U.S. Cases Drop by Half in May; India Passes Peak: Virus Update
Weekly cases in the U.S. have dropped by more than half since the end of April and are now at the lowest level in almost a year. Nearly 2 million people went through airport screenings on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, the highest since the pandemic’s start.
A Texas hospital will become the first in the U.S. to fire workers for refusing Covid-19 vaccinations starting on June 7, unless a state judge intervenes.
New infections in India fell to their lowest point in more than six weeks. Paris health officials put on a concert to determine whether it’s safe for masked and tested people to gather in crowds without social distancing.
- Global Tracker: Cases top 169.6 million; deaths pass 3.5 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.84 billion doses given
- South America hot spot has few shots to slow record deaths
- Fear of variant poses deadly dilemma for Boris Johnson
- Get vaccinated in Hong Kong, win $1.4 million apartment
- Where are we in hunting for Covid’s origin?: QuickTake
Brazilians Rally Against Bolsonaro (4:59 p.m. NY)
Protesters rallied across Brazil against President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, demanding more vaccines and his impeachment. Demonstrations took place in at least 16 cities across the country, Reuters reported. The rallies in Rio di Janeiro and Brasilia, the capital, were peaceful, but police deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets in the northeastern city of Recife, the agency reported.
With almost 460,000 fatalities, Brazil has the second highest death toll after the U.S. Bolsonaro has been increasingly criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines. Less than 16% of the population has received a first dose, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Paris Tests Crowd Safety With Packed Concert (1:40 p.m. NY)
Paris health officials put on a concert Saturday to determine whether it’s safe for masked and tested people to gather in crowds, and even dance, without social distancing, the Associated Press reported. The test was aimed at helping France prepare for future large events.
About 5,000 attended the free concert, with the band Indochine and DJ Etienne de Crecy. Only people aged 18-45 were allowed to attend to minimize risk, and they were required to take two tests before the concert and one after.
Vietnam Identifies New Variant (1:08 p.m. NY)
Vietnam said it discovered a new coronavirus variant that is a hybrid of the strains first found in India and in the U.K., Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said Saturday, according to the Associated Press. He said the variant may be more transmissible and has spread to about half of Vietnam’s localities.
Scientists said the variant needed further study, the Washington Post reported.
Texas Hospital Staff Sues Over Vaccines (12:30 p.m. NY)
A Houston hospital will become the first in the U.S. to fire workers for refusing Covid-19 vaccinations starting on June 7, unless a state judge intervenes.
About 117 staffers sued Houston Methodist Hospital Friday in Texas state court, claiming the facility’s vax-or-pink-slip mandate violates World War II-era ethics codes designed to prevent medical experimentation on unwilling human subjects. The so-called Nuremberg Code was developed in response to Nazi atrocities conducted on concentration camp victims.
South Africa Calls for Vaccine Equity (12:20 p.m. NY)
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated calls for vaccines to be distributed more equitably.
“It is truly absurd, almost obscene, that western governments must now incentivise some of their reluctant citizens to be vaccinated whilst those of us in the developing world are literally dying for vaccines,” Ramaphosa said in an address Saturday at the Northern Cape Province conference. “We are simply asking for a waiver of the vaccine patents, whilst the pandemic is raging.”
South Africa has the continent’s highest number of cases with more than 1.6 million infections, with warnings that it’s on the brink of entering a third wave.
Canada Extends Vaccine Expiry (12:05 p.m. NY)
To avoid wasting doses, Health Canada has extended the expiration date on some of its supply of AstraZeneca Plc vaccine from six months to seven months, according to a spokesperson for Ontario’s health ministry. That follows a decision by Ontario to allow some residents to get their second vaccination after 10 weeks to avoid wasting 50,000 doses set to expire on Monday. On Friday, the country’s most populous province said most residents will receive their second AstraZeneca dose after 12 weeks while the interval for second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be as short as 28 days depending on supply.
N.Y. Positive Tests at 14-Month Low (11:53 a.m. NY)
New York state’s seven-day average for positive tests fell to 0.73%, the lowest since the pandemic began, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. That’s among the lowest rates in the U.S. He reported 870 new cases and 12 deaths, in line with previous days.
Outbreak Hits Busy Chinese Port (11:45 a.m. NY)
An outbreak of Covid-19 has partly closed one of the world’s busiest ports, a shutdown that may add to the already record cost of shipping goods out of China.
Yantian Port in the export and industrial hub of Shenzhen in southern China will not accept any containers for export until Sunday May 30, according to a notice posted Friday on Wechat. The container yard of the port has been partly shut since last week after an outbreak of Covid-19 among port staff and in the broader community, state media reported.
Half of Britons in Their 30s Get Vaccine (11:34 a.m. NY)
More than half of people in their 30s have received a shot since they became eligible for vaccinations two weeks ago, U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Twitter. Overall, 74% of the adult population have had one dose and 47% are fully inoculated, the U.K. said Saturday as it reported another 3,398 cases and seven deaths.
Belgium Phases Out Astra Shot (11:30 a.m. NY)
Belgium’s vaccination campaign will halt appointments for first doses of the AstraZeneca Plc shot in two weeks due to delivery delays and new age limits, the campaign’s director Sabine Stordeur told the Belga press agency.
Stock will be reserved for second doses and the Covax program for poorer nations, she said. Belgium won’t use AstraZeneca to vaccinate people under 41. Half of all adults will have received at least one dose of a vaccine next week.
Memorial Weekend Travel Surges (11:18 a.m. NY)
Nearly 2 million people went through airport screenings on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, the highest since Covid-19 crisis began more than a year ago.
Data from the Transportation Security Administration show that 1.96 million people were screened yesterday, six times more than the same day in 2020. It’s still down 24% from the 2019 level on the same day.
Punk Show in Florida $1,000 for Unvaccinated (10:34 a.m. NY)
A concert promoter is seeking to skirt Florida’s rules against denying services to people who are not vaccinated. For a punk-rock show, he’s charging $18 a ticket to people who are vaccinated and $999.99 to those who are not.
“We’re just trying to do a show safely,” promoter Paul Williams told WFTS Tampa Bay. He said he has not sold any of the higher-priced tickets.
Movie Theaters Ease Mask Rules (9:20 a.m. NY)
AMC, Regal and Cinemark will no longer require face masks for fully vaccinated guests, following CDC guidelines, according to their websites.
At AMC, guests not fully vaccinated are still required to wear a mask unless eating or drinking. Regal says masks will not be required unless mandated by state and local guidelines.
The move comes as theaters are bracing for what could be the biggest weekend since the pandemic began, a much-needed jolt after a year of delayed premieres and financial pain. Two new major films will launch during the Memorial Day weekend.
U.S. Cases Drop by Half in a Month (8 a.m. NY)
The U.S. recorded almost 22,000 new cases Friday, with weekly infections falling by more than half since the end of April, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Infections are at the lowest level since last June. This week, half of all Americans 18 years and older had been fully vaccinated, though the pace of inoculation continues to slow.
Another 660 deaths were recorded Friday. Weekly fatalities rose slightly, though Maryland added more than 500 previously uncounted deaths to their toll. Fatalities continue to trend downward, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
German Infection Rate Declines (5 p.m. HK)
Germany’s seven-day incidence rate has plummeted to 37.5 cases per 100,000 population at the end of May, down from nearly 150 at the start of the month after the population’s first-shot inoculation rate rose to 42.6%. School classes are returning to normal in most federal states from next week.
India’s Cases at Six-Week Low (12:02 p.m. HK)
New infections in India fell to their lowest level in more than six weeks. The country added 173,790 cases, taking the confirmed nationwide total to 27.73 million as of May 29, government data showed.
Daily fatalities remained below 4,000 for a third straight day. The country reported 3,617 deaths, taking the total to 322,512.
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