Sang-Hun contributed reporting.
When New York City announced on Tuesday that it would soon require people to show proof of at least one coronavirus vaccine shot to enter businesses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the system was “simple — just show it and you’re in.”
Less simple was the privacy debate that the city reignited.
Vaccine passports, which show proof of vaccination, often in electronic form such as an app, are the bedrock of Mr. de Blasio’s plan. For months, these records — also known as health passes or digital health certificates — have been under discussion around the world as a tool to allow vaccinated people, who are less at risk from the virus, to gather safely. New York will be the first U.S. city to include these passes in a vaccine mandate, potentially setting off similar actions elsewhere.
But the mainstreaming of these credentials could also usher in an era of increased digital surveillance, privacy researchers said. That’s because vaccine passes may enable location tracking, even as there are few rules about how people’s digital vaccine data should be stored and how it can be shared. While existing privacy laws limit the sharing of information among medical providers, there is no such rule for when people upload their own data onto an app.
sends a person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server as soon as the user grants the software access to personal data.
passed a law limiting such use only to “serious” criminal investigations.
“One of the things that we don’t want is that we normalize surveillance in an emergency and we can’t get rid of it,” said Jon Callas, the director of technology projects at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
While such incidents are not occurring in the United States, researchers said, they already see potential for overreach. Several pointed to New York City, where proof of vaccination requirements will start on Aug. 16 and be enforced starting on Sept. 13.
For proof, people can use their paper vaccination cards, the NYC Covid Safe app or another app, the Excelsior Pass. The Excelsior Pass was developed by IBM under an estimated $17 million contract with New York State.
To obtain the pass, people upload their personal information. Under the standard version of the pass, businesses and third parties see only whether the pass is valid, along with the person’s name and date of birth.
On Wednesday, the state announced the “Excelsior Pass Plus,” which displays not only whether an individual is vaccinated, but includes more information about when and where they got their shot. Businesses scanning the Pass Plus “may be able to save or store the information contained,” according to New York State.
Phase 2,” which could involve expanding the app’s use and adding more information like personal details and other health records that could be checked by businesses upon entry.
IBM has said that it uses blockchain technology and encryption to protect user data, but did not say how. The company and New York State did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. de Blasio told WNYC in April that he understands the privacy concerns around the Excelsior Pass, but thinks it will still “play an important role.”
For now, some states and cities are proceeding cautiously. More than a dozen states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, have in recent months announced some type of ban on vaccine passports. The mayors of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle have also said they were holding off on passport programs.
Some business groups and companies that have adopted vaccine passes said the privacy concerns were valid but addressable.
Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said it supported vaccine passes and was pushing the federal government to establish privacy standards. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which is helping its members work with Clear, said using the tools to ensure only vaccinated people entered stores was preferable to having businesses shut down again as virus cases climb.
“People’s privacy is valuable,” said Rodney Fong, the chamber’s president, but “when we’re talking about saving lives, the privacy piece becomes a little less important.”
Every week,students at KIPP Infinity Middle School, in West Harlem, file into a large auditorium and take their places on the designated floor markings, making sure to stand six feet apart. Then they pull down their masks and fill sterile tubes with their spit.
The school’s teachers try to make the experience fun, running competitions to see who can fill their tube fastest and holding dance contests while students wait for their classmates to finish.
“It’s kind of enjoyable,” said Bradley Ramirez, a seventh grader at the school who likes math and Minecraft. “It’s way better than just sticking a stick up your nose.”
Bradley and his classmates are participants in a coronavirus testing pilot program created by the Mount Sinai Health System, the nonprofit Pershing Square Foundation and KIPP NYC, a network of 15 local charter schools. Since early March, the program has conducted more than 13,000 saliva-based tests of KIPP students, teachers and staff members, identifying several dozen cases of the virus.
planned to fully reopen schools, eliminating remote learning, in the fall.
“The way you keep a school safe, the way you make teachers feel comfortable with the reopening of schools, the way you make parents feel comfortable sending their kid, is you have a testing program,” said William A. Ackman, a hedge fund manager who founded the Pershing Square Foundation.
The testing program originated in December, when Mr. Ackman decided that he wanted to find a way to get New York City children back to school and approached Mount Sinai with a proposal: What if he provided funding for the hospital to build a laboratory that could process 100,000 coronavirus tests a day? The hope was that the lab could devote some of that capacity to corporate clients, such as businesses that wanted to test their employees, and use the revenue to fund wide-scale testing for New York City schoolchildren.
Mount Sinai quickly agreed. “We began on a concerted effort that people at Mount Sinai have really rallied around,” said Dr. David Reich, president and chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital. “It’s just one of those projects where you never have to worry about people wanting to show up for your Zoom meeting — they’re all there, and they’re all smiling.”
saliva-based coronavirus tests. The gold standard diagnostic tests are known as P.C.R. tests, which can detect even minute amounts of the virus in biological specimens.During the early months of the pandemic, these tests generally required medical professionals to stick a swab deep into a patient’s nasopharynx, a procedure that can be deeply uncomfortable and put clinicians at risk.
Saliva-based P.C.R. tests, many scientists came to believe, would be safer and less invasive.They would also be much more suitable for young children than the deep, nasopharyngeal swabs. “A brain scoop, for a kid? Really? That’s a no-no,” said Dr. Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi, a pathologist at Mount Sinai who led development of the new saliva test.
As the partnership between Mount Sinai and Pershing Square began to take shape, Dr. Paniz-Mondolfi and his colleagues accelerated their work, validating their saliva test in 60 adult patients. But they knew that in the real world, children could not always be relied upon to follow clinical procedures to the letter.
“When we start getting this from the schools, we’re going to have pieces of pretzels, old gum floating in the saliva,” Dr. Paniz-Mondolfi said.
So Dr. Paniz-Mondolfi and his colleagues asked their own children to make a sacrifice for science: to snack on an array of junk food, including pizza and Oreos, and then spit into some testing tubes.Using these samples, the researchers confirmed that even if a student’s sample was contaminated with one of these foods, the tests should still work properly.
“This was practical science, designed by parents to get their kids back to school,” Dr. Paniz-Mondolfi said.
Then it was time to pilot the tests in a real school environment. In January, Mount Sinai connected with KIPP NYC, which had been offering remote instruction since last spring.But it was hoping to reopen its schools in March, and administrators knew they would need to do some kind of in-school virus testing.
“One of the biggest fears that we had was around what it would mean to keep students safe,” said Glenn Davis, the principal of KIPP Infinity Middle School.
Mount Sinai and KIPP NYC agreed to begin a pilot saliva-testing project at five schools. The testing program, which eventually grew to include nine KIPP schools, was free for the schools and mandatory for all students who opted to return to in-person learning. (Some families chose to continue with remote education.)
Students, teachers and staff members are tested once a week. Medical assistants from Mount Sinai supervise the saliva collection and pack the bar-coded tubes into coolers for transportation back to the laboratory. (The samples are currently being processed at an existing Mount Sinai lab, but will be sent to the new lab when it opens next month.)
During the pilot project, 99.2 percent test results were returned within 24 hours, Mount Sinai says.Students or staff members who test positive typically have to quarantine for 10 days.
If a student tests positive, Mount Sinai also offers to send a team of “swabbers” to his or her home to administer free coronavirus tests to their family members and close contacts.
“We’ve detected a few mini outbreaks in that fashion, and hopefully prevented them from spreading by virtue of this screening program in the schoolkids,” Dr. Reich said.
Between March 10, when the pilot project began, and May 9, Mount Sinai conducted 13,067 tests and identified 46 coronavirus cases, a positivity rate of 0.4 percent. There have been no false positives and no known false negatives,Mount Sinai says.
The Mount Sinai team has submitted the data to the Food and Drug Administration, hoping to receive an emergency use authorization for the test.
Later this week, Mount Sinai will submit a formal proposal to New York City to take its testing program to the city’s public schools when they reopen in the fall. Mount Sinai declined to disclose the terms of the proposal, including what it plans to charge schools for the tests, but says it hopes to attract commercial clients to help defray, or possibly even eliminate, costs for schools.
In the meantime, it is approaching other charter school organizations in the city about using its tests during their summer sessions and programs.
“We can’t just sit there when this lab goes live in June and say, ‘OK, we’re waiting for September,’” Dr. Reich said. “Before the fall, we need to be doing a lot of tests.” The lab will initially have the capacity to run 25,000 tests a day, with the ability to scale up to 100,000 if there is sufficient interest.
For its part, KIPP NYC plans to expand the program to all of its schools in the fall, although the testing frequency may change, said Efrain Guerrero, managing director of operations for KIPP NYC. “I think parents see it and staff see it as just an additional safety measure that they appreciate,” he said. “For us it’s a no-brainer to continue to test at some frequency.”
Olga Ramirez, Bradley’s mother, had not initially wanted him to return to in-person learning. “I was very afraid at first,” she said. But Bradley, who desperately wanted to go back to school, managed to convince her, with the help of an informational video about the Mount Sinai testing program.
Ms. Ramirez now thinks that returning to school was the right decision. Bradley’s virus tests have all come back negative, and his grades are up since returning to in-person learning.
“I’ve seen his grades improve quite a lot, and I feel that my son is in good hands,” she said. She’s not alone, she added. “There’s so many mothers who are feeling the way I do.”
New York City on Wednesday sued the fast-food giant Chipotle Mexican Grill over what it says are hundreds of thousands of violations of a fair scheduling law at several dozen stores.
Workers are owed over $150 million in relief for the violations, according to the complaint, and financial penalties could far exceed that amount, making it the largest action the city has brought under the law.
The suit cites violations of the so-called Fair Workweek Law that include changing employees’ schedules without sufficient notice or extra pay; requiring employees to work consecutive shifts without sufficient time off or extra pay; and failure to offer workers additional shifts before hiring new employees to fill them.
The allegations cover the period from November 2017, when the law took effect, to September 2019, when the city filed an initial suit involving a handful of Chipotle stores. The new complaint, filed by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, said that Chipotle had made some attempt to comply with the law since 2019, but that violations were continuing.
can exact a large physical and emotional toll on workers and their children.
Today in Business
Under the law, fast-food employers must provide workers with their schedules at least 14 days in advance — or, if not, obtain written consent for them and pay them a premium for the shifts.
Employers must also provide workers with at least 11 hours between shifts on consecutive days or obtain written consent and pay them $100. The hope is to discourage the practice of forcing workers to work late into the evening and then help open a store in the morning, known as “clopening.”
The provision requiring employers to offer workers additional shifts before hiring new workers was intended to make it easier for workers to earn enough income to sustain themselves.
Employers in fast-food and retail operations often hire more workers at fewer hours to add scheduling flexibility, said Saravanan Kesavan, an expert in retail operations at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Kesavan has conducted research showing that financial performance can actually improve when employers provide more stable and predictable schedules.
The complaint also accuses the company of violating the city’s paid sick leave law, which was enacted in 2014 and mandated up to 40 hours of paid leave per year. (The ceiling grew to 56 hours beginning this January for larger employers.) The city contends that Chipotle illegally denied requests for time off, required workers to find their own replacements or did not pay workers for time they took.
According to the complaint, all of the estimated 6,500 Chipotle employees in New York City from November 2017 to September 2019 were affected by violations involving scheduling and sick leave, and on average they experienced more than three scheduling violations a week.
became sick after eating at Chipotle restaurants in 2015 and 2016, some from E. coli bacteria, leading to a sharp decline in the company’s stock price and threatening the image it had cultivated as a purveyor of “food with integrity.”
Last year, Chipotle was fined nearly $1.4 million over accusations that it regularly violated Massachusetts child labor laws from 2015 to 2019. The company settled the case without admitting violations.
But the company has posted solid sales growth during the pandemic, with revenue of $6 billion last year, and its stock price has soared.
According to the New York City complaint, Chipotle frequently violated the law by either destroying or failing to maintain or produce records attesting to its scheduling policies.
“Chipotle failed to produce certain categories of scheduling information the department requested, in part because it had destroyed paper schedule records,” the complaint states. “However, the evidence Chipotle did produce, as well as evidence that employees provided, shows that Chipotle did not begin to implement key elements of the Fair Workweek Law in any of its New York City locations until approximately September 2019.”
This has been a spring of reopenings around New York City.
Bars, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and even amusement parks are coming back to life after the shutdown. Rather than just turn on the lights and open the doors, many owners have sought to celebrate with meaningful gestures.
When Coney Island reopened its amusement park this month, the first passengers to ride the Cyclone, the 90-year-plus wooden roller coaster there, were 100 essential workers from nearby Coney Island Hospital who had been selected in a raffle.
One of the riders was Dawn Lanzisera, who works in the psychiatric emergency room and grew up near the Brooklyn neighborhood. “It’s so great to be here and see life return,” she said.
As soon as the speeches had concluded and the gates had opened, the rickety roller coaster cars, filled with hospital employees, started their climb to the top, one that offered stunning views of the ocean and boardwalk.
As the coaster plunged 85 feet, the screams may have reflected the release of a pandemic year’s worth of tensions.
The New York Times on Monday named Jim Dao, a deputy editor on the national desk who has worked in a wide range of roles at the paper since 1992, as its new metropolitan editor.
“Jim will oversee the most consequential mayoral race in many years, and the epic story of the rebuilding of a city devastated by the pandemic,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, said in a note to the staff on Monday.
For Mr. Dao, 63, the new role is a homecoming. He joined The Times as a metro reporter nearly 30 years ago and was later the department’s deputy editor. He has also served as Albany bureau chief, congressional reporter and Pentagon correspondent.
In 2010 and 2011, he reported an eight-part, multimedia series about the yearlong deployment of an Army battalion in Afghanistan, “A Year at War,” which won an Emmy. He was also an executive producer of “Soldier Father Son,” a Netflix documentary based on the life of an Army sergeant profiled in his Afghanistan series.
the Op-Ed editor. In June, the section’s top editor, James Bennet, resigned amid internal and external criticism of a Times essay by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, that called for troops to be deployed in response to civil unrest. Mr. Dao stepped down from his position, and The Times reassigned him, making him an editor on the national desk.
Mr. Dao takes over metro coverage from Clifford J. Levy, who led the department since 2018 until January, when The Times announced that he would spend some time advising the audio department as a deputy managing editor, one of the highest newsroom positions at the paper.
Mr. Dao steps into the new job as a number of candidates are promoting themselves in advance of the Nov. 2 vote that will determine the successor to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. He also takes the job at a time of flux within The Times. High-level editors have lately gotten promotions as Mr. Baquet, 64, approaches the paper’s traditional retirement age of 66 for top leaders.
Carolyn Ryan, who oversees recruitment and strategy at The Times, was promoted to deputy managing editor in October. Marc Lacey, the former national desk editor, joined the newsroom leadership team as the editor in charge of live coverage in December. Rebecca Blumenstein was promoted in February to a newly created role as a deputy editor working directly with the publisher, A. G. Sulzberger.
The Times has also promoted rising stars recently. Jia Lynn Yang, a deputy editor on the national desk, was appointed national editor in February. Ms. Yang, the author of the 2020 book “One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965,” coordinated the national department’s collaborations with the politics team for the paper’s coverage of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential campaign.