No Masks for Vaccinated Amazon Staff; Paris Cafes: Virus Update
Doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Oregon Health & Science University mass vaccination site at Portland International Airport. (Photographer: Alisha Jucevic/Bloomberg)

No Masks for Vaccinated Amazon Staff; Paris Cafes: Virus Update

France loosened a months-long lockdown on Wednesday, allowing restaurants to serve customers on terraces and cinemas and museums to reopen to the public. New York state, the original U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, reported its lowest infection rate since September.

In India, daily deaths reached a record, even as reported new infections declined from the highs of early May. Taiwan extended a soft lockdown island-wide, while the virus continued to rampage through Thailand’s prisons.

New cases in Malaysia rose to the highest since the pandemic began, even after the government imposed nationwide restrictions on movement to curb the spread. Serbia received a delivery of 440,000 vaccine doses from China to immunize its military.

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No Masks for Vaccinated Amazon Staff; Paris Cafes: Virus Update

ImmunityBio Shot to Be Studied as Booster (5:25 p.m. NY)

ImmunityBio Inc.’s hAd5 T-cell Covid-19 vaccine candidate is being considered as a booster shot in a study of almost 500,000 South African health workers who have received Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation.

The health workers, the first people outside of much smaller studies to be vaccinated in South Africa, will need a booster, according to Glenda Gray, the co-lead of the South African studies. “It could be the universal boost that we are looking for,” she said. “Hopefully we will start in a couple of weeks.”

Amazon Ends Mask Rule for Vaccinated Workers (2:15 p.m. NY) Inc. says that next week, fully vaccinated staffers in frontline jobs in the U.S. won’t have to wear masks, unless mandated by state or local regulations.

Beginning on Monday, workers who are fully vaccinated and have a copy of their vaccine card won’t have to wear face coverings in the company’s warehouses and other logistics depots, Amazon said in a message to employees on Wednesday.

Amazon, which employs about 1.3 million people, is the second-largest private sector employer in the U.S. behind Walmart Inc. The online retailer instituted its mask requirement in April 2020.

Pennsylvania Voters Curb Governor’s Power (1 p.m. NY)

Pennsylvania voters approved two ballot measures to curtail a governor’s authority during disaster declarations, a rebuke of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions.

The proposed constitutional amendments, placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature, would let the state’s General Assembly end a disaster declaration without the governor’s approval, and shorten such declarations to 21 days from 90 days.

Both measures drew about 54% of the vote, according to incomplete and unofficial returns posted Wednesday on the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website.

N.Y. Positivity Rate Falls to 1% (11 a.m. NY)

The seven-day average Covid-19 positivity rate in New York state dropped to 1.06%, the lowest since Sept. 27, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. It was the 44th straight day of decline. Hospitalizations fell to 1,521, the fewest since Nov. 8.

“New York is making tremendous strides in beating back Covid -- our positivity rates are the lowest we’ve seen in months and more than 10 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” Cuomo said.

The governor also announced that child-care facilities and summer camps must collect vaccination status for all staff and children, and implement daily health screenings. Children and staff over age 2 who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear face coverings except when eating, drinking, showering, or sleeping.

Separately, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would keep the mask mandate in place in municipal offices because there are vaccinated and unvaccinated people working together. He said the three measures tracked closely by the city -- cases, deaths and hospitalizations -- have all dropped below the city’s threshold. The closely watched hospitalization rate that has dropped below 1 per 100,000 residents.

Over 70% of U.K. Adults Have Gotten 1 Dose (10:45 a.m. NY)

More than 70% of U.K. adults have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, the Department of Health and Social Care said, and about 40% of people are fully vaccinated. The country’s health services have administered 57.8 million vaccines as of May 18, an effort that began in December, according to a statement. The U.K. remains on track to offer a first dose to all adults by the end of July, the agency said.

Emergent Failed to Address Problems: Panel (10:10 a.m. NY)

A probe by the U.S. Congress into Emergent BioSolutions Inc. found that the contract manufacturer failed to address deficiencies in vaccine production at its facilities despite warnings following a series of inspections in 2020.

Emergent, which was tasked with manufacturing the underlying drug substance used in the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc Covid-19 vaccines, has faced production setbacks after conflating the active ingredient used in the two vaccines. The error at its Baltimore plant in late February led it to discard 15 million doses worth of an ingredient used in the J&J shot, and has delayed the vaccine maker’s ability to supply the U.S. and world.

Swiss Earmark Funds for Vaccines (9:11 a.m. NY)

Switzerland has earmarked an additional 50 million francs ($55 million) for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. The government has already decided to order vaccines for 2022, and intends to extend business with developers Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE partnership beyond that date to guard against emerging variants of the virus.

Switzerland also wants to work with businesses and institutions of higher education to ensure that in the event of another pandemic, the country is well placed to develop and manufacture vaccines.

No Masks for Vaccinated Amazon Staff; Paris Cafes: Virus Update

Pakistan Relaxes Restrictions (9:01 a.m. NY)

Pakistan will reopen the tourism sector and outdoor restaurants to full capacity starting on May 24, according to a statement. Educational institutions in districts with less than 5% Covid-19 positivity rates, as well as outdoor marriage ceremonies with a maximum of 150 people, will reopen on June 1.

Dogs Sniff Out Covid From Sweat (8:25 a.m. NY)

Dogs are able to detect Covid-19 in humans, a new study showed, paving the way for the broader use of sniffing canines in a global effort to contain the pandemic.

The dogs’ detection reached 97% sensitivity in the French study, meaning that’s how well the canines could identify positive samples. The sensitivity rating beats that of many 15-minute antigen tests, which tend to be better at ruling out infection than at finding it.

China Delivers Vaccines to Serbia (7:16 a.m. NY)

Some 440,000 vaccines made by China’s Sinopharm were flown to Serbia, of which 240,000 were paid for and 200,000 were donated by China’s national defense ministry for inoculation of Serbia’s military.

Serbia’s defense minister welcomed the delivery at the airport. The Balkan country, a candidate for European Union membership, has imported more than 3.5 million Sinopharm shots, as well as jabs from western and Russian drugmakers.

France Hopes to Turn Corner (7:12 a.m. NY)

France hopes to “turn the Covid-19 page” in November or December, when a big enough part of the population is vaccinated, and if there are no new virus variants, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with the LCI TV channel.

While he’s optimistic, “we will remain vigilant and the French people should remain vigilant” to avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic, he said. The health crisis isn’t over yet, but the French “shouldn’t live in fear” until then, Veran added.

Malaysia Reports Record New Cases (3:27 a.m. NY)

Malaysia reported 6,075 new cases, the biggest single-day increase since the pandemic began, even after the government imposed nationwide restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the virus.

Daily cases this month topped 4,000 for the first time since February amid the detection of new variants. The Southeast Asian nation is also struggling with the slow pace of inoculation, with less than 3% of the population fully vaccinated.

French Cafes, Cinemas Open (3:03 a.m. NY)

French cafe and restaurant terraces, as well as museums and cinemas, opened on Wednesday after a months-long lockdown. An accelerating vaccination campaign and a third round of curbs on public life have begun to slow the virus’s spread, with a noticeable drop in intensive-care unit occupancy.

No Masks for Vaccinated Amazon Staff; Paris Cafes: Virus Update

Should the situation worsen again, the easing of restrictions would be called into question, President Emmanuel Macron told journalists as he and Prime Minister Jean Castex sat at a cafe to mark the day.

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