Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

The U.S. is expected to provide 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to 100 nations over the next two years.

Infections are rising in Mongolia, where half the people have received the Sinopharm vaccine.

France is beginning its third phase of a gradual reopening.

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

The curtain rises

The pandemic hit the arts and culture industry harder than almost any other. During the past year, the unemployment rate for actors, singers and dancers has been higher than it has been even for restaurant employees or workers in other devastated industries. Theaters were quickly shuttered and widely expected to be the last places to reopen.

But now, as the U.S. opens up, arts and culture spaces are reopening earlier than even people in the industry had anticipated. For a look at what to expect in the coming months, I spoke to my colleague Michael Cooper, a culture editor.

What does the arts and culture industry’s reopening look like?

For a long time, the assumption was that we would have a summer of lots of outdoor performances, and that by September people would begin to go back inside theaters and concert halls. But that’s really changed just in the past month or so. Suddenly, the time frame is much quicker.

Broadway, for instance, initially decided that it would come back on September 14. The idea was that some of the biggest hits — “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Hamilton” — would all open that night. But now there is a sort of arms race to see who can open first. The musical “Hades Town” sort of jumped the line and said that it would resume on Sept. 2. Then the producers of the play “Pass Over” said they would start preview performances on Aug. 4. Then just this week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was going to bring back “Springsteen on Broadway” starting on June 26. Similar things are happening in other spaces. Madison Square Garden just announced its first full capacity, unmasked but vaccinated indoor concert with Foo Fighters at the end of June. That would have been unthinkable just weeks ago.

Why has the timeline moved up so quickly?

A lot of what changed were the shifting guidelines from the C.D.C. The government made a decision to relax the mask mandates and to encourage vaccinated people to take advantage of their vaccination status. Once the signal changed from Washington, that really paved the way for a lot of states to ease their remaining restrictions.

But there’s still a ton of confusion about how certain things are going to work. There hasn’t been as much guidance or advance warning from the states as there had been earlier. For places that will require vaccination, it’s still unclear exactly how that’s going to be enforced.

How are venues responding?

I think the venues are excited. This has really been an unutterably terrible year. But I think venues are nervous because there are still all kinds of questions. Will audiences come back? Broadway relies heavily on tourists, and tourism in New York City has not yet bounced back. Will they be able to sell out eight shows a week? And a lot of institutions are still grappling with serious fiscal problems from the pandemic.

What has been the public’s reaction?

Just this week Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would mount a huge New York-is-back concert in Central Park in late August, with about 60,000 people on the Great Lawn, and that they would show it on television. And it was very interesting to watch the reaction on social media. Tons of people were overjoyed by the idea, and this symbol that New York was coming back. But quite a lot of people were also understandably concerned, even though it is outdoors, given how many people remain unvaccinated and the new variants spreading in parts of the world. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Countering ‘coronasomnia’

For many people, the stress, anxiety and disruptions from the pandemic made their sleep worse, giving rise to terms like “coronasomnia.” Over a year, it continued to deteriorate.

A survey conducted last summer by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 20 percent of Americans said they had trouble sleeping because of the pandemic. When the academy repeated its survey in March, roughly 60 percent of people said they struggled with pandemic-related insomnia — even though infection rates had fallen and the country was beginning to reopen.

“Over the past year, we’ve had the perfect storm of every possible bad thing that you can do for your sleep,” said Dr. Sabra Abbott, an assistant professor of neurology in sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

But The Times’s Well desk is here to help. They collected advice from experts on how to fall asleep, feel rested and create better sleep habits. They also asked readers for their trickiest sleep questions, and had experts answer them.

Vaccine rollout

People receiving the Covid vaccine made by Oxford-AstraZeneca had a slightly increased risk of a bleeding disorder, and possibly other rare blood problems as well, researchers reported.

Mastercard pledged $1.3 billion for vaccines in Africa. The continent is falling dramatically behind in vaccinations, as some countries have yet to deliver a single dose, the Associated Press reports.

Experts think that San Francisco may have become the first major American city to reach herd immunity, The Guardian reports.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

What else we’re following

Areas of the U.S. with low vaccination rates and increasing hospitalization or case rates are worrying health officials.

While there have been reports of severe Covid and deaths among the vaccinated, they are rare, and not unexpected.

The E.U. authorized digital Covid certificates for travel within European countries, DW reports.

Germany is one of a handful of countries betting heavily on rapid coronavirus testing — as well as vaccines — to beat the pandemic. The testing system is a far cry from that of the U.S., where in many places, social interactions take place indoors with few if any requirements.

The Atlantic writes how the American version of individualism may be costly in the next phase of the pandemic.

Times event. Join Michael Barbaro and “The Daily” this Thursday, at 6 p.m. Eastern, in a live follow-up to “Odessa,” the acclaimed series following the students and faculty of Odessa High School in Texas during the pandemic. Subscribers can R.S.V.P.

What you’re doing

I’m in Argentina where vaccines are few and the virus is raging. We have an 8 p.m. mandatory curfew enforced by fines. Gyms, indoor dining and family gatherings are not permitted. Those who can fly to Miami to get vaccinated, while the majority of the population wait for the AstraZeneca or Sputnik vaccine. Talk about FOMO for summer in the United States!

— Wendy Walker, Córdoba, Argentina

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