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A rally in San Francisco on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule at the city’s public schools.Credit…John G. Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock
Parents of schoolchildren protested in several cities around the United States over the weekend, frustrated by the off-again-on-again reopening policies in some school districts and blanket closures in others a full year after the pandemic began, despite growing scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely if they follow basic procedures.
Several hundred people rallied in downtown Naperville, Ill., on Sunday to urge officials to give students the option of returning to the classroom five days a week. Wielding signs with messages like “Get our kids back in school” and “Flip the school board,” demonstrators chanted, “Five days a week,” The Naperville Sun reported.
In San Francisco, hundreds of parents and children marched on Saturday in support of a five-day in-person learning schedule, arguing that a partial reopening falls short, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Similarly, parents demonstrated at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, according to a local news station, saying a tentative agreement with teachers for a partial reopening in April was not enough.
Parents pressing for in-person classes say that remote learning leaves students feeling emotionally and socially drained at home.
They have the Biden administration on their side. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling the country in a campaign aimed at reopening schools. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines last month saying it was safe for schools to reopen if they could ensure measures like proper masking, physical distancing and hygiene were taken. The recommendations called for every elementary school to open in some fashion.
In early February, The New York Times surveyed 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — who largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time, in-person instruction. Some said that was true even in communities where coronavirus cases were widespread, with proper safety precautions, including adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities.
Teachers’ unions have largely continued advocating slower reopenings to keep educators safe, with some unions saying access to vaccinations was a requirement before returning to schools; teachers are now eligible for them in all states. (The C.D.C. guidelines do not make vaccinating educators a prerequisite for reopening schools.)
In response, some parents have started campaigns to run for school board seats and have founded political action committees to push for school reopenings.
And in several states run by Republican governors, including Arizona, Iowa, Texas and Florida, state officials have begun ordering schools to offer in-classroom instruction for at least some grades.
In Redmond, Wash., this month, parent and student demonstrators called for an immediate return to in-person learning. Video of the event, captured by a local news station, shows people holding up signs that read “Open schools now” outside the Lake Washington School District resource center.
“My heart is breaking. I have two middle school kids who haven’t been educated for a year,” one parent told Q13 Fox Seattle.
Cara Cohen, a 46-year-old special-education advocate, said she attended a rally this month in support of a full reopening of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts, where her 16-year-old son is a sophomore.
“Children, in a lot of classes, are having to teach themselves,” Ms. Cohen said. “It’s just not the same capacity of learning that they get when they are face to face with the teachers.”
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Heather Kilpatrick used to work in hospitality before the pandemic, but she now stays home with her 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne. Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times
In the year since the pandemic upended the U.S. economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances.
An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned.
These labor-force dropouts are not counted in the most commonly cited unemployment rate, which was 6.2 percent in February, making the group something of a hidden casualty of the pandemic.
Now, as the labor market begins to emerge from the pandemic’s vise, whether those who have left the labor force return to work — and if so, how quickly — is one of the big questions about the shape of the recovery.
There is some reason for optimism. Economists expect that many who have left the labor force in the past year will return to work once health concerns and child care issues are alleviated. And they are optimistic that as the labor market heats up, it will draw in workers who grew disenchanted with the job search.
Moreover, after the last recession, many economists said those who left the labor force were unlikely to come back, whether because of disabilities, the opioid crisis, a loss of skills or other reasons. Yet labor force participation, adjusted for demographic shifts, eventually returned to its previous level.
But the speed with which the pandemic has driven workers from the labor force could leave lasting damage.
Many Facebook and Instagram users are already using the apps to share their vaccination status.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Facebook said on Monday that it planned to expand its efforts to help get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The social network said it would roll out a new location-based tool to direct people to the clinics nearest to them that offer vaccinations, which users can find inside Facebook’s main app.
The company will also have an information center for Covid-19-related questions and data inside its Instagram photo-sharing app, building on a similar effort that Facebook introduced last year. And it will keep adding automated chat bots to WhatsApp, which can text users information on where to get vaccinated.
“By working closely with national and global health authorities and using our scale to reach people quickly, we’re doing our part to help people get credible information, get vaccinated and come back together safely,” Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a company blog post.
While Facebook previously allowed anti-vaccination groups on its platform to flourish, last year it pledged to remove Covid-related misinformation from its site. It also labeled posts related to the coronavirus with links to its official information center so it could direct people to sources like the World Health Organization.
But critics have said that false or misleading data about vaccines and the virus continues to be visible in private groups and pages on Facebook.
In Milan, the police imposed one-way pedestrian paths on Sunday in the Darsena and Navigli area, one of the busiest parts of the city.Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times
Three-quarters of Italians entered a strict lockdown on Monday, as the government put in place restrictive measures to fight the rise in infections.
A more contagious variant first identified in Britain, combined with a slow vaccine rollout, led to a 15 percent increase in cases in Italy last week, a worrisome picture for the government run by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
“I am aware that today’s measures will have an impact on children’s education, on the economy but also on the psychological state of us all,” Mr. Draghi said on Friday. “But they are necessary to avoid a worsening that will make inevitable even more stringent measures.”
Most regions in northern Italy, as well as Lazio and Marche in central Italy and Campania and Puglia in the south, have shut schools and barred residents from leaving their homes except for work, health or necessity. Among business activities, only supermarkets, pharmacies and a few other stores will stay open, but restaurants are closed.
In the rest of the country, residents are not be allowed to leave their municipality without reason involving work, health or other necessities, but schools and many stores will stay open.
“We believe that only with widespread vaccinations will we be able to avoid measures like these,” Mr. Draghi added.
Fewer than two million people in the country have been fully vaccinated so far, partly because of late deliveries from the pharmaceutical industries, but also because of logistical problems in some regions. Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world: The coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 people there, and infected 3.2 million.
The entire country will be on lockdown for the Easter weekend in early April to prevent the usual large family reunions. As with restrictions in place over Christmas, people will still be allowed to leave their homes once a day.
In other news from around the world:
The government of Hong Kong said on Monday that vaccine eligibility would be expanded to include everyone age 30 and older regardless of occupation, as the Chinese territory tries to increase vaccine uptake. About 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents have received a first dose of either the BioNTech or Sinovac vaccines since the inoculation drive began late last month. But the proportion of people who show up for their appointments has fallen amid reports that six people have died after receiving the vaccine developed by Sinovac, a private Chinese company. Officials say that two of the deaths are not directly related to the vaccine and that the others are under investigation. The vaccine announcement came as Hong Kong is trying to contain a cluster of cases that began at a gym and has grown to 122 people, with more than 850 close contacts sent to government quarantine facilities and multiple residential buildings locked down overnight for mandatory testing. Also on Monday, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said it was closing for deep cleaning after two employees tested positive for the virus.
The Netherlands on Sunday joined other European countries in halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns over the risk of blood clots. Thailand and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also delayed their rollouts of the vaccine, though Thai officials said on Monday that they would use the AstraZeneca vaccine starting on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha among the first to receive it, according to Reuters. On Sunday, the Piedmont region in northern Italy said it would temporarily stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, a day after a teacher there died after receiving the shot.
In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Sunday that the country had to “use all weapons available to avoid a lockdown,” urging people to get vaccinated and tested for the virus. The French government has so far rejected pressure from health experts to institute a third national lockdown as infections and deaths climb, Reuters reported.
The pandemic became real for Clary Montgomery when she introduced her daughter, Paloma, who was born March 11, 2020, to family members via Zoom.Credit…
“When my toddler grandson tried to feed me a blueberry through the cellphone screen.”
That was the answer from Alice Gilgoff, 74, of Rosendale, N.Y., when The New York Times asked readers: When did the coronavirus pandemic become real for you? Nearly 2,000 people responded, and we have compiled many of their thoughts.
Across the United States and around the globe, nearly everyone experienced a moment when the pandemic truly hit home. And one year later, as the pandemic carries on, having claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide, it has been with us long enough to have its own history.
The answers from readers to that question are a journey through time. It has been a year of trauma and resilience. No one has been spared, yet some have borne burdens far more profound than others.
Still, our stories connect us: Each of us human, each of us just trying to survive a pandemic that changed us and the world.
With the borders closed, Russian tourists are discovering domestic destinations, like Lake Baikal.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Usually, it is foreigners who flock to Lake Baikal in Siberia this time of year to skate, bike, hike, run, drive, hover and ski over a stark expanse of ice and snow, while Russians escape the cold to Turkey or Thailand.
But Russia’s borders are still closed because of the pandemic, and to the surprise of locals, crowds of Russian tourists have traded tropical beaches for the icicle-draped shores of Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. The tour guides are calling it Russian Season.
If you catch a moment of stillness on the crescent-shaped, 400-mile-long, mile-deep lake, the assault on the senses is otherworldly. You stand on three feet of ice so solid it is crossed safely by heavy trucks, but you feel fragile, fleeting and small.
Yet stillness is hard to come by.
Western governments have been discouraging travel during the pandemic, but in Russia, as is so often the case, things are different. The Kremlin has turned coronavirus-related border closures into an opportunity to get Russians — who have spent the last 30 years exploring the world beyond the former Iron Curtain — hooked on vacationing at home.
A state-funded program that began last August offers $270 refunds on domestic leisure trips, including flights and hotel stays. It is one example of how Russia, which had one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls last year, has often prioritized the economy over public health during the pandemic.
“Our people are used to traveling abroad to a significant degree,” President Vladimir V. Putin said in December. “Developing domestic tourism is no less important.”
Source by www.nytimes.com