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.

Federal health officials revised coronavirus guidance on Friday to acknowledge that people can get infected by inhaling very fine, aerosolized particles carrying the virus, following warnings from health experts since last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that airborne transmission is one of several ways the virus can spread, adding that people more than six feet away from others indoors can become infected, according to the agency’s website.

Epidemiologists have pushed for worldwide recognition that the virus can be transmitted by inhalation, saying improved ventilation and other airborne-specific mitigation measures could curb outbreaks.

Here are some significant developments:

  • India on Friday reported 414,188 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, a global record. Over the same period, 3,915 deaths were reported.
  • A World Health Organization panel on Friday authorized China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use.
  • Public Health England on Friday declared a coronavirus variant widespread in India a “variant of concern” for England and Wales.
  • Public health experts expect the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant an emergency authorization as soon as next week for 12- to 15-year-olds to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
  • President Biden’s support for easing patent protection for coronavirus vaccines is unlikely to quickly boost the supply of doses, experts say.
  • Pressure is mounting to call off the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin in July. Japan on Friday broadened a state of emergency as it grapples with a fourth wave of infections.

A doctor from NYC traveled to his Indian hometown to help with Covid-19 crisis

3:30 a.m.
Link copied

After being on the front lines in hospitals last year, Dr. Harman Boparai returned to India to help fight the second wave of Covid-19 there. Things were worse than he expected.

After being on the front lines in U.S. hospitals, Dr. Harman Boparai returned India to help fight the second wave there. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

D.C. businesses say virus restrictions continue to hamper recovery

2:00 a.m.
Link copied

There were shots of tequila and half-empty glasses of margaritas strewn about the table like it was Cinco De Mayo in the Before Times. But the restaurant that served them bore scars of a pandemic year.

“So what is going on in everyone’s life?” asked Nia “Storm” Gilliam, a 22-year-old music theater graduate from Howard University.

“It’s Emmanuel’s turn,” said her classmate Neah Banks, 23, as the friends noshed on tacos and quesadillas to celebrate their graduation — a year belated.

“Well my career is on hold, blah blah blah,” Emmanuel Key, 23, said, gesturing with his hands to highlight the socially distanced tables and waiters in masks.

Outside Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana on what should have been its busiest day of the year, outdoor dining capacity remained constrained by six-foot distancing guidelines. Inside was maxed out at 25 percent capacity.

Businesses that thrive (and profit) on facilitating human connection are gearing up for what they hope will be a redux of the Roaring ’20s — when the end of lockdown breeds a sort of epic jubilance that drives people to reunite at crowded bars and lavish events. But it’s not quite party time in Washington.

CDC acknowledges coronavirus can spread by air, which experts have long said

12:56 a.m.
Link copied

In new guidance about how the coronavirus can spread, federal health officials acknowledged that very fine, aerosolized respiratory droplets carrying coronavirus can lead to infections, after scientists have said there was “overwhelming evidence” that was the case since last year.

The virus can spread via three modes, including by people more than six feet away from an infected person inhaling the airborne virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added to its website Friday. The guidance previously said the virus can “sometimes also be spread via airborne transmission under special circumstances” but mostly through “close contact, not airborne transmission.”

The agency said its recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus were the same, including social distancing and mask-wearing.

“Although how we understand transmission occurs has shifted, the ways to prevent infection with this virus have not,” the update stated. “All prevention measures that CDC recommends remain effective for these forms of transmission.”

The long-awaited recognition comes after the CDC has revised the recommendations, at one point in September rescinding a draft it had published that said it is possible coronavirus could float in the air.

Experts say that highlighting the role aerosol transmission plays in outbreaks could better inform decisions by Americans to protect themselves when they are indoors. Instead of focusing on cleaning surfaces, which do not appear to beget infection, they should pay attention to ventilation, wear face coverings and install air filters as necessary.

“What a breath of fresh air,” physician Kashif Pirzada tweeted. “CDC says today in clear terms that SARS2 can be caught through airborne spread. We need to begin the work of making sure workers and students are protected when indoors. Especially relevant in countries where vaccination drives are just starting.”

Experts have pointed to outbreaks from indoor events to raise concerns that people may unwittingly spread the virus when they gather.

One such superspreader was a choir practice held indoors during two March days in Washington state, leading to 53 infections among attendees, three hospitalizations and two deaths, Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May last year.

“It’s past time we put the pieces together and acknowledge the scientific record on airborne transmission of covid-19,” he wrote. “Only once we do this can we take control of the super-spreading events that are driving the epidemic.”

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge publishes collection of snapshots from the pandemic

12:33 a.m.
Link copied

LONDON — A book by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, documenting scenes from the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom went on sale Friday, as the mother-of-three ventured outdoors to hide copies of the photobook in secret locations in the hope that random strangers would find them. A letter from the duchess is tucked inside each one.

A preview of the book, entitled “Hold Still,” was shared to the royal couple’s Instagram account earlier this week. It is a book that captures powerful portraits taken by people across the country as the health crisis claimed more than 127,000 lives in Britain, plunging it into lockdown to curb the spread of infection.

More than 31,000 entries were submitted from the public after the duchess announced the campaign last year. 100 were selected for the book.

The collection was created in partnership with London’s National Portrait Gallery, which the duchess is patron of. The gallery describes the book as “an ambitious community project” that captures life in lockdown. The collection features rainbows in windows thanking the National Health Service to medics in personal protective wear risking their lives to treat others in need.

The 39-year-old duchess is a keen photographer and often shares images, including portraits of her children, with fans and British media. The duchess began working on the collection last year, as Britain plunged into lockdown. The country is currently edging slowly out of its third lockdown as the government continues to roll out its mass vaccination effort.

Cruise line threatens to pull cruise ships from Florida over DeSantis vaccine passport ban

10:40 p.m.
Link copied

One of the world’s largest cruise companies is ready to send its ships out of Florida if the state prohibits it from requiring passengers to be vaccinated.

Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has said it intends to require 100 percent of passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated to sail. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order in March barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations. He signed that order into state law on Monday.

“That’s an issue,” Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings call this week. He said the company has been in talks with the governor’s office, and his legal experts believe the vaccination requirement falls under federal and not state law.

Higher prices and hard-to-find reservations: What to know about outdoor adventures this summer

9:40 p.m.
Link copied

Seeking an outdoor-oriented vacation this summer that allowed for social distancing, Irene Goodman and a friend started making plans last fall for a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. They wanted to rent an RV for two weeks, staying in park campgrounds along the way. But as 46-year old Goodman, a New York City-based health-care administrator, explored her options, she learned that reservations would be hard to come by and expenses would be higher than anticipated.

“To begin with, RV rental costs were 30 percent higher than last year,” she says. “Campsites were still closed in some parks, and in others we couldn’t find guaranteed reservations.”

After considering the hassle and expense factors, Goodman and her companion made a change in plans: rather than the uber-popular and crowded Yellowstone/Grand Teton combo, they would head to South Dakota to take in Badlands and Mount Rushmore.

If, like Goodman, you’re hoping to make a trip to public lands this summer, know that you may not only face crowds, but added fees, reservations and permits. Planning ahead will ensure you make the most of your vacation time and dollars.

Horrified families find bodies buried on top of their loved ones at British cemetery

8:40 p.m.
Link copied

LONDON — Family members of two men who died of covid-19 in Britain have spoken of their grief — and rage — after learning that the graves of their loved ones had been opened up so that a stranger could be buried on top of them.

Both families told the BBC that they had not been informed that the resting place of their relatives had been modified to contain another body just days after the burials.

The son of 76-year-old Basheer Meghjee, who died in London last year, told the BBC that the family only made the discovery after “community whispers” began swirling shortly after his father was buried in the Muslim section of the Woodcock Hill Cemetery in the English county of Hertfordshire.

Abbas Meghjee said the action had left the family, especially his heartbroken mother, “in pieces.”

The Meghjee family alerted another family that frequently visited the plot nearby, warning them that the same thing may have happened to their loved one, Mustafa Ibrahim. It turned out that Ibrahim’s daughter, Yugel, was also unaware her father’s body was part of a double grave.

“I find it hard coming to my dad’s grave knowing, with no disrespect, there’s another man on top of him,” she said as she admitted she now struggles to visit the cemetery.

The foundation that oversees the Muslim side of the cemetery told British media that a two-tier burial policy was enforced as the pandemic ravaged Britain last year. It said families were made aware that a double burial may have been a possibility because of space concerns and that they had signed a consent document.

The families say they were grieving and did not expect the decision to be made without consultation — especially when empty plots remained at the cemetery.

According to the BBC, the double burial policy ended last summer as death tolls and demand for burial land began to fall.

Germany lets the vaccinated have a bit more fun. Teens shut out from the jabs are not happy.

7:40 p.m.
Link copied

Since the beginning of the pandemic, teenage Antonia am Orde has hunkered down at home, in large part to protect those more vulnerable than herself from the coronavirus.

Now, as Germany lifts some restrictions for the vaccinated, those who are last in line for a jab face ongoing limits as others begin steps toward a more normal life.

“I don’t think that’s really fair,” said am Orde, 18.

In a move that effectively creates a two-tier system, Germany’s parliament passed a law Thursday that will lift some of the more restrictive shutdown regulations for those who have been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus.

China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine listed by World Health Organization for emergency use

6:42 p.m.
Link copied

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it would list for emergency use a coronavirus vaccine made by Chinese firm Sinopharm.

The step means that the vaccine, developed by Sinopharm with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, can be used to bolster WHO-backed efforts such as the Covax initiative to share doses equitably around the world.

It is also a major boost in international recognition for Sinopharm’s vaccine and for Chinese pharmaceutical research. It marks the first time that any Chinese-made vaccine has received emergency authorization from the WHO.

Why the most-vaccinated place on Earth is seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases

5:36 p.m.
Link copied

As the Seychelles began to offer free coronavirus vaccinations early this year, President Wavel Ramkalawan told reporters that the country was planning to reach herd immunity within weeks.

It was an ambitious target for a small, geographically isolated island nation in the Indian Ocean. But with its economy heavily reliant on tourism, the country called in favors to attain a vaccine supply from regional allies, including India and the United Arab Emirates.

The effort initially seemed to be a success. The Seychelles stands as the most vaccinated nation on Earth, with more than 60 percent of its population fully vaccinated, more than other vaccine giants such as Israel and Britain, and almost twice the United States’ rate of vaccination.

But that success has been undermined this week as the Seychelles has found itself with its largest number of new coronavirus cases per capita, and it has been forced to reinstate a number of restrictions.

CDC’s Nancy Messonnier, who enraged Trump by sounding the alarm about coronavirus, set to resign

Link copied

Nancy Messonnier, a senior health expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was the first U.S. official to warn Americans last year that a looming pandemic would change their lives forever, will resign from her position with the agency, she told colleagues in an email Friday morning.

Her last day will be May 14.

“My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career,” she wrote in the email, which was reviewed by The Washington Post. “CDC has provided me many meaningful, rewarding, and challenging opportunities to grow intellectually and mature as a public health leader.”

She added: “I am especially grateful for the time, talent, and energy that so many of you gave over the past 16 months. Together and in collaboration with our partners across public health and the federal, state, tribal, local and territorial government, we achieved incredible things, including deploying multiple vaccines in under one year and building the information infrastructure to provide real-time vaccination coverage and vaccine safety data.”

Messonnier, who has been director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases since 2016, was replaced last month as head of the agency’s vaccine task force.

India variant declared ‘variant of concern’ as it is detected in England

3:05 p.m.
Link copied

A coronavirus variant widespread in India has been declared a “variant of concern” for England and Wales by government body Public Health England in a document released Friday.

The assessment was made after a “steep recent increase in the number of cases identified,” Public Health England said, with 509 genomically confirmed cases involving the variant found, most in London or the northwest of England.

The document says that one of the variants now spreading in India, known by the scientific name B.1.617.2, had “at least equivalent transmissibility” as a variant in first detected in Britain last year, B.1.1.7, based on available data.

Public Health England said there was “insufficient data” to assess whether the variant made covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, more severe or whether vaccines were less effective against it.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters that the government was thinking “very carefully” about how to handle the variant found in India and that wherever it was detected, there should be “door-to-door testing.”

B.1.617.2 is the fifth variant labeled “of concern” in England and Wales, following variants first sequenced in Britain, South Africa and in Japan from travelers arriving from Brazil. A version of B.1.1.7 with a mutation known as E484K was also listed as a variant of concern.

Locked down during Cambodia’s virus outbreak, people are running out of food

2:15 p.m.
Link copied

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Thea is worried that he will go hungry. He hasn’t left his home in Phnom Penh since April 15, when Cambodia’s government imposed a citywide lockdown to curb the country’s first large coronavirus outbreak.

“The lockdown was so rushed that I didn’t even have time to get extra food. We have hardly any food left, but I cannot leave my house because there are so many police outside,” said Thea, a 40-year-old garment worker who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used because he feared government reprisals.

In Cambodia, which had avoided the worst of the pandemic, a surge in cases has led authorities to resort to an extreme lockdown that some residents say has pushed them toward eviction or starvation. The most draconian measures apply to neighborhoods deemed “red zones,” where no one is permitted to leave home, not even to buy food.

Months after Oregon church sued over covid-19 restrictions, an outbreak has sickened 74

1:05 p.m.
Link copied

In early April, dozens of maskless churchgoers in northwest Oregon stood onstage singing and clapping inside a packed indoor venue for Easter Sunday service. The Peoples Church, which previously sued the state over coronavirus restrictions, hosted three similar indoor services that day, each lasting a little over an hour.

Days later, the state’s health authority began investigating a potential outbreak at the Salem church.

Now, the Oregon Health Authority says that at least 74 people associated with the church have tested positive for the coronavirus — one of the state’s largest workplace outbreaks.

In a statement, the church’s leaders attributed the outbreak to a recent rise in covid-19 cases in Marion County, Ore. “We are concerned about the covid-19 surge in Oregon,” executive pastor Tom Murray said in an email to The Washington Post. “This statewide increase has impacted our entire region, including our church family.”