NEW YORK — After growing cobwebs for nearly a year, movie theaters in New York City reopened Friday, returning film titles to Manhattan marquees that had for the last 12 months instead read messages like “Wear a mask” and “We’ll be back soon.”

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Kathyn Dennet, center, and Brian Haver leave the IFC Center in New York on Friday after viewing “Mank.” Movie theaters in New York City reopened Friday, operating at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people per auditorium. Associated Press/Mary Altaffer

Less than half of all movie theaters are open nationwide, but reopenings are quickening. Theaters in many areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but that attempted comeback fizzled. Throughout, theaters remained shut in New York City. For a year almost to the date, one of the world’s foremost movie capitals stayed dark.

For a business that has been punished by the pandemic, the resumption of moviegoing in New York is a crucial first step in revival.

“It’s a symbolic moment,” said Michael Barker, co-president of the New York-based Sony Pictures Classics, which on Friday released the Oscar contenders “The Father” and “The Truffle Hunters” in Manhattan theaters. “It says that there is hope for the theatrical world to reactivate itself.”

Cinemas in the city are operating at only 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 per each auditorium. As in other places, mask wearing is mandatory, seats are blocked out and air filters have been upgraded.

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Canada approves use of Johnson & Johnson shots amid acute vaccine shortage

TORONTO — Canada is getting a fourth vaccine to prevent COVID-19 as the country’s health regulator has cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two, two officials familiar with the matter told the Associated Press on Friday.

Health experts are eager for a one-and-done option to help speed vaccination. Canada has also approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The two officials confirmed the approval on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the Health Canada announcement.

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Health-care workers walk through the post-vaccine waiting area at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Ontario on March 1. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via Associated Press

Like many countries, Canada does not have domestic production and has struggled with an immediate shortage of vaccines.

Canada has pre-purchased 10 million Johnson & Johnson doses, with options to buy another 28 million.

The U.S. approved Johnson and Johnson last month. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. The company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. Last month, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

The vaccine shortage is so acute in Canada that provincial governments are now saying they will extend the interval between the two doses of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines to four months rather than three to four weeks so they can quickly inoculate more people.

Canadians 80 and above in the general public are only starting to get vaccinated this month and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said this week that extending the dose interval to four months would allow as many as 80 percent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Detroit mayor turns down Johnson & Johnson vaccine in favor of others, then says he’ll accept it

LANSING, Mich. — Detroit this week turned down 6,200 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, favoring shots from Pfizer and Moderna, but said Friday it will accept J&J doses in the state’s next allocation.

Mayor Mike Duggan had said Thursday that residents should get the “best” vaccines — from Moderna and Pfizer — conflicting with guidance from top state and federal health officials who caution against comparing the three vaccines and note all provide strong protection against the worst outcomes.

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Associated Press file photo/Carlos Osorio

Duggan had also said the allotment of 29,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses “covered everyone who wanted a vaccination this week.” On Friday, he called J&J vaccines “a key part of our expansion of vaccine centers.”

No other local health department declined any of the 82,700 J&J shots sent to Michigan this week, the state health department said.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said earlier in the week that people who are offered the J&J vaccine should “take it because declining … could be the difference between life and death.” In a statement Friday, she cited differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Moderna and Pfizer research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 percent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85 percent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 percent when moderate cases were rolled in. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot strongly safeguards against serious illness, hospitalization and death.

“All of the vaccines are safe and effective and I recommend that all vaccines be offered in all communities,” Khaldun said.

White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday that the White House talked to the Detroit mayor’s office, which called the situation a “misunderstanding.”

“In fact, he is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Slavitt said of Duggan.

As of Wednesday, 11 percent of Detroit residents age 16 and older had gotten at least one dose. The statewide rate was 19 percent.

After record deaths, Bolsonaro tells Brazilians ‘No more fussiness, no more whining’

Brazil is facing more COVID deaths and cases than ever, its hospitals overflowing, its policy in disarray, its vaccine supply severely limited. In addition to a president who scoffs at the disease, rejects masks and leaves each state on its own, the country plays host to a variant that’s more contagious and possibly deadlier.

This week, state governors criticized the federal government for spreading false information and “prioritizing conflict, creating images of good-versus-evil and undermining cooperation.” States from Sao Paulo to Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul have tightened restrictions in the past few days to try to halt contagion.

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COVID-19 patients lie on beds at a field hospital built inside a sports coliseum on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday. Associated Press/Andre Penner

State health secretaries issued a statement calling on the government to recognize the seriousness of the pandemic, which is causing the collapse of several public and private health-care systems. It lamented the lack of a national, coherent policy and asked for more stringent rules for non-essential businesses, including forbidding sports and religious activities and all in-person classes and closing bars and beaches. It also called for authorities to consider shutting airports and suspending interstate travel, as well as imposing a national curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week and all day on weekends.

While some at the health ministry are open to discussing nationwide measures with governors, the concern is that Bolsonaro himself will bar any such initiative, a person familiar with the matter said.”We’re going to continue to see a high number of infections and deaths for at least three months, because there’s nothing to stop it from happening,” said Antonio Carlos Bandeira, a director of Brazil’s infectious-disease society. “It’s not lockdowns being done in one place or the other that will avoid it. You would have had to have coordinated this long ago.”

This week, as Brazil reported back-to-back record deaths from the virus, Bolsonaro welcomed allies for a lunch in Brasilia. The largely maskless group feasted on typical dishes, including beans with sausage and collard greens, plus a whole roast pig. The following day, the president raged against governors for creating panic in the population.

“You didn’t stay home, you didn’t cower,” Bolsonaro told a crowd of supporters on Thursday. “We have to face our fears. No more fussiness, no more whining. Are people going to cry forever?”

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The pandemic has led to fewer sports injuries, more firework and power-tool accidents

The pandemic saw a dramatic shift in how Americans got hurt last year, as months of lockdowns and stay-home orders reshaped everyday routines and presented unfamiliar dangers, according to a study released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission demonstrated firework safety on the Mall in Washington in 2019. Consumer Product Safety Commission via The Washington Post

Sports injuries collapsed. Injuries from fireworks and bicycles spiked. Severe injuries caused by home power tools soared. More people were hurt by chain saws and skateboards. But bad injuries on playground equipment plummeted.

Despite the changes, the number of people treated in hospital emergency rooms for severe product-related injuries remained flat, falling a negligible 1 percent from March to September during the pandemic last year, compared with the same period the year before.

People still got hurt, just in different ways.

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Teacher vaccinations go untracked amid school reopening push

The national rush to vaccinate teachers in hopes of soon reopening pandemic-shuttered schools is running into one basic problem: Almost no one knows how many are getting the shots, or refusing to get them.

States and many districts have not been keeping track of school employee vaccinations, even as the U.S. prioritizes teachers nationwide. Vaccines are not required for educators to return to school buildings, but the absence of data complicates efforts to address parents’ concerns about health risk levels and some teachers unions’ calls for widespread vaccinations as a condition of reopening schools.

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Kindergarten school teacher Christina Kibby receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Hartford, Conn. on Wednesday. Associated Press/Jessica Hill

The number of school staff members receiving vaccinations — and refusal rates — are unclear in several large districts where teachers were prioritized, including Las Vegas, Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky.

Some state agencies and districts have said privacy concerns prevent them from tracking or publishing teacher vaccination data. Others say vaccine administration sites are not tracking recipients’ occupations and they are not in position to survey employees themselves.

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San Diego zoo vaccinates 9 great apes for virus

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo has vaccinated nine great apes for the coronavirus after a troop of gorillas in its Safari Park became infected.

Officials say four orangutans and five bonobos received COVID-19 injections in January and February.

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Winston, a silverback gorilla and a gorilla named Imani in their enclosure at the San Diego Zoo in January. Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Global via Associated Press

Three bonobos and a gorilla also are expected to receive the vaccine, which is experimental.

The vaccinations followed a January outbreak of COVID-19 at the zoo’s Safari Park. Eight western lowland gorillas got the virus, probably by exposure to a zookeeper who tested positive for COVID-19.

The gorillas had symptoms ranging from runny noses to coughing and lethargy. But they are recovering.

Ontario leader disappointed in Biden for not sharing vaccine

TORONTO — The leader of Canada’s most populous province expressed irritation Thursday with the U.S. refusal to ship vaccines north of the border, saying he’d hoped for a change of stance with a new American president, but it remains “every person for themselves.”

The U.S. so far isn’t allowing locally made vaccines to be exported, so Canada — like the other U.S. neighbor, Mexico — has been forced to get vaccines from Europe and Asia.

“I thought I’d see a little bit of a change with the administration but again it’s every person for themselves out there,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

Ford called the U.S. Canada’s closet ally in the world but said: “You really see who your friends and foes are.”

Like most countries, Canada does not have domestic production and has struggled with an immediate shortage of vaccines to deliver despite having eventual orders for far more than it needs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly raised with President Joe Biden the idea of allowing Canada to buy vaccines produced in the U.S, but Biden’s “first priority” remains “ensuring every American is vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said.

Psaki said once that is done, the next step is ensuring America’s neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are able to manage the pandemic so that the borders can reopen. The U.S. expects to have enough vaccine by the end of May.

The vaccine shortage is so acute in Canada that provincial governments are now saying they will extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to four months rather than three to four weeks so they can quickly inoculate more people.

New Zealand once again COVID-free

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s largest city will exit a weeklong lockdown on Sunday morning after the latest coronavirus outbreak appears to have been stamped out.

There have been no new community cases of the virus found in Auckland or elsewhere in New Zealand for the past five days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday that Auckland would move to Alert Level 2 from 6 a.m. Sunday while the rest of New Zealand would move to Alert Level 1. Level 2 places limits on crowd sizes but allows people to continue most aspects of life as normal, while Level 1 requires only that people wear masks on public transport.

Auckland had gone six months without a lockdown before 15 community cases of the more transmissible variant first found in Britain were discovered in February, prompting an initial three-day lockdown followed later by the weeklong lockdown.

Ardern made the decision to ease restrictions after meeting with senior lawmakers in the Cabinet.

Seattle teachers vote not to return to classrooms

SEATTLE— Seattle’s public teachers’ union has voted to not return to the classrooms, saying it has no confidence in the district to keep educators safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move by the Seattle Education Association comes the same week that Gov. Jay Inslee – who has implored schools to reopen to students for in-person learning – said all teachers in the state could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. The Seattle School District is Washington’s largest, with about 50,000 students, and now the teachers and administration are at loggerheads.

The district says it still plans to open up classrooms to about 1,100 students on March 8. Members of the Seattle Education Association voted Wednesday night to stay in the on-line learning model and also cast a vote of “no confidence” in outgoing Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau.

 


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