With Infections Dipping, Governors Across U.S. Start Easing Restrictions

Fenway Park will be allowed to reopen at 12 percent capacity starting March 22.
Credit…Elise Amendola/Associated Press

With the pandemic slowly receding, governors around the United States are beginning to relax restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But the rules ae being eased much the same way as they were imposed: in a patchwork fashion that largely falls along party lines. Republicans are leaning toward rollbacks and Democrats are staying the course or offering a more cautious approach.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he was considering lifting a statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since July.

“We’re working right now on evaluating when we’re going to be able to remove all statewide orders, and we will be making announcements about that pretty soon,” Mr. Abbott said.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has been scrutinized for his handling of the pandemic, especially given the runaway infection rates in his state’s border cities. In November, he ruled out “any more lockdowns,” determined to keep Texas open despite a surge in cases.

As Mr. Abbott weighs easing restrictions, the state’s vaccination effort has yet to fully rebound from the winter storm that knocked out power to millions and crippled water systems across Texas last week, as it has in other parts of the country.

According to a New York Times database, 11.7 percent of Texas’ population have received their first of two shots and 5.4 percent have been fully vaccinated. Nationally, 14 percent of the population have received their first doses. Texas is one of four states in the country to have vaccinated under 12 percent of its population (the others are Georgia, Tennessee and Utah).

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said he was also considering pulling back some restrictions, particularly mask mandates for those who have been fully vaccinated. Just over 12 percent of the state’s population has received at least one shot and 5.5 percent have received both.

But in Mississippi and elsewhere, even as a mass vaccination campaign continues to pick up momentum, new dangers loom in the form of more contagious coronavirus variants. The variants might cause new spikes in infections that outpace the gains made by vaccination. So could lapses in social distancing and other precautions.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who has been criticized for a rocky vaccine rollout, announced Thursday that the state would move into the next phase of reopening in March as long as infection rates continue to trend downward. Capacity limits for indoor dining will be lifted starting next week, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed.

Large sports facilities like Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and TD Garden can reopen at 12 percent capacity starting March 22, he said.

“We’ve been watching how these venues perform in other states and believe with the right safety measures in place they can operate responsibly and safely here in the commonwealth,” Mr. Baker said.

Red Sox opening day is scheduled for April 1 at Fenway.

In Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said he, too, was “optimistic” that there would be some fans in the stands for the Phillies’ opening day.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced some changes to Covid-19 restrictions in North Carolina, eliminating the state’s nightly curfew and easing occupancy regulations at indoor and outdoor businesses.

The Republican-led North Dakota House of Representatives went a step further, passing a bill on Monday that would prohibit state and local governments from creating mask mandates in the future. The bill is headed to the State Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jeff Hoverson, said during a radio interview that he questioned the effectiveness of masks, and wanted to preserve people’s individual freedoms.

Gov. Doug Burgum allowed the state’s mask mandate to expire in January.

Some Democratic leaders are taking more measured steps.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said he was easing limits on outdoor gatherings and ending a 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Monday; restaurants and bars will be permitted to serve alcohol until 12 a.m.

“We hope that with trends continuing as they are, that we can look at further steps in the coming months,” Mr. Northam said Wednesday. “But it’s critical that we do this slowly and thoughtfully.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said at a news conference on Wednesday that she also planned to ease some restrictions “in the coming days,” though she provided few specifics.

“Our case numbers and public health metrics are trending in the right direction,” she said. “I’m very pleased to see that, and feeling very optimistic.”

Florence Mullins, 89, sits in a chair as a family member holds her place in a long line to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 11 at Fair Park in Dallas.
Credit…Pool photo by Smiley N.

Reports of new vaccinations have started to increase again across the United States, after a week of declines brought on by severe weather.

The country administered an average of about 1.5 million newly reported doses a day in the seven-day period ending Thursday, according to federal data, a slight increase from a low point of 1.4 million doses a day through Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that nearly 68.3 million doses of vaccine had been administered across the country since the U.S. vaccination campaign began in December. Since Jan. 20, the C.D.C. has reported that more than 50 million shots have been administered across the country.

But even as the pace of vaccination rebounds, it remains well below the roughly 1.7 million doses the country was averaging each day before a powerful winter storm disrupted shipping nationwide last week and forced vaccination sites to close in parts of the South and Midwest.

The average number of daily doses administered across the country had been steadily increasing as the two federally authorized vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, became more efficient and expanded production for their two-dose vaccines.

While that acceleration had been expected well before President Biden assumed office, officials have been anxious to highlight every increase in shipments as evidence that the new administration is fiercely battling the pandemic. A third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, which is a one-dose vaccine, is expected to be authorized soon.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden watched two firefighters and a Safeway grocery store manager get vaccinated at an event in Washington, and used the moment to mark the nation’s progress toward goal — considered fairly unambitious by many many experts — he set before he took office: 100 million shots in his first 100 days.

“We’ve been laser-focused on the greatest operational challenge this country’s ever undertaken,’’ he said, taking a shot at his predecessor, Donald J. Trump. “We are going from a mess we inherited to moving in the right direction,’’ he said.

At one point, Mr. Biden suggested without specifics that in late April or May there may be more vaccines available than people willing to take them.

“We’re gong to hit a phase in this effort, maybe as late as April or May, when many predict, instead of long lines of people waiting to get a shot, we’ll face a very different scenario, we’ll have the vaccine waiting,” he said.

The president’s optimism about supply tracks with congressional testimony from vaccine manufacturer officials earlier in the week. Pfizer and Moderna executives testified at a congressional hearing that they would deliver a total of 400 million doses by the end of May, and a total of 600 million by the end of July. Johnson & Johnson has pledged 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June, if its shot is authorized.

But on Thursday, Mr. Biden repeated his warning that “this is not a victory lap” and said he could not predict when life might return to normal.

With plans to distribute more doses in the weeks ahead, states have moved to expand eligibility to additional high-risk groups. But unlike in the early days of the vaccine campaign, when many states limited doses to medical workers and nursing home residents, a complex patchwork of rules has emerged from state to state and even county to county.

People 65 and older are eligible for vaccines in most states, but a handful of states still limit vaccines to those who are at least 70 or 75. At least 45 states have also expanded their occupation-based vaccination programs to include some nonmedical workers, such as police officers or grocery store workers, though the list of eligible professions varies widely. At least 32 states are allowing some teachers to get shots.

Many states have offered vaccines to adults with certain high-risk medical conditions, but others have decided to focus for now on their oldest residents. Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota said Thursday that eligibility would not be further expanded in his state until at least 70 percent of residents 65 and older had been vaccinated, a goal he hoped to reach by the end of March.

“Older Minnesotans have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic and we are focused on making sure they get vaccinated and keeping them safe,” Mr. Walz said in a statement. “These vaccines work — we can see that in the plummeting cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in long-term care facilities around our state.”

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.

Shoppers in Chinatown. With the rise of coronavirus cases in New York City, more restrictions may come for small businesses that have already taken a financial hit.
Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

As the rate of positive coronavirus test results and the number of virus cases have trended downward to pre-holiday levels, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has reopened a spigot of activity in New York: indoor dining at reduced capacity in New York City, major sports stadiums and arenas with limited fans, movie theaters in the city and wedding venues.

But virus variants, including a new form spreading in New York City, could pose threats to the city’s progress. Mr. Cuomo said he did not want to keep things closed just because the variants were here.

“On a daily basis we are looking at the data and calibrating this,” said Gareth Rhodes, a member of Mr. Cuomo’s coronavirus state task force. “You have to be very, very careful, but also recognize that you cannot keep the economy indefinitely closed.”

But experts noted that, with the arrival of the variants, keeping community transmission at bay is more important than ever.

“It does not make epidemiologic sense to me,” said Dr. Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the City University of New York. “I see how it makes economic sense, on the one hand. In the short term, it will help the bottom line of restaurant workers and employ people. But it also puts employees at risk, and it is at cross purposes with the larger goal, which is to get the vaccine into as many arms as possible before the virus gets them.”

New York City has seen a steep decline in the number of people testing positive for the virus each day, but the drop has not been as dramatic as it has been nationally and community transmission in the city remains high.

One encouraging sign is that there has been a steeper drop in the positive test rate among New Yorkers over 75 than in New Yorkers as a whole, likely because of vaccinations. Also, emergency room admissions for people over 65 have stabilized and are falling gradually.

As of Tuesday, the city had partially or fully vaccinated about 1 million people — a major milestone for the rollout. Of those, about half a million people had received both shots.

But the vaccine rollout has been uneven across racial groups, with those hit hardest by the virus being vaccinated at lower rates. Though nearly one-quarter of New Yorkers identify as Black, for example, Black people account for only 12 percent of the vaccinations, according to city statistics.

In addition, about a quarter of the people who have been fully vaccinated in New York City do not live in the city, but outside it, according to the data. It is unknown how many qualified because they work in the city or were vaccinated at state sites, and how many broke the rules.

The pace of vaccination in recent days has also been slower than the city would like, as delivery delays caused by bad weather compounded shortages in supply. In the past week, the city has administered about 30,000 vaccines a day, down from a peak of 60,000 doses per day the prior week.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III greeting troops aboard the carrier Nimitz on Thursday.
Credit…Helene Cooper/The New York Times

ABOARD U.S.S. NIMITZ, off California — Many Americans might have given almost anything to have escaped the past year in their country, but consider the experience of the crew of the Nimitz.

When the aircraft carrier departed Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Wash., on April 27, George Floyd was still alive. Donald J. Trump was still president. Georgia had two Republican senators. And some 56,000 people in the United States had died of the coronavirus.

Now, 10 months later, the nuclear-powered warship is returning home to a country vastly different from the one it left. That difference was highlighted on Thursday when the new defense secretary — for the first time, an African-American — landed on board to talk to a travel-weary and isolated crew.

“Secretary of defense in combat!” came the announcement.

Lloyd J. Austin III, his baritone ringing through the ship’s public-address system, told the sailors and pilots on the Nimitz that he knew what it felt like to be cut off from life during extended deployments: Mr. Austin, a retired Army four-star general, was posted in Iraq about a decade ago for a tour even longer than the Nimitz’s.

But that was on land, in Army bases near Baghdad and flying around to Erbil and Ramadi. The Nimitz sailors and Navy and Marine pilots were at sea, spending 2020 in what sometimes felt like a time capsule, sailors said.

They had to quarantine for two weeks before they even boarded the ship and, once on, they basically could associate only with one another, even during port calls.

On the rare occasions that the ship came into port — in Guam or in Manama, Bahrain — the 5,000-strong crew was not allowed traditional shore leave, and had to sleep on board, in berths with around 100 other sailors. They were told not to interact with the public on land, because of the pandemic.

They watched the presidential election returns from the Indian Ocean and woke up the morning of Jan. 7, in the Persian Gulf, to the news that rioters had stormed the Capitol.

Among crew members on Thursday, there was a palpable sense of excitement, but also some trepidation about what they would find after 10 months in a bubble at sea.

Some had lost family members to Covid-19 — after all, more than 450,000 morel people in America had died of the disease while the Nimitz was sailing the world.

Petty Officer First Class Christina Ray, 31, said she was hopeful — but wary.

“I am filled with so many emotions,” she said. “We’ve been so removed from the world, and now it’s like, ‘How do I be normal?’”

A Covid-19 victim being placed in a hearse in El Cajon, Calif., in January.
Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

“It’s really hard to put all of it into words.”

It was December, as Covid-19 deaths were besieging California, and Helen Cordova, an intensive care unit nurse in Los Angeles, was trying to describe what it was like.

“This is a very real disease,” Ms. Cordova said. “Those images of inside of hospitals, that’s very accurate.”

Two months later, it is still hard to put in words how deeply the pandemic has scarred the state, but one single number told the story: 50,000.

That is how many people have died from coronavirus over the past year in California — the first state to pass that milestone. The record was hit on Wednesday, and by Thursday deaths were nearing 51,000.

It was a bleak reminder that the recent progress the state has made against the pandemic may be fragile. Most of those deaths were recorded recently, during a frightening winter surge that followed a period of relatively low case counts and cautious hope.

According to a New York Times database, California, the country’s most populous state, averaged more than 560 deaths a day at its peak in January. By contrast, for much of November, it reported fewer than 50 deaths a day on average.

Though the state has reported more total deaths than any other in the nation, it is far from the hardest hit relative to the size of its population. At least 30 states have reported more total deaths per capita, and New Jersey has recorded twice as many.

Tallying the loss of life across California’s vast expanse belies the virus’s uneven impact on poorer communities of color, particularly in the Central Valley and Los Angeles.

“We’ve created a separate and unequal hospital system and a separate and unequal funding system for low-income communities,” said Dr. Elaine Batchlor, chief executive of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, the hardest-hit hospital for its size in the hardest-hit county in the state.

Latinos, who are more likely than other Californians to work in essential industries and less likely to have the resources or space to isolate themselves if they get infected, have been sickened and have died at disproportionately high rates.

And so far, California has failed to prevent the same inequities from plaguing the state’s vaccination effort, a process that has been criticized as chaotic and confusing.

Nearly all of California’s roughly 40 million residents spent the holidays under strict orders to stay at home. Gatherings with people they did not live with were banned.

Even with those restrictions, the virus spread rapidly and hospitals were overwhelmed.

Doctors and nurses like Ms. Cordova treated patients in hospital lobbies. Relatives watched remotely as loved ones took their last breaths. Health care workers who held the screens for them are still grappling with the lingering effects of sustained trauma.

Now, as in the fall, there is a feeling of hope.

California is reporting half as many new cases a day, on average, as it did two weeks ago. Some counties have been allowed to lift restrictions, and local officials say more reopenings are on the way.

And California has administered many more vaccine doses than any other state.

The first in the state to get one outside of a clinical trial?

Ms. Cordova.

The Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSinoBIO ran a late-stage clinical trial for its coronavirus vaccine candidate in Oaxaca, Mexico, in November. It is now seeking regulatory approval.
Credit…Jorge Luis Plata/Reuters

China has approved two Covid-19 vaccines whose manufacturers say are effective at preventing serious illness, paving the way for their deployment in the country and the developing world over the next few months.

China now has four vaccines approved for general use; two are already being mass produced, by the companies Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech. The addition of two more could significantly speed up China’s strategy of vaccine diplomacy and its mass domestic inoculation drive, which has been slow in part because the government is prioritizing the export of its vaccines.

All four vaccines have been shown to prevent severe illness, but they have been dogged by a lack of transparency around clinical data.

CanSinoBIO, which has teamed up with a military institute that belongs to the People’s Liberation Army, said this week that its one-shot vaccine had an efficacy rate of 65.28 percent at preventing all symptomatic Covid-19 cases. Separately, Sinopharm, a state-controlled company with a vaccine that is already in use in China, said the shot that it developed with its affiliate, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, had an efficacy rate of 72.51 percent.

The companies gave few details on their analyses, such as how many people contracted Covid-19 during the trials. That will make it hard for scientists to evaluate the new vaccines independently.

Several developing countries have already ordered the two new vaccines, which can be easily stored at refrigerated temperatures.

Like other Chinese vaccine makers, CanSino had to start its Phase 3 clinical trials abroad — in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Pakistan and Russia — because there were so few domestic cases. The company’s vaccine has already been approved for use by the Chinese military.

Unlike Sinopharm and Sinovac, CanSino’s chief executive, Yu Xuefeng, has indicated that the company could struggle to ramp up production to meet the needs of China’s 1.4 billion people. Mr. Yu has said that the company’s vaccine production capacity was 100 million doses per year, or 200 million doses at the most.

The CanSino vaccine is made with a virus, called Ad5, that is modified to carry genetic instructions into a human cell. The cell begins making a coronavirus protein and the immune system learns to attack it. Before the release of the efficacy data, scientists were doubtful that the Ad5 vector would work effectively because it is a common cold virus that many people are likely to have been exposed to.

Sinopharm tested its Wuhan vaccine in seven countries, including Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In December, the vaccine that it developed with the Beijing Institute of Biological Production was approved for use. Like the Beijing vaccine, the Wuhan shot was made using a tried-and-tested technology that relies on a weakened virus to stimulate the immune system.

Both Sinopharm vaccines were approved in July for emergency use and rolled out to thousands of health care workers and travelers even before the completion of Phase 3 trials. The company said it could produce a maximum of one billion doses this year.







New Covid-19 Infections Have Fallen to Half in Europe, W.H.O. Says

Heightened restrictions on social interaction have caused the rates of Covid-19 cases to fall in Europe. But the World Health Organization cautioned that new cases were still 10 times as high as they were last May.

For the second consecutive week, less than one million new cases were reported as transmission continues to slow across the region. The decrease in new cases in the past month is driven by countries that have implemented new measures to slow transmission. New reported cases have declined by almost a half since the end of 2020. However, to put that into perspective, the number of new cases in the region now is 10 times higher than in May last year. The burden is real, and it is significant. About one in 10 Covid-19 sufferers remain unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer.

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Heightened restrictions on social interaction have caused the rates of Covid-19 cases to fall in Europe. But the World Health Organization cautioned that new cases were still 10 times as high as they were last May.CreditCredit…Alastair Grant/Associated Press

With much of Europe living under heightened restrictions on movement and social interaction, the rates of Covid-19 infection across the continent have been cut in half from the winter peak, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

But as pressure on national governments mounts to ease lockdowns, Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s director in Europe, cautioned new cases were still 10 times as high as they were last May and that the region was still experiencing high rates of community transmission.

“No one can predict the course of the pandemic,” Mr. Kluge said. “This really depends on our individual and collective measures.”

His caution reflected the broad concern over new virus variants while the infection rate remains stubbornly high.

Europe has now experienced close to 38 million coronavirus infections and at least 850,000 deaths. In the past two weeks, new cases have fallen below one million in the 53 countries covered by the W.H.O.’s European regional office.

But Europe has an increasing geographic spread of new infections and increasing prevalence of variants of concern, Catherine Smallwood, W.H.O. Europe’s senior emergency officer, told reporters.

More infections in the human population means more variants will arise over time, she noted.

Public health officials have been pushing back at growing calls to open up economies and loosen controls as health services complete vaccinations of older and more vulnerable members of society — a campaign that has gotten off to a sluggish start in many nations.

“What we should be absolutely clear about is that will simply encourage the emergence of more dangerous variants,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at London University’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Health. “The places the variants have come from are the places with high levels of community transmission.”

European countries needed to step up their capacity for the genome sequencing used to detect characteristics of the virus and which enables scientists to spot the emergence of new variants. Only a small number of European countries are doing it, Mr. McKee said.

“That is a really high priority now,” he said.

The Acropolis archaeological site in Athens reopened to visitors in May. Greek officials are hoping to bolster the tourism industry with vaccination certificates.
Credit…Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

European leaders, deeply concerned that another summer’s lucrative tourism trade could be lost to the pandemic, are escalating calls for the European Union to introduce a common system that would allow borders to reopen to people who have been inoculated against the virus.

Even as Europe’s vaccination program contends with long delays and one senior European Union official admitting it would be “difficult” to reach the bloc’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of summer, the idea of a European Union-wide vaccine passport system has become a hotly discussed topic.

Senior officials in Greece and Spain — countries heavily reliant on tourism — are among those who have supported proposals for a program of so-called vaccine passports.

They argue that requiring people to show a certificate proving they have received a coronavirus shot would restore the bloc’s pillar of free movement, help draw in summer holidaymakers and allow business trips to return.

Before a scheduled online meeting on Thursday of the heads of all 27 European Union nations, the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, added his voice in support of the idea.

“We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, have our old lives back and maximum freedom,” Mr. Kurz said in a tweet on Wednesday. “We therefore want an EU-wide Green Passport, with which people can travel freely, do business without restrictions and go on holiday, as well as finally enjoy gastronomy, culture, events and other things again.”

But there is concern brewing that introducing a vaccine passport system so early in Europe’s vaccination program would create a two-tier system by the summer of inoculated people who could travel carefree while those yet to be vaccinated would be grounded.

European leaders are not expected to make a decision at the summit meeting on Thursday on the use of vaccination certificates, but they are expected to discuss how to ensure such a program would be able to run across all countries in the bloc.

In an interview with Bild Live, a digital offshoot of the German tabloid, Mr. Kurz urged that the passport system to be one easily accessible on a cellphone.

He said he supported the idea “so everyone can have all the freedoms back that we value so much,” adding that he was “personally very optimistic about the summer.”

Cold storage freezers with Covid-19 vaccines at the Pfizer Kalamazoo Manufacturing Site in Michigan.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Federal regulators on Thursday approved a request by Pfizer and BioNTech to store and transport their vaccine at standard freezer temperatures instead of in ultracold conditions, potentially expanding the number of sites that can administer shots.

The Food and Drug Administration said the change allowed for “more flexible conditions.”

“The alternative temperature for transportation and storage will help ease the burden of procuring ultralow cold storage equipment for vaccination sites and should help to get vaccine to more sites,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

Now, smaller pharmacies and doctors’ offices should be able to administer shots, since they can use their existing refrigerators or freezers.

Until now, distribution of the Pfzier-BioNTech vaccine has been complicated by the requirement that the vaccine be stored in freezers that kept it between -112 and -76 degrees Fahrenheit. But last week, the companies submitted new data to the F.D.A. showing their vaccine could be safely stored at -13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two weeks.

Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in standard freezers and then in a refrigerator for up to 30 days. That has allowed it to be used more readily at smaller vaccination sites.

Several employees at Russia’s embassy in North Korea left the country on a journey that included a trip on a hand-pushed railroad trolley, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Credit…Russian Foreign Ministry

North Korea sealed its borders more than a year ago, grounding flights and shutting its borders with neighboring China and Russia because of the pandemic.

This week, a few Russians found a way out.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that several employees at its embassy in North Korea had taken an unusual route — one that included a bus ride and a trip on a hand-pushed railroad trolley — to reach the country’s border with Russia.

The group included the embassy’s third secretary, Vladislav Sorokin, and his 3-year-old daughter, the ministry said on its official Facebook page. It also posted a photograph showing several children sitting on the trolley beside suitcases, with adults walking behind them on a railroad track and snow-capped hills in the distance.

When the group arrived at a Russian border post in Siberia, they were meet by colleagues from the Foreign Ministry and taken to an airport in Vladivostok, the ministry’s post said.

It was not clear from the post whether the group had broken any North Korean regulations or encountered any police or border officials. The ministry did not immediately respond to an email on Friday requesting further details about the journey.

North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 out of fears that a Covid-19 outbreak could seriously test its underequipped public health system and a domestic economy that was already struggling under international sanctions, analysts say.

The country has also deployed crack troops along its border ​with China ​with “shoot to kill​”​ order​s​ to prevent smugglers from bringing ​in ​the coronavirus​, Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of the United States military in South Korea, said in September.

The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said last summer that he would not accept international aid after devastating floods in his country for fear that outside help might bring in the virus, the state news media reported.

But Mr. Kim is apparently willing to import Covid-19 vaccines. According to a report this month by Covax, an international group that has negotiated for vaccine doses, North Korea is expected to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca shot by the middle of this year.

The North’s state news media has long insisted that the country has no confirmed Covid-19 cases, but outside experts are skeptical.

Unlike some of its neighbors, France has resisted imposing a new national lockdown to fight back the more contagious variants, instead opting for restrictions at the regional level.
Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

The prime minister of France said Thursday that several regions could face new pandemic restrictions starting March 6, as the country recorded a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections.

“The virus has been gaining ground again in the past week,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters at a news conference, adding that the surge in infections was attributable to new variants of the virus, such as one originally detected in Britain that now accounts for half of infections in France.

France on Wednesday registered more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases, up from a daily average of 20,000 new infections in recent weeks and the biggest daily tally since mid-November.

Mr. Castex said that 20 of the country’s administrative regions would be put on alert and that stricter limits on movement would be enforced there if infections rise further in the coming week. The regions include the Paris area and the northern and southern tips of the country.

Restrictions could include weekend lockdowns, increased checks at airports and a crackdown on public gatherings in public places, similar to measures that were recently enforced on the French Riviera and in the city of Dunkirk, Mr. Castex said.

Unlike some of its neighbors, France has resisted imposing a new national lockdown to fight back the more contagious variants, instead opting for restrictions at the regional level.

Reacting to the news, Paris’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said such measures would not be enough to fight back rising infections. Instead, he suggested a total lockdown of the capital for three weeks so the city would “have the possibility to reopen everything” afterward, including bars, restaurants and cultural venues.

Mr. Castex said that by mid-May, everyone over 50 should have received a first Covid-19 vaccine dose. With about 4 percent of its total population, or 2.7 million people, having received a first dose, France trails countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel but is on par with its Spanish and German neighbors.

“Everything possible must be done to delay” a new national lockdown, Mr. Castex said. He added that tightening restrictions just enough to stave off a new surge of the virus without affecting businesses and people’s lives too much was a “difficult balance” to strike.

Students wearing masks on campus at Marquette University in November. More than 530,000 coronavirus cases have been linked to college campuses since the beginning of the pandemic
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

Coronavirus cases have continued to emerge by the tens of thousands this year at colleges, a New York Times survey found, after students returned to campuses during a period when case numbers were soaring across much of the country.

More than 120,000 cases have been linked to American colleges and universities since Jan. 1, and more than 530,000 cases have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic. The Times also identified more than 100 deaths involving college students and employees. The vast majority occurred in 2020 and involved employees.

Nearly a year after most universities abruptly shifted classes online and sent students home, the virus continues to upend American higher education. When many campuses reopened in the fall, outbreaks raced through dorms and infected thousands of students and employees.

Since students returned for the spring term, increased testing, social distancing rules and an improving national outlook have helped curb the spread on some campuses. At Ohio State, where the test positivity rate once peaked at about 5 percent, university officials reported a positivity rate of just 0.5 percent across 30,000 tests on campus in one recent week.

Still, major outbreaks continue.

The Times surveyed more than 1,900 colleges and universities for coronavirus information and found at least 17 colleges have already reported more than 1,000 cases in 2021. At the University of Michigan, a highly infectious variant turned up on campus. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where more cases have been identified in 2021 than during the fall term, in-person classes are resuming after a difficult start to the year.

Kumble R. Subbaswamy, the chancellor at Massachusetts, wrote in a letter to the university community last week of a “promising but fragile opportunity” to resume campus life, warning that “we stand at a critical juncture of the spring semester.”

Despite surges at some colleges, there are positive signs. In counties with large populations of college students, coronavirus cases have been falling, mirroring a national trend in declining cases.

A nurse gets her first dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at the vaccination center in Rostock, Germany, this month. Many people are skipping appointments or refusing to sign up for the AstraZeneca shot, which they fear is less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

BERLIN — A preference for the vaccine developed by the German company BioNTech with Pfizer is causing a surplus in Germany of the shot developed by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, according to state health officials.

Many people — including health workers — are skipping appointments or refusing to sign up for the AstraZeneca shot, which they fear is less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the officials say. As a result, two weeks after the first delivery of 1.45 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Germany, only 270,986 have been administered, according to data collected by the public health authority.

“Vaccinating fast is the order of the day,” Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Thursday during a videoconference in Bavaria, stressing that all three vaccines in use in Germany had been approved by the European Medicines Agency and were trustworthy.

“I personally have little sympathy for the reluctance to use one vaccine or another,” he said. “This is a first-world problem, certainly for those who are still waiting for their first vaccination and even more so for people in countries who might not even have the prospect of receiving a first inoculation this year.”

The rejection of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been fueled by weeks of negative coverage about it in the German media, which has portrayed it as “second-class,” citing its lower efficacy rate compared with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and reporting stories of people suffering adverse reactions.

Clinical trials do suggest that Pfizer’s efficacy, at 95 percent, is higher than AstraZeneca’s, which is between 60 and 90 percent depending on factors such as the spacing of doses. Still, it is difficult to directly compare shots unless they are tested head-to-head in the same trial. And many health professionals suggest getting whichever vaccine is available first, since Covid-19 poses such significant health risks.

Widespread skepticism in Germany about vaccines has exacerbated people’s reluctance to take the AstraZeneca shot. Medical and other frontline workers have also expressed resentment about being given unused AstraZeneca shots, instead of the Pfizer-BioNTech one, saying it showed a lack of respect after their efforts to help the country fight the pandemic over the past year.

The rejection of the AstraZeneca vaccine has caused delays in a mass vaccination campaign that was already struggling with bureaucratic and logistical hurdles. That has raised concerns that failure to immunize people quickly enough could stymie efforts to return the country to normal life, as new coronavirus infections are increasing even as Germany remains largely locked down.

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., seen here at a news conference in May, announced on Wednesday that her sister had died after falling ill with Covid-19.
Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

As the coronavirus death toll in Washington, D.C., reached 1,000, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser declared that Wednesday would be “a day of remembrance for lives lost” to the virus.

“Most importantly,” she said in the proclamation, “these 1,000 beautiful souls who passed were our parents, children, cousins, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, friends, and our cherished loved ones.”

By that afternoon, Ms. Bowser was announcing that the milestone had become even more personal: Her sister was among those who had died.

Mercia Bowser, whom the mayor said had helped people with behavioral disorders, children and older people while working for Catholic Charities and the city’s Office on Aging, had died on Wednesday morning of “complications related to Covid-19.” She had been treated for pneumonia related to the virus at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the mayor said.

The death of Ms. Bowser’s only sister was the latest reminder that the virus has been unsparing as it has killed more than 500,000 people and spread from nursing homes to grocery stores to the White House and through other halls of government. And it was also another sign of just how severe and disproportionate the virus’s impact has been on Black people, who make up 46 percent of Washington’s residents but 75 percent of the city’s Covid-19 deaths.

“Mercia was loved immensely and will be missed greatly, as she joins the legion of angels who have gone home too soon due to the pandemic,” Ms. Bowser said in a statement, in which she asked for privacy as she and her family mourned. Mercia Bowser is survived by both of her parents, Joan and Joseph Bowser, as well as several brothers, nieces and nephews.

The mayor said her sister, who was 16 years older than she is, was her oldest sibling. She said she would soon share more about how her family would be honoring her.

Transporting a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms in Austin in August.
Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

Contagion and death have been intertwined with nursing homes since the coronavirus made its first appearance in the United States.

Some of the grimmest chapters in the book of death the pandemic has written over the past year have been set in the very places where the weakest Americans were meant to be sheltered.

The virus has raced through some 31,000 long-term care facilities, killing more than 163,000 residents and employees. They accounting for more than a third of all virus deaths since the late spring.

But something is changing.

Our graphics team has taken a look at nursing home deaths and found heartening news.

Since the arrival of vaccines, which were prioritized to long-term care facilities starting in late December, new cases and deaths in nursing homes have fallen steeply, outpacing national declines, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

The turnaround is an encouraging sign for vaccine effectiveness and offers an early glimpse at what may be in store for the rest of the country, as more and more people get vaccinated.







Officials Monitoring New Variant Detected in N.Y.C.

New York City officials said on Thursday that they are investigating possible risks of a new coronavirus variant spreading in the city, but that it did not appear yet to require change in public health response.

“So right now, at least for the report that we hear — we have from Columbia — we need to just consider this a variant of interest, something that’s interesting that we need to follow and track. But it doesn’t change anything about our public health concern. We need more data and studies to understand that. So we are able to detect and track this new strain that’s been reported, and we’ll continue to follow it. We have the ability also to now collect information about those patients, and to understand better whether or not they have different features or outcomes. And through our test and trace score, which is the best performing test and trace score in the country, has the ability to offer. You know, if somebody was infected, did they spread it to other people more often than something else.” “Because I understand when people hear variant it is a cause for concern, of course. And there’s something about it that’s unknown, and that gets people worried. I don’t blame anyone who’s feeling that way. But I want to really take the essence of what Dr. Varma is saying here: Until there’s evidence that tells us that a variant is not handled well by vaccine, for example, or a variant has different impacts, we shouldn’t assume the worst. We should say we need the full truth. We need the facts because so far the experience with the variants has been, even where there’s been some proof of being more transmissible for example, and it’s not changed the reality, it’s not changed the impact of the disease, it’s not changed our ability to fight the disease with the vaccine and all the other measures we take.”

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New York City officials said on Thursday that they are investigating possible risks of a new coronavirus variant spreading in the city, but that it did not appear yet to require change in public health response.CreditCredit…James Estrin/The New York Times

New York City officials said on Thursday that the full possible risks posed by a new form of the coronavirus spreading in New York City were unknown, but that it did not appear yet to require that the city modify its public health response.

Two teams of researchers have reported that the new virus variant carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.

Right now, “we need to just consider this a variant of interest — something that’s interesting, that we need to follow and track,” Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior adviser for public health, said at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“But it doesn’t change anything about our public health concern,” he added. “We need more data and studies to understand that.”

Public health officials have also been working “incredibly intensively” to improve efforts to detect new variants as a whole, Dr. Varma added.

The new variant, called B.1.526, first appeared in samples collected in the city in November. By the middle of this month, it accounted for about one in four viral sequences appearing in a database shared by scientists.

Asked about the new variant on NBC’s “Today,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, said any new version of the virus is a concern, and he urged people to get vaccinated to stop it from spreading.

“Other strains or mutants or variants, as we call them, are coming up, but the major spread in the country right now — the vaccine is good against it,” he said. “And even ones in which it may be somewhat less effective, the vaccine is still good against severe disease.”

One study of the new variant found in New York City, led by a group at Caltech, was posted online on Tuesday. The other, by researchers at Columbia University, was published on Thursday morning. Neither study has been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said on Thursday that officials had no evidence that the B.1.526 variant was concentrated in specific areas or contributing to the broader spread of the virus in the city.

The variant carries a mutation, shared with other variants discovered in Brazil and South Africa, that partially blunts the body’s immune response. The authorized vaccines are still effective, scientists say. But now Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are examining whether third booster shots may be necessary to counter new variants as they arise.

The new variant “is not particularly happy news,” said Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University who was not involved in the new research. “But just knowing about it is good because then we can perhaps do something about it.”

Dr. Nussenzweig said he was more worried about the variant in New York than the one quickly spreading in California.

Since the peak of the holiday surge in early January, New York City has seen a steep decline in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus each day, as have the state and the nation. But the drop has not been as dramatic as it has been nationally, and community transmission in the city remains high, with about 3,200 probable and confirmed new cases reported daily. As more contagious variants spread, the city’s positive test rate has only dropped slowly, to over 7.1 percent this week from 8 percent two weeks ago, according to city data.

Yet another variant, discovered in Britain, now accounts for about 2,000 cases in 45 states. It is expected to become the most prevalent form of the coronavirus in the United States by the end of March.

Patients infected with virus carrying that mutation were about six years older on average and more likely to have been hospitalized. While the majority of patients were found in neighborhoods close to the hospital — particularly Washington Heights and Inwood — there were several other cases scattered throughout the metropolitan area, said Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University.

“We see cases in Westchester, in the Bronx and Queens, the lower part of Manhattan and in Brooklyn,” Dr. Ho said. “So it seems to be widespread. It’s not a single outbreak.”

Still, some experts remained optimistic about the fight to control the spread of the disease, now that a number of vaccines are being distributed.

As the virus continues to evolve, the vaccines may need to be tweaked, “but in the scheme of things, those aren’t huge worries compared to not having a vaccine,” said Andrew Read, an evolutionary microbiologist at Penn State University. “I’d say the glass is three-quarters full, compared to where we were last year.”

On the “Today” show, Dr. Fauci said the new findings underscore the need for Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“When a vaccine becomes available, take it,” he said. “The longer one waits not getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or a mutation.”

Eileen Sullivan and Sharon Otterman contributed reporting.

People wearing protective masks in central Warsaw on Wednesday. The government announced it would tigthen restrictions on face coverings.
Credit…Kacper Pempel/Reuters

With many businesses in Poland in open revolt against coronavirus restrictions — and their cause increasingly backed by the court — the Polish government is hoping to blunt a recent rise in cases by turning to the one tool known to work: masks.

The Polish government announced this week that face coverings like scarves and bandannas can no longer be worn instead of protective masks.

The announcement came as the number of new cases rose for a second straight day — with some 12,000 new infections detected on Wednesday.

“The third wave of the epidemic is gaining momentum,” said the Polish health minister, Adam Niedzielski, during a news conference on Wednesday.

He also said that restrictions would be tightened in the Northeastern region of the country where the growth in cases has been highest.

Children in early primary school will be forced to return to remote learning and galleries, museums, swimming pools, movie theaters and hotels will have to close down again — less than two weeks after they were allowed to reopen.

The minister, who is currently self-isolating after coming into contact with a virus-infected member of the government during a news conference last Friday, announced additional restrictions on the Polish southern border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Both of those neighboring countries have seen even larger surges in new cases and nearly all people entering Poland from those nations will have to present proof of a negative coronavirus test or proof of complete vaccination.

An employee carries oxygen tanks to refill them at an uncertified private oxygen provider in Mexico City this month. In Mexico, hospitals have been so overrun that virus patients have been dying in their homes, gasping for air because there are not enough oxygen tanks to meet the need. As many as 20 poor countries were in urgent need of oxygen.
Credit…Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned that as many as 20 poor countries were in urgent need of oxygen, as more than 500,000 Covid-19 patients in low and middle income countries around the world need an oxygen treatment each day.

Access to oxygen has always been difficult for some countries, and the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, leading to deaths that might have otherwise been avoided, the global health organization said.

In Mexico, hospitals have been so overrun that virus patients have been dying in their homes, gasping for air because there are not enough oxygen tanks to meet the need. In Egypt, patients died last month at a hospital because of an interruption in oxygen supplies.

Last month in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas, patients died of asphyxiation because hospitals ran out of oxygen amid a sharp rise in critically ill patients. The director of the country’s health regulatory agency, Alex Machado Campos, called the oxygen shortage the “saddest and most outrageous expression of the government’s abject failure at all levels.”

The W.H.O. created an emergency task force to address the shortages. The group identified countries that were in immediate need, including Afghanistan, Malawi and Nigeria, and said it would cost $90 million to address the most urgent needs. The task force estimates it will cost $1.6 billion over the next 12 months to address the global oxygen shortages in the short run.

“Many of the countries seeing this demand struggled before the pandemic to meet their daily oxygen needs,” said Dr. Philippe Duneton, the executive director of Unitaid, a Geneva-based global health agency that pledged to help fund the emergency response.

“Now it’s more vital than ever that we come together to build on the work that has already been done, with a firm commitment to helping the worst-affected countries as quickly as possible,” he said.

Former President Jimmy Carter at his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., in 2019.
Credit…Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

The list of announcements at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., on Sunday included some routine business. There was a reminder of a deacons’ meeting immediately following the service and a request for donations of macaroni and cheese for a local food bank.

Then the pastor said he had one additional announcement to share, and it was good news: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were back.

The former president, 96, and his wife, 93, had returned to the church to worship in person for the second Sunday in a row, now that both had received vaccinations against the coronavirus, the pastor, Tony Lowden, said.

“Let’s welcome them back,” Pastor Lowden told the congregation, according to a video of the service posted on the church’s Facebook page. The Carters, wearing masks, waved from their familiar spot in the front pew, acknowledging applause from the church.

Pastor Lowden gently reminded the members that if they “get tackled” by the Secret Service when approaching the Carters, it would only be because the church was practicing social distancing.

The Carters have long been devoted members of Maranatha Baptist — she as a deacon, and he as a deacon and, for many years, a Sunday school teacher.

The Sunday school classes, which he no longer teaches, for decades drew Democratic presidential candidates and visitors from across the country, who made pilgrimages to hear the former president teach at the church in the tiny southwest Georgia farming community where he was raised.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken listened as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada spoke during a virtual meeting with President Biden on Tuesday.
Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken plans to take virtual “trips” to Mexico and Canada on Friday, an effort to continue diplomacy in as normal a fashion as possible at a time when the coronavirus has shut down most foreign travel.

Mr. Blinken will first “visit” Mexico, the State Department announced in a statement on Thursday, where he will meet with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard and Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier to discuss issues like trade, migration and climate change. Mr. Blinken and Mr. Ebrard will also pay a joint virtual visit to the Del Norte border entry point to discuss management of the southern U.S. border.

The digital facsimile of travel is an innovative, if potentially awkward, effort by the State Department to compensate for Mr. Blinken’s inability for now to take physical trips amid the pandemic, a frustrating condition for a newly installed diplomat determined to rebuild U.S. alliances after the Trump era.

“We’re trying to make it resemble, as closely as we can, a physical trip,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman.

Mr. Blinken has been vaccinated, but State Department officials say that given the size of his overseas entourage, and potential risks to people who might gather for his visits in host countries, he is not expected to take a physical trip before late March at the earliest.

Later on Friday, Mr. Blinken will meet with Canadian officials, according to the State Department, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, as well as a group of Canadian students.

Mr. Blinken’s meeting with the students, visit to the border, and “meet and greets” with embassy employees are intended to replicate the sort of interactions with host countries outside of government ministries that enrich diplomatic travel but have become dangerous because of the virus.

Mr. Blinken joined President Biden on Tuesday for a virtual meeting with Mr. Trudeau, who was broadcast onto a large video screen about 20 feet away from his American hosts, and then appeared on another screen alongside Mr. Biden, standing at a podium, for press statements.

As Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, put it in a briefing for reporters Thursday: “This is the new world we live in.”


Community Bulletin Board: the Sentinel (for Feb. 24)

The Tamarack Women’s 9-Hole Golf League is welcoming new members for the 2021 season on Thursday mornings from April through October.

While the league is nine holes, ladies are welcome to play the remaining nine holes following league play each week.

Golf experience is required for membership.

Interested lady golfers should contact membership Chair Linda Schuller at lindaschu@comcast.net for further information.

American Legion Post 253 will hold Friday Night Lenten Dinners through April 2.

Dine in or take out available from 5-7 p.m.

The menu on Feb. 26 includes fish or shrimp tacos with Mexican rice and beans for $12.

March 5 will be Italian Trio, with a trio of eggplant parmigiana, stuffed shells and baked ziti with garlic bread for $8.

The menu on March 12 will include mussels marinara or fra diavolo over linguine with tossed salad and a roll for $11.

The menu on March 19 will be broiled flounder with rice and mixed vegetables for $12, or fried shrimp and scallop platter with tater tots for $12.

The menu on March 26 is to be determined.

The menu on April 2 will include tortellini alfredo with salad and garlic bread for $7.

Call or text orders in advance to 732-991-9507.

The auxiliary of VFW Post 133 will hold a takeout sandwich sale on March 13.

Menu includes corned beef sandwich, macaroni salad and pickle.

The cost is $10 per person.

Must call in advance from noon to 6 p.m. March 10 to place an order. Call Maureen at 732-254-9674.

The VFW post is located at 485 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick.

Gain stability from an in-demand occupation; apply for a Women’s Center career training grant from Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County.

Qualified persons who are active members of the JFS Women’s Center must submit an application and attend an interview. Grants are available for short-term training programs for in-demand jobs.

Eligible candidates must qualify as a “displaced homemaker,” a woman who is a single mother, divorced, separated, widowed, or living with a disabled spouse/partner.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, email womenscenter@jfsmiddlesex.org

In England in 1234, Jews were charged with abducting, circumcising and converting a five-year-old Christian boy to Judaism. As a result, Jews were executed, and Jewish homes were looted and torched.

Professor Paola Tartakoff, chair of the Rutgers Department of Jewish Studies, will examine the backstory on these accusations, how they perpetuated the myth of ritual murder, and what they meant to Christians and Jews during that period.

Tartakoff will draw from her new book, “Conversion, Circumcision, and Ritual Murder in Medieval Europe” with a response by Professor David Shyovitz, Northwestern University, during the program.

This online event will be held March 3 at 7 p.m. on the Zoom platform.

Free and open to the public, it is presented by the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University.

Advance registration is required at BildnerCenter.Rutgers.edu.

The Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce will hold the 75th annual Bernie Cohn Golf Classic from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 13.

Tee time is 9 a.m. at the Banks Course, Forsgate Country Club, 375 Forsgate Dr., Monroe.

Sign up at mcrcc.org or https://shotgunflat.wufoo.com/forms/z1qupopx0qkzr0t/


The East Brunswick Library is offering the following workshops and programs:

  • Films focusing on climate change and its impact will be featured in the East Brunswick Public Library’s first-ever virtual film festival. The Option Green Virtual Film Festival is part of the ongoing partnership between the library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission. Each year, the two organizations host free events on environmental topics led by experts in the field. The film series is funded by the American Library Association’s “Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change” pilot program. The films will be available for online viewing. Participants can sign up for these free screenings online at www.ebpl.org/optiongreen. Links to view the films will be sent to ticket holders at the start time of this event, and will expire 48 hours later. Following each screening, there will be an ongoing, discussion on the EBPL Discord server. Attendees will receive the link in their ticket.

    The upcoming series includes:

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” March 16-17, is Is based on the = true story of 13-year-old William Kamkwamba, who finds inspiration from a science book. He builds a wind turbine to save his famine-ravaged village in Malawi. This film is rated TV-PG and runs 113 minutes.

    “Fire and Flood: Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change,” April 20-21, examines how the LGBTQ communities of Puerto Rico and Santa Rosa survived Hurricane Maria and wildfires, in late 2017. The film explores the vulnerability of LGBTQ communities to climate disasters. This film is not yet rated but runs 102 minutes. Trailer not available.

    The Option Green Virtual Film Festival is sponsored by the East Brunswick Public Library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission.

  • The Take A Business Break Series continues in 2021 with “How to Read, Analyze and Understand Financial Statements,” at noon on Feb. 25. It is based on CPA Edward Mendlowitz’s MBA course, and attendees will receive a free PDF of his 160-page book. Mendlowitz explains the seven elements of a financial statement, their purpose and how to use each to better understand your business. 


  • “529 College Savings Plans: Simply The Best Way To Save For College” will be presented at noon on Feb. 26. Thinking about saving for college tuition can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. This webinar will help attendees understand the challenges that students have today and in the future, when it comes to paying for college, and rethinking several misperceptions that many people have about college planning. Additionally, attendees will learn about the different options available to fund a college education while focusing on the features and benefits of one option, particularly the 529 Plan, an education savings vehicle.
  • Signing up for Social Security is one of the most important decision retirees have to make. To help explain the process, the online presentation “Social Security Explained” will be held at 7 p.m. March 3. This program is led by special guest speaker Mark Lange of the Society for Financial Awareness. He will discuss several important topics, including full retirement age, delayed retirement, filing for benefits, retirement planning strategies and annuity type distinction. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is requested; visit www.ebpl.org/calendar or call 732-390-6767.

  • Saint Peter’s Healthcare System will address “Better Exercise, Best You,” presented by Dr. Bonnie Saunders PT, MPA, DPT, at noon on March 5.

    This talk will explore the various reasons and motivations to exercise and connect these to the various types of exercise. It will also discuss some of the more common barriers to establishing a successful exercise routine and some strategies to overcome these barriers.

    Registration is requested for this free program. To register, visit to www.ebpl.org/calendar.

    This program will be presented online using Zoom.

    This program is offered through the East Brunswick Public Library’s “Just For The Health Of It” consumer health and wellness information initiative. To learn more about these resources and programs, visit www.justforthehealthofit.org.

  • A virtual crafting workshop with fiber artist Pam Brooks will be making a women’s suffrage rosette, a symbol of the suffrage movement, at 7 p.m. March 18. There will be a random drawing for a limited number of free supply kits. Closed captioning will be provided. To reserve a seat, visit www.ebpl.org/womenvote or call 732-390-6767.
  • The Family Resource Network will host two online programs about health insurance.

    The first program, “Health Insurance Open Enrollment In NJ: What You Need To Know,” is at noon on March 18.

    The open enrollment period for 2021 health insurance has been extended until May 15.

    This program aims to answer health insurance questions, including what options are available to New Jersey residents and explaining the state-based exchange called Get Covered NJ.

    The second program, “Coverage 2 Care,” is a health insurance literacy presentation at noon on March 25. Coverage to Care helps consumers understand what health insurance is, how to choose coverage, and why it is essential to select coverage.

    The presentation helps consumers understand their health coverage after they have enrolled and connect to primary care and preventive services that are right for them to live long and healthy lives.

    Both programs are presented by Renata Svincicka and Yamilet Zegarra of the Family Resource Network.

    Registration is requested for both free programs. To register, visit www.ebpl.org/calendar or call 732-390-6767.

    These programs are offered through the East Brunswick Public Library’s “Just For The Health Of It” consumer health and wellness knowledge initiative. To learn more about the related programs and resources offered by the library, visit www.justforthehealthofit.org.

  • Stockton University professor Linda J. Wharton hosts “Gender Equality and the Constitution: The Unfinished Business of Reform” at 7 p.m. March 25. She will discuss the renewed push for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and explain why expanding protection for gender equality is needed. Closed captioning will be provided. To reserve a seat, visit www.ebpl.org/womenvote or call 732-390-6767.
  • Seniors can join “Are You Living Your Best Life Today?” at noon on March 31. This will be an interactive talk that centers around the concept of maturing adults living their best life now. Seniors will be shown how to rekindle their passions and natural talents and bring more richness into life. In addition, attendees will be reminded to get their affairs in order, so families can live with less stress and more joy. This program is hosted by Adrian Allotey, of You Are Not Alone Elder Care.The programs are presented online using Zoom unless otherwise noted.Registration is requested for these free programs. To register, visit www.ebpl.org/calendar or call 732-390-6767, unless otherwise noted.

Black History Month will be honored in East Brunswick through a series of programs.

The East Brunswick Arts Commission, East Brunswick Department of Aging, East Brunswick Department of Recreation, East Brunswick Human Relations Council, East Brunswick Public Library, East Brunswick Youth Council, EBTV and the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project are partnering for the events.

The East Brunswick Public Library will host a lecture about the Harlem Renaissance with Randall Westbrook at 7 p.m. Feb. 24.  

EBTV, the East Brunswick Arts Commission and the East Brunswick Youth Council are recording several special Black History Month programs to be shared on the television network.

EBTV also broadcasts a 45-minute concert of jazz standards and soul classics performed by singer Rhonda Denet. This program is sponsored by the East Brunswick Arts Commission and the library.


The Lost Souls Public Memorial Project released several presentations about their work to memorialize over 177 African Americans kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1818.


All of these programs can be viewed online, either live or prerecorded.

A complete guide to the Black History Month programming can be found online at www.ebpl.org/blackhistorymonth.

Saint Peter’s University Hospital, a member of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, is hosting a free virtual lecture series on adolescent and family health issues.

Organized by Saint Peter’s Opioid Task Force, this virtual lecture series is designed for parents and families. The presentation will address common parental concerns about the numerous ways the pandemic has impacted teens, from issues like isolation to how they cope, socialize and develop. The series will also explore addiction which has escalated during the pandemic and resources for successful recovery.

Each lecture will start at 6:30 p.m.

The full list of lecture topics is:

Feb. 24: Adolescents/Family Coping Skills During the Pandemic, presented by Dr. Suzanne Lind, Psychiatry, The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital
Registration link: https://SaintPetersHCS.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IG_wNhblTnSCIdlhFDU5kw

March 10: Adolescent Brain Development and Addiction, presented by Dr. Tejal Mehta, Pediatrics, The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital
Registration link: https://SaintPetersHCS.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_p6L9vxZ1SiuLRSQFuyW_Fw

March 24: Vaping and the Adolescent, presented by Nicki Francis and Mara Carlin, BS, CPS, Wellspring Center for Prevention
Registration link: https://SaintPetersHCS.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TswvyYdFTxm6d5qSNMRNJw

April 7: Recovery Coaches, presented by Bonnie Nolan, PhD, Woodbridge Opioid Overdose Recovery Program (WOORP)
Registration link: https://SaintPetersHCS.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dcB-NO7KQbCuOm1fhIIvqw

April 21: Successful Recovery from Addiction, presented by Don Rogers, Community Outreach director at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper
Registration link: https://SaintPetersHCS.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5QCvDKsbSk-JkDa2sAna3w

For more information on any of the virtual lectures, contact Robert J. LaForgia, coordinator, Healthier Middlesex, at rlaforgia@saintpetersuh.com or 732-745-8600, ext. 5831. Allow up to 48 hours for a response.

From Feb. 26 to March 31, visit Stop & Shop at 1600 Perrineville Road, Monroe, to purchase a specially marked floral bouquet, and Stop & Shop will make a donation to the Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County’s kosher food pantries to feed families in need.

Middlesex College is developing apprenticeship opportunities in Advanced Manufacturing through Career Advance USA, a U.S. Department of Labor-funded grant.

Apprenticeships, developed and implemented in collaboration with employers, are earn-and-learn programs that combine formal classroom learning with on-the-job training.

Those interested in the program should register for a virtual information session at middlesexcc.edu/manufacturing-apprenticeships. They will be held over Zoom at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, March 9, April 13 and May 11.

The college is also looking for employers interested in developing workers.

For more information about the grant and how to participate, visit middlesexcc.edu/manufacturing-apprenticeships or contact Yarelis Figueroa at yfigueroa@middelsexcc.edu or John Miller at jsmiller@middlesexcc.edu.

New Jersey is known as the Garden State. Few understand that the name highlights that the other states traditionally used New Jersey as their garden—a place to take beneficial resources and then bury their refuse, back when it was customary to bury your garbage in your backyard.

The East Brunswick Public Library will host “Disparate Environmental Impacts: Causes and Solutions to Environmental Injustice” at 7 p.m. March 11, focusing on the economics and discrimination that causes environmental inequality, their effects and how to prevent these inequalities.

The program is led by Dr. Maritza Jauregui, an associate professor of Sustainability at Stockton University.

Tickets are required for this free, virtual program; to reserve, visit www.ebpl.org/calendar.

This event is sponsored by the East Brunswick Public Library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission. It is funded by the American Library Association’s “Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change” pilot program.

It is part of the Option Green environmental education program series. Other partners include Highland Park Public Library, Matawan-Aberdeen Library, New Brunswick Free Public Library, North Brunswick Library, Old Bridge Public Library, Plainsboro Public Library and South Brunswick Public Library.

Recognizing the bravery and commitment of volunteer firefighters and first responders, New Jersey American Water announces its 2021 grant program for volunteer fire departments, ambulance squads and first aid squads located within the company’s service areas.

Grants may be used to cover the costs of personal protective equipment, communications gear, first aid equipment, firefighting tools, vehicle maintenance and other materials that will be used to support volunteer firefighter and emergency responder operations. Reimbursement for specific training courses, including the cost of training manuals, student workbooks, and instructors is also eligible.

To apply, organizations must complete the application available at www.newjerseyamwater.com under News & Community, Community Involvement.

The maximum grant amount awarded to any organization is $2,000.

The deadline to apply is March 12. Interested applicants can find more information and apply online at www.newjerseyamwater.com/community.

Grant recipients will be notified at the end of March.

Teens across the state can begin submitting entries for the 26th Annual New Jersey Teen Media Contest, which highlights the New Jersey Human Services’ mission to support families, especially during these challenging times.

The contest, run by the Division of Family Development, is open to all New Jersey middle and high school-aged children.

The 2021 contest challenges teens to illustrate – through art or the written word – how they and their loved ones have supported each other through all of the changes that have happened this year, from remote schooling to finding new ways to stay connected to friends and family.

All entries must be postmarked no later than March 31.

Staff from the Division of Family Development and its Office of Child Support Services will judge the contest. Winners will be selected in first, second, and third places in both the middle and high school groups, for each of the two entry categories. Typically, winning students are recognized at an awards ceremony in mid-May, but a final decision on an awards ceremony will be made at a later date based on the status of the public health emergency and related health and safety guidelines.

Winning entries from the contest will be included in the 2022 Office of Child Support Calendar, as well as potentially being included as part of the office’s marketing materials. A number of honorable mention entries will also be selected for possible inclusion in both areas.  

The 2021 calendar can be viewed or downloaded from the contest homepage, www.NJTeenMedia.org, to serve as inspiration for the teens. The website also provides the official rules, frequently asked questions, entry forms, a look at the winners and honorable mentions from previous contests and other important contest information.

Teachers and administrators can register their school by visiting www.NJTeenMedia.org or by contacting Matthew Cossel at 937-207-7627 or matthew.cossel@efkgroup.com. School registration is not required for direct student entry.

For complete submission guidelines, visit www.NJTeenMedia.org.

For more information about child support services, call 1-877-NJKIDS1 or visit www.NJChildSupport.org.

New Jersey American Water is accepting applications for green project funding through its Environmental Grant Program.

The program offers grants of $1,000 to $10,000 for qualifying innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies throughout the company’s service areas.

New Jersey American Water will award the grants on a competitive basis and select projects based on various criteria including goals, impact, innovation, design and sustainability. The nature of the project’s collaboration with other community organizations as well as its overall community engagement will also be considered.

All applicants are expected to outline specific, measurable goals for projects in their proposals. At the conclusion of the grant project, the lead organization must provide a written report on the project results/impact.

Grant recipients will be notified in mid-April.

More information and application requirements can be obtained directly at newjerseyamwater.com/community.

East Brunswick residents can turn the page on a winter spent mostly indoors by renting a plot at the township’s Community Garden, located adjacent to the municipal complex off Rues Lane.

A limited number of 10-foot by 10-foot plots are now available for new gardeners on a first-come, first-served basis for $45 for the first season. The garden is open to township residents and people who work in East Brunswick.

All gardeners are required to put in four hours of community garden service each year by working with a committee and participating in work days, or paying $40 in lieu of service. Gardeners can select from a list of committees found on the registration form.

For more information and to register for a plot, visit registration form.

The garden’s website  offers timely articles, tips and tricks for gardeners, a calendar of events and information on donating surplus produce. Gardeners have donated more than a ton of surplus produce in the last few years. Meetings and events during the year also give gardeners a chance to share ideas outside the garden.

To keep gardeners safe, several rules, including mandatory mask wearing and social distancing while in the garden were instituted last year.

For more information, email to ebcgarden@gmail.com.

The East Brunswick Community Garden is a project of the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.

Nominations are being accepted for the South River High School Wall of Fame.

Nominees should serve as a role model for current and future South River High School students. This award is not limited to athletic achievement.

A Wall of Fame is erected in the main corridor of the high school with the names of the recipients on plaques of recognition.

Nominees will be considered based on the following criteria:

  1. Attended and graduated from South River High School.

  2. Exhibits a high level of achievement in his/her field.

  3. Possesses the qualities of a positive role model for South River youth.

The committee will consider all nominees based on the strengths of the candidates in the above areas. A maximum of two individuals may be inducted this year.

The deadline for nominations is April 1.

To make a nomination, visit www.srivernj.org for the nomination form.


Trinity Presbyterian Church of East Brunswick invites all to join virtual worship services every Sunday at 10:15 a.m.

Visit http://Trinity-PC.org and click on the “Sunday Services” tab for a link to the service on YouTube.

In addition, Trinity offers a safe and socially distanced outside worship service every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.

For more information, call the church office at 732-257-6636 or visit the website.

The Jewish Family Services Food Pantry needs volunteers to organize its food pantry and supply closet, located at 1600 Perrineville Road, Monroe.

The schedule is flexible.

Monroe Township residents can apply for current and future openings on township boards, commissions and advisory councils.

Monroe is accepting volunteer applications for appointments to the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee, Affordable Housing Board, Commission on Aging, Cultural Arts Commission, Environmental Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Human Relations Commission, Library Board of Trustees, Open Space & Farmland Preservation Commission, Planning Board, Recreation Advisory Board, Shade Tree Commission, Sustainable Jersey – Green Team Advisory Committee, Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Residents should visit https://monroetwp.com/index.php/boards-commissions and select from a list of boards and commissions to review full descriptions of each group.

They then can send the downloadable form located at the bottom of the boards and commissions page of the website for their area of interest.

Submissions may be sent to the Municipal Clerk by mail at the Administrative Offices, by email at preid@monroetwp.com, or by fax to 732-521-3190.

All submissions will be retained for a maximum period of one year from the date of filing.

Volunteer vaccinators may be needed in Middlesex County and at other vaccination sites.

Licensed nurses, doctors and medical professionals who are willing to volunteer should email their name, address, phone number and license information to Lt. Jangols of the Monroe Township Police Department at sjangols@monroetwppolice.org

The East Brunswick Police Department has established a “Safe Exchange Zone.”

Two parking stalls in the lot of the municipal court next to police headquarters, 1 Civic Center Dr., are available to the public for conducting in-person transactions that have been facilitated through online marketplaces. The parking stalls are indicated by signage.

The designated zone is available to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Access to the police headquarters lobby may also be granted for “safe exchanges” during non-court hours and may be arranged in advance by calling the police department.

French American School Princeton (FASP) is accepting enrollment.

At FASP, students in preschool (3 years old) through grade 8 benefit from a rigorous bilingual curriculum accredited by the Middle State Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools and the French Ministry of Education; personalized attention thanks to small class sizes; and a multicultural community with more than 30 nationalities represented.

FAPS is located at 75 Mapleton Road, Princeton.

Visit ecoleprinceton.org, call 609-430-3001 or email admissions@ecoleprinceton.org.

To document the experiences of the community while living through the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Brunswick Public Library has been collecting submissions to a COVID-19 Community Time Capsule.

The time capsule can be viewed online at www.ebpl.org/history

The library is still taking submissions at this time.

The Community Pet Food Bank by New Beginnings Animal Rescue is open from 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, with varying hours on Saturdays, on the grounds of Nativity Lutheran Church, 552 Ryders Lane, East Brunswick.

For more information, visit nbarnj.org

The Jamesburg Public Library will hold its board meetings on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m.

These meetings are open to the public, and will take place on Zoom for the remainder of the year.

Visit jamesburglibrary.org or www.facebook.com/JamesburgLibrary/ for further information.

Each meeting will have a different Zoom link and passcode

The East Brunswick Recreation, Parks & Community Services Department is collecting non-perishable food, cash and gift cards for distribution to Aldersgate Community Outreach Center.

Drop off food in the back of the box truck parked in the parking lot, 334 Dunhams Corner Road; the door is kept down so lift it to put donations inside.

Or, drop cash/check/gift cards in an envelope and put in the drop box next to the front door to the Recreation Department.

Raritan Valley YMCA is encouraging residents to #StayWithUs during this time, in particular by visiting the Y’s Facebook page for virtual events, programs and classes.

Adult programs include group fitness classes provided by Y360, Les Mills and from Y instructors. Programs and classes will be updated on a week-to-week basis. The ZOOM app is required; email lramos@raritanvalleyymca.org for log-in details.

The Facebook page also features live story time and creative arts with Ms. Preeti and Ms. Brenda.

Details Camp Yomeca day camp are available on the website. Online registration is open.

For more information, visit raritanvalleyymca.org.

The United Way of Central Jersey’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund will assist individuals and families affected by the novel coronavirus with crucial basic expenses including rent, utilities, prescription medication/medical supplies, child care and food.

United Way will work with trusted community partners to identify individuals and families most in need of this temporary support.

Donations to the UWCJ COVID-19 Support Fund may be made online at www.uwcj.org. Checks made payable to United Way may be mailed to United Way of Central Jersey, 32 Ford Ave., Milltown 08850.

Monroe Township Jewish War Veterans Post 609 is collecting United States and foreign stamps, both on and off envelopes.

Stamps are used by veterans as hobbies and as therapy to support medical staff at VA Medical Centers nationwide.

Stamps are not traded or sold; they are forwarded to veteran patients at no charge.

Also requested are DVDs suitable for veterans at those locations.

Send all items to JWV Post 609, c/o Charles Koppelman, 6 Yarmouth Dr., Monroe 08831-4742.

The East Brunswick Domestic Response Team is seeking volunteers.

Citizens are trained to respond to local police departments on an on-call basis to provide support and information to victims of domestic abuse.

For more information, email domesticviolence@ebpd.net.

The Korean War/Defense Veterans Association Central Jersey Chapter No. 148 extends an invitation to any veterans, regardless of branch of service, who served during the war from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, in any location, including Europe, or who have served in Korea from July 27, 1953, through the present.

The group meets at 10 a.m. the second Wednesday of every month —except January through April — at the Monroe Township Municipal Building, 1 Municipal Plaza.

Membership dues are $25 to the Korean War Veterans Association and $10 chapter fee per year.

The chapter is involved in various functions during the year, including parades, flag raisings, visiting the Korean War Memorial in Atlantic City, etc.

For more information, contact Charles Koppelman at 609-655-3111 or kwvanj@yahoo.com.

Dove Hospice Services of New Jersey seeks compassionate volunteers to provide support to local hospice patients and their families.

Hospice patient care volunteers visit with patients in their homes, which can also be nursing facilities or assisted living facilities, at least once a week. They read to the patient, reminisce about their lives, play cards, help with letter writing and provide respite for caregivers.

Visits can be virtual, and are either during the day or early evening.

Volunteers may also assist with administrative work within the hospice office.

Patient care volunteers complete an application and attend a virtual volunteer training program that covers the role of a hospice volunteer. Day and evening virtual training programs are offered.

To sign up for the next virtual training class, contact Volunteer Coordinator Deborah Adams at 732-405-3035 or email deborah@dovehs.com.


Is Mnangagwa a lost cause?

One of Barack Obama’s contribution to US foreign policy was the encouragement of a class of liberal whites and blacks with absolutely first-class brains, but above everything else, loved their subjects. The Africa corps was one unit; they were Afro-philes (many of them African Americans). On several occasions, they beat me to information on Zimbabwe.

One such bright “chap” was Todd Moss, an assistant secretary, and three other southern Africa experts. Their report about President emmerson Mnangagwa came out in the US on July 25, six days before the Zimbabwe 2018 elections.

ED (as our president is called by his friends) had been coached by British Ambassador Katriona Laing, an M-IV intelligence officer with special skills in regime change. As long as Ms Laing was holding eD’s hand, he said the most wonderful things and convinced the world that under his wise leadership, Zimbabwe would come out of the woods.

The report by Moss and his colleagues said that all those (and the British) who believed such nonsense, that a leopard can change its colours, were in for a long riede (supposedly on the back of the same leopard). They said that the idea that eD was a reformer was a lost cause.

I was devastated. At that time eD had made the most wonderful statements. I flew home with four investment portfolios under my arm. We had access to US$1 million for a dry-run experiment, but our goal was to raise US$3 billion. There was a Zimbabwean investment company in Birmingham which had US$400 million which served as our role model.
That company worked with the national Railways of Zimbabwe, but as we speak, has migrated (with its bags of money) to South Africa.

I was devastated. I should have listened to that Todd Moss “chap”. The report says that all the talk about reforms is a “charade” (word in the report) probably concocted by Ms Laing.

ED’s lack of projection

I came to this topic when I got an email from Hopewell Chin’ono in simple words. “Mukoma Ken, long time.” I feared the worst. When I checked the brother was in some stupid jailhouse, over a crime that was not in the crime books. This was the third time in 12 months.

After calming my tempestuous heart, I returned to reading the US reports on Mnangagwa’s government. A report from some senators who had just returned from Zimbabwe said that eD is surrounded by “thugs”.

Zimbabwe minister of Security Owen Mudha ncube is, in this report, alleged to be the capo-del capo of maShurugwi machete gangs. The name describes their activities. Serious though this allegation is, the second allegation was that this Mudha (Congressmen pronounced the name to mean a devil) had gone on rampage at Gaika Mine, destroying a 100-year-old mine structure.

When you add the name of nick Mangwana and George Charamba to the team whose job is to project eD’s mission to Zimbabweans and to the world, one comes out with a very sorry picture.

If the devil were served by such a projection team, all sinners would have long migrated to the Cross.

Again, here, those whose business is to project government policies need to study Obama’s projection by the press.


Alex Magaisa has argued that before one can project a leader, there must be something there to project. I agree and I also appreciate that there was a lot to project about Obama: a clean and seductive smile, no scandal behind his name, soaring black rhetoric and a lovely family.

ED may not have Obama’s natural gifts, but he (and perhaps Ms Laing had crafted for him) a pretty convincing message. Allow me to repeat the message.

“Fellow Zimbabweans…the time has come to say nO to demigods and people that are self-centred and only think of themselves and their families. Let us now put our differences and rebuild a new prosperous Zimbabwe, a country that is tolerant to divergent views, a country that respects opinions of others, a country that does not isolate itself from the rest of the world, because of a stubborn individual, who believes he is entitled to rule this country until death.

We want a country that gives every citizen the opportunity to prosper, to take care of their families, a country that encourages Zimbabweans to invest in their economy and contribute to the development of infrastructure for their future.” (Mnangagwa//Exile//Nov 2017).

The above words summarise what a normal country looks and sounds like. Zimbabweans want a normal country. There are no police roadblocks in Malawi. Kids are not in jailhouses in Malawi. Here is a University of Zimbabwe kid, Allan Moyo, has been in jail for 71 days. Moyo, in an attempt to impress his girlfriend, said some bad words about “overthrowing” the Zimbabwean government. His weapon was a dirty handkerchief which he used to pierce the sky as if he was holding a spear.

Please have some imagination. It would have done a lot of good to lock up the kid for criminal mischief in an open-fenced yard and provide him with ice-cream until his mother came to pick him up. The member-in-charge would welcome the distressed mother with kind words.

“Mum, we want to see your kid graduate. Take him home and talk to him. I hope I do not see you and him here again.”

I am sure Todd Moss and brother Magaisa will say: “Ken, your trouble is that you don’t know these people. They are heartless.”

I agree. I have no experience of their Philistine world, except what I read that loyalty is unknown among them, mercy is distinguished by its absence, common sense is a curse word and love that passes all understanding is regarded as a weakness. Moss concludes in one report that all the talk about Zimbabwe is “open for business” is nothing but a “charade”.

I hope there is something left for us to redeem.

Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot. He can be reached at mufukaken@gmail.com. His books are available in Zimbabwe from INNOV bookshops and from the world on kenmufukabooks.com

All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24’s community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.


Peace Corps comes to FAMU

Flyer for “Black Americans in Peace Corps” webinar.” Photo courtesy FAMU Career and Professional Development Center

When you think of the Peace Corps, most students at FAMU think of traveling to a third-world country, volunteering their services and changing the lives of individuals. That vision is true, but there’s so much more to this organization.

On Wednesday, the Peace Corps hosted a webinar called “Black American Experiences in Peace Corps” where Black students and alumni shared their experience with the Peace Corps.

The panelists included Chris Lins, recruiter for FAMU, Dani Arnwine, recruiter for FSU, Kyria Louis, Umelo Ugwoaba and Rosey Brown.

Each panelist shared their experiences of being abroad and what made them want to join the Peace Corps.

Ugwoaba, a third-year clinical psychology student, said he wanted to gain more worldly lessons in his field.

“I want to be able to help people of different cultures and creeds so I felt like joining the Peace Corps would help me achieve just that,” Ugwoaba said. “I gained a different perspective on how health is perceived on a global scale.”

Ugwoaba says serving in Indonesia made him want to travel more.

The discussion topics included recruitment, preparation, location placement and roles they took on, most of them being teaching positions.

Arnwine, a recruiter for FSU, was placed in Malawi, or the “warm heart of Africa,” for three years. While there she lived with a host family and taught math and English.

“This program really helped me discover if I wanted to be a teacher or not,” Arnwine said. “It also opened my eyes to a lot of wonderful people outside the U.S.”

One of the audience members asked a prime question: “Were any of you discriminated against or made uncomfortable by the people?” Most of the panelists agreed there were instances they felt unwanted, but there were people, including their host families, that made them feel welcomed.

“Because I was in South Africa, they thought I was considered a ‘colored’ person, which is a person of mixed African ancestry until I opened my mouth,” Brown said. “Then they knew I was American, but my host family always made me feel at home and a part of the environment.”

Prospects are usually given their assignments months in advance to prepare for the job and country they’ll be assigned to. Also, volunteers are given multiple options to choose from when picking a country to serve.

Lins, the recruiter for FAMU, said many of the recruits did not want to return to the states after their time was finished.

“You know I always tell them; the U.S. will be here when you return,” Lins said. “So, if you want to continue where you are, I say go for it.”


Show and tell

The month of February brings a focus on Black history by the M.V. Film Festival. The Chilmark-based organization is running programs for children in a range of ages to celebrate the month. The programs got underway last week.

“We’re really excited about it, at a time when Black Lives Matter,” said programming director Brian Ditchfield. He added that the MVFF is happy to have virtual programming to offer. “There were so many films submitted in the past year that we couldn’t present,” Ditchfield said in a telephone interview last week. Some were previously played at the Film Festival’s Cinema Circus. A variety will be available to different age groups, including younger children, and others will be provided for family viewing.

The MVFF is partnering with the Vineyard Haven Public Library, which will employ books by Black authors and those with Black characters for children to read.

“We decided to start with activities for age 4 and move up through ages 14 and 15,” according to MVFF education coordinator Jenna Robichau. Each day will provide films and programs for different age groups in collaboration with the Vineyard Haven library. On Mondays the MVFF will offer children 4 and up short films to support the library’s themes, including the Oscar-winning animated film “Hair Love.” These films will include instructions for crafts and worksheet activities, as well as for gross motor skills like dancing or running around the children’s homes.

Tuesdays will include children ages 8 and up. Children this age can view short, animated films from StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization sharing African American animated stories. StoryCorps provides Black voices talking about how they have lived through racism and segregation. Included is “A More Perfect Union,” about Theresa Burroughs and her effort to register to vote.

On Wednesdays, children 5 years and older can read books such as “Firebird,” by Misty Copeland. The book is by the first African American woman to become principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. Islanders are on deck at the library on Wednesdays to read stories by Black authors and discuss their roles in the community. Among those participating are Sharon Brown of the Island Food Pantry and Sterling Bishop of the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, as well as artist and activist Dana Nunes, leader of Chilmark’s Beetlebung Corner kneel-ins.

The film version is available on Thursdays for children 10 and up. Thursday’s films can be watched by younger children with an adult. Also offered is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” which is sponsored by the East Brunswick library in New Jersey. Directed and acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor, it is based on a true story about a Malawian 13-year-old who builds a windmill. Parents can watch these films with their children to discuss racial injustice.

Fridays bring feature films for the whole family that spotlight the African American experience through Black characters. In some cases, free tickets will be required. 

For more information on the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival’s Black History Month programming, go to tmvff.org.


Here are some of the key events of the year 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic cast a long pall over 2020 but it also saw President Donald Trump beaten by Joe Biden in a tumultuous US election and the Black Lives Matter movement shake the world.

Here are some of the key events of the year:

– Rampaging virus – 


This photo taken on November 24, 2020 shows Liu Pei’en praying in front of a portrait of his father, who died after having symptoms of Covid-19, in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province. The year 2020 saw the virus claim more than 1.6Million people worldwide. PHOTO/AFP

On January 11, less than two weeks after it alerts a cluster of pneumonia cases “of unknown cause”, Beijing announces its first death from an illness which will become known as Covid-19.

By March a pandemic has been declared and a month later half of humanity is in lockdown as governments scramble to halt its spread.

Massive state aid programmes are rolled out to save jobs as the International Monetary Fund predicts recession, with the global economy shrinking by 4.4 percent.

In November, drug companies announce positive results for several vaccines as a second wave of cases lashes the planet.

Within a month, the first shots are being given but by then some 1.6 million people are dead, with the US the worst hit.

– Iranian roulette –
The world holds its breath after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani is killed in a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3, days after pro-Iranian protesters storm the US embassy in Baghdad.

Iran retaliates by launching a volley of missiles at bases in Iraq housing US troops. The same day, it shoots down a Ukrainian passenger plane “in error” shortly after take off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

Tensions mount again at the end of November when top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is assassinated, with Tehran blaming Israel.

– Brexit endgame –
Britain becomes the first country to leave the European Union on January 31 following its 2016 Brexit referendum.


Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost arrives at the UK Representation to the EU-British Consulate-British Embassy after a meeting with European Commission’s head of Task Force for Relations with Britain in Brussels on December 7, 2020. UK ponders it’s post-Brexit era. PHOTO/AFP.

But crucial talks on future ties and trade with the bloc drag on for months, breaking deadline after deadline as negotiators try to avert a hard Brexit on December 31.

– US-Taliban accord –
The US and the Taliban sign a deal in Doha on February 29, with all foreign forces to quit Afghanistan by May 2021 after nearly two decades of war.

Talks between the Afghan government and insurgents start in September, but fighting rages on as the Taliban launch attack after attack.

The Pentagon is due to pull 2,000 of 4,500 US soldiers out of the country by January 15, 2021.

– George Floyd killed –

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Derek Chauvin, the white officer filmed kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed and unarmed George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, was charged with one count of third-degree murder. PHOTO/AFP.

The killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, by white police officers on May 25 in Minneapolis sparks protests across the US and inspires anti-racism rallies across the world.

The Black Lives Matter movement leads to a major debate about race and the toppling of statues of figures linked to slavery or colonisation.

– Hong Kong clampdown –
In June, a year after a massive wave of demonstrations, China imposes a sweeping new security law on Hong Kong that opponents say undermines the semi-autonomous city’s liberties, promised under its handover from Britain in 1997.

Pro-democracy lawmakers are ousted, harassed and arrested. In December, three prominent Hong Kong activists are jailed including Joshua Wong.

– Thais rise up –
Students spark pro-democracy protests in July that roll on for the rest of the year calling for a new constitution, reform of the untouchable monarchy, and for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha to resign.

– Beirut blast –


Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion that took place at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, on August 5, 2020. Rescuers worked through the night after two enormous explosions ripped through Beirut’s port, killing over 100 people and injuring thousands, as they wrecked buildings across the Lebanese capital. PHOTO/AFP.

A massive explosion on August 4 destroys much of Beirut’s port and devastates swathes of the capital, killing more than 200 and injuring at least 6,500.

The blast from a vast stockpile of ammonium nitrate fertiliser devastates an already teetering Lebanese economy and the credibility of its governing elite.

– Fires and hurricanes –
Enormous bushfires rage across Australia in what becomes known as its “Black Summer” while in September San Francisco and other regions of the American West Coast wake to orange skies as the state’s largest ever inferno breaks out.

In November, two hurricanes devastate Central America, leaving more than 200 dead.

– The Navalny affair –
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is flown to Berlin in a medically induced coma after becoming violently ill from tea he drank as he boarded an internal flight to Moscow.


A poster with a picture of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (L) with the headline “poisoned” is seen near an effigy of President Vladimir Putin outside the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden in Berlin during an anti-government protest on September 23, 2020. PHOTO / AFP

Tests reveal he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. Navalny accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to kill him.

– Crisis in Belarus –
Belarus strongman President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed victory in August 9 elections sparks four months of anti-government protests, centred on his main rival, political novice Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Opposition leaders are jailed or driven into exile.

– Israel’s new friends –
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalise ties with Israel on September 15 as Palestinians condemn the move as a “stab in the back”.

The next month Donald Trump announces that Sudan is joining them, while in November unconfirmed reports of a secret trip to Saudi Arabia by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparks speculation that the kingdom is set to follow.

In another twist, Morocco “resumed relations” with Israel on December 10 in return for the US recognising its claim to Western Sahara.

– China-US tensions – 
2020 sees US-China relations nosedive, with Trump calling Covid-19 the “China virus” and saying Beijing is responsible for “a mass worldwide killing”.

They also clash over the repression of Turkic speaking Uighur minority in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, as well as the national security law imposed on Hong Kong.

– Biden beats Trump –


US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden. PHOTO/AFP.

Deeply-divided Americans vote in record numbers in the November presidential election between outgoing Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

After four days of nail biting, Biden takes the White House by seven million votes. Trump cries fraud without evidence and has yet to concede defeat.

– Nagorno-Karabakh –
Heavy fighting for the Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan after a war in the 1990s, goes on for 45 days.

Several thousand die before a Kremlin-brokered peace deal on November 9, with Armenians losing swathes of territory to Azerbaijan forces.

– Ethiopia: Tigray conflict –
Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed orders a military response to attacks on federal army camps in the dissident northern Tigray region.

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On November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (pictured) announced a military offensive against the leaders of the dissident northern region of Tigray.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front — which has dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades — denies responsibility and says the reported attacks are a pretext for an “invasion”.

Federal forces take the Tigrayan capital on November 28.


Ethiopian refugees who fled the Tigray conflict receive food at the Border Reception Centre in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, on December 8, 2020. PHOTO/YASUYOCHI CHIBA / AFP

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