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U.S. Pushes China on New Study; Italy Limits Astra: Virus Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 2 days ago Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed his Chinese counterpart in a phone call Friday to allow a new expert-led study into the origins of Covid-19. But China’s top diplomat called theories that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab absurd, according to readouts from both sides.

Millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are set to be cleared for use after a months-long delay due to problems at a manufacturer hired to make the shot, but millions more could end up being thrown away.

U.K. infections continued to rise, posing a dilemma for Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of a crunch decision Monday on whether to proceed with the final stage of reopening the economy later this month. Italy will ban the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60, health minister Roberto Speranza said.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases exceed 175 million; deaths pass 3.7 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 2.26 billion doses administeredWhat the world wants China to disclose in Wuhan lab leak probeNaming the vaccinated: A Covid hot spot works to thwart cheatersHow vaccine nationalism risks prolonging the pandemic: QuickTakeSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.

New-York Presbyterian Mandates Vaccines (3:45 p.m. NY)

New York-Presbyterian, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, said Friday it was requiring employees to get Covid-19 vaccinations. The system has some 48,000 employees and affiliated physicians. Exceptions may be granted for pregnancy or medical or religious reasons.

“As a leading health care organization, we believe it is essential to require vaccinations to protect our patients and ourselves against the threat of further harm from the pandemic and the possibility of more dangerous mutations,” a letter to employees read.

Health care workers around the nation have shown hesitancy to get vaccinated. Earlier this week, the Houston Methodist hospital system suspended almost 200 employees for not refusing a requirement to get vaccinated. Some employees are suing the hospital over the mandate.

Chicago Lifts Last Restrictions (2:48 p.m. NY)

Chicago fully reopened on Friday after Mayor Lori Lightfoot moved up a planned July 4 target date for lifting capacity limits.

“Happy reopening day,” Lightfoot said on MSNBC. “It feels great. We’re lifting all restrictions as of today.” Masks will still be required in some settings, including public transit.

City data show 54% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday, compared with a national average of about 52% calculated by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Among major U.S. metro areas with high Covid-19 mortality, Chicago recorded the biggest improvement -- a 25% decline in deaths -- in the week through Wednesday, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Kentucky ‘No Longer in Crisis’ (2:42 p.m. NY)

Capacity restrictions and masking requirements for Kentuckians were lifted Friday by Gov. Andy Beshear who said that his state is “no longer in crisis.”

Beshear’s move to lift his Covid-19 pandemic orders came weeks or months after actions by surrounding states.

“Covid-19 remains deadly. Our war against it is not yet won,” the Democratic governor said in a news conference. “But after more than 15 months of struggle and sacrifice, we can also say this: While Covid-19 remains a threat, we are no longer in crisis.”

U.S. Teen Suicide Attempts Surged (2:15 p.m. NY)

Emergency-room visits for suspected suicide attempts by teenagers, especially girls, rose sharply during pandemic lockdowns, according to new data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC study found that suspected suicide attempts in the 12-17 age group declined in the early days of social distancing, but then rose among both girls and boys in the summer of 2020. In the subsequent winter, suspected attempts by female teens surged to 51% higher than the equivalent period of 2019, while among males the rate fell back.

Moderna Sees No Link to Heart Risk (1:58 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. said that scientific evidence it has reviewed doesn’t suggest that its vaccine was the cause of a heart condition in some people who received it.

The drugmaker said in a statement Friday that after reviewing the available safety data on its shot for cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, it “has not established a causal association with its vaccine.”

U.S. public health advisers plan to meet later this month to discuss a potential link between Covid-19 shots that use messenger RNA technology, which include Moderna’s vaccine and one made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and heart inflammation after hundreds of vaccinated people experienced myocarditis.

Russia Raises Death Toll by 38% (12:54 p.m. NY)

Russia’s statistics agency raised the number of deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 last year by 38%, showing the pandemic’s toll has been worse than acknowledged.

There were 144,691 deaths last year attributed to the coronavirus, up from 104,826 previously reported, according to a Rosstat report released late Friday. The data did not contain deaths of people who had Covid-19 but were found to have died from other causes.

J&J Doses Released (12:40 p.m. NY)

Millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are set to be cleared for use after a months-long delay due to problems at a manufacturer hired to make the shot, but millions more could end up being thrown away.

The Food and Drug Administration released 10 million doses of the vaccine that were produced by Emergent BioSolutions Inc. at its troubled manufacturing facility in Baltimore, according to people familiar with the matter.

At the same time, the FDA said it had determined several other batches aren’t suitable for use, while others are still under review. Emergent has said it has made more than 100 million doses worth of the vaccine’s bulk drug substance.

U.S. Presses China on New Origin Study (12:02 p.m. NY)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed his Chinese counterpart in a phone call Friday to allow a new expert-led study into the origins of Covid-19, but China’s top diplomat called theories that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab an absurd story, according to readouts from both sides.

In the call with Politburo member Yang Jiechi, Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for WHO Phase 2 expert-led studies in China,” the State Department said in a statement. Yang said China supports cooperation but won’t tolerate what he said were attempts to smear China, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.

Italy Bans Astra for Under 60s (11:33 a.m. NY)

Italy will ban the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60, health minister Roberto Speranza said in a press conference on Friday. Italians under 60 who have received AstraZeneca vaccine as first shot, will get a different vaccine for the second dose.

“The pandemic situation has changed,” Franco Locatelli, president of the country’s Higher Health Council, said. “The benefits-potential-risks ratio has changed as well.” On Thursday an 18-year-old woman died in Genoa after suffering a blood clot following an AstraZeneca shot on May 25.

Swiss to Open Borders (10:52 a.m. NY)

Switzerland plans to reopen its borders for overseas visitors who have received a Covid-19 vaccine on June 28, joining other European countries easing entry rules imposed during the pandemic. With its vaccine drive accelerating and infections falling, the government said it wants to prepare for the upcoming vacation season.

Mauritius Open to Vaccinated Tourists (9:58 a.m. NY)

The Indian Ocean tourism-dependent economy will reopen borders in two phases -- the first on July 15 targeting inoculated visitors, Finance Minister Renganaden Padayachy told lawmakers on Friday.

In the first phase, tourists will have to remain in their resorts for 14 days, and will only be allowed to move after a negative PCR test. The second phase starts on Oct. 1 with free movement on the island, provided the visitor has a negative test on arrival.

EU Discards Some J&J Batches (9:52 a.m. NY)

The EU won’t release any of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine made at the same time a contamination with the AstraZeneca shot occurred in the U.S., the bloc’s drugmaker said in a statement Friday.

While EU authorities don’t believe any of the EU batches were affected by the incident that took place at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. Baltimore facility earlier this year, the step is a precaution, according to the European Medicines Agency. It emerged in March that there had been cross-contamination between the J&J vaccine substance with ingredients from the Astra shot.

The Bayview facility had been approved by the EU to manufacture the J&J drug substance, a person with knowledge of the situation said in April, and the company had already made three batches of vaccine intended for Europe. One batch was already being used in Europe in April, with a further two on hold for investigation.

Botswana Leader Sees Divided World (5:57 p.m. HK)

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said he’s never seen the world as polarized as it is over the issue of access to Covid-19 vaccines. The actions of rich countries, who have bought more inoculations than they need while much of Africa struggles to secure the doses, should be “condemned in the strongest of terms.”

Merkel Aide Rules Out New Hard Lockdown (5:15 p.m. HK)

Germany may encounter a fourth wave of the pandemic as a result of the delta variant that’s spreading across the U.K., but it won’t spur another hard lockdown of the kind the country experienced in the winter, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff told RTL/ntv in an interview.

While cases may climb again in the fall, a new wave may not arise if enough people get vaccinated, Helge Braun is cited as saying.

a person sitting in a car: Drive-In Vaccinations Offered In Meerbusch © Photographer: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images Europe Drive-In Vaccinations Offered In Meerbusch

A doctor inoculates a woman at a drive through vaccination site in Meerbusch, Germany.

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