Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Pandemic Olympics


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.


Credit…The New York Times

The E.U.’s drug regulator authorized the Moderna vaccine for children 12 and older.

New York City’s mayor called for companies to require vaccinations.

Recent Israeli data raises the prospect that the protection offered by Pfizer’s vaccine may wane.

St. Louis city and county will reinstate mask mandates for indoor public places and public transit, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

The pandemic Olympics begin

The opening ceremony of the Olympics today kicked off the delayed Summer Games in Tokyo. For insight into how the pandemic is changing every aspect of competition this year, I checked in with our colleague Andrew Keh, a sports reporter who’s covering the Olympics from Japan.

So here we are. Despite the pushback in Japan, the Games are happening.

Yes, as everyone predicted, they’re happening, and now it’s just a matter of managing the situation. And there’s obviously still some concern. As one public health expert I spoke to a few weeks ago said, it’s kind of like seeing a drunk friend get behind the wheel of a car and just hoping the friend somehow gets home safe.

What is it like on the ground for you?

In some ways, it seems like any other Olympics: Journalists busily running around, speaking different languages, trying and failing to figure out the byzantine event bus network. But it’s obviously clear it’s an extraordinary situation. There are temperature checks and saliva testing sites everywhere. My first event was the American women’s soccer match, and Tokyo Stadium, this sprawling complex, was almost completely empty. It felt as if I were at a high school match.

In what ways will the Games be different this year?

Essentially they’re doing everything they can to limit human-to-human contact. Masks are going to be required everywhere, whether you’re vaccinated or not, and the same goes for social distancing. Athletes are being asked to come in to events as late as possible and leave as early as possible. But the Olympics are a very slickly produced made-for-TV sporting event. So for those watching on TV, they may not grasp a lot of the weirdness happening behind the scenes.

What’s the current coronavirus situation there?

Cases seem to be slowly rising. There were nearly 2,000 cases reported in Tokyo yesterday, which was a six-month high. The number of cases doesn’t match the worst figures we’ve seen in other countries. But that said, Japan clearly finds it worrying, especially with tens of thousands of people from 200 countries ready to descend on the city of Tokyo.


Credit…The New York Times

When we last spoke, 3 percent of the country had been vaccinated. How’s the campaign today?

It’s definitely accelerating. About 23 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. So that’s a lot better than it was. But Japan is still lagging pretty far behind other developed countries.

What do you think is perhaps the best-case scenario for the Olympics this year?

I think the best-case scenario is the Games go on, and transmission remains very low, but whether that’s realistic or not is another question. Japanese officials have basically gone as far as to say that they accept that there will be cases, and cases are popping up already. So the real best-case scenario may actually be that, when cases are found among the thousands and thousands of people, the protocols for isolating them, and the measures for contact tracing and stopping the spread, work as planned.


Credit…The New York Times

What’s the worst-case scenario?

The worst case is that cases start popping up and this spirals out of control, and they can’t get a hold of the situation. But honestly, the real worst-case scenario may be hard to sort of pin down initially because some of the fears aren’t only about the Olympic Games or about Tokyo or Japan. People are just as worried about the virus, and different variants of the virus, flying back home with people to the 200 some countries from which they came. So that’s going to be harder to evaluate, and we’ll have to see how that all plays out.

Is the I.O.C. well prepared for this challenge?

There’s still a lot of concern among experts and specialists that I speak to. At the same time, they’re piggybacking on the learnings of all these other sporting events that have taken place over the past year and a half. The difference is that this is exponentially larger than anything else that has taken place. And I guess the question is, Is it possible to ever prepare enough for an Olympics in a pandemic?

Follow The Times’s live coverage of the Olympics here.

Summer 2021

What does vacation look like this year?

In some popular vacation destinations, the crowds are back, and bigger than ever. For countries fortunate enough to have robust vaccination campaigns, it may look a lot like previous years, but with some major differences — think disposable masks and laminated vaccination cards.

For a look at how people are vacationing this year, I asked my colleague Karen Cetinkaya, a photo editor, to give us a visual glimpse into some of the popular vacation destinations that have reopened to tourists.


Tourists swimming last week at the Blue Lagoon in Comino, Malta. Malta is on Britain’s green list for travel, meaning visitors to the country will not have to quarantine upon return.Credit…Joanna Demarco/Getty Images


The party has moved to the beach in Barcelona after indoor nightlife venues were closed again to contain a rise in Covid-19 cases.Credit…Nacho Doce/Reuters


The official reopening last month of Disneyland Paris comes as France, the world’s most-visited country before the pandemic, tries to revive its tourism sector.Credit…Alex Cretey-Systermans for The New York Times


Crowds gathered on the L Street beach in South Boston on a warm weekend in early June. The six-state region that includes Massachusetts has the highest vaccination rates in the U.S.Credit…Michael Dwyer/Associated Press


Bali had announced that the island would reopen to vaccinated tourists in July, but a worrisome spike in coronavirus infections has pushed the date to early August.Credit…Nyimas Laula/Reuters


A couple dancing in a tourist area of Moscow this month. Russia is open to visitors, but the C.D.C. recommends that unvaccinated people avoid nonessential travel to the country.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times


Largely freed from domestic travel restrictions, Americans have been flocking to national parks, including the Grand Canyon, in record numbers this spring and summer.Credit…John Burcham for The New York Times


People gathered on the beach for sunset at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle last month. The weather in the Northwest has been unseasonably warm this summer.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Vaccine rollout

In Florida, some hospitals have more Covid patients than ever before.

France is taking the lead in making life unpleasant for unvaccinated people. Protesters believe they see a soft dictatorship dawning.

Ed Yong argues in The Atlantic that treating unvaccinated people as a monolithic group may make things worse.

On Staten Island in New York City, some people are resisting being vaccinated despite living in one of the city’s virus hot spots.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

What else we’re following

According to new projections, the Delta variant will help fuel a virus surge through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, and tripling the current number of daily deaths, NPR reports.

Many return-to-office plans are being disrupted by the virus surge.

Chicago will require everyone to wear masks in school buildings this fall, regardless of vaccination status.

Thirty one children tested positive for the coronavirus at a summer camp in New York.

New Zealand suspended quarantine-free travel from Australia for at least eight weeks.

As the variant takes hold in the Capitol’s “petri dish,” rancor between Republicans and Democrats is growing.

The NFL warned teams that outbreaks among players could lead to forfeited games.

What you’re doing

Since the first arrival of Covid-19 vaccines in my country India, we were hoping to get the shots as early as possible and get the freedom of life back again. After getting the full two shots we feel much more relieved. However, the shortage of vaccines still makes things bad in a developing country like ours. In America, apparently, the situation is completely different: People are dying of Covid but not ready to vaccinate themselves!

— Somath Bera, India

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