Florida Cruise Tests Rules; U.K. Opening in Doubt: Virus Update
Pedestrians wearing protective masks cross an intersection in Melbourne, Australia. (Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

Florida Cruise Tests Rules; U.K. Opening in Doubt: Virus Update

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said it had been cleared to resume cruises in the U.S. starting with a June 26 embarkation from Florida, even though the state has banned proof-of-vaccination forms required for the voyage. California will offer $116.5 million in prizes to encourage vaccinations.

The pandemic in the U.S. is likely to end the way it began -- with Black and Latino residents suffering a disproportionate amount of the pain and suffering, according to Covid-Net. Meanwhile, most people in the U.S. plan to spend the Memorial Day weekend much like before the pandemic, a Quinnipiac University poll showed.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was too early to say whether England’s economy can fully reopen as planned on June 21, warning that the virus variant first identified in India continues to spread across Britain.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 168.5 million; deaths exceed 3.5 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.78 billion doses have been given
  • U.S. Spotlight: Blacks and Latinos suffer a disproportionate amount of Covid pain
  • Seychelles’s Covid mysteries pit anti-vaxxers against scientists
  • Generation of Covid orphans at risk of exploitation in India
  • Where are we in hunting for the coronavirus’s origin?: QuickTake
Florida Cruise Tests Rules; U.K. Opening in Doubt: Virus Update

California Joins Vaccine Sweepstakes (5:08 p.m. NY)

California officials who have spent months urging residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus now hope $116.5 million in prizes will sweeten the deal.

Under the state’s new “Vax for the Win” campaign, launched Thursday, residents 12 years or older who are at least partially vaccinated will be eligible for cash prizes awarded in a series of three drawings.

The first two, on June 4 and June 11, will select a total of 30 winners to receive $50,000 apiece, if they complete their inoculations. In the final drawing, on June 15, 10 residents will win $1.5 million each.

Separately in Los Angeles, those who get their inoculations at a number of locations across the county will be eligible to win season tickets to the L.A. Kings and L.A. Galaxy.

Idaho No. 2 Stages Mask Coup (4:51 p.m. NY)

Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin swept away most of Idaho’s remaining mask mandates -- while Governor Brad Little was out of state and without consulting him. Idaho never had a statewide mask mandate but her executive order swept away remaining rules for local government institutions, including public schools. The order does not cover healthcare facilities.

Last week, McGeachin announced she would run for governor, though her fellow Republican, Little, in his first term, has not said whether he will run for re-election. Little, attending a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Tennessee, returns Thursday night.

U.S. Covid Inequities Persist (3:07 p.m. NY)

While things have improved for all Americans, Black people are still being hospitalized with Covid-19 at twice the rates of White people, according to Covid-Net, a hospital surveillance network for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disparities reflect the same long-running inequities in health care and wealth that have contributed to higher rates of diabetes and obesity. But they also underscore the urgency for the U.S. to improve its vaccination campaign in the Black community.

It’s clear that Black and Hispanic communities want the vaccines more than now-famously hesitant groups such as Republicans and White Evangelical Christians -- and yet they’ve received fewer by comparison.

U.S. Vaccine Readiness Rises in Poll (2:45 p.m. NY)

Most people in the U.S. plan to spend the Memorial Day weekend much like before the pandemic, while about one in four adults say they don’t plan to get vaccinated, according to a Quinnipiac University poll published Thursday.

Those planning to get a Covid shot or already vaccinated rose to 72% compared to 68% in a poll published April 14. The share saying they don’t plan to get immunized declined to 23% from 27%, according to Quinnipiac.

Asked if they’ll spend the Memorial Day weekend much the same way as before the pandemic, 73% agreed. President Joe Biden said Thursday that 50% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.

Chile Plans More Virus Debt (2:15 p.m. NY)

Chile will tap bond markets to help finance $10.8 billion worth of fresh measures aimed at confronting a persistent coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Rodrigo Cerda said.

Expanded aid for families and cash transfers to small companies announced by President Sebastian Pinera will enlarge the deficit, Cerda told Radio Futuro on Thursday. The measures will be paid for by windfalls from higher copper prices, the government’s sovereign funds and extra debt, he said.

N.Y. Requires Paid Leave for Vaccine Side Effects (2:05 p.m. NY)

New Yorkers that have side effects from the coronavirus vaccine can take a sick day without losing wages, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

The announcement comes as vaccine rates are plateauing in the state and nationally. Over 10 million New Yorkers, about 64.4% of those aged 18 or older, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly 9 million are fully vaccinated, Cuomo said.

North Carolina Passes 1 Million Cases (1:06 p.m. NY)

North Carolina became the 10th U.S. state to pass 1 million Covid-19 cases, reporting another 849 infections on Thursday, state data show. Cases and hospitalizations have been falling steadily, though deaths have been relatively flat, passing 13,000 this week.

Almost 43% of people in the state have received a first dose of vaccine, below a national average nearing 50%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Germany to Vaccinate Young Teens (12:17 p.m. NY)

Germany plans to expand Covid-19 inoculations to children aged 12 and older starting June 7 as Europe’s largest economy seeks a way out of the pandemic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that immunizations for children would be voluntary and wouldn’t impact school participation. The vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE would likely be approved for this age group in the coming days, she said Thursday after a meeting with leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

U.K. Reopening ‘in the Balance’ (12:03 p.m. NY)

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the spread of the variant first identified in India means it’s too early to say whether stage four of the reopening of the economy in England can go ahead on June 21 as planned.

A formal assessment of data on cases and hospitalizations will be published before June 14, Hancock told lawmakers, and the lifting of remaining restrictions will only happen “if it’s safe.”

The U.K. on May 27 reported 3,542 more people tested positive, up from yesterday’s daily figure of 3,180.

Portugal Battles New Surge (11:59 a.m. NY)

Portugal’s government approved a series of measures to contain a surge in the number of cases in Lisbon and the Tagus valley, Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

These measures include increasing the number of tests to detect and isolate people infected with the coronavirus in order to control the pandemic, Vieira da Silva said.

Florida Cruise Cleared (11:55 a.m. NY)

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said it had been cleared to resume cruises in the U.S. starting with a June 26 embarkation from Florida’s Port Everglades on Celebrity Edge, which is part of its Celebrity Cruises brand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given cruise lines two paths back to the seas: they can require and verify that 95% of passengers and 98% of crew are vaccinated, or they can prove their Covid-safety to the government through no-revenue test voyages. In this case, Royal Caribbean is opting for the former, requiring everyone over 16 to present proof of vaccination, according to a statement.

But Florida banned so-called vaccine passports, and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has insisted that the rule applies to cruise companies operating out of the state’s ports. It’s unclear how the cruise can sail from the Sunshine State, home of the world’s busiest cruise port, as long as both the CDC and Florida rules stand. Royal Caribbean and its competitors have already announced Alaska cruises in the coming months, but they avoid that conflict by departing from Seattle.

Black Businesses Owners Turned to Fintech (11:15 a.m. NY)

Black-owned businesses were much likelier than their peers to use online lenders than traditional banks when applying for U.S. pandemic relief loans, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

About one in four Black owners seeking a Paycheck Protection Program loan applied to a fintech company, more than twice the rate of Whites, Asians and Hispanics, the New York Fed said in a blog post, part of its Economic Inequality series.

Qantas Weighs Free Flights (10:37 a.m. NY)

Qantas Airways Ltd. is considering giving free flight vouchers or air miles to people who’ve had Covid-19 shots, joining a growing list of businesses offering vaccination incentives to kick-start global travel.

Seychelles Risk Six Times Higher for Unvaccinated (10:36 a.m. NY)

Seychelles, which has vaccinated a greater proportion of its population against the coronavirus than any other country, said unvaccinated citizens are six times more likely to develop Covid-19 than those who have taken the inoculations.

The nation of 98,000 people has experienced a surge in infections even though 65% of the population have taken two doses of a vaccine. Most of those infected haven’t been inoculated, the health ministry said in a presentation on Thursday.

Johnson Hits Back (7:51 a.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit back at his former adviser Dominic Cummings, who alleged ministers failed to protect the public from the coronavirus and declared the premier is “unfit” for the job.

Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a hospital, Johnson said some of the comments his controversial former aide made bore no relation to reality.

India in Talks With Pfizer (7:48 a.m. NY)

India is in talks with Pfizer to import its vaccine with a possible July start date, V.K. Paul, who heads the panel on the country’s vaccine rollout, said on Thursday. A key sticking point has been vaccine makers’ demand for indemnity protection against liabilities.

Florida Cruise Tests Rules; U.K. Opening in Doubt: Virus Update

“In the hot spot areas, around one in 10 of those in hospital are people who have had both jabs,” a function both of the protection the vaccine offers against the variant and the age profile of those who are catching the disease, Hancock said. “We will learn more about this in the forthcoming week or two.”

South Africa Weighs More Curbs (5:37 p.m. HK)

South Africa’s rising coronavirus infections puts pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to reintroduce stricter lockdown measures.

The country has been slow off the mark to administer vaccines, with the latest health department data showing just 761,903 people out of a population of almost 60 million have received the shots. The majority of cases are in the three most-populous provinces.

Florida Cruise Tests Rules; U.K. Opening in Doubt: Virus Update

Ireland Nears Vaccine Milestone (5 p.m. HK)

Half of the adult population in Ireland will have received at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of the weekend, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said. He raised doubts over the vaccination pace going forward, warning of a “significant under-delivery” of the Janssen vaccine and “question marks” over deliveries of the AstraZeneca shot.

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