The director of national intelligence on Tuesday delivered a report to President Biden on the origins of the coronavirus epidemic, according to U.S. officials, but the nation’s spy agencies have not yet concluded whether the disease was the result of an accidental leak from a lab or if it emerged naturally in a spillover from animals to humans.
Mr. Biden had ordered the nation’s intelligence agencies three months ago to draft a report on the origins of the virus amid an intensifying debate over questions about its provenance, and in part to give the agencies a chance to examine a trove of data that had not been fully exploited.
But the inquiry, which examined data collected from a virology research institute in Wuhan, China, the city where the virus first spread, has yet to answer the biggest outstanding question about where it came from. Its absence of conclusions underscores the difficulty of pinpointing the source of the virus, particularly given China’s refusal to continue to cooperate with international investigations into the origin of Covid-19.
In the months after the coronavirus pandemic broke out globally, intelligence agencies began looking into how it started. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed the agencies to look into the theory that the virus was created inside a Chinese lab and accidentally leaked. Mr. Pompeo formed his own research group to study the question.
During the Trump administration, intelligence agencies ruled out theories that the virus was deliberately leaked. But they said they could not make a conclusion about what was more likely: an accidental leak from a lab researching coronaviruses or a natural development of the virus.
While many scientists were initially skeptical of the lab leak theory, at least some became more open to examining it this year. And some criticized a World Health Organization report in March that found the lab leak theory unlikely.
After that report, Biden administration officials became frustrated with a decision by the Chinese government to stop cooperating with further investigations by the World Health Organization into the origins of the pandemic. In the face of what they called Chinese intransigence and a divided American intelligence community, Biden administration officials then ordered a 90-day review of the intelligence, resulting in the report delivered to the president on Tuesday.
Current and former officials have repeatedly warned that finding the precise origins of the pandemic may be more of a job for scientists than spies. Under Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, the agencies have stepped up cooperation with scientists, hoping to better understand the current pandemic and possible future ones.
Officials also warned that the 90-day review was probably too short a time to draw any definitive conclusions.
The report remains classified for now, and officials would not discuss its findings. But officials said that Ms. Haines’s office would most likely declassify some information later this week.
“It typically takes a couple of days, if not longer, to put together an unclassified version,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday.
The National Rifle Association announced on Tuesday that it was canceling its annual meeting in Houston because of concerns over the rising number of Covid cases in the area, fueled by the Delta variant.
“The N.R.A.’s top priority is ensuring the health and well-being of our members, staff, sponsors and supporters,” the organization said in a statement. “We are mindful that N.R.A. Annual Meeting patrons will return home to family, friends and co-workers from all over the country, so any impacts from the virus could have broader implications.”
It is the second year in a row that the meeting has been canceled because of the pandemic.
The N.R.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.
The meeting, which was scheduled for Sept. 3 to 5 and usually hosts thousands of people, was canceled after N.R.A. leaders consulted with medical professionals, local officials and sponsors, the group said.
Like most counties in Texas, Harris County, home to Houston, has had its hospitals overwhelmed as infections reach levels not seen since January. The state’s seven-day average death rate was 139 on Monday, compared with 34 on June 1, and hospitalizations in Harris County have rapidly climbed since July. Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus, has prohibited mask and vaccination mandates.
The N.R.A. said it understood that its exhibitors and sponsors would be affected by the cancellation, but it planned to “support many other N.R.A. local events and smaller gatherings — in a manner that is protective of our members and celebrates our Second Amendment freedom.”
Cancellations of large meetings and conventions, such as the New York International Auto Show, which had been scheduled for late August, have recently ramped up across the country as the Delta variant continues to spread, largely among unvaccinated people.
Ohio State University announced on Tuesday that all students, faculty and staff would be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 during the fall semester, becoming one of the first large state universities to issue a vaccine mandate that extends beyond students.
“The university is taking this step because vaccines are the safest and most effective form of protection against Covid-19,” Kristina M. Johnson, the president of the university, said in a statement on Tuesday. “This step will increase our ability to support our students in continuing their educational experiences as well as help protect our current and the state’s future work force.”
The decision from the university, which has more than 66,000 students and 30,000 employees, comes after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for those 16 and older. That’s given schools and companies room to announce similar mandates.
Louisiana State University said on Tuesday that all its students would have to either submit proof of vaccination or “be tested for Covid on a regular basis.” The University of Minnesota also issued a mandate for students to be vaccinated following the F.D.A.’s approval. And in New York, all in-person students in the state and city university systems are required to be vaccinated.
Staff, faculty and students at Ohio State University have until Oct. 15 to receive their first dose and until Nov. 15 for their second, Ms. Johnson said. More than 73 percent of the university’s community has received at least one shot, she added.
“A limited set of exemptions will be approved on a case-by-case basis,” Ms. Johnson said, adding that the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, as well as others approved by the World Health Organization, would also meet the university’s vaccine requirement.
WBNS 10 reported that hundreds of people went to the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday to voice support for a Republican-backed bill that would prohibit employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, in her first day as governor of New York State, called on state health officials to impose a universal mask mandate in public and private schools and said she wanted to institute Covid vaccine-or-test mandates for employees in schools.
Ms. Hochul stopped short of formally implementing either requirement. In a televised address, she said that she was ordering the state Health Department to institute the mask requirement and would partner with “all levels of government” to implement a vaccine order.
“I’m working now on getting this done,” she said.
But in her first remarks to the public as governor, Ms. Hochul said that her top priority as she took office was ensuring that children could safely return to in-person learning as the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads across the state.
“Priority No. 1: We get children back to school and protect the environment, so they can learn and everyone is safe,” Ms. Hochul said.
The governor’s announcement came a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would require all employees of the city’s Department of Education to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. The city requirement will apply to almost every adult working inside public school buildings, including the teachers and principals in the city’s public school system, the nation’s largest.
The mandate was expected to be a signal of more to come around the country, particularly after the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 16 and older on Monday.
New York would join a growing number of states, mostly led by Democrats, that are requiring proof of vaccines for teachers, or in some cases forcing them to conduct regular testing.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said on Monday that all teachers in that state would have to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. California and Hawaii have a similar mandate in place.
The cities of Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as Washington State and Oregon, have also recently announced full vaccine mandates for teachers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended masking for everyone in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Several states, including California and Connecticut, currently have school mask mandates in place.
Ms. Hochul said that she would move toward requiring “vaccinations for all school personnel, with an option to test out weekly at least for now.” She added that New Yorkers could “expect new vaccine requirements” in light of the F.D.A.’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
The mask mandate would be one of Ms. Hochul’s first acts as governor, a position she takes as the state faces a climb in virus cases. Her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, led New York through its first wave of the pandemic, often exerting a heavy hand that local officials bristled at as he set and lifted restrictions on businesses.
Even as cases, hospitalizations and virus-related deaths have been rising recently in the state, they remain well below the peak of the pandemic in April 2020 and a subsequent spike last winter.
Before Ms. Hochul was sworn in, Mr. Cuomo, who resigned on Monday amid a swirl of sexual harassment allegations and an accelerating impeachment investigation, voiced support for vaccination mandates for teachers.
In his farewell address, Mr. Cuomo spoke more forcefully, saying he believed that teachers “must be vaccinated for their protection and for our children’s protection.” But he said a state law would probably be required, especially given the heated political debate around vaccination.
New York State United Teachers, a statewide teachers’ union, said in a statement on Tuesday that it supported a state mask mandate. Though the union has previously expressed opposition to full vaccine mandates on school employees, it said it welcomed Ms. Hochul’s push to require regular testing for unvaccinated staff.
In New York City, Mr. de Blasio’s vaccination push has largely been supported by educators and the city’s teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers. City officials are negotiating with the U.F.T. and other unions who represent education staff over what might happen to employees who do not comply with the mandate.
District Council 37, which represents classroom aides, cafeteria workers and other school employees, said that it would file a formal complaint over the city’s vaccine mandate.
Last month, Mr. de Blasio issued a mandate for all municipal workers that allowed those who were unvaccinated to opt for weekly testing. That option remains for city employees who do not work in schools.
Mr. Cuomo said on Aug. 16 that all health care workers in New York State, including employees at hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities and other congregate care settings, would be required to get at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27.
Ms. Hochul said that the state would use federal funds to launch a “back to school” testing program that would help make testing for students and staff easily accessible. Tests will be made available in schools and at Rite Aid pharmacy locations.
She also said New York officials would consider reopening mass vaccination sites to help provide booster shots that the Biden administration recommended vaccinated American adults begin getting starting late next month, assuming federal regulators clear them.
Oregon is restoring a statewide mask mandate, ordering both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks when gathering indoors or out.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said on Tuesday that masks — which will be required starting on Friday — were needed to fight rising coronavirus cases fueled by the Delta variant. She called face coverings a simple yet critical tool to help keep Oregonians safe.
“The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants we’ve seen, and it has dramatically increased the amount of virus in our communities,” Ms. Brown said in a statement. “Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight Covid and protect one another.”
Oregon is the first state to reintroduce an outdoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people since the Delta-driven surge took hold in the early summer, and among a handful to reimpose an indoor mask requirement statewide.
In California, Los Angeles County announced earlier this month that it would require masks to be worn at large outdoor concerts and sporting events that attract more than 10,000 people.
Under Oregon’s new rule, masks will be required in most public outdoor settings, including large outdoor events, when physical distancing is not possible. The rule does not apply to fleeting encounters, like passing someone on a hiking trail.
Though masks will not be required for outdoor gatherings at private residences, Oregon health officials recommended face coverings in those settings when they include people from different households.
While more than half of Oregon residents are fully vaccinated, new cases have surged in the state to a daily average of 2,114 as of Tuesday, from 339 a month ago, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations have more than quadrupled in the past month, to an average of more than 940 patients.
Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been given full federal approval for use in people 16 and older, attention is turning to the vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Both vaccines have been available to the American public for months under emergency use authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration. Moderna applied for full approval in June, a month after Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply soon.
When they might be fully approved remains unclear. Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A.’s top vaccine regulator, declined to specify a timeline for Moderna’s approval in a call with reporters on Monday.
Dr. Marks did note that the approval for Pfizer’s vaccine took only 97 days from the time the company submitted its data, less than half the time of a typical approval period. The exhaustive process was expedited by a “tireless team” that “worked day and night to get this done,” he said, adding that regulators were “highly rigorous” despite the short timeline.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in a series of interviews on Tuesday that he hoped the F.D.A. would soon be able to move forward to give full approval to the next vaccine.
“I don’t think it’s too far away,” Dr. Fauci said on the CBS program “This Morning.”
“I think it’s a temporal issue,” he continued. “I don’t think there’s anything different necessarily about the process, it’s just that they submitted or are submitting their material a bit later or after Pfizer did.”
Full federal approval could make vaccines more palatable to the more than 80 million people around the country who have not been vaccinated yet, Dr. Fauci said on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, citing a survey that found that about a third of them were waiting for the F.D.A.’s imprimatur before getting a shot.
Dr. Fauci also said that he thought advertising for the vaccine, which is allowed now that it has been approved, might increase uptake, and that approval would spur more vaccine mandates from businesses, colleges and local governments.
President Biden encouraged such mandates in an address on Monday. The Pentagon announced that it would require all 1.4 million active duty troops to be vaccinated, New Jersey said that all teachers would need to get shots or weekly testing, and the State University of New York announced a vaccination requirement for its students.
Vaccine mandates and other protective measures have taken on greater urgency as the extremely infectious Delta variant has driven a surge in cases nationwide and overwhelmed hospitals in many states. The seven-day average of known deaths connected to the coronavirus has risen above 1,000 for the first time since March 2021, according to data collected by The New York Times.
Starting Sept. 20, the federal government plans to provide booster shots for people eight months after their second vaccine doses, assuming federal regulators clear extra doses.
Nearly 65 million people have been vaccinated with Moderna’s shot, and nearly 14 million with Johnson & Johnson’s, compared with more than 92 million people who have been vaccinated with Pfizer’s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just over 60 percent of people eligible for the vaccine in the United States have been fully vaccinated.
Children ages 12 to 15 can still get Pfizer’s vaccine under the emergency use authorization; none of the vaccines have been authorized for children younger than 12.
In July, federal regulators pressed both Pfizer and Moderna to expand the sizes of trials in children ages 5 to 11 to detect rare side effects, including heart inflammation problems that have turned up in people younger than 30. Pfizer appeared to be on a faster track to secure an emergency use authorization for young children at the time.
Dr. Fauci said that pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies were still collecting data on using the vaccines in children younger than 12, and that he hoped the F.D.A. could at least authorize the vaccines for emergency use in children by early winter.
Speaking on “The Today Show” on NBC, Dr. Fauci said he thought that ending the pandemic in the United States would involve convincing the “overwhelming majority” of unvaccinated people to be inoculated.
“I believe we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Fauci said. “When we reach a point where there’s enough of a veil of protection over the community that you see a dramatic diminution not only in cases, but in hospitalizations and, ultimately of course, in deaths.”
The school board in Philadelphia approved a resolution on Tuesday to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for all its school district employees, joining a number of other school districts across the country.
“It is the board’s duty to protect the health and safety of our children, many of whom cannot get vaccinated, and being vaccinated is the best protection against the virus,” said Joyce S. Wilkerson, the school board president. “We believe that preventing Covid-19 infections through vaccines will lead to fewer missed school days, more in-person learning days, and ultimately, to improved student achievement.”
The resolution, which will affect more than 20,000 people, was approved unanimously by the board at the Tuesday night meeting, but a vaccination deadline was not set.
Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that “this union has been very clear from the start — we support vaccines, and we have been urging every member to get vaccinated.”
Los Angeles and Chicago, the second- and third-largest districts in the nation, recently announced that educators and school staff would have to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that all Department of Education employees must have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27.
California and Illinois are also both requiring everyone to use masks inside schools when they reopen. And in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates, the Broward County School Board in Florida imposed a mask mandate earlier this month for students, staff members and visitors.
Massachusetts is preparing to introduce a mask mandate for the state’s public schools as early as Wednesday, in a reversal for Gov. Charlie Baker, who has vocally advocated local control of school masking policy.
Mr. Baker, a Republican in a deeply Democratic state, had come under pressure to make masks mandatory in schools, and a poll released last week suggested that 81 percent of Massachusetts voters support the idea.
The state education board on Tuesday voted 9 to 1 to give the education commissioner, Jeffrey Riley, the power to issue a mandate. Mr. Riley is expected to issue the mandate this week, establishing uniform requirements ahead of school openings.
Massachusetts has not joined the list of states — including New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — that require teachers to get the vaccine. According to a New York Times data tracker, 75 percent of Massachusetts’s population has received at least one dose, a higher rate than any state except Vermont.
Under the current plan, nearly all public school students over age 5, regardless of vaccination status, will be expected to wear masks inside Massachusetts school buildings until at least October, when state officials will allow individual schools to lift the mandate as long as 80 percent of staff and students are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people would be required to continue wearing masks.
Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, called the vote “a significant advancement toward keeping our communities safe.” The union, the state’s largest, voted on Aug. 1 in favor of a mask mandate in schools.
Coronavirus vaccines provided strong protection against infection for essential workers earlier this year, but became less effective as the highly contagious Delta variant became the dominant form of the virus, according to a study published on Tuesday by federal health officials.
It was not clear whether the decline in protection was caused by the emergence of the Delta variant or the lengthening period of time since the inoculations were begun. Vaccine effectiveness showed possible signs of decline starting four months after vaccinations were first rolled out.
“What we were trying to figure out is: Is this Delta, or is this waning effectiveness?” said Ashley Fowlkes, an epidemiologist on the Covid-19 response team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the study’s lead author. “Our conclusion is that we can’t really tell.”
Researchers followed thousands of first responders, health care workers and others who could not work remotely in eight locations in Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Minnesota. The participants were tested for coronavirus infection every week for 35 weeks, as well as any time they developed Covid-like symptoms.
Most of the vaccinated workers received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; one-third received the Moderna vaccine, and 2 percent the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Overall, the vaccines reduced infections among vaccinated workers by 80 percent from Dec. 14, when the U.S. vaccination campaign began, to Aug. 14, compared with unvaccinated workers. (The results were adjusted for factors including occupation, demographic characteristics, frequency of close social contact and mask use.)
But while the shots reduced infections by 91 percent before the emergence of the Delta variant, their protectiveness dropped to 66 percent as the variant became dominant in each region.
“We really wanted to let people know that we were seeing a decline in the effectiveness of the vaccine in protection against any infection, symptomatic or asymptomatic, since the Delta variant became dominant,” Dr. Fowlkes said.
“But we also want to reinforce that 66 percent effectiveness is a really high number,” she added. “It’s not 91 percent, but it is still a two-thirds reduction in the risk of infection among vaccinated participants.”
The drop-off in effectiveness “should be interpreted with caution,” however, because the observation period during which Delta was dominant was short, Dr. Fowlkes said, and the overall number of infections was small.
Another C.D.C. study released on Tuesday analyzed infections and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County from May 1 to July 25 of this year. While vaccinated people did become infected, the researchers concluded that among the unvaccinated, infection rates were 4.9 times as high, and the hospitalization rate was 29 times as high.
Of 43,127 known infections in Los Angeles County among residents 16 and older, 25 percent were in fully vaccinated people, 3.3 percent in partly vaccinated people and 71.4 percent in unvaccinated people. (The proportion of fully vaccinated Los Angeles County residents increased to 51 percent on July 25, from 27 percent on May 1.)
Three percent of vaccinated individuals were hospitalized, 0.5 percent were admitted to intensive care units, and 0.2 percent required mechanical ventilation. The comparable rates for unvaccinated individuals were 7.6 percent, 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent, the study reported.
Those who were hospitalized despite vaccination were also older, on average, than the unvaccinated who were hospitalized. The death rate among the vaccinated was lower: 0.2 percent, compared with 0.6 percent among the unvaccinated. The median age at death was also higher among the vaccinated, at 78, compared with a median age of 63 among the unvaccinated.
For months, the Palestinian Authority struggled to inoculate many residents of the West Bank for want of vaccine supplies.
Now the government has a large quantity of doses in its stockpile, but it lacks something else: enough recipients.
“We’ve got vaccines, but we urgently need people to get vaccinated,” said Shadi al-Liham, the top health ministry official in the Bethlehem district.
As of Tuesday, only about 35 percent of West Bank residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and only about 22 percent were fully vaccinated, according to data from the health ministry. By contrast, Israel has fully vaccinated about 60 percent of its population and is now administering booster shots to vulnerable people.
Several Palestinian officials declined to say exactly how many vaccine doses the ministry had on hand. But they noted that a shipment of 500,000 doses from the United States government had arrived on Tuesday by way of the Covax global vaccine-sharing initiative, with 300,000 intended for the West Bank and 200,000 for the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority is now facing a challenge familiar to many governments around the world: trying to persuade a skeptical segment of society to get vaccinated.
Health officials said they hoped the vaccine drive would gather steam, especially after the authority’s cabinet decided on Monday that public-sector employees who do not get vaccinated would be placed on unpaid leave until the end of the pandemic.
In other news from around the world:
Indonesia, where cases of the coronavirus surged last month, will gradually ease restrictions in the capital, Jakarta, and elsewhere as reports of new cases decline. Places of worship and restaurants will be allowed to operate at 25 percent of their capacity, while shopping centers may stay open until 8 p.m. at up to 50 percent of their capacity, President Joko Widodo said.
The Philippines’ largest public hospital has been so overwhelmed by a continuous stream of coronavirus patients that it temporarily stopped accepting patients at its emergency room on Tuesday. The Philippine General Hospital’s decision came a day after the health department reported 18,332 new cases on Monday, a new daily high for the country.
The New York Times