Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Will the U.S. meet Biden’s deadline?


Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.


Credit…The New York Times

The White House outlined a plan for how the U.S. would distribute an initial 25 million vaccine doses around the world.

U.S. nursing home deaths have fallen sharply as older Americans have been vaccinated.

Wealthier countries pledged an additional $2.4 billion for vaccine efforts in low-income nations.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Biden’s deadline

President Biden is promising Americans that a return to normal will be within reach if 70 percent of adults get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine by July 4. But with one month remaining before his deadline, how close is the U.S. to reaching the president’s goal?

Close, but not quite there.

According to a New York Times analysis, if the current rate of vaccination holds, the nation will ultimately fall just short of the objective, with roughly 68 percent of adults partly vaccinated.


Credit…The New York Times

Substantially boosting the vaccination rate is a daunting task: As more people become inoculated, the pool of the most willing adults is shrinking. To nudge the nation toward his target, the president yesterday laid out an aggressive campaign that includes incentives from Super Bowl tickets to free beer.

Vaccinating 70 percent of the population by Independence Day would have seemed like phenomenal progress at the beginning of the year, when the vaccine rollout was moving at a glacial pace. And as of yesterday, about 63 percent of adults had received at least one shot.

Still, that promising national figure masks a worrying issue: the very uneven vaccination rate among the states.

While 12 states, including California and Maryland, have already passed the 70 percent mark, 30 states will probably not reach the national target. In Wyoming and Tennessee, for example, projections show that the rate is unlikely to reach much higher than 50 percent by early July.


Credit…The New York Times

Vaccinations have leveled off in many states in the Deep South and Mountain West because of limited access and shot hesitancy. A few states, like Alabama and Mississippi, have fallen far behind and are unlikely to reach 70 percent before spring 2022.


Credit…The New York Times

Even statewide numbers can hide local problems. In some parishes in Louisiana, for example, less than 20 percent of people have received a first dose.

Officials in lagging states have said they are hopeful that they can continue to vaccinate more people, but warn that it may take months to make vaccines more convenient and persuade those who have fallen behind to get a shot.

A doctor became a Covid patient

Our colleague Denise Grady will soon retire from The Times after more than 20 years on the Science desk. For one of her last stories, she wrote about Dr. Tomoaki Kato, a renowned transplant surgeon who contracted Covid last spring.

In March 2020, Dr. Kato continued to perform surgery, even as hospitals in New York City began postponing operations to make way for the flood of Covid-19 patients.

“He had patients who would die if they wouldn’t get their transplants,” Denise said.

When he got sick, Dr. Kato, a 56-year-old marathon runner, initially didn’t worry. But things quickly worsened. His colleagues put him on a ventilator. Then, he developed sepsis. His kidneys began to fail.

As Dr. Kato’s colleagues struggled to save him, a waiting list of surgical patients clung to hopes that he would soon be able to save them. Because Dr. Kato is not just any transplant surgeon. (Denise has watched him operate in the past, and described him as a “magician.”)

Instead, Dr. Kato specializes in cancer surgeries where he cuts out an entire organ, removes the affected part and then sews the rest back in place. Once, he and his team removed — and then replaced — six organs from a 7-year-old girl with abdominal cancer.

In August, after a two-month stay in his own hospital, Dr. Kato began operating again. And he’s doing so with memories of his own experience at the fore.

Denise sees Dr. Kato’s ordeal as something of a metaphor for this past year.

“It’s almost like a capsule of the whole pandemic, the whole siege that we’ve been through,” she said. “You get an idea of how really awful this disease is, but at least, with Dr. Kato, there’s a good ending.”

Vaccine rollout

New York City will offer Covid vaccines at schools.

Bahrain gave many of its citizens a Chinese-made vaccine from Sinopharm, but after a surge in cases, the country has started giving booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Washington Post explored vaccine hesitancy and the conspiracy theories that circulate among farmworkers in California’s wine country.

Facing vaccine shortages, Canada will allow some residents to follow up their AstraZeneca shots with a second dose from a different vaccine.

Some international students planning to study in the U.S. are facing a hurdle: Their colleges require vaccination, but they don’t have access to an approved shot.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

What else we’re following

The W.H.O. warned that a sudden, sharp rise in coronavirus cases in many parts of Africa could amount to a third wave on the continent.

After a shift by the C.D.C., some U.S. employers withdrew mask policies that many workers felt were protecting them from unvaccinated customers.

Afghan and American health officials issued urgent health warnings describing alarming virus spikes in Afghanistan.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics said that about 10,000 volunteers have quit.

A test of progress in the U.S. is two weeks away, when the country will see whether Memorial Day travel and activities have fueled an uptick in cases, CNN reports.

The New Yorker explored “cave syndrome,” and the anxiety that comes with returning to a reopened society.

What you’re doing

I’m re-engaging in business travel and with my local community (i.e., stores, restaurants and civic groups), and spreading positive vibes all while fully vaccinated. I’m forming no judgment whatsoever of folks who choose to mask up. I’m not giving a second thought as to whether I’m being judged (which for certain I am). I’m offering no pressure to folks who are vaccine-hesitant or reject vaccines outright (this is more difficult, but I’m sticking to it). I’m making great strides to achieve a genuine understanding and acceptance of those who choose to manage their Covid risks differently than me, which has been an incredibly difficult evolution that began at the outset of the pandemic. I exited all forms of social media seven months ago and could not be happier. In summary, I’m optimistic and moving forward.

— Louis E. Robichaux IV, Highland Village, Texas

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Leave a Reply