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Coronavirus Testing Declines May Mask the Spread in Some States

Declines in coronavirus testing in many states in the South and the Great Plains are making it harder to know just how widely the virus may be spreading in those states, even as restrictions are lifted and residents ease back into daily life, experts say.

States in both regions are reporting few new cases relative to their population, compared with harder-hit states like Michigan or New York. But they are also testing far fewer people.

Kansas, for example, is now testing about 60 people a day for every 100,000 in population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and Alabama only a bit more. The picture is similar in Iowa, Mississippi and elsewhere.

By contrast, New York is averaging 1,200 tests a day per 100,000, and Rhode Island 1,677 per 100,000.

Testing has been falling in Kansas since Jan. 1, even though hospitalizations were at their highest level of the pandemic then, according to Tami Gurley, co-chair of the virus task force at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The state is now doing fewer tests relative to its population than any state except Idaho.

The tests they are doing in these low-rate states are finding virus.

Twelve percent of Kansas’ coronavirus tests are coming back positive. Alabama’s positivity rate is 12.8 percent. The rate in Idaho is 27.3 percent, highest in the country. In New York, it’s just 3.5 percent.

So in the states that are doing relatively little testing, it’s possible that their daily case counts are low in part because asymptomatic or mild-symptom cases are going undetected.

Ms. Gurley says she is closely following hospitalizations, as a better indicator of the spread of the virus than new-case reports.

“We think that people are more focused on getting vaccines than getting tested,” she said. “It certainly makes it harder to figure out where we are going. We feel like we are at the point of another uptick in cases.”

Many states in the South and Midwest have relaxed their restrictions, including mask mandates, even though the national data signals that another surge in cases may be coming, according to Edward Trapido, an epidemiologist and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health.

And many states are shifting resources away from testing to boost vaccination efforts and meet President Biden’s goal of making all adult Americans eligible for a shot by May 1.

As a result, Dr. Trapido said, in many places these days, only the sickest patients are seeking out a coronavirus test.

“As vaccines have become widespread, people are becoming comfortable about not being tested,” he said. “There is a natural experiment going on. It’s a battle between getting people vaccinated and keeping the percent positive low. When I see a slight change in the curve upward, I get alarmed.”

Ms. Gurley said the shift in emphasis away from testing and toward vaccination may stem in part from widespread public fatigue with pandemic precautions and the political imperative in many states to reopen swiftly.

If all you want to do is prevent deaths from the virus, that may make sense, she said, but “if your end goal is to prevent spread, then we need more testing.”

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How to Pretend You’re in New Orleans Tonight

While your travel plans may be on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.

Over the course of the decade since I first visited, I have often imagined myself at home in New Orleans. I think of the syncopated shuffle of a snare drum, the simple pleasure of an afternoon walk with a to-go beer in hand and the candy-colored shotgun houses that sink into the ground at odd angles. And so it wasn’t a huge surprise when, at the beginning of 2021, I found myself packing up my life and moving to the Crescent City for a few months. Why not be somewhere I love at this difficult time, I thought? Why not live in my daydreams for a little while?

New Orleans is above all else resilient. Mardi Gras parades were canceled this year, though it didn’t stop New Orleanians from finding ways to celebrate (nothing ever will). In recent months, brass bands have taken to street corners in front of masked, socially distant spectators instead of packed night clubs. Strangers still chat you up about the Saints from their front porches. My visions of this city may still be filtered through the fuzzy lens of a visitor, but I know I’ll be pretending I’m still there long after I’m gone. Here are a few ways you can, too.

bounce, popularized by superstars like Big Freedia, the call-and-response songs of Mardi Gras Indians, and so much more. For an overview of the sounds of this loud, percussive city there is no better place to start than the wonderfully eclectic WWOZ, a community-supported radio station that has been on the air since 1980. Luckily, you can listen to it from anywhere online. It’s only a matter of time before you start getting to know the various D.J.s and tuning in for your favorites.

a show on WWOZ for more than 25 years, told me. “New Orleans is the reason for it all.” Soul Sister was one of a handful of local experts I consulted in putting together a playlist that will send you straight to New Orleans. Among her recommendations are a bounce classic by DJ Jubilee and the music of Rebirth Brass Band, which brings her back to afternoons spent celebrating on the street: “It reminds me of the energy and freedom of being at the second line parades on Sundays, dancing through all the neighborhoods nonstop for three or four hours,” she said.

Professor Longhair, for example, starts it off — recommended by Keith Spera who writes about music for the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. By the end of the playlist, you will undoubtedly agree with Mr. Spera’s assessment of New Orleans music: “There is no singular style of ‘New Orleans music’ — is it jazz? Rhythm & blues? Funk? Bounce? — but you know it when you hear it.”

Dooky Chase Cookbook, the collected recipes of Leah Chase, who died in 2019, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, an institution that has hosted civil rights leaders, presidents and countless regulars at its location in Treme, the neighborhood where jazz was born. Next, tap into the Cajun influence on the city with “Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou,” by Melissa M. Martin who oversees a restaurant of the same name in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. Ms. Martin recommends making her grandmother’s oyster soup. “I can picture her stirring a pot on Bayou Petit Caillou and seasoning a broth with salty Louisiana oysters, Creole tomatoes and salted pork,” Ms. Martin said. “The marriage of three ingredients transports me to the tiny fishing village I call home, where salt was and still is always in the air.”

Anthony Bourdain for encouraging her to keep it secret). But she has shared versions of her recipe, so you can try your hand at it at home. “That will get you pretty close to the real thing,” she said with a wink I could almost hear over the phone.

Free Tours by Foot, which has transferred their expertise to YouTube. You can now stroll the grandiose Garden District, pull away the sensationalism around New Orleans’ Voodoo traditions and take a deep dive into jazz history in Treme. “New Orleans is full of painful history, and it’s also known as one of the most fun cities in the world,” Andrew Farrier, one of the tour guides, said. “I think it’s useful for all of us to know how those two things can live so close to each other.”

New Orleans’ drinking scene extends far beyond the vortex of debauchery that is Bourbon Street. There are the classic New Orleans inventions, of course, like the Sazerac, but for something a little different, turn to one of the city’s most revered mixologists. Chris Hannah, of Jewel of the South, invented the Bywater as a New Orleanian spin on the Brooklyn. “Among the ingredient substitutions I swapped rum for rye as a cheeky nod to our age-old saying, ‘New Orleans is the northernmost tip of the Caribbean’,” Mr. Hannah said.

your quarantine pod and a “set-up” and you might just get close. What is a set-up, you ask? It’s a staple dive bar order that will get you a half-pint of your liquor of choice, a mixer and a stack of plastic cups. It’s also an often-overlooked part of New Orleans drinking culture, according to Deniseea Taylor, a cocktail enthusiast who goes by the Cocktail Goddess. “When you find a bar with a set-up, you are truly in Nola,” Ms. Taylor said. “First time I experienced a set-up, it was paired with a $5 fish plate, a match made in heaven.”

“The Yellow House,” a memoir by Sarah M. Broom, which the Times book critic Dwight Garner called “forceful, rolling and many-chambered.” Going further back in time, try “Coming Through Slaughter,” a fictionalized rendition of the life of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden by Michael Ondaatje.

If you are in the mood for a documentary, Clint Bowie, artistic director of the New Orleans Film Festival, recommends Lily Keber’s “Buckjumping,” which spotlights the city’s dancers. For something fictional, Mr. Bowie points to “Eve’s Bayou” directed by Kasi Lemmons. It’s hard to forget New Orleans is a city built on a swamp when you feel the crushing humidity or lose your footing on ruptured streets, and this movie will take you farther into that ethereal environment. “Set in the Louisiana bayou country in the ’60s, we could think of no better film to spark Southern Gothic daydreams about a visit to the Spanish moss-draped Louisiana swamps,” Mr. Bowie said.

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Paul Laubin, 88, Dies; Master of Making Oboes the Old-Fashioned Way

Paul Laubin, a revered oboe maker who was one of the few remaining woodwind artisans to build their instruments by hand — he made so few a year that customers might have had to wait a decade to play one — died on March 1 at his workshop in Peekskill, N.Y. He was 88.

His wife, Meredith Laubin, said that Mr. Laubin collapsed at his workshop during the day and that the police found his body that night. He lived in Mahopac, N.Y.

In the world of oboes, his partisans believe, there are Mr. Laubin’s oboes and then there is everything else.

He was in his early 20s when he began making oboes with his father, Alfred, who founded A. Laubin Inc. and built his first oboe in 1931. Paul took over the business when his father died in 1976. His son, Alex, began working alongside him in 2003.

Sherry Sylar, the associate principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic. “It’s a resonance that doesn’t happen with any other oboe. It rings inside your body. You get addicted to making that kind of a sound and nothing else will do.”

In a dusty workshop near the Hudson River, lined with machines built as long ago as 1881, Mr. Laubin crafted his oboes and English horns with almost religious precision. He wore an apron and puffed a cob pipe as he drilled and lathed the grenadilla and rosewood used to make his instruments. (The pipe doubled as a testing device: Mr. Laubin would blow smoke through the instrument’s joints to detect air leaks.)

His father taught him techniques that date back centuries. As the decades passed and instrument makers embraced computerized design and factory automation, Paul Laubin resisted change. As far as he was concerned, if it took 10 years to build a good oboe, so be it.

“What’s the rush?” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1991. “I don’t want anything going out of here with my name that I haven’t made and checked and played myself.”

told News 12 Westchester in 2012.

When a Laubin oboe was finally completed, its unveiling was cause for celebration. One customer arrived at the Peekskill workshop with a bottle of champagne, and as he played his first few notes, Mr. Laubin raised a toast.

told The Times in 1989. “I would have to think twice about starting it today.”

The company’s fate is now undetermined. Alex Laubin served as office manager and helped with some aspects of production but did not learn the full process. He often urged his father to modernize their operation — to little avail.

“No one sits down anymore and files out keys,” Meredith Laubin said. “No one turns out one oboe joint at a time. This is all automated now, like how robots make cars. But Paul wasn’t endorsing any of these things. To him, there was no cheating the family recipe.”

Mr. Laubin knew, however, that the old ways would come to an end. He was finding it harder to ignore the realities of being an Old World artisan in the modern era.

“Paul got to have one part of his dream, which was to be able to work with his son,” Ms. Laubin said. “But the other part of his dream, knowing that his work would continue on in the way he did things, he knew that wasn’t going to happen.”

Still, he hewed to tradition to the end. On his work table the day he died lay the beginnings of Laubin oboe No. 2,600.

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Covid-19 Live Updates: Birx Lashes Trump’s Pandemic Response, Speaking of Many Needless Deaths

“so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures may have been the most compelling.

As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”

“All of the rest of them,” she said, referring to almost 450,000 deaths, “in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” had the administration acted more aggressively.

In what was in one of her first televised interviews since leaving the White House in January, she also described a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” phone call with Mr. Trump after she spoke out about the dangers of the virus last summer. “Everybody in the White House was upset with that interview,” she said.

After that, she decided to travel the country to talk to state and local leaders about masks and social distancing and other public health measures that the president didn’t want her to explain to the American public from the White House podium.

Dr. Gupta asked if she was being censored. “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it,” she said. “My understanding was I could not be national because the president might see it.”

Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — blamed China, where the virus was first detected, for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Admiral Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.

And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Admiral Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.

“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”

A vaccination site at Cleveland State University in Ohio was expected to administer 6,000 shots a day shortly after it opened earlier this month. The state is among those expanding vaccinations to all adults.
Credit…Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer, via Associated Press

Chris Adams, 36, has spent the past year of the pandemic living with his grandparents in Wichita, Kan., and being “extremely strict” about social distancing. “I never went out,” he said.

But starting Monday, when all adults in Kansas become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Mr. Adams plans to find a vaccination site where there is an available appointment. “What I’m looking forward to is seeing my friends again,” he said.

Kansas is one of six states — Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas are the others — that are expanding eligibility for the vaccine to all adults on Monday. Minnesota will follow on Tuesday, and Indiana and South Carolina on Wednesday.

Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas urged residents last week to seek out appointments, saying, “With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly.”

Even as vaccine eligibility continues to expand across America — nearly all states have pledged to make every adult eligible by May 1 — the United States has also reported an increase in new cases over the past week. About 75,000 new cases were reported on Friday, a significant increase from the 60,000 added the Friday before.

States in the Northeast have accounted for about 30 percent of the nation’s new cases over the past two weeks, up from 20 percent in the first couple of weeks in February.

In New York, there has been an average of 8,426 new cases a day, an 18 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. In New Jersey over the past week, there have been an average of 4,249 new cases reported daily, a 21 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier. And on Friday, Vermont set a single-day case record with 283 new infections; it is the first state to set a case record since Jan. 18.

For many, the vaccine cannot come soon enough.

Nicole Drum, 42, a writer in the Kansas City, Kan., metro area, cried on Friday when she found out that she would be eligible to get the vaccine as early as Monday. She started calling pharmacies and looking online for available appointments “within minutes of the news breaking,” she said.

Ms. Drum called about 10 places without success. She had more luck on a county website, and booked an appointment for Wednesday.

She said she planned to wear a special T-shirt saying “I believe in science” to her appointment. “I got myself a fun I’m-getting-the-vaccine outfit,” she said, laughing.

She also plans to take her 4-year-old son with her, because she wants him to see “how research and science and people coming together can really help stem these kinds of things,” she said.

“I want him to know that there’s no need to be afraid all the time of big scary things, because there are always helpers trying to figure this out,” Ms. Drum said. “While the solution might be something that’s a jab in the arm that hurts a little bit, it’s worth it.”

Members of the World Health Organization’s team investigating the origins of the coronavirus arrived at the Wuhan Institute of Virology last month.
Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Biden administration has expressed concern over the Chinese government’s role in drafting a forthcoming World Health Organization report about the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken suggested that Beijing had too much influence over the report, which is being compiled for the global health agency by a team of international experts as well as by Chinese scientists. Several of the Chinese scientists hold official positions or work at government-run institutions.

“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Blinken’s remarks come as the Chinese government works to take control of the narrative before the release of the report, which will explore several theories for how the virus initially spread to humans.

China has been criticized for withholding raw data and repeatedly delaying a visit by the team of W.H.O. experts. The government in January finally allowed the W.H.O. team to visit the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first coronavirus cases were detected in late 2019.

At a briefing with more than 100 foreign diplomats from 50 countries on Friday in Beijing, Chinese officials said the government had been transparent.

W.H.O. officials have acknowledged difficulties in compiling the report and say it will be released soon.

“It is, in a way, a painful process to get to the finishing line,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, a food safety scientist with the World Health Organization who is leading the team of experts, said at a news conference on Friday. “But the content is now complete.”

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

A vaccination centre at a mosque in London, on Sunday. Britain has given over 30 million vaccine doses.
Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Britain, which has now given a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to more than 30 million people, began a gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions for most of its population on Monday.

People in England are now allowed to gather outdoors in groups of up to six, or two households, after the end of a stay-at-home order in force since early January.

Outdoor sports facilities, like tennis and basketball courts and swimming pools, are also opening in England. Nonessential retail and outdoor dining are set to return from April 12. Students returned to classes earlier this month. Elsewhere in Britain, Scotland and Wales have also begun easing stay-at-home orders, and Northern Ireland is set to review on coronavirus restrictions next month.

For many in Britain, the easing was a cautious optimistic note after months lockdown, the nation’s third. The current lockdown began in January, after a new variant of the coronavirus swept the country, with as many as 60,000 daily cases and 1,800 daily deaths at its winter peak. On Sunday, the country reported 3,862 cases and 19 deaths, according to a New York Times database. London has so far reported no deaths from the virus on Sunday, according to Public Health England. If no reports are added later — the figures are not yet finalized — it would be the capital’s first day without a virus death since September. Officials are hoping a slow lifting will largely remove restrictions on socializing in England by June 21.

Travel abroad for English residents, however, remains banned, with a task force reviewing the rule next month. Officials cautioned that people should still work from home where possible and minimize contact.

In other news from around the globe:

Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.

Passengers heading to Hawaii from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this month.
Credit…Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Palakiko Chandler took their little cousins to Nanakuli Beach on Oahu last weekend and noticed something they hadn’t seen in a while: a parking lot full of rental cars. The tourists were back.

“It was just so packed,” said Mr. Chandler, 27 and a Native Hawaiian. “Me and my cousins were looking at each other like, should we just go home?” The youngest cousins needed several reminders to keep their distance from strangers for virus safety.

For much of the pandemic, Hawaii had some of the strictest rules for visitors in the United States, requiring a 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the islands. The policy took a heavy economic toll on a state that depends heavily on tourism, but it was lauded for its success in limiting the impact of the virus for months.

Now, though, Hawaii has reopened for travelers: A negative test within 72 hours of arrival lets them skip the quarantine in most places. At least 28,000 people arrived in Hawaii on each of the last two Saturdays, according to state travel data —  the most in a day since the pandemic began, and not far from typical prepandemic levels.

The influx has residents worried. Some have been posting on social media for months, pleading with mainlanders not to come, or if they do, to be mindful of the islands’ isolation and limited resources. The state has a total of 3,000 hospital beds for its population of 1.4 million, and has among the fewest I.C.U. beds per capita of any state; they were often mostly full even before the pandemic.

Hawaii’s precautions did not keep the virus out completely: The islands had a holiday surge, like the rest of the country, and parts of the state are struggling with outbreaks now. Daily new case reports have doubled since late February, with some recent clusters focused on tourism workers. Hospitalizations have increased 17 percent in the last two weeks.

“The looming concerning things are the variants,” said Dr. Damien Kapono Chong-Hanssen of the Kauai Community Health Center. “The California variant has been implicated in what’s happening in Maui right now. Maui is not looking better.”

Mainlanders are making the trip anyway. “Hawaii is again packed with tourists,” wrote the travel site The Points Guy. Favorite sites are sold out, check-in lines are long, and the lines for outbound flights are getting longer.

Tourists are crowding popular beaches without wearing masks or paying much attention to social distancing. Some visitors have gotten rowdy. A pair of arriving tourists were sent home after trying to pay a bribe to avoid the testing requirement.

The situation is worsening the irritation that many state residents feel toward vacationers. Now the tourists aren’t just crowding the island and driving up prices, they say, they are also heedlessly risking everyone’s health.

“Hawaiians and locals alike have always seen the disrespect that tourists bring to our islands,” Mr. Chandler said. “This is kind of the last straw. You’re coming to our home and you’re endangering us during a pandemic.”

The tension is especially prevalent among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who face greater risk for Covid-19 and higher rates of chronic disease than average.

“Local people are tired of being treated a certain type of way,” said Charles Kaua Taylor-Fulton, 20, who lives on Oahu. “When tourists come, they can be very rude or entitled. There’s just a sense of entitlement.”

Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa said the state’s case numbers are not exploding, at least not yet. But she said she would like to see travelers exhibit the same commitment to wearing masks that locals have. “It’s a matter of constantly educating the tourists,” she said.

Still, the high travel season is just getting started, and restrictions are continuing to ease. Bars have reopened in parts of the state and outdoor weddings are now allowed to welcome up to 100 guests.

“We can already see into the future of summer,” Mr. Chandler said, “and it’s going to be packed.”

Office buildings in Manhattan have remained quiet as about 90 percent of their workers continue working remotely.
Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

A year after the coronavirus spurred an extraordinary exodus of workers from New York City office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now becoming a permanent shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.

Beyond New York, some of the country’s largest cities have yet to see a substantial return of employees, even where there have been less stringent lockdowns, and some companies have announced that they are not going to have all workers come back all the time.

In recent weeks, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space, while Salesforce, whose headquarters occupies the tallest building in San Francisco, said only a small fraction of its employees would be in the office full time.

But no city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation more than New York, and in particular Manhattan, an island whose economy has been sustained, from the corner hot dog vendor to Broadway theaters, by more than 1.6 million daily commuters.

About 90 percent of Manhattan office workers are working remotely, a rate that has remained unchanged for months, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, which estimated that less than half of office workers would return by September.

Across Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the country’s two largest central business districts, there has never been a greater proportion of office space for lease — 16.4 percent, much higher than in past crises, including after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.

As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.

Some of the largest and most enduring companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has more than 20,000 office employees in the city, have told their work forces that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank is considering a model in which employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.

Other large businesses, including the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the marketing group Omnicom Group and the advertising giant WPP, have searched for subtenants to take over significant chunks of their Manhattan offices.

The loss of workers has caused the market value of commercial properties that include office buildings to plunge nearly 16 percent, prompting a sharp decline in the tax revenue that pays for essential city services.

The vaccine, which requires only a single shot, comes from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen subsidiary.
Credit…Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson said on Monday that it would supply its one-shot vaccine to African Union member states, as the continent experiences a slow rollout of vaccines, an uptick in cases and worries about new virus mutations.

The pharmaceutical company said that its unit, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, agreed a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, an African Union organization, to supply up to 220 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine beginning in the fall. The organization will also have the possibility of ordering an additional 180 million doses for a combined total of up to 400 million doses through 2022.

The company will supply most of the doses from a plant in South Africa, which is operated by Aspen Pharma. The African Export-Import Bank, a Pan-African bank headquartered in Cairo, will pay manufacturers $2 billion on behalf of member countries in the form of loans.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who as the chair of the African Union set up the vaccine trust last year, is expected to tour the Aspen Pharma facilities in Port Elizabeth, on country’s southeast coast, on Monday.

“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a statement. “It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that puts people first.”

The announcement came as coronavirus cases surpassed 4.1 million in Africa, with more than 111,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerns have been mounting about the emergence of variants on the continent, particularly in countries like South Africa, where a highly transmissible variant has driven up cases. Scientists also recently said they found a highly mutated variant of the coronavirus in travelers from Tanzania, the East African nation whose leaders have consistently brushed aside the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Besides dealing with other deadly outbreaks including Ebola, polio and measles, many nations in Africa are also dealing with vaccine inequity, as developed nations hoard doses and seek to inoculate their entire populations. So far, only 7.7 million vaccines have been administered on the continent, according to the World Health Organization, which last week warned of a slowdown in deliveries even as initial batches were exhausted.

Vaccines were yet to arrive in 10 African countries, the W.H.O. said, while many others continued to face logistical challenges in addition to vaccine hesitancy.

Nations including South Africa have called on governments and pharmaceutical companies to waive vaccine patents to get medicines to more people more quickly.

The Africa C.D.C. has said that a minimum 60 percent of the continent’s population — or 750 million people — must be vaccinated if the virus is to be curbed there. The deal with Johnson & Johnson “enables Africa to meet almost 50 percent of that target,” Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa C.D.C., said in a statement.

“The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine, which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives,” he added.

A vaccination center in Kathmandu, Nepal, this month.
Credit…Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal on Monday received a donation of 800,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from China, which the authorities said would help them restart an inoculation drive that had been halted because of shipment delays in India.

Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, a spokesman for the ministry of health, said the vaccination campaign could resume in less than a week, “once we determine beneficiary age groups.”

China and India, both of which border Nepal, have been jockeying for influence over the Himalayan nation of 30 million people, most recently through vaccine diplomacy.

Nepal had planned its vaccination campaign around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. One million doses have been donated by the Indian government, and Nepal had bought an additional two million doses from the Serum Institute.

But half of the purchase from the Serum Institute has been delayed indefinitely, health officials in Nepal said, despite an agreement that it would arrive 15 days after the deal. India, which is supplying the AstraZeneca vaccine to more than 70 countries, has begun holding back nearly all of its exports as it tries to suppress a surge in coronavirus cases at home.

Officials in Nepal suspended vaccinations on March 17, citing the shortage of doses.

To fill the gap, they are now relying on a vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm, which last month became the second approved for emergency use in Nepal after Beijing pledged to provide doses free.

Since its vaccination drive began in late January, Nepal has administered about 1.6 million doses, according to a New York Times database. Dr. Gautam said the 500,000 remaining AstraZeneca doses would be given to frontline health workers, and that there were none available for the rest of the population “at least for now.”

Nepal has recorded almost 277,000 infections and 3,027 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Although the country’s average daily new cases are a small fraction of what they were at their peak last fall, health officials fear a second wave as infections surge in neighboring India. On Monday, India reported 68,020 new infections, the highest one-day rise since October.

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Six States Open Vaccines to All Adults on Monday

Chris Adams, 36, has spent the past year of the pandemic living with his grandparents in Wichita, Kan., and being “extremely strict” about social distancing. “I never went out,” he said.

But starting Monday, when all adults in Kansas become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Mr. Adams plans to find a vaccination site where there is an available appointment. “What I’m looking forward to is seeing my friends again,” he said.

Kansas is one of six states — Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas are the others — that are expanding eligibility for the vaccine to all adults on Monday. Minnesota will follow on Tuesday, and Indiana on Wednesday.

Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas urged residents last week to seek out appointments, saying, “With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly.”

according to a New York Times database. In New Jersey over the past week, there have been an average of 4,249 new cases reported daily, a 21 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier. And on Friday, Vermont set a single-day case record with 283 new infections; it is the first state to set a case record since Jan. 18.

For many, the vaccine cannot come soon enough.

Nicole Drum, 42, a writer in the Kansas City, Kan., metro area, cried on Friday when she found out that she would be eligible to get the vaccine as early as Monday. She started calling pharmacies and looking online for available appointments “within minutes of the news breaking,” she said.

Ms. Drum called about 10 places without success. She had more luck on a county website, and booked an appointment for Wednesday.

She said she planned to wear a special T-shirt saying “I believe in science” to her appointment. “I got myself a fun I’m-getting-the-vaccine outfit,” she said, laughing.

She also plans to take her 4-year-old son with her, because she wants him to see “how research and science and people coming together can really help stem these kinds of things,” she said.

“I want him to know that there’s no need to be afraid all the time of big scary things, because there are always helpers trying to figure this out,” Ms. Drum said. “While the solution might be something that’s a jab in the arm that hurts a little bit, it’s worth it.”

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Dominion Sues Fox News, Claiming Defamation in Election Coverage

Fox News and its powerful owner, Rupert Murdoch, are facing a second major defamation suit over the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election, a new front in the growing legal battle over media disinformation and its consequences.

In the latest aftershock of Donald J. Trump’s attempt to undermine President Biden’s victory, Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy about rigged voting machines, sued Fox News on Friday for advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business.

Dominion, which has requested a jury trial, is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit comes less than two months after Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and named the Fox anchors Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro as defendants.

In a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that the company had altered vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Mr. Biden in the election.

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell for defamation. The company also sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a Trump ally who was also a frequent guest on Fox and other conservative media outlets. Each of those suits seeks damages of more than $1 billion.

“The truth matters,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s complaint against Fox. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”

In a statement on Friday, Fox said that its 2020 election coverage “stands in the highest tradition of American journalism” and pledged to “vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”

Dominion’s filing on Friday represented what its lawyers called a new phase in its battle against its detractors, and Thomas A. Clare, part of the company’s legal team, said it was unlikely to be the last lawsuit filed. His firm, Clare Locke, has in recent weeks joined with the firm Susman Godfrey, which is known for taking cases to trial.

filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that the false claims of electoral fraud made on its channels were part of covering a fast-breaking story of significant public interest. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox wrote in the motion.

The narrative that Mr. Trump and his allies spun about Dominion was among the more baroque creations of a monthslong effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results and convince Americans that Mr. Biden’s victory was not legitimate.

Dominion, founded in 2002, is one of the largest manufacturers of voting machine equipment in the United States; its equipment was used by election authorities in more than two dozen states last year, including several states carried by Mr. Trump.

Allies of Mr. Trump falsely portrayed Dominion as biased toward Mr. Biden and argued, without evidence, that it was tied to Hugo Chávez, the long-dead Venezuelan dictator. John Poulos, Dominion’s founder, and other employees received harassing and threatening messages from people convinced that the company had undermined the election results, according to the complaint.

Fox News and Fox Business programs were among the mass-media venues where Mr. Trump’s supporters denounced Dominion. The lawsuit also cites examples of Fox hosts, including Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, uncritically repeating or vouching for false claims made by Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell.

“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit. “As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.”

faced a reckoning of sorts from the threat of defamation litigation, a relatively novel tactic in a battle against disinformation that had previously been limited to ad boycotts and liberal public pressure campaigns.

In February, two days after Smartmatic filed its suit, Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” its highest-rated program. Newsmax, a pro-Trump cable channel also facing potential legal action, cut off Mr. Lindell when he repeated falsehoods about rigged voting machines.

Taken together, Dominion and Smartmatic are demanding at least $4.3 billion in damages from Fox. Controlled by Mr. Murdoch, 90, and his elder son, Lachlan, the Fox Corporation reported that it had made $3 billion in pretax profit from September 2019 to September 2020, on revenue of $12.3 billion.

the network’s early projection that Mr. Biden would carry Arizona.

Dominion also makes the case that Fox and its hosts benefited from uncritically repeating these baseless claims. The suit cites a postelection rise in ratings for anchors like Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, and notes that the ex-husband of Ms. Pirro, who spoke on-air of a stolen election, later secured a pardon from Mr. Trump.

“Fox has had a problem because a lot of its pundits have said the very things that have led Dominion to bring this lawsuit,” the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an interview.

In its response to the Smartmatic suit, Fox argued that its reporting on the election should be viewed in its totality — pointing out that at least one host, Tucker Carlson, voiced skepticism about Ms. Powell’s statements — and that claims by the president’s lawyers in an election dispute were inherently newsworthy. “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern,” Fox wrote in that motion.

Mr. Zick, the First Amendment lawyer, said that Dominion had included an implicit response to that argument: “This isn’t neutral reportage. It’s disinformation for profit.”

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Powell and Yellen Tell Senators Economic Support Is Still Needed

America’s top two economic officials told senators on Wednesday that the economy is healing but still in a deep hole and that continued government support is providing a critical lifeline to families and businesses.

The remarks by Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, and Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury Secretary and Mr. Powell’s immediate predecessor at the Fed, before the Senate Banking Committee echoed their testimony before House lawmakers on Tuesday.

Mr. Powell said in his remarks that the government averted the worst possible outcomes in the pandemic economic recession with its aggressive spending response and super-low Fed interest rates.

“But the recovery is far from complete. So at the Fed, we will continue to provide the economy the support that it needs for as long as it takes,” he said.

the recently passed $1.9 trillion relief package, said responding to a crisis with a needed surge of temporary spending without paying for it was “appropriate.”

“Longer-run, we do have to raise revenue to support permanent spending that we want to do,” she said.

She said expanded unemployment insurance, part of the recent relief package, does not seem to be discouraging work and is needed at a time when the labor market is not at full strength.

“While unemployment remains high, it’s important to provide the supplementary relief,” Ms. Yellen said, noting that the aid lasts until the fall. She said the aid should be phased out as the economy recovers.

The Biden administration is also making plans for a $3 trillion infrastructure package, and Republicans on the committee expressed concern about the mounting deficits facing United States.

 stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

“I do worry that the Fed may be behind the curve when inflation inevitably picks up,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said during his opening remarks.

But Mr. Powell has consistently pushed back on warnings about runaway inflation and did so again on Wednesday.

stuck in the Suez Canal, but also in general as the economy reopens — he struck a similarly unconcerned tone.

“A bottleneck, by definition, is temporary,” he said.

He also batted back concerns about a recent increase in market-based interest rates. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes, a closely watched government bond, has moved up since the start of the year.

“Rates have responded to news about vaccination, and ultimately, about growth,” Mr. Powell said. “That has been an orderly process. I would be concerned if it were not an orderly process, or if conditions were to tighten to a point where they might threaten our recovery.”

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A List of Recent Mass Shootings in the United States

The bleak reality of a list like this is that it leaves out so many more.

There have been dozens of mass shootings in the United States in just the past five years, according to the Violence Project, which maintains a database of attacks in which at least four people were killed.

And before that, many more were seared into memories: San Bernardino, Calif., and Charleston, S.C., in 2015; Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., in 2012; Virginia Tech in 2007, among them.

Each new attack is a reminder of all of the others that came before it, as the nation has been unable to curb an epidemic of gun violence that far outpaces other countries. These are just some of the horrors that have traumatized the nation.

A gunman inside a grocery store killed 10 people, including Eric Talley, the first police officer to arrive at the scene. The gunman was injured and taken into custody.

were killed at three spas, at least two of which had been frequented by the gunman. It was the country’s first mass shooting to command nationwide attention in a year and caused particular alarm among many Asian-Americans.

A shooting spree across five miles left five people dead, including a police officer and the gunman. It ended with a car crash at a gas station and the gunman’s death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

a rampage across the two cities in which eight people, including the gunman, were killed, and 25 others were injured. The gunman hijacked a postal truck and opened fire on residents, motorists and shoppers before he was fatally shot by the police. Three officers and a toddler were among the injured.

Armed with an AR-15-style rifle and body armor, a gunman killed nine people and wounded 27 others in 32 seconds in a bustling entertainment district before he was fatally shot by a police officer. The gunman’s sister was among the first people he shot.

prowled the aisles of a Walmart in El Paso, a majority-Hispanic border city, killing 23 people and wounding about two dozen others. The back-to-back combination of the two attacks left the nation shaken.

An annual garlic festival in an agricultural community south of San Jose turned deadly when a 19-year-old man opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. The gunman killed three people in the attack, including a 13-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, and wounded more than a dozen others.

attacked the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people.

A gunman entered the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country music bar, and shot a security guard at the entrance with a .45-caliber handgun before opening fire into the crowd, killing 12 people. The gunman was found dead at the scene after being confronted by officers who had stormed the bar.

killing 11 congregants and wounding six others. The gunman shot indiscriminately at worshipers for several minutes.

A man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades assaulted the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in Annapolis, Md., killing five staff members, injuring two others. The gunman had previously sued journalists at the chain, the Capital Gazette, for defamation and had waged a social media campaign against them.

Armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver hidden under his coat, a 17-year-old student opened fire on his high school campus, Santa Fe High School, killing 10 people, many of them his fellow students, and wounding 10 more, the authorities said. Witnesses said that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting.

a wave of nationwide, student-led protests calling on lawmakers to tighten gun laws.

A gunman with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands stormed into a Sunday church service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas and sprayed bullets into its pews. He killed 26 people, including nine members of a single family, and left 20 people wounded, many of them severely. The gunman later shot himself.

deadliest mass shootings in American history, a gunman perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, smashed the windows of his suite with a hammer and shot at a crowd of 22,000 people at an outdoor country music festival. Fifty-eight people were killed and 887 sustained documented injuries, either from gunfire or while running to safety.

As an airline passenger retrieved his checked luggage, he pulled a 9-millimeter handgun out of his suitcase and used it to kill five people and wound six others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. When he ran out of ammunition, he lay on the floor, waiting to be arrested.

A heavily armed sniper targeted police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five of them dead. The gunman turned a demonstration against fatal police shootings of Black men in Minnesota and Louisiana from a peaceful march focused on violence committed by officers into a scene of chaos and bloodshed.

killing 50 people and wounding 53 others. After a three-hour standoff following the initial assault, law enforcement officials raided the club and fatally shot the gunman.

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Organizing Gravediggers, Cereal Makers and, Maybe, Amazon Employees

A group of gravediggers in Columbus, Ohio, who just negotiated a 3 percent raise. The poultry plant that processes chicken nuggets for McDonald’s. The workers who make Cap’n Crunch in Iowa. The women’s shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is not the largest labor union in the United States, but it may be one of the most eclectic. Its membership, totaling about 100,000 workers, seems to reach into every conceivable corner of the American economy, stretching from the cradle (they make Gerber baby food) to the grave (those cemetery workers in Columbus).

And now it is potentially on the cusp of breaking into Amazon, one of the world’s most dominant companies, which since its founding has beaten back every attempt to organize any part of its massive work force in the United States.

This month, a group of 5,800 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., are voting whether to join the R.W.D.S.U. It is the first large-scale union vote in Amazon’s history, and a decision by the workers to organize would have implications for the labor movement across the country, especially as retail giants like Amazon and Walmart have gained power — and added workers — during the pandemic.

TikTok video of support from the rapper Killer Mike and tweeting an endorsement from the National Football League Players Association during the Super Bowl.

“It’s a bit of an odd-duck union,” said Joshua Freeman, a professor emeritus of labor history at Queens College at the City University of New York. “They keep morphing over the years and have been very inventive in their tactics.”

The union is also racially, geographically and politically diverse. Founded during a heyday of organized labor in New York City in 1937 — and perhaps best known for representing workers at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — most of its members are now employed in right-to-work states, across the South and rural Midwest.

written about his identity as a gay, Jewish labor leader.

Since becoming union president in 1998, Mr. Appelbaum has created a niche by organizing workers from a wide variety of professions: airline caterers, employees in fast fashion stores and gardeners at a cannabis grow house. “When you buy a joint, look for the union label,” Mr. Appelbaum said jokingly.

Ratified in 2008, the Muslim holiday took the place of Labor Day as one of the paid holidays that workers were allowed at the facility, and was criticized by some as being un-American.

Over the years, the union has faced some powerful enemies. In the 1960s, its Black organizers were threatened — one was even shot at — while trying to sign up food industry workers across the South.

Johnny Whitaker, a former dairy worker who started as a union organizer in the 1970s, said he had grown up in a white family in Hanceville, Ala., without much money. Still, he was shocked by the working conditions and racism he witnessed when he started organizing in the poultry plants years ago.

Black workers were classified differently from their white counterparts and paid much less. Women were expected to engage in sexual acts with managers in exchange for more hours, he said. Many workers could not read or write.

Despite threats that they would lose their jobs if they organized, thousands of poultry workers have joined the R.W.D.S.U. over the past three decades, though the industry still is predominantly nonunion.

At the time, Amazon said it canceled its plans after “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project.”

But the more the workers in Alabama kept talking to the union about their working conditions, the more Mr. Appelbaum and others believed the warehouse was fertile ground for organizing.

The workers described the control that Amazon exerts over their work lives, including tracking their time in the restroom or other time spent away from their primary task in the warehouse. Some workers have said they can be penalized for taking too much time away from their specific assignments.

“We are talking about bathroom breaks,” said Mr. Whitaker, an executive vice president at the union. “It’s the year 2021 and workers are being penalized for taking a pee.”

In an email, an Amazon spokeswoman said the company does not penalize workers for taking bathroom breaks. “Those are not our policies,” she said. “People can take bathroom breaks.”

The campaign in Bessemer has created some strange political bedfellows. Mr. Biden expressed his support for the Alabama workers to vote freely in the mail-in election, which ends later this month. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida went even further, encouraging the Bessemer workers to unionize in order to protect themselves against the “woke culture” at Amazon.

If the union wins the election in Bessemer, the effort to court workers will continue. In a right-to-work state, workers are not required to pay union dues even if they are represented by a union.

At a Quaker Oats plant in Iowa, which is also a right-to-work state, the R.W.D.S.U. finds ways to motivate workers to join the union by posting the names of workers who have not yet joined on a bulletin board.

“In a right-to-work state, you are always organizing,” Mr. Hadley said.

Early in the afternoon of Oct. 20, Mr. Hadley met with about 20 organizers before they headed out to the Bessemer warehouse to begin their campaign to sign up workers. The plan was for the organizers to stand at the warehouse gates talking to workers early in the morning and in the evening when their shift changes. In a pep talk with the group, Mr. Hadley invoked the story of David and Goliath.

“We are going to hit David in the nose every day, twice a day,” he told the group, referring to Amazon. “He’s going to see our union every morning when he comes to work, and I want him thinking about us when he closes his eyes at night.”

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