New Zealand plans to allow most fully vaccinated travelers into the country by the end of April without a mandatory hotel quarantine, as it slowly emerges from what has been one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
But those entering the country next year will face significant restrictions, with a mandatory seven-day home isolation period, as well as tests on departure and arrival. The border will open in stages to different countries, with fully vaccinated New Zealanders and visa holders able to travel from Australia from Jan. 16 and from elsewhere in the world starting Feb. 13. Foreign nationals will follow from April 30.
Experts have for weeks questioned the need for requiring new arrivals to quarantine when the virus is already in the community, and experts say international arrivals seem to pose no additional risk. No fully vaccinated travelers from Australia, for example, have tested positive in New Zealand’s hotel quarantine system since Aug. 23.
Some 84 percent of people in New Zealand age 12 and up are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. And representatives from the country’s tourism industry, which has struggled to contend with the long absence of foreign visitors, decried the seven-day isolation requirement.
New Zealand has been on edge since August, when an outbreak of the Delta variant erupted in Auckland and put an end to the country’s “zero Covid” approach.
“It’s very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality,” Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s pandemic response, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I do want to emphasize, though, that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel.”
For over a year, New Zealand has operated a lottery system for citizens and permanent residents who want to return, locking people out of the country and creating a large backlog. The system has faced legal challenges from people desperate to return home from overseas and be reunited with their families.
New Zealand is waiting until April to fully open to permit time for airlines to plan, he said, as well as to allow a transition to the country’s new “traffic light” pandemic management system that starts Dec. 2. That system will end lockdowns and place significant restrictions on the unvaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a news conference on Monday.
On Dec. 15, Auckland — where the country’s outbreak is concentrated — will open its border to the rest of the country.
Before the pandemic, tourism was a big part of the New Zealand economy, employing nearly 230,000 people and contributing 41.9 billion New Zealand dollars ($30.2 billion) a year. About 3.8 million foreign tourists visited between 2018 and 2019, with the majority coming from Australia. Though domestic tourism has surged while borders have been closed, the industry has struggled to make up its losses, as international tourists spend about three times as much per person as their domestic peers.
Defending New Zealand’s caution, Mr. Hipkins pointed to the new virus wave that is crashing through Europe. “As we move into 2022, we know that the pandemic is not over,” he said. “It’s not going to suddenly end, and we only need to look at Europe to know that the path out of the pandemic is not a straightforward one.”
In the largest revision of state vaccination numbers to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated those for Pennsylvania, which had counted about 1.2 million more doses than had actually been administered.
The C.D.C. said the data, updated almost every day on its website, had been corrected. As of Tuesday evening, about 81 percent of people in Pennsylvania had received at least one shot of a vaccine, according to C.D.C. data, whereas on Monday the data indicated that about 84 percent of people in the state had gotten a shot.
The agency has been periodically revising vaccination numbers in states since July 14. Altogether, the C.D.C. and the states have reduced the number of reported doses in the U.S. by about 2 million.
The C.D.C. has posted on its website that the revisions are part of a collaboration with states to gather their most “complete and accurate” data. Sometimes the revisions result in more shots being added to a state’s tally. Other times they result in a drop. Illinois, for example, revised its data to add about 316,000 doses in late October only to subtract about 214,000 doses a few weeks later.
Barry Ciccocioppo, communications director for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, said that the department “continues to update and refine our vaccination data throughout the commonwealth to ensure duplicate vaccination records are removed and dose classification is correct.” He said that the C.D.C. had now begun to “rectify” the data.
“This is not a practice specific to Pennsylvania and the C.D.C. is going through a similar process with other states across the country,” he said.
Cindy Prins, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida, said she feared that people might jump to the conclusion that there were deliberate errors in the initial reporting, but she did not believe that was the case. “I think it’s just a process of cleaning up and making sure what is in there is accurate to the best of our ability to know that,” Dr. Prins said.
Still, without fully accurate and up-to-date vaccination rates, it would be difficult for counties to make informed health recommendations, she said. If vaccination rates were overreported, that could give counties a false sense of confidence that more people are vaccinated than actually were.
More than 230 million people across the United States have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the C.D.C. Last week, the agency authorized booster shots for all adults. Across the U.S., Covid-19 infections have been rising, with more than 90,000 cases reported on average each day.
This was supposed to be the year vaccines brought the pandemic under control. Instead, more people in the United States have died from Covid-19 this year than died last year, before vaccines were available.
As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 386,233 deaths involving Covid-19 in 2021, compared with 385,343 in 2020. The final number for this year will be higher, not only because there is more than a month left but because it takes time for local agencies to report deaths to the C.D.C.
Covid-19 has also accounted for a higher percentage of U.S. deaths this year than it did last year: about 13 percent compared with 11 percent.
Experts say the higher death toll is a result of a confluence of factors: most crucially lower-than-needed vaccination rates, but also the relaxation of everyday precautions, like masks and social distancing, and the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Essentially, public health experts said, many Americans are behaving as though Covid-19 is now a manageable, endemic disease rather than a crisis — a transition that will happen eventually but has not happened yet.
Yet many are also refusing to get vaccinated in the numbers required to make that transition to what scientists call “endemicity,” which would mean the virus would still circulate at a lower level with periodic increases and decreases, but not spike in the devastating cycles that have characterized the pandemic. Just 59 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any Group of 7 nation.
“We have the very unfortunate situation of not a high level of vaccine coverage and basically, in most places, a return to normal behaviors that put people at greater risk of coming in contact with the virus,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you take no protections whatsoever, you have a virus that is capable of moving faster and you have dangerous gaps in immunity, that adds up to, unfortunately, a lot of continued serious illness and deaths.”
Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center, estimated that roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population might have immunity from prior infection, which is not as strong or durable as immunity from vaccines.
Many of those people have also been vaccinated, but even assuming the two groups didn’t overlap and so 74 percent of Americans had some level of immunity, that still would not be enough to end the pandemic, said Dr. Gounder. It would probably take an 85 to 90 percent vaccination rate to make the coronavirus endemic, she said.
“When vaccines rolled out, people in their minds said, ‘Covid is over,’” Dr. Gounder said. “And so even if not enough people are vaccinated, their behavior returned — at least for some people — to more normal, and with that changing behavior you have an increase in transmission.”
Some news outlets reported last week that confirmed 2021 deaths had surpassed 2020 deaths. Those reports stemmed from counts of deaths based on when the deaths were reported, not when they happened — meaning some deaths from late 2020 were counted in early 2021. The C.D.C. counts, which did not show that mark being reached until this week, are more accurate because they are based on the dates on death certificates.
With daily coronavirus case rates reaching record numbers and area hospitals more than 90 percent full, local officials in the Buffalo area reinstituted a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces that went into effect on Tuesday.
“We really need to keep the hospitals from being inundated,” Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive, said on Monday in a news conference announcing the new policy. “These numbers are not good.”
The mask mandate applies to all staff and patrons at stores, restaurants, bars, salons, and other public indoor spaces in the county, regardless of their vaccination status. It is the first phase of what Mr. Poloncarz warned would be increasing restrictions if virus numbers do not begin to stabilize.
Erie County, which encompasses the city of Buffalo, is the first New York county to impose a blanket mask mandate for public indoor spaces since May, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people could safely take off their masks in most settings.
Federal officials eventually reversed that recommendation as the Delta variant spiked, but New York did not reinstitute a statewide mask mandate. Currently, most of the state, including New York City, only requires masks in specific locations such as in schools, on public transportation, and in medical settings.
Western New York, a bustling five-county region of some 1.4 million people along the Canadian border and the Great Lakes, has seen cases spike dramatically in recent weeks. In Erie County, cases have doubled in the last month. Hospitalizations are up 50 percent in the last two weeks.
Vaccination rates have not been high enough to head off the surge, even though about 75 percent of adults in Erie County have received at least one dose. County officials said that local case numbers now are actually higher than they were at this time last year. Rates among children and staff in schools are also at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic, Mr. Poloncarz said.
“Until we can get through this, masking is necessary,” he said.
Erie County decided to institute a mask mandate instead of requiring people to show proof of vaccination for entering most indoor public places, after hearing concerns from local business leaders that requiring masks would be less harmful to trade.
But if the mask rule fails to curb virus rates, the county will require vaccination for indoor dining and entertainment, as New York City has. If that fails to work, it will bring back capacity restrictions in restaurants and other indoor public settings. And if that also fails, shutdowns will occur, Mr. Poloncarz said.
Local officials said they were most closely watching the load in hospitals, which are already strained because of staff shortages. The wait time at emergency rooms for people who are not critically ill has risen to eight hours or more, officials said. And seasonal flu has yet to hit hard in New York State, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our hospitals are in dire straits,” the Erie County health commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein, said.
Two actors have left one of America’s most popular soap operas after declining to comply with an on-set vaccination mandate.
The actors, Steve Burton and Ingo Rademacher, were fixtures of ABC’s “General Hospital,” a long-running daytime drama set in the fictional town of Port Charles, N.Y.
About one in five American adults has not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Mr. Burton and Mr. Rademacher were outspoken opponents of a coronavirus vaccine mandate that applied to a part of the set where actors work unmasked, known in the industry as Zone A. The mandate took effect on Nov. 1.
“Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate,” Mr. Burton, who tested positive for the virus in August and filmed his last episode on Oct. 27, said in an Instagram video on Tuesday.
“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied — which, you know, hurts,” he added. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this.”
Mr. Rademacher’s departure from the show was made public earlier this month. He had also refused to comply with the show’s vaccine mandate. “I will stand with you to fight for medical freedom,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
Mr. Rademacher has also been criticized on social media in recent weeks for making comments that his critics perceived to be transphobic, a suggestion he has forcefully denied.
Representatives for ABC declined to comment on the record. Publicists for the actors could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Other Hollywood productions have imposed similar on-set mandates, but there is no universal vaccination requirement for people who work in film and television.
“General Hospital” has been on the air since 1963. Its episodes are filmed weeks before they air.
Mr. Rademacher played the character Jasper “Jax” Jacks on the show for 25 years. In his last episode, which aired on Monday, the character said — spoiler alert — that he would be returning to Australia.
“I’m kind of on the outs with everyone in Port Charles right now,” the character said. Some fans interpreted that as a reference to the actor’s real-life tension with his castmates.
In the same episode, Mr. Burton’s character, Jason Morgan, was caught up in a tunnel collapse.
Mr. Burton said in his Instagram video on Tuesday that he hoped the show’s vaccine mandate would be lifted so that he could finish his career playing Jason Morgan.
“And if not,” he added, “I’m going to take this experience, move forward and be forever grateful.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing billions of dollars to rural health care providers to ease the financial pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic and to help hospitals stay open.
The agency said on Tuesday that it had started doling out $7.5 billion to more than 40,000 health care providers in every state and six U.S. territories through the American Rescue Plan, a sprawling relief bill that Congress passed in March. The infusion of funds will help offset increased expenses and revenue losses among rural physicians during the pandemic, the agency said.
Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, said that the coronavirus pandemic had made clear the importance of having timely access to quality medical care, especially in rural America.
“When it comes to a rural provider, there are a number of costs that are incurred, that sometimes are different from what you see with urban providers or suburban providers,” Mr. Becerra said. “And oftentimes, they’re unique only to rural providers.”
Rural physicians serve a disproportionate number of patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which often have more complex medical needs. Many rural hospitals were already struggling before the pandemic; 21 have closed since 2020, according to data from the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina.
Under the program, every eligible provider that serves at least one Medicare, Medicaid, or C.H.I.P. beneficiary in a rural part of the country will receive at least $500. Payments will range up to $43 million, with an average of $170,700; the size is based on how many claims a provider submitted for rural patients covered by these programs from January 2019 through September 2020.
Rural America is home to some of the country’s oldest and sickest patients, many of whom were affected by the pandemic.
The new funding is supposed to help rural hospitals stay open in the long run and improve the care they provide, building on efforts the Biden administration has already made to help improve access to health care in rural communities, which it considers crucial to its goal of addressing inequities in access to care.
The money can be put toward salaries, recruitment, or retention; supplies such as N95 or surgical masks; equipment like ventilators or improved filtration systems; capital investments; information technology and other expenses related to preventing, preparing for or responding to the pandemic.
The administration has also allocated billions of dollars through the American Rescue Plan for coronavirus testing for the uninsured, increased reimbursement for Covid vaccine administration, improving access to telehealth services in rural areas, and a grant program for health care providers that serve Medicare patients.
On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris said that the administration would be investing $1.5 billion to address the shortage of health care workers in underserved tribal, rural and urban communities. The funds — which will provide scholarships and pay off loans for clinicians who commit to jobs in underserved areas — come on the heels of a report from the White House’s Covid Health Equity Task Force that made recommendations on how inequalities in the health care system could be fixed.
JERUSALEM — Israel began a campaign to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds against the coronavirus on Tuesday ahead of expected gatherings over next week’s Hanukkah holiday, but the initial response from parents appeared to be slow.
By Monday night, parents had made appointments for only a little over 2 percent of children in that age group, according to figures published by the country’s main health services. Health officials said they were trying to persuade parents of the benefits of vaccinating their children without applying pressure or any form of coercion.
In a bid to reassure the public, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accompanied his son David, 9, to a vaccination center of the Clalit Health Services in the seaside town of Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.
“I call on all Israeli parents to come and have their children vaccinated,” Mr. Bennett said. “It is safe and it safeguards our children.” In a video posted on the prime minister’s official Twitter account, David said he had agreed to be filmed to encourage other children to get vaccinated. He said he was a little afraid at first but assured other children that “it really didn’t hurt.”
Earlier this month, the United States also began vaccinating 5- to 11-year-old children. A number of countries have approved vaccinations for children starting at 12 years old, but few aside from China, Israel and the United States are vaccinating younger children.
Israel has emerged in recent weeks from a fourth wave of the virus, with new daily cases dropping to several hundred from a peak of 11,000 in mid-September. Israeli officials attribute the sharp decrease in cases to a booster shot campaign, suppressing a wave driven by a combination of waning immunity five or six months after the second injection, together with the spread of the highly infectious Delta strain.
At least 80 percent of Israelis ages 16 and older have been vaccinated against the virus, but the numbers are lower in the younger age groups. More than four million Israelis have received a booster shot since August, out of a total population of nine million.
In the Palestinian-administered territories, after a late start and some early hesitancy, about three million doses have been administered, enough to cover about a third of the population with two doses.
Europe’s death toll from Covid will exceed two million people by next spring, the World Health Organization projected on Tuesday, adding that the continent remained “firmly in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Covid is now the leading cause of death in Europe, the agency said in a statement, with almost 4,200 new deaths a day, double the number at the end of September. To date, Europe, including Britain and Russia, has reported 1.5 million deaths. Between now and spring, hospital beds in 25 countries and intensive care units in 49 countries are predicted to experience “high or extreme stress,” the W.H.O. said.
Dr. Hans Kluge, a regional director for the W.H.O., said Europe faced a challenging winter. “In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” he said.
That means getting vaccinations or booster shots if offered and taking other preventive measures to avoid the reimposing of lockdowns, like calling on the public to wear masks and maintain physical distance, he said.
Over a billion vaccine doses have been administered in Europe; about 53 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But countries have gaping disparities in vaccination rates, the organization said, and it was essential to drive the lagging rates up, the officials said.
In recent days, European countries have imposed restrictions to try to curb the highest surge of new cases in the region since the pandemic began. Austria began its fourth lockdown on Monday, and Germany is pressuring its citizens to get vaccinated. Slovakia, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic have the world’s highest rates of new cases in proportion to their populations.
The W.H.O. considers Europe to include not only the countries of the European Union, but also Britain, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and several countries in the Balkans and Central Asia.
Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen by 32 percent from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children ahead of the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.
More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus between Nov. 11 and Nov. 18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement on Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week, the statement said. Children under 18 make up about 22 percent of the U.S. population.
“Is there cause for concern? Absolutely,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, the vice chair of the academy’s infectious diseases committee, said in an interview on Monday night. “What’s driving the increase in kids is there is an increase in cases overall.”
Children have accounted for a greater percentage of overall cases since the vaccines became widely available to adults, said Dr. O’Leary, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Though children are less likely to develop severe illness from Covid than adults, they are still at risk, and can also spread the virus to adults. Experts have warned that children should be vaccinated to protect against possible long-Covid symptoms, Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome and hospitalization.
At the end of October, about 8,300 American children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with Covid and at least 172 have died, out of more than 3.2 million hospitalizations and 740,000 deaths overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a news conference on Friday, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said hospitalizations and deaths among 5- to 11-year-olds were “really startling.”
Dr. O’Leary said it did not help that many schools had softened their safety protocols in the last few months.
“So any protection that might be happening in schools is not there,” he said.
Vaccinations of younger children are likely to help keep schools open. Virus outbreaks forced about 2,300 schools to close between early August and October, affecting more than 1.2 million students, according to data presented at a C.D.C. meeting on Nov. 2.
Dr. O’Leary said that he was especially concerned about case increases in children during the holiday season.
With the pace of inoculations stagnating among U.S. adults, states are rushing to encourage vaccinations for children 5 through 11, who became eligible earlier this month after the C.D.C. authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group. In May, the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to children ages 12 to 15. Teenagers 16 and older became eligible in most states a month earlier.
The White House estimated on Nov. 10 that nearly a million young children had gotten vaccinated; 28 million are eligible. They receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart.
All of the data so far indicates that the vaccines are far safer than a bout of Covid, even for children.
Still, about three in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 5- to 11-year-old child, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only about three in 10 parents said they would immunize their child “right away.”
The Biden administration has asked a federal appeals court to let the government proceed with a federal mandate that all large employers require their workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing starting in January.
In a 52-page motion filed on Tuesday, the Justice Department urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, to lift a judicial stay on proceeding with the rule while it is being challenged in court, saying the requirement would “save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, issued the “emergency” rule earlier this month at the direction of President Biden as one of several vaccine mandates he announced in September. The OSHA rule applies to employers with at least 100 workers, although it exempts those who work at home or exclusively outdoors.
The rule was immediately challenged by employers around the country and several Republican-controlled states. In court papers, they argued that the rule exceeded the agency’s authority under law to issue regulations to protect workers from toxic hazards at work, arguing the law was meant to address dangerous substances like asbestos but not exposure to the virus.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed with the plaintiffs in several of those cases and temporarily blocked the government from proceeding with the rule. But since then, those cases and many others from around the country have been reassigned to the Sixth Circuit in order to consolidate the litigation.
“The Fifth Circuit’s stay should be lifted immediately,” the Justice Department said in its filing. “That court’s principal rationale was that OSHA allegedly lacked statutory authority to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace on the ground that COVID-19 is caused by a virus and also exists outside the workplace. That rationale has no basis in the statutory text.”
As the pandemic heads into a third year, a global battle for the young and able has begun. With fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency, many of the wealthy nations that drive the global economy are sending a message to skilled immigrants all over the world: Help wanted. Now.
In Germany, where officials recently warned that the country needs 400,000 new immigrants a year to fill jobs in fields ranging from academia to air-conditioning, a new Immigration Act offers accelerated work visas and six months to visit and find a job.
Canada plans to give residency to 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023. Israel recently finalized a deal to bring health care workers from Nepal. And in Australia, where mines, hospitals and pubs are all short-handed after nearly two years with a closed border, the government intends to roughly double the number of immigrants it allows into the country over the next year.
The global drive to attract foreigners with skills, especially those that fall somewhere between physical labor and a physics Ph.D., aims to smooth out a bumpy recovery from the pandemic.
Covid’s disruptions have pushed many people to retire, resign or just not return to work. But its effects run deeper. By keeping so many people in place, the pandemic has made humanity’s demographic imbalance more obvious — rapidly aging rich nations produce too few new workers, while countries with a surplus of young people often lack work for all.
New approaches to that mismatch could influence the worldwide debate over immigration. European governments remain divided on how to handle new waves of asylum seekers. In the United States, immigration policy remains mostly stuck in place, with a focus on the Mexican border, where migrant detentions have reached a record high.
Still, many developed nations are building more generous, efficient and sophisticated programs to bring in foreigners and help them become a permanent part of their societies.
“Covid is an accelerator of change,” said Jean-Christophe Dumont, the head of international migration research for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D. “Countries have had to realize the importance of migration and immigrants.”
Seeking to increase the supplies of coronavirus vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests needed to quell the pandemic around the globe, 15 human rights groups have asked President Biden to apply maximum pressure on the World Trade Organization to grant an intellectual property exemption for the vaccines.
The exemption would mean that any country or company that has the ability to produce a vaccine could do so without having to worry about running afoul of the world economic body’s property right protections. Some public health experts see a W.T.O. exemption as key to bolstering the production of vaccine in developing countries, allowing drugmakers around the world access to closely guarded trade secrets on how viable vaccines have been made.
“The stakes could not be higher,” the groups wrote in a letter to the White House dated Nov. 19. “Failure to enact a waiver will prolong the pandemic leading to more death, illness, economic hardship, and social and political disruption.”
Only 5 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, a figure that is dwarfed by rates in wealthier countries.
Public Citizen, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health are among the organizations listed on the two-page letter.
“There are people talking about whether or not we should take boosters,” Dr. Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners In Health, a global public health nonprofit, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “This, to me, is even a false argument because that plays into the narrative that this is a scarce commodity.”
“It is only a scarce commodity because Pharma wants it to be a scarce commodity so that they can maximize profit,” she said, using shorthand for the pharmaceutical industry. “And we just need to say enough is enough. This is the time for us to show leadership.”
The increase in pressure on the Biden administration comes one week before hundreds of officials converge on Geneva for the W.T.O.’s major ministerial conference on Nov. 30.
In May, the White House said that it supported waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, as it sought to bolster production amid concerns about vaccine access in developing nations.
But the rights groups said in their letter that they were disappointed that the administration had since “been unwilling to take further leadership.” They noted that more than 100 W.T.O. member nations supported a waiver.
Six times as many booster shots of coronavirus vaccine are being administered in wealthy countries around the world each day than primary doses are being given in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. The group’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called that disparity “a scandal that must stop now.”
The Biden administration said last week that it planned to spend billions of dollars to expand vaccine manufacturing capacity, with the goal of producing at least one billion additional doses a year beginning in the second half of 2022.
Most public health experts agree that it’s OK to make holiday plans with your favorite people, as long as you’re taking precautions. Answering a few simple questions can help you make safer decisions.
You can take the quiz by clicking below, or keep reading for an overview.
Will everyone be vaccinated?
If yes — or if the only unvaccinated people are young children — that will make the party safer for everyone, though if you want to reduce the risk even further, you may want to encourage every adult to get a booster shot. If unvaccinated adults will be there, on-the-spot rapid tests are a great way to lower risk. You can also improve ventilation by opening windows, using exhaust fans, adding portable air cleaners or moving the event outdoors if weather allows.
Are any guests at higher risk from Covid?
If everyone is at relatively low risk, you may decide that being vaccinated is enough, and that additional precautions aren’t needed. But if any of your guests are older or have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk, it’s important to plan the event around the most vulnerable person. That could mean using rapid tests and improving ventilation, or having the party at their home so they don’t have to travel.
Are you traveling?
Staying local is the lowest-risk option, and if you’re traveling farther, driving is safer in terms of Covid risk than taking public transportation.
If you have to fly or take a bus or train, you should take extra precautions. A high-quality medical mask like an N95, KN95 or KF94 can keep you safer; if those aren’t available, double mask with a surgical mask and quality cloth mask. If possible, you should keep it on the whole time. At airports and train or bus terminals, try to avoid crowds, keep your distance in screening lines and use hand sanitizer often.
What’s the Covid situation where you’re celebrating?
Check local Covid conditions like you would the weather, looking at vaccination rates, case counts and hospitalizations. If you’re headed to a Covid hot spot, it’s best to wear a mask in public spaces, and you may want to avoid indoor dining, especially if someone in your group is at high risk.
What’s it like where you live?
If you live in a Covid hot spot, the chance of bringing the virus with you when you travel is higher. Be vigilant about masking and avoid crowds in the days before you leave. Using rapid tests can also reassure everyone that you’re not infectious.
How big is the gathering?
When you limit a gathering to two households, it’s easier to keep track of risky behaviors and potential exposures. This doesn’t mean large families shouldn’t gather, but you may want to take extra precautions if more than two households will be present. Those precautions could include opening windows, turning on exhaust fans and using portable air cleaners. And the bigger the party, the more useful it is to have rapid tests on hand for everyone.
How long until your event?
Risk is cumulative. The choices you make before the party can help lower the risk for everyone. If you’ve been invited to other gatherings before you leave, consider skipping them, and be vigilant about reducing your exposures during travel.