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Restaurant Workers Are in a Race to Get Vaccines

Over the course of the pandemic, some of the most dangerous activities were those many Americans dearly missed: scarfing up nachos, canoodling with a date or yelling sports scores at a group of friends at a crowded, sticky bar inside a restaurant.

Now, as more states loosen restrictions on indoor dining and expand access to vaccines, restaurant employees — who have morphed from cheerful facilitators of everyone’s fun to embattled frontline workers — are scrambling to protect themselves against the new slosh of business.

“It’s been really stressful,” said Julia Piscioniere, a server at Butcher & Bee in Charleston. “People are OK with masks, but it is not like it was before. I think people take restaurants and their workers for granted. It’s taken a toll.”

The return to economic vitality in the United States is led by places to eat and drink, which also suffered among the highest losses in the last year. Balancing the financial benefits of a return to regular hours with worker safety, particularly in states where theoretical vaccine access outstrips actual supply, is the industry’s latest hurdle.

priority groups this spring. Immigrants, who make up a large segment of the restaurant work force, are often fearful of signing up, worrying that the process will legally entangle them.

Some states have dropped mask mandates and capacity limits inside establishments — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still deem a potentially risky setting — further endangering employees.

“It is critical for food and beverage workers to have access to the vaccine, especially as patrons who come have no guarantee that they will be vaccinated and obviously will not be masked when eating or drinking,” said Dr. Alex Jahangir, the chairman of a coronavirus task force in Nashville. “This has been a major concern for me as we balance the competing interests of vaccinating everyone as soon as possible before more and more restrictions are lifted.”

Servers in Texas are dealing with all of the above. The state strictly limited early eligibility for shots, but last week opened access to all residents 16 and over, creating an overwhelming demand for slots. The governor recently dropped the state’s loosely enforced mask mandate, and allowed restaurants to go forth and serve all comers, with zero limitations.

require their workers be vaccinated in the future.

Many business sectors were battered by the coronavirus pandemic, but there is broad agreement that hospitality was hardest hit and that low wage workers sustained some of the biggest blows. In February 2020, for instance, restaurant worker hours were up 2 percent over a previously strong period the year before; two months later those hours were cut by more than half.

While hours and wages have recovered somewhat, the industry remains hobbled by rules that most other businesses — including airlines and retail stores — have not had to face. The reasons point to a sadly unfortunate reality that never changed: indoor dining, by nature of its actual existence, helped spread the virus.

report by the C.D.C. found that after mask and other restrictions were lifted, on-premise restaurants led to daily increase in cases and death rates between 40 and 100 days later. Although other settings have turned into super-spreading events — funerals, wedding and large indoor events — many community outbreaks have found their roots in restaurants and bars.

“Masks would normally help to protect people in indoor settings but because people remove masks when dining,” said Christine K. Johnson, professor of epidemiology and ecosystem health at the University of California, Davis, “there are no barriers to prevent transmission.”

Not all governments have viewed restaurant workers as “essential,” even as restaurants have been a very active part of the American food chains — from half-open sites to takeout operations to cooking for those in need — during the entire pandemic. The National Restaurant Association helped push the C.D.C. to recommend that food service workers be included in priority groups of workers to get vaccines although not all states followed the guidelines.

Almost every state in the nation has accelerated its vaccination program, targeting nearly all adult populations.

“Most people in our government have considered restaurants nonessential luxuries,” said Rick Bayless, the well-known Chicago restaurateur, whose staff scoured all vaccines sites for weeks to get workers shots. “I think that’s shortsighted. The human race is at its core social and when we deny that aspect of our nature, we do harm to ourselves. Restaurants provide that very essential service. It can be done safely, but to minimize the risk for our staff, we should be prioritized for vaccination.”

Texas did not designate as early vaccine recipients any workers beyond those in the health care and education sectors, but is now open to all.

the Breadfruit and Rum Bar, declined unemployment insurance, and have shied from signing up for a shot. “Before you can even make an appointment you have to put in your name and date of birth and email,” Ms. Leoni said. “Those are questions that are deterrents for people trying to keep a low profile.”

In Charleston, Mr. Shemtov was inspired by accounts of the immunization program in Israel, which was considered successful in part because the government took vaccines to job sites. “If people can’t get appointments, let’s bring them to them.”

Other restaurants are devoting hours to making sure workers know how to sign up, locating leftover shots and networking with their peers. Some offer time off for a shot and the recovery period for side effects.

Katie Button, the owner of Curate and La Bodega in Asheville, N.C.

Still, some owners are not taking chances. “If we go out of business because we are one of the few restaurants in Arizona that won’t reopen, so be it,” Ms. Leoni said. “Nothing is more important than someone else’s health or safety.”

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Governors across the political spectrum push to expand in-person learning.

A bipartisan group of governors have decided it is time to get students back into classrooms, despite union resistance and bureaucratic hesitancy.

Democratic governors in Oregon, California, New Mexico and North Carolina, and Republicans in Arizona, Iowa, West Virginia and New Hampshire, among other states, have all taken steps to prod, and sometimes force, school districts to open.

The result has been a major increase in the number of students who now have the option of attending school in-person, or will in the next month.

According to a school reopening tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute, 7 percent of the more than 8,000 districts being tracked were operating fully remotely on March 22, the lowest percentage since the tracker was started in November. Forty-one percent of districts were offering full-time in-person instruction, the highest percentage in that time. Those findings have been echoed by other surveys.

like Michigan, some schools have had to revert to remote learning temporarily because so many students were in quarantine.

But for the time being, at least, the moves by these governors have yielded significant results.

In Washington, before Mr. Inslee issued his proclamation, the state’s largest district, Seattle Public Schools, was locked in a standoff with its teachers’ union over a reopening plan. Days after Mr. Inslee announced he would require districts to bring students back at least part time, the two sides reached an agreement for all preschool and elementary school students and some older students with disabilities to return by April 5.

In Ohio, nearly half of all students were in districts that were fully remote at the beginning of 2021. By March 1, that number was down to 4 percent, and it has shrunk further in the weeks since.

“It’s worked exceedingly well,” Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, said of his decision to offer vaccines to Ohio districts that pledged to reopen. “We’ve got these kids back in school.”

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Biden’s Afghanistan Dilemma

Is America’s longest war finally coming to an end?

That’s the question President Biden is confronting before a May 1 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, where they have been deployed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. I spoke to my colleagues Helene Cooper and T.M. Gibbons-Neff about Biden’s three basic options, and the potential risks.

1. Withdraw now. Biden’s history suggests he might personally favor a quick drawdown, Helene, who covers the Pentagon, says. As vice president, Biden argued for a smaller U.S. presence in Afghanistan than Barack Obama’s military advisers wanted. (He lost that argument.)

Now that Biden is in a position to decide, his outlook seems to have shifted. He has said that bringing the roughly 3,500 U.S. soldiers home by May — a deadline Biden inherited from Donald Trump — would be logistically difficult. “Think about how you move into an apartment and you live there for a year, how much it takes to move out,” T.M., who is based in the Afghan capital, Kabul, says. “Imagine going to war for two decades.”

A hasty departure could also have consequences for Afghanistan. The Trump administration agreed to withdraw as part of a deal it struck last year with the Taliban, the repressive militant group that ruled much of the country before the U.S. invaded. The Taliban are already supporting targeted killings against Afghan civilians and soldiers. If American forces leave, some Afghans and U.S. officials fear the Taliban will attempt a military takeover.

women’s education and democracy the country has made since 2001.

think they have the upper hand.

testimony from a teenage store clerk who described the moments before George Floyd’s death, and watched police body-camera footage of the arrest. Here are more takeaways from Day 3 of the trial.

  • Four people, including a child, are dead after a shooting at an office building in Southern California, the third mass shooting in the U.S. in the past 16 days. The authorities are expected to release more details this morning.

  • New York State legalized the use of recreational marijuana. And the state’s prisons will end long-term solitary confinement.

  • After staying silent last week, Delta and Coca-Cola, two of Georgia’s largest companies, expressed “crystal clear” opposition to the state’s new law to restrict voting access.

  • A Hong Kong court found prominent pro-democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly. It’s part of a Beijing-led campaign to quash opposition.

  • Aleksei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, declared a hunger strike, demanding better medical treatment.

  • The musician Paul Simon sold his songwriting catalog to Sony. Several other noted songwriters have struck big deals recently.

  • After about 10 minutes of grocery shopping, a New Mexico man returned to his car to find 15,000 bees in the back seat.

  • Woof: Would you buy your dog a charcuterie board?

    Lives Lived: The white minority government in Rhodesia imprisoned Janice McLaughlin, an American nun, for exposing atrocities against Black citizens. Years later, when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, she returned to help establish an educational system. McLaughlin died at 79.

    Forbes reported that he made nearly $30 million last year.

    The children’s section of YouTube is lucrative: Half of the 10 most popular videos on the platform are for children, and the catchy kids’ song “Baby Shark” is its most-viewed video. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Kaji’s success goes far beyond the ad money from his videos. Like the Olsen twins and JoJo Siwa before him, he has an empire built on merchandising.

    Kaji’s parents have made deals with Walmart and Target for toys and clothes, as well as TV deals with Amazon and Nickelodeon. A footwear line with Skechers is in the works. The bulk of Kaji’s revenue now comes from the licensing side.

    Other children’s YouTube channels are also cashing in: Cocomelon, which has more than 100 million subscribers, has a line of toys. Pinkfong, the educational brand behind “Baby Shark,” has merchandise and a Nickelodeon series.

    For more on Kaji, read the rest of Bloomberg’s story.

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Steal (five 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. — Ian

    P.S. Our colleague Sarah Lyall is writing about burnout and motivation, as more workers contemplate a return to the office. Tell her how you’re coping.

    You can see today’s print front page here.

    Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the Amazon union vote in Alabama. On “Sway,” Cathy Park Hong discusses anti-Asian racism.

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    Wyoming, New Mexico and South Dakota Move to Open Vaccine Eligibility

    Wyoming announced on Wednesday that residents 16 years or older were now eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine in the state. New Mexico and South Dakota said that they would make all residents 16 years or older eligible on April 5, and Pennsylvania said it would do the same for all adults on April 19.

    In all, 43 states have now sped up their vaccination efforts at a time when health officials are warning of a possible fourth surge of coronavirus cases.

    The pace of vaccinations has been picking up across the country as more states changed their eligibility timelines. As of Tuesday, an average of 2.7 million shots a day are being administered across the country, about 10 percent more than the average a week earlier, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “I want to take this opportunity and invite you to choose to get your free Covid-19 shot as soon as possible,” Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota said in announcing her state’s eligibility expansion.

    Times analysis of C.D.C. data. South Dakota ranks third with 34 percent.

    President Biden called earlier this month for states to open eligibility to all adults by May 1. On Monday, he directed his coronavirus response team to ensure that by April 19, there would be a vaccination site within five miles of 90 percent of Americans’ homes.

    The number of Americans, and especially Black Americans, who have been vaccinated or want to be vaccinated has risen significantly since January, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey also found that Republicans and white evangelical Christians continue to be skeptical of getting a virus vaccine.

    Ms. Noem, a Republican who leads a Republican-majority state, acknowledged those concerns on Wednesday.

    “There will never be the heavy hand of government mandating that you get the vaccine,” she said. “We will trust our people to do the right thing.”

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    Florida’s Coronavirus Cases Rise, Especially Among the Young

    Scientists view Florida as a bellwether for the nation, the state furthest along in lifting restrictions, reopening society and welcoming tourists.

    If recent trends there are any indication, the rest of the country may be in trouble.

    The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida has been steadily rising, though hospitalizations and deaths are still down. Over the past week, the state has averaged nearly 5,000 cases per day, an increase of 8 percent from its average two weeks earlier.

    B.1.1.7, the more-contagious variant first identified in Britain, is also rising exponentially in Florida, where it accounts for a greater proportion of total cases than in any other state, according to numbers collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “Wherever we have exponential growth, we have the expectation of a surge in cases, and a surge in cases will lead to hospitalizations and deaths,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

    impose an 8 p.m. curfew, although many people still flouted the rules.

    Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has experienced one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and continues to record high numbers. The county averaged more than 1,100 cases per day over the past week.

    In Orange County, cases are on the rise among young people. People 45 and younger account for one in three hospitalizations for Covid, and the average age for new infections has dropped to 30.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis has rejected stringent restrictions from the very start of the pandemic. Florida has never had a mask mandate, and in September Mr. DeSantis banned local governments from enforcing mandates of their own. Among his scientific advisers now are architects of the Great Barrington Declaration, which called for political leaders to allow the coronavirus to spread naturally among young people, while the elderly and those with underlying conditions sheltered in place.

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    Man accused of New Jersey killing says he is responsible for 16 deaths

    A man accused of killing a New Jersey man he says sexually abused him in childhood, and who is a person of interest in the deaths of his ex-wife and three other people in New Mexico, claims to be responsible for 16 deaths in all, prosecutors said.

    Sean Lannon, 47, said he was responsible for the killings in New Jersey and New Mexico and claimed he had killed “11 other individuals”, NJ.com quoted Alec Gutierrez, an assistant prosecutor in Gloucester county, as saying at a detention hearing on Friday.

    “He admitted to killing a total of 16 people … 15 being in New Mexico and one in the state of New Jersey,” Gutierrez said. “It’s my understanding that the FBI is assisting New Mexico in their investigation.”

    Authorities allege the admission came in a phone call to a family member who told Gloucester county investigators Lannon expressed remorse.

    Lannon was arrested in St Louis on Wednesday, driving a car stolen from Michael Dabkowski, the New Jersey victim. Lannon is now in custody in New Jersey, accused of breaking into Dabkowski’s home and beating him with a hammer on Monday, according to an affidavit.

    Lannon is also a person of interest in the death of his wife and three others in New Mexico. Authorities say a vehicle was discovered last week in a garage at Albuquerque International Sunport, New Mexico’s largest airport, containing four bodies.

    The bodies were identified as Jennifer Lannon, 39; Matthew Miller, 21; Jesten Mata, 40; and Randal Apostalon, 60. Sean Lannon lived 80 miles away in Grants, New Mexico.

    Gutierrez alleged that Lannon admitted luring several victims to a home in New Mexico and dismembering some.

    Apart from the five deaths already described by investigators, authorities had not earlier spoken of any other killings in which Lannon was a suspect. He has been charged only in the New Jersey killing and has not been charged in New Mexico.

    The public defender Frank Unger challenged probable cause for the New Jersey murder charge, arguing that Lannon entered the home of Dabkowski, 66, in East Greenwich Township with permission and that the acts that followed amounted at worst to passion provocation manslaughter, NJ.com reported.

    Sean Lannon. Photograph: AP

    Unger alleged that Lannon had been abused and went to the home to retrieve photos because he didn’t want anyone “to have control over me any longer”.

    Dabkowski mentored Lannon and his twin brother through a Big Brothers program in the 1980s, NJ.com said. Lannon told investigators Dabkowski sexually abused him and that he went to the man’s home to retrieve sexually explicit photos. Unger said Dabkowski had “documented those sexual assaults, those rapes, by taking pictures of himself with Mr Lannon in sexually compromised positions”.

    Unger said Lannon retrieved two hammers from Dabkowski’s garage and gave them to the victim, saying, “You’re going to need these. I don’t want to hurt you.”

    “I would suggest that this fact alone illustrates this was not purposeful murder. He did not even bring a weapon to the home,” he said, further alleging that Dabkowski attacked his client and was then killed.

    Unger also challenged prosecutors’ comments on the New Mexico murders, saying Lannon hadn’t been charged in those cases. The New Jersey superior court judge Mary Beth Kramer told prosecutors to confine their presentation to information relevant to the New Jersey case but allowed limited references to the New Mexico cases.

    Gutierrez said the New Mexico victims had been lured to a home and argued that the idea of Lannon having been invited into Dabkowski’s home “should be looked at through the lens of at least three prior incidents in New Mexico”.

    “Those individuals, self-admittedly, were lured into the residence and subsequently murdered,” he said.

    Unger argued for pretrial release, saying his client had no prior convictions and was an army veteran with an honorable discharge. Although born in Massachusetts, Lannon spent most of his youth in Gloucester county before he was deployed to Germany. He has family in southern New Jersey including his mother and sister and could stay locally on electronic monitoring if released, Unger said.

    Gutierrez said Lannon adopted an assumed name to avoid detection when he returned to the east coast and was also arrested in New Mexico several weeks ago for failure to appear and spent a week in jail.

    Gutierrez alleged that Lannon admitted to dismemberment of victims and efforts to conceal evidence and “is a significant danger to the community, based on those statements”.

    The judge agreed. Lannon remains behind bars.

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