Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Thursday that everyone in the state who is older than 16 will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine by April 18. All but four states have now set dates before May 1 when residents 16 and older will be eligible to get vaccines, according to a Washington Post tally. President Biden had directed states to make all adults eligible by that date.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel — and that light is getting brighter every day as more and more Virginians get vaccinated,” Northam said in a statement. “Expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to put this pandemic behind us.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • New data from the ongoing trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has reinforced early results showing its high efficacy, and there are indications it is effective against the more-virulent variant first identified in South Africa.
  • The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again urged Americans not to let their guards down, noting a 12 percent increase in the seven-day average for new coronavirus cases and rising hospitalizations.
  • Johnson & Johnson acknowledged that a Baltimore plant run by Emergent BioSolutions mixed up two vaccines’ ingredients for a batch of doses, estimated at about 15 million, that had to be discarded.
  • Peter Navarro urged then-President Donald Trump to acquire critical medical supplies in the early days of the outbreak — and after the warning was ignored, pursued an ad hoc billion-dollar strategy that has since prompted multiple probes.
  • France announced a new national lockdown, the most severe since last spring, for the next four weeks, amid spiking cases and a slow vaccine rollout.
  • More than 30 million cases have been reported domestically, while the total number of fatalities in the United States reached 552,000. Nearly 98 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States.
1:12 a.m.
Link copied
link

Coronavirus vaccines are finally reaching poor countries, but some can’t cover the cost of administering them

Coronavirus vaccines have begun to trickle into some of the world’s poorest nations, in large part thanks to Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to distribute vaccine doses equitably.

But once doses arrive on airport tarmacs, it is up to each country to finance distribution, including the salaries of health-care workers to administer the shots. In many cases, that funding isn’t readily available.

The dribble of vaccine doses Covax has supplied so far, in the face of funding and supply shortfalls, remains relatively manageable. Countries in need can, in theory, apply for funding to support distribution from donors including the World Bank and United States.

12:12 a.m.
Link copied
link

Airlines touted flexibility during the pandemic. For the cheapest tickets, that’s starting to go away.

When the pandemic sent travel into a tailspin, airlines updated their formerly strict policies on canceling or changing flights to encourage customers to book with confidence. But as the number of passengers ticks up, some of those old practices are creeping back — especially for the cheapest flights.

For flights booked April 1 or later, some carriers are essentially reverting to pre-pandemic treatment of their least expensive fares. That means basic economy fares on American will again be “non-changeable and non-refundable.” Same goes for main cabin basic fares on Hawaiian Airlines.

JetBlue’s “Blue Basic” category will allow changes — which was not the case before the coronavirus — for a fee of $100 for most routes booked on or after April 1.

Delta and United had both been slated to reinstate restrictions on their basic economy tickets as of the end of March or beginning of April. Delta’s basic economy tickets were reverting to nonrefundable and non-changeable after March 30, and United’s were switching back to non-changeable after March 31.

11:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

As the pandemic crushed smaller providers, some of the nation’s richest health systems thrived, thanks to federal bailouts

Last May, Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest nonprofit hospital system in Texas, laid off 1,200 employees and furloughed others as it braced for the then-novel coronavirus to spread. The cancellation of lucrative elective procedures as the hospital pivoted to treat a new and less profitable infectious disease presaged financial distress, if not ruin. The federal government rushed $454 million in relief funds to help shore up its operations.

But Baylor not only weathered the crisis, it thrived. By the end of 2020, Baylor had accumulated an $815 million surplus, $20 million more than it had in 2019, creating a 7.5 percent operating margin that would be higher than most hospitals’ profits in the flushest of eras, a KHN examination of financial statements shows.

Like Baylor, some of the nation’s richest hospitals and health systems recorded hundreds of millions of dollars in surpluses after accepting a substantial share of the federal health-care bailout grants, their records show. Those included the Mayo Clinic, Pittsburgh’s UPMC and NYU Langone Health. But poorer hospitals — many serving rural and minority populations — got a tinier slice of the pie and limped through the year with deficits, downgrades of their bond ratings and bleak fiscal futures.

“A lot of the funding helped the wealthy hospitals at a time, especially in New York, when safety-net hospitals were hemorrhaging,” said Colleen Grogan, a health policy professor at the University of Chicago. “We could have tailored it to hospitals we knew were really suffering and taking on a disproportionate amount of the burden.”

10:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

Analysis: Vaccines are up, but so are new cases of covid-19

After more than a year of the pandemic, things are changing. Vaccine campaigns are rolling out with speed in some wealthy nations, as the arrival of warm spring weather in parts of the world creates the sense of a fresh start. The relentless tide of bad news and harrowing statistics has been pushed from front pages by stories of ruptured royal families drifting apart and big boats getting stuck in the sand.

But the pandemic is far from over.

In many countries, cases are surging — again. By some measures it’s as bad as ever. Globally, numbers of new cases are approaching peaks reached in January. In Europe, the United States and Latin America, there is talks of yet another wave, perhaps a misnomer — for how can a new wave begin if the previous one never fully crashed?

Read the full story
9:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

Filipinos are cycling their way through the pandemic

MANILA — Before one of the longest lockdowns in the world, millions in this congested Philippine capital region suffered a hellish daily commute.

Trains broke down regularly, and roads were so clogged that the cost of lost productivity was estimated at about $72 million daily.

When public transportation ground to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, cyclists from all walks of life and bikes of all shapes and sizes took to the road.

But Filipino cyclists are up against more than just weather and pollution.

Last month, cycling advocates called on the government to spend more than $16 million to build about 190 miles of bike lanes protected from aggressive drivers.

8:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

The U.S. spent $162 million on remdesivir development but holds no patents, review finds

A new government report says the United States spent $162 million getting Gilead’s covid-19 drug remdesivir to market but opted against seeking government patents because Gilead invented the experimental medicine years earlier.

The drug sells for $3,120 for a five-day course of treatment for covid 19. It brought in $2.8 billion in revenue for Gilead last year and the company expects to make a similar amount in 2020.

The Government Accountability Office documented government spending and its role in developing remdesivir — which won full Food and Drug Administration approval last year and is now sold under the brand name Veklury — at the request of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, after Gilead set its price.

Critics complained the cost was excessive for a pandemic-related drug developed with such a large government role. The GAO released its findings Wednesday.

7:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

No pandas (or other Smithsonian artifacts) in Washington for the foreseeable future

Despite the reopening of most private museums in Washington, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art have no set date to reopen from pandemic-related closures that began in November.

“Like everyone, I want to open as quickly as I can. For me, it’s the spring,” Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III said Tuesday. “If we can open in May, that would be great. It might be early June.”

His top priority is the safety of staff and visitors, Bunch said.

The Smithsonian closed its buildings in November as cases began to spike in the region. When they are ready to reopen this spring, they will mimic last summer’s multiphased approach, Bunch said, with the National Zoo one of the first to come back.

6:31 p.m.
Link copied
link

Interview: Anthony S. Fauci can’t wait to go to a ballgame

Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, says the “top” thing on his to-do list once conditions allow is returning to a baseball game. As Major League Baseball opens its season Thursday, thousands of fans will have that opportunity. All 30 teams will begin the season allowing at least some fans to attend in person, with one team even putting no limit on attendance for its home opener.

Fauci spoke to The Washington Post this week about baseball’s return and his comfort level with fans in the stands, even as coronavirus infection rates have risen in recent days and some government officials have started bracing for a possible fourth wave of the pandemic. (Questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.)

5:39 p.m.
Link copied
link

Is it covid or just allergies? Your questions about symptoms and vaccines, answered.

In ordinary springtimes, many allergy sufferers must cope with bothersome, or even debilitating, symptoms such as itchy, red, watery eyes; sneezing; a runny or stuffy nose; and sometimes, coughing, wheezing or feeling short of breath. But during this pandemic, they are also dealing with concerns about whether their symptoms might be because of covid-19.

As the beginning of this year’s pollen season coincides with yet another troubling increase in new coronavirus infections, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about allergies, the coronavirus and vaccines. The information and recommendations below are drawn from previously published Washington Post articles and new interviews with allergy and immunology experts.

Please keep in mind that as research into the virus and vaccines continues, guidance may change. We will update this FAQ accordingly.

4:58 p.m.
Link copied
link

Biden asks faith leaders to urge their communities to get vaccinated

President Biden acknowledged Thursday a rise in coronavirus cases and asked faith leaders to urge their communities to get vaccinated and to not be too “cavalier” when it comes to social distancing and traveling.

“They’re going to listen to your words, more than they are me, as president of the United States,” Biden told the leaders on a Zoom call facilitated by the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House said the call included about 1,000 people.

Biden asked the leaders to talk to their congregations “about what we have to do, what’s available and not to be fearful, not to be fearful of getting the vaccine.”

Biden also noted that because he and his family have been vaccinated, he may be able to see family members on Easter.

The call is part of the White House’s ongoing efforts to enlist outside help in persuading Americans to get vaccinated. Earlier Thursday, Vice President Harris addressed the first virtual meeting of the Covid-19 Community Corps, a network that includes more than 275 advocacy organizations, sports leagues, faith groups and community leaders.

4:10 p.m.
Link copied
link

Mets-Nationals game postponed in Washington as coronavirus issues disrupt Opening Day

The Opening Day matchup between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets on Thursday has been postponed because of coronavirus concerns, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Nationals have one player who tested positive this week, and, as of Wednesday afternoon, had five people within the organization — four players and a staff member — in quarantine after contact-tracing. The team is now conducting further contact-tracing to determine how many of its players, coaches and staff may have to quarantine.

As of late Thursday morning, there was not a set plan for when the Nationals and Mets will make up the game.

The player’s positive result was from a round of tests conducted Monday at the Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. The club learned of the result late Tuesday night, leading to a scramble to determine who was in close contact with the infected individual.

3:36 p.m.
Link copied
link

Virginia will expand vaccine eligibility to all over age 16 by April 18

Virginia will expand vaccine eligibility to everyone in the state over the age of 16 by April 18, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Thursday, citing significant progress in vaccinating the highest-risk groups.

More than 1 in 3 Virginians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 1 in 5 are fully vaccinated, state officials said. Those remaining in the preregistration system, including essential workers and those with qualifying health conditions, are expected to receive an invitation for a vaccine appointment within the next two weeks.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel — and that light is getting brighter every day as more and more Virginians get vaccinated,” Northam said in a statement. “Expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to put this pandemic behind us.”

The looming expansion is in keeping with President Biden’s May 1 deadline to open vaccine eligibility to the public at large.

2:38 p.m.
Link copied
link

Harris unveils new ‘community corps’ to boost coronavirus messages

Vice President Harris and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy on Thursday morning kicked off the first virtual meeting of the Covid-19 Community Corps, a new grass-roots network that the Biden administration said would amplify public health information and pro-vaccine messages.

“You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with,” Harris told the network, which includes more than 275 advocacy organizations, sports leagues, faith groups and community leaders. “And when people are then making a decision to get vaccinated, they’re going to look to you.”

Harris also shared personal stories of how she believed the new network could be helpful.

“Yesterday, I actually convened a group of faith leaders from around the country, and they were very clear. They said, ‘look, sometimes people just need basic information, you know?’ ” Harris said. “ ‘You’re asking people to take a shot in the arm, they need to know what’s going on. They need to know things like, what’s in the vaccine? How does it work?’ ”

Officials from the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, Service Employees International Union and other groups participating in the network touted how they’ve been reaching out to their members and vowed to ramp up their efforts.

One speaker, Hyepin Im, president of California-based advocacy organization Faith and Community Empowerment, pushed Harris to better include Asian Americans and faith groups in the administration’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus.

“We’re not being talked about on the news, on the talking points, on the PowerPoints, so I would like to really just advocate the inclusion of Asian Americans … as well as, of course the faith organizations, again another group that oftentimes get left out in the public discourse,” she said.

Harris responded by highlighting the administration’s ongoing efforts to blunt pandemic-related disparities, an effort announced after the election and led in part by Murthy. “It is very important to the president that we speak truth and address racial inequities across the board but on this topic in particular,” the vice president said, adding that the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color was “really unacceptable and tragic.”

2:22 p.m.
Link copied
link

Many lives will never be the same after India’s abrupt coronavirus lockdown

DEVARI, India — When Mohammad Saiyub arrived home after a 900-mile odyssey during the pandemic, his parents burned the shirt and jeans he had worn on the journey. It wasn’t the coronavirus they feared. There was too much pain, too much bad luck imprinted on the clothes to keep them.

Saiyub was one of the millions of people who streamed out of Indian cities last year, an exodus without parallel since the country became independent in 1947. On the road, his friend Amrit Kumar became delirious with a sudden fever and died. Saiyub brought his body home. Nothing has been the same since.

India imposed the world’s largest lockdown just over a year ago. The restrictions are nearly all gone, but their impact endures, stamped on countless lives. For migrant workers who left cities any way they could when their livelihoods evaporated, it has been a time of hardship and loss.