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Biden Plan Spurs Fight Over What ‘Infrastructure’ Really Means

“Many people in the states would be surprised to hear that broadband for rural areas no longer counts,” said Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden in the White House. “We think that the people in Jackson, Miss., might be surprised to hear that fixing that water system doesn’t count as infrastructure. We think the people of Texas might disagree with the idea that the electric grid isn’t infrastructure that needs to be built with resilience for the 21st century.”

White House officials said that much of Mr. Biden’s plan reflected the reality that infrastructure had taken on a broader meaning as the nature of work changes, focusing less on factories and shipping goods and more on creating and selling services.

Other economists back the idea that the definition has changed.

Dan Sichel, an economics professor at Wellesley College and a former Federal Reserve research official, said it could be helpful to think of what comprises infrastructure as a series of concentric circles: a basic inner band made up of roads and bridges, a larger social ring of schools and hospitals, then a digital layer including things like cloud computing. There could also be an intangible layer, like open-source software or weather data.

“It is definitely an amorphous concept,” he said, but basically “we mean key economic assets that support and enable economic activity.”

The economy has evolved since the 1950s: Manufacturers used to employ about a third of the work force but now count for just 8.5 percent of jobs in the United States. Because the economy has changed, it is important that our definitions are updated, Mr. Sichel said.

The debate over the meaning of infrastructure is not new. In the days of the New Deal-era Tennessee Valley Authority, academics and policymakers sparred over whether universal access to electricity was necessary public infrastructure, said Shane M. Greenstein, an economist at Harvard Business School whose recent research focuses on broadband.

“Washington has an attention span of several weeks, and this debate is a century old,” he said. These days, he added, it is about digital access instead of clean water and power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six States Open Vaccines to All Adults on Monday

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

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

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

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

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

For many, the vaccine cannot come soon enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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State Lawmakers Try to Curb Governors’ Coronavirus Powers

When the pandemic began, the nation’s governors suited up for a new role as state bodyguards, issuing emergency orders to shutter schools, close cinemas and ban indoor dining in an effort to curb a mushrooming threat.

But not everyone likes killjoys, no matter how well-intentioned.

Now, state legislatures — saying the governors have gone too far — are churning out laws aimed at reining in the power of their executives to respond to the pandemic and emergencies like it.

A Kansas bill that this week became law requires Gov. Laura Kelly to suspend all emergency orders and give legislators the option to void any that she reissues. Mask mandates are likely to be among the first to fall. Ohio legislators overrode Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto this week, limiting his powers to make emergency declarations . Utah lawmakers voted for an April 10 end to mask requirements and to rein in powers of the governor and state health officials to deal with crises; the bill became law on Wednesday.

Those are but some of the 300-odd proposals to curb governors’ emergency powers that have won approval or are awaiting action in state House and Senate chambers — although most will, as usual, be winnowed out in committee and never come to a vote.

A list of bills by the National Conference of State Legislators shows that the gamut of the proposals is both broad and inventive. An Arkansas state senator wanted fines for violating coronavirus restrictions refunded to violators. Lawmakers in six states, including Georgia and Oregon want to stop governors from imposing limits on attendance at church services. A measure in Maine would circumvent restrictions on businesses by declaring all businesses to be essential in any emergency.

Most proposals, however, are more straightforward attempts to give lawmakers a say, often by limiting the duration of emergency declarations and requiring legislative approval to extend them. The nonpartisan Uniform Law Commission is reviewing state emergency statutes to see if they need updating in light of the coronavirus crisis. But the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative pro-business group that has spent years cultivating ties with state legislators, has beaten them to the punch, circulating a so-called model law that is the basis for many state proposals.

Some experts call that a mistake. “The time for legislatures to address emergency declarations isn’t in the middle an emergency, but before or after one,” said Jill Krueger, the director of the northern region of the Network for Public Health Law, in Edina, Minn.

Indeed, practically every state has at least one measure targeting a governor in a legislative committee or in the lawbooks.

The Republican governor of Indiana, Eric J. Holcomb, has backed more lenient coronavirus restrictions than have governors of some neighboring states, giving businesses more generous occupancy limits based on the severity of Covid-19 outbreaks in each county. That did not stop the Republican-controlled legislature from filing 21 bills aimed at loosening his emergency powers, the most of any state surveyed by the Conference of State Legislatures, including a resolution calling for the statewide emergency to be scrapped immediately.

The resolution appeared to be gathering serious momentum until Tuesday, when the governor sought to address critics by lifting a statewide mask mandate and turning business regulations over to local governments.

Both actions go well beyond the easing of restrictions taken in most other states that have relaxed regulations, although local governments retain the right to impose stiffer rules.

“His middle of the road approach has resonated with people,” said Andrew Downs, an associate professor and expert on Indiana politics at Purdue University-Fort Wayne. That said, he added, “people out on the extreme are upset with him, and they recognized the need to recapture some of the power the governor has been using.”

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Ford Can Be Sued in States Where Accidents Occurred, Supreme Court Rules

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for consumers injured by products to sue their manufacturers, unanimously ruling that courts have jurisdiction over lawsuits filed in the consumers’ home states notwithstanding that the products were made and sold elsewhere so long as the manufacturers did substantial business in the states.

The case arose from two car accidents involving vehicles made by Ford Motor Company. In one, Markkaya Gullett was driving her 1996 Explorer near her Montana home when the tread separated from a tire. The vehicle spun into a ditch and flipped over, and Ms. Gullett died at the scene. Her estate sued Ford in state court in Montana.

In the other, Adam Bandemer was a passenger in a 1994 Crown Victoria, on his way to do some ice-fishing in Minnesota, when the driver rear-ended a snowplow. The passenger-side airbag failed, and Mr. Bandemer sustained serious brain damage. He sued in state court in Minnesota.

Ford argued that the courts lacked jurisdiction because the company did not have a relevant connection to those states. It had designed the vehicles in Michigan; it had manufactured the Explorer in Kentucky and sold it in Washington State; and it had manufactured the Crown Victoria in Canada and sold it in North Dakota. (The cars ended up in Montana and Minnesota after they were resold.)

quoting an earlier decision. “Their residents, while riding in vehicles purchased within their borders, were killed or injured in accidents on their roads. Can anyone seriously argue that requiring Ford to litigate these cases in Minnesota and Montana would be fundamentally unfair?”

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, also filed a concurring opinion in the case, Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, No. 19-368, saying the court’s jurisprudence in this area was muddled and out of step with the modern reality of “corporations with global reach.”

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More than 40 states say they will meet or beat Biden’s May 1 deadline for vaccine eligibility for all adults.

The push to get Americans vaccinated has picked up momentum in recent days. Governors and public health officials in more than 40 states have said they will meet or beat President Biden’s goal of making every adult eligible for a vaccine by May 1, and at least 30 states plan to start universal eligibility in March or April.

“Everybody in the state vaccinated, that ought to be our goal,” said Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, one of five states where everyone 16 and older is already eligible. “I know we’re not going to be able to attain that goal, but we’re going to absolutely be close and that’s what we need to continue to do.”

This week alone, officials in seven states have announced dates for universal eligibility. In Arizona, everyone 16 and older became eligible this week at state-run sites. In Tennessee, universal eligibility was set for April 5. In New Jersey, officials said they expected to meet Mr. Biden’s May 1 goal.

On Tuesday, Texas, Indiana and Georgia announced universal eligibility dates for late March. Officials in some other states, including Alabama and Minnesota, have said they expect to meet the president’s May deadline, but have not given exact dates for the eligibility expansions.

part of Phase 1c, the third round of priority groups, are not eligible to get vaccinated in the state unless they meet age requirements. Those groups include construction workers and many retail employees, who are generally not able to work remotely during the pandemic.

as about 2.5 million doses of vaccine are administered across the country each day, according to data reported by the C.D.C. About 25 percent of the total U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, and about 14 percent have been fully vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in people as young as 16 while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be given to those 18 and older.

about 55,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths identified each day. Though the number of new deaths continues to fall, reports of new cases have leveled off in recent weeks as more cases of worrisome variants are detected. Case numbers have been persistently high in the Northeast, and new outbreaks have emerged in Michigan, Minnesota and other states. On Wednesday, the country surpassed more than 30 million cases, according to a New York Times database.

But many officials hope expanding eligibility and increasing the pace of inoculation could bring those outbreaks under control.

“My thought is that we’re going to see a continued decrease in transmission as we open vaccine eligibility,” said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida. “It’s not just a matter of more people getting vaccinated, but the variety of ages and kinds of people who can get vaccinated will reduce that transmission.”

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Covid Vaccines Often Come With State Residency Requirements

Melanie Allen, a high school English teacher, was in a bind. She works in one state and lives in another. And both denied her a Covid-19 vaccine.

Ms. Allen, who lives in Chatham, N.H., but works in Maine, said she was told that she was not eligible for a vaccine by officials in both states. Although teachers are now eligible for vaccination in every state, her New Hampshire residency blocked her from receiving the vaccine in Maine, she said.

And in New Hampshire, she was told she is not eligible because she does not teach in the state and, at 45, does not meet the age requirement.

And so, she waited.

On Friday, Ms. Allen finally got her first shot after a health center in Maine decided to vaccinate teachers no matter where they lived.

allows workers who live in other states to receive the vaccine if they can prove that they work in an approved industry.

States including Florida and New Hampshire limited the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to residents in hopes of stemming complaints of “vaccine tourism,” where a person could drive across a state line for a shot that they would not be eligible for back home.

Although most states allow nonresident workers to be inoculated, Ms. Kates said people living in one state and working in another might run into snags as they navigate the scheduling process.

“When you have such a patchwork of requirements,” Ms. Kates said, “it’s like a puzzle, and people who really want to get vaccinated are trying to figure how they can get that last piece of the puzzle.”

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Massachusetts joins a growing number of states rapidly expanding vaccine eligibility, some well ahead of Biden’s May 1 deadline.

Not long ago, Covid-19 vaccines were available only to the most vulnerable Americans and some essential workers. That is quickly changing as vaccine production and distribution ramp up and more states begin to heed a call from President Biden to expand access to all adults by May.

States are also racing to stay ahead of the growing number of virus variants, some of which are more contagious and possibly even more deadly. At least three states — Maine, Virginia and Wisconsin — and Washington, D.C., have said that they will expand eligibility to their general population by May 1, the deadline that Mr. Biden set last week. Other states — including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Utah — hope to do so this month or next.

In Mississippi and Alaska, everyone age 16 or older is eligible, and Arizona and Michigan have made the vaccines available to all adults in some counties.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine. With three vaccines now in use, Mr. Biden has said that the United States will have secured enough doses by the end of May for shots to be available for all adults.

have already been expanding eligibility for vaccinations. In Ohio, vaccines will open to anyone 40 and up as of Friday, and to more residents with certain medical conditions. Indiana extended access to people 45 and older, effective immediately.

In Massachusetts, residents 60 years and older, as well as people who work in small spaces and those whose work requires regular public interaction, will be eligible for a vaccine on March 22, the state announced Wednesday. Residents 55 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible on April 5, and everyone else 16 years and older will be eligible on April 19.

Coloradans age 50 and up will be eligible for a shot on Friday, along with anyone 16 years and older with certain medical conditions. Wisconsin said on Tuesday that residents 16 years and up with certain medical conditions would be eligible a week earlier than initially planned.

On Monday, Texans age 50 and older and Georgians over 55 became eligible for vaccines.

In New York State, residents 60 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine, and more frontline workers will become eligible on Wednesday, including government employees, building services workers and employees of nonprofit groups. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to announce how or when the state will open eligibility to all adults.

the federal government has delivered nearly 143 million vaccine doses to states and territories, and more than 77 percent have been administered, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country is averaging about 2.4 million shots a day, compared with well under one million a day in January.

As of Tuesday, 65 percent of the country’s older population had received at least one vaccine dose, according to C.D.C. data, with 37 percent fully vaccinated.

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