Women Leaving Work Force in Pandemic Is ‘National Emergency,’ Harris Says

Here’s what you need to know: Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:47 -0:00 transcript Women Leaving Work Force Is a ‘National Emergency,’ Harris Says In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan. “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully. So I believe, I think we all believe, this is a national emergency — women leaving the workforce in these numbers, it’s a national emergency, and it demands a national solution. We do believe that the American Rescue Plan is a very big part of the solution to this issue. And in many ways; one, it will get immediate relief to women workers, including $1,400 checks to those who need it. And at least $3,000 in tax credits to parents for each of their children. And the beauty of the significance of this is by doing that, we will lift up nearly half of the children who are living in poverty in our country. The American Rescue Plan will also provide funding to help schools safely reopen, and make a big investment in child care to help providers keep their doors open. And it will get America vaccinated. So simply put, the American Rescue Plan will help get women back to work.” “Women are not opting out of the workforce. They are being pushed by inadequate policies. So we have an opportunity not just to throw money at a problem, but to build that architecture for the future. Use this as a moment to address the serious inequities that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.” “Do not underestimate the impacts from enhanced unemployment benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance and economic payments that have come directly into our families. They are a lifeline and we have to continue this.” In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.CreditCredit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesVice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency,” one that she said could be addressed with the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully,” Ms. Harris said on a video call held with several women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers, essentially reiterating the argument she made in a Washington Post op-ed published last week. “Women leaving the work force in these numbers is a national emergency which demands a national solution.” According to Labor Department data, some 2.5 million women have left the American work force, compared with 1.8 million men. As part of its relief plan, the Biden administration has outlined several elements that officials say will ease the burden on unemployed and working women, including $3,000 in tax credits issued to families for each child, and a $40 billion investment in child care assistance, and an extension of unemployment benefits. Ms. Harris said it would “lift up nearly half of the children that are living in poverty” in the United States, a claim backed up by a Columbia University analysis of the plan. The proposal has no Republican support in Congress, but Democrats aim to pass the plan using a fast track budgetary process, known as reconciliation, which would allow them to push it through the Senate with a simple majority. (Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, unveiled his own child tax credit proposal earlier this month, but it was promptly panned by his Republican colleagues.) In her call on Thursday, Ms. Harris painted a dire picture of the reality that millions of women are facing as the pandemic continues to dig its teeth into American life. “In one year,” Ms. Harris said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk.” Childcare remains an issue for working mothers: Nearly 400,000 child care jobs have been lost since the outset of the pandemic, Ms. Harris said. The closings of small businesses and the loss of millions of jobs have created the “perfect storm” for women, and particularly for Black business owners, she added. “The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the work force.” The administration’s relief proposal would provide some $130 billion to assist in the reopening of K-12 schools, a major source of child care, but how and when to do so — and how to explain decision making to Americans — has proved to be a stumbling point for the president and his advisers. The Biden administration has promised to reopen as many schools as possible within the first 100 days, a promise that is already under stress by teachers’ unions

Women Leaving Work Force in Pandemic Is ‘National Emergency,’ Harris Says
Here’s what you need to know: Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:47 -0:00 transcript Women Leaving Work Force Is a ‘National Emergency,’ Harris Says In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan. “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully. So I believe, I think we all believe, this is a national emergency — women leaving the workforce in these numbers, it’s a national emergency, and it demands a national solution. We do believe that the American Rescue Plan is a very big part of the solution to this issue. And in many ways; one, it will get immediate relief to women workers, including $1,400 checks to those who need it. And at least $3,000 in tax credits to parents for each of their children. And the beauty of the significance of this is by doing that, we will lift up nearly half of the children who are living in poverty in our country. The American Rescue Plan will also provide funding to help schools safely reopen, and make a big investment in child care to help providers keep their doors open. And it will get America vaccinated. So simply put, the American Rescue Plan will help get women back to work.” “Women are not opting out of the workforce. They are being pushed by inadequate policies. So we have an opportunity not just to throw money at a problem, but to build that architecture for the future. Use this as a moment to address the serious inequities that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.” “Do not underestimate the impacts from enhanced unemployment benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance and economic payments that have come directly into our families. They are a lifeline and we have to continue this.” In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.CreditCredit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesVice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency,” one that she said could be addressed with the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully,” Ms. Harris said on a video call held with several women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers, essentially reiterating the argument she made in a Washington Post op-ed published last week. “Women leaving the work force in these numbers is a national emergency which demands a national solution.” According to Labor Department data, some 2.5 million women have left the American work force, compared with 1.8 million men. As part of its relief plan, the Biden administration has outlined several elements that officials say will ease the burden on unemployed and working women, including $3,000 in tax credits issued to families for each child, and a $40 billion investment in child care assistance, and an extension of unemployment benefits. Ms. Harris said it would “lift up nearly half of the children that are living in poverty” in the United States, a claim backed up by a Columbia University analysis of the plan. The proposal has no Republican support in Congress, but Democrats aim to pass the plan using a fast track budgetary process, known as reconciliation, which would allow them to push it through the Senate with a simple majority. (Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, unveiled his own child tax credit proposal earlier this month, but it was promptly panned by his Republican colleagues.) In her call on Thursday, Ms. Harris painted a dire picture of the reality that millions of women are facing as the pandemic continues to dig its teeth into American life. “In one year,” Ms. Harris said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk.” Childcare remains an issue for working mothers: Nearly 400,000 child care jobs have been lost since the outset of the pandemic, Ms. Harris said. The closings of small businesses and the loss of millions of jobs have created the “perfect storm” for women, and particularly for Black business owners, she added. “The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the work force.” The administration’s relief proposal would provide some $130 billion to assist in the reopening of K-12 schools, a major source of child care, but how and when to do so — and how to explain decision making to Americans — has proved to be a stumbling point for the president and his advisers. The Biden administration has promised to reopen as many schools as possible within the first 100 days, a promise that is already under stress by teachers’ unions who want to be assured that safety measures will work before schools reopen. On Thursday, Ms. Harris kept her remarks on schools limited, saying the plan would “provide funding to help schools safely reopen.” On Wednesday, Ms. Harris said in an appearance on the “Today” show that “teachers should be a priority” to receive vaccinations. As the pandemic drags on, the statistics for women are indeed bleak. In a report published last year by researchers at the University of Arkansas and the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California, researchers and economists found that female employment began plummeting almost immediately once the virus took hold last spring. Since then, the report found, women have shouldered a heavier load than men when it comes to providing child care. Non-college-educated women and women of color have been disproportionately affected. Another report, published last fall by the Brookings Institution, showed that nearly half of all working women have low-paying jobs. Those jobs are more likely to be held by Black or Latina women, and they are in sectors, including dining and travel, that are among the least likely to reach a degree of normalcy anytime soon. “Women are not opting out of the work force,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said during the meeting with Ms. Harris, “they are being pushed by inadequate policies.” When asked on Thursday afternoon if President Biden shared Ms. Harris’s view that a decline in women participating in the work force constituted a national emergency, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, did not directly answer, but she did say Mr. Biden was concerned with the issue. “The president has conveyed, in many meetings I’ve been in, his concern about this directly,” Ms. Psaki said, “and I know he’s discussed it with the vice president as well.” People arrive to get vaccinated at the Maccabi Health vaccination centre in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.Credit...Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Israel has raced ahead with the fastest Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the world, inoculating nearly half its population with at least one dose. Now its success is making it a case study in setting rules for a partially vaccinated society — raising thorny questions about rights, obligations and the greater good. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted this week to open shopping malls and museums to the public, subject to social distancing rules and mandatory masking. For the first time in many months, gyms, cultural and sports events, hotels and swimming pools will also reopen, but only for some. Under a new “Green Badge” system that functions as both a carrot and a stick, the government is making leisure activities accessible only to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered starting from Sunday. Two weeks later, restaurants, event halls and conferences will be allowed to operate under those rules. Customers and attendees will have to carry a certificate of vaccination with a QR code. Israel is one of the first countries grappling in real time with a host of legal, moral and ethical questions as it tries to balance the steps toward resuming public life with sensitive issues such as public safety, discrimination, free choice and privacy. “Getting vaccinated is a moral duty. It is part of our mutual responsibility,” said the health minister, Yuli Edelstein. He also has a new mantra: “Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind.” Four million Israelis — nearly half the population of nine million — have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and more than 2.6 million have gotten a second dose. But about two million eligible citizens aged 16 or over have not sought vaccines. The average number of new daily infections is hovering around 4,000. Israel’s central government — eager to bring the country out of its third national lockdown without setting off a new wave of infections — was spurred into action by local initiatives. Chafing under the country’s lockdown regulations, an indoor shopping mall in the working-class Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam threw its doors open last week for customers who could prove that they had been vaccinated or had recovered from Covid-19. In Karmiel, the mayor made a similar decision to open his city in the northern Galilee region for business. Other mayors want to bar unvaccinated teachers from classrooms while some hoteliers threatened unvaccinated employees with dismissal. Mr. Edelstein, the health minister, said on Thursday that vaccination would not be compulsory in Israel. But his ministry is now proposing legislation that would oblige unvaccinated employees whose work involves contact with the public to be tested for the virus every two days. And he is promoting a bill that would allow the ministry to identify unvaccinated people to the local authorities. A line for coronavirus tests in Los Angeles. The life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans grew during the pandemic to six years, the largest figure since 1998.Credit...Philip Cheung for The New York Times Life expectancy in the United States fell by a full year in the first six months of 2020, the federal government reported on Thursday, the largest drop since World War II and a grim measure of the deadly consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Life expectancy — the average number of years that a newborn is expected to live — is the most basic measure of the health of a population, and the stark decline over such a short period is highly unusual and a signal of deep distress. The drop comes after a series of troubling smaller declines driven largely by a surge in drug overdose deaths. A fragile recovery over the past two years has now been wiped out. Thursday’s figures give the first full picture of the pandemic’s effect on American expected life spans, which dropped to 77.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. It also showed a deepening of racial and ethnic disparities: Life expectancy of the Black population declined by 2.7 years in the first half of 2020, after 20 years of gains. The gap between Black and white Americans, which had been narrowing, is now at six years, the widest since 1998. “I knew it was going to be large, but when I saw those numbers, I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Elizabeth Arias, the federal researcher who produced the report, said of the racial disparity. Of the drop for the full population, she said, “We haven’t seen a decline of that magnitude in decades.” Still, unlike the drop caused by the extended, complex problem of drug overdoses, this one, driven largely by Covid-19, is not likely to last as long because virus deaths are easing and people are being vaccinated. In 1918, when hundreds of thousands of Americans died in the flu pandemic, life expectancy declined 11.8 years from the previous year, Dr. Arias said, down to 39. Numbers fully rebounded the following year. Even if such a rebound occurs this time, the social and economic effects of Covid-19 will linger, researchers noted, as will disproportionate effects on people of color. Some researchers said that drug deaths, which began surging again in 2019 and 2020, may continue to lower life expectancy. Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner who is now a professor of health and human rights at Harvard, said that unless the country better addressed inequality, “We may see U.S. life expectancy stagnate or decline for some time to come.” She noted that life expectancy here began to lag behind other developed countries in the 1980s. One theory is that growing economic disparities affected health. Life conditions that have exacerbated Covid-19 rates, like overcrowded housing and inadequate protections for low-wage workers, will only add to that trend, she said. In Thursday’s figures, Black and Hispanic Americans were hit harder and the fatalities in these groups skewed younger. Over all, the death rate for Black Americans with Covid-19 was almost twice that for white Americans as of late January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the death rate for Hispanics was 2.3 times higher than for white non-Hispanic Americans. The 2.7-year drop in life expectancy for African-Americans from January through June of last year was the largest decline, followed by a 1.9-year drop for Hispanic Americans and a 0.8-year drop for white Americans. Dr. Bassett said she expected life expectancy for Hispanic people to decline further over the second half of 2020, when Covid-19 death rates for that demographic continued to rise even as they dropped for white and Black Americans. A woman waits for her vaccination in Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., on Friday, the first day that Norton Healthcare offered shots in predominantly Black areas of the city.Credit...Jon Cherry/Getty Images Rates of vaccination in Black and Latino communities in New York are lower than rates in largely white communities, new data shows, the latest evidence that suggests they aren’t getting equal access to vaccines, even though they have been disproportionately been affected by the coronavirus. The picture is hazy because accurate national data on race and ethnicity is lagging. But experts and leaders in these communities say the data shows that Black and Latino Americans are being vaccinated at lower rates because they face obstacles like language and technology barriers, disparities in access to medical facilities and getting to a site. Some Black and Latino Americans face other problems, too, including social media misinformation and hesitancy to get the vaccine because of mistrust in government officials and doctors. Data released on Tuesday on the 1.3 million vaccines administered in New York City showed lower rates of vaccination in predominantly Black areas. New York State also reports Latino and Black residents to be behind in vaccination totals. President Biden has repeatedly said that racial equity is at the center of his response to the coronavirus pandemic and he appointed an adviser, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, to tackle that. The Biden administration announced a program last week that began to ship vaccines to federally funded clinics in underserved communities. The federal government also sent one million doses to about 6,500 retail pharmacies beginning last week. But researchers who did a county-level analysis, which included community pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, hospital outpatient departments and rural health clinics, found that more than one-third of U.S. counties have two or fewer of those facilities. This makes access to vaccines more difficult, according to the study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and West Health Policy Center. While vaccine hesitancy may play a role in Black and Latino communities, Sean Dickson, the director of health policy at the West Health Policy Center, said that the study shows evidence of effects from systemic health infrastructure issues. “It’s important that we don’t rest on vaccine hesitancy as a crutch,” Mr. Dickson said, adding that it could sometimes be used to blame Black and Latino communities. “If we don’t do anything to better affirmatively distribute the vaccines in these communities, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In the Brownsville area of Brooklyn, Renee Muir, the director of development and community relations at the BMS Family Health Center, said she is developing a survey to gather evidence of the challenges affecting the community. Many residents have been deeply affected by the virus because of adverse health conditions and unemployment. “Now you’re talking about people making decisions to spend $6 round trip, or eating, or paying a phone bill,” Ms. Muir said about residents traveling to get a vaccine. On messaging platforms like WhatsApp and on social media, Latinos have been exposed to vaccine misinformation, said Dr. Valeria Daniela Lucio Cantos, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University. She has been working to help Latinos understand the vaccine and make appointments. “There’s this emphasis on the risk and not enough on the benefits of the vaccines,” she said. But while many older Americans struggle with the online system to register for a vaccine, sites only available in English presented an additional barrier, Dr. Cantos said. “It feels like the system built for vaccine distribution did not have the Latinx community in mind,” she said, using the gender-neutral term for Latinos. She added that vaccine sites asking for Social Security numbers or insurance numbers made it difficult for undocumented immigrants to feel safe. As vaccine supplies ramp up, Dr. Paulina Rebolledo, an assistant professor at Emory, hopes that officials begin to rethink their approach by mobilizing with organizations within Black and Latino communities that are trusted by residents and speak various languages. “We, on the provider side or the health care side, can try to do more to reach patients and have them hear our voices,” she said. “It’s their overall health we’re trying to work on, and this is just an integral part of the movement.” Lorraine Wilner, a 78-year-old retiree with metastatic breast cancer, at her home in Lancaster, S.C. Instead of making longer drives into North Carolina as frequently, she can now have her blood drawn at a lab near her home and review the results with researchers over a video call.Credit...Travis Dove for The New York Times When the pandemic hit last year, clinical trials took a hit. Universities closed, and hospitals turned their attention to battling the new disease. Many studies that required repeated, in-person visits with volunteers were delayed or scrapped. But some scientists found creative ways to continue their research even when face-to-face interaction was inherently risky. They mailed medications, performed exams over video chat and asked patients to monitor their own vitals at home. Many scientists say this shift toward virtual studies is long overdue. If these practices persist, they could make clinical trials cheaper, more efficient and more equitable — offering state-of-the-art research opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the time or resources to take advantage of them. “We’ve discovered that we can do things differently, and I don’t think we’ll go back to life as we used to know it,” said Dr. Mustafa Khasraw, a medical oncologist and clinical trial specialist at Duke University. According to one analysis, nearly 6,000 trials registered on ClinicalTrials.gov were stopped between Jan. 1 and May 31, roughly twice as many compared with non-pandemic times. Remote trials are likely to persist in a post-pandemic era, researchers say. Cutting back on in-person visits could make recruiting patients easier and reduce dropout rates, leading to quicker, cheaper clinical trials, said Dr. Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester who conducted remote research for years. The shift to virtual trials could also help diversify clinical research, encouraging more low-income and rural patients to enroll, said Dr. Hala Borno, an oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco. The pandemic, she said, “does really allow us to step back and reflect on the burdens that we’ve been placing on patients for a really long time.” But virtual trials are not a panacea. Researchers will have to ensure that they can thoroughly monitor volunteers’ health without in-person visits, and be mindful of the fact that not all patients have access to, or are comfortable with, technology. And in some cases, scientists still need to demonstrate that remote testing is reliable; homes are uncontrolled environments. “Maybe there’s a cat crawling on them or grandchildren in the next room,” he said. — Emily Anthes A subway station platform in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn earlier this month.Credit...Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images After warning that draconian cuts to public transit could be on the way, including a 40 percent decrease in subway service, New York transit officials on Thursday announced that they had avoided major reductions for the next two years after a new infusion of federal aid and better than expected tax revenues helped steady the system’s finances. The improved financial outlook is a major dose of good news for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, buses and two commuter lines and has seen fare revenues plunge after the pandemic emptied public transit of riders. The agency had been warning of drastic reductions, not just to the subway but also to buses, in part to pressure Congress into providing more help. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package President Biden is pushing Congress to approve includes as much as $30 billion for public transit. Of that, the M.T.A. can expect to receive at least $6 billion, according to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who is now the Democratic majority leader and who played a critical role in securing financing for transit agencies during stimulus negotiations last year. While the agency said it would avoid major cuts in 2021 and 2022, it still faces an $8 billion deficit over the next four years and the possibility of cuts in the near future without additional federal aid. “In the short and midterm there is significant relief, but we still have a long-term structural, fiscal problem that we have not dealt with,” said Andrew Rein, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a financial watchdog. “The bottom line is we are not out of the woods, but we can see the light through the trees.” The latest round of federal aid, which directed around $4 billion to the M.T.A., provided more money for day-to-day operations and freed the agency to commit more toward its capital plan for major upgrades. The agency also received around $4 billion from the first federal emergency relief package last year. Still hanging in the balance is the agency’s sweeping $54 billion plan to modernize the system, including replacing an antiquated signal system that is a major cause of delays and disruptions. That plan was suspended after the pandemic hit but parts of it will be revived this year, according to transit officials. Making the system more reliable is a crucial step to luring back riders as New York struggles to recover from the financial crisis set off by the outbreak. A man gets the coronavirus vaccine at an outdoor vaccination site on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla.Credit...Chris O'Meara/Associated Press It was meant to be a feel-good event, like the two or three that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida holds around the state each week: a pop-up coronavirus vaccination site where the governor could show how his administration was getting the shots to people 65 and older. But when Mr. DeSantis arrived on Wednesday at the site in Manatee County, he faced sharp questions from local reporters about why his staff had chosen to do it in Lakewood Ranch, an affluent and mostly white community developed by a Republican political donor. The Bradenton Herald reported that the vaccinations in Lakewood Ranch would be limited to residents of two ZIP codes — the two wealthiest in the county — at a time when vaccination rates in less affluent Black communities in the state were lagging far behind. Florida’s population is nearly 17 percent Black, but only about 5.4 percent of the more than 2.4 million Floridians who have gotten at least one of the two required vaccine doses so far have been Black, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, defended the site’s location. He said the state wanted to concentrate on communities with many retirees, especially in counties where the share of older people who have already been vaccinated is less than 42 percent, the statewide average. “If Manatee County does not like us doing this, we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” he said, citing several nearby counties in southern Florida: “If you want us to send to Sarasota next time, or Charlotte, or Pasco, let us know. We are happy to do it.” Late on Wednesday, additional reporting by The Herald revealed that Vanessa Baugh, the county commissioner who had helped organize the vaccination site, had created a V.I.P. list of vaccine recipients that included herself and the developer of Lakewood Ranch, Rex Jensen. Mr. Jensen also helped organize the vaccination site, along with Patrick K. Neal, a local home builder who has donated $125,000 to Mr. DeSantis’s political committee since 2018. Last week, Mr. DeSantis visited a pop-up vaccination site at Kings Gate, a community in Charlotte County developed by Mr. Neal. Ms. Baugh told The Herald that she did not get vaccinated or receive an appointment. Ms. Baugh and Mr. Jensen did not immediately respond to interview requests from The New York Times on Thursday. A spokeswoman for Mr. Neal declined to comment and directed questions to the governor’s office. Mr. DeSantis opened another pop-up site on Thursday, this time in Pinellas Park, a largely white middle-income community near St. Petersburg. Before he spoke to reporters there, a man yelled, “Shame on you, Governor!” Mr. DeSantis said questions about any preferential treatment in Lakewood Ranch should be directed to officials there, saying that the state merely identifies the pop-up sites, leaving details about who will be vaccinated to local leaders. “We trust them to be able to sign people up,” he said. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts toured a sports arena in Worcester in December as it was being readied for use as a field hospital during a  peak period of the pandemic.Credit...Pool photo by Nancy Lane Thursday was supposed to be a great day for Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, whose vaccination effort was beginning to hit a stride after stumbling badly in January. At 8 a.m., almost a million more residents of the state — those between 65 and 75, and those with two or more medical conditions — were to become eligible to book vaccinations online. Except — not. When the big moment came, instead of getting appointments, many thousands of users received a message that the state’s new web application, vaxfinder.mass.gov, had crashed. Overwhelmed by volume, the site intermittently returned to life over the next three hours —  but it turned out that, because of the website problems, the state had not been able to post 50,000 of the 77,000 newly available appointments. Not for the first time, Twitter became a clearinghouse for widespread frustration. Using the Massachusetts vaccination website is like feverishly clicking on Ticketmaster with millions of other people, except instead of trying to see Beyoncé you're trying to keep parents alive in a pandemic.#mapoli pic.twitter.com/8kWnAs5NeZ — Travis (@travtufts) February 18, 2021 Governor Baker said on Thursday that website technicians “did a lot of scenario work” in advance, but “obviously it didn’t prepare the site.” “My hair is on fire about the whole thing,” he told WGBH, a Boston public radio station. “People are working really hard to get it fixed.” He added, “People did a lot of work preparing for this, but clearly they didn’t do enough.” He has said federal vaccine supply constraints were holding back the state’s effort, and said on Thursday that he was considering sending National Guard troops to Kentucky and Tennessee to pick up shipments that may be stalled there because of bad weather. A popular Republican who spent much of his career as a health care executive, Governor Baker came under intense public criticism for the slow, patchy availability of vaccinations in the state in January. The state gave priority to workers in hospitals and nursing homes, but many of them refused the shots, so much of the state’s initial stockpile of doses sat unused in cold storage. Six weeks into the effort, Massachusetts trailed most of New England, and ranked below average nationally, in the share of its population that had been vaccinated by that time. The state opened mass vaccination sites in February and quickly improved its performance, rising to rank ninth in the country, according to a New York Times database. Expanding eligibility was a sign of that progress, since Massachusetts did so after crossing an important threshold, with more than half its residents over 75 having received at least one of the two required vaccine doses. Last week the state also began a first-in-the-nation experiment, offering vaccinations to those who accompany people who are 75 and older to mass vaccination sites. Still, lawmakers criticized the effort as inequitable, increasing the advantage of wealthy families with working cars and free time to transport elders to be vaccinated at distant sports stadiums. The Democratic-controlled legislature has scheduled oversight hearings on the vaccine program later this month. Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, announced the seizure of over one million counterfeit N95 masks on Wednesday.Credit...U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement One million counterfeit N95 masks were seized by federal agents on Wednesday as part of a sweeping fraud investigation stemming from the pandemic, the head of the Department of Homeland Security announced. The seizure brought the total number of knockoff masks confiscated in recent weeks to more than 11 million, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said during a news conference. Mr. Mayorkas appeared next to several boxes of masks that had been seized and were stamped with the name 3M, the largest American producer of N95s. Officials said that the company had been working with investigators to identify sources of counterfeit masks, which originated in China, and that the department expected to make arrests. Officials also said federal agents had executed search warrants in five states in the past two weeks but would not identify which ones. The snug-fitting N95 masks, which provide 95 percent efficiency in filtering airborne particles, have become the gold standard for frontline workers in the pandemic. But the intense demand for the masks, which are considered superior to the ubiquitous pleated ones, has given rise to the production of counterfeits. Steve K. Francis, an assistant director for the Global Trade Investigations Division of Homeland Security Investigations, said during the news conference that there could be deadly repercussions from the sale of counterfeit N95 masks. “They’re extremely dangerous,” Mr. Francis said. “They’re providing a false sense of security to our first line responders, to American consumers.” Empty syringes wait to be filled with the coronavirus vaccine. Apple is removing the drops of blood at the end of its syringe emoji.Credit...Jon Nazca/Reuters As millions get vaccinated, Apple is making a design change to its syringe emoji, swapping an image with drops of blood at the end of the emoji’s needle for one that looks more like a vaccine. The redesigned emoji is available only to members of the company’s beta program but will be publicly available with iOS 14.5. While new emojis are more difficult to approve, changing an emoji’s design can enact a similar result on a faster timeline, according to Keith Broni, the deputy emoji officer at Emojipedia, a service that archives the design and usage trends of emojis. The syringe emoji dates to 1999 and had been used mainly to illustrate blood donations in Japan. The emoji was often used in discussions around blood donations and even tattooing, Mr. Broni said. “When you provide someone with a communication tool, they will use it as they see fit,” Mr. Broni said. “We’ve seen many different emojis take on many different connotations.” Mr. Broni said he had started to notice a spike in the usage of the emoji late last year, and saw that the conversations people were having on Twitter while using it had pivoted to talk about coronavirus vaccines. Mr. Broni said he expected the change from Apple to be a permanent one, and that other technology companies would be likely to follow suit. He said the emoji that resembles a vaccine injection could be used more readily and that removing the blood would make the emoji more flexible and less intimidating. Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:40 -0:00 transcript Weather Delays Opening of 2 N.Y.C. Vaccine Sites, de Blasio Says Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said city vaccine sites would stay open through Thursday’s snowfall, but the planned opening of two new distribution sites would be pushed back due to nationwide shipping delays. Steady snowfall today seems at this point to be the total will not be too bad, 3, 2 five inches, but it will be steady more in the overnight hours going into tomorrow, another one to 3 inches. Sanitation is out in force already, brining the streets, salting, getting ready. More and more plowing. Altis side parking suspended through Saturday. So leave your car where it is. A lot of things. The good news is, will remain open. Vaccine sites will remain open, testing sites will remain open. Food distribution sites will remain open because the storm, even though we take it seriously, so far, not too bad. The weather all over the country, everyone knows it’s horrible weather. Vast amount of the country affected has caused caused real delays. This is a real problem. We’ve lost a couple of days in terms of vaccine supply. We are hopeful that by tomorrow our supply will be replenished. And we can get back on track. But as everyone knows, thirty, 35,000 appointments have to be held back. Never like doing that. We don’t want to do that. We need supply so that we can keep giving people the support they need and get the shots in people’s arms. So we can protect them. We had to postpone as a result of the weather and the supply not arriving to new sites. Unfortunately, the Martin Van Buren site now will be further delayed until Sunday at the earliest because of this new information. Again, I’m not happy to have to give you this news, but this is the latest. However, the empire site and power outlet Staten Island will still open tomorrow. We’re just shifting supply around. We’ll make sure that is up and running tomorrow. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said city vaccine sites would stay open through Thursday’s snowfall, but the planned opening of two new distribution sites would be pushed back due to nationwide shipping delays.CreditCredit...Jordan Gale for The New York TimesSeveral inches of snow fell on Thursday across the New York region, covering trees, sidewalks and streets, as part of a bout of winter weather that could continue through Friday evening. Winter storm warnings and advisories are in place for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut through Friday night, said Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. As of Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service said between two and four inches of snow had fallen across much of Long Island and New York City, with 3.2 inches recorded in Central Park. Total amounts could reach up to eight inches by Friday, according to the Weather Service. Recent storms buried the city in snow, but Mr. Engle described this one as “not as intense, but enough to make travel difficult.” Winds will be moderate, reaching 25 miles per hour on Thursday night. Parts of upstate New York will see only a few inches of snow: Albany may receive up to three inches and Poughkeepsie six inches, the service said. A warning issued for the northeastern region of New Jersey, including parts of Essex, Union, Passaic and Bergen Counties, projected up to seven inches of snow. A similar advisory was put in place for southern Connecticut, including parts of Middlesex, New Haven and New London, where several inches of snow was expected through Thursday. Travel conditions across these areas were expected to be hazardous into Friday, the Weather Service said. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on Thursday that crews were salting roadways and preparing to plow, though he expected the overall impact to be “not too bad.” “We know Mother Nature throws us curveballs sometimes, so we’re going to stay vigilant,” he said. Although the city was shutting down some outdoor dining because of the storm, other services, such as the city’s coronavirus vaccination sites, would remain open, the mayor said. But the weather problems across the country continued to delay shipments of new doses, prompting officials to push back the opening of two new distribution sites originally scheduled for Thursday A site at the Empire Outlets in Staten Island will now open on Friday, and another site at the Martin Van Buren High School in Queens will open on Sunday at the earliest, Mr. de Blasio said, adding that the delays were complicating a rollout that has already been slowed by a limited supply of vaccines. global roundup A line for coronavirus testing in Hong Kong on Wednesday.Credit...Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that it had approved Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine, a drug manufactured by a mainland Chinese company that has faced scrutiny around the world over shipping delays and spotty data disclosures. Hong Kong’s health authorities said the first million doses of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, would arrive on Friday and that vaccinations would begin next week, starting with essential workers and people over 60. The announcement is notable because Hong Kong is one of only a few governments in Asia to have approved CoronaVac for use. Several other countries have said they would only do so after receiving full trial data from the manufacturer. Malaysia and Singapore, for instance, have both ordered doses from Sinovac. But officials in both countries have had to reassure their citizens that they would approve a vaccine only if it had been proved safe and effective. In January, officials in Brazil said that the efficacy rate of CoronaVac was just over 50 percent, barely above the World Health Organization’s threshold for an effective Covid-19 vaccine. The company said the efficacy rate was weaker than expected because the trial had been conducted among health care workers, who had a higher risk of contracting Covid-19, and included people with “mild symptoms.” Sinovac has given government-appointed experts in Hong Kong late-stage trial data for CoronaVac showing a 62.3 percent efficacy rate after two shots, Lau Chak Sing, the spokesman of a coronavirus vaccine advisory panel, told reporters on Tuesday. The advisers reviewed the data and determined that vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risks, he said. Sinovac did not release the data publicly. Pitching CoronaVac to the Hong Kong public could be tough: A recent poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong showed that fewer than three in 10 residents would take it, because of worries about its weak efficacy. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had the highest level of acceptability, at 55.9 per cent. Hong Kong’s health authorities approved the Pfizer vaccine in late January, and the first doses are expected to arrive in late February. Beijing officials once hoped that Sinovac and other Chinese-made vaccines would burnish the country’s global reputation. At least 24 countries, most of them low and middle income, signed deals with the Chinese vaccine companies because they offered access when richer nations had claimed most of the doses made by Pfizer and Moderna. Now Beijing is on the defensive, and China’s state-run media has been waging a misinformation campaign against the American vaccines, questioning their safety and promoting the Chinese ones. In other news from around the world: India will require travelers arriving from Brazil and South Africa to undergo a coronavirus test, to prevent variants from spreading. The Health Ministry said on Thursday that India had recorded one case of the variant circulating in Brazil, four variant cases from South Africa and 187 from Britain. India has recorded nearly 11 million cases during the pandemic. Its death toll of 156,014 is the world’s third-highest after the United States and Brazil, according to a New York Times database. Nepal on Thursday approved a vaccine manufactured by Sinopharm, a state-owned vaccine maker from China. The Sinopharm vaccine is the second to be approved for emergency use in Nepal after Covishield, the Indian-made version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Nepal, which borders both China and India, is one of the places where the two countries are competing to distribute vaccines. Nepal approved Sinopharm’s vaccine days after the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, had pledged to donate 500,000 doses. India has already sent a million Covishield doses. As of Thursday, more than 400,000 frontline health workers and other essential workers had been vaccinated. China has begun requiring that travelers isolate for 14 days before flying in from some countries in Africa and Asia, according to notices posted on Chinese embassies’ websites this week. Places affected include Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. China already required anyone entering from abroad to quarantine for multiple weeks upon arrival, as do numerous other countries. Mandatory quarantine before travel appears to be far rarer. Spectators were allowed back into the Australian Open on Thursday, hours after the state of Victoria ended a five-day lockdown it had imposed to contain an outbreak in a Melbourne quarantine hotel. The tennis tournament’s director, Craig Tiley, said that 7,477 fans would be allowed in for each session, about half capacity. Fans are required to wear masks while indoors or when they are unable to socially distance. Zimbabwe began its first vaccinations using 200,000 Sinopharm doses donated by China. The country’s daily new cases have slowed down after a recent wave, and the government relaxed some lockdown rules on Monday. Zimbabwe has recorded 35,423 cases and 1,418 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Defense officials are studying the demographics of those in uniform who decline the vaccine, but they have not reached any conclusion.Credit...Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson/Department of Defense, via Associated Press Roughly a third of America’s military personnel are declining to receive coronavirus vaccines when they are offered, Pentagon officials said Wednesday. The refusal rate is slightly above that of the civilian population, and is the same for active-duty troops and for those in the National Guard, who have been helping state governments administer coronavirus tests and vaccines. About 960,000 members of the military and its contractors have been vaccinated, Robert G. Salesses, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, told members of the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on Wednesday. As in the civilian world, the priority for administering vaccinations has been people working in heath care and those over 65. The Pentagon can require troops to receive standard immunizations, but it cannot make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory, at least for now. That is because the vaccines have been released through federal emergency use authorizations, rather than through the normal, much lengthier approval process. So all the military can do is urge troops to get the shots, not order them to. “We think it’s important that the department continues to communicate to our service members the safety of the vaccine,” Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the hearing. He added that troops who decline the vaccine are still permitted to deploy overseas. For the nation’s entire history, the military has recognized that disease can be far more lethal than an enemy, and it has repeatedly forced troops to be vaccinated. In 1777, George Washington was the first military leader commanding troops to take action to prevent an epidemic by ordering all of his troops to be inoculated against smallpox. That primitive vaccine posed a risk of death. Washington wrote at the time, “This expedient may be attended with some inconveniences and some disadvantages, but yet I trust in its consequences will have the most happy effects.” In the generations since, the military has mandated troops be vaccinated against a growing list of diseases, including typhoid in 1911, tetanus in 1941, and anthrax in 1997. Today, troops are required to have several other vaccines to travel overseas. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 31 percent of respondents from the general public said that they would wait until the vaccine “has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting the shot themselves. Various news reports and studies have found that refusal rates are highest among Republicans and among Hispanic adults, including many who work in health care. Defense officials said they were studying the demographics of those in uniform who decline the vaccines, and had reached no conclusions yet. Most states have relied on National Guard personnel to help respond to the pandemic, including assisting with vaccine distribution and even putting shots in arms. The Biden administration recently announced that it would open 100 new vaccination sites around the country, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and assisted by hundreds if not thousands of active-duty service members. About 1,100 troops have been deployed at the five centers that have been set up so far. Dave Philipps contributed reporting. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic has created a rift with state lawmakers, including some fellow Democrats.Credit...Pool photo by Mary Altaffer The Democratic leaders of the New York State Senate are moving to strip Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of unilateral emergency powers granted during the pandemic, setting up an unusual rebuke by members of his own party. The measures, which could come to a vote next week, underscore the deepening division between Mr. Cuomo and state lawmakers since he acknowledged having intentionally withheld critical data on virus-related deaths from them. The F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York have opened an inquiry into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. The inquiry, which was confirmed by three people familiar with the matter, is in its earliest stages, and it is not clear whether it is focused on any individual. The inquiry, first reported in The Times Union of Albany, was another indication of the shift in Mr. Cuomo’s position since March, when he emerged as a prominent national voice in a crisis through his daily briefings. Now, much of that good will has evaporated. The Senate’s action also illustrates fatigue in the Democratic-controlled State Legislature over his use of powers that gave him broad control over the state’s response to the virus, from ordering shutdowns to managing vaccine distribution. Lawmakers discussed limiting his powers earlier this year but did not take any steps. On Wednesday, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat and chairman of the health committee, said it was now time for action. “We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” he said. The tension was out in the open on Wednesday, with Mr. Cuomo attacking critics, singling out Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, who said the governor had threatened him last week — an accusation the governor’s staff called a lie. Earlier this week, a group of State Assembly Democrats circulated a letter seeking support for revoking Mr. Cuomo’s powers and suggesting the administration had broken federal law — an accusation the governor denied on Wednesday. That came less than a week after 14 Senate Democrats signed a statement saying that “it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the governor are no longer appropriate.” Senate leaders now intend to pass a bill that would limit the governor’s ability to supersede state laws and would establish a commission of state lawmakers to evaluate future pandemic-related directives and suspensions of laws. The last month has been one of turmoil for Mr. Cuomo, who is known for his combative politics. After a scathing report from Letitia James, the state attorney general, that suggested the death toll at nursing homes had been undercounted, the official number of residents of nursing homes and similar institutions was increased from about 8,500 to more than 15,000. As the virus claimed the lives of thousands of nursing home residents, the state count had left out those who had died in hospitals rather than at the homes. The governor acknowledged on Monday that there had been “a delay” in releasing the full story. Nicole Hong and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting. Rita Alba, right, a registered nurse, directs Alba Carrasco to the recovery area after giving her the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site at the Bronx River Addition NYCHA complex in January.Credit...Mary Altaffer/Associated Press A little-known program that allows New Yorkers to get a Covid-19 vaccination if they volunteer at vaccine distribution sites has stopped accepting new applicants who do not have experience in health care. Vaccine distribution began in New York State in mid-December. To fill out staffing shortages, New York City had enlisted its Medical Reserve Corps, a volunteer network that responds to public health emergencies. Without fanfare, the agency recruited volunteers — medical and nonmedical staff alike. In exchange for 36 hours of service, volunteers were eligible to receive their first dose of the vaccine. On Thursday, the Medical Reserve Corps told The New York Times in an email that it would only accept health care professionals going forward. “The NYC MRC has traditionally been used for medical/health care volunteers. As the number of volunteers swelled — including city employees serving in the hubs — we went back to limiting MRC to recruitment of healthcare professionals,” the agency said. Volunteering was a way for many New Yorkers who are not yet eligible for vaccination to jump to the front of the line, as receiving the vaccine has proved elusive. According to data gathered by The New York Times, about 10 percent of 11 million eligible New Yorkers have received their first dose. The task of vaccinating is daunting: A single vaccination site might require people to act as administrative employees, security officers, medical greeters, translators, emotional support staffers, schedulers, traffic monitors and, of course, vaccinators. Some volunteers bristled at the idea of working three 12-hour shifts without receiving a single penny for the city, even if they did receive the vaccine in exchange. Others, though, thought they struck gold. “I thought that it was the best deal in the world, the three shifts,” said Seth Rosen, the director of development at the National LGBT Bar Association. He volunteered in the South Bronx. “I was happy to do that in order to be vaccinated.” But nearly all volunteers complained that signing up was opaque and convoluted. Enrollment instructions on the city’s website are targeted only to licensed clinical professionals. In response, a number of unauthorized documents outlining the sign-up process for general staff began popping up on the internet: circulating around social media or forwarded among friends. Adam, a filmmaker who did not want to use his last name because volunteers were told not to speak to the press, registered for his volunteer service after receiving an unofficial document. It detailed the steps required for registration over four separate websites, each one requiring different accounts and passwords. Users were taught how to create an account on the city’s official website; then how to register on ServNY, the state’s volunteer program; then how to register with the state’s Department of Health Public Account Management System; and, finally, how to create an account for the Public Health Responders program. In all, it required 32 steps. “It was so bureaucratic — right out of Kafka,” said Adam. And now it’s over. The city Medical Reserve Corps sent an email to volunteers on Thursday saying general staffing roles were “at capacity for the foreseeable future.” “Leadership has decided that NYC staff will be filling in the gaps moving forward,” the email said. “Given where we were with staffing four weeks ago, having this role entirely covered is a significant accomplishment — and a relief. Once again, thank you.” A rare winter storm that dumped a foot of snow on Seattle couldn’t keep Fran Goldman from her first appointment for the coronavirus vaccine on Sunday.Credit...Ruth Goldman/Ruth Goldman, via Associated Press To get her coronavirus vaccination last weekend, Frances H. Goldman, 90, went to an extraordinary length: six miles. On foot. It was too snowy to drive at 8 a.m. on Sunday when Ms. Goldman took out her hiking poles, dusted off her snow boots and started out from her home in the Seattle neighborhood of View Ridge. She made her way to the Burke-Gilman Trail on the edge of the city, where she then wended her way alongside a set of old railroad tracks, heading south. Then she traversed the residential streets of Laurelhurst to reach the Seattle Children’s Hospital. It was a quiet walk, Ms. Goldman said. People were scarce. She caught glimpses of Lake Washington through falling snow. It would have been more difficult, she said, had she not gotten a bad hip replaced last year. At the hospital, about three miles and an hour from home, she got the jab. Then she bundled up again and walked back the way she had come. It was an extraordinary effort — but that was not the extent of it. Ms. Goldman, who became eligible for a vaccine last month, had already tried everything she could think of to secure an appointment. She had made repeated phone calls and fruitless visits to the websites of local pharmacies, hospitals and government health departments. She enlisted a daughter in New York and a friend in Arizona to help her find an appointment. Finally, on Friday, a visit to the Seattle Children’s Hospital website yielded results. “Lo and behold, a whole list of times popped up,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went and got my glasses to make sure I was seeing it right.” Then came the snow, which would ultimately drop more than 10 inches, in one of Seattle’s snowiest weekends on record. Wary of driving on hilly, unplowed roads, Ms. Goldman decided to go to the hospital on foot. She took a test walk part of the way on Saturday to get a sense of how long the trip might take. And on Sunday, she trekked all the way to the hospital to get her vaccine. “I hope that it will inspire people to get their shots,” she said. “I think it’s important for the whole country.” The rollout in Washington State, like many around the country, has been complicated by failures of technology, shortfalls in equity and a persistent imbalance of supply and demand. State officials have struggled to set up the infrastructure necessary to schedule and vaccinate the millions of people who are already eligible. Ms. Goldman is scheduled to receive her second dose of the vaccine next month. She plans to drive.