They travel thousands of miles by plane from Latin America to the U.S., in some places taking a shuttle directly from the airport to COVID-19 vaccine sites. Their ranks include politicians, TV personalities, business executives and a soccer team. People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States due to lack of supply at home.
The global vaccine rollout has been defined by inequity. Across the northern border in Canada, the sight of the United States awash in vaccines and racing ahead to inoculate the population is fueling frustration. By Monday, at President Joe Biden’s request, all U.S. states had expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said every Canadian who wants a vaccine will have one by the end of September.
Parted couple overcome pain of pandemic through glass
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck Spain, a glass pane has separated Xavier Antó and Carmen Panzano for the first prolonged period of the couple’s 65-year marriage.
Antó, age 90, appears three or four times a week at the street-level window that looks into the Barcelona nursing home where his 92-year-old wife lives, which closed to visitors more than a year ago to protect residents from COVID-19.
Employees from the home provide him with a chair and bring Panzano to the other side of the window. Antó shows her photos of their grandchildren on his phone to try to counteract the effects of her Alzheimer’s disease.
Both have vaccines against the coronavirus, but Spain’s nursing homes still are under tight controls after tens of thousands of the country’s oldest adults died in senior care facilities during the early months of the pandemic.
The couple met in 1953 and got married in 1955. Except for a spell early in their marriage when he worked away from home, they always were together.
“We had never been apart,” Antó told The Associated Press.
Now, when he comes to visit, the wife and husband put their hands on the glass and blow each other kisses. Although they cannot hear each other speak, at least they don’t worry about how much time they have to share.
—Emilio Morenatti, The Associated Press
Oxygen supply disruption kills 22 COVID-19 patients in India
Twenty-two COVID-19 patients on ventilators died in a hospital in western India on Wednesday when their oxygen supply was interrupted by a leak in a supply line, officials said.
Fire officer Sanjay Bairagi said the leak was halted by the fire service within 15 minutes, but there was supply disruption in the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, a city in Maharashtra state that is the worst hit by the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country. Some of the 140 COVID-19 patients were moved to another hospital.
India has reported a new record 295,041 coronavirus cases, as the daily death toll crossed 2,000 for the first time. Overall, India has reported more than 15.6 million confirmed cases, the second highest behind the United States. The number of deaths stood at 182,553.
—The Associated Press
Pandemic good Samaritan faces hefty tax bill for his efforts
MANSFIELD, Conn. — A Connecticut middle school teacher who raised $41,000 to help hundreds of his struggling neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic got an unwelcome surprise for his charitable efforts: a form stating he could owe $16,031 in income taxes.
Louis Goffinet, 27, of Mansfield, began picking up groceries for elderly neighbors afraid to go to the store during the early days of the pandemic, often spending his own money. Given the great need, he organized two fundraisers on Facebook over a year, tracking 140 grocery trips, Friday night dinners to 125 families and rental assistance to five families.
In January, Facebook sent Goffinet a 1099 form that stated he owed taxes on the money he had raised.
His bill is due May 17 and he expects to pay “some sort of tax burden” but isn’t sure exactly how much. Meanwhile, some people in the community are now trying to help him out with the tax bill, sending checks in checks but to a post office box and not through Facebook.
—The Associated Press
For grieving Queen Elizabeth II, a private and subdued 95th birthday
Queen Elizabeth II thanked the public on Wednesday for their support following the death of Prince Philip, as she turned 95 and marked her birthday without her husband of more than seven decades.
The queen’s birthday comes just four days after the funeral of Philip, whom she hailed as her “strength and stay” throughout her reign and their 73 years of marriage.
Over the weekend, members of the British public expressed concern for the queen, who was forced to sit alone during the funeral ceremony at St. George’s Chapel because of England’s stringent coronavirus restrictions. Many sympathized with her, while others remained in awe at her strength in the face of loss.
—Karla Adam and Jennifer Hassan, The Washington Post
FDA inspection found problems at factory making J&J vaccine
The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent Biosciences factory.
Agency inspectors said a batch of the bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. That batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out.
Both Emergent and Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that they are working to fix the problems as quickly as possible. Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed yet.
—Linda A. Johnson, The Associated Press
Japan prepares for 3rd virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka areas
Japan’s government is preparing to announce a third state of emergency in Tokyo and the western metropolitan area around Osaka following requests from local leaders who say current measures are failing to curb a rapid rise in coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and key ministers met late Wednesday to discuss details before deciding on a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and neighboring Kyoto and Hyogo expected later this week.
Osaka, the worst-hit area in the latest upsurge beginning in March, reported 1,242 new cases Wednesday, a new high for the prefecture.
—Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press
China says 200 million citizens have been vaccinated
Around 200 million Chinese, or 14.29% of the population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far, with an emphasis on front-line workers, university students and people living in border areas, a health official said Wednesday.
China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start, prompted in part by the virtual elimination of domestic transmission. Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders on Myanmar.
China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of dose. The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7% to 79.3%, based on company data, lower than their foreign peers but still effective.
—The Associated Press
India being overrun by its massive virus surge
India has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases daily, bringing pain, fear and agony to many lives as lockdowns have been placed in Delhi and other cities.
India’s Health Ministry reported 295,041 new cases on Wednesday with 2,023 deaths, taking total fatalities to 182,553. India has since the start of the pandemic recorded 15.6 million cases, the second highest behind the United States.
Newly reported cases have exceeded 200,000 each day for a week — with people being infected faster than they can be tested.
—The Associated Press
Brazil COVID cases still soaring among unprotected majority
Brazil’s slowly unfolding vaccination program appears to have slowed the pace of deaths among the nation’s elderly, according to death certificate data, but COVID-19 is still taking a rising toll as unprotected younger people get sick.
People 80 and over accounted for a quarter of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths in February, but less than a fifth in March, according to data provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday by Arpen-Brasil, an association which represents thousands of the notaries who record death certificates in Brazil.
But relatively few beyond the elderly have been protected: Less than 9 million of Brazil’s 210 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
Confirmed new infections from the virus among all age groups jumped about 70 percent between December and March: Reported cases rose from 1.3 million in December to 1.5 million in January, to 1.36 million in February and to 2.25 million in March. But among people aged 20 to 59 the death toll tripled from February to March, hitting 23,366, according to the notaries.
—Mauricio Savarese and Tatiana Pollastri, Associated Press
Catch up on the past 24 hours
President Joe Biden is stepping up his push to get vaccines in arms. He'll outline his plan at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time today as the U.S. approaches a big milestone.
Which parts of life are safe to resume after vaccination: Advice from the CDC and seven health experts is wrapped into this post-vaccine guide to living safely, which includes going to gyms, shopping, taking an Uber and more.
Has the pandemic put you out of work for a year or more? We're covering the challenges of long-term unemployment, and we'd like to hear from you.
Seattle Times staff & news services