While most of the United States’ prison systems have struggled to vaccinate inmates, some, including California’s, have outperformed vaccination rates among the general public. And experts say their success may offer clues about how to persuade skeptical people outside correctional facilities to get vaccinated.
“Education is really key,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who leads the Covid Prison Project, a group that tracks coronavirus cases in correctional settings and compiled the data on vaccination rates. “Especially in a prison context, where there tends to be a lot of distrust of both health care staff and correctional staff, that education piece becomes even more important.”
At one California prison, inmates held a town-hall-style meeting in which medical experts answered questions about the safety of the vaccines. In Rhode Island, formerly incarcerated people were involved in helping develop a vaccination plan for inmates. In Kansas, inmates were given priority for vaccinations, and prisons provided vaccine information to inmates’ relatives and to the inmates themselves.
About 73 percent of inmates in California and Kansas prisons have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to the project. In North Dakota, another state that has had prison town-hall meetings, the rate is above 80 percent.
By contrast, North Dakota’s overall vaccination rate is 42 percent. California has administered at least one shot to 56 percent of residents, and Kansas 47 percent.
Incarcerated people are at a much greater risk from Covid-19 than the general public, but many say that they are wary both of the vaccines and of the prison medical staff members who administer them.
Dr. Brinkley-Rubinstein and Aaron Littman, a law professor who tracks cases with the Covid-19 Behind Bars Data Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that providing information from knowledgeable sources — and administering inoculations where people live — made it easier to gain consent.
“When people know exactly where to go and how to get access, then it can be really successful, even in very hard-hit, traditionally underserved people,” Dr. Brinkley-Rubinstein said.
Kevin Ring, a former inmate who is president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group that advocates for changes in sentencing laws, said that peer pressure also had an effect in some prisons.
“You could have no one taking it, but then if everyone’s taking it and then you’re in this small group of people — the peer pressure could work in a pro-vaccine way,” he said. “People want to return to unlimited movement throughout the prison, and they want their rec time back, and they want visits. And if they feel like there’s some weak links that are resisting, then I think there’s more pressure on those people.”
Peru says that its Covid-19 death toll is almost three times as high as it had officially counted until now, making it one of the hardest-hit nations relative to its population.
In a report released on Monday that combined deaths from multiple databases and reclassified fatalities, the government said that 180,764 people had died from Covid-19 through May 22, almost triple the official death toll of about 68,000. The new figure would mean that more people have died in Peru relative to its population than in Hungary and the Czech Republic, the countries with the highest official death tolls per person, according to a New York Times database.
The report landed at a precarious moment for Peru’s government, just days before the second round of a closely watched presidential election.
Peru has struggled to contain the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and its official death toll before the revised estimate was already the ninth highest per capita in the world. As early as last June, far more deaths were occurring there than would be expected in a normal year, and the gap — a figure known as excess deaths — was much larger than the number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19, according to New York Times data. That was a warning sign to experts that Covid deaths were being undercounted.
William Pan, who teaches global environmental health at Duke University, said the pandemic had underscored the deep inequality and corruption in Peru.
“Long before the stories of oxygen shortages in India and Manaus, Iquitos experienced this sad reality of Covid,” said Dr. Pan, referring to the largest Peruvian city in the Amazon. “Thousands of people were being turned away last April and May due to lack of oxygen, lack of space, medical staff being totally overwhelmed and more.”
Peru could be the first of several nations forced to reckon with a re-evaluation of the pandemic’s true impact. The World Health Organization said in May that deaths from Covid-19 globally were probably much higher than had been recorded.
Peru’s government will start publishing more accurate daily tallies of cases and deaths based on new guidelines laid out in the report, said Oscar Ugarte, the health minister.
The pandemic has intensified the political turmoil in Peru, which was rocked by the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra in November. He was one of four presidents to serve in five years, three of whom spent time in jail during bribery investigations.
The virus is spreading faster in South America than on any other continent, according to official data, with five nations among the top 10 globally for new cases reported per person. Its worst outbreak is in Argentina, which was supposed to host the Copa América soccer tournament, before organizers announced that they were moving it to Brazil.
Players from Australia’s national women’s softball team arrived in Japan on Tuesday ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, a show of confidence in a beleaguered event that is struggling against a coronavirus outbreak and growing public opposition.
Twenty players and 10 staff members, all of whom have been vaccinated against Covid-19, landed at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo and traveled to the city of Ota, where they will train before moving into the Olympic Village on July 17. They are among the first international competitors to reach Japan before the Games.
The team, known as the Aussie Spirit, must strictly limit its movements as Japan tries to contain a prolonged fourth wave of the coronavirus. On Friday, the Japanese government extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures until June 20. In other prefectures — including Gunma, where the Australian players will train — emergency measures curtailing businesses’ operating hours and capacity at certain venues are set to expire on June 13.
New daily infections in the country have declined more than 40 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database, but Japan is still recording more than 3,500 cases per day, the most since January.
The Australian team will be confined to one level of a hotel, where the players will eat meals, work out and have meetings. They will be able to leave the hotel only to train.
“They’ll be extremely limited in what they’ll be able to do every day, and that’s going to take, for them, another sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice they’re up for,” Ian Chesterman, vice president of the Australian Olympic Committee, said on Monday.
The players have not competed against any international teams since February 2020, as Australia’s borders have been almost completely closed since the start of the pandemic. Their early arrival will allow them to train against professional Japanese softball clubs and the Japan national team. Of 23 Australian players who will train in Japan, a team of 15 will be selected to compete in the Games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23.
Congress has passed laws barring pharmacies and hospitals in the United States from billing patients for coronavirus vaccines. Signs at vaccination sites advertise that the shots are free. From the beginning, health officials and government leaders have told the public that getting the inoculation won’t cost anything. And there have been few reports of people experiencing charges.
Even so, some unvaccinated adults cite concerns about a surprise bill as a reason for not getting vaccinated. Many are accustomed to a health system in which bills are frequent, large and often unexpected.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that about a third of unvaccinated adults were unsure whether insurance covered the vaccines and were concerned that they might need to pay. The concern was especially pronounced among Hispanic and Black survey respondents.
Congress has tried to protect people from bills for coronavirus vaccines and tests. Early in the pandemic, it mandated that insurers waive co-payments and deductibles for both services and set up a fund to reimburse doctors seeing uninsured patients.
The rules for vaccine billing were made even stricter. To become vaccinators, doctors and pharmacies had to sign a contract promising not to bill patients for shots.
The stronger protections appear to have worked. While many people have encountered bills for testing, there have been only a handful involving vaccines.
In the story of how the modern world was constructed, Toyota stands out as the mastermind of a monumental advance in industrial efficiency. The Japanese automaker pioneered “just in time” manufacturing, in which parts are delivered to factories right as they are required, minimizing the need to stockpile them.
Over the last half-century, the approach allowed companies to stay nimble while cutting costs. But the tumultuous events of the past year have challenged the merits of paring back inventories and reinvigorating concerns that some industries have gone too far.
As the pandemic has hampered factory operations and scrambled global shipping, many economies have been bedeviled by shortages of a vast range of goods.
The most prominent manifestation of this dynamic has surfaced in the very industry that invented the “just in time” practice: Automakers have been crippled by a shortage of computer chips — vital car components produced mostly in Asia.
But the breadth and persistence of the shortages reveal the extent to which the “just in time” idea has come to dominate commercial life. It helps explain why Nike and other apparel brands have struggled to stock retail outlets with their wares and is one reason construction companies are having trouble buying paints and sealants.
It was also a principal contributor to the shortages of personal protective equipment early in the pandemic.
If the rainy, chilly Memorial Day weekend in New York City meant that barbecues and beach trips were called off, it revived another kind of rainy-day tradition in the city: lining up to see art, hear music and catch films, in a way that felt liberating after more than a year of the pandemic.
The rising number of vaccinated New Yorkers, coupled with the recent easing of many coronavirus restrictions, made for a dramatic and happy change from Memorial Day last year, when museums sat eerily empty, nightclubs were silenced and outdated posters hung outside closed movie theaters.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Saturday and Sunday each drew more than 10,000 visitors, a record for the museum during the pandemic, and roughly double the numbers of two months ago before the state loosened capacity restrictions.
Of course, the pandemic is not yet over: An average of 383 cases per day are being reported in New York City. But that is a 47 percent decrease from the average two weeks ago.
There were plenty of physical reminders of the pandemic, too, with masks, temperature checks and social distancing still a part of life in many places.