Covid Live Updates: Vaccine Rates, Cases Map, Delta Variant and More
The Covid-19 death toll in Brazil has now surpassed 500,000, behind only the United States, which marked 600,000 deaths last week, and India, where deaths may range from 600,000 to as high as 4.2 million.
Nearly 18 million people have been infected so far, and the country is averaging almost 73,000 new cases and some 2,000 deaths a day, according to official data. But many experts believe the numbers understate the true scope of the country’s epidemic, as they do in India.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been heavily criticized for dismissing the threat posed by the virus, despite contracting it himself last year. On Saturday, thousands of people protested his response to the pandemic, including his resistance to mask-wearing edicts and the slow rollout of vaccines, according to Reuters. Only 11 percent of residents are believed to be fully vaccinated.
A severe drought has also gripped the country, the worst in at least 91 years, and experts say a terrible fire season may further complicate the country’s struggle to manage the virus. The smoke could even aggravate cases of Covid-19, by increasing the inflammation in the lungs.
“It’s a situation that’s dangerous,” said Dr. Aljerry Rêgo, a professor and director of a Covid facility in the Amazon state of Amapá. “And the biggest risk, of course, is overwhelming the public health system even further, which is already precarious in the Amazon.”
In recent testimony before a legislative committee, Brazil’s former health ministers described Mr. Bolsonaro’s befuddling belief that an anti-malaria drug was effective against Covid-19, and an executive at Pfizer said that the company offered millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Brazil last year — but received no response from the government for months.
Mr. Bolsonaro shrugged off the revelations. Last month, his government announced that Brazil would host the Copa America soccer tournament later this year, after Argentina decided it would be irresponsible to do so while the virus continued to spread.
On Friday, officials reported that 82 people connected with the tournament had contracted Covid-19, according to The Associated Press. Brazil’s health ministry said in a statement that 37 players and staffers of the 10 tournament teams infected, along with 45 workers.
FRESNO, Calif. — On a Tuesday afternoon in April, among tables of vegetables, clothes and telephone chargers at Fresno’s biggest outdoor flea market were prescription drugs being sold as treatments for Covid.
Vendors sold $25 injections of the steroid dexamethasone, several kinds of antibiotics and the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drugs pushed by President Donald J. Trump last year — make regular appearances at the market as well, as do sham herbal supplements.
Such unproven remedies, often promoted by doctors and companies on social media, have appealed to many people in low-income immigrant communities in places across the country where Covid-19 rates have been high but access to health care is low. About 20 percent of Hispanic people in the United States lack health insurance, and the proportion is far higher among undocumented immigrants.
What’s more, some immigrants mistrust doctors who don’t speak their language or who treat them curtly — and those concerns have been amplified by harsh political rhetoric directed at Mexicans and Central Americans.
“My community fears that the government might be trying to get rid of us,” said Oralia Maceda Méndez, an advocate at a Fresno-based community group for Indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico.
A woman in Fresno recently described how her husband, a farmworker, had fallen so sick from Covid-19 that he couldn’t breathe or walk, but he refused to go to the hospital because he had heard rumors that undocumented immigrants had checked in and never left.
She took him to a wellness clinic, where a doctor gave him injectable peptide treatments, recalled the woman, who requested anonymity because of her immigration status.
She wasn’t prepared, she said, for the $1,400 bill, which included the cost of syringes and vials labeled thymosin-alpha 1, BPC-157 and LL-37. Pulling them out of a cabinet in the kitchen of her mobile home, she said she didn’t know exactly what they were, and she still feels the sting of the price.
“I was shocked, but I was trying to act like it was OK because I had to be strong for my husband and my kids,” she said. He grew sicker despite the injections, but the family had no funds left for care. More than a month passed before he was well enough to return to the fields.
Some unregulated drugs can be dangerous. And even if they aren’t a health risk by themselves, they can lead people to postpone seeking help from doctors, which can be deadly. Delayed treatment is one reason Black and Hispanic people have died from Covid at twice the rate as white people in the United States.
Alternative therapies can also limit a patient’s treatment options because doctors worry about toxic drug interactions, said Dr. Kathleen Page, an infectious-disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
“I’m not upset at patients when they tell me what they’ve taken,” Dr. Page said. “I’m upset about the system that makes it easier for them to get help from nontraditional places than from regular health care.”
Sandy Sirias contributed reporting. This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.
Millions of workers have voluntarily left their jobs recently, one of the most striking elements of the newly blazing-hot job market.
According to the Labor Department, nearly four million people quit their jobs in April, the most on record, pushing the rate to 2.7 percent of those employed.
The rate was particularly high in the leisure and hospitality industry, where competition for workers has been especially fierce. But the number of those quitting registered across the board.
Economists believe that one reason more workers are quitting is simply a backlog: By some estimates, more than five million fewer people quit last year than would otherwise be expected, as some workers, riding out the labor market’s convulsions, stuck with jobs they may have wanted to leave anyway. (And the millions of involuntary job losses during the pandemic surely accounted for some of the reduction in quitting.) Now that the economy is regaining its footing, workers may suddenly be feeling more emboldened to heed their impulses.
But another factor may be the speed with which the economy has reawakened. As the pandemic has receded and the great reopening has swept across the country, businesses that had gone into hibernation or curtailed their work force during the pandemic have raced to hire employees to meet the surging demand.
At the same time, many people remain reluctant to return to work because of lingering fears of the virus, child care or elder care challenges, still-generous unemployment benefits, low wages or other reasons.
The result has been an explosion of job openings, despite a relatively high unemployment rate, as businesses struggle to recruit and retain employees — a dynamic that has placed power more firmly in workers’ hands. With employers offering higher wages to attract candidates, many workers — especially in low-wage positions in restaurants and hotels — are leaving their jobs and jumping to ones that pay even slightly more.
For Justin Hoffman, the decision to leave his job was the culmination of months of perceived injustices, which he said he was able to evaluate more clearly because of the pandemic.
As coronavirus cases swelled in the fall, he asked to work from home because of the risk he feared he posed to his sister, whose immune system is compromised. His request was denied, he said, crystallizing his sense that he was not respected or valued as a marketing director at an orthopedic practice in Findlay, Ohio. His last day was June 4.
YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Patients with unexplained pneumonias started showing up at hospitals; within days, dozens were dead. The secret police seized doctors’ records and ordered them to keep silent. American spies picked up clues about a lab leak, but the local authorities had a more mundane explanation: contaminated meat.
It took more than a decade for the truth to come out.
In April and May 1979, at least 66 people died after airborne anthrax bacteria emerged from a military lab in the Soviet Union. But leading American scientists voiced confidence in the Soviets’ claim that the pathogen had jumped from animals to humans. Only after a full-fledged investigation in the 1990s did one of those scientists confirm the earlier suspicions: The accident in what is now the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg was a lab leak, one of the deadliest ever documented.
Nowadays, some of the victims’ graves appear abandoned, their names worn off their metal plates in the back of a cemetery on the outskirts of town, where they were buried in coffins with an agricultural disinfectant. But the story of the accident that took their lives, and the cover-up that hid it, has renewed relevance as scientists search for the origins of Covid-19.
It shows how an authoritarian government can successfully shape the narrative of a disease outbreak and how it can take years — and, perhaps, regime change — to get to the truth.
Many scientists believe that the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic evolved in animals and jumped at some point to humans. But scientists are also calling for deeper investigation of the possibility of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
There is also widespread concern that the Chinese government — which, like the Soviet government decades before it, dismisses the possibility of a lab leak — is not providing international investigators with access and data that could shed light on the pandemic’s origins.
In three weeks, the number of so-called “black fungus” in India cases shot up to more than 30,000 from negligible levels.
States have recorded more than 2,100 deaths, according to news reports. The federal health ministry in New Delhi, which is tracking nationwide cases to allot scarce and expensive antifungal medicine, has not released a fatalities figure.
The coronavirus pandemic has drawn stark lines between rich nations and poor, and the mucormycosis epidemic in India stands as the latest manifestation. During the second wave, which struck India in April, its creaky, underfunded medical system lacked beds, oxygen and other necessities as infections and deaths soared.
The mucormycosis epidemic adds even more urgency to the difficult task of protecting India’s 1.4 billion people. Only a small fraction have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and they remain vulnerable to a third wave and the consequences that could follow.
“Mucormycosis will tail off and go back to baseline as the Covid cases subside,” said Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, an epidemiologist. “But it may come back in the third wave unless we find out why it is happening.”
Many doctors in India think they know why. The bone-and-tissue-eating fungus can attack the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, the skin and the sinuses, where it often spreads to the eye socket and the brain if left untreated. Treatment for the disease involves complex, often disfiguring surgery and an uncommon and expensive drug, contributing to a mortality rate above 50 percent.
Mucormycosis is not passed from person to person. It develops from commonplace spores that sometimes build up in homes and hospitals. Doctors believe India’s crowded hospitals, and their dire lack of medical oxygen, left the fungus an opening.
Some people in Singapore began receiving the Covid vaccine manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovac at private clinics on Friday, even as one of the city-state’s top health officials cast doubt on its effectiveness.
Singapore allowed 24 private health clinics to administer the vaccine after the World Health Organization authorized it for emergency use earlier this month. But even though initial demand for the shot appeared to be strong, Singapore’s government has so far stopped short of adding it to the national vaccination program.
One reason that people in Singapore and elsewhere would choose to get a Sinovac shot even when more effective vaccines are available is that they are from mainland China or plan to travel there. Chinese state media organizations have been waging a misinformation campaign that questions the safety of American-made vaccines, and Beijing has said that foreigners who receive Chinese shots will have an easier time getting into the country.
Kenneth Mak, Singapore’s director of medical services, told reporters on Friday that he worried about reports from other countries of people becoming sick with Covid-19 even after receiving Sinovac’s shot. He cited cases in Indonesia, where officials said this week that dozens of doctors and other health workers who had received Sinovac in one district had been hospitalized.
“It does give the impression that the efficacy of different vaccines will vary quite significantly,” Mr. Mak said.
Studies have shown that the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — the only ones in Singapore’s national program so far — are 90 percent effective at preventing infections in real-world conditions. There have been rare reports of severe Covid in people who have been fully vaccinated with those shots.
Other studies indicate that so-called breakthrough infections in people who are given Chinese vaccines, including the one made by Sinovac, are more common than they are in people who receive the Pfizer or Moderna shots. Studies of Phase 3 trials of Sinovac’s vaccine, called CoronaVac, around the world have reported an effectiveness of between 50 and 84 percent.
When the W.H.O. endorsed Sinovac’s vaccine for emergency use this month, the agency said that it was only 51 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease.
The Chinese vaccines are still considered to be very effective against severe disease, but scientists have warned that developing nations that choose to use them could end up lagging behind countries that select Pfizer or Moderna.
Singapore has been averaging about 20 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, according to a New York Times database. More than a third of the city’s 5.7 million people have been fully vaccinated and nearly half have received at least one Covid-19 shot. The government expects to complete vaccinations by the end of the year.