Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Younger people are filling hospitals.,


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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.


Credit…The New York Times

The known global virus caseload has surpassed 200 million infections.

The W.H.O. called for a moratorium on vaccine boosters to help each country get more people vaccinated.

The F.D.A. could grant full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine by early September.

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

Younger, sicker, quicker

Doctors working in Covid-19 hot spots across the nation say that the patients in their hospitals are not like the patients they saw last year: The new arrivals are younger, many in their 20s or 30s.

These patients — almost all of them unvaccinated — also seem sicker than younger patients were last year. And they are deteriorating more rapidly.

Earlier in the pandemic, patients would come into the hospital after spending a week or two at home with symptoms. Often they were treated on a regular floor before needing intubation or intensive care, but doctors report some younger patients are experiencing more severe symptoms now.

Physicians have coined a new phrase to describe them: “younger, sicker, quicker.” Some have no underlying health conditions that would make them more susceptible. The culprit, many suspect, is the Delta variant, which now makes up 80 percent of cases nationwide.

“This to us feels like an entirely different disease,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

In January, adults under 50 represented 22 percent of hospitalized patients, according to the C.D.C. Now, people ages 18 to 49 account for 41 percent. Some experts think the shift in patient demographics is due to vaccination rates: Less than 50 percent of Americans ages 18 to 39 are vaccinated, compared to more than 80 percent for those ages 65 to 74.

Some experts say what appears to be greater virulence may be simply the result of the Delta variant’s greater contagiousness. As more people are infected, the sheer number of severely ill patients is bound to increase, even if the variant itself does not cause more severe disease than previous versions.

Still, studies from other countries suggest that Delta may cause more severe disease, but there’s no definitive data that shows the variant is worse for young people. Even so, some doctors think younger people are more susceptible.

“That’s what really frightens me,” said Dr. Terrence Coulter, director of critical care at CoxHealth Medical Center, in Springfield, Mo. “It’s hitting younger healthy people that you wouldn’t think would have such a bad response to the disease.”

Delta challenges China’s zero-tolerance Covid strategy

China spent months as a coronavirus success story. It eradicated the virus so quickly that it was one of the first countries to reopen last spring. When outbreaks arose, it would quickly stamp them out by testing millions of people, tracing infections and locking down entire communities.

But as the country faces its largest outbreaks since last year, that model is now looking increasingly fragile. Experts say that as the Delta variant spreads and new variants emerge, the country’s “containment-based” strategy will become too costly and time consuming.

My colleague Keith Bradsher, The Times’s Shanghai bureau chief, recently traveled to Beijing from a reporting trip in Zhengzhou — where roughly 13 million people had to stand in line for virus testing starting last weekend — and sent me an update. His experience illustrates how demanding the virus-control system from the government can be.

I came to Beijing by high-speed train on Thursday of last week. Over the weekend, Zhengzhou unexpectedly announced that it had nearly three dozen cases of the Delta variant.

Late Monday afternoon, a courteous official from Beijing called me on my mobile phone. Her records showed that my mobile number had come to Beijing from Zhengzhou, and she wanted my passport number, my hotel in Beijing, and my train number, along with my train car and seat number. She needed my details to put in a local government database. She also wanted me to get a free Covid test.

I had anticipated this and had already gone for a test late Sunday afternoon at a local hospital, with the usual overnight return of results (it was negative). The official also told me that an official from the neighborhood would also call our Beijing office manager about me.

Fortunately for me, the automatic health tracking code on my phone stayed green. That meant I had not been in the actual neighborhood of Zhengzhou with the cases. Zhengzhou did lock down a sizable area of the city, but my hotel had been about three-fifths of a mile north of this area. I would not be ordered to stay in my hotel room. I would not be required to submit to frequent temperature checks.

My colleague from the Shanghai bureau of The New York Times, who had accompanied me in Zhengzhou, was slightly less lucky. Her housing compound in Shanghai ordered that she show up for temperature checks twice a day.

Is working from home working for you?

Since the pandemic upended life last year, workdays for many of us who have been told to avoid the office have been very different. Some of it has been positive, allowing us to spend more time with our loved ones, instead of commuting. Sometimes we work from our couch, or take calls from picnic blankets in the park or log into a meeting from our parents’ house. Other times, remote work can feel isolating, and Zoom fatigue can leave us feeling depleted and unfulfilled.

With more companies delaying their return to the office, working from home will remain a reality for many of us for the foreseeable future. And at least some remote work is likely to become a regular part of our lives, even after the pandemic is behind us.

So a year and a half after many of us began working from home, we’d like to check in and hear how it’s going for you. How has your remote work experience been so far? Do you have any life hacks or tips for making working from home better? We’d love to hear your story.

We may use your response in “Our Changing Lives,” a new series in this newsletter about big lifestyle shifts during the pandemic. If you’d like to participate, you can fill out this form here.

Vaccine rollout

A study in England found that vaccination reduces the risk of getting Delta symptoms by 60 percent.

After much cajoling and even some threats, Pakistan is vaccinating a million people a day.

The governor of Illinois announced a mask mandate for schools and a vaccine mandate for some state employees, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Britain will extend vaccination to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Here’s how to show proof of vaccination in New York City.

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

What else we’re following

With the eviction moratorium back in place, the Biden administration is racing to distribute aid.

Israel reintroduced some virus restrictions in the hope of avoiding a full lockdown.

The latest response to the Delta variant: Pfizer issues a vaccine mandate for its U.S. workers, and the New York auto show is canceled.

A survey found that unvaccinated Americans are less likely to wear masks and avoid crowds, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.

Obama scaled back his 60th birthday party, citing the spread of the Delta variant.

The Offspring’s drummer says he was dropped from the band over being unvaccinated.

Greece’s synchronized swimming team withdraws from the Games as several members test positive for the coronavirus.

What you’re doing

My baby girl is quite the pandemic baby. At five months old, we went into lockdown. She learned to say the word “mask” far before “bye bye” because no one ever went bye bye. As we approach my daughter’s second birthday, I certainly thought the concept of masks would be long forgotten. She has been under the age recommended for mask wearing. But tonight she excitedly opened her very own bag of masks, started playing with them, and tried wearing them while proclaiming “my mask like mama’s!” While I acknowledged my deep sadness for my daughter and her generation, I did what many pandemic mamas do — I smiled and showed her how to put on a mask.

— Dana Siperstein, East Greenwich, R.I.

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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