Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Cases in New York City remain low, even though less than half of city residents are fully vaccinated.

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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.

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Credit…The New York Times

Cases are surging in crowded U.S. immigrant detention centers.

Israeli data shows that Pfizer’s vaccine is less effective against the Delta variant, but still prevents severe illness, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In another push to boost vaccination rates, Biden called for employers to set up workplace clinics and offer paid time off for workers to get shots.

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

The state of New York City

These past few weekends, New York City has really seemed to come alive. People are gathering unmasked in bars and restaurants, parks and beaches are full of picnics and parties, and foot traffic all over the city has seemed to pick up.

And yet, nearly half of the city’s residents — or about 4 million people, including children not yet eligible — have yet to be fully vaccinated, and the Delta variant is gaining a foothold.

For the latest, we spoke to our colleague Joseph Goldstein, who covers health care in New York.

What’s the situation with the Delta variant?

Until the end of May, the Delta variant made up about 8 percent of the cases the city sequenced. As of mid-June, the Delta variant accounted for about 44 percent of cases. Meanwhile, the city’s homegrown variant, named Iota, has totally disappeared. That’s pretty extraordinary given that in mid-April it made up 40 percent of cases. And Alpha, which was first identified in Britain, is down to about 11 percent of cases. The good news, though, is that overall cases have stayed remarkably level. There were around 200 new cases a day in late June, which is lower than they’ve been at any other point since the beginning of the pandemic.

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New daily cases in New York City.Credit…The New York Times

Are there any trouble spots?

If you look at case counts, there’s a bit of an uptick in Staten Island, which averaged in the low 20s for a lot of June, and now is in the low 30s. But that’s not a huge uptick.

The city’s positivity rate is also ticking upward a little bit and is around 0.72 percent. But that’s becoming a less useful metric because there’s not as much large-scale surveillance testing happening with school out.

Who’s getting sick these days?

The city hasn’t released much data on what infection rates look like in different groups, but the health department said that most new cases of the Delta variant are among young adults. That’s unsurprising, since vaccination rates are much lower for that group.

How’s the vaccination campaign going?

On the one hand, it’s been a resounding success in that it ended the second wave. But vaccination rates are also very uneven across New York. There are some ZIP codes where more than 90 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. The southern half of Manhattan and a lot of Queens have very high vaccination rates.

But in a few ZIP codes, the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated is under 35 percent. Some of those ZIP codes are in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, others are in Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. The lowest rate may be in Far Rockaway and Edgemere, where only 31.4 percent of residents — and 41.5 percent of adults — are fully vaccinated.

And lately, the city has been administering about 10,000 first doses on a good day, as well as another 1,000 to 2,000 single dose Johnson & Johnson shots. In early April, the city regularly administered more than 50,000 first dose shots a day.

What does the summer look like?

The mayor has declared this the “Summer of New York City” — which sounds fun. Cases are very low and steady, and there hasn’t been a dramatic uptick with Delta, which is pretty good news. Some of the experts I’ve talked to worry about the possibility of an uptick again in the fall, but that’s still a little way off.

And the city has been reopening for some time now. You know, in May I rode the Staten Island Ferry with my sons, who are very into ferry boats. I was just struck by the number of tourists on board with us, snapping pictures of the Statue of Liberty. I realized I hadn’t seen so many tourists in more than a year. It was a moment where I realized the city is returning to normal and it’s happening at its own pace, ahead of the government’s schedule of metrics and milestones.

Few tourists at the Taj Mahal

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Sumit Chaurasia, left, a guide at the Taj Mahal.Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

About half of the people in Agra, the city in India that surrounds the Taj Mahal, rely on tourism. Now that a traumatic wave of infections is waning, the mausoleum is partly open for visitors again.

But few have come. On its busiest days since reopening, India’s most famous monument is hosting 2,000 visitors — less than one-tenth its capacity.

Financially, the emptiness has devastated the area: Artisan workshops have closed, guides are out of work and famous sweet shops lost almost half their revenue last year. Many foreign tourists can’t get visas, and Indians are still reluctant to travel domestically.

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Families at the Taj Mahal last month.Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

But from a public health perspective, the emptiness may be keeping residents safe: The contagious Delta variant is still spreading and just 4 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated.

This spring, Agra, like India’s capital, New Delhi, ran out of space to cremate its dead, with thousands a day dying from Covid as India experienced one of the world’s most catastrophic encounters with the disease.

“The corona is still with us,” said Sumit Chaurasia, a 35-year-old guide at the Taj Mahal, who said he sometimes cries at the city’s eerie silence. But he is also relieved that tourists who may be carrying the virus have yet to return.

The Delta variant

It is spreading through Australia, a challenge to the country’s pandemic exceptionalism.

Iran’s president warned of a potential fifth wave as the variant spreads.

A spokesman for the French government said that the country could see a fourth wave of infections by the end of this month, driven by the variant, France 24 reports.

In The Atlantic, Ed Yong laid out three main rules of the world as the variant spreads. 1. Vaccines still work. 2. Unvaccinated people are vulnerable. 3. If vaccination rates don’t increase, the virus could mutate further.

What else we’re following

Malaysians are flying white flags outside their homes to indicate they need food or assistance during their fourth lockdown.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg was hospitalized in “serious” condition after contracting Covid-19.

France routinely gives some people with immune problems third doses of a vaccine, to great effect.

England plans to lift most virus restrictions on July 19.

Germany removed Portugal, Britain, Russia, India and Nepal from its travel ban, hoping to boost tourism.

The Times’s Styles desk asks: Are masks a new signifier of social class?

What you’re doing

Immunosuppressed from a transplant, I’m in isolation since mid-March 2020. I feel like a prisoner in my own home and my neighbors and community are my jailers since my city keeps making national news for cases, hospitalizations and low vaccination rates while almost no one masks. Some of my family and acquaintances call Covid “the China virus.” I’m frustrated, worn out, depressed, and feel like the “light at the end of the tunnel” everyone seems to be talking about is actually a train headed this way.

— A tired Midwesterner, Springfield, Mo.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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