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Hello. The previous holidays have led to virus outbreaks, and another big party is coming this weekend.
Coronavirus cases in the United States have increased after nearly every major vacation last year, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. This weekend brings another major celebration, albeit unofficial: Super Bowl Sunday. And there is cause for concern that he turns into a Superspreader on Sunday.
Polls show that a significant number of people plan to attend parties. Two separate surveys – one from Seton Hall University and one from the National Retail Federation – found that nearly 30% of adults said they would attend a meeting at someone’s house or watch the game in a restaurant or bar.
On the contrary, this weekend can be more dangerous than most holidays. Super Bowl parties are usually held indoors and can involve more households than a holiday meal. This year’s game is also set when contagious new variants of the virus have started to spread.
There is precedent for sporting events leading to outbreaks. Health officials in Los Angeles believe rallies to watch last fall’s playoff games involving the Lakers (who won the NBA title) and Dodgers (who won the World Series) have accelerated the rise of the virus in southern California.
“Crowds of fans crammed into outdoor dining terraces,” the Los Angeles Times explained last week, noting that the rallies often included unmasked people “singing, singing or shouting.” The same story quotes Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County director of public health: “Don’t have a house party. Don’t go to a Super Bowl party.
The coming weeks are particularly important. Cases have fallen sharply and the pace of vaccination – although still extremely slow – is accelerating. We have reached a potential turning point, when Covid-19 deaths may start to decline and never again reach their previous highs.
But variants present a huge risk. Low-risk behavior a few months ago may no longer be. Already risky behavior, like attending an indoor party, can be even more risky.
“We have to double down,” Dr. Rebecca Wurtz of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health told me. “This is our chance to turn the corner, and we really have to seize it.”
(My colleague Tara Parker-Pope has detailed advice on what is safe.)
The latest vaccine news
I have heard from many readers who want this newsletter to continue paying attention to vaccine news. So there you have it: there have been more encouraging developments.
AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford published data showing that none of the 12,408 people who had received a vaccine injection died of symptoms of Covid or were hospitalized with them. This is consistent with previous results from this vaccine, as well as initial results from four other vaccines – from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer.
The researchers found that the AstraZeneca vaccine also slows the transmission of the virus, highlighting the importance of mass vaccination as a way out of the pandemic.
A peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, found that the Russian vaccine, known as Sputnik V, also offered complete protection against serious illnesses from Covid. Dr Angela Rasmussen from Georgetown University called it “good news” and added, “We need more vaccines in the world.” (Related: The New Yorker’s Joshua Yaffa and The Times’ Andrew Kramer, both based in Moscow, wrote about why they received the Sputnik vaccine.)
An important caveat: vaccine protection does not come immediately. It often takes at least two weeks.
The UK government has said that a variant of the virus first seen there has the potential to make vaccines less effective. But it is less alarming than it seems. For now, the concern is hypothetical: no data shows that the vaccines are ineffective on the British variant. Even if they are Less effective, other evidence suggests that modest levels of vaccine protection can almost always be sufficient to downgrade Covid to regular flu.
“Lately when I talk to reporters they expect me to be very concerned about the Covid variants. But I am not,” Dr Ellie Murray from Boston University’s School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter. “Why? Because we know what works to control Covid.” She is more concerned about the “lack of action” to promote social distancing, encourage mask wear and speed up vaccination, she added.
THE LAST NEWS
The Biden administration
The Senate has voted along party lines on a procedural step that will allow Democrats to avoid a systematic obstruction of President Biden’s coronavirus relief plan and pass it with a right-wing majority.
Biden has signed three immigration decrees, including one aimed at reuniting migrant families that the Trump administration has separated. Immigration officials and advocates have warned the changes will not happen immediately.
The Biden administration announced new efforts to speed up vaccinations, including sending doses to retail pharmacies.
Capitol Riot Fallout
A Russian court has sentenced Aleksei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s loudest critic, to more than two years in prison on politicized charges.
New York prosecutors are investigating Steve Bannon, weeks after Trump pardoned him. Bannon could be accused of defrauding donors against the border wall.
A shootout in South Florida killed two FBI agents and injured three others. They were investigating violent crimes against children.
Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon and will become executive chairman. Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon’s cloud computing division, will succeed him.
The GameStop share price is down 81% from its high last week, quickly wiping out the wealth of many investors.
A Morning Listen: Stricter border enforcement has led migrants overboard in dangerous attempts to reach California. Listen to the Times Magazine review.
From the review: “To my amazement, I support Brady” in the Super Bowl, writes Frank Bruni, a Times Opinion columnist. Here’s why.
Lives lived: Tom Moore, a British Army veteran nicknamed “Captain Tom”, became a symbol of determination at the start of the pandemic when he raised $ 45 million for hospitals by taking walks in his backyard. He died at age 100, having recently been hospitalized with Covid.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A great team in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets, who have long struggled to escape the shadow of the nearby Knicks, have put together a lineup so loaded with talent they look like a musical supergroup – basketball’s answer to the Three Tenors, the Traveling Wilburys or at Them Crooked Vultures.
Last month, the Nets made a successful trade to get NBA top scorer James Harden. He joined a team that already featured two stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The combo, Times basketball writer Marc Stein told us, is “the most ambitious blend of offensive talent in NBA history.”
Two years ago, Harden averaged over 36 points per game; only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have passed him. Durant has been the NBA’s most successful player four times – a number that, again, only Jordan and Chamberlain have surpassed. Irving is a six-time star player who won a championship in Cleveland.
However, their success is not guaranteed. In trading for Harden, the Nets have given up a lot, including some of their best defensemen. “Defense and depth will ultimately matter,” noted Marc. “You can’t just mark your way to an NBA championship”
“But,” he added, “the Nets have never been more important in New York.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was impalpable. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini crosswords and a hint: Light green (four letters).
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David
PS A hidden haiku from The Times’ review of a new Mike Nichols biography, on the book’s many celebrity cameos: “Everybody who / was anyone is here / smoking glass.”
You can see the first printed page of the day here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about a mother who found her daughter’s kidnappers. On “The Argument,” Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg talk about what they’ve learned from an argument over the past two years.
Lalena Fisher, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can join the team at email@example.com.
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