The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that people vaccinated against the coronavirus resume wearing masks in schools and in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is surging, marking a sharp turnabout from their advice just two months ago.
The pandemic in the United States is very different than it was in May, when it seemed as if the worst was in the past. Confirmed cases are surging in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, and there are more reports of breakthrough infections with the highly contagious Delta variant in fully immunized people.
Vaccines are effective against the worst outcomes of infection, even with the variant, and conditions are nowhere near as bad as they were last winter. But the new guidance amounts to a weary acknowledgment that the lagging vaccination effort has fallen behind the ever-evolving virus. Fewer than 50 percent of the country is fully vaccinated, according to federal data.
“This is not a decision we at C.D.C. have made lightly. This weighs heavily on me,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the agency’s director, said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
Here’s what we know:
Masks in regions seeing case surges and in schools
The C.D.C. has long recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks indoors. But Tuesday’s regulations mean that even people who have been completely inoculated will once again need to mask up in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is ascendant.
In schools, health officials now recommended universal masking, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission of the virus, and additional precautions for staff, students and visitors. But they should still plan on returning to in-person learning in the fall.
How this will play out in states that have prohibited mask mandates in schools remains to be seen as well as communities where people may be weary of wearing masks.
Some states immediately adopted the new guidelines, including Illinois. The state’s public health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said that despite the effectiveness of current vaccines, “we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated.”
“The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant,” she said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada followed suit on Tuesday. Starting Friday, Nevada residents in counties with high rates of transmission will be required to wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The mandate includes Clark County, home to Las Vegas.
The C.D.C. said Americans should resume wearing masks in areas where there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, or more than 8 percent of tests are positive for infection over that period.
Health officials should reassess these figures weekly and change local restrictions accordingly, the agency said. By those criteria, all residents of Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana, for example, should wear masks indoors. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties qualify, many concentrated in the South.
The C.D.C.’s director and other officials speak out
“The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us,” Dr. Walensky said at the news briefing. “In rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with a Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.”
Data from several states and other countries show that the variant behaves differently from previous versions of the coronavirus, she added: “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendation.”
In the past, Dr. Walensky has said the nation is in a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” — a point she reiterated on Tuesday. But she also said that she is concerned that vaccinated people with breakthrough infections might pass the virus on to unvaccinated family members or people with weakened immune systems.
With the earlier Alpha variant officials did not believe a vaccinated person could transmit the virus, she said.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top pandemic adviser, said the C.D.C. is correct to revisit its recommendations as the virus evolves, he said.
“I don’t think you can say that this is just flip-flopping back and forth,” he said. “They’re dealing with new information that the science is providing.”
But that was before the arrival of the Delta variant, which now accounts for the bulk of infections in the United States. C.D.C. officials were persuaded by new scientific evidence showing that even vaccinated people may become infected and may carry the virus in great amounts, Dr. Walensky acknowledged at the news briefing.
But she said masking is only a “temporary measure,” and, adding, “What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions in the areas of high transmission is to get more and more people vaccinated and in the meantime, to use masks.”
When asked whether he thought the C.D.C.’s new mask guideline could lead to some confusion, President Biden said on Tuesday afternoon that the pandemic was continuing “because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion.”
“The more we learn, the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variant the more we have to be worried and concerned,” he said. “There’s only one thing we know for sure, if those other hundred million people got vaccinated we’d be in a very different world. So get vaccinated, if you haven’t you’re not nearly as smart as I said you were.”
The C.D.C. should have simply made a universal recommendation and told all Americans to wear masks indoors, said Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at University of Washington and former C.D.C. scientist. “The director said the guidance is for people in areas of high transmission, but if you look at the country, every state is seeing a rise in transmission,” Dr. Mokdad said. “So why not say, ‘Everybody in the U.S. should be wearing a mask indoors?’ The whole country is on fire.”
Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.
Elected officials, labor unions and state health officials responded with a mix of support and dismay after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged even vaccinated Americans to resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces in places where the virus is surging.
The recommendations, which also include masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, prompted reactions that fell along familiar partisan lines a year into a pandemic marked from its onset by deep divisions over public health precautions.
A few state health departments moved immediately to adopt the guidelines, including Illinois, where health officials recommended masks for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in public indoor spaces in areas with high rates of transmission.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health director, said that despite the effectiveness of current vaccines, including against the highly contagious Delta variant, “we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated.”
“The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant,” she said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada also followed suit on Tuesday. Starting Friday, Nevada residents in counties with high rates of transmission will be required to wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The mandate includes Clark County, home to Las Vegas.
The new guidelines explicitly apply to both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated. They come as case counts have risen rapidly in states like Florida and Missouri, and there have been growing reports of breakthrough infections of the more contagious Delta variant among people who are fully immunized.
Whether state and local health officials are willing to follow the agency’s guidance is far from certain.
The C.D.C. said Americans should start wearing masks again in areas where there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, or more than 8 percent of tests are positive for infection over that period.
By those criteria, all residents of Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana, for example, should wear masks indoors. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties qualify, many concentrated in the South.
State health officials around the country offered either a cautious welcome to the revived mandate or said they would issue a formal response later.
In some states, conservative politicians and their supporters have cast public health measures as an attack on freedom. Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, echoed that sentiment on Twitter on Tuesday, saying measures to curb the virus should be taken at a “grassroots level” without “the heavy hand of government.”
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican who in May signed an executive order barring local governments from requiring masks, said wearing a mask is a matter of personal responsibility.
“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Gov. Abbott said in a tweet.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also said residents should decide for themselves. “We encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to wear masks wherever appropriate, but we also recognize that both of those are individual choices,” the department said in a statement.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said the federal guidance was being reviewed and officials would consult with federal and state health experts.
Several labor leaders applauded the new guidelines. Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said in a statement the new policy was “a critical step that sounds the alarm about the explosion in Covid Delta cases.”
“But the reality is that the CDC recommendation does not go far enough,” Mr. Perrone added. “A national mask mandate is the only way we can finally take control of this virus.”
The two leading teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, also strongly endorsed the C.D.C.’s move to back universal masking in schools.
The federation’s president, Randi Weingarten, called the measure “a necessary precaution until children under 12 can receive a Covid vaccine and more Americans over 12 get vaccinated.”
The new recommendation also won support from National Nurses United, which said masking should be universal for all.
“Masking is not a matter of personal choice, it’s a matter of public health,” Deborah Burger, the union’s president, said in a statement. “We’re all in this together, and none of us are safe until all of us are safe.”
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, officials said Tuesday — a major shift in approach by President Biden that reflects the government’s growing concern about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that a vaccine mandate for all federal workers was under consideration, but did not provide details. Administration officials said the idea being debated was similar to a plan announced by New York City, which would require any of the city’s 300,000 employees who refuse to be vaccinated to submit to weekly testing.
Officials said there was no consideration of simply firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated, but that the government could add additional burdens or restrictions on those who do not get the protections in an effort to convince more people to get the shot in the first place. They said there was evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase vaccination rates.
Around the country, mayors, business leaders, hospital administrators and college presidents are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations, even for those who have refused to voluntarily roll up their sleeves. So far, Mr. Biden has resisted. He has not yet required all federal workers to be vaccinated. He has not ordered members of the military to get shots. And he has not used his bully pulpit to call for a broader use of vaccine mandates.
But the president’s stance may be shifting quickly.
Inside the West Wing, his top public health experts are furiously debating the right path forward, according to administration officials, as the Delta variant surges in places where there are high numbers of unvaccinated Americans, posing a special threat to children, older people, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.
The White House is masking up again, just over two months after President Biden and senior government officials shed their face coverings in the biggest sign to date that the country was moving toward normalcy.
The shift came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that people vaccinated against the coronavirus should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is surging, amid growing reports of breakthrough infections of the more contagious Delta variant among people who are fully immunized.
An email to the White House staff with instructions to begin wearing masks again indoors arrived at 5 p.m. on the dot, an hour after the C.D.C. updated its county data online. The new data moved Washington, D.C., from yellow to orange, indicating that it has a “substantial” level of community transmission, senior officials said.
Over the past week, the city had a seven-day average of 52 cases per day, a 148 percent increase from the average two weeks ago (not 52 cases per 100,000 residents, as an earlier post said).
“As a result, the White House will require all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — to wear a mask at all times when on campus,” according to the email, which was obtained by The New York Times. The new policy begins on Wednesday morning.
The email said that masks could be removed only when “alone in an office with a door that closes, or when eating or drinking and maintaining at least 8-10 feet of distance.” The new guidance represents a return to the stringent masking rules that defined the early months of the Biden administration, when staff members were prohibited from gathering in large groups and conducted most of their meetings in offices with the doors closed, on Zoom.
The email also noted that “the vast majority of those working on campus are fully vaccinated.”
The White House Correspondents Association quickly followed the administration’s example, emailing reporters who cover the White House and work in the building that it was “reimposing its mask requirement for all indoor spaces at the White House.”
Because Washington is one county, the new C.D.C. guidance pertains to the entire city. In contrast, the new C.D.C.’s guidance means that states where transmission of the virus is relatively high could issue county-by-county mask requirements.
Earlier in the day, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, delivered the daily press briefing without a mask, and members of her staff sat in the room with their faces uncovered. The majority of journalists in the room also did not wear masks.
“We will be prepared to wear masks again,” Ms. Psaki said earlier in the day, when asked how new C.D.C. guidelines would affect the president and his staff.
Confronted with surging infections, California this week became the first state to mandate coronavirus vaccines or regular testing for state employees and health care workers.
No state has vaccinated more people against Covid-19, but infections in California have risen sharply, largely because unvaccinated people are spreading the highly contagious Delta variant.
Most of the state’s labor groups and hospital systems have been publicly supportive of the new rules announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, including the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association and Kaiser Permanente, which said it would require all of its employees nationwide to get vaccinated or tested regularly.
But pockets of vaccine resistance have been stubborn, even in liberal-leaning California, where the vaccination rate is relatively high, and even among health care workers.
Like the state as a whole, where about 52 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the government and health care work forces and their unions include a striking number of vaccine resisters.
Starting next month, all public- and private-sector health care workers — two million people — along with some 246,000 state government employees, will have to show proof of vaccination. If they cannot, they will be required to wear face masks at all indoor work locations and to be tested at least weekly, and in some cases several times a week.
Sophia Perkins, 58, an unvaccinated state employee who processes death certificates for the Department of Health Care Services in Sacramento and is a union member, said she would be “forced into retirement” rather than adhere to the new rules.
“Nobody should mandate somebody else to inject poison into their body,” Ms. Perkins said. “There’s not enough research on this vaccine.”
Some state employees may pose more of a challenge than others.
Only about half of the thousands of unionized prison guards working in California’s vast correctional system have received a vaccine dose, according to Donald Specter, the executive director of the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Berkeley, Calif.
“It’s no secret that many of the staff who work in prisons are not progressive liberals,” Mr. Specter said.
Kellen Browning and Matt Craig contributed reporting.
global round up
After a slow start, Spain’s vaccination program has accelerated to near the forefront in Europe, with just over 55 percent of its population fully vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the country’s health ministry.
But for all its recent success with vaccines, Spain is also experiencing one of the worst surges in new Covid-19 cases on the continent, forcing several of its regions to reintroduce nighttime curfews and other restrictions. The country is now averaging more than 25,000 new cases a day, a sixfold increase from late June.
The State Department warned Americans on Monday to avoid traveling to Spain because of its recent rise in Covid-19 infections, a setback for a country where tourism is an important industry. Germany took a similar step last week, classifying Spain as a high-incidence country and requiring unvaccinated travelers arriving from there to quarantine for five days.
Spain started administering vaccines in late December, and took until mid-February to fully vaccinate its first million residents; since then, the effort has gathered pace, and as of Tuesday, just over 26 million people had been fully vaccinated. The latest data suggests that Spain is now on track to fulfill a pledge made early this year by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that 70 percent of Spaniards would be vaccinated by late August.
Nearly two-thirds of new infections in recent weeks have been among people under 40, the deputy health minister, Silvia Calzón, told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters. Spain has prioritized vaccination by age.
The country has been using all of the main vaccines acquired by the European Union, including the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, as well as the one-shot vaccine from Janssen, a European subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. But the vast majority of Spaniards have received the Pfizer shot.
Unlike some other European nations, which have delayed second shots in order to administer first shots sooner to more people, Spain is administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the recommended time, 21 days after the initial dose. As a result, it has relatively few partly vaccinated people at any given time.
In other developments around the globe:
Unvaccinated middle and high school students in France will be forced out of classrooms and into remote learning in the fall if a Covid-19 case is detected in their class, the French education minister said on Wednesday. The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, told the news outlet Franceinfo, “If there is an infection, it is the nonvaccinated students who will be removed, but not the vaccinated ones,” adding, “It is obviously a strong incentive to get vaccinated,” as well as a way to avoid imposing so-called health passes in schools. The announcement follows a strategy by President Emmanuel Macron that aims to make life increasingly uncomfortable for the unvaccinated.
Norway on Wednesday postponed for a second time a planned final step in the reopening of its economy, Reuters reported. The delay is because of the continued spread of the Delta variant, the government said. Measures that will be kept in place include allowing only table service in bars and restaurants and limiting gatherings in private homes to 20 people. The government in April introduced a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June. “A new assessment will be made in mid-August,” the country’s health minister, Bent Hoie, said at a news conference.
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.
The country’s biggest trade group for residential landlords is suing the federal government for imposing a national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, claiming that the freeze cost owners around $27 billion not covered by existing aid programs.
The suit by the group, the National Apartment Association, comes less than a week before the moratorium, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last November and extended twice under President Biden, is set to expire.
Industry analysts cited in the landlords’ suit estimate that 10 million delinquent tenants owed $57 billion in back rent by the end of 2020, and that $17 billion more had gone unpaid since then.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in D.C., is meant in part to press the Biden administration to speed up disbursement of $47 billion in emergency rental relief that was included in the two coronavirus relief packages. Landlords also hope to prod the White House to loosen the application requirements for the relief, which many owners say are too onerous.
“If the government takes a hard-line approach, renters and rental housing providers will suffer credit damage and economic harm that could follow them for years to come,” Robert Pinnegar, the association’s president, said in an interview. “Alternatively, our nation’s leaders could work alongside the industry to make everyone whole and find a resolution that fully funds the economic impact of the C.D.C. eviction order and swiftly distributes those funds.”
Calls to the White House and the Justice Department for comment were not immediately returned.
The case is also intended to challenge the federal government’s right to impose such restrictions in the future, arguing that the C.D.C.’s actions violated private property rights protected by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to compensate private parties when it seizes their assets.
The administration has been stepping up pressure on landlords, local governments and housing court judges to head off a wave of evictions that is expected when the moratorium expires at the end of the month.
Last week, White House officials said that effort was gaining modest momentum, with 290,000 tenants receiving $1.5 billion in pandemic relief in June, according to new Treasury Department statistics.
But the flow of the cash remains sluggish, hampered by confusion at the state level, potentially endangering tenants who have fallen behind in their rent over the past year.
“While more households are getting help, in many states and localities, funds are still not flowing fast enough to renters and landlords,” Treasury officials warned in a statement accompanying the statistics.
Several other challenges to the freeze are already making their way through various federal courts. Last month, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of declining to consider a broad constitutional challenge to the moratorium, buying more time for the relief money to reach tenants and landlords.
LL Cool J, Elvis Costello, Andrea Bocelli, Carlos Santana and the New York Philharmonic will join Bruce Springsteen and other artists next month at the starry Central Park concert that the city is planning to herald its comeback from the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
The mayor said that concertgoers would need to show proof of vaccination. Masks will be optional, since the show will be held outdoors. (Reasonable accommodation would be provided for those unable to get vaccinated because of a disability, the city said in a news release.)
“We want this to be a concert for the people,” Mr. de Blasio said. “But I also want to be clear: It has to be a safe concert. It has to be a concert that helps us keep moving forward our recovery.”
The lineup features artists and musical icons from a number of eras, genres and styles, including the Killers; Earth, Wind & Fire; Wyclef Jean; Barry Manilow; and previously announced performers including Paul Simon, Jennifer Hudson and Patti Smith.
Four-fifths of the tickets will be free, and released to the public in batches at nyc.gov/HomecomingWeek beginning Monday at 10 a.m. Others will be available for purchase Monday. The concert will also be broadcast worldwide on CNN and CNN en Español.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s declaration on Monday that more than 300,000 municipal workers in New York City must get vaccinated against the coronavirus or agree to weekly testing was an unwelcome surprise to many of the city’s municipal unions.
“The unions are really, really aggravated that the mayor sprung this on everybody,” said Harry Nespoli, the president of the sanitation workers’ union.
Since the announcement, unions representing a diverse city work force of firefighters and paramedics have come out against the mayor’s mandate. Some have made demands, like exemptions for workers who have antibodies after recovering from Covid-19.
And just about every major union has argued that the mayor cannot unilaterally impose the mandate without first negotiating with labor leaders.
But Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, expressed confidence on Tuesday that the city could legally require vaccination or testing for its workers, and that his administration would sort out how to implement the mandate with union leadership.
Mr. de Blasio said the mandate — starting Sept. 13, when schools reopen — was necessary to combat a troubling rise of cases as the contagious Delta variant spreads in the city. Officials in California and at the Department of Veterans Affairs also moved to vaccinate government workers.
The opposition from unions is based in part in a general reluctance to force members, many of whom are Black and Latino, to get the vaccine. It is largely focused on the logistics of offering vaccines or weekly tests and the form of discipline for those who do not comply. For now, it seems unlikely that it could lead to lawsuits or strikes.
The threat to public workers who are not vaccinated was reinforced on Tuesday when the city’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said that five unvaccinated employees of the Police Department were in the hospital with the virus. The Police Department appears to have one of the lowest vaccination rates among city agencies.
The Washington Post will require all employees to show that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, the newspaper’s publisher said on Tuesday.
The Post’s publisher, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., said in an email to staff that the company had decided to require proof of vaccination as a condition of employment, starting when workers return to the office in September, after hearing concerns from many employees about the emergence of coronavirus variants.
“Even though the overwhelming majority of Post employees have already provided proof of vaccination, I do not take this decision lightly,” Mr. Ryan wrote in the email, which was viewed by The New York Times. “However, in considering the serious health issues and genuine safety concerns of so many Post employees, I believe the plan is the right one.”
The Post, which is owned by the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and employs more than 1,000 journalists, is planning for a Sept. 13 office return. Contractors and guests to the office would also be required to provide proof of vaccination, Mr. Ryan said. He said the company would provide accommodations for those with “documented medical conditions and religious concerns.”
Mr. Ryan said in the email that all employees would come into the office three days a week in September in the first phase of the company’s return-to-office plan.
Companies across the United States are wrestling with how to safely transition workers back to offices after nearly 18 months of remote work. The rising number of infections from the Delta variant has prompted many companies to rethink the return-to-office plans they announced in the spring.
Many large companies have been resistant to mandating vaccines, wary of litigation, backlash and, in some instances, the risk of losing key employees. But as the vaccine has become more readily accessible, more companies have edged closer to some sort of requirement. CNN has mandated full vaccinations for all employees working in its various offices and in the field, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The investment bank Morgan Stanley said in June that, effective this month, visitors and employees in its New York offices would need to be vaccinated. Saks will require employees to be fully vaccinated when they start going to the office this fall. And Delta Air Lines is requiring new hires to be vaccinated.
Lauren Hirsch and Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.
With coronavirus case counts rising, officials are imposing vaccine mandates on government workers in hopes that the private sector will follow suit. “We’re leading by example,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said Monday, in announcing the city is mandating vaccines or testing for all municipal employees. “A lot of times, private sector employers say that’s what they need.”
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in certain areas of the country, a reversal from its earlier guidance.
Some major New York employers, notably Morgan Stanley, have already moved toward mandating vaccination for workers returning to its offices in the city. Many others haven’t taken that step, even after the mayor’s urging.
Facebook, which has 4,000 employees at its New York office, said Monday that it would continue to encourage, rather than require, coronavirus vaccines for workers. “We understand that some people may not or cannot get the Covid-19 vaccine for a variety of reasons, so the vaccine is not required to work from a Facebook office, though we encourage employees to get the vaccine to protect themselves and the communities we live in,” said Jamila Reeves, a Facebook spokeswoman.
Goldman Sachs declined to comment. The New York Times reported in June that the bank, which has roughly 10,000 New York employees, was requiring its bankers to log their vaccination status before being allowed in the office. It has been requiring regular testing for unvaccinated employees.
JPMorgan Chase, which employs about 20,100 people in New York, declined to comment. The bank has so far only strongly encouraged vaccinations, but its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, warned employees in a memo last month the bank “may mandate that all employees receive a Covid-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.”
Citigroup, which has 17,000 New York-area employees (not 7,000 as previously reported), is requiring unvaccinated employees to use an at-home rapid test three times a week and to wear masks in the office. Those who show proof of vaccination can bypass those requirements.
Pfizer, which employs roughly 2,700 employees and contractors in its Manhattan headquarters, does not generally require vaccinations as condition to enter its offices. “There may be certain circumstances in the future in which we impose a vaccination requirement in the interest of colleague health and wellness,” said Faith Salamon, a Pfizer spokeswoman.
On a global scale, the latest wave of the pandemic appears to be cresting at a lower level than those of the winter and spring, but the pattern differs markedly from place to place, as each nation endures its own particular drama.
The patchwork reflects the radically different paths the coronavirus takes from nation to nation, depending not only on vaccines, but on geographic isolation, the spread of the highly infectious Delta and other variants, social and economic restrictions, public compliance and an element of luck.
Conditions have improved substantially in places like India and South America that a few months ago were among the hardest-hit in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
In May, India reached about 400,000 new infections and 4,000 Covid-19 deaths officially reported per day, though experts said the true toll was much higher. On Monday, the daily tally of new cases in India dipped below 30,000 for the first time in more than four months, and the country is now reporting fewer than 1,000 deaths a day.
The most troubled countries now are a scattered assortment, not concentrated in any one region. Botswana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Spain have among the highest infection rates in the world, with numbers still climbing. Indonesia, which was recording more cases than any other country this month, remains badly affected, but the pace there has eased somewhat.
In many countries, rates of new cases are relatively low but have risen sharply in recent days. They include countries with some of the highest inoculation rates, like Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the United States, where restrictions have relaxed and the Delta variant has surged.
Vaccination rates range from more than 80 percent of adults in some countries to less than 1 percent in others, including in many of the world’s poorest nations, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Globally, more than 500,000 new cases are being recorded daily, compared with more than 800,000 three months ago. But comparisons like that are fraught, because official reporting practices vary widely from region to region. The picture is especially difficult to gauge across most of Africa, where both testing and vaccines remain scarce.
The new guidance about mask-wearing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued on Tuesday is not legally binding, leaving it up to state and local officials to decide whether and how to implement it. And that in turn depends greatly on local politics.
The C.D.C.’s recommendation that all adults in areas where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly go back to wearing masks indoors, even if they are fully vaccinated, was met with a sharp backlash in some areas, especially from political leaders in Republican-leaning states where mask mandates have been banned.
Officials in some states took the new guidance from federal experts and swiftly ran with it. Others decided to take a wait-and-see approach. And some stood firmly against it.
In New Jersey, where eight of 21 counties meet the C.D.C.’s threshold, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, and the state’s health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, said they “strongly recommended” that all residents wear masks in indoor settings where the risk of spread may be high. Though the New Jersey officials dangled the possibility of reinstating a mask mandate, they said that statewide numbers, for now, did not call for it.
In California, the public health department recommended residents wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The moves came a day after the officials in Illinois joined the C.D.C. in recommending face coverings, and after Nevada issued a mask mandate.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that even though current vaccines are effective, including the highly contagious Delta variant, “we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated,” increasing the risk for everyone.
Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat of Nevada, went further, reinstating a mask mandate set to take effect on Friday for all residents in indoor public spaces in counties with high rates of transmission, including Clark County, home to Las Vegas.
In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee urged all residents on Wednesday to follow the C.D.C.’s new mask guidance, but did not issue a mandate.
Other jurisdictions, including Delaware, the District of Columbia, and New York, were among the jurisdictions saying that said they would review the C.D.C.’s guidance before making any decisions. While all of New York City currently exceeds the coronavirus transmission threshold that the C.D.C. set to determine where indoor masking is needed, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Wednesday that the city was still evaluating the guidance and the research and data that underpinned it.
And several Republican governors just said no, including Greg Abbott of Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, and Brian Kemp of Georgia. Conservatives in those states have often cast public health measures as an attack on freedom.
“I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support,” Ms. Reynolds said in a statement.
“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” Mr. Ducey said on Tuesday.
Mr. Abbott, who signed an executive order in May preventing local governments from requiring masks, said that wearing a face covering was a matter of personal responsibility.
“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Mr. Abbott wrote in a tweet.
C.D.C. officials also called on Tuesday for universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status and transmission rates of the virus. Some school districts in Alabama and Georgia did not wait for state governments to weigh in, and immediately instituted their own mask requirements. Mr. Inslee of Washington said his state would retain its school mask mandate for students and staff.
In Florida, where new case reports have surged nearly tenfold over the last month to an average of more than 10,000 a day, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, issued a statement encouraging parents in his state to decide what’s best for their children when it comes to masking.
The governor did not address the new guidance about vaccinated adults at a news conference in Milton, Fla., on Wednesday.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County, Fla., said at a news conference on Wednesday that masks would be required for employees and visitors at all indoor county facilities.
“I have pledged from the beginning that if we see a spike in the positivity rates that we would take all the necessary steps to protect the community, including making updated recommendations,” she said.
Other jurisdictions, like Los Angeles County and St. Louis County, Mo., had reinstated mask mandates even before the C.D.C.’s announcement.
But in a sign of the political challenges some local officials face, the St. Louis County Council voted on Tuesday evening to repeal the order. The move came a day after Attorney General Eric Schmitt of Missouri, a Republican, filed a lawsuit seeking to halt implementation of the county mandate, which is still in effect in the city of St. Louis.
On Wednesday, Mr. Schmitt wrote on Twitter that he plans to sue Kansas City, Mo., as well, following an announcement by Mayor Quinton Lucas that he would reimpose a mask mandate“will return Kansas City to a mask mandate indoors based upon national and regional health guidance and discussion with other Kansas City leaders.”
The Biden administration asked White House staffers on Tuesday to wear masks indoors, and the Office of Management and Budget detailed new mask rules for federal agencies. In an email obtained by The New York Times, the agency said, “In areas of substantial or high community transmission, agencies must require all Federal employees, on-site contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside of Federal buildings.”
The Department of Homeland Security announced a mask mandate Wednesday on Twitter. “Beginning today, all employees, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask indoors & physically distance,” the agency said.
Alan Rappeport and Michael Gold contributed reporting.
Less than two weeks ago, a charter flight carrying half a million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine took off from Kentucky and touched down at the international airport in Bhutan. By Monday, most adults in the remote Himalayan kingdom had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, all through donated shots.
The July 12 flight was the culmination of a weekslong diplomatic scramble in which Bhutan’s government asked 28 countries to supply doses for its second round of vaccinations, according to Will Parks, the country representative for the United Nations’ children’s agency.
The plane carried doses donated by the United States and distributed through Covax, a global vaccine-sharing partnership. Separately, Denmark sent 250,000 AstraZeneca doses directly; Bulgaria, Croatia and other nations sent another 100,000; and China sent 50,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine. Most of Bhutan’s second-round shots were administered over the past week, including to yak herders at high altitudes.
Bhutan’s success is notable because the campaign to vaccinate the world’s poorer nations is mostly floundering as wealthy nations delay shipments of doses, exacerbating inequalities in the pandemic response that analysts see as both a moral and epidemiological failure.
“I hope that this piece of good news functions as a prompt for the international community to do more to also reach other countries in need of vaccines,” said Lisa Herzog, a professor of philosophy at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who has studied the ethics of the Covax distribution model.
Back in March, Bhutan pulled off a remarkable feat: vaccinating more than 93 percent of eligible adults with first doses in a country where some villages are accessible only by helicopter or on foot. But the success of that undertaking meant that the government needed to complete a second round of vaccinations within the recommended window of 12 to 16 weeks.
The first round — 550,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — had been donated by the government of India, where the drug is known as Covishield and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. But India later cut back on vaccine exports as its own outbreak surged.
“Bhutan had that kind of circumstantial imperative to chase, chase and chase vaccines in sufficient quantity to arrive en masse in a limited time, to be used in a mass vaccination for the second round,” said Dr. Parks, the UNICEF representative. “Other countries have not had that kind of circumstance, where they’ve done a massive first round. It’s been a trickle effect.”
Tashi Yangchen, a representative from Bhutan’s Health Ministry, said the second round of mass vaccination had ended on Monday with 90.2 percent of eligible adults fully vaccinated. Dr. Parks said the official figure would inch up a bit further in the coming days as people in hard-to-reach groups, such as nomadic tribes, received second shots.
Dr. Parks credited leadership from Bhutan’s government and royal palace, plus low levels of vaccine hesitancy and a robust cold-chain infrastructure.
Another reason, he said, was that the success of the first round of shots helped prove to donors that the country of fewer than 800,000 people could roll out a second round efficiently and effectively.
“Some of the other countries — which were struggling with using vaccines that they had available — couldn’t really fall back on that demonstration that ‘if you give, we will use,’” he said.
New coronavirus cases have declined for six days in a row in Britain, a shift that is baffling scientists, many of whom predicted a powerful surge in cases after the government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England last week.
Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the downward trend, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested for the virus.
But if sustained, the case numbers raise a tantalizing prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the rapidly transmissible Delta variant widely circulating in the population. Even his own health secretary, Sajid Javid, predicted that cases could skyrocket to 100,000 a day before the country’s third wave of the pandemic ebbed.
The government has been careful not to declare victory too soon. Mr. Johnson emerged from self-isolation himself on Tuesday, after being in close contact with Mr. Javid, who tested positive for the virus on July 17.
“It is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this,” the prime minister told reporters on Tuesday during a visit to a police station in Surrey, southwest of London. “People have got to remain very cautious, and that remains the approach of the government.”
On Monday, the government reported 24,950 new cases, down from a high of 54,674 on July 17. Hospital admissions and deaths are still up compared with a week ago, though both are typically lagging indicators. The Daily Telegraph reported, based on leaked data, that roughly half of all new Covid cases in people admitted to hospitals were in patients seeking care for other illnesses and found to be infected through routine testing.
That would be another encouraging sign, experts said, since it would suggest that many such people do not even realize that they have Covid — confirmation that the vaccines have weakened the link between infection and serious illness. Just over 70 percent of adults in Britain have received both doses of a vaccine.
In addition to the threat of soaring cases, Britain has also struggled with a cascade of people being notified, or “pinged,” by the National Health Service and told that they had been exposed to the virus and should quarantine themselves.
Scientists said it would take several more days to form definitive conclusions about the declining case numbers.
LONDON — Even with the rain, lines at some night spots in England snaked around street corners. Patrons cheered and gyrated on dance floors on the first weekend that they were allowed into nightclubs after the easing of virtually all lockdown rules. The euphoria was evident, with many saying that it was the first true night of dancing, release and socializing they had experienced in over a year.
But starting in September, nightclubs and other crowded events will become more exclusive, with government officials, worried about transmission, saying that proof of vaccination will become a condition of entry.
Nadhim Zahawi, minister for vaccine deployment, told Parliament on Thursday, “We plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to those high-risk settings where large crowds gather and interact.”
“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient,” he added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that vaccinations would most likely increasingly be needed for access to “some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities,” including nightclubs.
The comments caused trepidation in an industry that has been battered by more than a year of forced shutdowns and delayed reopenings.
With 35 percent of people ages 18 to 30 having not yet received a single dose of a vaccine, Mr. Johnson said that entry requirements would encourage people to seek shots to “get back the freedom, the love.”
The sudden update was at odds with an earlier message from officials that proof of vaccination or negative tests would not be mandated, though they would be encouraged. Venue owners called the change another blow to the nightclub sector. Workers in the industry have in recent months protested the government’s decision to delay the reopening of nightclubs and other late-night venues while allowing sporting events to go ahead.
But in the prelude to the lifting of most restrictions on July 19, health experts had cautioned against the government’s decision to reopen almost all of the economy in England.
In a statement, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, called the idea of requiring vaccinations as a condition of entry “another chaotic U-turn.” Most nightclubs did not want to implement passes showing proof of vaccination, he said, because it would be difficult to enforce and would put them at a disadvantage to pubs and bars, where passes are not required.
Hans-Christian Hess, director of the Egg London venue, which reopened as soon as it was allowed, said, “Nightclubs seem to be the dirty word.” He noted that clubs took as many precautions as sporting events like Wimbledon, which were allowed to go ahead. “We deserve our freedom just as much as anyone else,” he said.
Even without legal obligations, some venues have installed their own conditions of entry, such as evidence of a negative lateral flow test taken the same day.
In the case of Egg London, “We’re advising people to take lateral flow tests and advising people to stay home if they don’t feel too well,” Mr. Hess said. “All the staff are wearing masks.”
Mr. Hess said that the authorities had not yet offered clarity on how vaccine passes would be implemented, and he added that he would have preferred a system in which patrons could show certification of a negative test or full vaccination for entry.
“After 18 months of not doing any business, you can imagine how hard it is,” he said. “It’s been an amazing few days just to see the people and see all the youngsters enjoying themselves.”
Some other countries have been introducing passes as a condition of entry to social events. France, for example, has said that passes showing proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or proof of recovery from Covid would be required to enter potentially crowded venues such as museums and cinemas. But the moves have prompted backlash. Tens of thousands in France protested against the introduction of the new “health passes” this month, and in May, hundreds showed up at a similar demonstration in London.
About half of the British population is now fully vaccinated, but that rate is lower among younger age groups, many of whom only became eligible to book their first shots in June.