U.S. Cases Halve in a Month; Outbreak Hits Everest: Virus Update
Police officers wearing protective masks stand by the Olympic rings outside the Japan Olympic Museum near the National Stadium. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

U.S. Cases Halve in a Month; Outbreak Hits Everest: Virus Update

Covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. continue to plunge, despite the slowed pace of vaccinations. The U.S. recorded almost 28,600 new cases on Friday, with the seven-day average roughly half the level of a month ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

At least 100 people on Mount Everest have become infected, the Associated Press said. Germany will impose fresh restrictions on travelers from the U.K. starting on Sunday due to the rapid spread of a virus strain first identified in India.

Current Covid shots provide a high level of protection against hospitalization and death, according to a summary of the efficacy of eight vaccines that showed the BioNTech/Pfizer shot may better at stopping at least two worrisome coronavirus variants.

Key Developments:

U.S. Cases Halve in a Month; Outbreak Hits Everest: Virus Update

NBA Allows Head Coaches to Shed Masks (3:10 p.m. NY)

Head coaches with the National Basketball Association do not have to wear masks during games if they are fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported, citing an internal memo.

Restrictions in the NBA for those who are vaccinated have been easing, though assistant coaches and players must still wear masks in the bench area. Vaccinated head coaches are now permitted to shed their masks between pre-game introductions and halftime, then again until the game ends.

The change comes just as playoff season begins, and teams are playing in arenas with increased capacity limits.

L.A. Dangles Lakers Tickets to Boost Vaccination (1:14 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles will offer a chance to win L.A. Lakers season tickets to those getting first shots at selected sites starting Saturday, the county’s public health department said.

The county will also follow California’s plans to ease capacity limits and adopt CDC’s guidelines on masks starting June 15. About one in eight people in the greater L.A. area had been infected by Covid-19.

California’s Positive Rate Dips Below 1% (2:06 p.m. NY)

California’s seven-day average positive test rate was 0.9%, the health department’s website said. The state reported 1,186 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, a rate of 2.8 new cases per 100,000. There were 50 deaths. California has administered more than 36 million vaccines in total.

Ohio Vaccination Pace Rises (12:51 p.m. NY)

The pace of vaccinations in Ohio is rising, and Governor Mike DeWine is crediting the state’s plans for five weekly lottery drawings of $1 million for those with at least one dose. The Republican governor said on Friday that vaccinations had risen 45% in the week of May 14-19. The first winner will be announced on May 26.

The state also expanded vaccine access for ages 12 to 15, eligible for a chance for a college scholarship, and increased doses at pharmacies and local clinics.

“We’re certainly moving in the right direction,” DeWine told reporters.

Ohio was the first of several states, including New York, Maryland and Oregon, to offer lottery winnings to boost flagging vaccination rates.

N.J. Reported to Ease Mask Rules (12:15 p.m. NY)

Governor Phil Murphy plans on Monday to ease New Jersey’s indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, media including northjersey.com reported, citing an anonymous source. The Democratic governor had said “we’re not there yet” and maintained the state’s indoor mask requirement after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control eased its guidance last week to say fully vaccinated people could mostly ditch their masks indoors and outdoors. A Murphy spokesperson declined to comment, deferring questions to a scheduled briefing on Monday.

U.K. Could Have Avoided Lockdowns, Former Aide Says (12:02 p.m. NY)

The U.K. could have avoided its second and third lockdowns, which started in November and January, with “the right preparations and competent people in charge,” Dominic Cummings, former chief aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said on Twitter.

The U.K. reported another 2,694 cases and six deaths on Saturday. Infections have risen 10% over the past week as the country fights a variant first identified in India and allowed indoor drinking and dining for the first time in months.

Outbreak Hits Everest (8:47 a.m. NY)

At least 100 climbers and staff on Mount Everest have been infected with Covid-19, an Austrian climbing expert told the Associated Press. Lukas Furtenbach, who based his estimate on talking to pilots, doctors and expedition leaders, canceled his own climb because of virus fears. More than 400 foreign climbers have been granted permits to ascend the world’s highest peak. It was closed last year because of the pandemic.

Nepal reported 8,607 new infections and 177 deaths on Friday, bringing the totals to more than 497,000 confirmed infections and 6,024 deaths.

U.S. Cases, Deaths Dive (7:55 a.m. NY)

Cases and deaths in the U.S. continue to plunge, despite the slowed pace of the nation’s vaccination drive. The U.S. recorded almost 28,600 new cases on Friday, with the seven-day average roughly half the level of a month ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. New infections are now at the level of last June.

Another 686 deaths were recorded Friday, as the seven-day average dropped to the level of April 2020, at the start of pandemic.

At the same time, vaccinations have fallen back to the pace of mid-March, as states roll out incentives from lottery winnings to food and beer. Just under half the U.S. population has received at least one dose, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Vaccines Combat Death, Hospitalization (7:12 a.m. NY)

Current Covid shots provide a high level of protection against hospitalization and death, according to a summary of the efficacy of eight vaccines that showed the BioNTech/Pfizer shot may better at stopping at least two worrisome coronavirus variants.

Efficacy against Covid-linked disease averaged about 85% after a full course, rising to almost 100% protection against severe disease, hospitalization or death, Julia Shapiro, Natalie Dean, Ira Longini and colleagues said in a paper released Friday before peer-review and publication. The University of Florida researchers compared data from journal articles and media reports for products that have gone through double-blinded, placebo-controlled, late-stage vaccine trials, as well as observational studies.

Iran Deaths Slow (6:28 a.m. NY)

Iran’s daily deaths fell below 200 for the first time in six weeks with 187 fatalities overnight. The country detected 8,005 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 11,250 reported the previous day. The country has now seen more than 2.8 million known coronavirus infections and has a death toll of 78,381.

On Saturday, Iran’s health ministry began offering vaccinations to those aged 70 and over as it prioritizes older people in its fight against the virus. Those aged 65 or above will start getting Covid-19 shots by the end of next week, the ministry said.

Germany Imposes U.K. Travel Curbs (5:13 p.m. HK)

Germany will impose fresh restrictions on travelers from the U.K. starting on Sunday due to the rapid spread in Britain of the coronavirus strain first identified in India.

Travelers from the U.K. will have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival in Germany even if they test negative for the virus, according to the foreign ministry. In addition, transport companies will only be allowed to bring German citizens back into the country.

Germany now classifies Britain as a “virus variant area,” the country’s highest risk category, following a recommendation from the Robert Koch Institute, according to the foreign ministry.

Italy Weighs Mandatory Vaccines (4:10 p.m. HK)

Italy may consider making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory in the future, the country’s head of civil protection, Fabrizio Curcio, said in an interview with La Stampa daily on Saturday. “It is an option that needs to be thoroughly assessed, given the need of annual booster shots.” Italy has so far administered more than 30 million vaccinations.

India Cases Ease (12:20 p.m. HK)

India added fewer than 300,000 new Covid-19 cases for the sixth straight day on Saturday, in early signs that infections are slowing. The tally of 257,299 is the lowest since April 17. Still, IMF economists say the worst may be yet to come in the developing world, citing the infections trend in India and Brazil. New Delhi will need to immediately procure about 1 billion doses to cover 60% of its population by the first half of 2022, according to the note by IMF economists Ruchir Agarwal and Gita Gopinath. India reported another 4,194 deaths, bringing the toll to almost 300,000.

Bharat Biotech International Ltd. meanwhile is in discussions with overseas firms to expand its Covaxin production, the Hindu BusinessLine reported, citing people it didn’t identify. The Hyderabad-based company said earlier this week that it plans to make an additional 200 million doses at a Gujarat facility from the fourth quarter, raising its capacity of doses to about 1 billion a year. Many in India struggle to book scarce vaccination slots, and at the current rate, the country will take almost three years to inoculate 75% of its population of almost 1.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

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