The State of the Pandemic

A few months ago, there was widespread talk about the possibility of a “fourth wave” of Covid-19 in the U.S. this spring. Many states were relaxing restrictions, and many Americans, tired of sitting at home, were beginning to expose themselves to greater Covid risk even though they weren’t yet vaccinated.

Fortunately, however, the fourth wave has not arrived.

Cases and hospitalizations rose only modestly in late March and early April, and they have since begun falling again. Deaths have not risen in months.

natural immunity by already having had Covid. The vaccination program expanded rapidly. And even as some Americans behaved recklessly, others continued to wear masks indoors. (Outdoor masks, as regular Morning readers know by now, seem to make little difference in most circumstances).

by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 13 percent of adults said they would definitely not get a shot; 6 percent said they would do so only if required by their employer, their school or another group; and 15 percent said they were waiting to see how the vaccines affected others.

(Related: A new Times story focuses on the millions of Americans who say they are open to getting the vaccine but have not yet managed to do so.)

politically conservative communities, for the most part — are also hesitant about the vaccine. So long as a large number of Americans over 40 remain unvaccinated, Covid deaths are unlikely to fall near zero anytime soon.

The second major Covid problem is outside the U.S.: Vaccination rates remain extremely low in most of the world, especially in poorer countries.

Worldwide, there are still some encouraging signs. Global cases have been falling over the past two weeks. Africa and much of Asia continue to report low levels of Covid, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Even in India, the site of a dire outbreak, caseloads have declined slightly in the past few days.

has been horrific. Cases have also been rising in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand. Brazil and much of South America are struggling, too. All of these countries serve as reminders that the world remains vulnerable to new waves.

The biggest Covid issue for the rest of 2021 is probably the speed of vaccinations in lower-income countries. It will determine both the future death toll and the likelihood that dangerous new variants take hold, in all countries. Roughly 90 percent of the world’s population has not yet received a shot.

Peggy Noonan argues. It will also hurt Republican electoral prospects, says Commentary’s Noah Rothman.

  • Cheney’s focus on Trump’s flaws, rather than on Democrats, puts her out of step with the rest of her party’s leadership, Eliana Johnson counters in Politico.

  • “It is because she is such a partisan, conservative Republican that her dissent is so significant,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has written. But Maureen Dowd argues that Cheney deserves some blame for Republicans’ comfort with lies.

  • where you can find “bulk bins of fish balls, live lobsters brooding in blue tanks, a library of tofu.”

    Dunbar’s number: Can you have more than 150 friends?

    A Times classic: Why songs of the summer sound the same (and you may want to turn up the volume).

    Lives Lived: Pat Bond was a foundational figure in the B.D.S.M. community. Two people showed up for the first meeting of the Eulenspiegel Society, which Bond started in the early 1970s; membership eventually grew to more than a thousand. He died at 94.

    letter-of-recommendation feature. And he explains why you might like them, too. “The check mark is more important than whatever comes of the daily work whose completion you’re marking,” he argues. “The first represents actual living; the second, merely a life.”

    Related: Atul Gawande’s 2007 piece in The New Yorker on the power of checklists. — Claire Moses, a Morning writer

    Here are recipes, including namoura, a syrup-soaked Lebanese cake.

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pack of cards (four letters).

    If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


    Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

    P.S. Nineteen years ago today, Jimmy Carter became the first U.S. president, in or out of office, to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution. He delivered part of his address in Spanish, The Times reported.

    You can see today’s print front page here.

    Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Liz Cheney. On “The Argument,” a debate over D.C. statehood.

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    China’s Rocket Debris Landed Near Maldives: Here’s What to Know

    Debris from a large Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives early Sunday morning, China’s space administration announced.

    It said most of the debris had burned up on re-entry. It was not immediately clear whether any of what remained had landed on any of the Maldives’s 1,192 islands.

    The possibility, however slight, that debris from the rocket could strike a populated area had led people around the world to track its trajectory for days. The administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson, issued an unusual rebuke after China’s announcement, accusing the country of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

    The rocket, a Long March 5B, launched the main module of China’s next space station, Tiangong, on April 29. Usually, the large booster stages of rockets immediately drop back to Earth after they are jettisoned, but the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B accompanied the space station segment all the way to orbit.

    tracks the comings and goings of objects in space, said on Twitter that an ocean splashdown had always been the most likely outcome, but that the episode raised questions about how China designs its space missions.

    “It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives),” he wrote. “But it was still reckless.”

    Long March 5B is China’s largest rocket, and one of the largest currently in use by any nation. The country’s space program needed a large, powerful vehicle to carry Tianhe, the main module of Tiangong, the new space station, which is to be operational by 2022 after more pieces are launched and connected in orbit.

    routinely fell on rural areas downrange, occasionally causing damage. China has since moved many of its launches, including the Long March 5B’s, to a new site in Wenchang, a city on Hainan, an island off the southeastern coast.

    Last year, the first launch of a Long March 5B rocket lifted a prototype of China’s crewed space capsule. The booster from that rocket also made an uncontrolled re-entry, with some debris raining down on a village in Ivory Coast.

    an international legal framework based on treaties from the 1960s and ’70s in which a country can demand payment for damage caused by another country’s falling rocket.

    That has happened once, after Cosmos 954, a Soviet satellite that was powered by a nuclear reactor, crashed in Canada in 1978. Canada billed the Soviet Union for part of the cost of cleaning up the radioactive debris.

    In recent years, China has completed a series of impressive achievements in spaceflight. Months ago, it put a spacecraft — Tianwen-1 — in orbit around Mars, and in December it also collected rocks from the surface of the moon and brought them back to Earth.

    In May or June, it hopes to further advance its Mars mission by landing a robotic rover, Zhurong, on the red planet’s surface. So far only the United States has had lasting success during attempts to land on Mars.

    As it works to make steady progress on space station construction, China could also launch a crew to orbit next month in a spacecraft called Shenzhou. Once in space, they are to dock with the Tianhe module.

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    Biden, in Georgia to Promote Economic Agenda, Visits Carter

    President Biden visited former President Jimmy Carter, an old friend, as he traveled to Georgia on Thursday to pitch his $4 trillion economic agenda.

    A day after using his first address to Congress to urge swift passage of his plans to spend heavily on infrastructure, child care, paid leave and other efforts meant to bolster economic competitiveness, Mr. Biden was set to hold a drive-in car rally in Duluth, Ga., for his 100th day in office.

    White House officials indicated that the president would promote the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill he signed into law in March and pitch the two-part plan for longer-term investments in the economy that he has rolled out over the past two weeks.

    Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the president’s cabinet are embarking on a post-speech tour to push the economic plans through next week. Administration officials said the focus would include celebrating the increased pace of Covid-19 vaccinations since Mr. Biden took office and the rebound in economic activity.

    free community college, universal prekindergarten and expanded efforts to fight poverty.

    “He and the first lady are returning to Georgia to talk about getting America back on track,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, told reporters as they traveled to the state.

    First, though, Mr. Biden took a detour to Plains, Ga., where Mr. Carter lives with his wife, Rosalynn Carter. Mr. Carter, the longest-living former president, is 96 years old and a cancer survivor. He has remained largely out of the public view during the coronavirus pandemic, although he appeared at a parade in October for his birthday. He did not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration in January, and the president had promised to visit him.

    “This is a longstanding friendship,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “They said that they were going to try to see each other after inauguration.”

    Mr. Biden was the first senator to endorse Mr. Carter’s presidential bid in 1976, when Mr. Carter was the Georgia governor and not considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Biden recalled that endorsement as part of a brief video message he taped this month for the film crew behind “Carterland,” a documentary on the Carter administration.

    “Some of my colleagues in the Senate thought it was youthful exuberance,” Mr. Biden said in the video. “Well, I was exuberant, but as I said then, ‘Jimmy’s not just a bright smile. He can win, and he can appeal to more segments of the population than any other person.’”

    In the message, the president hailed Mr. Carter’s work in office and after his defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980, praising Mr. Carter for working to eradicate disease and house the poor while still finding time to teach Sunday school. Mr. Biden said Mr. Carter had called him the night before his inauguration to wish him well and say he would be there in spirit.

    “Simply put,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Carter and Mrs. Carter at the end of the video, “we love you, and God bless you both.”

    The visit between the two families on Thursday lasted less than an hour. Mr. Biden’s motorcade arrived at the Carters’ home from Jimmy Carter Regional Airport at 2:30 p.m. A pool reporter glimpsed Mrs. Carter, in a white top and using a walker, on the front porch. There was no sign of Mr. Carter.

    Zach Montague contributed reporting.

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