Here’s what you need to know:Masked people attending a yoga class on a field at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued long-awaited guidance to Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19, freeing them to take some liberties that the unvaccinated should not, including gathering indoors with others who are fully vaccinated without precautions while still adhering to masking and distancing in public spaces.
The agency offered good news to grandparents who have refrained from seeing children and grandchildren for the past year, saying that fully vaccinated people may visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household so long as no one among the unvaccinated is at risk for severe disease if infected with the coronavirus.
That means fully vaccinated grandparents may visit unvaccinated healthy adult children and healthy grandchildren without masks or physical distancing. But the visit should be limited to one household: If the adult children’s unvaccinated neighbors drop by, the visit should move outdoors and everyone should wear masks and distance.
The recommendations arrived as state officials move to reopen businesses and schools amid a drop in virus cases and deaths. Federal health officials repeatedly have warned against loosening restrictions too quickly, including lifting mask mandates, fearing that the moves may set the stage for a fourth surge of infections and deaths.
The new advice is couched in caveats and leaves room for amendments as new data become available. The agency did not rule out the possibility that fully vaccinated individuals might develop asymptomatic infections and spread the virus inadvertently to others, and urged those who are vaccinated to continue practicing certain precautions.
Agency officials encouraged people to get vaccinated with the first vaccine available to them, to help bring the pandemic to a close and resume normal life. The agency emphasized that vaccines are highly effective at preventing “serious Covid-19 illness, hospitalization and death,” and said its guidance “represents a first step toward returning to everyday activities in or communities.”
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the C.D.C. “There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in the privacy of their own homes.”
Still, she added, “Everyone, including those who are vaccinated, should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings.”
Many more Americans will need to be fully vaccinated before mitigation measures can be suspended, she and other officials said, as the majority of Americans have yet to get the vaccine.
As of Sunday, about 58.9 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 30.7 million people who have been fully vaccinated, according to the C.D.C. Providers are administering about 2.16 million doses per day on average.
The C.D.C.’s advice is aimed at Americans who are fully vaccinated, meaning those for whom at least two weeks have passed since they received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, and those for whom at least two weeks have passed since receiving a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine.
What is safe for newly vaccinated Americans and their unvaccinated neighbors and family members has been uncertain in large part because scientists do not yet understand whether and how often immunized people may still transmit the virus. If so, then masking and other precautions are still be needed in certain settings to contain the virus, researchers have said.
There is also uncertainty about how well vaccines protect against emerging variants of the virus, and how long the vaccine protection lasts.
The C.D.C. said on Monday that “a growing body of evidence” suggests that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to have asymptomatic infections and “potentially less likely to transmit the virus that causes Covid-19 to other people.” Still, the agency did not rule out the possibility that they could inadvertently transmit the virus.
Given the current state of research, the C.D.C. advised:
Fully vaccinated Americans may gather indoors in private homes with one another in small groups without masks or distancing. Vaccinated people may gather in a private residence with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for developing severe disease if they contract the coronavirus, also without masks or distancing.
Vaccinated Americans need not quarantine or get tested if they have a known exposure to the virus, as long as they do not develop symptoms of infection. If they do develop symptoms, they must isolate themselves, get tested and speak with their doctor.
In public, vaccinated people must continue to wear masks and maintain social distance, and take other precautions, such as avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often and following any other protocols that are in place.
Vaccinated people should continue to avoid large and medium gatherings, though the agency did not specify the gathering size with numbers.
The agency did not revise its travel recommendations, continuing to advise that all Americans refrain from travel unless absolutely necessary.
The advice is not legally binding, but the agency’s recommendations are usually followed by state public health officials. The recommendations seem likely to incentivize vaccination for many hesitant Americans by promising modest liberties after months of restrictions.
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United StatesOn March 7
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Students lined up in the morning outside Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn last fall.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times
New York City will welcome high school students back into classrooms starting on March 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday — a major milestone in the city’s sometimes halting efforts to resume in-person instruction for some of its one million students.
At a time when instruction in some cities in the Northeast and many on the West Coast remains completely remote for high school and even some elementary school students, New York’s decision to bring back high school students — a vast majority of them low-income, Black and Latino — will be viewed as an important precedent. The city’s public school system is by far the largest in the country.
Reopening high schools will be the first major task faced by the new schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, who will take over from the outgoing chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, on March 15.
About half of the city’s 488 high schools will offer full-time instruction for most or all of their in-person students, while the other half will offer hybrid instruction. The city will also restart high school sports for all students — including those who have decided to learn remotely. The sports season will run through the summer this year, rather than ending with the school year, and students will be required to wear masks at all times.
Even with the return of as many as 55,000 high school students who signed up for in-person classes last fall and have not been in classrooms since November — out of a total population of 282,000 high school students — only about a third of all city students will be receiving any in-person instruction. The remaining 700,000 or so students in the entire city system have chosen to receive instruction remotely, in large part because of lingering concerns about the health risks of the coronavirus.
In other large school districts, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, many thousands of high school students have not received any in-person instruction for the past year, and may not regain access to their classrooms for months.
Though some large districts in the South, including Houston, Miami and Broward County in Florida, are open for all grades, other districts have focused on bringing elementary school students back first. That’s because remote learning is particularly challenging for younger children — and because research has found that in-person learning can be safer with younger children than older ones.
Yet high schoolers in New York and across the country have struggled immensely with the social isolation of remote learning. Teenagers have been stuck in their bedrooms for months, unable to see their friends or connect face-to-face with their teachers. Some districts are seeing higher than average student suicide rates.
The next phase of school reopenings comes with significant caveats. At least for now, only high school students who signed up for in-person classes last fall will be able to return to classrooms, joining elementary school students, who came back in December, and middle school students, who returned late last month. That means only about a third of the city’s million students are eligible for in-person learning for the remainder of this school year, which ends on June 25.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, pictured in December. His office said he would isolate at home with his wife for two weeks.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms, Mr. al-Assad’s office said on Monday. The pair are in good health and will continue work while quarantining at home for at least two weeks, his office added.
Their isolation period comes ahead of the 10-year anniversary of Syria’s civil war, as Mr. al-Assad faces an economy that is worse than at any time since the fighting began in 2011. Syrians were already living in ravaged cities with an ill-equipped health care system. As of Monday, the country of about 17 million has officially reported 15,981 infections and 1,063 deaths according to a New York times database. But cases are likely to be undercounted, experts have said, given that government data tends to hide the country’s struggles.
The fallout from the conflict, along with sweeping Western sanctions and lockdowns, has also left Syrians struggling to feed themselves. Food prices more than doubled in the last year and the World Food Program warned last month that more than 60 percent of the population, or about 12.4 million people were at risk of going hungry. Many Syrians have been left to resort to desperate measures to find fuel and sustenance for themselves and their families.
In a private meeting with pro-government journalists, Mr. al-Assad was asked about Syria’s economic meltdown, The New York Times reported in February.
“I know,” he said, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion. “I know.”
But he offered no concrete steps to fix the problems beyond floating this idea: Television channels should cancel cooking shows so as not to taunt Syrians with images of unattainable food.
Debbie McCarty, clinic director at Yukon Flats Health Center, administered Covid-19 tests last month in Fort Yukon, Alaska.Credit…Ash Adams for The New York Times
In Alaska, where the Indigenous population has been ravaged by global disease outbreaks for generations, the pandemic has killed Alaska Natives at quadruple the rate of white residents.
The virus has taken hold in remote communities, setting up an urgent race between infections and vaccinations during a season in which weather can limit travel, the sun may only wink above the horizon, and large, multigenerational families are crowded indoors.
When the pandemic began a year ago, Alaska’s isolation was an asset that provided villages an opportunity to set up lockdowns, testing requirements and controls on travel.
But as the virus has slowly seeped across the state, the rising infections have demonstrated how quickly isolation can turn into a liability. In Pilot Station, a 37-year-old man died after weather prevented a medevac plane from reaching him. The virus has raged in some communities that have minimal sanitation, in some cases infecting more than 60 percent of residents.
Yet thanks to the steady supply of vaccines available to Native Alaska tribes and a sprawling delivery effort involving bush planes, boats, sleds and snowmobiles, 16 percent of the population has received a second dose of the vaccine, the highest in the nation. One of the regional operations, Operation Togo, harks back to the grueling 1925 sled dog run that rushed diphtheria antitoxin across the state to an outbreak in Nome.
The villages also have resources they lacked a century ago, when the 1918 flu wiped out more than half of some communities. A network of tribal health aides provide frontline health care and critical testing, treatment and telemedicine links with faraway hospitals — a network being considered for replication in the Lower 48.
But with the vaccine, there are extra challenges: Health crews must coordinate flights out to villages and arrange for someone to pick them up at the runway by vehicle or snowmobile. They need to make sure someone has started up the wood stoves to warm up the tribal halls where shots will be administered.
One team recently landed in a village as the temperature hit 61 below.
GLOBAL ROUND UP
Lining up to enter a school in Shipdham, in eastern England, on Monday.Credit…Joe Giddens/Press Association, via Associated Press
Millions of students returned to schools in England on Monday for the first time since January, as the country takes its first major step out of lockdown restrictions.
Ending a two-month bout of learning from home for most pupils, younger students aged 5 to 11 headed back to their classrooms on Monday, with a phased re-entry for older pupils over the coming week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday described the move as bringing the country “closer to a sense of normality,” adding that it marked “a truly national effort to beat this virus.”
Young children, who studies have suggested are less likely to contract the virus than teenagers and adults, will resume schooling with no additional safety measures.
But the government has advised students aged 11 to 18 to wear face coverings in school and those older students are also being asked to take rapid-result Covid-19 tests every week to identify asymptomatic cases.
The return of England’s schoolchildren to their classrooms coincides with Britain reporting its lowest number of deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test since October. On Sunday, 82 deaths from Covid-19 were recorded — the first time in five months that deaths had been down to double figures, though counts are often lower over the weekend.
Mr. Johnson’s step-by-step plan for reopening saw some of England’s other lockdown rules also being relaxed slightly on Monday, with nursing home residents permitted to have one regular visitor and two people allowed to meet outdoors for a picnic or other social activity.
After the emergence of a coronavirus variant contributed to Britain’s overall death toll rising to more than 124,000, Mr. Johnson appears to be trying to avoid the mistakes of last year and has underlined that he wants this lockdown to be the country’s last.
In other news from around the world:
Norway saw a 19 percent drop in marriages in 2020 compared with the previous year, which had already seen the lowest figure since 1927, The Associated Press reported. The Norwegian statistics agency said on Monday that the pandemic and measures to counter it had led to the fall. In 2020, 16,200 weddings were performed, 3,000 fewer than in 2019. It’s “the largest decline from one year to another since 1919,” Ane Margrete Toemmeraas of the agency, Statistics Norway, said.
Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global Covax initiative, The Associated Press reported. The country received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through Covax, according to UNICEF. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months. India had previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan, which has seen 2,449 deaths and 55,847 cases from the virus.
New Zealand said on Monday that it had bought enough of the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate its entire population against the coronavirus, a change in strategy that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said would simplify the rollout. The country has bought 10 million Pfizer doses, enough for all of the population of five million to receive the required two doses each. Although New Zealand has purchase agreements with the makers of four different vaccines, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in the country so far. New Zealand has contained the virus to a much greater degree than many other countries — locally transmitted cases are almost nonexistent — and vaccination of the general public is not expected to begin until the middle of the year.
Vietnam began its coronavirus immunization program on Monday, inoculating health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of which was delivered late last month. The country of more than 96 million people has been praised for its pandemic response, recording 2,500 cases and only 35 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Its latest outbreak, which began in January and is responsible for about a third of all cases, appears to have been tamped down.
South Korea is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for people 65 and above, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, following France, Germany and other countries in reversing an earlier decision to hold back the shots in older people. The move came after more trial data became available.
The tiny Southeast Asian nation of East Timor will put its capital city, Dili, into lockdown for the first time, its government said on Monday, according to Reuters, amid fears that it could be facing its first local outbreak. A “sanitary fence and mandatory confinement” will be imposed in Dili for seven days from midnight Monday, with residents asked to stay home, the country’s council of ministers said in a statement. East Timor, a former Portuguese colony with a population of 1.2 million, has detected just 122 cases of the virus so far.
The police in Scotland arrested 28 soccer fans who broke lockdown rules on Sunday to celebrate the league title win by their team, Rangers. Thousands of fans, many of whom were not wearing face coverings, packed out a square in the center of Glasgow and gathered outside the team’s stadium in the city, setting off fireworks and flares to celebrate the league championship triumph, the team’s first in 10 years. The police said that they had issued fines to a small number of people and made arrests for assaulting officers and for other offenses. The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, denounced the rule breakers, writing on Twitter, “Everyone has made so many sacrifices in the past year & seeing a minority risk our progress is infuriating & disgraceful.”
Queen Elizabeth II signed her annual Commonwealth Day message in St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle on Friday.Credit…Pool Photo by Steve Parsons
Queen Elizabeth II praised people throughout the Commonwealth for uniting during the pandemic in upbeat televised remarks on Sunday.
“We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community,” the queen said.
Calling the pandemic “a time like no other,” she also commended “remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments” and frontline health care workers for their “selfless dedication to duty,” Reuters reported.
The speech was broadcast on Sunday for Commonwealth Day, a celebration of countries largely from the former British Empire that continue to maintain ties with Britain.
The queen’s remarks came just hours before a highly anticipated televised appearance of her grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night. Relations between the couple and the royal family have been strained since the duke and duchess announced they would step back from their official duties and move to North America.
The annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London, which the royal family typically attends, was canceled this year because of the pandemic.
After a highly contagious variant ravaged Britain over the winter and the country tightened restrictions, confirmed cases in Britain have steadily ticked down, according to a New York Times database.
It took just three days last March for nearly every sport to shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Beyond the headlines about silenced arenas and canceled tournaments, there were athletes, coaches and executives confronting a perilous reality with no precedent in modern sports. A biathlete hurried to a Finnish airport as border closings loomed. The N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, deliberated in a car outside his apartment building. A runner considered her options — and the Boston Marathon’s fate — over a late-night drink in Arizona. A NASCAR star suddenly without a race drove instead to a beach house.
“I had just left the office, and our general counsel called me,” Mr. Silver said. “I was on my way home, and he called and said that we’ve just gotten this positive test of Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.”
Commissioner Adam Silver of the N.B.A. remembers sitting in his car when he got a call informing him that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had tested positive for the coronavirus.Credit…Madison Ketcham
Mr. Silver said that he also spoke to Sam Presti, the Thunder president, and Clay Bennett, the Thunder owner, in the next 10 minutes because the players were taking the floor for the game in Oklahoma City.
Mr. Silver recalled sitting in his car, deciding to cancel that game. “Then we put out a notice that we were putting the season on pause until we had additional information,” he said. “Until that moment, it felt like there would have been an opportunity to deal with a single case on an isolated basis.”
The Times spoke to dozens of people about the chaotic days of March 11-13, when much of the athletic world came to a halt. “It was changing by the second,” said Joey Logano, a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
Pope Francis in the town of Qaraqosh, in northern Iraq, on Sunday. Asked whether he worried that his trip to the country could result in rising infections, he said, “I thought about it a lot, I prayed a lot over this.”Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis, lamenting that he felt like he was in “prison” under lockdown in the Vatican, said on Monday that he had wrestled over whether to visit Iraq in the midst of a pandemic but ultimately decided to put in God’s hands the fate of Iraqis who gathered, often without wearing masks and in crowded churches, to see him.
“This is one of the things that most made me think ‘maybe, maybe,’” Francis, who is vaccinated, said during a news conference on the papal plane returning from Baghdad. “I thought about it a lot, I prayed a lot over this.”
The pope, who was not wearing a mask, said that he had been aware of the risks but that after prayer, “it came from within and I said the one who allows me to decide this way will look after the people.”
The pope’s comments, in response to a question about whether he worried that his trip could result in the infection, and even death, of those who packed churches and streets to see him, did not address the public health consequences of his decision.
Coronavirus cases in Iraq are climbing, with nearly 3,400 new infections and 24 deaths reported in the past 24 hours. Critics have said that Francis’ high-profile trip, which involved many stops drawing thousands of people together, sent a dangerous and irresponsible message to a world still in the grips of a lethal pandemic fueled by fast-spreading virus variants.
But supporters have argued that the pope’s trip to Iraq was worth the risk to show his support for one of the most scarred, and suffering, corners of his church. Other popes have dreamed of visiting Iraq, which has an ancient but battered and shrunken Christian community, but Francis was the first to go, furthering his grand project of forging closer ties with the Muslim world and reasserting himself on the global stage after a year of lockdown.
But even as he succeeded in drawing attention to and showing support for the church in Iraq, there remained a lingering concern over the eventual cost.
Israel is seeking to vaccinate 110,000 Palestinian workers in the next two weeks. A Palestinian man received a vaccine dose on Monday at the Shaar Efraim crossing point between Israel and the West Bank. Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters
Israel began a two-week campaign on Monday to give Covid-19 vaccines to tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers who have permits to work in Israel.
At least 110,000 Palestinians are expected to receive doses of the Moderna vaccine, including about 80,000 who are employed in Israel and about 30,000 who work in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“We are one geographical region, one epidemiological area, and the coronavirus affects both sides,” said Col. Eyal Zeevi, director of operations for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a Defense Ministry unit responsible for liaison with the Palestinians. “It is our shared interest that the workers be vaccinated,” Colonel Zeevi told Israel’s Kan public radio on Monday. “And ultimately, when the economy is stable, this directly affects security.”
The Israeli government approved the plan to vaccinate Palestinian workers late last month. Colonel Zeevi said the plan was worked out in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority more than a month ago and “very quickly, everyone was on board.” Workers should be able to receive the vaccine from mobile units at one of eight checkpoints or in settlement industrial zones.
In a pilot project for the campaign, Magen David Adom, the Israeli ambulance service, said it vaccinated 700 Palestinian workers in one day at a checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel.
Israel had faced intense criticism for providing only token amounts of vaccine for Palestinians living under its control, amid sharp disagreements over its obligations and responsibilities, especially after the country secured a steady supply of vaccines. The country has outpaced the rest of the world in vaccinating its own citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as Palestinian residents of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Still, both Israel and the Palestinian territories are currently registering more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day.
No decision has been made yet about whether unvaccinated workers would be allowed to enter Israel.