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New York City, its bars, restaurants and tourist sites will have a "full reopening" on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
"We are ready to bring New York City back fully on July 1st, all systems go, because you've earned it," de Blasio said. He said that Broadway shows might take more time because they had been aiming for a September return, but that "some of the smaller, more intimate shows, we might be looking more like July, August, and we'll move heaven and earth to help them get that done."
De Blasio said he expects at least 400,000 jobs lost to the pandemic to return by year's end. The mayor cited the city's vaccination rate as crucial to the effort, saying 6.4 million New Yorkers have already been jabbed.
The city was among the hardest hit in the early stages of the pandemic, when long lines formed at hospital emergency rooms and ventilators were at a premium. More than 32,000 New Yorkers have died and more than 900,000 have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"This is going to be the summer of New York City," de Blasio said. "We're all going to get to enjoy the city again. And people are going to flock here from all over the country to be a part of this amazing moment in New York City."
Also in the news:
►Brazil joined the U.S. on Thursday as the only countries to report more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month as it heads toward possibly worse days with the Southern Hemisphere approaching winter.
►Arizona state Rep. Alma Hernandez, fully vaccinated for more than two months, has tested positive and is quarantining for a week. Hernandez said she has lost her sense of taste and smell and has a bad headache.
►Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a plan Thursday to tie the lifting of restrictions to the state's vaccination rate, setting specific benchmarks that must be reached to return to normal. About half of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose.
►New Orleans is ready to let the good times roll -- with some caution -- as officials said that starting Friday restaurants, bars and other businesses will be able to operate at 100% capacity. City mask mandates, however, will remain in place, and there will be limits for large indoor gatherings.
►More than 1 billion doses of vaccines have been administered globally, but 82% of them were in high- and upper-middle-income countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Only 0.3% were given in low-income countries, he said.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 575,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 150 million cases and 3.16 million deaths. More than 305 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 237 million have been administered, according to the CDC. Almost 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.
📘 What we're reading: Have a loved one who doesn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here's how to talk to them.
Pfizer to send smaller vaccine packages as demand decreases
With nearly 55% of U.S. adults vaccinated against the coronavirus and about 25% saying they don't intend to get the jabs, the vaccination campaign is shifting gears and Pfizer is coming up with smaller packaging for its doses.
Instead of providing boxes with 1,170 doses as a minimum order, U.S. vaccination sites will be able to request 450 doses and use only one-third of those at a time. Pfizer designed its initial packaging knowing early shots would be delivered at mass vaccination sites. Now that the vaccination effort is moving to local pharmacies and clinics, the company wanted to provide its shots in a more appropriately sized package, said Tanya Alcorn, who heads the company's supply chain.
Alcorn also said Pfizer is developing a new vaccine formulation to be available later this year that will not have to be diluted at the vaccination site, making it easier to deliver.
-- Karen Weintraub
Takeout booze could become a permanent cocktail in Colorado
People in Colorado could continue to celebrate happy hour at home with beverages from their favorite restaurants under a measure passed by the state House to continue the sale of to-go cocktails even when the pandemic ends. An executive order from Democratic Gov. Jared Polis allowing takeout alcohol expires this summer. If the legislation passes, it would allow such alcohol sales to continue indefinitely.
Colorado Restaurant Association CEO Sonia Riggs said the sales have been a "crucial lifeline" for restaurants during the pandemic. Riggs said 85% of residents favor making takeout and delivery alcohol permanent.
"We urge the Senate to move quickly to advance and pass this bill,” Riggs said.
Chicago reopens Navy Pier, United Center, lakefront beaches
Chicago peeled back capacity restrictions and announced a series of reopenings Thursday following a decline in new infections. Speaking at the city’s iconic Navy Pier, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the reopening of the pier, lakefront beaches and the United Center indoor arena.
“It’s time for the pier and the city to be open,” Lightfoot said. “Today is a day so many of us having been waiting for a very long time.”
Restaurants and bars can increase capacity, and large indoor venues – including spectator events, theaters, conventions and places of worship – can operate at 25% capacity. Fully vaccinated guests won’t count toward capacity, she said.
Chicago paused reopening in March amid the threat of a case surge. “Since then, we’ve made significant progress in reversing this rise,” Lightfoot said, largely because of vaccinations. More than half of adults in the city have received at least a first dose, Lightfoot said.
– Grace Hauck
'Huge victory': 92% of Americans who got first shot returned for second
About one in 10 Americans haven't gotten their second scheduled dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and while that worries epidemiologists, the follow-through is far better than other adult two-dose vaccines. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 92% of people who got the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine made it back for their second shot. Experts noted such completion numbers for the two-dose regime of the most widely used vaccines against the coronavirus are a cause for celebration.
"With the biggest mass vaccination program in history, 92% of people coming back for their second shot is a huge victory," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California-San Francisco.
– Elizabeth Weise
Moderna could make 4 billion vaccines by end of 2022
COVID-vaccine maker Moderna announced early Thursday that it will make as many as 1 billion doses of its shots this year and up to 3 billion next year. Most of next year’s doses will go toward vaccinating young children and for booster shots, which are likely to be needed as immunity wanes with time and in the face of new variants. Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the United States, including Moderna’s, one based on similar mRNA technology made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech and a single-dose shot by Johnson & Johnson.
“As we follow the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, we believe that there will continue to be a significant need for our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates into 2022 and 2023,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a prepared statement.
– Karen Weintraub
US relief reaching overwhelmed India
The first of several emergency relief shipments to India was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Thursday from Travis Air Force Base in California. The shipment includes 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators donated by California, 960,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests and 100,000 N95 masks to protect India’s front-line health care workers, U.S. Aid for International Development said. USAID said it has already provided over $23 million in assistance since the start of the pandemic, directly reaching nearly 10 million people in India.
The country's coronavirus problem continues to worsen: 379,308 cases and 3,645 deaths were reported on Wednesday, Johns Hopkins University data shows. The death toll has doubled in the last 10 days, and cases have doubled in the last 15 days. India accounted for 42% of the world's cases on Wednesday, and the share continues to increase quickly.
– Mike Stucka
Biden mum on push for fourth stimulus check
President Joe Biden did not raise the issue of a possible fourth stimulus check when he spoke before Congress on Wednesday night. Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are clamoring for a fourth round to help Americans who are still struggling financially during the pandemic. Such a move could lift more than 7 million people out of poverty, according to a recent analysis from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.
“Are we recovered? Are people still hurting? There’s some evidence that we’re not out of the woods yet," said Elaine Maag, a principal research associate for the center.
US may finally be turning corner on pandemic
Potential COVID surges may have collapsed in nearly all states, a USA TODAY analysis of the data shows. National case-count leaders New York, Michigan and now Florida all have reported falling case counts. But the threat has also fallen in most states with smaller populations.
"We should be mostly heading down toward a new normal," tweeted Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, noting that a majority of U.S. adults are now at least partially vaccinated. Clinical trials are underway for vaccinating children as young as 6 months old.
Florida, which still leads the nation in new cases, has seen those case counts fall 12% from the previous week. Florida only became the leader because counts in Michigan have plunged more than 36% from earlier this month.
– Mike Stucka
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID: Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City reopens July 1; Moderna