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A federal committee wants more data before it decides on the future of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the use of which was paused after reports of rare and severe blood clots.

Panel members said Wednesday they want to learn more about the risks, cause and frequency of the clots, which have been identified in six of the 7.5 million people who have received the shot. All the patients have been women. One of the six died in March, and another is in critical condition. Two have been discharged, and three remain in the hospital.

Other countries have already restricted use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot after European regulators flagged the vaccine as having potential links to extremely rare but potentially fatal blood clots.

After U.S. authorities recommended pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of similar clots, governments in Australia, Europe and South Africa began halting the shot’s rollout or scrapping plans to purchase more doses.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The abrupt call to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine threatened to slow progress against the pandemic in the United States, as new infections trended upward nationwide.
  • More than 7.4 million Johnson & Johnson shots have been administered and six cases of blood clots reported, a rate of about 1 in 1.1 million vaccinations.
  • After the pause, President Biden sought to reassure the country, pledging that there would be enough coronavirus vaccine shots for “every single solitary American.”
  • The brunt of the pause falls on underserved communities, including students, rural residents and shift workers, a new hurdle for the Biden administration’s efforts to conduct an equitable vaccination campaign.
  • Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting the development and use of vaccine passports. Tennessee’s state Senate passed a similar measure, and Gov. Bill Lee (R) has said he supports it.
  • To date, more than 45 percent of the eligible U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, though the number of new cases continued to trend upward at an average of 11 percent over the past week. At least 562,000 people have died of covid-19.
1:30 a.m.
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CDC says blocking middle seats can reduce covid risks. Will airlines keep selling them?

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Wednesday found that blocking the middle seat on planes — a practice almost all U.S. airlines have stopped — can reduce coronavirus risks to passengers by 23 to 57 percent.

Although the study, which addresses exposure and not transmission, was conducted without taking passenger masking into account, the CDC said social distancing on planes is still beneficial.

“A case study of COVID-19 transmission on a flight with mandated mask-wearing … suggests that some virus aerosol is emitted from an infectious masked passenger, such that distancing could still be useful,” the CDC release said.

Most airlines returned to packing flights last year in an attempt to make up for staggering financial losses. Delta is the last major U.S. airline still blocking middle seats, and it will stop doing so on May 1.

But could the new findings prompt airlines to create more space between passengers on planes or reverse course?

Industry experts say probably not.

12:17 a.m.
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How long will it take to overcome our pandemic travel anxiety?

While the travel industry is abuzz with talk of pent-up demand and a historic resurgence, some erstwhile travelers are opting to stay home, possibly for good.

Miami psychiatrist Arthur Bregman says he has seen an uptick in patients who are reluctant to leave home as a result of the pandemic. He has coined a term for this feeling: “cave syndrome.”

“It’s about loving isolation to the point that you become dysfunctional,” Bregman says. “While this phenomenon is not directly connected to covid-19, it’s been exacerbated by the anxiety of uncertainty and its effects on our lives over the past year.”

11:17 p.m.
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Two tigers at Virginia Zoo test positive for coronavirus

Two tigers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and a third tiger has “mild respiratory symptoms” at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, officials at the facility said.

In a news release, officials at the zoo said Wednesday that the two Malayan tigers — named Osceola and Stubbley — went through initial testing that showed they were positive for the coronavirus. It follows another case from last spring when a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus.

Officials at the Virginia Zoo said another of their Malayan tigers — Christopher — also has developed “mild respiratory symptoms” and is being tested for the coronavirus.

10:17 p.m.
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Inside Passenger Shaming, the notorious Instagram of bad travel behavior

Before 2020, travelers clashed over reclined seats, in-flight grooming and public intoxication. Then the pandemic ushered in a new genre of conflict.

While we have been still dealing with the standard complaints of flying (like people going barefoot on planes), we have also been seeing passengers fighting over coronavirus issues (such as mask protocols).

In the front row of the action — virtually speaking — is former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, creator of the popular Instagram account Passenger Shaming. Even during a year when the number of people flying dropped to historic lows, Kathleen never stopped receiving videos of travelers behaving badly on planes.

We caught up with Kathleen — who is launching a podcast this year — to hear what it’s been like to monitor the tirades and bizarre moments captured on phones throughout the pandemic.

9:17 p.m.
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Jump the vaccine line? In Germany, you could face prosecution.

BERLIN — Coronavirus vaccine line jumping in the United States has raised eyebrows and tested friendships. British Home Secretary Priti Patel has called people who skip ahead in the queue "morally reprehensible." But Germany has taken prioritization rules to another level, investigating and threatening to prosecute people who don't wait their turn.

In various German cities, prosecutors have probed politicians, police officers and others. A mayor accused of deliberately circumventing the official vaccine priority list was suspended last week after having his office searched.

German coalition government lawmakers even proposed fines of up to $30,000. Although those have not gone through, line jumpers can be prosecuted under existing laws — for fraud, embezzlement or accepting undue advantage.

8:17 p.m.
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Denmark abandons AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after rare blood clots

Danish health authorities decided Wednesday to permanently suspend the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine amid concerns that it causes blood clots in rare cases.

Denmark became the first European country to abandon the vaccine altogether after temporary suspensions in Europe last month following the discovery of rare and sometimes fatal blood clots among a small number of people who had received it. Most countries have resumed vaccinating with the AstraZeneca shots, many of them with restrictions that it be used only on older people, who appear less at risk for the blood clots.

The Danish move was a signal of the depth of concerns about the vaccine’s side effects in at least some European countries, given that the virus continues to spread across Europe despite the ongoing vaccination campaign. Any delay in inoculations could lead to more cases and more deaths. Danish authorities said the decision to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine will probably delay their efforts by several weeks.

6:51 p.m.
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Unemployment programs rocked by pandemic subject of Senate Democrat overhaul proposal

Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping new proposal to overhaul the country’s unemployment insurance system, hoping to modernize the benefits — and add more money to millions of Americans’ weekly checks — in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new draft legislation put forward by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) seeks to address the financial hardships that many families experienced over the past year, as the coronavirus left a record number of people out of work and struggling to obtain aid amid the worst economic crisis in a generation.

Under the Democrats’ proposal, Americans could more quickly apply to their states for jobless assistance. Their checks may be much larger as well, allowing many low- and middle-income workers to receive up to 75 percent of the wages they earned when they had stable employment.

5:42 p.m.
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Underserved communities bear brunt of paused Johnson & Johnson rollout

Mobile clinics serving a rural expanse north of Columbus, Ohio. A program sending paramedics to vaccinate homebound seniors in Chicago. And sites promising immunization at 34 public colleges and universities throughout New York.

Thousands of people can no longer rely on these initiatives, all casualties of Tuesday’s decision by federal health officials to recommend a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. The pause was initiated so experts could review data involving a severe type of blood clot found among six of the more than 7 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States, and so the federal government could advise clinicians about how to identify and treat the possible adverse reaction.

Because the single-shot option is favored for transient and hard-to-reach populations, the pause’s most immediate cost was exacted on those with the fewest options. That includes students, rural residents and people involved in shift work, throwing a new hurdle in front of the Biden administration’s efforts to introduce greater equity into the nation’s vaccination campaign. The places best able to address the change were those with abundant vaccine supply, newly underscoring the uneven nature of the rollout.

4:15 p.m.
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Education secretary tours (and praises) reopened Maryland school

Four days into the reopening of schools in Prince George’s County, students paused during a lesson about opinion writing to hear a few opinions from visiting Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

“Fourth grade!” Cardona exclaimed to the class at Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary School, which had been offering views on pizza. “I love fourth grade. I taught fourth grade. It’s the best year, isn’t it?”

The exuberance and banter went on as Cardona toured the 1,000-student school in Adelphi, in the Maryland suburbs, where about half of children are learning in-person part time and half are getting their instruction fully virtually.

His appearance in the 130,000-student school system — the second largest in Maryland — was part of a national school-reopening tour that began two weeks ago in Massachusetts and Delaware, with Cardona focusing on best practices for reopening and challenges that schools are facing.

3:11 p.m.
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Bhutan held back vaccines for months, awaiting an auspicious rollout date, then delivered shots to 93% of adults in two weeks

For months, Bhutan sat on hundreds of thousands of doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, waiting for the stars to align.

Despite receiving a supply of vaccines in January, the small Himalayan kingdom didn’t begin immunizing its population until March 27, a date that was selected through astrological consultations with Buddhist monks.

But once that auspicious date arrived, Bhutan made up for lost time. In less than two weeks, the country administered first doses of the vaccine to more than 93 percent of eligible adults, according to its Ministry of Health.

2:14 p.m.
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Women are comparing the potential risk of blood clots from vaccines to birth control. It’s more complicated than that, experts say.

Citing an “abundance of caution,” federal health officials called for a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday, following concerns that the vaccine may be linked to a rare but severe type of blood clotting.

The concerns stem from six reported cases of the blood clot in the United States. All of the cases were reported in women under the age of 50. Nearly 7 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the United States. That means the blood clotting was reported in about 1 in 1.1 million vaccinations.

Some women quickly noted those rates are far lower than that of some hormonal contraceptives, which also carry risks of blood clotting.

The comparisons were intended to highlight the fact that the risks of blood clotting with the vaccine were significantly lower than with widely used birth control pills.

1:14 p.m.
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German stores find creative ways to get around restrictions

BERLIN — Mannequins modeling toilet paper. Noodles in the sweater aisle. Those are just a few of the tricks that some German clothing stores are using to circumvent the country’s strict lockdown measures.

As Germany restricts nonessential businesses in an attempt to curb its third pandemic wave, some shop owners are adding “essential” items to their inventory, hoping to skirt the rules.

Last month, Modehaus Kuhn, a family-run clothing store in the southwestern German town of Bad Mergentheim, rebranded itself as a “Toilet paper flagship store” and added toilet paper and other toiletry items, as well as food, to its inventory. Johannes Kuhn, a 28-year old manager of the store, said the idea was inspired by a shop in nearby Emmendingen that had implemented a similar plan three days earlier.

“We did it to remain open and generate sales that are basically essential for our survival,” said Kuhn. “On the other hand, it’s satire that’s simply a criticism of the injustices of [government] decisions.”

While essential businesses such as grocery and drugstores have been kept open across Germany with few restrictions, customers of nonessential stores can be required to show a negative coronavirus test, book appointments or place orders online. Kuhn said it’s “absurd” to enforce hygienic measures in some stores but not others. Under the government measures, his revenue dropped by about 30 percent. With the toilet paper gimmick, it has risen “greatly,” Kuhn said.

Clothing stores across Germany have called Kuhn for advice on how to implement the idea. But as more states face increased pressure from the federal government to curb infection numbers, many stores have given in to government restrictions. This week, German leaders pushed for a national law to enforce stricter lockdown measures across the country.

“The air is getting very thin,” said Kuhn, referring to the new federal law. “We’ll probably have to close again, too.”

12:00 p.m.
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The world desperately needs the vaccines now clouded by rare side effects

Concerns about blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines are deepening worries that the shots may not soon reach developing nations, which are far behind rich countries in immunizations and lack widespread access to costlier alternatives.

The rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this year generated a surge of optimism in the United States and helped President Biden reap the political rewards of an accelerating schedule of immunizations.

But the stunning success of those novel mRNA vaccines, which have been delivered mostly to the United States and Europe, has overshadowed the story in the rest of the world: Vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — which are expected to be mainstays of global supply — remain scarce.

11:15 a.m.
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With post-pandemic normality on the horizon, consumer prices inch upward

Consumer prices moved 2.6 percent higher in March compared with a year ago, fueled by a strengthening economy and comparisons to last spring when the coronavirus pandemic set off unprecedented upheaval.

The consumer price index, which measures the change in what customers pay for goods and services such as groceries, clothing and gas, climbed 0.6 percent from February to March, the U.S. Labor Department reported Tuesday. The results were slightly higher than the 2.5 percent and 0.5 percent forecast and represented another uptick in prices for the year.

Although inflation is edging upward, federal officials have stressed that the shift will probably be short-lived, as parts of the economy begin to normalize after more than a year of the pandemic.