Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Who needs a booster shot?,


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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

Do Americans need coronavirus vaccine boosters, and if so, when?

The Biden administration has proposed booster shots for adults who had received their initial doses at least eight months ago, to be rolled out beginning Sept. 20. But many scientists are against the plan, saying that the original vaccine regimen continues to offer powerful protection against severe illness and hospitalization.

In a review published today, a group of scientists put it even more bluntly: They argue in the journal The Lancet that none of the data on vaccines so far provides credible evidence in support of boosters for the general population.

The 18 experts said that the benefits of boosters do not justify letting billions of people worldwide go unvaccinated, especially since that could lead to the rise of more virulent variants. Boosters may be advisable in some people with weak immune systems, they concluded, but are not yet needed for the general population.

The authors include Dr. Philip Krause and Dr. Marion Gruber, F.D.A. scientists who recently announced that they would be leaving the agency, in part because they disagreed with the Biden administration’s push for boosters. The high-profile departures were one of the latest examples of the growing tension within the federal government over the booster plan.

One group that is frequently left out of the booster debate: the millions of Americans who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which appears to be less effective than vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

My colleague David Leonhardt broke down the case for J.&.J. recipients getting a booster in the Morning newsletter. (His bottom line: Available evidence suggests they might benefit, but they may need to resort to some deviousness to get another shot.)

Washington State has some of the strictest pandemic restrictions in the nation: Residents must wear masks when gathering indoors, and many workers are under vaccination orders.

Across the border in Idaho — where the governor has refused to require masks or vaccinations — unchecked virus transmission has pushed the state’s hospitals beyond their breaking point. Patients are now swamping facilities in Washington as well.

As Idaho patients fill wards, Washington hospitals have had to postpone surgeries to remove brain tumors. Emergency rooms are backed up as nurses struggle through brutal shifts.

“We are delaying care for people who are in misery,” said Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer for Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, Wash. “It’s agonizing for those patients. This has real impacts on these people who are waiting.”

Some leaders in the state see Idaho’s outsourcing of Covid patients as a troubling example of how the failure to aggressively confront the virus in one state can deepen a crisis in another.

“We certainly need our friends in Idaho government to do more to preserve their citizens’ health, because we know that their crisis is becoming our problem,” said Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee.


Jade Miles, 5, center, started first grade in Brooklyn on Monday.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Classrooms reopened today in New York City, the nation’s largest school system.

Except for a few thousand children whom the city considers medically vulnerable, there is no remote learning option, so almost all of the city’s one million students are back in schools.


Students wait outside Bayside High School in Queens.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

For the roughly 600,000 students whose parents opted to have them learn at home last year, it’s a big transition. Many haven’t been inside a school building since March 2020.


In the Bronx, it’s masks up and hands on for the first day of school.Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

Unlike most districts, New York is requiring all adults in schools to be vaccinated. The city’s schools saw remarkably little Covid transmission last year, although that was before the spread of the Delta variant, and before many classrooms were at full capacity.

Some disruption to the school year in the city looks to be inevitable. Significant in-school transmission could force many school buildings — or even the entire system, if virus case numbers rise substantially — to shut down temporarily.

In other school news:

I am horrified and tired. Infection rates here in central Washington are going through the roof again. The hospital is overstretched and understaffed. Staff are tired of watching people suffocate to death. People get indignant when we ask if they are vaccinated, but when they get sick they expect the full extent of medical measures. I am afraid and don’t know how much longer I can do this.

— Wayne F. Hansen, a family nurse practitioner in Yakima, Wash.

On Friday, in the next chapter of “Our Changing Lives,” we’re taking stock of the summer. If you’d like to weigh in, you can do so here. We may feature it in our Friday section.

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Correction: In last Friday’s newsletter we wrote that unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely than unvaccinated Americans to die of Covid. The comparison should have been between unvaccinated and vaccinated Americans.

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