Parents Rally in Several U.S. Cities to Reopen Schools

Here’s what you need to know: The Piazza Duomo in Milan was deserted on Monday, the first day of new lockdown measures in Italy.Credit...Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times A year after Italy became the first European country to impose a national lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the nation has fallen eerily quiet once again, with new restrictions imposed on Monday in an effort to stop a third wave of infections that is threatening to wash over Europe and overwhelm its halting mass inoculation program. As he explained the measures on Friday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned that Italy was facing a “new wave of contagion,” driven by more infectious variants of the coronavirus. Just as before, Italy was not alone. “We have clear signs: The third wave in Germany has already begun,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, said during a news conference on Friday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary predicted that this week would be the most difficult since the start of the pandemic in terms of allocating hospital beds and breathing machines, as well as mobilizing nurses and doctors. Hospitalizations in France are at their highest levels since November, prompting the authorities to consider a third national lockdown. Across Europe, cases are spiking. Supply shortages and vaccine skepticism, as well as bureaucracy and logistical obstacles, have slowed the pace of inoculations. Governments are putting exhausted populations under lockdown. Street protests are turning violent. A year after the virus began spreading in Europe, things feel unnervingly the same. In Rome, the empty streets, closed schools, shuttered restaurants and canceled Easter holidays came as a relief to some residents after months of climbing infections, choked hospitals and deaths. “It’s a liberation to return to lockdown, because for months, after everything that happened, people of every age were going out acting like there was no problem” said Annarita Santini, 57, as she rode her bike in front of the Trevi Fountain, a popular site that had no visitors except for three police officers. “At least like this,” she added, “the air can be cleared and people will be scared again.” For months, Italy had relied on a color-coded system of restrictions that, unlike the blanket lockdown of last year, sought to surgically smother emerging outbreaks in order to keep much of the country open and running. It does not seem to have worked. “History repeats itself,” Massimo Galli, one of Italy’s top virologists, told the daily Corriere della Sera on Monday. “The third wave started, and the variants are running.” “Unfortunately we all got the illusion that the arrival of the vaccines would reduce the necessity of more drastic closures,” he said. “But the vaccines did not arrive in sufficient quantities.” A rally in San Francisco on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule at the city’s public schools.Credit...John G. Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock Parents of schoolchildren protested in several cities around the United States over the weekend, frustrated by the off-again-on-again reopening policies in some school districts and blanket closures in others a full year after the pandemic began, despite growing scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely if they follow basic procedures. Several hundred people rallied in downtown Naperville, Ill., on Sunday to urge officials to give students the option of returning to the classroom five days a week. Wielding signs with messages like “Get our kids back in school” and “Flip the school board,” demonstrators chanted, “Five days a week,” The Naperville Sun reported. In San Francisco, hundreds of parents and children marched on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule, arguing that a partial reopening falls short, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Similarly, parents demonstrated at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a local news station, saying a tentative agreement with teachers for a partial reopening in April was not enough. Parents pressing for in-person classes say that remote learning leaves students feeling emotionally and socially drained at home. They have the Biden administration on their side. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling the country in a campaign aimed at reopening schools. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last month saying it was safe for schools to reopen if they could ensure measures like proper masking, physical distancing and hygiene were taken. The recommendations called for every elementary school to open in some fashion. In early February, The New York Times surveyed 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — who largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time, in-person instruction. Some said that

Parents Rally in Several U.S. Cities to Reopen Schools
Here’s what you need to know: The Piazza Duomo in Milan was deserted on Monday, the first day of new lockdown measures in Italy.Credit...Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times A year after Italy became the first European country to impose a national lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the nation has fallen eerily quiet once again, with new restrictions imposed on Monday in an effort to stop a third wave of infections that is threatening to wash over Europe and overwhelm its halting mass inoculation program. As he explained the measures on Friday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned that Italy was facing a “new wave of contagion,” driven by more infectious variants of the coronavirus. Just as before, Italy was not alone. “We have clear signs: The third wave in Germany has already begun,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, said during a news conference on Friday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary predicted that this week would be the most difficult since the start of the pandemic in terms of allocating hospital beds and breathing machines, as well as mobilizing nurses and doctors. Hospitalizations in France are at their highest levels since November, prompting the authorities to consider a third national lockdown. Across Europe, cases are spiking. Supply shortages and vaccine skepticism, as well as bureaucracy and logistical obstacles, have slowed the pace of inoculations. Governments are putting exhausted populations under lockdown. Street protests are turning violent. A year after the virus began spreading in Europe, things feel unnervingly the same. In Rome, the empty streets, closed schools, shuttered restaurants and canceled Easter holidays came as a relief to some residents after months of climbing infections, choked hospitals and deaths. “It’s a liberation to return to lockdown, because for months, after everything that happened, people of every age were going out acting like there was no problem” said Annarita Santini, 57, as she rode her bike in front of the Trevi Fountain, a popular site that had no visitors except for three police officers. “At least like this,” she added, “the air can be cleared and people will be scared again.” For months, Italy had relied on a color-coded system of restrictions that, unlike the blanket lockdown of last year, sought to surgically smother emerging outbreaks in order to keep much of the country open and running. It does not seem to have worked. “History repeats itself,” Massimo Galli, one of Italy’s top virologists, told the daily Corriere della Sera on Monday. “The third wave started, and the variants are running.” “Unfortunately we all got the illusion that the arrival of the vaccines would reduce the necessity of more drastic closures,” he said. “But the vaccines did not arrive in sufficient quantities.” A rally in San Francisco on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule at the city’s public schools.Credit...John G. Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock Parents of schoolchildren protested in several cities around the United States over the weekend, frustrated by the off-again-on-again reopening policies in some school districts and blanket closures in others a full year after the pandemic began, despite growing scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely if they follow basic procedures. Several hundred people rallied in downtown Naperville, Ill., on Sunday to urge officials to give students the option of returning to the classroom five days a week. Wielding signs with messages like “Get our kids back in school” and “Flip the school board,” demonstrators chanted, “Five days a week,” The Naperville Sun reported. In San Francisco, hundreds of parents and children marched on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule, arguing that a partial reopening falls short, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Similarly, parents demonstrated at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a local news station, saying a tentative agreement with teachers for a partial reopening in April was not enough. Parents pressing for in-person classes say that remote learning leaves students feeling emotionally and socially drained at home. They have the Biden administration on their side. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling the country in a campaign aimed at reopening schools. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last month saying it was safe for schools to reopen if they could ensure measures like proper masking, physical distancing and hygiene were taken. The recommendations called for every elementary school to open in some fashion. In early February, The New York Times surveyed 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — who largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time, in-person instruction. Some said that was true even in communities where coronavirus cases were widespread, with proper safety precautions, including adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities. — Madeleine Ngo Heather Kilpatrick used to work in hospitality before the pandemic, but she now stays home with her 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne. Credit...Tony Luong for The New York Times In the year since the pandemic upended the U.S. economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances. An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned. These labor-force dropouts are not counted in the most commonly cited unemployment rate, which was 6.2 percent in February, making the group something of a hidden casualty of the pandemic. Now, as the labor market begins to emerge from the pandemic’s vise, whether those who have left the labor force return to work — and if so, how quickly — is one of the big questions about the shape of the recovery. There is some reason for optimism. Economists expect that many who have left the labor force in the past year will return to work once health concerns and child care issues are alleviated. And they are optimistic that as the labor market heats up, it will draw in workers who grew disenchanted with the job search. Moreover, after the last recession, many economists said those who left the labor force were unlikely to come back, whether because of disabilities, the opioid crisis, a loss of skills or other reasons. Yet labor force participation, adjusted for demographic shifts, eventually returned to its previous level. But the speed with which the pandemic has driven workers from the labor force could leave lasting damage. Many Facebook and Instagram users are already using the apps to share their vaccination status.Credit...Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press Facebook said on Monday that it planned to expand its efforts to help get people vaccinated against the coronavirus. The social network said it would roll out a new location-based tool to direct people to the clinics nearest to them that offer vaccinations, which users can find inside Facebook’s main app. The company will also have an information center for Covid-19-related questions and data inside its Instagram photo-sharing app, building on a similar effort that Facebook introduced last year. And it will keep adding automated chat bots to WhatsApp, which can text users information on where to get vaccinated. “By working closely with national and global health authorities and using our scale to reach people quickly, we’re doing our part to help people get credible information, get vaccinated and come back together safely,” Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a company blog post. While Facebook previously allowed anti-vaccination groups on its platform to flourish, last year it pledged to remove Covid-related misinformation from its site. It also labeled posts related to the coronavirus with links to its official information center so it could direct people to sources like the World Health Organization. But critics have said that false or misleading data about vaccines and the virus continues to be visible in private groups and pages on Facebook. Global Roundup A general practitioner giving the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Bruinisse, The Netherlands, last month.Credit...Marco De Swart/EPA, via Shutterstock Indonesia and the Netherlands became the latest countries to suspend use of the Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca, citing reports of unusual blood clotting problems among people who recently received the shots in Norway. The decision came after Norway said over the weekend that four people who received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine had experienced blood clotting issues and all had low platelet counts, although health officials emphasized that they were acting out of caution and that there was no evidence the problems had been caused by the vaccine. Leading public health agencies, including the World Health Organization, have said that millions of people have received the vaccine without experiencing blood clotting issues. By contrast, Thailand said that it would resume issuing the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha among the first to receive it. The European Medicines Agency and other regulators are investigating whether there is evidence of any link between the vaccine and blood clots. AstraZeneca defended its product on Sunday, saying that the company is continually monitoring its safety. “Around 17 million people in the E.U. and U.K. have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” said Ann Taylor, the company’s chief medical officer. Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the countries that have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Piedmont region in northern Italy said on Sunday that it would temporarily stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, a day after a teacher there died after receiving the shot. In other news from around the world: Three-quarters of people in Italy entered a strict lockdown on Monday, as the government put in place restrictive measures to fight the rise in infections. A more contagious variant first identified in Britain, combined with a slow vaccine rollout, led to a 15 percent increase in cases in Italy last week. The government of Hong Kong said on Monday that vaccine eligibility would be expanded to include everyone age 30 and older regardless of occupation, as the Chinese territory tries to increase vaccine uptake. About 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents have received a first dose of either the BioNTech or Sinovac vaccines since the inoculation drive began late last month. But the proportion of people who show up for their appointments has fallen amid reports that six people have died after receiving the vaccine developed by Sinovac, a private Chinese company. Officials say that two of the deaths are not directly related to the vaccine and that the others are under investigation. The vaccine announcement came as Hong Kong is trying to contain a cluster of cases that began at a gym and has grown to 122 people, with more than 850 close contacts sent to government quarantine facilities and multiple residential buildings locked down overnight for mandatory testing. Also on Monday, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said it was closing for deep cleaning after two employees tested positive for the virus. At North Dakota State University in October. Several studies have shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of young people.Credit...Bing Guan/Reuters Young people’s reports of poor well-being during the pandemic have fueled a global crisis that needs immediate attention, according to a nonprofit organization that surveyed nearly 50,000 people in eight countries, providing a comprehensive overview of the pandemic’s impact on mental health. More than one in four respondents reported facing or being at risk of clinical disorders, a number that rose to nearly one in two for those ages 18 to 24, according to the report, which was released by group, Sapien Labs, a U.S. nonprofit group dedicated to understanding the human mind. The report, based on data collected from an online, anonymous survey whose findings were published on Monday, focused on Australia, Britain, Canada, India, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the United States. It found that 40 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 reported feeling sadness, distress or hopelessness, as well as unwanted, strange and obsessive thoughts. “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated trends that were already there, and made them worse,” said Dr. Tara Thiagarajan, the founder and chief scientist of Sapien Labs. “Particularly, social isolation has had a larger impact on young people, and it’s pushed many of them over the edge.” Other studies have shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of young people, women and people of color. Mental health experts have also warned against the long-term effects of the pandemic, which are likely to include an economic recession and the psychological fallout of long-term social isolation. The report’s authors, Dr. Thiagarajan and Jennifer Newson, urged governments to focus on population-wide policies targeting mental health, instead of individual approaches that are often favored. “While much of the focus in the mental health arena has been on self-care through apps, therapy and other programs, social and economic policy and institutional culture may have a large role to play in the mitigation of our present mental health crisis and prevention of future crises,” they wrote. With the borders closed, Russian tourists are discovering domestic destinations, like Lake Baikal.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times Usually, it is foreigners who flock to Lake Baikal in Siberia this time of year to skate, bike, hike, run, drive, hover and ski over a stark expanse of ice and snow, while Russians escape the cold to Turkey or Thailand. But Russia’s borders are still closed because of the pandemic, and to the surprise of locals, crowds of Russian tourists have traded tropical beaches for the icicle-draped shores of Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. The tour guides are calling it Russian Season. If you catch a moment of stillness on the crescent-shaped, 400-mile-long, mile-deep lake, the assault on the senses is otherworldly. You stand on three feet of ice so solid it is crossed safely by heavy trucks, but you feel fragile, fleeting and small. Yet stillness is hard to come by. Western governments have been discouraging travel during the pandemic, but in Russia, as is so often the case, things are different. The Kremlin has turned coronavirus-related border closures into an opportunity to get Russians — who have spent the last 30 years exploring the world beyond the former Iron Curtain — hooked on vacationing at home. A state-funded program that began last August offers $270 refunds on domestic leisure trips, including flights and hotel stays. It is one example of how Russia, which had one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls last year, has often prioritized the economy over public health during the pandemic. “Our people are used to traveling abroad to a significant degree,” President Vladimir V. Putin said in December. “Developing domestic tourism is no less important.” The pandemic became real for Clary Montgomery when she introduced her daughter, Paloma, who was born March 11, 2020, to family members via video. “When my toddler grandson tried to feed me a blueberry through the cellphone screen.” That was the answer from Alice Gilgoff, 74, of Rosendale, N.Y., when The New York Times asked readers: When did the coronavirus pandemic become real for you? Nearly 2,000 people responded, and we have compiled many of their thoughts. Across the United States and around the globe, nearly everyone experienced a moment when the pandemic truly hit home. And one year later, as the pandemic carries on, having claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide, it has been with us long enough to have its own history. The answers from readers to that question are a journey through time. It has been a year of trauma and resilience. No one has been spared, yet some have borne burdens far more profound than others. Still, our stories connect us: each of us human, each of us just trying to survive a pandemic that changed us and the world.