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Two years ago, on a soggy January day at the University of Oregon, Peter Laufer, a journalism professor, picked up a copy of The New York Times and presented his students with a reporting challenge.
He read from a feature at the bottom of Page 2 that highlights an article from The Times’s archives each day. It covered the experience in early 1960 of a fourth grader in Roseburg, Ore., not far from the college. She had written to her congressman for the names of Russian schoolchildren with whom she and her classmates could be pen pals, but the State Department denied the request, fearing they would be influenced by Soviet propaganda. The headline on the article read: “U.S. Bars a Girl’s Plea for Russian Pen Pals.”
“Find that girl!” Mr. Laufer told the class, an exercise designed to teach his students the skill of locating a source and, possibly, a bigger story. He thought she might still be living nearby.
For nine students, that simple instruction turned into a journalism project, which included an on-the-ground reporting trip in Nevada, digging through F.B.I. files from the National Archives and meeting face to face with modern-day fourth graders in southern Russia. This year, they published their findings in a book, “Classroom 15: How the Hoover F.B.I. Censored the Dreams of Innocent Oregon Fourth Graders.”
“It is such a small story, but it resonates so much with the time that it was in,” said Julia Mueller, who worked as the project’s managing editor and wrote a chapter in the book.
Using public records and online databases, the students located the subject of the article, Janice Hall, now married and living near Las Vegas. Her name had been misspelled as “Janis” in the original article, which made it more difficult for the class to locate her.
In 1960, during a tense period of the Cold War, a time when both the United States and the Soviet Union saw every move by the other country as a tactic aimed at world domination, Ms. Hall never had the chance to correspond with Russian students. The reporters were determined to understand why.
They abandoned the syllabus, renamed the course Janice 101 and devoted the rest of the term to unpacking the story.
Each student took a slightly different angle. One examined the fear of communism that had gripped the United States. Another reporter, who was headed to Las Vegas for a spring break trip with her sorority, made a detour to meet Ms. Hall. Yet another interviewed the family of Ray McFetridge, the teacher who had conceived of the pen-pal project and who had died years earlier. Students even obtained the F.B.I. case files on the incident through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Why wouldn’t you want people to be friends with people across borders?” asked Zack Demars, the lead reporter on the project, outlining the students’ central question.
“I think we discovered that it was because of the level of fear at the time,” he added.
Mr. Laufer, a former NBC News correspondent, thought that a reporter needed to go to Russia to meet with current pupils. He wanted his journalism students to explore what would happen if they tried to connect schoolchildren today.
“We decided that we were not going to leave this hanging,” Mr. Laufer said. “If they couldn’t do it in 1960, we were going to do it in 2020.”
The class decided to take letters written by fourth graders in Yoncalla, Ore., and deliver them to Russian students.
In December 2019, months after the course ended, Mr. Demars took a 13-hour train ride from Moscow to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where Mr. Laufer had a contact who agreed to act as a guide.
Mr. Demars met with Russian fourth graders and gave them the letters from their American counterparts. They peppered him with questions: Did he have pets? Did he play sports? What did he think of Ariana Grande?
He also spoke with a group of high schoolers. They discussed American schools and movies and asked to follow him on Instagram. He thinks of these new followers as modern pen pals.
“I don’t talk to them all that often,” he said. “But we interact every now and then, and we have that level of human connection.”
Mr. Demars is now working as a reporter at a small local newspaper in Oregon. During the project, he learned the value of recording individual experiences, which can offer future generations insight into a particular era.
“When I’m out reporting, I’m looking for those things that are commonplace right now but deeply unique to the time period,” he said.
Ms. Hall, 70, said she was amazed to hear from the college students, who are about the age of her grandchildren.
She was also awed by the project, and particularly by Mr. Demars’s persistence: “He hooked up these two fourth grades,” she said, “which is exactly what we were trying to do.”
It has been only five weeks since New York State legalized the use of recreational marijuana. The board that will oversee the rollout has yet to be appointed, let alone rules set for how licenses will be issued to cannabis businesses. The sale of legal pot in the state is still a year away. And, of course, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.
But already the rush is on to get a piece of what could be a $4.2 billion industry in the Empire State.
Brokers are talking to landlords about leasing storefronts to dispensaries. Representatives of out-of-state cannabis businesses are flying in to scope out properties. And suppliers of medical marijuana are expanding in the hope that they will be able to branch into recreational sales.
Agricultural land upstate is now marketed as being “in the green zone” for hemp farming or the construction of grow houses for cultivating marijuana.
may soon change.
heated discussions among local officials, some of whom “can’t fathom the idea of the devil’s lettuce businesses within their borders,” said Neil M. Willner, co-chair of the cannabis practice at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld, a New York City law firm.
But the pandemic may have softened the stance of some officials, given the jobs and tax revenue that cannabis businesses can generate after the protracted health crisis has decimated both. The state estimates that the new industry could bring it $350 million in annual revenue and create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, funding is pouring into the industry in anticipation of possible federal legalization, some lenders will now do business with cannabis companies, and real estate investment trusts have sprung up to serve marijuana interests.
an increase in purchasing over leasing in the past year.
“Going forward, when banking becomes more normalized for us — when we have the opportunity to get real estate debt in the way traditional industries do — we would have a preference for owning real estate,” said Barrington Rutherford, senior vice president of real estate and community integration at Cresco Labs, a cannabis company with operations in several states.
law firms, consultants, insurance agents and accountants specializes in helping clients jump through regulatory hoops. A listing service that is the industry’s answer to Zillow offers a wide range of real estate, from $65,000 lots in an industrial park in Lexington, Okla., to a $109 million, 45,000-square-foot grow house in San Bernardino, Calif.
The brick-and-mortar side of cannabis real estate has also evolved.
As cultivation of marijuana has become more sophisticated, grow houses have expanded — they can be 150,000 square feet or more, with high ceilings, heavy-duty ventilation, lighting and security. Processing typically occurs in separate buildings with high-tech machinery.
dispensaries are increasingly stylish, offering a rarefied retail experience. Accomplished architecture and design firms have gotten into the act. There are even companies that specialize in kitting out dispensaries and other cannabis real estate.
And as marijuana gains broader public acceptance — and some celebrity glamour, with Jay-Z’s Monogram and Seth Rogen’s Houseplant — stores are opening in prominent locations near traditional retailers.
“We’re next to Starbucks in downtown Chicago,” Mr. Rutherford said. “In Philadelphia, the store we’re opening is a half block from Shake Shack and down the block from Macy’s.”
“We are building a portfolio of sites that would be enviable by any retail organization,” he added.
The New York State law also provides for licenses for “consumption sites,” and this is expected to give rise to clublike lounges and cannabis cafes. The prospect of such convivial settings has led to predictions that New York City may become the next Amsterdam.
These new storefront uses would appear to be a godsend for New York’s retail real estate market, where availability has increased and rents have fallen.
“A few years ago, when the market was stronger, it was harder to find landlords willing to play ball,” said Benjamin S. Birnbaum, a broker at the real estate services firm Newmark. “What’s changed, because of the pandemic, is that every landlord is willing to talk about it.”
in a recent CNBC interview.
Regardless of size, opening a dispensary can be complicated and expensive, in part because states have required that would-be retailers have control of a site, through a lease or option to lease, before they can apply for a license. But the number of licenses in some states is limited, with no guarantee a business will get one.
In Oregon, some applicants had to wait so long — one or two years, said Andrew DeWeese, a lawyer with Green Light Law Group in Portland — they eventually gave up and essentially sold their place in line.
“It’s a Catch-22,” said Kristin Jordan, a cannabis lawyer in New York City. “You want to secure real estate, but you don’t want to jump the gun.”
Still, the prospect of operating in New York, a state with more than 19 million residents and a major tourist destination, is so enticing that cannabis companies are getting their ducks in row.
Companies that have medical dispensaries, which have been operating since 2016, are in an enviable position because it is believed they will have an advantage in securing additional licenses.
Cresco Labs has four medical dispensaries in New York, including one in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is unclear whether the state will allow recreational marijuana to be sold at those locations, but Mr. Rutherford is hedging his bets, adding parking and in some cases expanding by leasing a storefront next door to an existing space.
“We are making sure those stores are ready for the future adult use market,” he said.
Pelé, Dolly Parton and the Dalai Lama have little in common apart from this: Over a few days in March, they became the latest celebrity case studies for the health benefits of Covid-19 vaccines.
“I just want to say to all of you cowards out there: Don’t be such a chicken squat,” Ms. Parton, 75, said in a video that she posted on Twitter after receiving her vaccine in Tennessee. “Get out there and get your shot.”
This is hardly the first time public figures have thrown their popularity behind an effort to change the behavior of ordinary people. In medicine, celebrity endorsements tend to echo or reinforce messages that health authorities are trying to publicize, whether it’s getting a vaccine, or other medical treatment. In 18th-century Russia, Catherine the Great was inoculated against smallpox as part of her campaign to promote the nationwide rollout of the procedure. Almost 200 years later, backstage at “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Elvis Presley received the polio vaccine in an effort to help reach at-risk teenagers.
But do the star-studded endorsements really work? Not necessarily. Epidemiologists say there are plenty of caveats and potential pitfalls — and little scientific evidence to prove that the endorsements actually boost vaccine uptake.
History of Vaccines website, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
and among the weirdest — online rituals of the Covid era.
To help track the phenomenon, New York Magazine over the winter kept a running list of newly vaccinated celebrities that includes Christie Brinkley (“piece of cake”), Whoopi Goldberg (“I didn’t feel it”) and Mandy Patinkin (“One of the few benefits of being old”). Journalists in India have done the same for Bollywood film stars.
getting their shots while shirtless have generated a bunch of memes. An epidemiologist in Oregon, Dr. Esther Choo, joked on Twitter that the French health minister, Olivier Véran, was carrying out a public-relations campaign that she called “Operation Smolder.”
stubbornly persistent in the United States and beyond. The rapid-fire testimonials by Pelé, Ms. Parton and the Dalai Lama in March, for example, collectively reached more than 30 million followers and prompted hundreds of thousands of engagements across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. In April, the singer Ciara hosted a star-studded NBC special meant to promote vaccinations, with appearances by former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and others.
“These kind of endorsements might be especially important if trust in government/official sources is quite low,” Tracy Epton, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in Britain who has studied public health interventions during the coronavirus pandemic, said in an email.
That was the case in the 1950s, when Elvis Presley agreed to receive the polio vaccine to help the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis reach a demographic — teenagers — that was “difficult to educate and inspire through traditional means,” said Stephen E. Mawdsley, a lecturer in modern American history at the University of Bristol in Britain.
“I think Elvis helped to make getting vaccinated seem ‘cool’ and not just the responsible thing to do,” Dr. Mawdsley said.
had a colonoscopy live on the “Today” show in 2000, for example, the number of colorectal screenings in the United States soared for about nine months.
experiment that when 46 celebrities agreed to tweet or retweet pro-immunization messages, their posts were more popular than similar ones from noncelebrities. That was especially true when the celebrities delivered the message in their own voices, rather than citing someone else, researchers found.
“Their voice matters,” said Vivi Alatas, an economist in Indonesia and a co-author of that study. “It’s not just their ability to reach followers.”
For the most part, though, the science linking celebrity endorsements to behavioral change is tenuous.
One reason is that people generally consider those within their own personal networks, not celebrities, the best sources of advice about changing their own behavior, Dr. Najera said.
He cited a 2018 study that found few gun owners in the United States rated celebrities as effective communicators about safe gun storage. The owners were far more likely to trust law enforcement officers, active-duty military personnel, hunting or outdoor groups, and family members.
among the first in the country to receive a Covid shot in January. “Don’t be afraid of vaccines,” he told his Instagram followers, who numbered nearly 50 million at the time, almost a fifth of the country’s population.
That night, he was spotted partying without a mask, and accused of breaking the public’s trust.
“Please you can do better than this,” Sinna Sherina Munaf, an Indonesian musician, told Mr. Ahmad and her nearly 11 million followers on Twitter. “Your followers are counting on you.”
DENVER — Food scraps and biodegradable utensils are common fodder for compost, but in Colorado, human remains could soon be transformed into soil too.
The Colorado State Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow composting of human remains in lieu of traditional processes like burial and cremation.
State Representative Brianna Titone, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she had gone to funerals and, seeing burial or cremation as the two options, thought, “I don’t know if I want either one of these things.”
When she learned about human composting, she said, “It really excited me.”
If Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill into law, which he said he would, Colorado would become the second state to legalize human composting. Washington State did so in 2019, and legislators in Oregon, California and New York have proposed human composting legislation.
Recompose, a company that offers human composting services in Washington, places the body onto a bed of wood chips, alfalfa and straw inside a steel, 8-foot-long by 4-foot-tall cylinder, according to its website. Each body creates about one cubic yard of soil.
“Everything — including bones and teeth — transforms” during the process, its website says. The contents of the cylinder are also blended by Recompose staff members, “which helps to break up any remaining bone fragments and teeth.”
However, nonorganic material like prosthetics and artificial joints are fetched from the cylinder and removed.
Katrina Spade, Recompose’s co-founder and chief executive, said on Wednesday that the company was already looking at locations in the Denver area, where it hopes to build a 50-cylinder facility if the bill becomes law.
Ms. Spade said people in Colorado had expressed interest in Recompose, adding that “there is an ethos of ecological love and respect in the Denver area and in Colorado broadly, everywhere from the mountains to the farming that happens around the state.”
She said that Recompose’s process saved about one metric ton of carbon dioxide for each body that is composted rather than cremated or buried traditionally. Mr. Soper, who represents a rural part of Colorado, said some of his liberal constituents were interested in human composting for its environmental benefits.
Among his more conservative constituents from the agricultural community, Mr. Soper said, there are “farmers or ranchers who really like the idea of being connected to the land that they were born and raised on.”
opposition to the practice.
But Mr. Soper said that for him, the matter was less about explicitly supporting human composting and more about offering the choice.
“Why not?” he said. “Why should the government be prohibiting this type of option to be available to Coloradans?”
Mr. Soper said that Colorado was among the states with the fewest regulations for crematories and funeral homes, making it ideal for new human composting businesses.
Recompose has patents pending on its cylinders, but not on the human composting process, Ms. Spade said, adding that she hopes that human composting becomes “the default choice for death care.”
Inside a state-of-the-art lab, tucked in an industrial neighborhood on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, employees wearing protective suits move around two clear boxes, careful not to disrupt the tubes and sensors that keep temperature and humidity constant. Inside the boxes are mushrooms.
But not just any mushrooms. They are psychedelic — “magic” — mushrooms that the start-up Numinus Wellness believes one day may be used to treat mental health conditions as varied as depression, substance abuse and anxiety.
Welcome to the ’Shroom Boom. While Numinus is using mushrooms to make mind-altering therapies, other mushroom growers are promising other benefits, like strengthening immune systems or reducing inflammation. Mushrooms are showing up in all sorts of wellness products, pushing them into the mainstream and making mushrooms a major force in the flourishing, multibillion-dollar wellness market.
legalize psilocybin, the main active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, for the treatment of certain mental health conditions in supervised settings. In March, the New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said New York State should legalize psychedelic mushrooms, a stance he raised in 2019 when he was a Democratic presidential candidate.
Regulators in the United States and Canada are taking baby steps toward allowing limited use of psychedelic mushrooms, which produce visual and auditory hallucinations over a few hours after ingestion, for the treatment of certain mental health conditions. Popular as part of the counterculture in the 1960s, magic mushrooms were deemed illegal in the United States in the 1970s.
public offering. Another psychedelic company, MindMed, has financial backing from Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank.”
New York in March. But some analysts and many of the companies themselves caution that the path for psychedelics will most likely be very different.
study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine that found use of psilocybin relieved anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. A second, small study involving 24 participants conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers that was published in JAMA Psychiatry found that those who received psilocybin-assisted therapy showed improvement as well.
“The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” Alan Davis, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an announcement about the study’s results.
The Food and Drug Administration has put at least two psychedelic mushroom compounds on the fast track for approval to treat depression.
Last year, Canada began allowing a limited number of people with terminal illness to use psychedelic mushrooms. Currently, Numinus is working toward a psilocybin-assisted therapy trial for patients with substance abuse disorders.
And while regulators in the United States are taking a new look at psychedelic mushrooms, psilocybin is still a Schedule 1 drug and would need to be reclassified by regulators.
Despite those hurdles, though, Mr. Nyquvest sees the potential for a broader use of psychedelic mushrooms around wellness, beyond what he called “treating really heavy indicators” of substance abuse and depression.
“The same way you go to the dentist to take care of the teeth, we need to think about taking care of the brain and mental well being.”
recommended that inoculations with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine be halted while researchers investigated six reports of unusual blood clots out of 6.8 million people who had received it.
Top federal officials said in interviews with The New York Times that they had found a few additional cases of the rare blood clots, but would not specify how many. They said that the overall rate did not appear to have changed significantly since last week.
The committee could recommend that Johnson & Johnson add a formal warning label about the side effect, as the company has done in the European Union. Roughly 10 million doses or more of the vaccine, produced at the company’s factory in the Netherlands, are sitting on shelves across the United States and could be deployed immediately.
The meeting comes as the federal government is also investigating problems at a Baltimore factory that was slated to help satisfy the country’s demand. Emergent BioSolutions, the plant’s operator, has produced tens of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, but they cannot be distributed until regulators certify the plant.
After Emergent had to discard up to 15 million possibly contaminated doses of the vaccine last month, federal regulators conducted an inspection that found a series of problems, including the risk that other batches could have been contaminated.
Last week’s pause followed reports of six women who experienced a rare type of blood clot in the brain within three weeks of getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The clots were accompanied by an unusual drop in platelets, components of the blood that normally help heal wounds.
On Thursday, the Oregon health authorities reported that a death was being investigated for a possible connection to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The woman who died was in her 50s and had symptoms consistent with the blood clotting cases identified in eight other Johnson & Johnson recipients in the U.S. Dr. Shimi Sharief, the state health authority’s senior health adviser, emphasized that it was not known whether the woman’s death was related to the vaccine.
The C.D.C. committee met the day after the initial pause, and a representative from Johnson & Johnson provided details on the six cases, along with two others. Rather than voting, the panel decided to hold a second meeting the following week, giving them time to better assess the data.
European regulators, who have also been scrutinizing the shots, said on Tuesday that they would allow these vaccinations to resume with the addition of a formal warning label.
The Times’s Emily Schmall reports from New Delhi on the desperate situation in India. The following is an excerpt from her article.
NEW DELHI — A catastrophic second wave of the coronavirus is battering India, which is reporting the world’s highest number of new infections as hospitals and patients beg for fast-diminishing oxygen supplies and other emergency aid.
India recorded more than 330,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday, the second consecutive day that the country has set a global record for daily infections.
Canada has joined Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand in barring travelers coming from India. And the U.S. State Department advised people against going to India after the Centers for Disease Control raised the risk level to its highest measure.
Even as cases have climbed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party and other parties have continued to hold mass rallies with thousands of people unmasked. The government has also allowed an enormous Hindu festival to draw millions of pilgrims despite signs that it has become a superspreader event.
The catastrophe in India is playing out vividly on social media, with Twitter feeds and WhatsApp groups broadcasting hospitals’ pleas for oxygen and medicines, and families’ desperate searches for beds in overwhelmed Covid-19 wards. With many hospitals short of ventilators, television reports have shown patients lying inside ambulances parked outside emergency rooms, struggling to breathe.
County health departments that a month ago couldn’t keep up with vaccine demand have now started closing some of their mass vaccination sites for lack of customers, and some counties are declining vaccineshipments.
Now that more than half of adults in the United States have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and the country has surpassed 202 million administered doses, demand for shots appears to be slowing in many areas.
White House and health officials are comparing the next phase of the vaccination campaign to a get-out-the-vote effort.
While every person 16 and older in the country became eligible for a coronavirus vaccination on Monday, dropping demand has pushed Mercer County, Ohio — where 27 percent of adults have at least one dose — to announce the closing of its mass vaccination site on May 7.
“It wasn’t fair to ask our volunteers to keep showing up there when they weren’t being fully utilized — they like to keep busy,” Jason Menchhofer, county health administrator, said in an interview on Thursday about the site on the local fairgrounds.
In the first few months of the year, the site in the county of 41,000, which borders Indiana, would fill up its 400 appointments in an hour or two, he said. “We could even reach down into those who were not age-eligible to get it to come in at the end of the day to come out quickly and get it into someone’s arm,” he said.
But demand has fallen precipitously in the last several weeks, and last week the county ended up wasting two doses, which was a first. “We no longer have a reserve of people who want to be vaccinated to reach into to show up and take those doses,” he added.
The largest vaccination site in Las Vegas, the Cashman Center, will close on May 5 as the list of open appointments grow and the lines to be inoculated have dwindled. The tens of thousands of open appointments at sites across the nation are forcing officials to pivot their outreach strategies and zero in on smaller events.
Palm Beach County in Florida said on Tuesday that it would shut its three mass vaccination sites, which are operating at about half capacity, by the end of May. Of 16,000 appointment slots available this week, only 6,000 were filled, according to health officials. Instead, three mobile units will each aim to give 500 doses a day.
In Galveston County, Texas, a mass drive-through clinic at a county park won’t operate after May 1. The park has been administering 5,000 doses per day, including on Thursday. But demand for appointments has dampened in the last three weeks, according to the county’s chief public health officer. He also asked the state to pause vaccine shipments.
“We’re concerned that some of it may expire before we use it, if we keep getting it,” said Dr. Philip Keiser. “We are trying to figure out how to balance out supply and demand, yet also have enough on hand so that when school kids are able to get back, we can do them.”
There will be much more targeted outreach, down to the Census tract level, Dr. Keiser said, and there might be 100 or 200 injections per day rather than thousands.
“We got about 50 percent of our people vaccinated,” he said, “and we recognize that next 25 percent is going to be a lot harder than the first.”
AstraZeneca, which shipped millions of doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Mexico and Canada last month at the direction of the Biden administration, said on Thursday that the doses had been made at a Baltimore plant where production was halted because of serious manufacturing flaws.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine, made until recently by Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore, is not approved for use in the United States, and tens of millions of doses have been sitting idly at manufacturing plants. But the White House said last month that the federal government, which committed last year to buying 300 million doses from the company, intended to “loan” 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million doses to Canada.
Whether regulators from those countries inspected the Emergent plant before accepting the AstraZeneca doses, and whether American officials warned them of the ongoing issues at the site, is unclear.
The New York Times reported this month that from early October to January, Emergent discarded five lots of AstraZeneca vaccine — each the equivalent of two million to three million doses — because of contamination or suspected contamination, according to internal logs, a government official and a former company supervisor.
Officials from the Biden administration declined to comment. The Canadian government has said that the AstraZeneca doses were received and distributed, and that it reserved several thousand for quality testing. The status of the doses sent to Mexico is unclear.
In a statement on Thursday, AstraZeneca said that the doses delivered to Mexico and Canada “met the stringent requirements we are required to follow,” and that “required safety tests and quality control measures” were conducted at each step of the production process and before the batches were released.
Last month, The Times reported that an ingredient mix-up at the Emergent Baltimore plant had ruined up to 15 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Workers at the plant had conflated ingredients from the two vaccines.
Federal officials ordered major changes to the plant after those revelations.
The Biden administration ordered Emergent to stop making the AstraZeneca vaccine, and put Johnson & Johnson in charge of running the Baltimore plant. A report by Food and Drug Administration inspectors, made public on Wednesday, concluded that Emergent may have contaminated additional doses. It also spotlighted numerous other problems with training and cleanliness at the plant.
The disclosure that the vaccine doses sent to Mexico and Canada came from the Emergent plant raises questions about the Biden administration’s role in arranging for the shipments. Reporting in The Times has shown that federal health officials — and the F.D.A. — were aware of problems at the Emergent plant long before the recent disclosures.
The F.D.A. has not cleared the Emergent plant to release any doses in the United States and has not indicated when, or whether, it will do so. If a drug or biologic made in the United States is shipped to another country, it is up to that country’s regulators to certify whether it is safe.
In its statement on Thursday, which was issued first to CBS News, AstraZeneca said, “The quality information from the manufacturing plants involved was properly submitted to the relevant regulatory agencies in each country to support authorization and approval of shipments from this supply chain.”
TOKYO — Japan on Friday declared states of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and surrounding areas in an effort to stem a widening coronavirus outbreak three months before the country plans to host the Summer Olympics.
The measures will take effect on Sunday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, calling them “a short and concentrated measure” to slow the virus’s spread during the Golden Week holiday, traditionally one of the year’s busiest travel periods.
In addition to Tokyo and Osaka, the states of emergency cover the neighboring prefectures Kyoto and Hyogo and will be in place until May 11. Together, the four prefectures are home to roughly a quarter of Japan’s 126 million people.
Japan has managed the pandemic better than many other large economies, but a stubborn fourth wave, propelled by more infectious variants of the virus, has produced the most daily cases since January. Officials began imposing looser restrictions in early April over parts of 10 prefectures, but those steps have failed to corral the outbreak.
Over all, the country has recorded slightly more than half a million infections and about 10,000 deaths from the virus.
The new restrictions are intended to be tougher and shorter than two states of emergency Japan imposed over parts of the country at the start of the pandemic last year and in January, although they fall shy of the total lockdowns seen in other countries. The measures give the prefectures the authority to ask businesses to close or restrict hours, and to fine those that do not comply.
Large department stores, shopping malls, amusement parks and movie theaters will be asked to close, and all establishments will be banned from serving alcohol. Schools can remain open, and shops that sell food and other essential items will be spared. But restaurants and karaoke parlors will be asked to shorten their hours, and residents will be told not to drink alcohol in public venues.
Organizers of sporting events, including professional baseball games and soccer matches, will be asked not to allow spectators — although officials have said that the emergency measures will not affect the Tokyo Olympics, whose opening ceremony is scheduled for July 23.
Polls indicate that the Japanese public is increasingly frustrated with Mr. Suga, who took office in September, over his handling of the pandemic and his government’s insistence on going ahead with the Olympics, which were rescheduled from last year. Organizers have said the event will take place without spectators from abroad, and have barred crowds from parts of the ceremonial torch relay. Still, in surveys, more than 70 percent of Japanese say the games should be postponed again or canceled.
Eiji Fukui said he had managed to keep his Tokyo restaurant operating during previous states of emergency by reducing hours and offering takeout items. But this time he plans to close the restaurant completely, even though the rules allow him to stay open until 8 p.m. if he does not serve alcohol.
“It’s almost a tacit message not to operate during this period,” said Mr. Fukui, 39. “I don’t want to be bothered with operating without alcohol, so I will close this time since I received zero reservations anyway.”
Japan’s vaccine rollout has also been slower than in many other countries, with less than 1 percent of the population fully inoculated, according to a New York Times database.
Rail-thin teenagers holding placards at traffic stops with fome — the word for hunger —in large print. Children begging for food outside supermarkets. Families huddling in flimsy encampments on sidewalks, asking for baby formula, crackers, anything.
The scenes of hunger in Brazil are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed. From the start of the pandemic, he scorned the guidance of health experts, arguing that the economic damage wrought by lockdowns would be a bigger threat to the economy than the coronavirus itself.
That trade-off led to one of the world’s highest death tolls, but it has not kept the country afloat.
About 19 million people have gone hungry over the past year, and about 117 million people — more than half the country — faced food insecurity, with uncertain access to enough nutrition, in 2020, according to estimates. One expert says: “The way the government has handled the virus has deepened poverty and inequality. Hunger is a serious and intractable problem in Brazil.”
Plans to play some European soccer championship matches this summer in Dublin and in Bilbao, Spain, have been abandoned after the local authorities were unable to guarantee that a sufficient number of fans could attend because of coronavirus restrictions.
Munich’s role in the tournament, Euro 2020, was also in doubt, but its place was confirmed during an emergency meeting of members of the executive committee for UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe. The tournament, which was postponed last year because of the pandemic, is soccer’s No. 2 most-watched competition, after the World Cup. This summer it is being played on a continentwide basis, in 11 cities, for the first time.
Dublin and Bilbao were set to stage three group games and one round-of-16 match. Dublin’s group-stage schedule will move to St. Petersburg, Russia, which had already been selected to host four games. London’s Wembley Stadium, where the tournament’s semifinals and final will be played, will pick up Dublin’s knockout-round game.
Seville will take on the games slated to be played in Bilbao, despite opposition from the authorities in Bilbao, who said they would seek compensation from UEFA after working on hosting the tournament for six years.
Without hospitals or medical specialists in space, NASA and other space agencies have always been concerned about astronauts falling sick during a mission. To minimize the chances of that, they typically spend the two weeks before launch in quarantine.
A Covid-19 superspreader event at the space station would disrupt operations.
The interior of the space station has a volume equivalent to a Boeing 747 jetliner, so there would be space for infected crew members to isolate themselves. But space station managers certainly would not want to worry about the virus spreading in the station’s perpetually filtered and recycled air.
During a news conference last week, Shane Kimbrough, the NASA astronaut who is the commander of Crew-2, said all four astronauts had received Covid vaccinations. “I guess it went fine,” he said. “We all have a little bit different reactions, just like most people do. So we’re no different in that regard. But we’re thankful that we have the vaccines.”
The three astronauts who launched in a Soyuz rocket to the station earlier this month — Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency and Mark Vande Hei of NASA — were also vaccinated.
The four astronauts of the Crew-1 mission are not, because no vaccines were available when they launched last November. When they return to Earth, every human not on the planet will be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will effectively prevent serious illness and death from a coronavirus variant that has kept cases in New York City stubbornly high, two independent studies suggest.
City officials had repeatedly warned that the variant may be more contagious and may dodge the immune response. But researcher say that the antibodies stimulated by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are only slightly less potent at controlling the variant than the original form of the virus.
“We’re not seeing big differences,” said Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York who is a member of the team that published one of the studies on Thursday.
The results are based on laboratory experiments with blood samples from small numbers of vaccinated people and have not yet been peer-reviewed. Still, they are consistent with what is known about similar variants, several experts said, and they add to a growing body of research that suggests that the two main vaccines in the United States are protective against all of the variants identified so far.
“The take-home message is that the vaccines are going to work against the New York variant and the South African variant and the U.K. variant,” said Nathan Landau, a virologist at N.Y.U.’s Grossman School of Medicine who led the study.
With summer on the horizon, states are beginning to rethink social-distancing measures.
In Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee said that starting May 7, the state will stop requiring masks outside, and social gatherings can increase to 25 people indoors and 75 people outdoors. By May 28, the state will lift capacity limits on businesses and houses of worship, the bar areas of restaurants will be able to open, and dance floors can once again be filled.
“It’s a good day for everyone here in the Ocean State,” Mr. McKee said at a news conference on Thursday. “It’s a little early to put a ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign up, but we’re getting ready to order that sign.”
Mr. McKee attributed the reopening plans to the state’s vaccination rate — 48 percent of residents have received at least one shot, and 33 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. But masks will still be required indoors.
Rhode Island is not alone.
On Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said that the state would phase out all pandemic restrictions, except the indoor mask mandate, by May 19. And in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday that he would announce “a pretty significant amount of guidance” for summer activities next week.
“We don’t want to lurch, in other words go forward and then have to pull something back,” Mr. Murphy said at his weekly news conference. “And we don’t want to start that now. But we also owe people our best guesses for what it’s going to look like for graduation, summer, the beaches and what not.”
As more people get vaccinated and the outdoors become more appealing with spring weather and sunshine, one question persists: Do people still need to wear masks outside? Science shows that the risk of viral transmission outside is very low. The Times’s Well columnist, Tara Parker-Pope, suggests making sure activities meet two out of the following three conditions: outdoors, distanced and masked.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday that the agency was “looking at the outdoor masking question” and whether to revise current guidance.
At the same time, with the virus resurgent, public health experts are warning Americans not to let their guards down. The United States is averaging more than 67,000 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from over 54,000 a month ago, according to a New York Times database.
“Seventy thousand cases a day is not acceptable. We have to get that down,” said Barry Bloom, a research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He said more vaccinations would help, but people must remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing.
What You Need to Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause in the U.S.
On April 13, 2021, U.S. health agencies called for an immediate pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within one to three weeks of vaccination.
All 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico temporarily halted or recommended providers pause the use of the vaccine. The U.S. military, federally run vaccination sites and a host of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Publix, also paused the injections.
Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are now under investigation. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine — which has yet to be determined — that risk is extremely low. The risk of getting Covid-19 in the United States is far higher.
The pause could complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.
Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, dealing another blow to Europe’s inoculation push. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, suspended use of the vaccine as well. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses.
At its current pace, the United States will vaccinate 70 percent of its population by mid-June. But vaccine hesitancy could slow progress toward herd immunity, which will also depend on vaccinating children.
Pfizer announced this month that it had applied for an emergency use authorization to make children ages 12 to 15 eligible for its vaccine. Moderna is expected to release results from its trial in young teenagers soon, and vaccinations in this age group could begin before school starts in the fall.
Trials in younger children are underway. Dr. Fauci also said on Sunday that he expected children of all ages to be eligible for vaccination in the first quarter of 2022.
Although vaccinations have picked up in the United States, many countries still face dire vaccine shortages. About 83 percent of Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker.
Dr. Funmi Olopade, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago, said it was crucial for the United States to step up its role in the global vaccination campaign as supply increases. The virus, left to spread around the world, could continue to mutate and threaten the nation’s economic recovery, she said.
It is in everybody’s “self-interest to provide whatever we can in the way of excess vaccines to low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Bloom said.