Covid Live Updates: Vaccinated Americans Can Go Maskless, C.D.C. Says

drop mask-wearing in most situations. But the guidance came with caveats and confusion, and it sent state and local officials, as well as private companies, scrambling to decide whether and when to update their own rules.

There was plenty of cause for celebration, too, for many Americans weary of restrictions and traumatized by more than a year of a pandemic that has killed more than 583,000 people in the United States and more than 3.3 million around the world.

“We have all longed for this moment,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said as she announced the shift at a White House news conference on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Fully vaccinated people are still told to cover their faces when flying or taking public transit, when visiting health care facilities, and in congregate settings like prisons and homeless shelters.

The recommendations came as a surprise to many people in public health. They offered a stark contrast with the views of a large majority of epidemiologists surveyed in the last two weeks by The New York Times, who said that until many more Americans were vaccinated, there would be too many chances for vaccines, which are not 100 percent effective, to fail.

“Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, an independent nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.

The new recommendations also caught state officials and businesses by surprise and raised a host of difficult questions about how the guidelines would be carried out. Some states lifted mask mandates immediately, while others took a more cautious approach.

Most of the state officials who responded immediately to the shift were Democrats, and they used the moment to stress the need to get vaccinated to take advantage of greater freedom. Half of the country’s governors — most of them Republicans — had already lifted mask mandates in some form.

On Thursday, the governors of New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia, and the mayors of New York City and Washington, D.C., all Democrats, said that they were taking the new guidance under advisement before adopting it. Los Angeles County also said that it and the State of California were reviewing the new guidelines. In deference to local authorities, the C.D.C. said vaccinated people must continue to abide by existing state, local or tribal laws and regulations, and to follow local rules for businesses and workplaces.

After the new guidance was announced, at least seven states led by Democrats began to lift mask mandates: Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Others had yet to weigh in publicly.

In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee, who usually wears a mask while speaking at his news conferences, began his gathering on Thursday by removing it. He said the state was immediately incorporating the new federal guidance.

“This is a heck of a benefit for people who have been annoyed by this mask,” Mr. Inslee said. “This is a really good reason to get vaccinated. That shot is a ticket to freedom from masks.”

Yet the C.D.C. guidance leaves a number of issues unaddressed. There was no specific language about masking in schools, for instance. And an even broader question remains unclear: Who knows who is justified in claiming the new freedoms?

“I think the challenge is that it’s impossible to determine who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated,” said Gov. David Ige of Hawaii, where a mask mandate will stay in place.

About 64 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated. And vaccination rates have been falling, although the campaign to inoculate 12- to 15-year-olds has just begun. Ohio has created a weekly state lottery that would give five people $1 million each in return for being vaccinated. People who receive a vaccine are issued a white paper card, but online scammers have sold forged versions of those.

The guidance seemed to catch many retailers by surprise. Macy’s, Target and the Gap said they were still reviewing it, while Home Depot said it had no plans to change its rules requiring customers and workers to wear masks in its stores.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing thousands of grocery store workers, criticized the C.D.C. for failing to consider how the new policy would affect workers who have to deal with customers who are not vaccinated.

Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon emphasized that the state would not be operating on an honor system. She said that the health department would soon provide guidance for businesses, employers and others “to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status.”

Administering a coronavirus shot during a vaccination day for homeless people in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Thursday.
Credit…Raul Martinez/EPA, via Shutterstock

BUENOS AIRES — For most of the past year, Uruguay was held up as an example for keeping the coronavirus from spreading widely as neighboring countries grappled with soaring death tolls.

Uruguay’s good fortune has run out. In the last week, the small South American nation’s Covid-19 death rate per capita was the highest in the world, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

As of Wednesday, at least 3,252 people had died from Covid-19, according to the Uruguayan Health Ministry, and the daily death toll has been about 50 during the past week.

Six out of the 11 countries with the highest death rates per capita are in South America, a region where the pandemic is leaving a brutal toll of growing joblessness, poverty and hunger. For the most part, countries in the region have failed to acquire sufficient vaccines to inoculate their populations quickly.

Contagion rates in Uruguay began inching up in November and soared in recent months, apparently fueled by a highly contagious variant first identified in Brazil last year.

“In Uruguay, it’s as if we had two pandemics, one until November 2020, when things were largely under control, and the other starting in November, with the arrival of the first wave to the country,” said José Luis Satdjian, the deputy secretary of the Health Ministry.

The country with the second-highest death rate per capita is nearby Paraguay, which also had relative success in containing the virus for much of last year but now finds itself in a worsening crisis.

Experts link the sharp rise in cases in Uruguay to the P.1 virus variant from Brazil.

“We have a new player in the system and it’s the Brazilian variant, which has penetrated our country so aggressively,” Mr. Satdjian said.

Uruguay closed its borders tightly at the beginning of the pandemic, but towns along the border with Brazil are effectively binational and have remained porous.

The outbreak has strained hospitals in Uruguay, which has a population of 3.5 million.

On March 1, Uruguay had 76 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units. This week, medical professionals were caring for more than 530, according to Dr. Julio Pontet, president of the Uruguayan Society of Intensive Care Medicine who heads the intensive care department at the Pasteur Hospital in Montevideo, the capital.

That number is slightly lower than the peak in early May, but experts have yet to see a steady decline that could indicate a trend.

“It is still too early to reach the conclusion that we’ve already started to improve, we’re in a high plateau of cases,” Dr. Pontet said.

Despite the continuing high number of cases, there is optimism that the country will be able to get the situation under control soon because it is one of the few in the region that has been able to make quick progress on its vaccination campaign. About a quarter of the population has been fully immunized.

“We expect the number of serious cases to begin decreasing at the end of May,” Dr. Pontet said.

At a bookstore in San Francisco in March. Until the pandemic, there had seldom been a cultural push for mask wearing in the United States.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Once Americans return to crowded offices, schools, buses and trains, so too will their sneezes and sniffles.

Having been introduced to the idea of wearing masks to protect themselves and others, some Americans are now considering a behavior scarcely seen in the United States but long a fixture in other cultures: routinely wearing a mask when displaying symptoms of a common cold or the flu, even in a future in which Covid-19 isn’t a primary concern.

Such routine use of masks has been common for decades in other countries, primarily in East Asia, as protection against allergies or pollution, or as a common courtesy to protect nearby people.

Leading American health officials have been divided over the benefits, partly because there is no tidy scientific consensus on the effect of masks on influenza virus transmission, according to experts who have studied it.

Nancy Leung, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that the science exploring possible links between masking and the emission or transmission of influenza viruses was nuanced — and that the nuances were often lost on the general public.

Changi Airport in Singapore this week. The airport outbreak began with an 88-year-old member of the airport cleaning crew who was fully vaccinated but who tested positive for the virus on May 5.
Credit…Wallace Woon/EPA, via Shutterstock

SINGAPORE — Singapore said on Friday that it would ban dining in restaurants and gatherings of more than two people to try to stem a rise in coronavirus cases, becoming the latest Asian nation to reintroduce restrictions after keeping the illness mostly in check for months.

The new measures came after the city-state recorded 34 new cases on Thursday, a small number by global standards, but part of a rise in infections traced to vaccinated workers at Singapore Changi Airport.

The airport outbreak began with an 88-year-old member of the airport cleaning crew who was fully vaccinated but who tested positive for the virus on May 5. Co-workers who then became infected later visited an airport food court, where they transmitted the virus to other customers, officials said.

None of the cases linked to the airport outbreak are believed to have resulted in critical illness or death, according to officials.

In all, 46 cases have been traced to the airport, the largest of about 10 clusters of new infections in the country.

“Because we do not know how far the transmission has occurred into the community, we do have to take further, more stringent restrictions,” said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of Singapore’s coronavirus task force. The measures will be in effect for about one month beginning on Sunday.

According to preliminary testing, many of those infected were working in a zone of the airport that received flights from high-risk countries, including from South Asia. Several have tested positive for the B.1.617 variant first detected in India, which the World Health Organization has said might be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus.

Singapore health officials said that of 28 airport workers who became infected, 19 were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the only two approved for use in Singapore.

“Unfortunately, this mutant virus, very virulent, broke through the layers of defense,” Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told a virtual news conference on Friday.

Mr. Ong also said that the rise in cases “very likely” means that a long-delayed air travel bubble with Hong Kong would not begin as scheduled on May 26.

Singapore, a prosperous island hub of 5.7 million people, saw an explosion of infections among migrant workers living in dormitories, but a two-month lockdown and extensive testing and contact tracing contained the outbreak. Although Singapore has kept much of its economy open, its vaccination effort has not moved as quickly as many expected: less than one-quarter of the population has been fully inoculated.

Changi Airport, which served more than 68 million passengers in 2019, is operating at 3 percent of capacity as Singapore has paused nearly all incoming commercial traffic. Employees there work under strict controls, wearing protective gear and submitting to regular coronavirus tests.

Singapore joins Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries that have struggled to contain new outbreaks fueled in part by variants. But Paul Ananth Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said that the rise in cases was not overly worrying.

“The reason for my optimism is that we now have effective vaccines, better diagnostics, proven treatments and even potential prophylactic agents,” he said. “If these are employed in a targeted approach, it is unlikely that we will end up with the same problems we had last year.”

Workers moved oxygen cylinders for transport at a factory in New Delhi on Sunday. The city has now received enough oxygen to share its supply.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

After shortages in oxygen in New Delhi led to scores of people dying in hospitals, officials said there was now enough supply in the Indian capital to start sharing a surplus of the lifesaving gas to needier parts of the country.

For weeks, the New Delhi government appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a larger share of India’s oxygen reserves, with the battle for air ending up in the nation’s highest court.

On Thursday, just days after receiving the amount it had requested, New Delhi’s second-highest official, Manish Sisodia, said the city’s demand had fallen and its excess supply should be reallocated.

“The number of cases is coming down, hospital bed occupancy is coming down, and demand for oxygen, too, is down,” Mr. Sisodia told The New York Times.

It was an indication that the crisis in the capital might be reaching a peak.

The oxygen shortage in New Delhi began in April and has been linked to dozens of deaths, in and out of hospitals.

Health care facilities and crematories were overwhelmed, and medical professionals and residents were left scrambling for scarce resources.

Thousands of people in the city of 20 million stood in line at oxygen refilling stations, bringing cylinders into hospitals for friends and family or hoarding them at home in case the need arose.

The rise of new coronavirus infections in India has slowed. But, in pattern seen in nation after nation battered by the virus, death rates often plateau a few weeks later. And with the virus spreading in low-income rural areas, the overall crisis shows no sign of abating.

As of Wednesday, the official death toll surpassed 258,000, although experts suspect the true number to be much higher.

As the smoke from New Delhi crematories starts to clear, dozens of bodies have surfaced along the holy Ganges River in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Krishna Dutt Mishra, an ambulance driver in the Bihari village of Chausa, said that poor people were disposing of bodies in the river because the cost of cremations had become prohibitively expensive.

On Friday, the Indian news media showed bodies wrapped in cloth of the saffron color, considered auspicious in Hinduism, buried in shallow graves on the sandy banks of the Ganges River in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.

Priyanka Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, called for a High Court investigation, saying that what was happening in Uttar Pradesh was “inhuman and criminal.”

A woman from the Guatemalan Maya community in Lake Worth, Fla., at a Covid vaccine center last month.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Latino adults in the United States have the lowest rates of Covid-19 vaccination, but among the unvaccinated they are the demographic group most willing to receive the Covid shots as soon as possible, a new survey shows.

The findings suggest that their depressed vaccination rate reflects in large measure misinformation about cost and access, as well as concerns about employment and immigration issues, according to the latest edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.

Earlier polls had suggested that skepticism about the vaccine was widespread among Latinos, but the latest survey showed that hesitation is declining.

Nearly 40 percent of all the unvaccinated Latinos responding to the survey said they feared they would need to produce government-issued identification to qualify. And about a third said they were afraid that getting the shot would jeopardize either their immigration status or that of a family member.

Their responses also pointed to the importance of community-based access. Nearly half said they would be more likely to be vaccinated if the shots were available at sites where they normally go for health care.

A protest in Utah last year. Some readers expressed hope that the rule change would prompt people to get vaccinated but others worried about “cheaters.”
Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Throughout the pandemic, few topics have touched so raw a nerve in the United States as mask wearing. Confrontations have erupted from state capitols to supermarket checkout aisles, and debates raged over whether mask mandates violate First Amendment rights.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provoked a flood of reaction with its announcement on Thursday that Americans who are fully vaccinated may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings. Here’s a sampling, edited for length and clarity, of how Times readers reacted to the news on Facebook and on our website:

“I think this is a good incentive for the hesitators. Hopefully they’ll want to participate in activities (the ones that require proof of vaccination) maskless, so perhaps this will be an incentive, as they see others in the community enjoying life more.” writes Jerry B., on Facebook.

“Very, very few people have been wearing masks for the past 6 months. Covid is a real risk — I certainly don’t want it — but our cases have dropped precipitously, even with minimal masking. This announcement is welcome — the world will not end if people stop masking,” writes Stephen from Oklahoma City.

“I see the need for this policy change, but I fear that the cheaters — those who are not vaccinated but pretend to be — will be the ruin of us all,” writes Cary in Oregon.

“I have my doubts about the incentivization bit,” writes Andrew from Colorado Springs, Colo. “I figure it will simply mean that suddenly everyone’s been fully vaccinated, true or not. That said, as a double-shotted person, I figure my chances of being taken out by an anti-vaxxer are now less than my chances of being taken out by a texting driver. I’m down with that.”

“What’s to stop anti-masker/anti-vaxxer contrarians from mingling unmasked with the vaccinated population? I have little trust in this,” writes Mary Beth in Santa Fe, N.M.

“I am fully vaccinated and caught Covid anyway. I do think it made my symptoms more mild, but you can bet your bippy I’m going to be wearing my mask when I am out of quarantine.” — writes Jaime P., on Facebook.

What do you think about the guidance? Join the conversation.

Kevin Hayes contributed research.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Sunday.
Credit…Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said on Wednesday that he would pardon “any Floridian” who violated mask or social distancing mandates.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, made the announcement during an appearance on the Fox News program “Ingraham Angle,” just a day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted its guidelines to allow vaccinated people to skip wearing masks in most places.

The show’s host, Laura Ingraham, first interviewed Mike and Jillian Carnevale, the owners of a Broward County gym, who said they had been arrested for violating a county mask mandate. Mr. DeSantis then said their case was “a total overreach.”

Widely seen as positioning himself as a 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Mr. DeSantis throughout the pandemic has criticized coronavirus restrictions and mandates.

Mr. Carnevale said he and Ms. Carnevale were arrested three times after violating Broward County’s mask mandate. Mr. Carnevale was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors and if convicted would face a 120-day jail sentence, and Ms. Carnevale was charged with one second-degree misdemeanor, facing 60 days in jail, said Cory Strolla, a lawyer representing the couple.

Last month, Mr. DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting businesses from requiring patrons or customers to show vaccination documentation, or risk losing grants or contracts funded by the state. Norwegian Cruise Line, which is requiring all guests and crew members to be vaccinated, said it was considering skipping Florida ports over the order.

A coronavirus contact tracer and case investigator working at a community testing site in Davis, Calif.
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

The Biden administration on Thursday outlined how it will spend $7 billion to expand the nation’s public health workforce, adding tens of thousands of jobs to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and future outbreaks, including disease investigators, contact tracers and epidemiologists.

Over $4 billion will go to state and local health departments to help with their Covid-19 response, the White House said in a news release, allowing them to “quickly add staff.” Hiring would include vaccine and test administrators, data scientists, epidemiologists and school nurses who can work to vaccinate teens and children in the coming months. Some of the hiring will boost the ranks at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, the vaunted arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that investigates disease outbreaks.

“Though many threats have increased in complexity and scale in recent years, our nation’s public health workforce has gotten smaller,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference Thursday. “This support will immediately add more staff in health departments across the country.”

C.D.C. leaders have long complained of neglect and underfunding, saying that lawmakers typically only send more resources to the agency when there is a dire public health emergency. Other federal health agencies, particularly the National Institutes of Health, are significantly better funded. Many local health departments have also been short on funding for years.

State and local governments would be able to decide how they use the money, which was allocated through the American Rescue Plan, said Carole Johnson, the Biden administration’s testing coordinator.

The funding underscored a sharp contrast with the Trump administration, which routinely sought to cut off congressional funding for the C.D.C. and stifle its independence within the Department of Health and Human Services.

And it offered relief for local health departments that have been sapped by low morale, firings and harassment. One challenge, though, might be finding enough qualified people to fill new job openings.

Ms. Johnson said money could also go to increasing the number of “disease intervention specialists,” or health workers who would conduct contact tracing, work on case management and help with outbreak investigations. And $400 million would go to a new partnership between the C.D.C. and AmeriCorps, a sprawling national service organization. Called Public Health AmeriCorps, the program would form a “pipeline” for public health workers.

The administration was providing another $3 billion to a new C.D.C. grant program to help smaller local health departments keep staff. The grants would allow those hired to help with the coronavirus pandemic to “continue their careers beyond the pandemic as public health professionals,” the White House said.

“We really are asking grantees to prioritize recruiting from communities they serve and backgrounds that are underrepresented,” Ms. Johnson said.

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A C.D.C. About-Face

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finally catching up to the science.

For months, research about Covid-19 has pointed to two encouraging patterns. First, the underlying virus that causes Covid rarely spreads outdoors. Second — and even more important — fully vaccinated people are at virtually no risk of serious disease and only a minuscule risk of spreading the virus to others.

But the C.D.C., which has long been a cautious agency, has been unwilling to highlight these facts. It has instead focused on tiny risks — risks that are smaller than those from, say, taking a car trip. The C.D.C.’s intricate list of recommended Covid behavior has baffled many Americans and frightened others, making the guidance less helpful than it might have been.

Yesterday, the agency effectively acknowledged it had fallen behind the scientific evidence: Even though that evidence has not changed in months, the C.D.C. overhauled its guidelines. It said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, including crowded indoor gatherings.

The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society.

long accepted without upending our lives, like riding in a car, taking a swim or exposing ourselves to the common cold.

The announcement also sends a message to the unvaccinated (who, the C.D.C. emphasized, should continue wearing masks in most settings): Life is starting to return to normal, and a vaccine shot is your best protection against a deadly virus. It is also the best way to protect your community and the rest of the world. And the long vaccine waits and difficult sign-up procedures are disappearing in most places.

Some experts praised the announcement. “Good move for the C.D.C. and our country,” Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale School of Medicine professor and former Senate staff member, wrote on Twitter. “They must stop making perfect the enemy of very good. And this is a step in that direction.”

Dr. Uché Blackstock, the C.E.O. of Advancing Health Equity, wrote: “I’m ecstatic about this news! It’s evidence-based and it’s bold. I hope that the updated guidelines incentivize more people to get vaccinated.”

Other experts worried that encouraging vaccinated people not to wear masks might cause unvaccinated people to shed them too — the so-called slippery-slope argument. It is a common concern whenever health authorities lift behavior restrictions. But history suggests it is often overblown. An absolutist message often fails, Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School has noted, especially when it urges people to take steps that do not actually protect them.

criticized the C.D.C. during a hearing this week for not hewing to the data — and she argued that the change would lead to safer behavior. “This really matters because if people don’t have confidence in the C.D.C. guidance, if they believe it is driven more by politics than science, then they are likely to disregard the C.D.C. guidelines that we should be following,” Collins said.

will not fall to zero, and it is important to remember that. But zero is not a realistic goal, and the freezing of normal life has brought big costs of its own: children who are not learning; parents who cannot return to the work force; businesses that cannot rehire their workers; and millions of people who miss everyday forms of human companionship.

When Covid was raging out of control, these costs were nonetheless smaller than the alternative. With vaccines widely available, that’s no longer the case.

The C.D.C. has not fully shed its caution. It has not withdrawn its exaggeration of outdoor risks for the unvaccinated. And yesterday’s guidance continues to direct vaccinated people to wear masks and remain physically distant in some circumstances.

Some of those exceptions — like nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons — probably make sense. Many people in these settings are vulnerable, and masks can continue to provide protection, from both small Covid risks and other contagious diseases.

The rationale for other exceptions — like airplanes and public transportation, as well as airports and other travel hubs — is less clear, and the C.D.C. did not offer a public explanation for why vaccinated people need a mask on a bus but not in a bar.

in spreading the virus, a little extra caution is not beyond comprehension. It will not last forever, either. Yesterday’s about-face showed that while the C.D.C. may be slow, officials there take their mission seriously and do not enjoy being out of step with science.

“This is a watershed moment in the pandemic,” Dr. Lucy McBride, an internist, wrote on Twitter. “Next up: unmasking kids outdoors. Please, C.D.C.??”

For more:

Enduring admiration for “Titanic.”

Modern Love: A bear chased them. Then they chased the bear.

A Times Classic: How does family income predict children’s chances of going to college? Draw your guess.

Lives Lived: The chemist Spencer Silver set out to create an adhesive strong enough to be used in aircraft construction. He instead invented one that found use in a ubiquitous office product: the Post-it Note. Silver died at 80.

Reggie Ugwu writes in The Times. It follows a young enslaved woman who escapes through an actual underground railroad.

Jenkins said he was reluctant to make another movie about slavery’s brutal violence. Instead, Reggie writes, the focus is on “the psychic and emotional scourge, and the unfathomable spiritual strength required for any individual — let alone an entire people — to have come out alive.”

James Poniewozik, The Times’s chief television critic, hails the show as a “stirring, full-feeling, technically and artistically and morally potent work.” — Tom Wright-Piersanti, Morning editor

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He’s a Dogecoin Millionaire. And He’s Not Selling.

Last February, when Glauber Contessoto decided to invest his life savings in Dogecoin, his friends had concerns.

“They were all like, you’re crazy,” he said. “It’s a joke coin. It’s a meme. It’s going to crash.”

Their skepticism was warranted. After all, Dogecoin is a joke — a digital currency started in 2013 by a pair of programmers who decided to spoof the cryptocurrency craze by creating their own virtual money based on a meme about Doge, a talking Shiba Inu puppy. And investing money in obscure cryptocurrencies has, historically, been akin to tossing it onto a bonfire.

But Mr. Contessoto, 33, who works at a Los Angeles hip-hop media company, is no ordinary buy-and-hold investor. He is among the many thrill-seeking amateurs who have leapt headfirst into the markets in recent months, using stock-trading apps like Robinhood to chase outsize gains on risky, speculative bets.

In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. Then, he watched his phone obsessively as Dogecoin became an internet phenomenon whose value eclipsed that of blue-chip companies like Twitter and General Motors.

disavowed the coin, and even Mr. Musk has warned investors not to over-speculate in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Musk recently sent the crypto markets into upheaval again, after he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin.)

What explains Dogecoin’s durability, then?

There’s no doubt that Dogecoin mania, like GameStop mania before it, is at least partly attributable to some combination of pandemic-era boredom and the eternal appeal of get-rich-quick schemes.

But there may be more structural forces at work. Over the past few years, soaring housing costs, record student loan debt and historically low interest rates have made it harder for some young people to imagine achieving financial stability by slowly working their way up the career ladder and saving money paycheck by paycheck, the way their parents did.

Instead of ladders, these people are looking for trampolines — risky, volatile investments that could either result in a life-changing windfall or send them right back to where they started.

posted a screenshot of his cryptocurrency trading app, showing that he’d bought more. And on Thursday, when the value of his Dogecoin holdings fell to $1.5 million, roughly half what it was at the peak, he posted another screenshot of his account on Reddit.

“If I can hodl, you can HODL!” the caption read.

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Disney’s Streaming Service Slows, Coloring a Profitable Quarter

Operating income at Disney’s traditional television business — ESPN, ABC, Disney Channel, FX, Freeform, National Geographic and other networks — reached $2.8 billion, a 15 percent increase. Disney attributed the improved results to lower programing costs and higher fees from cable distributors (based on multiyear contracts). Costs at ABC fell primarily because of the timing of the Academy Awards, which aired later than in past years — after the quarter ended — because of the pandemic.

Profit in the quarter, the second in Disney’s fiscal year, totaled $912 million, up 95 percent from a pandemic-battered $468 million a year earlier. When one-time items are excluded, per-share profit rose 32 percent, to 79 cents from 60 cents. (Analysts had expected about 27 cents.)

Revenue was $15.6 billion, a 13 percent decline from a year earlier.

Disney estimated that the pandemic had a $1.2 billion impact on its theme park and cruise empire. As a result, the division had a loss of $403 million. Disneyland in California, two theme parks in France and the Disney Cruise Line were closed during the recent quarter. Disneyland reopened on April 30 with capacity limited to 25 percent, as mandated by California officials.

Mr. Chapek told analysts that the company’s largest tourist destination, Walt Disney World in Florida, would benefit from the relaxed mask-wearing guidance given by federal officials on Thursday.

“That is very big news for us,” he said. Vacationing “in Florida in summer with a mask on can be quite daunting.”

In terms of theme park demand for the months ahead, Mr. Chapek noted that Disney research had found that “intent to visit” by families was on a par with 2019, suggesting a bounce-back for the resorts once capacity restrictions and other measures (mandatory face coverings) are lifted or relaxed.

In another signal of a recovery, Disney said two films, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Free Guy,” starring Ryan Reynolds, would receive exclusive 45-day runs in theaters before appearing on Disney+. “Free Guy” is scheduled to arrive in cinemas on Aug. 13 and “Shang-Chi,” a Marvel spectacle, in early September.

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The Gateses’ Public Split Spotlights a Secretive Fortune

The fortune of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates exceeds the size of Morocco’s annual economy, combines the value of Ford, Twitter and Marriott International and is triple the endowment of Harvard. While few know how their wealth will be divided in the divorce, one thing is clear: breaking it up can’t be easy.

Mr. Gates built one of the great fortunes in human history when he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. The Gateses’ net worth is estimated to be more than $124 billion, and includes assets as varied as trophy real estate, public company stocks and rare artifacts.

There’s a big stake in the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and ranch land, including Buffalo Bill’s historic Wyoming ranch. There are billions of dollars’ worth of shares in companies like AutoNation and Waste Management. There’s a beachfront mansion in Southern California. And one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.

“The amount of money and the diversity of assets that are involved in this divorce boggles the imagination,” said David Aronson, a lawyer who has represented wealthy clients in divorce cases. “There have rarely been cases that are even close to this in size.”

2019 divorce between the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife, the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, was bigger. Mr. Bezos had an estimated fortune of $137 billion, though mostly in Amazon stock, and Ms. Scott kept 4 percent of Amazon’s shares, worth $36 billion at the time.

But Mr. Gates has for decades been diversifying his holdings; he owns just 1.3 percent of Microsoft. Instead, his stock portfolio includes stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies. He is the largest private owner of farmland in the country, according to The Land Report. In addition to the Four Seasons, he has stakes in other luxury hotels and a company that caters to private jet owners. His real estate portfolio includes one of the largest houses in the country and several equestrian facilities. He owns stakes in a clean energy investment fund and a nuclear energy start-up.

Forbes, or $146 billion, according to the research firm Wealth-X. Including the Gates Foundation’s endowment and the Gates personal fortune, Cascade most likely oversees assets that put it on par or beyond some of the world’s biggest hedge funds in size.

Mr. Larson operates Cascade with an obsessive level of secrecy, going to great lengths to cloak the firm’s transactions so that they can’t easily be traced back to the Gateses. In a 1999 interview with Fortune magazine, Mr. Larson said he chose the name “Cascade” because it was a generic-sounding name in the Pacific Northwest.

that questions about the future of the Gates Foundation immediately arose following news of the divorce. The foundation directs billions to 135 countries to help fight poverty and disease. As of 2019, it had given away nearly $55 billion. (In 2006, Mr. Buffett pledged $31 billion of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, greatly increasing its grant making.)

Since he stepped down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008, Mr. Gates has devoted much of his time to the foundation. He also runs Gates Ventures, a firm that invests in companies working on climate change and other issues. Over the decades, Mr. Gates shed the image of a ruthless tech executive battling the United States government on antitrust to be viewed as a global do-gooder. And he appears to be keenly aware of the stark contrast between the scale of his wealth and his role as a philanthropist. “I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for the work I’ve done — while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by,” he acknowledged in a year-end blog post from 2019.

told The New York Times last year. “There’s just none.”

Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.

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What to Know About Gaza’s Rocket Arsenal

CAIRO — They smuggle the parts or make their own, aided with know-how from Iran. They repurpose plumbing pipes scavenged from abandoned Israeli settlements and components culled from dud Israeli bombs. They assemble the rockets underground or in dense neighborhoods that the Israelis are reluctant to strike.

Despite Israel’s vaunted surveillance capability and overwhelming military firepower next door, Palestinian militants in Gaza have managed to amass a large arsenal of rockets with enhanced range in the 16 years since Israel vacated the coastal enclave it had occupied after the 1967 war.

Hamas, the militant group that has run Gaza since 2007 and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, has parlayed the arsenal into an increasingly lethal threat, as seen in the most recent upsurge of hostilities with the Israeli military. By Thursday, Israeli officials said, the militants had fired about 1,800 rockets.

The arsenal pales in comparison to the vast destructive powers of Israel’s air force. But to Israelis, the rockets are the tools of what their country and many others including the United States regard as a terrorist organization, embedded among the nearly two million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza.

Michael Armstrong, an associate professor of operations research at Brock University in Canada, found a significant increase in the rate of fire. Using numbers from the Israel Defense Forces, Mr. Armstrong, who studies these weapons, cited 470 rockets fired from Gaza during the first 24 hours of the most recent escalation compared to a peak of 192 rockets per day in 2014 and 312 in 2012.

Hamas, he says, also launched more long-range attacks with 130 rockets fired at Tel Aviv late Tuesday, representing close to 17 percent of all fired until that point. In 2014 that rate was at eight percent and in 2012 at less than one percent.

“We still don’t know if Hamas has more long-range rockets, or if they are choosing to use their best stuff first,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Michael Herzog, an Israel-based international fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, said Israeli military and intelligence officials are now far more concerned about the abilities of the militants to produce rockets they once had to import.

“The focus of I.D.F. targeting now is on the production facilities so that when this round of fighting ends, there will not only be less rockets but also less production capabilities for making them,” Mr. Herzog said.

The Gaza militants have openly attributed their success to help supplied by Iran, which Israel regards as its most potent foreign adversary. Iranian officials, too, are not shy about their relationship with Hamas.

Speaking to a large gathering in May 2019, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, could not have been more explicit in acknowledging Iran’s critical role in assisting Hamas.

“If it wasn’t for Iran’s support,” he said, “we would not have had these capabilities.”

Along with providing smuggled weapons and equipment, Iran has been focused on training to help Hamas upgrade local production, extend the range of rockets and improve their accuracy, according to both Palestinian and Israeli officials and experts.

“It is a huge improvement going from firing one or two rockets at a time to launching 130 rockets in five minutes,” said Rami Abu Zubaydah, a Gaza-based military expert, referring to the frequency of fire seen in the past few days.

“Most weapons are now manufactured in Gaza, using technical expertise from Iran,” he said.

While still having to rely on smuggling parts and raw materials, Hamas leaders say the group has engineered creative workarounds to overcome tighter border controls and surveillance.

A 50-minute documentary broadcast by the Qatari-owned television channel Al Jazeera in September showed rare scenes of Hamas militants recovering dozens of Israeli missiles that had not detonated in previous strikes on Gaza.

They brought the remnants into what looked like a hidden manufacturing facility, carefully extracted the explosives packed inside and recycled some of the parts. The same documentary also showed militants digging up old water pipes from where Israeli settlements used to sit and repurposing the empty cylinders in the production of new rockets.

Referring to the repurposed plumbing pipes, while speaking in another gathering in 2019, Mr. Sinwar said, “There is enough there to manufacture rockets for the coming 10 years.”

Nada Rashwan, John Ismay and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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More Scientists Urge Broad Inquiry Into Coronavirus Origins

A group of 18 scientists stated Thursday in a letter published in the journal Science that there is not enough evidence to decide whether a natural origin or an accidental laboratory leak caused the Covid-19 pandemic.

They argued, as the U.S. government and other countries have, for a new investigation to explore where the virus came from.

The organizers of the letter, Jesse Bloom, who studies the evolution of viruses at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University, said they strove to articulate a wait-and-see viewpoint that they believe is shared by many scientists. Many of the signers have not spoken out before.

“Most of the discussion you hear about SARS-CoV-2 origins at this point is coming from, I think, the relatively small number of people who feel very certain about their views,” Dr. Bloom said.

issued a report claiming that such a leak was extremely unlikely, even though the mission never investigated any Chinese labs. The team did visit the Wuhan lab, but did not investigate it. A lab investigation was never part of their mandate. The report, produced in a mission with Chinese scientists, drew extensive criticism from the U.S. government and others that the Chinese government had not cooperated fully and had limited the international scientists’ access to information.

The new letter argued for a new and more rigorous investigation of virus origins that would involve a broader range of experts and safeguard against conflicts of interest.

Recent letters by another group of scientists and international affairs experts argued at length for the relative likelihood of a laboratory leak. Previous statements from other scientists and the W.H.O. report both asserted that a natural origin was by far the most plausible.

Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, said he signed the new letter because “the recent W.H.O. report on the origins of the virus, and its discussion, spurred several of us to get in touch with each other and talk about our shared desire for dispassionate investigation of the origins of the virus.”

“I certainly respect the opinion of others who may disagree with what we’ve said in the letter, but I felt I had no choice but to put my concerns out there,” he said.

Another signer, Sarah E. Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, said, “I think it is more likely than not that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from an animal reservoir rather than a lab.”

But “lab accidents do happen and can have disastrous consequences,” she added. “I am concerned about the short- and long-term consequences of failing to evaluate the possibility of laboratory escape in a rigorous way. It would be a troublesome precedent.”

The list of signers includes researchers with deep knowledge of the SARS family of viruses, such as Ralph Baric at the University of North Carolina, who had collaborated with the Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli in research done at the university on the original SARS virus. Dr. Baric did not respond to attempts to reach him by email and telephone.

often cited paper in March 2020 that dismissed the likelihood of a laboratory origin based largely on the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. “We do not believe any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” that paper stated.

Speaking for himself only, Dr. Relman said in an interview that “the piece that Kristian Anderson and four others wrote last March in my view simply fails to provide evidence to support their conclusions.”

Dr. Andersen, who reviewed the letter in Science, said that both explanations were theoretically possible. But, “the letter suggests a false equivalence between the lab escape and natural origin scenarios,” he said. “To this day, no credible evidence has been presented to support the lab leak hypothesis, which remains grounded in speculation.”

Instead, he said, available data “are consistent with a natural emergence of a novel virus from a zoonotic reservoir, as has been observed so many times in the past.” He said he supported further inquiry into the origin of the virus.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, has criticized the politicization of the laboratory leak theory.

She supports further investigation, but said that “there is more evidence (both genomic and historical precedent) that this was the result of zoonotic emergence rather than a laboratory accident.”

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Covid Pandemic Demands Air Quality Changes in the Workplace, Researchers Say

Clean water in 1842, food safety in 1906, a ban on lead-based paint in 1971. These sweeping public health reforms transformed not just our environment but expectations for what governments can do.

Now it’s time to do the same for indoor air quality, according to a group of 39 scientists. In a manifesto of sorts published on Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers called for a “paradigm shift” in how citizens and government officials think about the quality of the air we breathe indoors.

The timing of the scientists’ call to action coincides with the nation’s large-scale reopening as coronavirus cases steeply decline: Americans are anxiously facing a return to offices, schools, restaurants and theaters — exactly the type of crowded indoor spaces in which the coronavirus is thought to thrive.

There is little doubt now that the coronavirus can linger in the air indoors, floating far beyond the recommended six feet of distance, the experts declared. The accumulating research puts the onus on policymakers and building engineers to provide clean air in public buildings and to minimize the risk of respiratory infections, they said.

new workplace standards for air quality, but the scientists maintained that the remedies do not have to be onerous. Air quality in buildings can be improved with a few simple fixes, they said: adding filters to existing ventilation systems, using portable air cleaners and ultraviolet lights — or even just opening the windows where possible.

Dr. Morawska led a group of 239 scientists who last year called on the World Health Organization to acknowledge that the coronavirus can spread in tiny droplets, or aerosols, that drift through the air. The W.H.O. had insisted that the virus spreads only in larger, heavier droplets and by touching contaminated surfaces, contradicting its own 2014 rule to assume all new viruses are airborne.

The W.H.O. conceded on July 9 that transmission of the virus by aerosols could be responsible for “outbreaks of Covid-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking or singing,” but only at short range.

detailed 10 lines of evidence that support the importance of airborne transmission indoors.

On April 30, the W.H.O. inched forward and allowed that in poorly ventilated spaces, aerosols “may remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 meter (long-range).” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had also been slow to update its guidelines, recognized last week that the virus can be inhaled indoors, even when a person is more than six feet away from an infected individual.

“They have ended up in a much better, more scientifically defensible place,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne viruses at Virginia Tech, and a signatory to the letter.

“It would be helpful if they were to undertake a public service messaging campaign to publicize this change more broadly,” especially in parts of the world where the virus is surging, she said. For example, in some East Asian countries, stacked toilet systems could transport the virus between floors of a multistory building, she noted.

More research is also needed on how the virus moves indoors. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory modeled the flow of aerosol-size particles after a person has had a five-minute coughing bout in one room of a three-room office with a central ventilation system. Clean outdoor air and air filters both cut down the flow of particles in that room, the scientists reported in April.

But rapid air exchanges — more than 12 in an hour — can propel particles into connected rooms, much as secondhand smoke can waft into lower levels or nearby rooms.

guidance for Covid does not require improvements to ventilation, except for health care settings.

“Ventilation is really built into the approach that OSHA takes to all airborne hazards,” said Peg Seminario, who served as director of occupational safety and health for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. from 1990 until her retirement in 2019. “With Covid being recognized as an airborne hazard, those approaches should apply.”

In January, President Biden directed OSHA to issue emergency temporary guidelines for Covid by March 15. But OSHA missed the deadline: Its draft is reportedly being reviewed by the White House’s regulatory office.

only during medical procedures known to produce aerosols, or if they have close contact with an infected patient. Those are the same guidelines the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. offered early in the pandemic. Face masks and plexiglass barriers would protect the rest, the association said in March in a statement to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

“They’re still stuck in the old paradigm, they have not accepted the fact that talking and coughing often generate more aerosols than do these so-called aerosol-generating procedures,” Dr. Marr said of the hospital group.

increase the risk, perhaps because they inhibit proper airflow in a room.

The improvements do not have to be expensive: In-room air filters are reasonably priced at less than 50 cents per square foot, although a shortage of supply has raised prices, said William Bahnfleth, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University, and head of the Epidemic Task Force at Ashrae (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), which sets standards for such devices. UV lights that are incorporated into a building’s ventilation system can cost up to roughly $1 per square foot; those installed room by room perform better but could be 10 times as expensive, he said.

If OSHA rules do change, demand could inspire innovation and slash prices. There is precedent to believe that may happen, according to David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University who served as OSHA director under President Barack Obama.

When OSHA moved to control exposure to a carcinogen called vinyl chloride, the building block of vinyl, the plastics industry warned it would threaten 2.1 million jobs. In fact, within months, companies “actually saved money and not a single job was lost,” Dr. Michaels recalled.

In any case, absent employees and health care costs can prove to be more costly than updates to ventilation systems, the experts said. Better ventilation will help thwart not just the coronavirus, but other respiratory viruses that cause influenza and common colds, as well as pollutants.

Before people realized the importance of clean water, cholera and other waterborne pathogens claimed millions of lives worldwide every year.

“We live with colds and flus and just accept them as a way of life,” Dr. Marr said. “Maybe we don’t really have to.”

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