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Covid-19 Live Updates: Variants, Vaccines and Miami Beach Curfew

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Police Break Up Spring Break Crowds in Miami Beach

The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.

[yelling; sirens]

The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.CreditCredit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

Miami Beach officials struggled to enforce a new 8 p.m. curfew on Saturday in the city’s South Beach entertainment district. Videos on social media from showed hundreds of people gathered outside after dark on Saturday and law enforcement dispersing crowds.

In trying to control crowds and taking a subject into custody, Miami Beach police said they used pepper balls. Two officers were also injured and taken to the hospital, according a departmental tweet. Police arrested at least a dozen people, according to CNN.

The city of Miami Beach, worried about the bigger than usual crowds filling the streets of South Beach and the threat of a resurgent coronavirus, declared a state of emergency and moved up its curfew on Saturday in an effort to shut down late-night spring break partying that it said had gotten out of control.

Law enforcement officials said many people had been drawn to the city this year for spring break, because it, like the state at large, has relatively few virus restrictions. Hotel rooms and flights have also been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.

“It looked like a rock concert,” Raul J. Aguila, the interim city manager, said in a hastily called news conference on Saturday afternoon after crowds overwhelmed the streets on Friday. “You couldn’t see pavement, and you couldn’t see grass.”

The emergency measures will be in place for 72 hours, until the City Commission can meet to decide on a longer-term plan. The commission is holding an emergency meeting on Sunday at 3 p.m. to discuss the curfews and closures. Miami-Dade County already has a countywide curfew in place at midnight.

Florida reopened months before the rest of the country, long before the recent wave of states like Texas that have lifted all or most lockdown restrictions and mask mandates.

Miami-Dade County has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.

The new measures do not require hotels in Miami Beach to close, but guests are being asked to stay on hotel premises after curfew, and restaurants, bars and sidewalk cafes must close by 8 p.m.

Miami Beach’s entertainment district includes the iconic Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, as well as Washington Avenue and Española Way, from Fifth through 16th Streets. The police have begun blocking people who are not city residents, hotel guests or employees who work on South Beach from driving into the city along the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle causeways beginning at 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day.


United States › United StatesOn March 20 14-day change
New cases 54,620 –9%
New deaths 773 –40%

World › WorldOn March 20 14-day change
New cases 404,518 +21%
New deaths 7,657 –1%

U.S. vaccinations ›

Where states are reporting vaccines given

A New York City testing site this month. 
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York has joined a growing list of more than a dozen states that have confirmed at least one case of a worrisome coronavirus variant first found in Brazil.

The variant of concern, known as P.1, is highly contagious and has in some cases reinfected people who had already recovered from the coronavirus. About 48 cases of the variant have now been reported in at least 16 states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now in at least 25 other countries.

Scientists expect that variants will soon become the dominant source of infection in the United States. The country has been racing to vaccinate as many people as possible before that happens, even as some states are loosening lockdown restrictions.

Florida has recorded 21 cases of the P.1 variant, the most of any state, according to the latest C.D.C. data. At least 49 states and Puerto Rico have reported about 5,500 cases of the variant first identified in Britain, which could soon be the dominant form of the virus in the United States. Another 180 cases of a variant first found in South Africa have also been reported.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Saturday that the state’s first P.1 case was identified by scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City in a Brooklyn resident in their 90s with no travel history.

“The detection of the Brazilian variant here in New York further underscores the importance of taking all the appropriate steps to continue to protect your health,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

Scientists are concerned about the P.1 variant because it shares many mutations with the variant that is now dominant in South Africa, known as B.1.351. Vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer still protect against that variant, but they are slightly less effective. The vaccines are expected to perform similarly against P.1.

The pace of vaccinations has been ramping up in the United States. About 79.4 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Saturday, the C.D.C. said. In New York, at least 25 percent of the population has received at least one dose.

The P.1 variant was first reported in Japan in December, in four people who had traveled from Brazil. It quickly became dominant in Manaus, the largest city in the country’s Amazon region, and spread to other South American cities. It reached the United States in January, appearing first in Minnesota.

Three studies offered a glimpse into the variant’s rise in Brazil, most likely escalating in the winter and fueling a record-breaking increase in coronavirus cases, in part because of its increased contagiousness. It also had the ability to infect some people who had immunity from previous bouts of Covid-19.

Pierluigi Marchionne, a veteran police officer in Rome, directing the light traffic last week in the ordinarily jammed Piazza Venezia.
Credit…Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times

ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographs streamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.

For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as are the Colosseum or the Pantheon.

That may explain the media frenzy last week over the return of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being repaved — even though there was not much traffic to direct, because of the widespread lockdown that began last week in hopes of containing a surge in coronavirus cases.

“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.

In rain or sleet, or sweltering through Rome’s sultry summers, officers have directed traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal near the mouth of the Via del Corso, one of Rome’s main streets, for as long as anyone can remember. And the gestures they make with their white-gloved hands are things that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with the palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light.)

“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” Mr. Grillo said.

Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the tangle at the hub.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

A crowded market in Mumbai, India, on Friday. The surrounding state of Maharashtra is at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak.
Credit…Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat in India, is again rippling across the country. Confirmed infections have risen to about 31,600 daily from a low of about 9,800 in February. On Sunday, the government reported almost 44,000 new cases, the highest number in almost four months.

The outbreak is centered in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub. Entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found there is more virulent, like variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials are under pressure to aggressively ramp up testing and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions like the dramatic nationwide lockdown last year, which resulted in a recession.

The vaccination campaign, which began in January and is one of the largest in the world, has been marred by the government’s slow initial rollout. Less than 3 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion has received a jab, including about half of health care workers.

The campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.

The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the patients’ conditions.

India is a crucial link in the global vaccination supply chain, and its inoculation drive could have global consequences. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, aims to manufacture 100 million doses per month of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, many of which are destined for other countries.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said that an expected drop in the country’s Covid-19 vaccine supplies stemmed from a nearly monthlong delay in delivery of five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured in India. The reasons for the delay are not clear, but the Serum Institute has said that shipments will depend in part on domestic Indian needs.

In other developments around the world:

  • The Philippines reported record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus infections over the weekend, leading the government to place metropolitan Manila and four surrounding provinces under the second-highest level of lockdown for the next two weeks. On Saturday, officials reported 7,999 cases, the most the country has had in a single day. In response, President Rodrigo Duterte approved restrictions that were recommended by the government’s coronavirus task force, including a ban on all mass gatherings and a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Nonessential travel to or from the area is banned. The restrictions will disrupt in-person religious services for Holy Week, a popular travel period, for the second year in a row.

Pharmacy technicians filling syringes with vaccine in Portland, Maine, this month.
Credit…Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

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.

“Even though the states haven’t officially changed their tune,” she said, “it was heartening to see that the local community was stepping in to make sure the right thing happened.”

About half of the states have residency requirements for vaccinations, though most allow out-of-state workers to receive a shot if they meet other eligibility conditions, said Jennifer Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues.

Connecticut, for example, 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.”

what we learned

Bridget Hayward, a nurse in Alexandria, Va., has been dealing with the long-term effects of Covid-19 for a year.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

New studies trying to better understand the coronavirus and its effects have come in this week.

A large study in Denmark found that the vast majority of people who recover from Covid-19 remain shielded from the virus for at least six months, researchers reported on Wednesday. Reinfections can happen, but they are rare. The study suggests that immunity to a natural infection is unpredictable and uneven, and it underscores the importance of vaccinating everyone — especially older people, experts said.

“You can certainly not rely on a past infection as protecting you from being ill again, and possibly quite ill if you are in the elderly segment,” said Steen Ethelberg, an epidemiologist at Statens Serum Institut, Denmark’s public health agency.

Scientists have said that reinfections are likely to be asymptomatic or mild because the immune system will suppress the virus before it can do much damage. The researchers also did not assess the possibility of reinfection with newer variants of the virus.

New research has also begun studying the effects of the vaccine on patients with long-term Covid-19 symptoms. It is too soon to tell whether the shots have a broad beneficial effect on patients with continuing issues, sometimes known as “long-haulers,” but scientists are intrigued in the phenomenon after patients in the United States and Britain have reported alleviated symptoms after receiving the second dose of the vaccine.

Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease physician at Columbia University, said about 40 percent of the long-term Covid patients he’s been treating cite symptom improvement after the vaccine.

And this month, a small study by British researchers that has not yet been peer reviewed found that eight months after people were hospitalized for Covid-19, those who were vaccinated experienced improvement in more long Covid symptoms than those who were not yet vaccinated. The 44 vaccinated patients in the study were older and had more underlying medical conditions, since people with those characteristics qualified for vaccines earlier.

Additional information comes from two surveys of several hundred people with long Covid symptoms, many of whom were never hospitalized for the disease.

Here’s what else we learned this week:

  • Who can get vaccinated and who cannot? Around the world, eligibility requirements vary drastically. Age is a defining requirement in most places, but income and connections can be far more important in others.

  • Prisons in the United States were hard hit by the coronavirus, but a state-by-state patchwork of vaccine rules has left prison inmates with different outlooks even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended prioritizing them.

A prayer service at the Islamic Center in Sandy, Utah, last year. At least one American mosque is having a popup vaccination event to give members the chance to get two shots before Ramadan begins.
Credit…Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune, via Associated Press

With Ramadan less than a month away, some Muslim organizations in the United States have begun addressing a critical question: whether the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast prohibits Muslims from receiving vaccine injections during daylight hours.

The executive director of the Islamic Society of North America, Basharat Saleem, said that numerous scholars of Islamic law had been consulted on the matter.

“The answer is no,” he said. “It does not break the fast.”

The group joined with dozens of others last year in organizing a National Muslim Task Force on Covid-19, which has taken advisement from Muslim jurists. They were in general agreement, Mr. Saleem said, that getting a Covid-19 vaccine was acceptable during Ramadan or at any other time. A shot “will not invalidate the fast because it has no nutritional value and it is injected into the muscle,” the task force announced, a ruling that in the past has covered flu shots and other vaccinations.

Whether vaccinations are permitted during Ramadan is not only a concern among Muslims, and perhaps not even the chief one; there have been questions around the world as well about the presence of forbidden ingredients, such as pork products, in the vaccines. Some have also expressed misgivings about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine similar to those of some Catholic leaders, given that cells used in its development and production had a remote connection to abortion.

Muslim health care workers, even those who have been publicly urging people to get vaccinated, have acknowledged the ethical difficulties.

“These decisions are a matter of personal conscience,” said Dr. Hasan Shanawani, the president of American Muslim Health Professionals and a practicing pulmonologist in Michigan. But the preservation of life is one of the highest principles in Islam, he said, and given the current scarcity of vaccines in many places, the ethics, to him, were straightforward.

Declining a vaccine means “potentially putting all of us at risk,” said Dr. Shanawani, who has treated hundreds of Covid-19 patients over the past year. “Take the vaccine that’s available to you. God is the most forgiving.” When the present emergency has passed, he added, then a person can be more discriminating about which vaccine to take.

Haaris Ahmad, the president of a large and diverse mosque in the Detroit suburbs, said he had heard all of these concerns. He has assured members of the mosque that scholars are in broad agreement that a vaccination would not break the Ramadan fast, and he has also told people that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only readily available option, they should take it.

But he also acknowledged that people would rather not have to think about these things, especially during the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. So his mosque is hosting a vaccine clinic next Monday night, which would allow people to get in two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine just before Ramadan begins in mid-April. And while the event was initially advertised with general language about vaccines, Mr. Ahmad said, the latest flier includes more explicit guidance about what will not be on offer at the clinic: “NOTE,” it reads, “Not J&J.”

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