With shots at schools, parks and even the beach, the U.S. races to vaccinate children.

The world’s first mass coronavirus inoculation campaign for children kicked off in earnest in the United States on Thursday after the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to those aged 12 to 15.

Even as the decision was embraced by millions of parents wearied by pandemic restrictions and desperate to get their children back into classrooms, states, counties and school districts around the country were trying to figure out the most reassuring and expedient ways to offer the shots.

The various authorities were making plans to offer vaccines not only in schools, but also at pediatricians’ offices, day camps, parks and even beaches.

President Biden, who hailed the vaccine as “safe, effective, easy, fast and free,” said that as many as 20,000 pharmacies stood ready to start giving shots on Thursday.

recommend use of the vaccine.

Some states, including Delaware, Georgia and Maine, had already started to offer doses to children after the authorization of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

But the ruling by the C.D.C. was the final step in the federal process that allows for widespread inoculations of the roughly 17 million children in the United States ages 12-15.

For many parents, it could not come too soon. About one-third of eighth graders, usually 13 or 14 years old, are still in remote learning.

But the authorities must also overcome a significant amount of hesitancy. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many parents — even some who eagerly got their own coronavirus shots — were reluctant to vaccinate pubescent children.

health authorities require anyone younger than 18 to be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult and to present photo identification and verification of age, county officials said.

In Maine, a parent does not need to be with the child as long as the adult provides permission over the phone or signs a form beforehand.

Federal and local officials said that there should be no problem with supply meeting demand. The expansion of the U.S. vaccination effort underscored the widening gulf in the world’s inoculation campaigns even as the pandemic gathers force in several regions.

Referring to the global situation, Dr. Oliver Morgan, director of the risk assessment department at the W.H.O., said on Wednesday, “Throughout the month of March and April, there has been a steady increase in the number of cases each week and the weekly number of cases is now higher than any time in the pandemic.”

At the same time, many of the countries being walloped by the virus — and those where the threat of new outbreaks is growing — have not been able to secure vaccines to inoculate even health workers or those most at risk of serious illness and death.

Research shows that children are mostly spared severe disease and are not significant drivers of coronavirus spread, as they are for influenza, for example.

Young children are thought to spread the virus less often than adults do, but their ability to transmit increases with age. Teenagers may transmit the virus as readily as adults.

Vaccinating children is viewed as an important increase to the level of immunity in a population, driving down the number of cases broadly, while offering protection to more people.

While risk of severe illness in youngsters is low compared with that in adults, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.5 million children and sent more than 13,000 to hospitals, more than are hospitalized for flu in an average year, according to data collected by the C.D.C.

View Source

Online Cheating Charges Upend Dartmouth Medical School

HANOVER, N.H. — Sirey Zhang, a first-year student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, was on spring break in March when he received an email from administrators accusing him of cheating.

Dartmouth had reviewed Mr. Zhang’s online activity on Canvas, its learning management system, during three remote exams, the email said. The data indicated that he had looked up course material related to one question during each test, honor code violations that could lead to expulsion, the email said.

Mr. Zhang, 22, said he had not cheated. But when the school’s student affairs office suggested he would have a better outcome if he expressed remorse and pleaded guilty, he said he felt he had little choice but to agree. Now he faces suspension and a misconduct mark on his academic record that could derail his dream of becoming a pediatrician.

“What has happened to me in the last month, despite not cheating, has resulted in one of the most terrifying, isolating experiences of my life,” said Mr. Zhang, who has filed an appeal.

Dartmouth recently accused of cheating on remote tests while in-person exams were shut down because of the coronavirus. The allegations have prompted an on-campus protest, letters of concern to school administrators from more than two dozen faculty members and complaints of unfair treatment from the student government, turning the pastoral Ivy League campus into a national battleground over escalating school surveillance during the pandemic.

insecure, unfair and inaccurate.

cease using the exam-monitoring tools.

“These kinds of technical solutions to academic misconduct seem like a magic bullet,” said Shaanan Cohney, a cybersecurity lecturer at the University of Melbourne who researches remote learning software. But “universities which lack some of the structure or the expertise to understand these issues on a deeper level end up running into really significant trouble.”

At Dartmouth, the use of Canvas in the cheating investigation was unusual because the software was not designed as a forensic tool. Instead, professors post assignments on it and students submit their homework through it.

That has raised questions about Dartmouth’s methodology. While some students may have cheated, technology experts said, it would be difficult for a disciplinary committee to distinguish cheating from noncheating based on the data snapshots that Dartmouth provided to accused students. And in an analysis of the Canvas software code, The Times found instances in which the system automatically generated activity data even when no one was using a device.

“If other schools follow the precedent that Dartmouth is setting here, any student can be accused based on the flimsiest technical evidence,” said Cooper Quintin, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, who analyzed Dartmouth’s methodology.

Seven of the 17 accused students have had their cases dismissed. In at least one of those cases, administrators said, “automated Canvas processes are likely to have created the data that was seen rather than deliberate activity by the user,” according to a school email that students made public.

The 10 others have been expelled, suspended or received course failures and unprofessional-conduct marks on their records that could curtail their medical careers. Nine pleaded guilty, including Mr. Zhang, according to school documents; some have filed appeals.

Dr. Compton acknowledged that the investigation had caused distress on campus. But he said Geisel, founded in 1797 and one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, was obligated to hold its students accountable.

“We take academic integrity very seriously,” he said. “We wouldn’t want people to be able to be eligible for a medical license without really having the appropriate training.”

Instructure, the company that owns Canvas, did not return requests for comment.

In January, a faculty member reported possible cheating during remote exams, Dr. Compton said. Geisel opened an investigation.

To hinder online cheating, Geisel requires students to turn on ExamSoft — a separate tool that prevents them from looking up study materials during tests — on the laptop or tablet on which they take exams. The school also requires students to keep a backup device nearby. The faculty member’s report made administrators concerned that some students may have used their backup device to look at course material on Canvas while taking tests on their primary device.

administrators held a virtual forum and were barraged with questions about the investigation. The conduct review committee then issued decisions in 10 of the cases, telling several students that they would be expelled, suspending others and requiring some to retake courses or repeat a year of school at a cost of nearly $70,000.

Many on campus were outraged. On April 21, dozens of students in white lab coats gathered in the rain in front of Dr. Compton’s office to protest. Some held signs that said “BELIEVE YOUR STUDENTS” and “DUE PROCESS FOR ALL” in indigo letters, which dissolved in the rain into blue splotches.

Several students said they were now so afraid of being unfairly targeted in a data-mining dragnet that they had pushed the medical school to offer in-person exams with human proctors. Others said they had advised prospective medical students against coming to Dartmouth.

“Some students have built their whole lives around medical school and now they’re being thrown out like they’re worthless,” said Meredith Ryan, a fourth-year medical student not connected to the investigation.

That same day, more than two dozen members of Dartmouth’s faculty wrote a letter to Dr. Compton saying that the cheating inquiry had created “deep mistrust” on campus and that the school should “make amends with the students falsely accused.”

In an email to students and faculty a week later, Dr. Compton apologized that Geisel’s handling of the cases had “added to the already high levels of stress and alienation” of the pandemic and said the school was working to improve its procedures.

The medical school has already made one change that could reduce the risk of false cheating allegations. For remote exams, new guidelines said, students are now “expected to log out of Canvas on all devices prior to testing.”

Mr. Zhang, the first-year student, said the investigation had shaken his faith in an institution he loves. He had decided to become a doctor, he said, to address disparities in health care access after he won a fellowship as a Dartmouth undergraduate to study medicine in Tanzania.

Mr. Zhang said he felt compelled to speak publicly to help reform a process he found traumatizing.

“I’m terrified,” he said. “But if me speaking up means that there’s at least one student in the future who doesn’t have to feel the way that I did, then it’s all worthwhile.”

View Source

With U.S. school districts making their own rules, children with special needs miss out.

Perhaps no one feels the strain of remote learning more acutely than the youngest, highest-need students, whose ability to access in-person early intervention classes, targeted behavior analysis and speech therapy is considered key to their academic success.

In New Jersey, school districts in two towns five miles apart — with similar population sizes and similarly high rates of coronavirus cases — made radically different choices about whether and how to reopen schools during the pandemic.

In Rutherford, where schools have been mostly open, young children with autism have spent more than 700 hours in class since September. In Secaucus, the number of hours is closer to just 100.

Reuben Alarcon, part of a group of parents who have criticized the Secaucus Public School District’s reopening policies, said he was worried that the educational opportunities his son Eric, who will be 4 next month, lost during a crucial year of brain development would cause lifelong harm.

“He will sometimes use one or two words to ask for something. Sometimes he surprises us and he blurts out a sentence,” Mr. Alarcon said. “He would be so much more ahead had he had the full-time class.”

View Source

‘We Were Left With Nothing.’ Argentina’s Misery Deepens in the Pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Carla Huanca and her family were making modest but meaningful improvements to their cramped apartment in the slums of Buenos Aires.

She was working as a hairstylist. Her partner was tending bar at a nightclub. Together, they were bringing home about 25,000 pesos ($270) a week — enough to add a second story to their home, creating extra space for their three boys. They were about to plaster the walls.

“Then, everything closed,” said Ms. Huanca, 33. “We were left with nothing.”

Amid the lockdown, the family needed emergency handouts from the Argentine government to keep food on the table. They resigned themselves to rough walls. They shelled out for wireless internet service to allow their children to manage remote learning.

“We have spent all of our savings,” Ms. Huanca said.

The global economic devastation that has accompanied Covid-19 has been especially stark in Argentina, a country that entered the pandemic deep in crisis. Its economy shrank by nearly 10 percent in 2020, marking the third straight year of recession.

wealth taxes to finance the costs of the pandemic — a measure that Argentina adopted late last year.

The fund’s analysis of Argentina’s debt picture, and its conclusion that the burden was not sustainable, set the groundwork for a settlement with international creditors last year. Investors ultimately agreed to write down the value of some $66 billion in bonds, overcoming the opposition of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock.

The Argentine government is proceeding on the assumption that it can secure a deal from the fund that will allow the country to significantly postpone its debts, providing relief from looming payments — $3.8 billion this year, and more than $18 billion next year — without strict requirements that it cut spending.

“The I.M.F. leadership has made clear that this is the framework,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist at Columbia University in New York. The new arrangement will reflect “the new I.M.F.,” he added, “recognizing that austerity doesn’t work, and recognizing their concerns about poverty.”

antagonized the poor with cuts to government programs. His debt binge combined with another recession forced the country to submit to the ultimate humiliation — asking the I.M.F. for a hand.

In elections two years ago, voters rejected Mr. Macri and installed Mr. Fernandez — a Peronist. Some suggested that Mr. Fernandez might stake out an acrimonious position with creditors, including the I.M.F. But the Fernandez administration has proved pragmatic, winning the confidence of the I.M.F., while maintaining relief for the poor.

“We have to avoid following the patterns of the past that did so much damage,” the economy minister, Mr. Guzmán, said in an interview. “We want to be constructive, and resolve these problems in a way that works.”

The most pernicious problem remains inflation, a reality that assails businesses and households, adding to the strain on the poor through higher food prices.

In major economies like the United States, central banks conventionally respond to inflation by lifting interest rates. But that snuffs out economic growth — not a tenable proposition in Argentina, where the central bank already maintains interest rates at the stultifying level of 38 percent.

Brazil. Her partner’s employer reduced his hours, cutting his pay in half.

“I’m scared about what could happen now,” she said. “Everyone is very worried.”

View Source

‘It’s a Roller-Coaster Ride’: Global Chip Shortage Is Making Industries Sweat

Dan Rozycki, the president of a small engineering firm, worries about what a global semiconductor shortage could mean for curing concrete.

Mr. Rozycki’s company, Transtec Group in Austin, Texas, sells small sensors that are placed where concrete is poured at building, highway and bridge construction sites. The gadgets take temperature readings and wirelessly send data so workers with computers can ensure the material is hardening properly.

Like many other things in the modern world, from computers and cars to cash registers and kitchen appliances, the sensors require a couple of common, inexpensive semiconductors that have suddenly become a very scarce commodity.

“Every month our product is getting more popular,” Mr. Rozycki said. “But we may not be able to make it in several months.”

Shortages of semiconductors, fueled by pandemic interruptions and production issues at multibillion-dollar chip factories, have sent shock waves through the economy. Questions about chips are reverberating among both businesses and policymakers trying to navigate the world’s dependence on the small components.

Chip supply limitations are far from a new phenomenon. But past problems have typically concerned particular kinds of chips, like the types that help store computer memory or process vast amounts of data. This time, customers are also scrambling to find an array of simpler chips made in older factories. And those factories are difficult to upgrade.

ordered a 100-day review of the semiconductor supply chain, a process that drew chief executives of 19 big companies to a virtual meeting Monday. Congress has backed legislation aimed at spurring more domestic chip manufacturing to reduce dependence on Taiwan and South Korea, which Mr. Biden has proposed funding with $50 billion in his infrastructure plan.

Most attention has focused on temporary closings of big U.S. car plants. But the problem is affecting many other sectors, particularly the server systems and PCs used to deliver and consume internet services that became crucial during the pandemic.

Pat Gelsinger, the new chief executive of the chip maker Intel, who attended the meeting with the president on Monday. “People are begging us for more.”

The chip shortage potentially affects just about any company adding communications or computing features to products. Many examples were described in 90 comments filed to the Biden supply chain review by companies and trade groups, including a laundry list of needs from industry giants like Amazon and Boeing.

The personal computer giant HP said the shortage of semiconductors had prevented the company from being able to meet demand for computers ordered by schools. Rising chip prices also have made it harder to offer affordable hardware for less-wealthy school districts during the pandemic, the company said.

Mr. Rozycki’s engineering firm in Austin is for now among the lucky chip users. It planned ahead and has enough chips to keep making the roughly 50,000 sensors it supplies each year to construction sites. But his distributor has warned him it might not be able to deliver more of them until late 2022, he said.

“Is that going to halt those projects?” Mr. Rozycki asked. He is scouring the market for other distributors that might have the two needed chips in stock. Other possibilities include redesigning the sensors to use different chips.

drought in Taiwan and a cold snap in Texas that temporarily shut down factories operated by Samsung Electronics, NXP Semiconductors and Infineon.

“It’s hell on earth right now,” said Frank McKay, chief procurement officer at Jabil, which buys billions of dollars’ worth of chips each year to assemble products for customers that include Apple, Amazon, Cisco Systems and Tesla.

On any given day, he said, his company is facing shortages of 100 or so components and has to use all its negotiating power to get them — successfully so far. “But it’s a roller-coaster ride every day,” Mr. McKay said.

Fixing other issues is likely to stretch into 2022. Mr. Gelsinger said Intel was talking to auto industry suppliers about shifting some production of their chips to older Intel factories, possibly starting in six to nine months. But adding new production tools to an existing chip plant can take a year. Building a new one takes three years.

“This is going to be a long healing,” said Thomas Caulfield, chief executive of GlobalFoundries, a big U.S. chip manufacturer that is doubling capital spending this year so it can meet demand.

For now, chip delivery schedules have stretched from around 12 weeks to more than a year in some cases, chip buyers and brokers said. That is bad news for companies like the webcam start-up Wyze Labs.

“We’re going to be straight up with you about some bad news we got this week,” the company wrote in a note to customers in January. “Some of our key suppliers informed us they would only be able to supply about one-third of the chips we need to make Wyze Cams.”

The company, which is based in Kirkland, Wash., predicted problems stocking the third version of its flagship webcam. The company website says it is sold out, with more inventory expected in one to two weeks. Wyze did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Supply problems can be a touchy topic, said Zach Supalla, chief executive of Particle, a San Francisco company that buys chips to make communication and computing equipment. It sells its devices to thousands of companies that make products like hot tubs, air-conditioners and industrial and medical equipment.

Particle has so far has secured enough chips to keep making its products, he said. But the company is asking customers to order further and further in advance to ensure it can meet demand, Mr. Supalla said.

When chips can be found, price markups can be stark. One particularly unglamorous widget, a type of ceramic capacitor that ordinarily sells for around 3 cents each, became hard to find when a Covid-19 outbreak temporarily closed a factory in China.

The capacitor shortage hurt production of a popular cellular modem. That modem, which normally sells for $10 to $20, spiraled to $200 on the spot market, Mr. Supalla said. Customers like car companies may be willing to pay such sums to keep producing $40,000 cars, Mr. Supalla said. But not all can.

Some buyers suspect profiteering. Jens Gamperl, chief executive of an online components exchange called Sourcengine, recounted a call from an executive who fumed that a chip normally priced at $1 each was listed for sale by the exchange at $32. Mr. Gamperl had to explain that his own company had been forced to pay $28 for the component.

“That is the kind of craziness that we see left and right now,” he said.

Besides the direct effect on hardware makers, chip shortages can reduce shipments and raise the cost of servers and networking equipment to offer services like streaming entertainment, remote learning and medicine. They can also affect software makers.

Tripp, a Los Angeles start-up that makes a kind of meditation app that exploits virtual-reality headsets from Sony and others, was banking on the new PlayStation 5 to lift software demand, said Nanea Reeves, Tripp’s chief executive. But chip shortages helped to hobble that console launch.

“We were expecting a bigger bump from the PS5,” she said. The company is hoping more consoles arrive in the second quarter.

View Source

Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic

In a study by the RAND Corporation, “Remote Learning Is Here to Stay,” 58 out of 288 district administrators — roughly 20 percent — said their school system had already started an online school, was planning to start one or was considering doing so as a postpandemic offering.

“This is hardly a panacea or a silver bullet for public schooling,” said Heather Schwartz, a senior policy researcher at RAND who directed the study. But, she added, “there is a minority of parents, a minority of students and even a minority of teachers for whom virtual schooling is the preferred mode.

Yet a surge of online schools comes with risks. It could normalize remote learning approaches that have had poor results for many students, education researchers said. It could also further divide a fragile national education system, especially when many Asian, Black and Latino families have been wary of sending their children back to school this year.

“My fear is that it will lead to further fracturing and fragmentation,” said Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Districts said they were simply responding to demand from parents and children who want to stick with remote learning — some because of student health issues, some because of concerns about bullying or discrimination in their school, and some who just prefer the convenience of learning at home.

Districts that fail to start online schools could lose students — along with government education funding — to virtual academies run by neighboring districts, companies or nonprofits, administrators said. To pay for the new online offerings, some districts said, they are using federal coronavirus relief funds or shifting resources from other programs.

Online schools began opening in the 1990s, some run by states or districts and others by private companies or nonprofit charter management organizations. But until recently, they played a niche role in many states.

View Source

N.Y.C.’s mayor says a new virus rule will reduce temporary public school closures.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced a plan on Thursday that he said would significantly reduce the temporary public school closures that have frustrated parents and educators across city over the last few months.

Starting on Monday, public schools will have to close for 10 days only if four or more coronavirus cases in separate classrooms are confirmed within a seven-day period, and only if the city’s contact tracing program determines that the infections originated inside the school. Until now, schools had to close for 10 days when two unlinked cases were detected, regardless of the source of infection.

The mayor said earlier this week that he would get rid of the so-called two-case rule, which had prompted more than 200 temporary school closures during the last two weeks of March.

The new rule now applies to individual schools, rather than entire buildings. Because many school buildings in New York house multiple schools, two virus cases in one middle school could force an elementary school with no cases on another floor to switch to remote learning for days under the old rule.

Schools with suspected cases will no longer close for 24 hours while health detectives determine whether cases are linked, a change that will eliminate the frequent short-term closures that were sometimes announced just a few hours before the start of the school day. One or more cases found in individual classrooms will continue to prompt temporary closures of that classroom, but not necessarily the whole school.

The city will increase testing in schools where at least two cases are found.

Fully vaccinated teachers — along with older high school students who will be eligible for vaccines this week — will no longer have to isolate even when classrooms quarantine. As of last Friday, well over 65,000 of the roughly 147,000 Department of Education employees had been vaccinated.

New York City parents have until the end of the day Friday to decide if they want to switch their children from remote learning to in-person classes.

View Source

How to Virtually Become a Doctor

Jerrel Catlett’s eyes narrowed on the large intestine, a gloppy, glow stick-like object whose color matched the stool stored inside of it. He chose to isolate the organ, and it expanded on his screen as the body parts surrounding it receded — the gall bladder bright green with bile, the ribs white and curved like half moons.

“My old boss used to tell me that when I did this, I’d be so wowed by how complex the human body is,” said Mr. Catlett, 25, a first-year student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, gesturing to the image of a body on his laptop screen. “But it feels like there’s something missing from the experience right now.”

For generations, medical students were initiated to their training by a ritual as gory as it was awe-inducing: the cadaver dissection. Since at least the 14th century, physicians have honed their understanding of human anatomy by examining dead bodies. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, the cadaver dissection — like many hands-on aspects of the medical curriculum — turned virtual, using a three-dimensional simulation software.

Of the country’s 155 medical schools, a majority transitioned at least part of their first and second-year curriculums to remote learning during the pandemic. Nearly three-quarters offered lectures virtually, according to a survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges, and 40 percent used virtual platforms to teach students how to interview patients about their symptoms and take their medical histories. Though the cadaver dissection posed a trickier challenge, nearly 30 percent of medical schools, including Mount Sinai, used online platforms to teach anatomy.

expands. Through remote clerkships at schools like Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, medical students assisted hospital staff by following up virtually with patients who had been discharged earlier than usual because of the pandemic.

“Other doctors got thrown into the deep end but we get to practice using this technology,” said Ernesto Rojas, a second-year student at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. “We learned how to build rapport and ask the patient things like, ‘Are you in a place where you can talk privately?’”

Students have also said they’ve felt particularly motivated to complete their training amid the pandemic. Medical school applications are up by 18 percent compared with this time last year, according to the A.A.M.C.

For Prerana Katiyar, 22, a first-year medical student at Columbia, the first few months of medical school didn’t look anything like she had anticipated. She started the semester living in her childhood home in Fairfax, Va., where she shared lessons from her anatomy classes with her family over dinner. “When my dad said his abdomen hurt, I was able to talk to him about the quadrants of the abdomen,” Ms. Katiyar said.

Halfway into the semester, she had an exciting update for her parents. “My skull finally arrived in the mail,” she said. Ms. Katiyar’s anatomy professor arranged for each student to order a plastic model of the skull.

“Now I can see the bony landmarks and where the nerves are,” she continued. “I’m a very visual person so it’s been helpful to trace it with my finger.”

View Source

Teachers’ Unions Uncertain on C.D.C.’s New 3-Feet Limit

Proponents of fully reopening schools got a major boost when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that elementary school students and some middle and high school students could be spaced three feet apart in classrooms.

The previous guidance of keeping most students six feet apart had in many school districts become a big obstacle to welcoming students back for full-time instruction because it severely limited capacity. Many experts now say a growing body of research shows that six feet is not much more protective than three, as long as other safety measures are in place, like mask wearing.

Public health experts, parents and school officials cheered the new recommendation. Teachers’ unions, which have used the six-foot guidance to oppose bringing children back for normal schedules, did not.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest educators’ union, said in a statement that she would “reserve judgment” on the new guidelines pending further review of research on how the virus behaves in schools, especially those in cities or that are under-resourced. Becky Pringle, president of the largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, raised similar concerns.

for example, is planning to reopen elementary schools in the coming weeks on a half-day schedule that would avoid meal times, giving students less than three hours per day of in-person schooling, only four days per week.

Meanwhile, some districts have kept schools closed one day a week for what is sometimes described as a day of “deep cleaning,” a practice that experts have said has no benefit. In Anne Arundel County, the cleaning day is why the district is aiming to bring students back four days a week this spring, rather than five.

View Source