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The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will support waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and will move forward with international negotiations to do so, arguing that the global health crisis calls for extraordinary measures.

“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

The announcement is a breakthrough particularly for developing nations that have sought a waiver, saying it would allow them to boost a coronavirus response amid a surge in infections in India and South America.

Here are some significant developments:

  • A federal judge in D.C. ruled on Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium last spring.
  • India announced a record number of deaths over the past 24 hours on Wednesday, with 3,780 fatalities. A quarter of the world’s covid-19 deaths in the past week have been in India.
  • The CDC released new data on Wednesday that shows the U.S. birthrate in 2020 dropped for the sixth consecutive year to its lowest point since the government began tracking it.
  • Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced Wednesday that the country will launch verifiable vaccine certificates in early June that will allow holders to gain entry to events and that European Union-compliant certificates could happen by late June, Reuters reported.
  • Canada became the first country in the world to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between 12 and 15 on Wednesday.
  • The United States is entering a “new phase” of its coronavirus vaccination strategy, President Biden announced, setting a goal of ensuring that 70 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one shot by July 4.
  • New cases in the United States dropped below 50,000 a day on average for the first time since early October in a sign that vaccinations — and warmer weather — may be helping to get the U.S. outbreak under control.
2:30 a.m.
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Analysis: Biden’s vaccination goal sounds modest — which is good

President Biden is once again setting exceedingly modest pandemic goals. Yet it may be smart, given signs that vaccine demand appears to be on a serious decline in the United States.

By July 4, Biden wants 70 percent of adult Americans to have received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot and 60 percent of adult Americans to be fully vaccinated (that’s roughly 160 million people).

Right now, 106 million Americans are fully vaccinated. So at the current rate, a total of 195 million Americans could be fully vaccinated by July 4.

Except it seems certain the current vaccination rate will continue to decline.

Daily vaccinations have been falling for the past three weeks — an unsettling development for both the White House and public health officials, who had hoped to make more process on vaccinating the public before reaching the point at which supply outstrips demand.

1:30 a.m.
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Virginia’s Fairfax count lowers property taxes in pandemic recovery plan

Fairfax County adopted a budget Tuesday that lowers the residential property tax rate while steering more funds toward schools and affordable housing, part of a broader effort among area governments to pull Northern Virginia out of the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a 9-to-1 vote, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a $4.5 billion spending plan that Jeff C. McKay (D), the board chairman, called an attempt to stabilize Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction.

“In order to lift up every resident in Fairfax County, especially as we recover from the pandemic, we need to make investments in the community and the programs that make everyone healthier, safer, and more successful,” McKay said in a statement after the vote.

Thousands of area residents remain unemployed because of the pandemic, and a desire to live in less densely populated neighborhoods, fueled by anxiety over the virus, has driven up home prices in the District’s suburbs — increasing annual tax assessments in those communities at a time when many families are struggling to meet basic needs.

12:30 a.m.
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Canada authorizes coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15

TORONTO — Canada on Wednesday became the first country to authorize the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, a step hailed by officials as a “significant milestone” in the country’s fight against the coronavirus.

The two-dose vaccine is the first to be greenlighted for use in that age group by Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator. Pfizer has sought authorization for similar use in the United States; approval from the Food and Drug Administration is expected by early next week.

Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser for Health Canada, said the agency reviewed the data from a Pfizer study in the United States involving more than 2,200 adolescents aged 12 to 15 years old. Half received the two-dose regimen administered to adults; the others were given a placebo.

11:30 p.m.
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CDC says coronavirus could be under control this summer in U.S. if people get vaccinated and are careful

Coronavirus infections could be driven to low levels and the pandemic at least temporarily throttled in the United States by July if the vast majority of people get vaccinated and continue with precautions against viral transmission, according to a strikingly optimistic paper released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report comes as administration officials and leaders in many states are sounding more confident that the country can return to a degree of normalcy relatively soon. President Biden on Tuesday announced a new vaccination goal, saying he wants 70 percent of adults to have had at least one dose by July 4.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday the modeling results give Americans a road map out of the pandemic — so long as they continue to get vaccinated and maintain certain mitigation strategies until a “critical mass of people” get the shots.

10:30 p.m.
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Federal judge vacates CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium

In a ruling that could have a tremendous impact on millions of Americans, a federal judge in Washington D.C. on Wednesday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich’s 20-page order says that the protection, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to run out on June 30, goes too far.

“It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic,” the order stated. “The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”

Landlords and property owners have consistently challenged the CDC order, arguing the policy sets an undue financial burden on business owners.

“We’ve argued from the beginning that the CDC lacked statutory authority to impose this, and we’ve had multiple courts agree with us on that,” said Luke Wake, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation who has represented landlords in similar cases. “Today’s decision again vindicates our argument.”

9:30 p.m.
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Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offers strong protection against key variants of concern, real-world data from Qatar shows

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine provides strong protection against two concerning variants of the virus, including the one that has most worried scientists because it can evade parts of the immune response, according to new data from Qatar.

The study, published as a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was about 90 percent effective at blocking infections caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, a more transmissible version of the virus now fueling outbreaks around the world. That encouraging finding was not a surprise, but the study also found that efficacy eroded only slightly, to 75 percent, against the B.1.351 variant that was first detected in South Africa.

The B.1.351 variant carries mutations that help it elude some antibodies and as a result is considered by many experts the most challenging variant among those that have been identified. Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and one from the biotechnology company Moderna were tested in clinical trials before that variant emerged, it had remained unclear until now whether protection would be eroded by the variant. While the new study suggests the vaccine is somewhat less protective against the variant, it offered strong protection, particularly against severe, critical or fatal cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.

9:16 p.m.
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Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offers protection against key variants of concern, Qatar data shows

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine provides strong protection against two concerning variants of the virus, including the one that has most worried scientists because it can evade parts of the immune response, according to new data from Qatar.

The study, published as a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was about 90 percent effective at blocking infections caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, a more transmissible version of the virus now fueling outbreaks around the world. That encouraging finding was not a surprise, but the study also found that efficacy eroded only slightly, to 75 percent, against the B.1.351 variant that was first detected in South Africa.

The B.1.351 variant carries mutations that help it elude some antibodies and as a result is considered by many experts to be the most challenging variant among those that have been identified. Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and one from the biotechnology company Moderna were tested in clinical trials before that variant emerged, it had remained unclear until now whether protection would be eroded by the variant. While the new study suggests the vaccine is somewhat less protective against the variant, it offered strong protection, particularly against severe, critical or fatal cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.

8:35 p.m.
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Biden administration commits to waiving vaccine patent protections

The Biden administration supports temporarily lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and will move forward with international discussions to waive them, its top trade negotiator said Wednesday.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

Tai said the United States would participate in negotiations on an international waiver of the protections, cautioning that the discussions would “take time.” The United States had helped block negotiations on the proposal since its introduction in October by Indian and South African officials.

7:42 p.m.
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Goldman Sachs eschews hybrid models, wants workers back in the office next month

Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs plans to ask most of its workers in the United States and Britain to return to its offices in June, bucking the trend among large corporations toward specifying a permanent hybrid model of remote and on-site work.

The elite investment bank, which faced complaints about long hours from a small group of junior bankers this year, said in a memo to employees Tuesday that U.S. workers should make plans to return to the office by June 14.

The bank’s memo does not stipulate a full-time return to the office, noting that teams and regions may have different expectations, that rotational schedules may be needed because of local requirements and that it is committed to flexibility, saying people should discuss plans with their managers if they’re unable to return to the office.

6:40 p.m.
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Indonesian airport employees arrested for allegedly washing, reselling thousands of nasal tests

As many as 9,000 people may have been given coronavirus tests using nasal swabs that had been washed and reused by an Indonesian pharmaceutical company at Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, according to police, who said they have arrested several employees and the Medan facility’s business manager.

Staff working for the state-owned company Kimia Farma have reportedly been rinsing swabs and using them on passengers since late last year. Under coronavirus regulations, travelers are required to produce a negative result before flying, and the airport had used the company to supply the rapid antigen test kits.

Many people opt to take a test at the airport instead of sourcing one independently.

Police allege that those involved in the scam violated health and consumer laws. At least one employee, who has since been fired, is suspected of using profits from reuse of the test kits to build a lavish house.

5:42 p.m.
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Argentine faked being covid-free to fly home. He was infected all along.

Just hours before he was set to board a flight home to Argentina on Saturday, Santiago Solans Portillo received some news that appeared to throw a wrench in his travel plans: His coronavirus test had come back positive, authorities say.

But when the 29-year-old arrived at the airport in Miami, he made no such disclosure to the American Airlines agents checking him in, instead presenting a medical certificate that said he was fit to fly.

It was only the following day, when he landed in Buenos Aires and health officials took his temperature, finding he had a fever of 101.3 degrees, that he finally informed them he probably had coronavirus infection — and should not have boarded the plane to begin with.

“Due to this irresponsible, selfish behavior, 200 people are at risk despite having done the right thing while traveling,” Florencia Carignano, Argentina’s top immigration official, told reporters this week.

4:35 p.m.
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CDC director defends camp guidance that recommends masks outdoors

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday defended her agency’s guidance for safely operating summer camps, which stipulates that “All people in camp facilities should wear masks at all times with exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating and drinking or swimming.”

The guidance has been criticized as overly restrictive and been met with particular scorn in conservative media. Reason, the libertarian magazine, called the instructions “insane.”

The CDC recently advised that people who have been fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks outdoors in most settings, but Walensky said this allowance does not yet apply to young people for whom the vaccines have not been authorized. That could change if the Pfizer-BioNTech regime wins approval for 12- to 15-year-olds, as is expected next week. “If we have authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds, and they can get vaccinated before going to camp, that’s what I would advocate for, so they can take their masks off outdoors,” Walensky said during a Wednesday briefing.

The recommendations, she said, are designed to prevent outbreaks that would force closures. She said the guidance makes it possible to go without masks “in small groups” while ensuring masking in crowded situations such as “heavy breathing around a singular soccer ball.”

Anthony S. Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, also addressed the guidance Wednesday, telling NBC’s “Today” show that the recommendations are based on evolving science and so may be reevaluated.

“Because you’re right, people look at that and they say, 'Well is that being a little bit too far right now?’ ” he said.

3:31 p.m.
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Canada authorizes coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15

Canada on Wednesday morning authorized use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, marking the first time the country has approved a coronavirus vaccine for adolescents.

Pfizer has sought authorization for adolescents in that age group in the United States, and that approval is expected by early next week.

Canadian adolescents will follow the same two-dose regimen authorized for adults following a trial of more than 2,000 participants that began in April, Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said at a news conference after Wednesday’s announcement.

2:46 p.m.
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D.C. theater returning to ‘live’ with plexiglass screens and headphones

“Blindness” is a recorded audio play about a country gone sightless that the audience listens to on headphones in the dark. But these days, the dystopian world it conjures begins even before the lights go out.

You enter Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall one at a time, approaching a staff member behind plexiglass who asks for your phone number in case someone at your performance reports an illness. Masked and socially distanced, you then follow a serpentine, roped-off path around the lobby, guided by arrows on the floor. A “safety officer” greets you at the entrance to the seating area, and points out one of 20 pairs of chairs. Each pair is arranged side by side and facing opposite walls — the better, it seems, to ensure the surrounding air is breathed only by you.

Ah, the carefree pleasures of theatergoing in 2021!