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.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

New York City’s Vaccine Passport Plan Renews Online Privacy Debate

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.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Mount Sinai Seeks to Expand School Virus Testing Program

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.”

Elda Cantú contributed translation.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Moderna Says Its Covid Vaccine Is Effective for 12- to 17-Year-Olds

Moderna said on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine, authorized only for use in adults, was powerfully effective in 12- to 17-year-olds, and that it planned to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in June for authorization to use the vaccine in adolescents.

If approved, its vaccine would become the second Covid-19 vaccine available to U.S. adolescents. Federal regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for 12- to 15-year-olds.

The Pfizer shot was initially authorized for use in people 16 and older, while Moderna’s has been available for those 18 and up.

Proof of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety for adolescents is helping school officials and other leaders as they plan for the fall. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all public school students in New York City, the largest school system in the United States, would return to in-person learning in the fall.

Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The Moderna results, which the company announced in a statement, are based on a clinical trial that enrolled 3,732 people ages 12 to 17, two-thirds of whom received two vaccine doses. There were no cases of symptomatic Covid-19 in fully vaccinated adolescents, the company reported. That translates to an efficacy of 100 percent, the same figure that Pfizer and BioNTech reported in a trial of their vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.

“These look like promising results,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “The more vaccines we have to protect adolescents from Covid, the better.”

Moderna also reported that a single dose of its vaccine had 93 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease.

“Those cases that did occur between the two doses were mild, which is also a good indicator of protection against disease,” Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at George Mason University, said in an email.

The side effects were consistent with what has been reported in adults: pain at the site of the injection, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and chills. “No significant safety concerns have been identified to date,” the company said.

The adolescents in the study will be monitored for a year after their second dose.

The results were announced in a news release that did not contain detailed data from the clinical trial. And Dr. Rasmussen said that the vaccines’ efficacy can be trickier to evaluate in children, who are less likely to develop symptomatic disease than adults.

Nevertheless, she said, the results are in line with what scientists expected and suggest “that adolescents respond to the vaccine comparably to adults who receive it.”

Moderna said it planned to submit the data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

States and cities across the U.S. debate the future of online learning.

As the coronavirus pandemic ebbs in the United States and vaccines become available for teenagers, school systems are facing the difficult choice of whether to continue offering a remote learning option in the fall.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City took a stance on Monday, saying that the city will drop remote learning in its public schools, the move may have added to the pressure on other school systems to do the same.

Some families remain fearful of returning their children to classrooms, and others have become accustomed to new child care and work routines built around remote schooling, and are loath to make major changes.

But it is increasingly clear that school closures have exacted an academic and emotional toll on millions of American students, while preventing some parents from working outside the home.

no longer have the option of sending their children to school virtually in the fall. Illinois plans to strictly limit online learning to students who are not eligible for a vaccine and are under quarantine orders.

Connecticut has said it will not require districts to offer virtual learning next fall. Massachusetts has said that parents will be able to opt for remote participation only in limited circumstances.

In California, which lagged behind the rest of the nation in returning to in-person schooling this spring, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would compel districts to offer traditional school in the fall, while also offering remote learning for families who want it. Some lawmakers there have proposed an alternative approach that would cap the number of students enrolled in virtual options.

It is a major staffing challenge for districts to simultaneously offer both traditional and online classes. Before the pandemic, teachers’ unions were typically harsh critics of virtual learning, which they called inherently inferior. But with some teachers still hesitant to return to full classrooms, even post-vaccination, many unions have said parents should continue to have the choice to opt out of in-person learning.

Some teachers, parent groups and civil rights organizations have also argued that families of color are the least confident that their children will be safe in school buildings, and thus should not be pushed to return before they are ready.

about one-third of American elementary and secondary students attend schools that are not yet offering five days a week of in-person learning. Those school districts are mainly in areas with more liberal state and local governments and powerful teachers’ unions.

Disputes among administrators, teachers and parents’ groups over when and how to reopen schools have led to messy, protracted public battles in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

Governors, mayors and school boards around the country almost all now say that traditional in-person teaching schedules will be available in the fall, but there is still limited clarity on what rights parents will have to decline to return their children to classrooms. Many districts and states have yet to announce what their approach will be.

Among urban districts, the superintendent in San Antonio, Pedro Martinez, has said he will greatly restrict access to remote learning next school year, in part because many teenagers from low-income families have taken on work hours that are incompatible with full-time learning, a trend he wants to tamp down. The Philadelphia and Houston schools have said they will continue offering virtual options.

The superintendent of the nation’s fourth-largest district, Miami-Dade, has said he hopes to welcome back “100 percent” of students to in-person learning in the fall, but that students will retain the option to enroll instead in an online academy that predates the pandemic.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

N.Y.C. to Eliminate Remote Learning For Fall

New York City will no longer have a remote schooling option come fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday, in a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system.

This school year, most of the city’s roughly one million students — about 600,000 of them — stayed at home for classes. When the new school year starts on Sept. 13, all students and staff will be back in school buildings full-time, Mr. de Blasio said.

“This is going to be crucial for families,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “So many parents are relieved, I know.”

New York is one of the first big U.S. cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the coming school year. But widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts may have been premature. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall, after similar announcements by leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

in a statement, saying the city’s teachers union wanted “as many students back in school as safely as possible.”

Still, he acknowledged that “a small number of students with extreme medical challenges” may face difficulty returning to in-person learning with the pandemic still a threat and said that a remote option could be necessary for those children.

Mr. de Blasio said that the school system would have “plenty of protections” in place when the school year begins. But his announcement will no doubt alarm some parents who remain concerned about sending their children back into school buildings, even as the pandemic ebbs in the United States.

Recent interviews with city parents have shown that while many families are looking forward to resuming normal schooling, some are hesitant about returning to classrooms.

been most likely to keep their children learning from home over the past year.

During the mayor’s news conference, the city’s schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, said there would be “no Covid-related accommodations,” signaling that teachers and school staff will no longer be granted medical waivers to work from home.

The city’s school system is currently planning for masks to be required in school buildings, Ms. Porter said. Schools would also follow the C.D.C.’s social-distancing protocol, which currently recommends elementary school students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms. Both those policies could change by the fall.

New York, like districts across the country, has struggled to make remote learning successful. Online classes have been frustrating for many students, and even disastrous for some, including children with disabilities.

By one estimate, three million students across the United States, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began. A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are low-income Black, Latino and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote.

Mr. de Blasio, who has been criticized for not doing more to improve the quality of online education, has said that remote learning is inherently inferior.

It has also been extraordinarily complex for the city to run two parallel school systems, one in person and one online, with many students switching between the two every few days. So many students and teachers operating from home made it nearly impossible for some schools to offer normal schedules.

became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech plan in September to submit requests for authorization of the vaccine in children ages 2 to 11.

“The data has been unbelievably clear,” Mr. de Blasio explained on Monday. “Vaccination has worked ahead of schedule; it’s had even more impact than we thought it would.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

N.Y.C. will eliminate remote learning for the fall, in a major step toward reopening.

New York City will no longer have a remote schooling option come fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a television appearance on Monday, a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system.

This school year, most of the city’s roughly one million students — about 600,000 — stayed at home for classes. When the new school year starts on Sept. 13, all students and staff will be back in school buildings full-time, Mr. de Blasio said.

New York is one of the first big cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the coming school year. But widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts may have been premature. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall, after similar announcements by leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

New York City’s decision will make it much easier to restore the school system to a prepandemic state, since students and teachers will no longer be split between homes and school buildings.

been most likely to keep their children learning from home over the past year.

New York, like districts across the country, has struggled to make remote learning successful. Online classes have been frustrating for many students, and even disastrous for some, including children with disabilities.

By one estimate, three million students across the United States, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began. A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are low-income Black, Latino and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote.

Mr. de Blasio, who has been criticized for not doing more to improve the quality of online education, has said that remote learning is inherently inferior.

extraordinarily complex for the city to run two parallel school systems, one in person and one online, with many students switching between the two every few days. So many students and teachers operating from home made it nearly impossible for some schools to offer normal schedules.

For the past few months, Mr. de Blasio said he expected the city to keep some kind of remote learning option for the fall. But he and his aides changed their minds in recent weeks, officials said, as virus rates plummeted throughout the city and as children 12 and older became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

The mayor is expected to announce more details about the city’s school reopening plan at a news conference later on Monday.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

N.Y.C. businesses are now freed of most restrictions, but many indicate they will only return to normal gradually.

New York City businesses, and the workers who make them run, have had to navigate shifting regulations from the city and state since the start of the pandemic. For many of those businesses, the struggle for safety was paired with the struggle for solvency.

Most of those regulations came to an end on Wednesday, when the state removed most capacity restrictions from businesses statewide and adopted federal guidelines that allow people who have been vaccinated to largely eschew masks, indoors and out, in most situations.

The reaction from many city dwellers was cautious, after more than a year in which the city’s known virus death toll climbed to more than 33,000 people. Workers at many businesses around the five boroughs expressed similar reluctance to leap back into normal behavior.

Chris Polanco, 32, a clerk at Melrose Hardware in the Bronx, said he will keep his mask and the plastic curtain in front of the cash register, and would continue asking people to mask up in his store, offering masks to people who do not have them.

areas in the country.

Irene DeBenedittis owns Leo’s Latticini, an Italian deli there. She said that even though she and her staff had been vaccinated she planned to keep requiring masks, as a courtesy and a precaution.

“I am a bit confused about the rules, and also concerned about the customer,” Ms. DeBenedittis said. “For now, we are keeping the mask on so we feel safe and our customers feel safe too.”

Representatives for far larger groups of workers also said they planned to move slowly.

Robert W. Newell Jr., the president of a union that represents 17,000 workers, mainly in supermarkets and food production, said, “I’ve asked everyone to keep their masks on, at least for another couple of weeks.”

Vaccine passports” like New York State’s Excelsior Pass are not widely in use, and many consider a vaccine honor code flimsy. Even if proof of vaccination is bolstered somehow, it may be harder for individual business owners to enforce mask rules when they are no longer universal.

Rebecca Robertson, executive director of the Park Avenue Armory, said the indoor performance venue would retain its strict masking policy for Wednesday’s opening night performance of “Afterwardsness,” a modern dance piece in which patrons sit nine feet apart.

The venue plans to continue to require all audience members to wear masks for the foreseeable future.

Ms. Robertson noted that the state continues to strongly recommend masking when a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people are together indoors, which to her is just a shade below a requirement.

“If the government says to you it is strongly recommended, for us it’s like a mandate,” Ms. Robertson said.

Not all businesses were so hesitant — some have spurned the rules for much of the pandemic.

One of them is Mac’s Public House, a Staten Island tavern that became a symbol of much of the borough’s defiance to virus regulations when it refused to follow the governor’s curfew and indoor dining bans last year.

was arrested twice, and the bar was finally closed down.

On Wednesday Mr. Presti seethed as nearby restaurants and bars reopened while Mac’s remained padlocked.

“It’s frustrating,” Mr. Presti said. “It’s not like I was this lifelong criminal, it was all for businesses, bringing attention to the situation.”

Nate Schweber, Sharon Otterman, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura and Sadef Ali Kully contributed reporting.

View Source

N.Y.C. schools face key decisions before fully reopening this fall.

Though New York City is on the cusp of a major reopening, it cannot completely return to normal without restoring its school system, with roughly one million students, to its prepandemic state.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised that all students who want to be back in classrooms will have full-time, normal schooling this September.

Though schools in the city have been open for at least some in-person instruction for months, nearly two-thirds of the system’s parents have chosen to keep their children learning from home, either because they fear the virus or are concerned about inconsistent school schedules.

It will fall largely to Mr. de Blasio and his schools chief to convince those parents that classrooms are safe, while also making sure the district has the staffing and space to bring all those children back.

ahead of many other big districts in at least partly reopening schools.

View Source

U.S. Vaccine Rollout Begins for Children ages 12 to 15

Eduardo Torres, 53, was up early in Chicago on Thursday morning when he heard the news on the television: Younger adolescents, including his 14-year-old daughter, Raquel, were now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.

“I told my wife, ‘I’ve got to take her to get vaccinated — immediately,’” he said.

The world’s first mass coronavirus inoculation campaign for children kicked off in earnest in the United States on Thursday after the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to those aged 12 to 15. Vaccinations of adolescents had already begun this week in a few states, like Maine.

By 9:30 a.m., Raquel was among the first wave of children in her age group to be vaccinated at a site near Wrigley Field and was excitedly listing the things she could do once she is fully vaccinated. Go to her high school in person again. See her friends without worrying. Return to playing volleyball and bowling.

“It’s just a beautiful thing that this is available,” Mr. Torres said.

The start of shots for younger people marks a pivotal phase of the race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, opening up the vaccine to millions of adolescents far earlier than many experts had predicted. There are about 17 million children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the United States, representing about 5 percent of the population. The changes — which mean that people ages 12 and up are now eligible — also opened the possibility that many more children may soon return to a semblance of normalcy, attending camps this summer and returning to in-person school by fall.

mental health emergencies among children during the pandemic.

“This is your ticket out of that problem,” he said.

Still, many parents remain hesitant to put their children on the frontline of a vaccine that they view as experimental. And unlike in previous phases of the vaccine rollout, there were few reports of crowds and long lines during the first hours of eligibility on Thursday, when many children were in school.

In New York City, Julian Boyce, 14, was among a scattering of teenagers who showed up to be vaccinated first thing Thursday morning at Harlem Hospital Center. His family has known as many as 20 people who have died of Covid-19, his father said, and Julian has spent much of the last year indoors, keeping up with school work and playing video games.

Julian, an eighth grader at The Cathedral School, asked a nurse to administer his shot in his left arm, so any soreness wouldn’t affect his writing. Then he turned his attention to his cell phone.

“I just got my vaccine,” he texted his friends.

Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated to protect their families. “Parents, let’s get our zoomers off of Zoom and back to life as normal,” he said Thursday morning.

Amanda Rosa contributed reporting.

View Source