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Top US health official warns of ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’

The US is experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, the head of the country’s top public health agency warned, as new coronavirus cases have jumped 70 per cent in the past week.

More than 33,000 infections were reported across the US on Thursday, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing on Friday morning. That boosted the seven-day average of new cases to about 26,300 a day, from a rate of roughly 15,500 a week ago.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”

Communities that have a higher share of fully vaccinated residents are “generally faring well”, she said, but health officials at federal and state levels have increasingly been pointing to high proportions of new Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths among unvaccinated individuals.

Line chart of  showing Rate of new US Covid-19 cases is near a two-month high

“We know that 99.5 per cent of people who are in the hospital are people who are unvaccinated, and people who are dying of Covid are unvaccinated,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said on Friday. “The data is very clear.”

Although the number of new cases remains far below the peak of the pandemic, the latest increase has raised concerns that new restrictions may once again be needed to keep healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, especially as the pace of vaccinations slows.

After a blistering start, the US’s inoculation campaign has lost momentum, with some people afraid or unwilling to get the jab despite plentiful supply.

The Biden administration has also expressed concern that vaccine hesitancy is being fuelled by misinformation shared on social media platforms. 

Asked about Facebook’s role on Friday, Biden said: “They’re killing people . . . The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and they’re killing people.”

The US has fully vaccinated 48.3 per cent of its population, according to the CDC. The rate of doses administered nationally dropped from a daily average of more than 3.4m in mid-April to about 421,000 a day in the week ended July 10.

Four states — Florida, Texas, California and Missouri — accounted for more than 40 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the US over the past week, according to Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus task force co-ordinator. Florida alone accounted for one in five new infections over the past week.

In Mississippi, unvaccinated individuals made up 94 per cent of new Covid cases, 87 per cent of hospitalisations and 93 per cent of deaths this week, according to Thomas Dobbs, the state’s top health officer. Mississippi has the lowest level of vaccine coverage in the US, with just 33.6 per cent of its residents fully vaccinated.

Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Nevada and Louisiana are all averaging more than 20 new cases per 100,000 people a day, according to the CDC, compared to a national average of almost eight, although vaccination rates in those states were now increasing, Zients said.

The rise in cases has also been linked to the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19, which now accounts for more than half of new infections, according to the CDC.

Walensky’s warning comes as some counties and cities have brought back pandemic-era guidelines to guard against further outbreaks, particularly those linked to the Delta variant.

Los Angeles on Thursday announced it would reinstate its mask mandate this weekend, requiring individuals to again wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The decision comes barely a month after the city, alongside the rest of California, lifted the restriction on June 15 for fully vaccinated residents.

Chicago this week placed restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from Missouri and Arkansas, which are hotspots for the Delta variant.

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This post originally posted here International homepage

China snubs senior US official in worsening diplomatic stand-off

Beijing has snubbed the US by refusing to grant Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, a meeting with her counterpart during a proposed visit to China that would have been the first top-level engagement since acrimonious talks in Alaska.

The US halted plans for Sherman to travel to Tianjin after China refused to agree to a meeting with Le Yucheng, her counterpart, according to four people familiar with the decision. China offered a meeting with Xie Feng, the number five foreign ministry official who is responsible for US affairs.

The Biden administration had been negotiating what would have been the first high-level engagement since their first meeting in Alaska, which erupted into a public spat between Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, and Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese foreign policy official.

While the state department had not said Sherman would travel to China, she had planned to visit after a trip to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia.

The Chinese snub follows a similar stand-off between the two countries’ militaries. China earlier this year rebuffed several requests for Lloyd Austin, US defence secretary, to meet General Xu Qiliang, China’s most senior military official. But China refused to engage, after previously offering a meeting with the defence minister, who is less senior in its system.

Evan Medeiros, a China expert at Georgetown University, said China was “playing games” since the history of diplomatic meetings made clear Sherman should be meeting with Le, the number two foreign ministry official.

“China’s move is a dangerous one. It increases distrust, tension and the risk of miscalculation during an already fraught period,” Medeiros said.

China had originally suggested that Sherman could also hold a videocall with Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, during her visit to Tianjin.

Last month Kurt Campbell, the top White House Asia official, said the US was frustrated that China refused to arrange meetings with officials who are close to Xi Jinping. He said even Yang and Wang were “nowhere near within a hundred miles” of the Chinese president’s inner circle of trusted advisers.

The stand-off comes four months after the Alaska meeting, which also ended on an acrimonious note. At the end of the two-day meeting, Yang told Blinken in private that he would welcome a follow-on meeting in China, to which the secretary of state said “thank you”. When Yang asked if that meant he would visit, Blinken responded “thank you means thank you” in a clear indication that the US was not prepared to hold another meeting that angered China.

“Perhaps they are trying to punish the US for insufficient respect in Anchorage,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund. “Or maybe Beijing is simply testing the Biden administration, and will eventually propose a higher level ministry of foreign affairs official and the visit could be added to Sherman’s itinerary.”

Ryan Hass, a former state department China expert now at Brookings Institution, said it was “common” for the US and China to engage in haggling over protocol at the start of a new administration in Washington.

“Incoming US officials typically want to protect the protocol level at which their office historically has been received by Chinese authorities, and vice versa,” Hass said. “These types of protocol kerfuffles often — but not always — work themselves out by the time of arrival of the senior official.”

A senior state department official said the US would continue to “explore opportunities” to engage Chinese officials. “As in all travel abroad, we make announcements only once — and if — we determine that a visit has the potential to be substantive and constructive for our purposes.” 

The US viewed the Sherman visit as a possible stepping stone to a China visit by Blinken that would set the stage for President Joe Biden to hold his first meeting with Xi at the G20 summit in Italy in October.

The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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This post originally posted here International homepage

Cannes Trend Talks 2021 Official Programme and invitation

Ster-Kinekor, the official Cannes Lions representative in South Africa, along with Bizcommunity, online media partner to Ster-Kinekor, and The Creative Circle, invite you to book now for Cannes Trend Talks 2021 presented by Ann Nurock.

This year, the world’s most prestigious advertising festival, Cannes Lions went online for the first time and Ann Nurock and some of SA’s leading creatives, who were all category judges at this year’s festival, watched the talks by global thought leaders, analysed award-winning campaigns and identified key themes, to bring you their insights at Cannes Lions Trends Talks 2021 taking place online Thursday, 22 July.

Get the inside scoop on what’s really cutting through with audiences, as well as what’s steering the direction for local and global creative communities. – Cannes Lions

Find out about the 42% of consumers who make up the global Accenture study who said they would switch brands from providers who did not have relevant societal impact, and curated examples of the award-winning work with analysis. Ann Nurock presents her annual case studies, which show how creativity continues to be a driver in identifying and addressing some of the world’s most urgent problems.

“The work this year was really fresh, not because it was new, but because it was more human. Work that solved problems delivered a better ROI,” Ann Nurock, senior partner: Relationship Audits Management, industry advocate and Cannes Lions reporter.

Book out 2pm-6pm 22 July 2021 in your calendar for this immersion session virtually together with your peers with Q&A sessions after each speaker.

Cannes Lions Trends Talks 2021 Programme

  • 2pm: Welcome by MC Neo Mashigo, presents Creative Circle rankings
  • 2.20pm: Ann Nurock “The year that changed everything” trends presentation
  • 3.20–3.30pm: Q&A
  • 3.30pm: Break, awards-winning reels
  • 3.40pm: Panel discussions:  
    • Brett Morris (Film Lions juror)
    • Steph van Niekerk (Industry Craft Lions)
    • Lufuno Mavhungu (Radio and Audio Lions juror)
  • 4.15pm: Break, award-winning reels
  • 4.35pm: Neo Mashigo hosts panellists:  
    • Nkgabiseng Motau (Print & Publishing Lions juror)
    • Tanya Schreuder (Media Lions juror)
    • Bryan Habana (Entertainment Lions for Sport jurors)
  • 6pm: Event to conclude

Book now for this annual industry highlight proudly brought to you by Ster-Kinekor, official SA Cannes Lions representatives, Creative Circle and Bizcommunity (supported by the Loeries).

Save the date and book now: 22 July 2021 | 2pm | R150 per ticket Secure your ticket by email: [email protected]

For more:

More info: Cannes Lions special section
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Bizcommunity.

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This post originally posted here The European Times News

New York’s official virus death toll is 11,000 lower than what the U.S. has counted. Here’s why.

Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

As the Delta variant rips through conservative swaths of the country, some elected Republicans are facing growing pressure from public health advocates to speak out — not only in favor of their constituents being inoculated against the coronavirus but also against media figures and elected officials who are questioning the vaccines.

“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.”

Republican senators who favor vaccination are still taking pains not to mention the names of colleagues, such as Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have given voice to vaccine skepticism, or media personalities like Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, who expresses such skepticism almost nightly.

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Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, and Senator Roy Blunt spoke on Tuesday about the slowing pace of vaccinations, calling on Americans to get inoculated in order to protect themselves and others.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Vaccines are indeed effective against the Delta variant, and nationwide, the numbers remain at some of the lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic.

Still, with cases ticking upward, driven by localized outbreaks in places with low vaccination rates — Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Nevada — Republican leaders are talking.

“As a polio victim myself when I was young, I’ve studied that disease,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, said on Tuesday. “It took 70 years — 70 years — to come up with two vaccines that finally ended the polio threat. As a result of Operation Warp Speed, we have not one, not two, but three highly effective vaccines, so I’m perplexed by the difficulty we have finishing the job.”

“If you’re a football fan,” Mr. McConnell said, “we’re in the red zone. But we’re not in the end zone yet. And we need to keep preaching that getting the vaccine is important.”

Still, when asked about his conversations with vaccine skeptics in the Senate Republican Conference, Mr. McConnell demurred. “I can only speak for myself, and I just did,” he said.

Senior Republicans are clearly walking a fine line. They cannot afford to see a resurgent coronavirus disproportionately hurt conservative voters, who have been fed a diet of misinformation about vaccines by right-leaning news outlets and commentators. But they cannot afford to alienate them either.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday that much of the skepticism surrounding vaccines “is based on conspiracy theories, unfortunately.”

“I do acknowledge the right of an individual to decide whether they’re going to get the vaccine,” he said, “but what I’ve tried to do is encourage everybody to get the vaccine.”

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators and House members introduced legislation to repeal mask mandates on public transport, dismissing the spread of the virus.

“The viral spread is collapsing and our normal lives are returning,” declared Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona.

Mr. Cornyn drew a distinction between densely populated urban areas like Houston and Dallas, where he said mass vaccination is vital, and smaller, spread out cities like Odessa and Midland where “social distancing is not a problem, let me say.”

The virus has not drawn that distinction. Some of the fastest growth is happening in smaller cities and rural regions, like parts of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Mr. Romney tried to appeal to supporters of former President Donald J. Trump in those areas.

“People who support him applaud the fact that he moved heaven and earth to get vaccines developed on a timely basis,” Mr. Romney said. “He accomplished that, and not taking advantage of that would be an insult to the accomplishment.”

As to his message to vaccine skeptics in his conference, Mr. Romney said, “They know where I stand.”

Chairs sat empty at a coronavirus vaccination site waiting room in Kansas City, Mo., last month.
Chase Castor for The New York Times

Even as many Americans celebrate the apparent waning of the pandemic, the thrum of concern over the so-called Delta variant grows steadily louder.

The variant, the most contagious version yet of the coronavirus, accounts for more than half of new infections in the United States, federal health officials reported this month. The spread of the variant has prompted a vigorous new vaccination push from the Biden administration, and federal officials are planning to send medical teams to communities facing outbreaks that now seem inevitable.

Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are rising swiftly in some states with low vaccination rates like Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Nevada, and are beginning to show small upticks in all of the others. The curves have also begun shifting upward in New York City, and the percentage of positive tests in the city has doubled in the past few weeks to just over 1 percent.

Nationwide, the numbers remain at some of the lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic, but are once again slowly trending upward, prompting a debate about when booster shots might be needed to protect Americans.

The virus has also set off large outbreaks across the globe, from Japan and Australia to Indonesia and South Africa, forcing many countries to reimpose stringent restrictions on social activity. Even in places like Britain, where wide swaths of the population are immunized, the Delta variant has outpaced vaccination efforts, pushing the goal of herd immunity further out of reach and postponing an end to the pandemic.

But scientists say that even if the numbers continue to rise through the fall, Americans are unlikely to revisit the horrors of last winter, or to require booster shots in the foreseeable future.

If Britain’s experience is a harbinger of what’s to come, the overall number of infections may rise as the Delta variant spreads through the United States. But hospitalizations and deaths are likely to be much lower than they were following the arrival of previous variants, because the average age of those infected has shifted downward and young people tend to have mild symptoms.

As important, vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and already provide a bulwark against its spread.

“I think the United States has vaccinated itself out of a national coordinated surge, even though we do expect cases pretty much everywhere,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Delta is creating a huge amount of noise, but I don’t think that it’s right to be ringing a huge alarm bell.”

Still, there are likely to be isolated outbreaks in pockets of low vaccination, he and other scientists predicted. The reason is simple: The pattern of the protection against the coronavirus in the United States is wildly uneven.

Broadly speaking, the West and Northeast have relatively high rates of vaccination, while the South has the least. The vaccinated and unvaccinated “two Americas” — as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the administration’s leading adviser on the pandemic, has called them — also are divided along political lines.

Counties that voted for Mr. Biden average higher vaccination levels than those that voted for Donald Trump. Conservatives tend to decline vaccination far more often than Democrats.

“I don’t expect that we will get close to the kind of mayhem we saw earlier,” said Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. “There are going to be clusters, and they’re going to be in states where you have low vaccination rates.”

In a country that should be able to end its pandemic in short order with widespread vaccination, the Delta variant is well designed to take advantage of the cultural divide. The virus seems to combine the worst features of previous variants, Dr. Andersen noted.

A patient being wheeled on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance outside Elmhurst Hospital in Queens in April 2020.
Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

For more than a year since the coronavirus outbreak, New York State officials have stuck with an approach that has allowed the state to report a lower and incomplete death toll.

The number of deaths reported on the state’s online dashboard, and during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus briefings, includes only people who died at hospitals, nursing homes and adult-care facilities, but not, for example, at home or in prisons. The toll also includes only deaths that were confirmed with a coronavirus test by a lab.

New York’s methodology differs from that of many other states, as well as the federal government’s National Center for Health Statistics, which uses more precise criteria to assemble state-by-state death tolls, relying on death certificates submitted by state health departments.

Now, the effect of New York’s more constrained count has begun to show: The state’s official virus death toll as of Wednesday was about 43,000, compared with the death toll of more than 54,000 compiled by the N.C.H.S., which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York is not alone: At least half the states, including California and Texas, have publicly reported a lower number of deaths than the N.C.H.S.

But other states with lower death tolls were below the N.C.H.S. number by about 3,000 or fewer; nowhere is the gap between the reported deaths larger than the 11,000-death discrepancy in New York, according to a New York Times analysis.

The disparity in the death tolls underscores the lasting and painful difficulties of accounting for the full scope of coronavirus fatalities, even as much of the government’s response has turned toward expanding the vaccine rollout and the nation’s reopening and recovery.

The wide variance in New York also comes as Mr. Cuomo is facing a series of state and federal investigations into his administration’s efforts to obscure the toll of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

Health care workers moving a woman outside an emergency room overrun with Covid-19 patients in Central Java.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Indonesia reported more than 54,500 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its third record daily rise in a row as the country has surpassed India’s current daily caseload.

A seven-day rolling average of daily cases in the two countries showed them running neck and neck, but India’s caseload has been steadily declining while Indonesia’s has been skyrocketing, according to data collected by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past few weeks, hospitals on Java island have overflowed with patients and residents have scrambled to buy medical oxygen to treat family members at home. Hundreds of people have been reported to have died of the virus at home because of a lack of oxygen and as a result of an overwhelmed health care system.

“Based on the last three days’ data, I can say clearly that Indonesia has become the new epicenter in the world,” said Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, who has long urged the Indonesian authorities to implement firmer measures to control the spread of the virus.

Over the past two weeks, the daily numbers of infections have nearly doubled, and on Wednesday, Indonesia reported 991 new deaths.

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Indonesia reported more than 54,500 new virus cases on Wednesday, its third record daily rise in a row as oxygen is in short supply.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Experts believe that the Delta variant is behind the surge in cases in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populated country. By contrast, India’s daily case count, which peaked at more than 414,000 in early May, has fallen to about 40,000.

The outbreak in Indonesia is the latest example of the widening gap between Western countries and other nations during the pandemic. Countries like Britain and the United States have reopened their economies and so far have been able to absorb a surge in cases with limited hospitalizations and deaths thanks to successful vaccine rollouts. Others, like India and now Indonesia, have lagged behind in vaccinations and face devastating consequences from Delta’s spread.

Studies suggest that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, but only 13 percent of Indonesia’s population of 270 million has received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while less than 6 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

By comparison, nearly half of the U.S. population has been fully inoculated, and on Wednesday Britain passed the threshold of having vaccinated two thirds of its population.

In Indonesia, most injections came from the Sinovac Biotech vaccine; at least 20 Indonesian doctors who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac have died from the virus.

The neighboring Philippines, which also has struggled to contain the virus, has banned arrivals from Indonesia, and other countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, have begun evacuating their citizens from Indonesia.

On Sunday, Indonesia received three million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States. Indonesian officials said that the first priority for these doses would be to give booster shots to nearly 1.5 million health workers.

A police checkpoint in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a country in turmoil after its president was assassinated. A sign above encourages efforts to stop the coronavirus.
Federico Rios for The New York Times

The continuing political unrest in Haiti and the recent wave of street protests in Cuba risk making already tenuous efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic even more difficult, officials from the World Health Organization warned.

“We are concerned about Haiti, which, in the midst of considerable political turmoil, has seen thousands of people displaced by ongoing violence and instability,” Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the W.H.O., said, warning that “crowded shelters could become active hot spots for Covid transmission.”

A shortage of medical supplies across the country and the violence sparked by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti last week are also hindering the ability “to safely care for patients in need,” Dr. Etienne said, adding that “in some cases, patients may be avoiding seeking care due to safety concerns.”

Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that has yet to administer any Covid vaccines. On Wednesday, Haiti received 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States through the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative, the first doses to reach the country, PAHO said.

Cuba is the latest country in the region, after others including Brazil and Colombia, to experience “waves of protests due in part to the impact of this pandemic,” Dr. Etienne said.

Protesters in Cuba took to the streets in droves this past weekend in demonstrations that have been described as the largest in decades, leading to a stringent crackdown.

“Covid-19 has not just ravaged our health systems, it has fractured social protection programs and destabilized our economies,” Dr. Etienne said.

More than a third of people in the Latin American and Caribbean region are living in poverty and countries must “continue prioritizing health and social safety nets as part of their Covid response,” she added.

In Cuba, which recently reported its highest number of weekly cases since the start of the pandemic, the protests are raising fears that they will exacerbate exposure to the virus.

“The agglomeration of people due to protests for political, religious, cultural or sporting reasons increases the risk of transmission, particularly if, as is the case in Cuba, there is active transmission in many parts of the country,” Ciro Ugarte, PAHO’s director of health emergencies, said.

Throughout Cuba, “all the municipalities are in community transmission” and health authorities have confirmed the presence of the highly contagious Delta variant in several locations across the island, Dr. Ugarte said.

Cuba reported that 27 percent of its population had received at least one dose of either of its two homegrown vaccines as of July 10.

Cases of Covid-19 have also spiked in other Caribbean nations, including the British Virgin Islands, which has seen cases triple weeks after it opened the country to cruise ships.

The region accounts for more than a third of Covid-19 cases and more than 40 percent of deaths reported worldwide this past week, Dr. Etienne said.

The region continues to suffer from a lack of vaccines and only one in seven people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated.

“Money, more than public health, has determined how quickly countries can secure the tools that they need to combat this virus,” Dr. Etienne said.

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Mayor Sadiq Khan of London said face masks would continue to be mandatory on the city’s subways and buses after July 19, when England plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions.Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Face masks will continue to be mandatory on London’s subways and buses even after the government lifts the legal requirement to wear them on July 19, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said on Wednesday.

Mr. Khan’s announcement puts the London rules at odds with those announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is pushing ahead with a plan to lift almost all Covid restrictions in England, even as coronavirus infections surge and hospital admissions begin to mount.

Adding to the messaging confusion, Mr. Johnson has encouraged people to continue wearing masks in crowded and confined places even though, under the relaxed rules he announced, it will no longer be a legal requirement.

Mr. Khan, who is in the opposition Labour Party, said that wearing a face mask would be a condition of using London’s sprawling public transportation system, which includes the Tube, buses, overground trains, and light rail networks. Passengers who refuse to put one on will be ordered to leave the system.

“The wearing of face coverings helps reduce the spread of Covid, and crucially gives Londoners confidence to travel — vital to our economic recovery,” Mr. Khan said on Twitter. “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”

Mr. Khan said that masks would also remain mandatory in taxis and ride-hailing services.

Mr. Khan expressed optimism in television interviews that people would abide by the rules. Most riders on the subway and buses wear masks, but some public-health officials worry that behavior could change quickly if they were no longer compulsory.

Officials in other cities have expressed fears that the government’s relaxed rules will contribute to a further surge in infection rates. In Manchester, the city’s Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, is also weighing a legal requirement to continue wearing masks on the public transportation system.

Mr. Johnson has argued that, with vaccines widely deployed in the adult population, England must stick with plans to reopen its economy fully and shift the emphasis from legal restrictions to personal responsibility.

Nonetheless, the British health minister, Sajid Javid, acknowledged that infections could soar to more than 100,000 a day later in the summer. On Tuesday, Britain reported 36,660 new cases, a 27 percent increase over the same day last week.

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The pop star Olivia Rodrigo spoke at a news conference with Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary. Ms. Rodrigo’s visit is meant to encourage young people to be vaccinated against Covid-19.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nixon and Elvis. Trump and Kanye. Biden and Olivia.

On Wednesday, Olivia Rodrigo, the 18-year-old pop star with the No. 1 album in the country, visited the White House and joined the Biden administration’s efforts to use the young and influential to reach the young and unvaccinated.

“It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members,” Ms. Rodrigo said, reading from prepared remarks during a short appearance in the White House briefing room, “and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before.”

The White House could not have scripted it better. (In fact, White House officials helped her craft her remarks, according to an administration official.) The “Good 4 U” singer has millions of followers on social media who hang on her every word, and she is part of a growing list of creators, celebrities and influential people who are interested in working with the White House to deliver a pro-vaccine message directly to their respective communities.

Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital strategy, has been organizing an effort to reach out to people like Ms. Rodrigo and invite them to Washington to create content. The plans for bringing her to the White House, Mr. Flaherty said in an interview, began in June. After she arrived, Ms. Rodrigo wandered the halls of the West Wing with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, stopping by desks and chatting with officials before it was time to film a series of educational videos with President Biden.

“Not every 18-year-old uses their time to come do this,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said from the lectern.

Administration officials are hoping the time investment pays off. In recent weeks, as the federal strategy has shifted to more personalized efforts to reach unvaccinated people, the White House has recruited YouTube stars, social media influencers and celebrities who can send the messaging to their own channels. It has also highlighted efforts by popular dating apps to encourage young singles to promote their vaccination status.

Healthy young adults — or “young invincibles” — are historically hard to reach, and the White House has been upfront about the difficulties that officials have faced in convincing them to receive a vaccine. Those hurdles can include an overlapping mix of inertia, fear, busy schedules and misinformation.

Young people under the age of 27 are vaccinated at a lower rate than older people, according to the White House, and were part of the reason the administration said it fell short of reaching Mr. Biden’s goal of partly vaccinating 70 percent of American adults by July 4. Younger people became eligible for immunization later in the vaccine rollout after other high-priority risk groups. Those aged 12 to 15 only became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in mid-May.

Across the country overall, providers were administering about 0.55 million doses per day on average, as of Wednesday, about an 84 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13. its from here and they updated for the day.

The White House is still facing significant barriers to reaching reluctant Americans, particularly in conservative states where officials say they face pressure against evangelizing for a vaccine.

After Ms. Rodrigo left the podium, Ms. Psaki was asked about Dr. Michelle Fiscus, a pediatrician who was Tennessee’s top vaccination official until recently.

Dr. Fiscus has said she was fired from her job after she distributed a memo that suggested some teenagers might be eligible for vaccinations without their parents’ consent. The memo repeated information that had been publicly available on the health department’s website for years.

“And we’ve been crystal clear that we stand against any effort that would politicize our country’s pandemic response and recovery from Covid-19,” Ms. Psaki said.

A mobile vaccination site in Brooklyn last month. In the past week, New York City had a stretch of several days of 400 or more coronavirus cases.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Fueled by the Delta variant, daily coronavirus case counts in New York City have climbed in recent days, even as the city seems determined to turn the page on the pandemic.

Just a few weeks ago, there were only 200 new cases a day across the city on average, the lowest level since the early days of the pandemic. But in the past week, the city had a stretch of several days of 400 or more cases. And the test positivity rate has doubled: from below 0.6 percent on average to about 1.3 percent.

Those numbers are still low, but the increase has been swift, surprising some epidemiologists and public health officials who had not expected to see cases jump so quickly after remaining level through June.

With some 64 percent of adults in the city fully vaccinated, epidemiologists say it remains unlikely that the Delta variant will create conditions as devastating as the past two waves of Covid-19. Still, Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, calls the recent uptick “concerning.”

The Delta variant is far more contagious than the original form of the virus that swept across the city in March 2020. It was detected in a few cases in New York City in February during the second wave, but it really made inroads over the past two months. By the end of May, it accounted for about 8 percent of the cases sequenced by the city, and by mid-June, more than 40 percent.

Countries around the world — and many U.S. states — are experiencing a surge as a result of the spread of the Delta variant. In Britain, where vaccinations surpass the U.S. rate, cases have soared but hospitalizations have risen more slowly.

“The metrics to keep a close eye on are hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Those numbers have remained stable in New York City. The seven-day average number of daily hospitalizations this week has stayed under 20. The city has recently seen four or five Covid-related deaths a day on average.

Other U.S. cities areas have seen similar surges in infections. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County recorded its fifth day in a row with more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, with health officials attributing the rise to the Delta variant’s spread among the unvaccinated.

Health officials in New York City have tended to focus on Staten Island, where vaccination rates are below the city average, wearing masks is unpopular and positivity rates tend to exceed the city average. Four ZIP codes in Staten Island have had more than 100 cases combined in the past week.

But case counts have climbed significantly in every borough. In Brooklyn, average daily case counts nearly doubled in recent weeks from under 60 to more than 100. On Tuesday, the ZIP code that had the highest average positive test rate in the city was in Harlem.

Health officials have said that the vast majority of those testing positive have not been fully vaccinated.

So far, the Delta variant has not led the city to drastically change its public health guidance or virus-related restrictions. Nor has it affected the plans of many large companies to get workers back to their desks in Manhattan, according to Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a leading business association.

Walking past a mobile vaccination site in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Vaccines offered powerful protection against the coronavirus in New York City, blunting the second wave of the virus and saving an estimated 8,300 lives between December of last year and July of this year, according to a new study by Yale University epidemiologists released by the city on Wednesday.

The study underscored that the real-world performance of the vaccines can meet and even exceed trial results in preventing virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the city said. Only 1.1 percent of the 500,300 virus cases during the first six months of this year were among people who were fully vaccinated, according to data from the city’s health department also released Wednesday in support of the study.

Yet the data was also a reminder the protection was not perfect. A total of 94 fully vaccinated New Yorkers died from the virus between January and mid-June, compared with 8,069 deaths among the unvaccinated, the city reported, though it did not include specific demographic information.

“Vaccines are safe and astonishingly effective at protecting you and your loved ones,” said the city’s health commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, in a statement accompanying the release of the study. “The stakes are so high, and we simply cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is for New Yorkers to get vaccinated.”

One important caveat is that most of the period of the study was before the Delta variant became the predominant variant in the city, according to the limited amount of genetic analysis of cases being done by the city each week. Studies suggest that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, though cases among those who are vaccinated tend to be mild or asymptomatic, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said this week. Because of vaccines, health experts don’t expect the recent increase in cases to reach the levels seen in New York City’s first and second waves.

The protection of vaccines remains powerful. A Public Health England analysis, which has not yet been peer reviewed, showed that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease and 96 percent effective against hospitalization from Delta, just slightly lower than against older variants. Moderna also reported on early studies showing only a “modest reduction” of antibody protection against the Delta variant.

The data released Wednesday represented the most comprehensive look yet at breakthrough infections in New York City. In all, the city reported that about 5,300 fully vaccinated people were infected and 583 fully vaccinated people were hospitalized in New York with Covid-19 between January and June.

The picture is more complete than what is being released nationally, as it included mild cases, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is only tracking serious breakthrough infections that result in hospitalizations or deaths.

Far more vaccinated people, however, avoided the illness. The Yale study, which was done independently of the city’s researchers, used statistical modeling to estimate that the city’s vaccination campaign prevented about 250,000 cases in New York City, and 44,000 people from being hospitalized. The study is not yet published, and has just been submitted for peer review, the city said.

global roundup

Amsterdam in February. New daily cases in the Netherlands increased from 500 on June 25, a day before restrictions were dropped, to over 10,000 on Saturday.
Peter Dejong/Associated Press

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands skyrocketed by more than 500 percent last week, according to the health authorities, a surge in cases that forced the country’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, to publicly apologize on Monday for having lifted restrictions too hastily.

As new daily cases increased from 500 on June 25, a day before restrictions were dropped, to over 10,000 on Saturday, Mr. Rutte’s government reimposed several measures, including ordering clubs and bars to close at midnight and reinstating a policy to serve only seated and spaced customers.

On Monday, Mr. Rutte said he was sorry about the previous lifting of the measures. “We thought it was possible, but it wasn’t,” he said.

Mr. Rutte’s government had reopened most of the country’s economy on June 26, pushing forward a projected date for easing restrictions by three weeks. Clubs, bars and restaurants reopened under a government-sponsored testing plan that in many cases failed to work because some bouncers and other staff members had not been properly trained. Mask mandates were also lifted except on public transport, in high schools and airports.

In the weeks that followed, the health authorities reported more than 100 superspreader events, including in clubs, on party boats and in student societies. More than 1,000 people were infected at a festival that gathered 20,000 people in the city of Utrecht this month.

As of Wednesday, around 65 percent of the population in the Netherlands has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 39 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times tracker.

In other news from around the world:

  • In Australia, the authorities in Sydney said that the city’s strict lockdown would be extended until at least the end of the month after another 97 infections were reported on Wednesday. The restrictions had been scheduled to end on Friday, but an outbreak driven by the Delta variant has yet to subside, leading to an extension of stay-at-home orders and remote schooling for the city of five million people and nearby areas. Gladys Berejiklian, the top official for the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, said that at least 24 of the 97 cases were infectious and still circulating in the community. Until that number gets close to zero, she said, the restrictions would have to remain in place.

  • A cruise ship returned to Singapore on Wednesday after a 40-year-old passenger tested positive for the virus, The Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, reported. Nearly 3,000 passengers and crew members were isolating in their cabins as the health authorities conducted contact tracing. The infected passenger, who was fully vaccinated, was identified as a close contact of a coronavirus case in Singapore and tested positive during the four-day “cruise to nowhere,” which had departed on Sunday, the newspaper reported.

  • Spain’s health ministry has decided to allow pharmacies to sell self-testing kits for coronavirus to individuals without clearance from health clinics, in a bid to better trace the spread of the disease as the country’s virus infection rate has soared in recent weeks.The authorization follows a long political battle over whether pharmacies should be enlisted into Spain’s testing efforts. The central government had opposed the idea until recently, arguing that pharmacists were ill-equipped to handle tests and that encouraging sick people to go to stores to buy test kits might create new infection clusters. The main doctors’ associations of Spain had also long rejected demands that tests be offered outside health clinics or carried out at home.

Administering a vaccine during a home visit in Selangor State, Malaysia, on Tuesday. The state and other parts of Malaysia have been under lockdown for months.
Vincent Thian/Associated Press

A Covid vaccination center in Malaysia was closed on Tuesday after nearly half of its health workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The center is in the western state of Selangor, north of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister of science, technology and innovation, said on Tuesday that 204 of the clinic’s 453 workers had tested positive after taking tests over the weekend, according to the Singaporean news outlet Channel News Asia. He said that 400 of the workers had been vaccinated.

The center was scheduled to reopen on Wednesday after closing for a day of deep cleaning, and its regular staff members were isolating, The Associated Press reported. Local news reports did not say whether any of the workers who tested positive had displayed symptoms or needed to be hospitalized.

The government’s Covid-19 immunization program said in a Twitter thread on Tuesday that it was difficult to tell whether the infections had occurred at the center and noted that the risk of the workers infecting others was low based on the viral loads of their test samples.

Even though vaccines are good at preventing serious disease and death from Covid-19, it is less clear how well they prevent vaccinated people from transmitting the virus to others.

Malaysia is reporting about 9,000 coronavirus cases per day, and its per capita rate of new infections — 28 people per 100,000 — was the highest in Southeast Asia as of Wednesday. It is one of several countries in the Asia-Pacific region where the pace of vaccination has been too slow to contain outbreaks driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Selangor and other parts of Malaysia have been under punishing lockdowns for months, and the restrictions were tightened further across several regions in early July.

Malaysia has approved several Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use, and more than 400,000 doses were administered on Tuesday. Yet only about a quarter of the country’s nearly 33 million people had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker, and only 12 percent have been fully vaccinated.

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This post originally posted here usnews

Biden Picks Ex-West Virginia Health Official as Drug Czar

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is nominating West Virginia’s former health commissioner as the nation’s top anti-drug official, tapping a doctor who served on the front lines of the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The White House said Tuesday that Dr. Rahul Gupta will be the first physician to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the “drug czar.”

Dr Rahul Gupta, former state health officer of West Virginia, talks in his office.

The nomination drew bipartisan praise from West Virginia officials. Republican Gov. Jim Justice called it “great news,” and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the pick “means someone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis, especially in West Virginia, will be coordinating the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation.”

“Dr. Gupta will bring over a decade of extensive experience combatting the drug epidemic to ONDCP – the office charged with addressing the drug epidemic that has killed over 90,000 Americans just last year,” Manchin said in a statement.

Gupta most recently served as the chief medical and health officer at March of Dimes.

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This post originally posted here Medscape Medical News

Top Fed official warns Delta variant poses threat to global recovery

Top Fed official warns Delta variant

A top Federal Reserve official has warned the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and low vaccination rates in some parts of the world poses a threat to the global recovery as she urged caution in removing monetary support for the US economy.

“I think one of the biggest risks to our global growth going forward is that we prematurely declare victory on Covid,” Mary Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in an interview with the Financial Times.

“We are not through the pandemic, we are getting through the pandemic.”

Daly, who is a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee this year, pointed to the struggles to contain the virus in Japan and other countries. Surging infections and lagging inoculation campaigns abroad were constraining the economic rebound and could have negative ramifications for the US, she said.

“If the global economy . . . can’t get . . . higher rates of vaccination, really get Covid behind [us], then that’s a headwind on US growth,” Daly said. “Good numbers on the vaccinations are terrific, but look at all the pockets where that isn’t yet happening.”

Daly’s warning came as investors sought out safe havens in droves this week, sending US government bond prices soaring. Treasury yields have fallen sharply as a result, with the benchmark 10-year note trading at its lowest level since February. Global stocks fell on Thursday.

Many market participants attributed the sharp drop in Treasury yields to technical factors. But a growing chorus has expressed concern that the economy will struggle to maintain the red-hot growth rates that have accompanied the reopening to date, and predicted that the recent jump in inflation will quickly fall away.

“In the United States the news has been pretty positive, but the global news hasn’t been all that positive,” Daly said. “It’s been good but it hasn’t been terrific. Markets respond to those things, and that can of course lower yields because they’re pricing in the risk there.”

She added: “What you’ve seen is an increasing sense of the downside risk to the global economy.”

The Fed’s June meeting appears to have been a catalyst for recent market moves. Central bank officials predicted they would be raising interest rates sooner and more aggressively than they had forecast earlier this year.

But speaking to the FT, Daly — who is considered one of the more dovish Fed officials — said there should be no doubt that the central bank would stick to the monetary policy framework it adopted in August 2020. This promised a more lenient approach to temporary overshoots in inflation in the pursuit of full employment.

“Chair [Jay] Powell said this so clearly in his press conference and I think that’s the light to follow here,” Daly said. “That’s the message I keep saying: we’re fully committed to our framework. That means eliminating shortfalls in employment and delivering average inflation of 2 per cent, and that is still absolutely paramount.”

Daly’s comments come at a pivotal time for Fed policymaking, as it discusses removing some of the massive monetary support for the recovery introduced at the start of the pandemic.

Minutes from the June FOMC meeting, released on Wednesday, showed some policymakers believed the Fed could soon start trimming its $ 120bn per month of asset purchases. But while Daly said the debate around “tapering” was warranted, the central bank had to “keep our eye on the long-term goals, which are full employment and price stability, and really be patient enough and persevere enough to deliver on those commitments which we’ve made to the American people”.

Furthermore, Daly argued increasing interest rates from their current level close to zero would have to wait until after the asset purchases had been wound down. Other more hawkish Fed officials have suggested there could be some overlap.

“We’re ready to taper at the appropriate time,” she said. “Then I’d like to see, how is that going? How does the economy respond to that? Because we can forecast, we can project, but we need to know in order to actually say, ‘oh, OK, now it’s time to move on to the next phase’, which is discussing policy normalisation and the fed funds rate coming up a bit.”

Daly said the split among Fed officials on how quickly to remove support for the economy, which was revealed in the minutes, was healthy as officials brought their “different perspectives” to the table and were not operating in an “echo chamber”.

For her part, the San Francisco Fed president indicated she is not quite ready to move to a post-pandemic environment.

“I think there’s always this excitement that ‘Oh my gosh: look, the vaccinations are working, this could be the end’. But it would be premature to say that we’ve achieved a victory here.”

Author: James Politi in Washington and Colby Smith in New York
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Star Trek legend Marina Sirtis speaks out on being Prince Charles’ ‘official escort’

“It was for the Prince’s Trust and I said, ‘You’ve called Marina, did you mean to call Patrick?'”

But to Marina’s surprise, there was no mistake, as the leading actress escorted Prince Charles to the event.

The self-proclaimed royalist admitted it was a “huge moment” for her.

“I had never been so nervous in my life. I’m from Tottenham for God’s sake,” Marina continued.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be sat next to Prince Charles at a premiere of a movie I was in. And he was lovely.”

Author: Michelle Marshall
Read more here >>> Daily Express :: Celebrity News

Official: Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home, First Lady injured

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Hatii — Haitian President Jovenel Mose was assassinated in an attack on his private residence, the country’s interim prime minister said in a statement Wednesday, calling it a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”

First Lady Martine Mose was hospitalized following the overnight attack, interim Premier Claude Joseph said. The nation of more than 11 million people had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Mose.

“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said in a statement from his office. “Democracy and the republic will win.”

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the streets were largely empty in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, but some people ransacked businesses in one area.

Joseph said police have been deployed to the National Palace and the upscale community of Pétionville and will be sent to other areas.

Joseph condemned the assassination as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.” He said some of the attackers spoke in Spanish but offered no further explanation.

Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking heavily in the capital of Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $ 2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.

Mose, who was 53, had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, which led to Parliament being dissolved. Opposition leaders have accused him of seeking to increase his power, including approving a decree that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.

In recent months, opposition leaders demanded the he step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February 2021. Mose and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap.

Haiti was scheduled to hold general elections later this year.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author: AP
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Nintendo Switch PRO is official: OLED model release date revealed and pre-order NEWS

The new and improved Nintendo Switch Pro has been officially announced by Nintendo.

The surprise announcement comes after months of rumours and speculation about powerful new Switch hardware.

The Nintendo Switch OLED Model has been given an October 8 release date, which means it will launch alongside Metroid Dread.

As the name suggests, the headline new feature is the OLED display, which will offer a more vibrant experience.

While the console itself will be similar in size to the existing model, the screen will measure in at 7-inches.

According to Nintendo, it will feature more vibrant colours and a higher contrast compared to the current Switch and Switch Lite. 

Other improvements include a wider adjustable stand for tabletop mode, as well as a LAN port for improved online performance.

With 64BG of internal storage, the Nintendo Switch OLED Model can hold more games – although you’ll probably still need an SD card if you download lots of games.

Finally, Nintendo has confirmed that the Nintendo Switch OLED Model will feature improved audio thanks to the beefier speakers.

Elsewhere, the stylish new console will launch with a brand new colour scheme, as well as the classic Neon Red and Neon Blue set-up.

Fans will be able to purchase a white model, complete with white Joy-Con controllers, a black main unit and a white dock.

At the time of writing, pre-orders are yet to go live, and Nintendo hasn’t announced the price of the console.

Express Online has contacted the company for confirmation about the price and pre-order dates.

Judging by the recent launches of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it’s worth getting in early if you want to secure a console at launch.

Unlike the Switch Lite, the OLED Model will support both handheld and docked gameplay, meaning it can be played at home on the TV, and on the go.

“Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will let users experience enhancements in all three play modes,” Nintendo explains.

“TV mode: Place the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) console into the dock to play Nintendo Switch games on the TV. By using the built-in wired LAN port, users can enjoy another way to connect online in TV mode.

“Tabletop mode: Flip the stand on the back of the console and use the console’s screen to play multiplayer games using the two included Joy-Con controllers right out of the box. The wide adjustable stand makes for a solid and sturdy foundation. It also allows players to freely tilt the console with more range on the viewing angle, so it’s easier to see the screen.

“Handheld mode: Users can bring the console wherever they go in handheld mode and play local* or online** multiplayer with friends. The 7-inch OLED screen provides vivid colour and high contrast.”


Author: Liam Martin
Read more here >>> Daily Express