Chicago Cancels Classes as Teachers Resist Returning to School

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Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

Public school officials in Chicago canceled classes for Wednesday amid a clash with the teachers’ union, whose members had threatened to stay home in a bid to force instruction online during a coronavirus surge.

Union members had criticized the district’s response to the Omicron variant, which has pushed cases in the city to record levels, and said conditions in classrooms were unsafe. The Chicago Teachers Union said late Tuesday night that 73 percent of members who voted favored pausing in-person instruction.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said reverting to online schooling was unacceptable and unnecessary, and her administration decided to call off class altogether — keeping the buildings open for emergency child care — rather than return to virtual instruction.

“Nobody signs up for being a home-schooler at the last minute,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “We can’t forget about how disruptive that remote process is to individual parents who have to work, who can’t afford the luxury of staying home.”

Ms. Lightfoot, a Democrat, urged teachers to report to work and suggested they were considering an illegal work stoppage.

As highly contagious Omicron rears its head, so do debates that were considered settled. After a relatively calm fall, when school administrators, unions and families largely agreed that remote schooling was a nonstarter, the brinkmanship between the third-largest U.S. district and its union exposes just how quickly that political consensus can fall away.

Like other school systems, Chicago has had to confront a shortage of tests, and a far from universal vaccination rate among students. There have been large numbers of staff members calling in sick, and widespread anxiety among just about everyone. Other districts, including in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Atlanta, have also gone online temporarily, but without a public labor dispute. The ongoing chaos has unnerved parents who are desperate for some kind of stability.

Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in Chicago to their highest rate since the pandemic began. But as in the rest of the country, vaccinated adults have had lower rates of hospitalization and death, while children of all ages — regardless of vaccination status — have overwhelmingly been spared severe outcomes.

In addition, data from Chicago and elsewhere shows that in-school transmission of the coronavirus has been limited, with a majority of teacher and student cases originating outside school buildings. More than 90 percent of Chicago Public Schools employees are fully vaccinated.

Still, members of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union have accused the school district of failing to adjust to Omicron, and the growing threat of breakthrough infections. During the holiday break, they had asked for either universal P.C.R. testing of students and staff or a two-week transition to remote learning.

“We are between a rock and a hard place — the rock being the pandemic, the hard place being an intractable, incompetent mayor,” Stacy Davis Gates, the union’s vice president, said this week. She added, “We said a two-week pause so they could get themselves together, have the proper communication, put in the necessary mitigations.”

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Credit…Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

Despite sharp criticism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday stood by its recommendation that Americans infected with the coronavirus end their isolation after five days without first obtaining a negative virus test.

The agency guidelines, released last week, shortened the recommended isolation period from 10 days to five for infected people who do not have symptoms, or whose symptoms are resolving. But the agency did not recommend testing before leaving isolation, an omission that surprised and worried many outside experts.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, told The New York Times last week that the recommendation was based on evidence showing that most people are no longer contagious five days after symptoms appear. But the agency did not share the data behind the decision.

The guidelines suggested that following isolation, recovered people wear a mask around others for another five days. Dr. Walensky defended the decision to omit testing, saying that rapid tests are not reliable for determining when an individual is no longer contagious.

The Food and Drug Administration also said last week that rapid tests might be less reliable at picking up Omicron, compared with infections caused by previous variants. But the agency declined to elaborate on the basis for that assertion.

Many public health experts said ending isolation at five days was risky, and that the agency should at least urge people to test negative before mingling with others. They also derided the agency for what some saw as a capitulation to pressure from corporations buckling under staff shortages during the Omicron surge.

Responding to some of the criticisms, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top coronavirus adviser, said on Sunday that the C.D.C. was considering adding testing to its recommendations, and would clarify the guidance within days.

The agency was widely expected to add testing to its guidance as early as Tuesday. But in a surprising move, officials updated the C.D.C. website without a testing requirement. The agency on Tuesday also provided scientific rationale for shortening the isolation period.

The guidelines now say that an individual who “has access to a test and wants to test” at the end of the isolation period may do so, but stops short of a recommendation to test.

The new guidelines “facilitate individual social and well-being needs, return to work, and maintenance of critical infrastructure,” according to an update posted on Tuesday to the agency’s website.

For people exposed to the virus who are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose of one of the vaccines, the agency now recommends a quarantine of five days, followed by strict mask use for another five.

People who have received a booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days afterward, according to the guidelines.

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Credit…Hannah Beier/Reuters

Women who received Covid vaccinations while pregnant were at no greater risk of delivering their babies prematurely or of giving birth to unusually small babies than pregnant women who did not get vaccinated, a new study reports.

The study, one of the first to examine the health of babies born to women vaccinated during pregnancy, was a reassuring signal. Low-birth-weight babies and infants born early are more likely to experience developmental delays and other health problems.

An earlier study had found that women vaccinated during pregnancy did not face a higher risk of miscarriage than the unvaccinated.

The new study looked at some 46,079 singleton pregnancies that resulted in a live birth, including some 10,064 among women who received one or more doses of Covid vaccine between Dec. 15, 2020, and July 22, 2021, during their pregnancies. Most had received the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, and the vast majority were inoculated during their second or third trimester.

Overall, 6.6 percent of the babies were born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and 8.2 percent were born small for their gestational age, weighing less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces. Researchers found no difference in the rates among mothers who had been vaccinated while pregnant and those who had not.

“We plan to do follow-up studies on infants and their development, but there hasn’t been enough time to do them yet,” said Dr. Heather S. Lipkind, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Yale University and lead author on the new research.

The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with Dr. Lipkind, HealthPartners Institute, Kaiser Permanente researchers and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

The risks of pre-term birth, which appear to be higher when pregnant women are infected with the coronavirus, are well established, she said: “With each week of gestation, the brain develops more. If you have Covid and have to deliver preterm, that can also affect long-term development.”

Another benefit to vaccination is that women may pass on coronavirus antibodies to their infants, helping to protect them from illness, Dr. Lipkind added.

Pregnant women who become infected face a higher risk of developing severe disease, and federal health officials have implored them to get vaccinated. Nevertheless, vaccination rates remain low among pregnant women — about 31 percent as of late September.

Vaccination rates also vary widely by community. While almost half of all pregnant Asian Americans are vaccinated, only 25 percent of pregnant Hispanic women are, and only 15 percent of pregnant Black women, according to the C.D.C.

“I can tell you, anecdotally, that in my practice women who are not vaccinated are for sure getting way sicker,” Dr. Lipkind said, “and we’re seeing pre-term birth in pregnant women who had Covid and loss of pregnancy. It’s very, very tragic.”

She strongly encourages her patients to get vaccinated, especially now that the highly contagious Omicron variant is circulating. But she often faces fierce resistance, she said.

“I think people are just afraid of the unknown in general with pregnancy,” Dr. Lipkind said. “This new research should make people feel a little better about vaccination.”

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Credit…Brian Witte/Associated Press

The governor of Maryland declared a 30-day state of emergency on Tuesday and mobilized 1,000 members of the National Guard in response to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Gov. Larry Hogan wrote on Twitter that the actions were needed “to combat the current COVID-19 surge.” The emergency order also allows the state’s health secretary to “regulate hospital personnel, bed space, and supplies,” Mr. Hogan said on Twitter.

7–day average

12,940

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of the most recent seven days of data.

In Maryland, 70 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, including 80 percent of people age 12 and older, according to a New York Times database. But officials have been bracing for what they said may be one of the worst waves of the pandemic.

The daily average of coronavirus cases has soared by more than 700 percent over the past two weeks, according to The Times’ database.

Nationally, the spike has been no less staggering. The United States is averaging more than 547,600 cases daily, a record and a 254 percent increase from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are rising more slowly, up 43 percent in the past two weeks, and a smaller proportion of patients are landing in intensive care units or requiring mechanical ventilation, compared with those in previous waves. Deaths are down by 3 percent.

Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, hospitals were filled with unvaccinated patients, Mr. Hogan said Sunday on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

“We’re going to take and continue to take every action we possibly can to help our hospitals, our nursing homes and to keep people safe,” he said.

7–day average

2,667

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

It’s unclear how many hospitalizations are patients infected with Omicron versus the Delta variant, which is thought to be significantly more virulent. According to the C.D.C., about 58 percent of cases in Maryland and nearby states are currently Omicron.

The Maryland Hospital Association said that the number of hospital patients surpassed the state’s Covid peak from last winter.

Melina Delkic contributed reporting.

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Credit…Julio Cortez/Associated Press

A lawsuit filed by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Tuesday challenging the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate revealed that thousands of members of the Texas Army National Guard had refused to receive Covid vaccinations.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Texas, seeks to prevent unvaccinated National Guard members from being penalized or discharged. It comes as Mr. Abbott has called up thousands of members of the Texas Military Department, which includes the National Guard, to join in border security operations.

The filing notes that about 40 percent of the state’s Army National Guard have not been vaccinated “for either religious accommodation needs or otherwise.”

No indication of the size of that force is evident on the Texas Army National Guard’s website, but Stars & Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. armed forces, said that a 2018 Texas Military Department report put the number at about 18,160. Forty percent of that would be more than 7,000 people.

The suit indicated that less than 10 percent of the Texas Air National Guard were unvaccinated. It said that “more than 220” members had declined to be vaccinated in a force that the 2018 report put at more than 3,000.

7–day average

37,390

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of the most recent seven days of data.

Mr. Abbott, who is facing reelection this year, has barred mask and vaccine mandates within Texas and has mounted a strong fight against federal mandates. The state lags the national average in Covid vaccinations, with about 57 percent of the population fully vaccinated, and its Covid hospitalizations have risen 87 percent over the past two weeks as cases have exploded there, according to a New York Times database.

The suit was the latest effort by a Republican-led state government to prevent the federal mandate for their National Guards, arguing that it impinges on their command over state troops.

In mid-December, the governors of Alaska, Wyoming, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska — all Republicans — asked the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, for exemptions. At the end of December, a federal judge rejected a legal challenge to the federal mandate filed by the governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, also a Republican.

Mr. Austin, who was also named in Mr. Abbott’s suit, has repeatedly affirmed that the mandate applies to the National Guard. On Sunday, after he announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, he added that the vaccination would “remain a military medical requirement for our workforce,” which he said “remains a readiness issue.”

The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce. I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue. 7/7

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) January 3, 2022

In a letter on Tuesday to Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the commander of the Texas Military Department, Mr. Abbott described his intent to fight the federal mandate, but also forecast possible defeat.

“I cannot guarantee that the judiciary will grant the relief you deserve,” he wrote, adding, “Win or lose, President Biden must be held accountable for his unconscionable willingness to hollow out the Texas National Guard. Please know that I am grateful for your service and will continue fighting on your behalf.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said the country can “ride out” the wave of Omicron cases without a strict lockdown.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Steve Parsons

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Tuesday said that despite the record surge in coronavirus cases, the limited restrictions currently in place in England were the right approach and would be maintained.

“We have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again,” Mr. Johnson said at an evening news conference, adding, “We can keep our schools and businesses open, and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

The prime minister said he would urge the cabinet to carry on with the current coronavirus contingency measures, called “Plan B,” which were introduced in early December as the Omicron wave took hold. They include masking mandates, guidance to work from home and the use of vaccine passports, but they fall short of the stricter lockdown measures some opposition lawmakers and scientists had called for.

“I do think the balance of measures that we have is the right one,” Mr. Johnson said. He said he believed there was a “good chance” of getting through the wave without further restrictions.

As Mr. Johnson’s government has pushed for the Britain to remain open in recent weeks, a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant has added to the pressure to shut down. On Tuesday, some 218,000 new coronavirus cases were reported, and hospitalizations have continued to rise.

7–day average

186,121

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

Absences at a number of hospitals across England have left a number of facilities critically short of staff, field hospitals have been set up to deal with an overflow of patients, and public transportation has been hit with shutdowns as workers called in sick.

Mr. Johnson acknowledged that the weeks ahead would be challenging. But he pointed to support being given to key industries and said he believed the staff shortages would be far less disruptive than a lockdown. He said the government has identified 100,000 critical workers who will be offered daily virus tests to help keep essential services open.

Schools in England reopened on Tuesday with new measures, including extended masking requirements and testing. Recently retired teachers were being asked to return to cover absences. And as England’s national health service moved to a “war footing,” the government was working to identify hospitals most likely to need military support.

Despite the rise in cases, there were some glimmers of good news.

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said on Tuesday that new data showed that a booster shot gives a person around 88 percent protection against hospitalization, and that protection was likely to be even greater when it came to mortality.

Earlier in the day, Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said that he was “cautiously optimistic” that coronavirus infection rates in London in the key 18 to 50 age group that has been driving the Omicron outbreak “may possibly have plateaued.”

Professor Ferguson told the BBC that it was too early to say whether new infections were going down, but the growth in some areas had slowed. He cautioned, however, that it could be weeks before the full impact of social mixing over Christmas was known. Holiday socializing may prove especially risky for older populations, he said.

“Hospitalizations are still generally going up across the country and we may see high levels for some weeks,” Professor Ferguson said, adding that the numbers are still far below levels seen during a peak last year.

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transcript

transcript

‘We May Need Even More’: Biden Doubles Pfizer’s Covid Pills Order

President Biden announced that the United States government doubled its order for Pfizer’s Covid pills, bringing the total order to 20 million treatment courses.

I’m pleased to say that on Christmas Eve, we shipped out the first batch of these pills that we received. The United States has more pills than any other country in the world, and our supply is going to ramp up over the coming months as more of these pills are manufactured. Today, I’m directing my team to work with Pfizer to double our order from 10 million to 20 million treatment courses to be delivered in the months ahead. We may need even more. These pills are going to dramatically decrease hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19. They’re a game changer, and have the potential to dramatically alter the impact of Covid-19, the impact it’s had on this country and our people.

President Biden announced that the United States government doubled its order for Pfizer’s Covid pills, bringing the total order to 20 million treatment courses.CreditCredit…Pfizer, via Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States government doubled its order for Pfizer’s Covid pills on Tuesday, a move that will modestly increase the nation’s very limited supply of the treatment in the short term amid a record-setting surge in coronavirus cases.

The new order will eventually provide enough pills for an additional 10 million Americans, bringing the government’s total order of the drug to 20 million treatment courses. But they will not all be available right away. Only 35,000 of the additional courses will be delivered this month, and 50,000 more in February, supplementing 350,000 treatment courses that were already expected over the next two months, according to a senior administration official.

The order underscored how urgently health providers need alternatives to vaccines, as roughly 35 million adults remain without a shot and more vulnerable to severe outcomes from Covid. Tens of millions more have been vaccinated but have risk factors that also make them especially vulnerable.

The new order also suggests that the federal pandemic response will increasingly rely on oral treatments, which are scarce and facing intense demand.

“We may need even more,” President Biden said on Tuesday, announcing the move ahead of a Covid briefing he was set to receive from health advisers. “That’s the estimate we need right now.”

The government has agreed to pay Pfizer $530 for each treatment course, the same amount it paid for its initial order late last year, the senior official said.

Monthly deliveries of the Pfizer treatment, known as Paxlovid, are not expected to ramp up into the millions until April, too late to help with the current surge. The combined order is not due to be completely filled until the end of September.

Still, Mr. Biden described the doubled order as a key component of the federal government’s Covid strategy. “They’re a game-changer,” he said, “and have the potential to dramatically alter” the course of the pandemic.

Paxlovid was authorized two weeks ago for use in high-risk Covid patients age 12 or older. Pfizer expects to produce 120 million courses of it in 2022 for all global buyers. The treatment has proved in clinical trials to be highly effective in staving off severe illness when taken soon after the start of symptoms.

Pfizer’s treatment is meant to be taken as 30 pills over five days, with patients taking three pills at a time: two of Pfizer’s pills and one of a low-dose H.I.V. drug known as ritonavir, which helps Pfizer’s drug remain active in the body longer.

But public health experts have warned that without an adequate testing supply — a problem in many parts of the country — it could be difficult to quickly get the pills to those most in need.

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Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

A mother in rural Wisconsin said she felt “utterly helpless” as she sent her 13-year-old off to school. Another, in suburban New Jersey, expressed frustration that her highly vaccinated district hadn’t loosened quarantine requirements. One in Chicago said she hoped the city’s teachers followed through on their threat to walk out so her 12-year-old daughter wouldn’t have to return to a crowded classroom.

This is parenthood nearly two years into the pandemic, as schools reopen after the holidays. Or don’t. Or do halfway, or open and close again, or — they’re not sure. They’ll let you know tomorrow.

The New York Times asked parents to share how they were handling their schools’ approaches. Hundreds responded, almost all of them mothers. Their answers varied widely in specifics but mostly boiled down to: Not well.

“I am screaming inside,” wrote Cathy Nieng, the Chicago mother.

“I cry a lot,” said Juliana Gamble, whose children — ages 2 and 7 — have been in school and day care in Boston for just 11 days in the past eight weeks. “I feel a total loss of control of my life.”

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Credit…M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that Americans who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine seek a booster shot five months after the second shot, and not wait six months, as earlier guidance had said.

The agency also recommended that some immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 receive an additional primary vaccine shot 28 days after the second shot, matching the guidance for similar people 12 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one authorized for pediatric use in the United States.

The endorsements come on the heels of the authorization of the same steps by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

The F.D.A. also cleared 12- to 15-year-olds to receive boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The C.D.C.’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to recommend that step.

The C.D.C. and the F.D.A. share responsibility for setting the nation’s vaccine policy, and have worked to present a unified front in their reviews of booster shots. If the advisory committee does follow the F.D.A.’s lead, the C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, is expected to quickly sign off on the recommendation.

The moves come at a time when the fast-spreading Omicron variant is infecting record numbers of Americans each day, and many hospitals in the United States are already deluged with Covid-19 patients with the earlier Delta variant.

Federal guidance has not changed for when to seek booster shots after initially receiving the Moderna vaccine (6 months after the second shot) or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (2 months after the single shot).

More than 70 percent of people in the United States who are 12 or older have been fully vaccinated, according to the C.D.C.

In total, at least 1.9 million adolescents between 12 and 15 have tested positive for the virus, according to the C.D.C. Children who get infected with the coronavirus are less likely to develop serious illness than adults are, but they can still become very sick and even die.

The F.D.A. noted that data from Israel showed no serious safety concerns in thousands of 12- to 15-year-olds who received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine. There were no reports of myocarditis, a very rare side effect linked to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that has been seen mostly in younger men. The condition involves inflammation of muscle tissue in the heart.

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Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Macy’s began requesting the vaccination statuses of employees on Tuesday, a sign it was preparing for a potential mandate of vaccinations or weekly testing ahead of a special Supreme Court hearing about such rules on Friday.

In a memo sent to employees that was obtained by The New York Times, the retailer — which also owns Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury — told workers in the United States to upload their vaccination statuses to a third-party platform by Jan. 16 “regardless of whether you work in a store, a supply chain facility, an office, or are remote/hybrid.” For employees who say they are unvaccinated, Macy’s said it would “review your submission and you may be contacted by someone from the Colleague Advisory team to discuss next steps.” The company also said it might require proof of negative tests to be uploaded to the same system starting on Feb. 16.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold the hearing this week to assess the legality of two measures from the Biden administration: a vaccine-or-testing mandate aimed at large employers and a vaccination requirement for certain health care workers. The retail industry had pushed back on a new rule issued in November by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring companies with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccines or weekly tests, saying it could intensify a labor shortage that many retailers were dealing with during the busy holiday season.

Since then, the Omicron variant has sent global coronavirus cases to record levels, though recent data shows that people infected with it are far less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the Delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated.

Macy’s said separately on Tuesday that it planned to shorten store hours from Monday through Thursday for the rest of January amid the spike and staffing shortages. The news was reported earlier by CNBC.

The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement on Tuesday that it “continues to believe that OSHA exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate, and we look forward to making that argument before the Supreme Court on Friday.” The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that “such testing capacity currently does not exist.” Still, the memo from Macy’s, which has tens of thousands of employees, suggests that the industry is preparing to carry out the rule. Macy’s also said in its memo that it would adopt the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended shortening isolation periods for infected people to five days from 10 if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving.

The retailer asked in the fall that its corporate staff either be vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19 before returning to the office, but it did not make the same request of store employees.

When asked about the memo, a Macy’s representative said in an email that the retailer was “working to comply with federal and local guidelines related to Covid.”

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Credit…Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Seth Meyers, the host of NBC’s “Late Night,” said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and that tapings of his program would be canceled through the end of the week.

In a tweet posted Tuesday morning, Mr. Meyers wrote, “The bad news is, I tested positive for COVID (thanks, 2022!) the good news is, I feel fine (thanks vaccines and booster!)”

He indicated that “Late Night” would probably return in a remote format next week, asking viewers to “tune in next Monday to see what cool location we will try and pass off as a studio!!!”

The bad news is, I tested positive for COVID (thanks, 2022!) the good news is, I feel fine (thanks vaccines and booster!) We are canceling the rest of the shows this week, so tune in next Monday to see what cool location we will try and pass off as a studio!!!

— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) January 4, 2022

Mr. Meyers, a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, had just returned to “Late Night” on Monday after a holiday break, in a broadcast that featured a live studio audience and guests (including the musician David Byrne and cast members from the NBC drama “This Is Us”) who appeared in remote interviews.

“Late Night” is one of several NBC programs produced at the network’s flagship New York headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, along with “S.N.L.” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Mr. Fallon, the “Tonight Show” host, said that he had tested positive for the virus over the holidays and that he experienced “mild symptoms” while his program was on a scheduled break. He returned to host “Tonight” on Monday.

The final “S.N.L.” broadcast of 2021, which was shown on Dec. 18, was also significantly disrupted by the emergence of the Omicron variant. It aired without a live audience or a musical guest, and with most of its regular cast members absent.

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Credit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In his first big test as mayor of New York City, Eric Adams is resisting pressure from municipal unions and elected officials to do more to stop the spread of the coronavirus as cases and hospitalizations are surging.

Mr. Adams is holding firm that schools must stay open, and he is urging employers to have employees return to their offices, despite calls from some union leaders to temporarily return to virtual learning and remote work.

With coronavirus cases rising rapidly in recent days, a small but growing list of public school districts around the country — including Newark, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Cleveland — have moved temporarily to remote learning. On Monday night, Philadelphia’s school district announced that 81 schools, out of 216, would go remote.

In an interview on CNN on Tuesday morning, Mr. Adams defended his decision to reopen schools, even though roughly a third of parents did not send their children back to classrooms on Monday for the start of the semester. He continued to argue that students were safer at school.

“I’m not going to allow the hysteria to prevent the future of my children receiving a quality education,” Mr. Adams said on CNN.

On Tuesday, President Biden, citing the lack of evidence that Omicron more severely impacts children, called for schools to remain open in the United States. Local officials should use federal funds from the stimulus package passed last year to improve ventilation systems in schools and support classrooms large enough for social distancing, he said.

“We have no reason to think at this point that Omicron is worse for children than previous variants,” Mr. Biden said. “We know that our kids can be safe when in school.”

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who was sworn in on Saturday just after the New Year’s Eve ball dropped in Times Square, also urged companies not to allow employees to work remotely, echoing a message he conveyed Monday on Bloomberg TV: “You can’t run New York City from home.”

Mr. Adams insisted on Tuesday that he was not at war with the teachers’ union and its president, Michael Mulgrew, who had called for a temporary return to remote learning.

“There’s no battle between Michael Mulgrew and Eric Adams,” Mr. Adams said, adding that they speak three times a day and were working together to keep classrooms safe.

Mr. Adams has repeatedly argued that city schools must stay open and that poor children in particular suffered from remote learning. He recently announced, alongside his predecessor and the governor, a plan to distribute millions of rapid at-home tests to schools and increase random surveillance testing among students.

New York City reported nearly 30,000 new virus cases on Monday, and the number of people hospitalized has surpassed 5,000, according to state data. That level exceeds last winter’s peak, but is still below the hospitalization rate during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when 12,000 people were hospitalized on the worst days.

There are long lines outside testing centers, as has been the case for weeks, and many private companies have said their employees should continue to work from home.

Some public officials have called for more aggressive measures to stop the spread of the virus, including Mark D. Levine, the new Manhattan borough president who has become a leading voice in amplifying the views of health experts.

Mr. Levine released a 16-point plan on Monday that called on the city to encourage New Yorkers to avoid large gatherings, to temporarily allow city employees to work from home and to require masks at all indoor settings for vaccinated and unvaccinated New Yorkers.

“We need to act now to slow this wave, protect our hospitals, and support the sick,” he said.

His plan has received support from leaders including Randi Weingarten, the head of the country’s most powerful teachers union, and Ron T. Kim, a state assemblyman from Queens.

In September, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered city employees who had been working from home to return to offices. The city has more than 300,000 workers, and about 80,000 of those who work in offices and had been allowed to work remotely were required to return.

As coronavirus cases began to soar in December, the largest union representing city workers called on Mr. de Blasio to implement a remote policy for employees who are able to do their jobs from home. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the union, District Council 37, said it would continue to push Mr. Adams for a remote policy.

“Our nonessential members have proven they can do their jobs from home,” the spokeswoman, Freddi Goldstein, said. “There’s no reason to keep them in the office risking their health.”

Mr. Adams, who is close with District Council 37 leaders, has said that he would discuss the policy with unions.

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Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

As New York State all but ran out of its share of a federal pandemic rent relief program in the fall, state officials asked the federal government for $1 billion more — money they said was necessary to keep tens of thousands of struggling residents out of debt and in their homes.

But the state has now received some sobering news: it stands to receive about $27 million, less than 3 percent of what it requested.

The gap between the need outlined by the state and the money it is getting is yet another stark illustration of just how severe the economic crisis has been in New York and elsewhere. State and federal officials said the need was high in places all around the country and there is only a limited pot of funds overall.

But without more aid, tens of thousands of renters who lost their jobs in the pandemic will not be able to cover their debts and could be at greater risk of eviction when a moratorium expires in less than two weeks. Landlords also will not be able to make up the lost rental income.

“If we can’t make up that shortfall, it’s going to mean that many tenants and their landlords are going to continue to struggle with the consequences of the decisions the government made in response to Covid,” said Brian Kavanaugh, a Democrat who sponsored the bill that created New York’s rent relief program and who is chair of the State Senate’s housing committee.

7–day average

66,515

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of the most recent seven days of data.

The funds are part of a more than $46 billion federal program, set up by Congress through two stimulus bills passed in 2020 and 2021, which is distributing aid across the nation. New York’s share was about $2.4 billion, but by the fall, nearly all of the state’s money was either paid out or spoken for, state officials had said. New York then stopped taking most new applications.

There was a chance the state could have still received more. Under the law, places that had not used much of their money could see their funds reallocated to other states with greater need. A county in Texas, for example, voted in November to return some $7 million to the federal government.

But in an email sent to the state on Thursday, an official with the Treasury Department said that “the amount of reallocated funds requested” by states like New York and other localities was “far greater than the funding available to distribute.”

The Treasury Department did not answer questions about how New York’s share was determined or how much other states may have received. But a spokeswoman for the department said that more money would be redistributed in the future.

The amount New York is receiving in additional rent relief was reported by Law 360 on Tuesday based on information included in a court document written by Barbara C. Guinn, the executive deputy commissioner of the office of temporary and disability assistance, the state agency that is administering New York’s rent relief program.

That document was filed on Monday in a lawsuit filed by some renters and housing groups over the state’s decision to stop taking applications for rent relief.

A spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was “disappointed” in the amount it was slated to receive, but said the state would “continue pursuing all avenues to secure federal funding that keeps New Yorkers in their homes.”

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Credit…International Polar Foundation/Reuters

The International Polar Foundation confirmed on Tuesday that 11 workers at a research station in Antarctica had tested positive for the coronavirus last month despite testing and quarantine requirements for new arrivals.

All of the infected workers — eight of whom are still in Antarctica, and three of whom left on a scheduled Dec. 23 flight — were vaccinated and have recovered, according to the foundation, which is based in Belgium and operates that country’s Princess Elisabeth Station Antarctica research facility. (The facility is named for a member of the Belgian royal family.)

The outbreak is not the first among the dozens of research stations scattered around Antarctica; 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base there tested positive in December 2020. But it underscores the ruthlessness with which the virus is spreading, even in the most remote places and among the most vaccinated populations.

There are now 30 people stationed at the Princess Elisabeth station, which is about 2,600 miles south of Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, four scientists are conducting “remote field work,” according to the foundation.

Some news outlets have reported that 16 people tested positive, a number the foundation said was inaccurate. It also pushed back against reports that it had “suspended” flights to and from the station until Jan. 12, saying that no flights had been scheduled between Dec. 23 and Jan. 12 in the first place.

“The management at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica offered anyone who so wished the opportunity to leave on a scheduled flight on January 12,” the foundation said in its statement on Tuesday. “However, all who were on longer missions expressed their wish to stay and continue their work. In addition, a new team of scientists will arrive at the station on January 12 as planned. They were also informed of the outbreak and given the opportunity to cancel, which they refused.”

Workers at the station are all vaccinated, but only one has received a booster shot. New arrivals are required to take a P.C.R. test within 72 hours of flying to Cape Town; quarantine for five days; take another P.C.R. test within 48 hours of flying from Cape Town to Antarctica; and take a final test five days after arriving at the Princess Elisabeth Station.

According to the foundation, a group arrived in Antarctica on Dec. 9, and all members tested negative on Dec. 14.

The first infection was detected on Dec. 15. The foundation said medical staff had “isolated all residents of the station who presented symptoms to such a level that there was a risk of further contamination for others” — leaving it unclear whether asymptomatic workers had been required to isolate, and what criteria were used to determine who posed a risk. An infected person can transmit the virus even if they have no symptoms.

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Credit…Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — Fourth shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine produce a fivefold increase in antibodies in recipients’ blood, according to preliminary study results announced on Tuesday by an Israeli hospital.

The small, pioneering research study, underway for a week, is meant to test the safety and effectiveness of giving yet another shot of the vaccine to people who have already received a booster dose.

Still, there remains debate over whether fourth shots are advisable, as research indicates that Covid vaccines already protect against the worst outcomes, including from the Omicron variant. Any booster is likely to raise the number of antibodies in the short term; the question remains how long the effect will last, since antibodies inevitably decline over time.

Officials at the hospital — Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv — said the increase in antibodies, which are the body’s frontline defense against infection but are just one of the many parts of the human immune system, could provide protection against infection, with the Omicron variant now surging across much of the world.

The study involved administering an additional shot to 150 generally healthy medical workers who had received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least four months ago, and whose antibody count in blood tests had dropped below levels considered sufficient to protect against infection, according to a spokesman for Sheba.

7–day average

5,828

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

Israel is facing a surge in coronavirus cases, driven by the Omicron variant. In an effort to protect the most vulnerable parts of the population, Israel has already begun offering fourth vaccine doses to people aged 60 or over, to people with weakened immune systems, and to medical and nursing home workers.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a strong supporter of fourth shots, visited Sheba Medical Center on Tuesday and was the first to announce the preliminary results of the study. “The fourth vaccine, to a very high degree of probability, works,” he said.

Prof. Gili Regev Yochay, director of the infectious disease epidemiology unit at Sheba and the leader of the study, said it would yield more information in the coming days and weeks.

Israel was a leader in introducing the first round of Covid vaccinations and later in giving booster shots, putting it in a position to make early assessments of how effective the shots are and how quickly protection wears off.

A panel of medical experts advising the Israeli government recommended last month that the country start offering fourth doses, pointing to evidence of decreased protection against infection in people who were among the first to receive a third dose in August.

Israeli data showed that among people 60 or over, the rate of infection from the Delta variant doubled once four or five months had elapsed since they received booster shots. But there was no immediate evidence of decreased effectiveness against serious illness.

Health officials took some time to consider the fourth-shot recommendation, saying they were still gathering data about Omicron from abroad. Some experts asked whether the recommendation was premature, given the lack of data.

The Ministry of Health acted first to approve fourth doses for people with weakened immune systems, and then for the residents and staff of nursing homes. The ministry expanded eligibility on Sunday to everyone 60 or over, without presenting any new data to back the decision.

The decision was based on a rapid rise in infections in Israel and an assessment of the risk of increased serious illness, the ministry said, arguing that there was no time to wait for additional data.

But officials were at least convinced that a fourth dose was safe.

Sheba officials said on Sunday that side effects experienced by people who received a fourth dose as part of the study were similar to those felt after third doses: mainly mild reactions at the injection site, with a few temporary fevers or headaches.

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Credit…Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik, via Reuters

The president of Mozambique and his wife have tested positive for Covid-19 and are in isolation, the government said on Monday.

The president, Filipe Nyusi, 62, and his wife, Isaura, 59, took rapid tests and do not have symptoms, according to a statement released by his office. The couple decided to isolate while awaiting results from PCR tests, which were to be completed in a lab, the statement said.

Mr. Nyusi is the latest of several heads of state in southern Africa to test positive in recent weeks, among them President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and President Hage Geingob of Namibia.

In August, Mr. Nyusi began a mass vaccination drive for adult Mozambicans, and this week he renewed his call for all adults to get inoculated. Twenty-eight percent of the population has had at least one vaccine dose, according to Our World in Data, a project at the University of Oxford.

7–day average

2,957

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

The Omicron variant has led to a record number of new confirmed cases in the country. On Dec. 31, the authorities received reports of 4,861 new daily cases, the highest number recorded in one day since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said.

The previous day, Mr. Nyusi had visited military forces fighting an insurgency in the province of Cabo Delgado, in the north of the country. There he met President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and his wife. Officials in Botswana on Monday announced that Mr. Masisi was also isolating at his official residence after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in southern Africa in late November. The United States White House restricted travel to and from Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Namibia, drawing criticism from regional leaders and international health officials. The White House lifted the restrictions on Dec. 31.

Mozambique has recorded 192,453 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic started and 2,031 deaths, according to official data.

Tavares Cebola contributed reporting from Maputo, Mozambique.

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Credit…Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1-ranked male tennis player and his sport’s most prominent vaccination skeptic, said on Tuesday that he would play in this month’s Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption.

Djokovic, the men’s tournament’s defending champion, revealed his plans in a post on his Instagram account alongside a photograph of himself with luggage on an airport tarmac. “I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission,” he wrote. “Let’s go 2022.”

Tournament officials confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Djokovic had received a medical exemption after a review of his application by two independent panels, a procedure that strongly suggests he remains unvaccinated.

Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open, the tennis season’s first major, was in doubt as recently as last week, when he reportedly withdrew from an event in Sydney. Djokovic, who has had Covid, has consistently refused to say whether he has been inoculated or intends to be.

According to the rules for the Australian Open, all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or apply for and receive a medical exemption from an independent panel of experts.

In December, Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, raised new questions about his son’s participation, and his vaccination status, when he suggested that Djokovic was unlikely to play in Australia “under these blackmails and conditions.”

Those comments came only days before Novak Djokovic was named as a participant in the Australian Open by the tournament’s organizers when they released the entry list for the main draw.

“Defending champion Djokovic will play for an incredible 10th Australian Open trophy — and a men’s record 21st major singles title — and will be the favorite in a draw which showcases 49 of the world’s top 50,” the tournament said in a statement announcing the field.

But Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, which hosts the tournament, quickly moved to clarify that Djokovic’s inclusion in the entry list was not a confirmation that he had agreed to be vaccinated, or that he would be allowed to enter Australia, which has some of the world’s most strict coronavirus protocols for foreigners.

“As a matter of course, everyone goes on the entry list,” Tiley said in a local television interview at the time. “It’s not a commitment list about who’s exactly in the draw. That comes in several weeks’ time, when the actual list, and draw, gets finalized for the Australian Open.”

The Open’s draw will be held Jan. 10. The tournament begins on Jan. 17.

Global Roundup

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The police in Spain released a video showing the seizure of unauthorized antigen tests from a warehouse on Dec. 29. Amid a national shortage of coronavirus test kits, the police are investigating cases of theft or illegal trafficking of hundreds of thousands of the tests.CreditCredit…Spain’s National Police

The police in Spain are investigating major cases of theft or the illegal trafficking of Covid test kits amid a serious shortage of the tests.

The national police released a video showing their seizure of 300,000 unauthorized antigen tests from a warehouse on Dec. 29 in the municipality of Fuenlabrada on the outskirts of Madrid, the capital.And near Barcelona, 208,000 antigen tests were stolen from a warehouse on New Year’s Eve.

The criminal activity comes at a time when the shortage of test kits has prompted panic buying and long lines outside pharmacies and health care centers.

Before Christmas, Spain’s health minister, Carolina Darias, warned that the shortage of tests had become a “maximum worry” amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

She said the spread of the variant had increased demand for tests by more than 1,000 percent in two weeks.

On Monday, Spain reported about 35,000 new daily cases. The 14-day average case rate has climbed to almost 2,300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

7–day average

107,570

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

In other news from around the world:

  • The Philippines, which has fully vaccinated about 46 percent of its population, announced on Tuesday that it was expanding a lockdown for unvaccinated people around the capital, Manila, after the country reported 4,984 new cases, its second day of highs not seen in months. On Monday, the authorities in Metropolitan Manila, a densely populated area with a population of about 14 million, barred the unvaccinated from leaving home except for essential reasons, like procuring food and water, meeting medical needs and working. Tuesday’s announcement added the restrictions to the nearby areas of Bulacan, Cavite and Rizalbar as of Wednesday, to last until Jan. 15.

  • Hong Kong delayed its requirement that residents have at least one shot of Covid vaccine to enter restaurants from this month to late next month, Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said on Tuesday, as the city races to stamp out the spread of the Omicron variant. The rule will start on Feb. 24, after Lunar New Year celebrations have ended, to give businesses and residents time to prepare, Mrs. Lam said. The city, hampered by suspicion of her and her government, has fully vaccinated only about 69 percent of its population.

  • At least 2,000 passengers were stuck on a cruise ship between the coastal states of Maharashtra and Goa in India after more than 60 people onboard had tested positive for the coronavirus. The infected passengers had refused to be quarantined in Goa, local news media reported. As of Tuesday morning, the ship had been sent back to Mumbai, where it originated. The ship has been caught between two states where virus cases have spiked after crowded New Year’s celebrations and as a third wave, aided by the Omicron variant, appeared set to spread rapidly throughout the country. India’s Health Ministry reported 37,379 new infections on Tuesday, one of the highest daily totals since September.

  • In South Korea, more than 1,000 people, including some doctors, have filed a lawsuit against the government calling for vaccine passes to be abolished, claiming discrimination and excessive infringement on basic rights. The passes, introduced in December, allow those who are fully vaccinated or who have gotten a negative test result within 24 hours to enter many public venues. Criticism has emerged in many quarters, including from pregnant women, of whom more than 90 percent are not vaccinated against the virus, according to government data. Scientists say a growing body of evidence shows the vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy.

  • China ordered the nearly 1.2 million residents of the city of Yuzhou in Henan Province to stay home after three asymptomatic cases of the virus were discovered in recent days. The lockdown of 13 million residents in Xi’an, in northwestern China, is entering its second week.

  • The Royal Court in Sweden said in a statement on Tuesday that King Carl XVI Gustaf, 75, and Queen Silvia, 78, had tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday evening. They “have mild symptoms and feel well under the circumstances,” the statement said. Both were fully vaccinated and had received booster shots. A growing list of European royalty who have tested positive in recent weeks, including Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Princess Anne of Britain.

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Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

The economic recovery in New York will continue to lag that of the United States for years, with the city not expected to rebuild its labor force to prepandemic levels until late 2025, a year later than initially projected, according to a new economic forecast by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The report lays out a challenging road to recovery for New York, whose economy is underpinned by service industries closely tied to travel and tourism that collapsed at the start of the pandemic in spring 2020 and have been slow to recover.

Parts of the city’s economy have thrived during the pandemic — Wall Street firms and lately, residential sales — but the course of the coronavirus will largely dictate how and when New York rebounds, the city agency said. The broader national economy has regained nearly all the jobs lost during the pandemic, but New York has regained only about 35 percent of its lost jobs in 2020, the report said.

The prognosis also raises major questions about the impact of hybrid work on the value of office buildings, which pay a significant share of the city’s property taxes, and the future of brick-and-mortar retail, which was struggling even before the pandemic accelerated the move to online shopping.

“The increasingly unpredictable nature of the spread of Covid-19 variants continues to confound economic forecasts and will remain one of — if not the primary — risk to the stability of the city’s financial plan,” the report said.

The city government has avoided drastic cuts or tax increases because of $22 billion in federal aid for schools and city departments. The Independent Budget Office warned that the assistance has masked the true economic challenges confronting the city.

The city’s economy is expected to grow 4.4 percent in 2022, fueled by a demand for workers, but slow considerably in the following years, the agency said. The city could have 4.694 million workers at the end of 2025, a slight increase from the 4.679 million workers at the end of 2019.

But one key industry will take longer to recover: leisure and hospitality. By late 2025, the sector is projected to have 100,000 fewer employees than in late 2019 as tourism is slow to rebound and business travel is reduced significantly. A major source of income from tourism, the hotel occupancy tax, could reach $577 million in 2025, up from $85 million in 2021 but still below 2019 levels, the agency said.

“With so many New York City residents’ employment and well-being directly tied to the tourism industry, even modest declines in tourism could have major impacts on the city’s economy,” the report said.