Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

A surge in Africa, and pandemic silver linings.,


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Credit…The New York Times

Africa is bracing for a wave of infections, driven in some places by the Delta variant.

Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are grappling with surges, and new lockdowns and restrictions. South Africa, the continent’s worst-hit nation, has reported new infections doubling in just two weeks’ time. Tunisia, where hospitals are full and oxygen supplies are low, is enduring a fourth wave.

“It’s just one country, following another, following another,” said our colleague Abdi Latif Dahir, who covers East Africa for The Times.

According to official numbers — which represent a fraction of the true scale — Covid-related deaths in Africa have climbed by nearly 15 percent last week compared with the previous one, the W.H.O. said. And the countries are not vaccinating anywhere near fast enough. Fewer than 1 percent of Africa’s people have been even partially vaccinated, by far the lowest rate for any continent.

Abdi recently reported on the crisis in Kenya, which experts say may become the next India.

Like Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and other politicians have drawn large gatherings with mostly unmasked crowds — particularly at a major holiday held in the western Kisumu County — even as health officials pleaded with the country’s leaders to avoid the events.

In the weeks since, reports show an alarming surge in infections and deaths in Kisumu. Although data is spotty, the test positivity rate there is double the national average.

And the nature of infection is changing, too. Health officials in Kisumu first detected the Delta variant in early May in factory workers who had arrived from India. Now, young people are getting sick and doctors say Covid patients present more severe symptoms than before.

As in India, supplies are running short. Hospitals in Kisumu have started turning away patients for lack of beds or oxygen. Even the wealthy cannot get the medical supplies they need to survive.

“We may be facing a future where the rest of the world opens up and this becomes an Africa problem,” Abdi said.

But one thing has changed. In April, when we last spoke to Abdi, he described rampant skepticism, as doctors and health departments shied away from vaccines and governments paused inoculations amid fears about rare clotting.

Now, they can’t get enough.

“Because people are seeing countries out there reopening, there’s a huge appetite for the vaccine,” Abdi said. “Now, particularly in places like Kisumu or Nairobi, people are like, ‘Just give me anything right now.'”

In the U.S., many immigrants are shut out from mainstream medicine, and some people are using unproven remedies to treat the coronavirus. These medicines are promoted by doctors and companies on social media, or they find their way to “wellness” clinics or the black market.

At a flea market in California, vendors recently sold $25 injections of the steroid dexamethasone, several kinds of antibiotics and the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drugs pushed by Donald J. Trump last year — make regular appearances at the market as well, as do sham herbal supplements.

One woman recently told The Times how her husband, a farmworker, had become so sick from Covid that he couldn’t breathe or walk, but he refused to go to the hospital because he had heard rumors that undocumented immigrants had checked in and never left. She took him to a wellness clinic, where a doctor gave him injectable peptide treatments, for which she was charged $1,400.

Some unregulated drugs can be dangerous. And even if they aren’t a health risk by themselves, they can lead people to postpone seeking help from doctors, which can be deadly. Delayed treatment is one reason Black and Hispanic people have died from Covid at twice the rate as white people in the U.S.

“I am not surprised that people are taken advantage of,” said Oralia Maceda Mendez, an advocate at a California-based community group for Indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico. “We don’t have the care we need.”

For years, we’ll be sorting out the damage that the pandemic has done — on our communities, families and personal lives. Many were left worse off than when it began. But for the fortunate among us, the trauma of the past 15 months has also contained surprising silver linings.

Perhaps the pandemic brought you closer with family members. Or helped push you out of a toxic job or relationship. Or maybe you discovered something important about yourself in the silence of lockdown.

As the virus ebbs in some areas, we’re asking readers to look back on their pandemic experience for those positive outcomes. And we’d love to hear about yours. We’ll be featuring some of the silver lining stories in future newsletters. If you’d like to tell us your story, you can fill out this form here.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

I got my first cold since the pandemic started! My nose was so stuffed up that I lost my smell and taste for a day and I had almost convinced myself I had Covid (despite being vaccinated). I had forgotten how terrible colds were, but I’m thankful that it was harmless, compared to the alternative.

— Madeline, Boston

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