Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China


Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Waiting for Covid-19 testing in Nanjing this month. About 200 cases have been reported in an outbreak centered on the city as of Friday.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For more than a year, Chinese officials have beat back the coronavirus with a tried formula: Strict lockdowns at the sites of outbreaks. Lengthy quarantines for travelers. And citywide testing when new cases appear.

But an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta variant could challenge China’s zero-tolerance approach toward new infections.

In the outbreak, centered in the eastern city of Nanjing, about 200 cases have been reported as of Friday. But infections have spread rapidly, with patients emerging in at least six Chinese provinces and the capital, Beijing, in just three weeks.

As officials move to contain the spread, the highly infectious Delta variant could prove to be a more difficult foe than the original version of the virus, which China stamped out with harsh efficiency in 2020. With most of China’s people already vaccinated, the emergence of Delta could also present a test for the country’s domestically made vaccines and could force the authorities to take even tougher steps to control the virus.

Chinese officials say they have administered enough vaccine doses to cover around 800 million people. But several other countries that used Chinese-made vaccines have reported that fully inoculated people continue to be infected, although most do not appear to become seriously ill. Data also indicates that the Delta variant is more easily transmitted, even by those who have had two doses of more effective vaccines, such as those produced by the companies Pfizer and Moderna.

The outbreak in China began when a group of airport workers in Nanjing were sickened around July 10, probably from exposure to an infected person who arrived on a flight from Russia, according to city officials. Two rounds of citywide testing of more than eight million people turned up 184 cases.

To stop the spread, Nanjing has increasingly shut down services, first closing the airport, then restricting indoor gatherings. This week, the city authorities closed parts of the expressway that connects Nanjing with other major cities in Jiangsu Province.

As handfuls of cases connected to Nanjing have popped up in other provinces, the authorities there have moved swiftly to impose restrictions.

In the central city of Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province, indoor public areas including movie theaters and malls were closed after the authorities said that four people with the virus, all asymptomatic, went to a show in the city. Nearly 200 miles away in the provincial capital of Changsha, the authorities banned indoor gatherings in response to one confirmed case.

In central Sichuan Province, where seven cases were found, the authorities declared parts of the capital, Chengdu, a medium-risk zone. The discovery of three cases in the northern city of Shenyang prompted officials there to begin tracking visitors who had come from other areas with outbreaks.

Perhaps most worrying to officials are two cases that appeared in Beijing, where the government has generally followed stricter prevention policies. Officials said that a husband and wife who traveled from Zhangjiajie had tested positive and that 654 people who had been in close contact with them had been placed in quarantine.

Li You contributed research.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
A U.S. Army soldier standing guard while on patrol with local allied forces in May near the Turkish border in northeastern Syria.Credit...John Moore/Getty Images

The Pentagon said on Thursday evening that it would require military personnel to attest to their vaccination status against the coronavirus or face frequent testing and other restrictions.

The announcement came just hours after President Biden announced that federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or be required to submit to regular testing and other measures.

Mr. Biden also called upon the Department of Defense to move rapidly toward requiring coronavirus vaccines for all members of the military, a step that would affect almost 1.5 million troops, many of whom have resisted taking a shot that is highly effective against a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans.

But he stopped short of saying he would use his powers as commander in chief to compel service members to get vaccines not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration by issuing a waiver.

On Thursday night, Jamal Brown, a deputy Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement that military members would need to adhere to the same guidelines as the department’s civilian workers.

Employees would be asked to “attest to their vaccination status” and, if unwilling to do so, they “will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions,” the statement said.

The military sits firmly at the center of an escalating debate over vaccine mandates as Mr. Biden and other officials struggle to get ahead of the Delta variant sweeping through the nation.

Members of the military are regularly given vaccines, and unvaccinated service members are sometimes not allowed to deploy abroad and face other restrictions. But as a political matter, forcing the coronavirus vaccines on the military is all but certain to set off a firestorm among Mr. Biden’s critics.

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Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
In Miami Beach, Fla., on Wednesday. The C.D.C.’s new masking guidelines, introduced on Tuesday, were based on information presented in a document about the Delta variant.Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

The Delta variant is much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of the virus, according to an internal presentation circulated within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the agency, acknowledged on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people, and may spread it just as readily, if less often.

But the internal document lays out a broader and even grimmer view of the variant.

The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and it is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The immediate next step for the agency is to “acknowledge the war has changed,” the document said. Its contents were first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday evening.

The document’s tone reflects alarm among C.D.C. scientists about Delta’s spread across the country, said a federal official who has seen the research described in the document. The agency is expected to publish additional data on the variant on Friday.

The agency’s new masking guidelines for vaccinated people, introduced on Tuesday, were based on the information presented in the document. The C.D.C. recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public settings in communities with high transmission of the virus.

But the internal document hints that even that recommendation may not go far enough. “Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential,” the document said.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Mindy Greene trying to comfort her husband, Russ Greene, last week as he was being treated for severe Covid at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. “If I had the information I have today we would have gotten vaccinated,” Ms. Greene wrote on Facebook.Credit...Kim Raff for The New York Times

As Mindy Greene spent another day in the Covid-19 intensive-care unit, listening to the whirring machines that now breathed for her 42-year-old husband, Russ, she opened her phone and tapped out a message.

“We did not get the vaccine,” she wrote on Facebook. “I read all kinds of things about the vaccine and it scared me. So I made the decision and prayed about it and got the impression that we would be ok.”

They were not.

Her husband and father to their four children was now hovering between life and death, tentacles of tubes spilling from his body. The patient in the room next to her husband had died hours earlier. That July 13 day, Ms. Greene decided to add her voice to an unlikely group of people speaking out in the polarized national debate over vaccination: The remorseful.

“If I had the information I have today we would have gotten vaccinated,” Ms. Greene wrote. Come what may, she hit ‘send.’

Amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections and deaths, people who once rejected the vaccine or simply waited too long are now grappling with the consequences, often in raw, public ways. They are speaking from hospital beds, at funerals and in obituaries about their regrets, about the pain of enduring the virus and watching unvaccinated family members die gasping for breath.

“I have such incredible guilt,” Ms. Greene said one morning as she sat in the fourth-floor lobby outside the I.C.U. at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, overlooking the mountains where her family once went hiking and four-wheeling. “I blame myself still. Every day.”

The recent surge of infections and hospitalizations among unvaccinated people has brought the grim realities of Covid-19 crashing home for many who thought they had skirted the pandemic. But now, with anger and fatigue piled up on all sides, the question is whether their stories can actually change any minds.

Some people hospitalized with the virus still vow not to get vaccinated, and surveys suggest that the majority of unvaccinated Americans are not budging. Doctors in Covid units say some patients still refuse to believe they are infected with anything beyond the flu.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Companies are changing their return-to-office plans as the Delta variant causes a surge in coronavirus cases.Credit...Kena Betancur/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The New York Times on Friday indefinitely postponed its planned return to the office as the contagious Delta variant causes a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

The decision adds The Times to a growing list of companies that are changing their return plans, asking employees to wear masks again or requiring vaccinations. The Washington Post this week said it would require all employees to show they were vaccinated as a condition of employment, Uber said it would require all employees to be vaccinated and delayed its return to the office, and Lyft will not require employees to return to the office until February.

“In light of the evolution of the virus, including new trends around the Delta variant and the updated guidance from the C.D.C. this week on masking, we have decided to push out our plans for a full return at this time,” Meredith Kopit Levien, chief executive of The New York Times Company, wrote in an email to staff on Friday. The company had been planning for employees to start to return, for at least three days a week, on Sept. 7.

Ms. Levien said that The Times’s offices would be open for those who wanted to go in voluntarily, with a mandatory proof of vaccination.

The company is “not ready to specify a new date for a full reopening,” she wrote, adding that the company would provide employees at least four weeks notice before asking them to return.
Here’s what some other companies have said about their changing policies:

  • Twitter has closed its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postponed other reopening plans.

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Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Yu Wu serving dim sum at Pacific Palace restaurant on Eighth Avenue, a commercial strip in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, N.Y., in March.Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus has become the most predominant variant in the United States and medical experts issue confusing advice, restaurateurs find themselves once again making difficult decisions. Where laws allow, many have begun requiring patrons to bring proof of vaccination before dining.

The recent rise in infection rates had already prompted some restaurant owners to revise their rules. But the announcement on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors added new urgency.

In states including California and New York, some restaurant owners are mandating that customers and employees be vaccinated, and reinstating older health protocols like requiring that both groups wear masks. But in states like Florida and Arkansas, which have had huge spikes in coronavirus cases, businesses are prohibited from enforcing vaccine requirements, and local governments cannot issue mask mandates.

Danny Meyer, the chief executive of Union Square Hospitality Group, which manages more than a dozen restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C., announced Thursday that beginning on Sept. 7, all employees must be fully vaccinated.

“I just do not want to see our business or our city turn back to where we were last summer,” he said. “We have an answer, and this is what the answer is, and it’s vaccines.”

But when Jill Ritchie, owner of Vegan Picnic, in San Francisco, announced that customers would have to present proof of vaccination to eat inside, she said she received hundreds of threatening messages a day, and dozens of one-star reviews from skeptics.

Yelp posted a consumer warning for the restaurant about unusual review activity. People continue to leave negative Google reviews based on her announcement. “Come here to be discriminated against,” said one message.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
A vaccine mandate is already in place for Bruce Springsteen’s concert show, which began performances in June.Credit...Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Broadway’s theater owners and operators, citing the ongoing dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, said Friday that they have decided to require that theatergoers be vaccinated against Covid-19 and wear masks in order to attend a performance.

The policy, announced just days before the first Broadway play in more than 16 months is to start performances, allows children ineligible for vaccination to attend shows if tested for the virus. But some performing arts venues in New York say they will go even further: The Metropolitan Opera, which hopes to reopen in late September, and Carnegie Hall, which is planning to reopen in October, are not only planning to require vaccinations, but also to bar children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

The new vaccination requirements for visitors to New York’s most prominent performing arts venues come as the highly contagious Delta variant has caused virus cases to rise, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that vaccinated Americans in virus hot spots resume wearing masks indoors. Several major businesses, local governments and the federal government have recently decided to require their employees to get vaccinated or submit to frequent testing.

The Broadway rules, which will be in place at least through October and apply to all 41 Broadway theaters, require that audiences wear masks, except when eating or drinking.

The Broadway vaccination mandate will apply not only to audiences, but also to performers, backstage crew and theater staff. There will be limited exceptions: “people with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination,” as well as children under 12, can attend with proof of a recent negative coronavirus test.

A vaccine mandate is already in place for Bruce Springsteen’s concert show, which began performances in June, and for “Pass Over,” the new play that plans to start performances on Aug. 4. The new rules will affect all of the shows that follow: Twenty-seven, including many of the blockbuster musicals, plan to get underway in September and October, starting with “Hadestown” and “Waitress” on Sept. 2.

Both Broadway and the Met are planning to open at full capacity, meaning no social distancing, and the Met says that masks will be optional. Broadway theaters range in size from 600 to 1,900 seats, while the Met can seat 3,800.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
President Biden detailed on Thursday the next steps to get more Americans vaccinated and combat the spread of the Delta variant.Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

In a speech at the White House on Thursday, President Biden announced plans for new actions to spur coronavirus vaccinations and slow the spread of the Delta variant in the United States.

The contagious variant is ripping through unvaccinated communities, threatening to undo the progress made by the Biden administration in its first six months. About half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, but the pace of vaccinations has declined significantly from early spring. Recent research has shown fully vaccinated people are protected against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including those involving the Delta variant. And cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still a fraction of their devastating winter peaks.

Here are the key points of the plan:

Strengthen protocols for federal employees and contractors. All civilian federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, as well as restrictions on most travel. The federal government employs more than 4 million Americans throughout the country and abroad.

Urge vaccination mandates for members of the military. The Department of Defense has been asked to detail when and how they will add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military. The president stressed the importance of immunization for service members because American troops serve in countries where vaccination rates are low and Covid-19 is prevalent.

Expand paid leave to enable vaccinations for families and children. Small- and medium-sized businesses will be reimbursed for offering employees paid leave to get themselves and their family members vaccinated. Children younger than 12 cannot yet get vaccinated but will likely be eligible later this year.

Call on local and state governments to offer $100 incentives for getting vaccinated. States, territories and local governments are being asked to do more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to those who get the shot. Some states, including New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado, have piloted $100 incentive programs that have helped move the dial on vaccination rates. New York City said this week that the city will begin offering $100 payments, too.

Increase vaccinations for children returning to classrooms. School districts are being encouraged to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks, with the goal of increasing vaccination rates among children 12 and older. Mr. Biden said that while almost 90 percent of educators and school staff are vaccinated, he believes every student should have an accessible way to receive a vaccine. The administration is also directing pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize children 12 and older, and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.

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Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
At least 26 Olympic athletes, including six from the United States, have tested positive for the coronavirus.Credit...Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Outside the Olympic bubble, Japan’s coronavirus outbreak continued to worsen on Friday, as health officials reported more than 10,000 new daily infections. It was the first time the country had surpassed that mark since the pandemic began.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the government would expand a state of emergency to four areas besides Tokyo, and that the restrictions in the capital would be extended until the end of August — past the conclusion of the Olympics and into the start of the Paralympic Games.

July 29

Germán Chiaraviglio

Track and field

Argentina

Sam Kendricks

Track and field

United States

July 28

Bruno Rosetti

Rowing

Italy

July 27

Evangelia Platanioti

Artistic swimming

Greece

July 26

Jean-Julien Rojer

Tennis

Netherlands

July 25

Jon Rahm

Golf

Spain

July 24

Bryson DeChambeau

Golf

United States

July 23

Finn Florijn

Rowing

Netherlands

Jelle Geens

Triathlon

Belgium

Simon Geschke

Road cycling

Germany

With just a little over a quarter of the Japanese population fully vaccinated, the Delta variant has been able to take root. More than three-quarters of cases in Tokyo are now being caused by that highly contagious version of the coronavirus.

Tokyo and Japan at large have reported record numbers of new infections in recent days, fueling questions about whether the Games are contributing to the surge. Organizers say there is no evidence of that.

The organizers on Friday reported 27 new coronavirus infections among people connected to the Games, the highest daily count reported so far. A total of 225 people with Olympic credentials have tested positive since July 1, including 26 athletes. But more than half of the Olympics-related cases are among people who live in Japan.

Still, experts suggested that the presence of the Games in Tokyo was having the psychological effect of making members of the public believe they could relax, even if they are under an emergency declaration.

Fumie Sakamoto, an infection control manager at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo, said, “there might be some psychological influence because every day what we see on TV is we watch the Olympic Games, and it’s hard to imagine that we’re in the middle of the biggest wave of infections in Tokyo.”

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Kindergarten students in Los Angeles on the day in-person learning resumed in April.Credit...Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced on Thursday that it would require all students and employees returning for in-person instruction to participate in weekly coronavirus testing.

The decision is a shift in policy for the school district, which is the second largest in the United States. The largest, in New York City, recently announced that all teachers and schools staff must be vaccinated before classes resume on Sept. 13 or be subjected to weekly testing.

Previously, the Los Angeles school district only required testing for students and staff members who were unvaccinated. Officials said that the new requirement was in accordance with the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It comes as the average number of cases in Los Angeles County has grown 119 percent from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

The spread of the more contagious Delta variant has left many parents worried about what will happen when students return to class in the fall. “We believe Los Angeles Unified has the highest Covid safety standards of any public school district in the nation,” the interim superintendent, Megan K. Reilly, wrote in an email to the parents.

She urged that every eligible individual be vaccinated, calling it “the greatest protection against Covid and the Delta variant.”

Testing at Los Angeles schools will begin Aug. 2 in preparation for a return to full in-person learning on Aug. 16.

“The evidence is mounting that vaccinated individuals can be part of transmission chains,” said Dr. Anne W. Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Any testing regimen that does not include vaccinated individuals is going to be incomplete and leave people at risk.”

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China

Fear and recrimination shook European capitals, while Washington brimmed with confidence. In early April, the European Union lagged far behind the United States in Covid-19 vaccination, the gap was widening rapidly, and the World Health Organization berated Europe for an “unacceptably slow” pace.

But the U.S. effort peaked that month and then nose-dived, while the E.U. campaigns, so recently a target of ridicule, grew faster than those in any other region of the world. This week, the European Union pulled ahead of the United States in total vaccinations, adjusted for population. In July, it has given shots at four times the American pace — a turnabout that would have been hard to imagine in the spring.

Early on, while the United States and a handful of others surged ahead, the Europeans undermined their inoculation campaigns with repeated stumbles, delaying vaccine purchases, damaging public confidence in some shots and bungling the rollout when doses became available.

Now, the European Union is on a pace to end this week having given about 105 doses per 100 people, and at least one to just over 70 percent of adults, while the United States is at about 103 per 100 people and 69 percent of adults.

“The catch-up process has been very successful,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the E.U. executive branch, said this week.

But the reversal is not just a story of the European Union and its member countries working out the early kinks, and in fact their vaccination campaigns remain far from trouble-free. Major political differences between the United States and Europe set them on divergent paths.

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Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Valerie Fraguada, a health care worker, inoculated Irene Andino during a vaccination campaign in Carolina, Puerto Rico, last month.Credit...Carlos Giusti/Associated Press

Puerto Rico’s governor announced on Wednesday that all public employees in the territory would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face weekly testing, joining a growing list of states, municipalities, companies and the federal government that have imposed some form of vaccine requirement.

The governor, Pedro R. Pierluisi, said on Twitter that government employees must get their first shot by Aug. 16 and be completely inoculated by Sept. 30, though exceptions for religious reasons or disabilities will be allowed.

On Thursday, President Biden announced in Washington that all civilian federal employees in the United States must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.

In recent days New York, California and North Carolina have all announced similar vaccination requirements for their employees, as has the Department of Veterans Affairs. Google, Facebook and The Washington Post are among the companies that have announced mandates of their own.

The pace of vaccinations has declined dramatically since they peaked in April, and just under half the country is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some communities with low rates of vaccination have seen soaring case rates and hospitalizations in recent weeks, due in part to the highly contagious Delta variant.

Mr. Pierluisi’s mandate is in response to a sharp increase in known coronavirus cases in Puerto Rico — the island saw a 311 percent jump in daily cases over the past two weeks, the most of any U.S. state or territory, according to a New York Times database.

In Puerto Rico, public employees who are not vaccinated will need to provide a negative coronavirus test result every week, or a positive test result with a certification from a doctor that they are no longer contagious. Those who refuse will be forced to use their vacation or paid leave time, then placed on unpaid leave.

Puerto Rico was one of the first parts of the United States to order a lockdown because of the coronavirus. Cases and hospitalizations there surged in April 2021 after businesses, schools and tourism reopened, and Mr. Pierluisi reinstated a curfew, imposed a testing requirement for tourists, and lowered the indoor capacity for businesses and restaurants.

Conditions improved by May, and Mr. Pierluisi relaxed some of the restrictions; but cases started to rise in July, and have since grown dramatically, though they are still about a third of their April 2021 peak.

Covid Live Updates: Delta Outbreak Is Testing China
Uber will only allow employees to come into its offices if they are vaccinated and wear masks, a spokesman said.Credit...John Muggenborg for The New York Times

Uber told employees on Thursday that it would require them to be vaccinated, and it postponed a mandate to return to the office, joining a group of tech companies that have delayed reopening and stepped up vaccine requirements in response to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Google postponed its return-to-office plans until October and said employees in its U.S. offices would be required to be vaccinated. Lyft, Uber’s largest U.S. competitor, said it would not require employees to return to the office until February. Twitter shut down its San Francisco and New York offices, and put an indefinite halt to its reopening plans. Last week, Apple postponed its reopening until October.

The changes come as coronavirus cases have surged in the United States. Cases in the country increased 146 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times tally.

Uber will also require employees to be vaccinated in order to work from the office. The mandate will begin with employees in the United States, and the company will assess its requirements for employees in other countries based on vaccine availability, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, wrote Thursday in an email to staff seen by The New York Times. Unvaccinated employees will be required to work from home.

Uber had already opened some offices for employees who wanted to return voluntarily, and a spokesman said that employees could continue to come into Uber’s offices if they are vaccinated and wear masks. But the company said it would not require employees to return until Oct. 25, a delay from its initial September return date.

“It’s important to say that this date is a global target, and local circumstances will continue to dictate when it makes sense to bring employees back in a given city,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said. “Rising Covid cases in our communities are a real reminder that we still need to be cautious, look at the data, and listen to experts as we return to offices. Every day, teams across the company are closely monitoring the rapidly changing global situation.”

Uber’s return date could be pushed back further if cases continue to surge, Mr. Khosrowshahi wrote.

Uber has not said whether it will require its drivers or riders to be vaccinated. It does require them to wear masks.